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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rob Hummel, former Warner Bros. and DreamWorks exec, named prez of DALSA Digital Cinema

I spoke briefly with Rob Hummel yesterday about his plans for DALSA’s Digital Cinema division, which markets the DALSA Origin 4K digital camera. (Here’s the official press release.)

Hummel’s new gig was partly surprising – he has long been an advocate of the high resolution you get from shooting on celluloid – and partly not, since he and WB exec Chris Cookson were the staunchest advocates for including 4K in the Digital Cinema Initiatives standard.

Job #1 for Hummel will be getting the Origin used on some major motion picture sets, which hasn’t happened yet. He’ll do it by trying to make the case that shooting with lower-resolution cameras, like the Viper and Panavision Genesis, is a compromise not worth making. “Genesis is just a souped-up HD camera,” Hummel told me. “The output file is 1920 x 1080, at the end of the day. With Origin, now you’re starting to kiss, if not exceed, the resolution of a 35-millimeter frame.”

Hummel agreed when I suggested that many directors and cinematographers are still reluctant to pick up a digital camera. “Making movies is the act of risk avoidance,” he said.

He said one of his goals would be to persuade a few well-known directors and cinematographers to shoot digitally. The first name that came up was Steven Spielberg. (Spielberg has often said he plans to be the last director buying the last foot of film stock he can find.) Since Hummel worked with Spielberg at DreamWorks, I asked him what he thought it’d take to get the director to pick up a digital camera.

“I think [he hasn’t done it] because he has never seen anything that lives up to the clarity and dynamic range he gets from shooting on film.” But Hummel said he thought Spielberg could be swayed over time. One strategy would be by trying to convert Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg’s long-time cinematographer.

“Steven would say, `If Janusz will buy it, I might do it,’” Hummel said. “I’m not saying I’ll succeed [in moving Spielberg to digital], but yeah, I’d like to give it a shot.”

Other names Hummel said he’ll be focusing on: Richard Crudo (former president of the American Society of Cinematographers), Vilmos Zsigmond, Russell Carpenter, Vittorio Storaro, and Steven Soderbergh. I mentioned that Soderbergh had already worked with digital cameras. “Yes, but when it comes to doing an `Ocean’s 12’ or `Ocean’s 13,’ he has gone back to film.”

“I’ll never presume to tell a filmmaker what’s absolutely best, but if you want to shoot a film of the ultimate quality, and approaching large format films, you’ll have to shoot in 4K…” Hummel said.

It looks like now, we'll see some sharp elbows thrown among the 2K and 4K camera-makers, just as we've seen among the 2K and 4K projector-makers.


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