Global Cinematography Institute at CineGear

Santa Monica California USA

©2012 All rights reserved.

The recently launched Global Cinematography Institute (GCI), which was founded by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC and Yuri Neyman, ASC, will be presenting "Cinematography in Video Games and Virtual Cinematography" on Saturday June 2 at 4 pm in the Sherry Lansing Theater at CineGear Expo.

Highlighting this presentation are two directors from Activision, a leading international game publisher known for its "Call of Duty" titles among others.

Technical Director Naty Hoffman and Cinematics Director Sylvain Doreau will be part of the presentation, which will also include Zsigmond and Neyman, as well as cinematographers and recent film school graduates Ashley Barron (American Film Institute), Jason Knutzen (UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television) and Jason Bauer (Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts); and Ron Fischer, Technical Director of Universal Studios' Universal Virtual Stage 1.

"We plan to add the class 'Cinematography for Videogames' in the near future," says GCI President/CEO Neyman. "Cinematography is an art that requires the mastering of a constantly evolving craft. Our goal is to prepare cinematographers to take advantages of on-going advances in digital and virtual cinematography technologies."

Call of Duty das ARKADEN from Call of Duty - an example of how truly cinematic video games can be

To that end, the Global Cinematography Institute offers a series of courses for working cinematographers and film school graduates, to upgrade their knowledge to reflect the requirements of today's artistic methods and technologies. Among the classes are Virtual Cinematography, Previsualization, On-Set Image Management and the nuts and bolts of Digital Cinematography; teachers include Zsigmond and Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC, who are teaching advanced cinematography for feature films, Yuri Neyman, ASC who is teaching Fundamentals of Lighting and Composition, Sam Nicholson, ASC, who is teaching Virtual Cinematography and Daniel Pearl, ASC and Chris Probst who are teaching music video cinematography.

Daniel Pearl, ASC

Another cinematographer, David Stump, ASC, takes students on a deep dive into the fundamentals of digital cinematography. "I teach what digital is and how digital cameras work, as well as what the constraints of the camera devices are and the 'gotchas' of digital," he says.

"It's been a really rewarding class because of the level of the students," he adds. "They're not novices; in fact, they're pretty advanced in the field. I teach a pretty intense curriculum that I've developed and the feedback has been great. I think digital cinematography has evolved into a mixture of art and science. A cameraman or cinematographer can take the approach that he or she is strictly an artist, but that person will be able to do more with the tools if they know how digital cameras work on the nuts and bolts level."

GCI students also have the opportunity to work on the Universal Studios' Virtual Stage I; although Universal Studios is not affiliated with GCI, the class is taught by Ron Fischer, Technical Director of that Universal Studios' stage. In addition to the stage, Universal Virtual Stage I is a facility with an edit bay and other functional rooms. Since Universal Studios rents this stage, training new cinematographers on how to shoot virtual cinematography creates synergies between GCI and Universal Studios.

Universal Studios Virtual Stage 1 GCI students also have the opportunity to work on the Universal Studios' Virtual Stage I. Pictured centre, Ron Fischer. Photo by Zoltán ©GCI 2012

Fischer notes that the rise of virtual cinematography is director driven. "Francis Ford Coppola, Jim Cameron, Bob Zemeckis...these directors have taken up the idea and run forward with it," he says. "As the technology has become more robust and less expensive, Virtual Cinematography is able to be considered another practical technique in the repertoire."

"What we do in the class is give a sense of the scope of Virtual Cinematography and what it's like to work with on the stage," he continues. "We make the students aware of how to assess what the intrusion will be and fully realize the benefits. It does not eliminate jobs but it changes what people do and how you bring value to the process. These are the kids of things we help these cinematographers understand so they can be ambassadors for the new process."

Other teachers include Frederic Durand, a lighting/VFX expert, who teaches digital lighting; Brian Pohl, one of the founders of the Previsualization Society, who teaches Previs for Cinematographers; and Bob Kertesz, owner of Blue Screen LLC and a consultant, who teaches on-set image management.

Vilmos Zsigmond, left and Yuri Neyman is on the right. Image right, Vilmos Zsigmond.

Kertesz notes that, with the increase in the power of post production tools, the cinematographer is less involved with how the final image looks. "They're no longer invited to color correction or post production and many cinematographers are quite surprised when they see their projects in the movie theatre or on TV," he says. "I want to give the students the tools to understand how the images are created and what tools can be used to see what you have and, to the extent possible, maintain the image the way it was shot through the process."

In addition to a general overview of the tools available and recording formats, Kertesz teaches how to set up a monitor and read a waveform, how to use tools to generate corrections on set, and about LUTs. "It's a very practical approach to maintaining as much control over the appearance of your image as possible," he says.

Previsualization might seem like a class more aimed at visual effects supervisors, but instructor Pohl is emphatic on why cinematographers should know previs. "Filmmaking used to be linear, but today with the advent of nonlinear technologies, we're starting to see that film production is becoming holistic," he says. "Things that could be done in previs will impact things in post. Virtual cinematography takes a lot of pre-pro planning to pull off. Pre-vis is no longer just for the VFX supervisor, and cinematographers need strong access to this. It's great for setting up camera placements, locking up scenes and exploring sets."

"Cinematographers have been among the last groups of professionals to examine and potentially utilize previs," adds Pohl. "But each group of students I've taught at the Global Cinematography Institute has responded quite favorably and is getting a much greater understanding of what it can do for them. You can see the wheels spinning inside their heads."

Global cinematography Institute Graduates The first crop of students to graduate from the Global Cinematography Institute.

In fact, the first crop of students to graduate from the Global Cinematography Institute, some of whom came from South America and Russia, are enthused about what they've learned. "My understanding of cinematography has improved, both aesthetically and technically," says Director of Photography Michael Watson. Tim Sutherland, a DIT and Local 600 member, notes that, "the depth and breadth of subjects covered will become invaluable in my career moving forward." "Continually, I found the one single nugget of information was worth the price of admission," he says. "The Global Cinematography Institute is not just about theory. It is about history, real world experience and hands on learning. An opportunity hard to pass up."

"GCI is a revolution in education," says another student, producer Douglas Chase. "More like an internship, it is an intimate tutorial by veteran filmmakers impressing their knowledge, secrets and experience to a new generation of filmmakers. The baton is being passed."

The rapidity with which the Global Cinematography Institute has garnered an A-list of instructors indicates that professionals in our industry feel a hunger to pass on knowledge that they feel is not being adequately conveyed elsewhere. The democratization of media has its upside, but it's also flooded the market with people who believe they are cinematographers because they've bought a digital camera. What better response than to bring together a group of experienced cinematographers and industry players to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of what GCI calls "Directors of Imagery."

Yuri and Vilmos with the students at GCI.
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