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Friday, April 13, 2007

Acting for the digital camera

David Cohen has a great piece in Variety about how digital cameras are changing acting. He talks to 'Apocalypto' director Mel Gibson and Tony Bill, who made 'Flyboys.' (Both were shot with Panavision's Genesis digital camera.) One interesting source is Marley Shelton, an actress who appears in both halves of 'Grindhouse,' Robert Rodriguez' (shot with the Genesis) and Quentin Tarantino's (shot on film.) Cohen writes:

    With film, says Shelton, "there's a beginning, middle and an end between 'action' and 'cut.' As an actor, one is trained to listen for cues such as 'roll sound' and slate, and you use that moment to prepare and go on a journey as your character for a few minutes or seconds. You use that time to suspend disbelief for yourself. In that 10 seconds, you're sort of going into a zone."

    But, Shelton says, when shooting digital, the freedom to keep rolling means "you're sort of sifting for diamonds. It's great in that you can probe deeper in certain moments, but it's less conducive to riding the impulses your character is having chronologically."

    Rodriguez would gather the cast and crew around the monitor, show them the playback and give notes.

    Tarantino, by contrast, took a more old-school approach, watching with the naked eye and not even using playback.

    "At that point," Shelton says, "I was so used to Robert's style that it was disconcerting to have (Tarantino) standing next to the camera."Another difference, Shelton notes, is that digital "dailies" include much more of what goes on on the set than do film dailies, which only include what happens between "action" and "cut."

    "Whoever is watching the dailies can see the entire process, the good, the bad and the ugly," Shelton says. "You really have to be able to let go of your ego in high-def."

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