By Marc Swadel – NZCS Committee member and ACS cinematographer member
It was midday on a cold February when I arrived at the Battersea Evolution Events Centre, clutching my invitation to the British Society of Cinematographers or BSC Expo opening luncheon. Film industry overload greeted me. The Techno Crane and Panavision Scorpio rig were duelling outside, while in the main hall there was the sheer crush of numbers, created by the intensity and the noise of hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of punters.
New Camera Unveiled
At the BSC luncheon, ARRI unveiled their newest camera – the new Alexa LF (large format) camera with 4.5K sensor size midway between the Alexa SXT sensor and the Alexa 65.
I had a talk with Stephan Shenk, Managing Director of ARRI Cine Technik, about the camera. Stephan called it Netflix ready, thanks to it being a true 4K camera, and told me it has its own new lens mount – the LPL mount which is 62 mm in diameter and 44 mm in flange focal depth.
ARRI are also releasing their own brand of large format lenses for this mount called the Signature Primes. I had a look at the 24 and 35 mm f1.8 lenses – they were fantastic, and light too.
The wider, deeper neck of the LPL mount gives the ability to place filters at the rear of the lens, in front of the sensor. ARRI also offers a LPL to PL adapter – so regular PL mount lenses can also be used. The sensor is 36.7 mm x 25.54 mm which is significantly larger than super 35 so to use PL lenses for an UHD shoot you can either crop the frame in post, or use a couple of Signature Primes at the wide end and PL lenses at longer focal lengths where they have the coverage.
The camera records ProRes, accepts SxS pro cards as well as SXR drives.
There are only four prototypes of the camera in existence – but ARRI are sure of a March 2018 roll out, and, unlike the rental- only system of the ARRI 65, it will be sold through chosen retailers.
Wearing my ACS hat, I joined with Nigel Walters BSC to present Peter Hannan ACS BSC with a Lifetime Member Award on behalf of Ron Johanson and the ACS.
Marc Swadel, Peter Hannan, Nigel Walters
Peter is a legend – an Academy and BAFTA Award winner, Peter started out working on 2001: A Space Odyssey and has shot features such as Withnail and I, The Meaning of Life, Insignificance, and second unit on Sleepy Hollow, Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Peter told some great stories of working with Stanley Kubrick, and how he and a load of other camera department guys were not listed in the screen credits as they got bumped for more important American executive producer names in the final reel – which was apparently the catalyst for Kubrick to demand 100 per cent control of his future films.
Back down on the expo floor, after 40 minutes of trying to find him in the mayhem, I met up with NZ born DP Aaron Scott, who left NZ over 25 years ago, going first to Australia, and then to the UK where he became the Head of Camera for Sky Sports before going freelance. His dad is old time DP Don Scott, who started in the 1960s and was a founding member of the NZSC – the forerunner of NZCS.
We spent the afternoon wandering around, checking stuff out.
It was intense and international. I heard Dutch, German, Spanish, French, and Italian spoken amongst the throng. My friend Alex Linden FSF was there as part of crew to both film and write about the BSC Expo for the Swedish market, and I would say 30 per cent of attendees were from outside the UK.
It was also a young crowd with loads of enthusiasm. I talked with Chris Nguyen, an aspiring young DP who moved to London to further his career. Chris wangled himself in as the BSC photographers’ camera assistant and loved every minute he had access, telling me how he was blown away by the amount of talent in the room at the BSC luncheon. I also talked with Joe Armstrong, who, after gaining his MA in English, went back to study film, and was down for the weekend from Leeds, to check gear and make contacts.
I chatted with Allessandro Olivieri, a young film school grad who had recently moved from Italy to London - who bought his girlfriend along to the BSC Expo on a date, which she was enjoying. (She’s a keeper that one, mate!).
BSC Expo History
I also interviewed Audra Marshall, the BSC Company Secretary and got the backstory about the show.
She said it was a new initiative in 1993, inspired by Joe Dunton. It was the Society’s first Equipment Show, which featured the latest innovations from camera and lighting companies. Initially held at Shepperton, it was to prove so popular that further exhibitions were held in subsequent years at Pinewood, Mister Lighting and Grip House, Dukes Island, and at Elstree Studios for many years.
The show grew enormously over the years and Rob Saunders of SCS Exhibitions came on board to lend it a more professional look. It is now entitled the BSC Expo and held annually. Historically it was held on Studio Stages, more recently at Pinewood and Leavesden. In 2016 as there was no studio space available and it moved to Battersea Evolution in Battersea Park, which proved such a success for ease of access, that future years are planned there also, allowing the organisers to plan well in advance.
When I commented that this year appears even more popular than last year she told me there were 5500 visitors up from last year’s 4051 visitors.
“We have had people from all over the world fly over, including members of Cameraimage, Imago, ASC members and a strong number of European Cinematographers. We are delighted that some of our Patrons such as ARRI and Panavision are choosing to announce their new technology at home here in the UK with their British Society family,” she said.
In conclusion this was a truly great show, and the attendance underlines how popular all things camera have become over the last decade – the HDSLR camera revolution sparked off a lot of interest and enthusiasm for what we do, and the sheer numbers attest to this. I would almost say it was a celebratory atmosphere this year, which is well deserved for such a well thought out and put together show – top marks to the BSC!
- Marc Swadel