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With the help of artist Alexandre Farto, aka Vhils, and Portuguese creative studio Solid Dogma, filmmaker José Pando Lucas wonders if the world really is getting smaller in this dazzlingly photographed short film set in Macau built around narrated stories based on his grandparents.

 

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Director Jed Rothstein on Wall Street, the Rules of Capitalism and The China Hustle

Filmmaker Jed Rothstein has a long background in documentaries for TV and cinema, including “Killing in the Name,” an Oscar-nominated short about terrorism in 2010. His latest film, The China Hustle, comes across like a mix between its producer Alex Gibney’s work and the CNBC TV show American Greed. It shows how investors responded to the 2008 market crash by searching the world for new investment sources. China looked like a new alternative, but Americans were barred from direct investment on its stock market. They still found a way to do so, leading to a massive amount of fraud and damaging many people in both countries. Rothstein offers a pessimistic diagnosis of a stock market the government has abandoned its interest in regulating. His film alternates between interviews with players in its story and glossy reenactments and computer-created images, with high production values throughout. One of its interview subjects, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, was so angered by Rothstein’s line of questioning that he refused to participate halfway through.

StudioDaily: You left microphones, dolly tracks and lights in the frame during many of your interviews. Why did you decide to do so?

Jed Rothstein: I thought it would bring the places where I conducted the interviews alive and make them feel more like three-dimensional spaces instead of just a space to put the interview on-screen.

How did your subjects react?

I don’t know that they even noticed. As interview subjects, you’re just sitting there as the camera rolls. It didn’t make any difference to them if the camera was on a dolly. It didn’t make their experience any different. At least I can’t recall any of them bringing it up.

Were you surprised when Wesley Clark got angry and suddenly refused to participate?

I was surprised and saddened because I would have liked to talk to him more about some of his work. I suppose it’s a difficult topic and one he didn’t want to talk about any further. We have a release from him, so we didn’t need his permission to include it.

How did you connect with Alex Gibney and Mark Cuban as producers?

I had been working with Gibney for some time at his company Jigsaw. I directed a number of TV shows for them. Mark Cuban came in through 2929, which some of the other producers involved brought it to. That’s a film production company he’s involved with.

Do you think your style is influenced by Gibney at all?

I certainly admire Alex as a filmmaker. I hope that I have my own traits and preferences as well. As many filmmakers will tell you, they borrow and steal from everywhere.

DP Tom Hurwitz and director Jed Rothstein on location

Cinematographer Tom Hurwitz (left) and director Jed Rothstein (pointing).
Magnolia Pictures

Did you ever feel that you were taking an aesthetic risk by including so many talking-heads interviews?

It’s difficult to make a film about something as complicated as a finance story, because a lot of what’s involved is email and whispered conversations. When you think about film, you think about action, what you’re going to see. I tried to include elements of the story that were active, like some of the surveillance camera footage we had. I tried to make the interview scenes livelier by including the set, as we were talking about. I wanted to make the film visually engaging. The look was designed with my cinematographer Tom Hurwitz very carefully. I feel like we did a good job of getting around that difficulty.

How do your interview subjects feel about the comment at the beginning that no one in the film looks good?

Actually, one of the subjects himself, Dan David, makes that comment. He says “there are no good guys in this story, including me.” I’m sure some of the folks would want to argue that they’re good guys. But in the context of this story, I think it’s true. It’s a complex, messy story. People on all sides of it are conducting themselves in a grey area. I don’t know if it’s literally true, but it’s a good summation of international finance.

What kind of camera did you use to shoot the film?

We shot on three different types of cameras. The Canon C300 Mark IIs, Arri Alexa Mini and Arri Amira. And I think one of the very wide shots or some of the drone shots were done on a GoPro. The bulk of the mood material — the very beautiful wide shots you see around Manhattan — was shot on an Arri Alexa Mini mounted in a [Freefly] MoVI so that the cameraman can move fluidly around space.

Did you try and use actual people in the reenactments?

There’s one scene where a salesman gives a pitch he used to do. But the rest of the reenactments don’t have people in them. They’re places. That’s on purpose, so one’s brain can imagine people there instead of us putting them there. Hopefully, it’s an effective cinema trick so your mind can engage with the scene more.

Michael Lewis has written quite a few books which have popularized fairly complicated narratives about finance. The Big Short was adapted into a Hollywood film. Were you influenced by him in terms of your storytelling?

Certainly, I loved The Big Short. I’ve enjoyed a number of his books. But specifically before making this film, I re-read The Big Short and watched the film. Maybe Michael Lewis does a great job of looking at things that are right in front of us that are very hard to understand on the surface but getting below them and finding characters there. So I would say I was inspired by his storytelling a bit.

Dan David in a scene from the film

Dan David in The China Hustle
Magnolia Pictures

There are some larger political implications to the story, which the film addresses at the beginning. It talks about the way capitalism enables people’s greed and unfairness. Then the film offers a very specific example of this. Do you see the whole film as an illustration of this point?

I do think what Dan poses at the start of the film — what is capitalism? Is it a way to distribute resources or take advantage of each other? — is the takeaway. What kind of capitalist system do we want? Is it one where it’s easier for people to get one over on each other? Is it one where there is some kind of fair play and transparency? To me, it should be the latter. I want people to demand a better, fairer system that we can all participate in. Capitalism doesn’t just have to be about exploitation. It can raise all boats. But the rules of the game have to be fair.

You have a long history of working both in TV and cinema. Do you find different strengths in each medium? What are the differences between making episodic TV and a film for theatrical release?

It’s the difference between running on a track and cross-country running. Both of them can be fun if you like running, as I do. Both can be edifying. If I’m making an episodic show on something that’s never been done and I’ve worked with the executive producer, that’s one thing. But if you’re just making one episode, it can only be an interpretation within someone else’s parameters. A feature is an open field, especially here where the story was so complicated. On some level, telling any story is complicated. But this wasn’t like telling the story of one person who tried to do something, then did it and either succeeded and failed. It was broader. I focused on Dan a lot because to some extent, he did that. It took a long time to get it right.

How long did the editing process take?

It took about seven or eight months, all told. We took a couple of breaks. That’s not uncommon for a feature documentary. You don’t have a roadmap, which you do in an episodic series or even an episodic documentary. Some of the things I’ve done for HBO and Showtime have been more open-ended and similar to a feature. But for this, I kept rearranging and rearranging things. Every time I did so, I had to watch a 90-minute or two-hour film all over again. Everything affects everything else, so if you make one change in minute 37, the rest will feel different even if you didn’t touch it. Of course, things are now more efficient with Avid. But it still takes time.

You’ve also produced films made by other directors. How satisfying do you find that? How much do you think you’ve learned from it?

I’ve had the good fortune to produce films by some great directors and mentors of mine, like Liz Garbus, Rory Kennedy and Calvin Skaggs. These are all people I’ve learned a lot from about how to tell a story, navigate the business, nurture and defend one’s own creative voice amidst so many different people and so much money. I enjoy doing that. I would be happy to be attached to some project in the future in that way. But really, my first love is directing, and that’s what I’ve been doing the past few years.

Are you currently working on any TV projects?

I’m doing a new limited series at Jigsaw on a top secret topic. It’ll be airing on Showtime later this year or early 2019.

On-screen graphic from the film

A scene from The China Hustle
Magnolia Pictures

A lot of the story takes place in China, but you interview few Chinese businessmen. Is that due to the legal risk they might run?

It was due to the disinclination of the Chinese CEOs we approached to speak. And I think it’s also due to a general disinclination on the part of people in China to talk about sensitive topics because they can really get in trouble. They are either doing it secretly, as you saw with one fellow who goes by the name of “Summer,” or as general commentators who can speak without getting super-specific about any of the companies. Or they are people like Kun Wong, who is now a Canadian citizen but grew up in China and was working there at the time of his imprisonment. There isn’t a tradition or legal basis for free speech in China. That enables these legal frauds to go on.

Given that Mark Cuban is a billionaire, did you ever have a conversation with him about the film’s politics?

I never had a conversation with Mark, just a couple email exchanges. I’m grateful for his support of the film, but his brother Jeff was far more hands-on. Jeff gave me notes on the cut.

Do you have any other projects aimed for future theatrical release?

Yes, I have other films I plan to get off the ground in the next month as soon as I am done with this television work. We’ll see. I hope to do something in a less contentious vein, like a music project. I’m also interested in a project on global water issues. We’ll see what gets off the ground first.


The China Hustle opens today in limited release in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Atlanta and elsewhere. For playdates, visit the film’s official website.

 

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TVLogic Brings New 4K, UHD, and HD Screens to NAB 2018

TVLogic is bowing four new 4K/UHD monitors — including a 55-inch UHD OLED model for HDR monitoring — at NAB 2018, along with a pair of new high-end HD LCDs.

TVLogic LEM-550R front view

TVLogic LEM-550R 55-inch UHD OLED monitor for HDR monitoring

The color-accurate LEM-550R 55-inch OLED display is designed for broadcast and post and reaches UHD resolution (3840 x 2160, with a 0.315mm pixel pitch) at a maximum luminance of 750 nits. It supports SMPTE 2084PQ, HLG and other HDR standards as well as Rec. 709, DCI and Rec. 2020 color space, the company said. The LEM-550R accepts input over 12G-SDI and HDMI v2.0.

TV Logic LUM-318G

TV Logic LUM-318G

The company’s LUM series expands to include two new 31.1-inch 4K (4096 x 2160) panels — the 350-nit LUM-313G and the 850-nit LUM-318G — along with a 43-inch 10-bit UHD (3840 x 2160) model. Both of the 31.1-inch screens feature an HDR emulation function with EOTFs for PQ, HLG and SLog3, with more log and gamuts to be supported through future firmware updates. Both displays support single-link 12G-SDI, quad 3G-SDI and HDMI 2.0 input. The 43-inch UHD monitor supports quad 3G-SDI and HDMI 2.0.

The new HD TVLogic screens are the LVM-1715 and LVM-241S. The LVM-1715 is a 17-inch display (16.5-inch IPS LCD panel) with 1920 x 1080 native resolution, wide color gamut reproduction (including DCI P3) and updated video processing, including support for log-to-linear LUTs for a variety of cinema camera recording formats. The LVM-241S has 1920 x 1200 native resolution in addition to the same feature set found on the smaller 1715 model.

TVLogic: tvlogicusa.com

 

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Director Ivana Bobic (via Riff Raff) takes Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid out in the field, capturing her vocals on location for a live re-recording of her single “Raw.” Tim Sidell was the DP and Andrew Fletcher operated Steadicam.

 

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EditShare Introduces QScan Automated Quality Control Software for File-Based Workflow

EditShare will introduce QScan, a new line of automated quality control (AQC) software for file-based audio and video production workflow, at NAB 2018.

QScan is built on the same Quales QC engine, acquired last year, that drove its previous AQC products, which were limited to checking four files at one time. The new system can be scaled up across multiple nodes, the company said, making it more usable in much larger facilities.

The line-up will include: QScan One, which processes one file at a time and is aimed at small post facilities; QScan Pro, which can process four files at a time and is designed for mid-sized facilities with multiple departments such as editing, color and VFX requiring access to the system; and QScan Max, a scalable multi-node system that can process four files concurrently at each node that will be pitched to telcos and VOD and OTT providers who need to be able to test hundreds of files at once. Each system can be upgraded to the next step up the ladder, EditShare said.

Editshare QScan AQC system

“Regardless of the size of your facility, if you are delivering content to OTT providers or broadcasters today, having a robust AQC workflow like EditShare QScan is table stakes for doing business,” said Howard Twine, the company’s director of software strategy, in a prepared statement. “While there are many options out there, the beauty of QScan is that it can be utilized at any point in the workflow. For example, in post-production, as an editor or post supervisor, you can easily confirm your files are clean before you even start your project. And with the scalable, tiered package options, we are offering everyone … a tailored package and pricing model.”

QScan connects natively to EditShare’s Flow media asset management, allowing users to validate files as they move through the production pipeline from ingest and editorial to VFX, grading and delivery. Errors are noted in metadata on a visual content timeline to offer an early alert about potential issues, and the system ships with preconfigured templates to help set delivery to different OTT, VOD and broadcast specs and for different regions.

QScan AQC Workflow

QScan AQC Workflow
Source: EditShare

QScan will be available as a standalone system or can be used with third-party asset management and ingest systems via the QScan RESTful API. EditShare’s website highlighted media asset management systems from ioGates, TransMedia Dynamics and VSN as potential integration targets.

EditShare will be demoing the new QScan system at its NAB booth SL8620, and is offering a free 14-day trial download at its website.

EditShare QScan: qscan.editshare.com

 

 

 

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Pour une poignée de girolles (For a Handful of Chanterelles)

Creative energy sapped by the breakneck pace of modern media-making? Take a time-out with this leisurely paced, hand-drawn, award-winning short student film about cooking, family, and mushrooms. It was completed by director Julien Grande when he was at Belgian visual-arts school ENSAV La Cambre in 2016.

 

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Canon Announces Full-Frame Version of C700 Cinema Camera

Marking the first time the company has released a full-frame cinema camera, Canon today announced the EOS C700 FF. The C700 FF is a version of the existing C700 built around a new, Canon-crafted CMOS sensor with 5952 x 3140 resolution and an aspect ratio of 17:9 (38.1mm x 20.1mm). It’s debuting next month at NAB 2018.

Canon C700 FF

The camera will be available in both PL- and EF-Mount versions (with B4 adapters also available) and the sensor’s form factor yields the same image circle (43.1mm) as Canon’s EOS 5D pro still camera line. Owners of the original EOS C700 camera will be offered an upgrade option to the full-frame sensor through a Canon service center, the company said.

“This has the exact same body as the C700 with a new sensor block inside,” said Alex Sax, pro market specialist in Canon’s Burbank office. “You have more space on the sensor, so it is much more suited for anamorphic lenses and a higher-resolution anamorphic workflow.”

Since the sensor has a true horizontal resolution of 5.9K, there will be a number of ways to format the final image — 4K full-size (oversampled from 5.9K) readout, 4K/UHD Super 35 crop (with Super 35 lenses), 2K/HD Super 16 crop (with Super 16 lenses and an adapter), and anamorphic. On-board recording at up to 4K on internal CFAST cards is supported via Canon XF-AVC or Apple ProRes codecs. Proxy data can be recorded at 2K or HD resolution to SD cards for offline editing.

Recording at 5.9K will require using the optional Codex CDX-36150 mounted on the camera back to record the Canon Raw format.

Canon says the new sensor captures 15 stops of dynamic range in Log2 format, with a wide color gamut meeting Rec. 2020 standards, making it HDR compatible. Max speed for internal 2K or HD recording is 168fps. When used with the Codex recorder, the camera supports 5.9K raw recording at up to 60fps and cropped 4K raw recording at up to 72fps.

The new camera also has a different ND system, with the ability to use three different glass filters (2, 4 and 6 stops) one at a time or stacked (for a total 8 or 10 stops of filtration).

Both EF and PL versions of the EOS C700 are expected to ship in July for an estimated retail price of $33,000, Canon said.

New 20mm Prime Glass Coming This Year

Also new on the cinema front is a 20mm prime lens that joins Canon’s existing CN-E series, bringing the line-up to a total of seven primes ranging from 14mm at the wide end to a 135mm telephoto.

The CN-E20mm T1.5 L F lens is designed to capture 4K resolution with an 11-blade aperture diaphragm, 300 degrees of focus-ring rotation and minimal focus breathing.

Canon noted that its line-up of EF cinema lenses will include a total of 21 lens models when the new 20mm CN-E ships. It’s slated to be available this fall.

Two 12G-SDI Reference Displays

Finally, Canon is bringing on a pair of new reference displays, fitting them with 12G-SDI inputs. The new DP-V1711 is the successor to the DP-V1710, and the DP-V2421 follows in the footsteps of the DP-V2420. Both monitors will accept 8K images via 12G-SDI, and will scale them down for display at 4K, Canon said.

Canon DP-V2421 reference display

Canon is billing both monitors as HDR reference displays. The 17-inch DP-1711 has a peak brightness of 300 nits and the DP-V2421 can hit a more impressive 1,000 nits, the company said. Canon’s Joe Bogacz stressed that peak brightness doesn’t tell the whole story, noting that both displays also reach .005 nits black, which makes the V2421’s contrast ratio especially impressive. In a press release, Canon said that owners of the DP-V1711 and its predecessor will have the option of paying to upgrade the displays to reach peak brightness of 600 nits — a good idea if you’re planning to look at HDR on these screens.

A new feature, luminance metering, will display HDR luminance values for individual pixels in the image so that users don’t need to use a waveform monitor to correctly evaluate exposure for HDR. “These are great tools when doing HDR on set and for mastering,” Bogacz said.

The DP-V2421 will sell for an estimated retail price of $39,000, while the DP-V1711 is expected to go for an estimated retail price of $18,000. Both monitors are expected to ship at the end of April 2018.

Canon USA Pro Video Solutions: www.usa.canon.com

 

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See samples of how Slowmo Costa Rica covered the Florida Cup earlier this year with super-slow-motion Phantom cameras in this demo produced by IntaVision Media.

 

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Red Ships Gemini 5K S35 Sensor with Standard and Low-Light Sensitivity Modes

Red Digital Cinema is joining the dual-sensitivity sensor party, adding a normal sensitivity mode to a Super 35 sensor originally designed for low-light shooting in the darkness of space.

“While the Gemini sensor was developed for low-light conditions in outer space, we quickly saw there was so much more to this sensor,” said Red Digital Cinema President Jarred Land in a prepared statement. “In fact, we loved the potential of this sensor so much, we wanted to evolve it to make it have a broader appeal. As a result, the Epic-W Gemini now sports dual-sensitivity modes. It still has the low-light performance mode, but also has a default, standard mode that allows you to shoot in brighter conditions.”

Red Epic-W with Gemini 5K S35 sensor 3/4 view

Red Epic-W with Gemini 5K S35 sensor

The new Gemini 5K S35 sensor for the Red Epic-W camera system allows users to switch between standard and low-light modes in a few seconds via an option on the camera’s on-screen menu. At 5120 x 3000, the Gemini doesn’t match the smaller Helium sensor’s higher resolution, but it has a wider field of view at 2K and 4K and (measuring 30.72mm x 18.00mm) it has greater anamorphic lens coverage than Helium or Red Dragon sensors, the company said.

Red didn’t specify dual ISO ratings for the Gemini, but did note that it’s the company’s highest-sensitivity sensor released to date. Switching into low-light mode shifts the camera’s dynamic range by about two stops, the company said in a Red Tech video announcing the sensor, meaning that images exposed at 800 ISO and 3200 ISO should have the same noise characteristics in standard and low-light modes, respectively.

Red also stressed that switching modes is not simply altering metadata — it’s changing the light-capture characteristics of the sensor, meaning special care must be taken with highlights in low-light mode, since they will also tend to clip two stops sooner. Watch the video below for a crash course.

Sample .R3D files shot with the Epic-W 5K S35 are available (for testing purposes only) from red.com.

The current trend toward dual-sensitivity sensors, allowing users to shoot under typical lighting conditions as well as in low-light environments without dramatically ramping up the noise characteristics of the image, was spurred by Panasonic’s VariCam 35, which featured “dual native ISO ratings” of 800 and 5000. Earlier this year, Sony said its new Venice cinema camera would support “dual base ISO” modes rated at 500 and 2500.

A Red Epic-W loaded with the Gemini 5K S35 sensor can shoot at 5K at up to 96fps, with write speeds of up to 275 MB/sec, Red said, and supports the company’s updated IPP2 in-camera image processing pipeline. Redcode Raw can be recorded simultaneously with Apple ProRes and Avid DNx edit-ready codecs. Red is rating the latitude of the Epic-W Gemini 5K at 16.5+ stops.

The Red Epic-W with Gemini 5K S35 sensor is now shipping, Land said in a post at reduser.net. It runs $24,500, a substantial discount compared to the $29,500 fetched by the same camera with the Helium 8K S35 sensor.

Red Weapon Carbon Fiber and Red Epic-W 8K owners will be offered the Gemini as an optional $4,950 upgrade later this spring.

Red Epic-W: www.red.com/products/epic-w

 

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Is it a floating city from a Hayao Miyazaki fantasy? A whimsical stage set for a forthcoming Wes Anderson film? No, it’s the island of Santa Cruz del Islote, off the coast of Colombia. According to Great Big Story, its 1,200 inhabitants make it the most densely-populated island on Earth.

 

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