Interview: ROGCS Administrator Bruce Logan, ASC
I had the good luck of running into Bruce Logan, ASC, at PhotoPlus. The administrator of last summer’s revelatory Zacuto Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout camera test and a storied DP, having shot features like TRON and Star Trek, commercials for a who’s who of major brands and music videos for the likes of Madonna and Prince, he was recently asked by Panasonic to write, produce, direct and co-DP with Philip Bloom a short film, Genesis, using a pre-production GH3. We had a chance to talk cameras, industry trends, and just what exactly the takeaway from Revenge was.
Adorama Rental Company: Tell me about Revenge. Was that a massive time commitment for you?
Bruce Logan: Well it took a lot of time, but I learned so much that it was like going back to school. You know, they always say if you want to really learn a subject than go ahead and teach it. So being the administrator on that… I think it was a four-day event during the pre-light and everything else we had to do, but then the post took a long time. You know, we brought that test to NAB, but we couldn’t show it at NAB because the post pipeline was broken, and I was very unhappy with that. So I took it back to Chicago, and what we did was we made sure the native files went straight into Baselight and they came out as DPX 16-bit and nothing happened in between. And previously there’d been a whole bunch of different steps to get there. So yeah, it was intensive (laughs).
ARC: You mentioned earlier about administering different tests…
BL: The ICAS (Image Control Assessment Series) test, I didn’t actually administer that. They had wanted ICAS to be like little pieces of feature film. They were tired of seeing test charts and color charts and they wanted it to have a little more richness to the look. So I ended up being elected as the head writer. So it was my job to take 25 DPs in a room that wanted all these different parameters in the test, and then it was my job to come up with a concept that included those parameters, or most of them. So I was the writer and then I directed one of them. ICAS is a lot about the ACES workflow, and that is a very exciting thing that could revolutionize the industry for us.
ARC: How so?
BL: Well because ACES is a standard, in the same way that 35mm frame has been a standard bucket we’ve put all photographic information in, this is a new file, which is based on OpenEXR, which is originally for visual effects – for swapping visual effects between post houses so that there was a standardization to it – and each camera manufacturer will come up with an IDT, or an Input Device Transform, that will take their camera and their sensor and really kind of zero it out. So once you get into the ACES workflow you should theoretically be able to get a Canon, a RED, and an F65 put them all side by side and shoot this thing and when you bring them in, all the files look the same. Not necessarily in quality or dynamic range, but the basic color correction you’re gonna look at is standardized.
And then the other exciting thing about it is, if you do an ACES master negative of your project, even though normally you bake in a color correction, well nothing gets baked in with ACES, it’s just kind of a LUT that’s superimposed on it. So that means that when you archive the movie, you can always go back to the original negative, the way it was shot. And it doesn’t solve the problem of, physically, how do you keep data for 20 year or 100 years? But it’s a really great step forward in terms of standardization. And I guess post houses won’t be very happy about this, because it takes away some of the secret sauce away from the post houses. It has the catch that they are big files and its gonna be more data – but there’s Moore’s Law, and in a few years from now that won’t be significant.
ARC: Let’s go back to the Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout because everyone was blown away by that. Were you surprised by the results?
BL: Well, I’m told there were no results (laughs). I think it was really interesting to let DPs light for their camera. But basically what it shows is that there are a lot of choices out there that you can shoot a digital cinema movie with, if you’re a good DP and know the weaknesses of your camera. Like the GH2, they said “we knew we couldn’t compete with the dynamic range, so we put a lot more fill light in there.” So that part of the test is really more a DP test than a camera test, or a combination of the two. But there was that zero line of, “I want to include in the test every camera going through with the same lighting setup, same file…”
ARC: And they were more in line with the price point at that point.
BL: Exactly. And as I say the great leveler for that was the 2K, because a lot of the higher resolution cameras, at 2K, which is the de facto distribution now – 4K will be here soon, but it’s not really here worldwide yet – that gave an advantage to some of the low end cameras.
ARC: And you were saying up-resing has a disadvantage which would be more apparent, obviously.
BL: Well that’s what was really surprising to me. The HD cameras up-resed to 2K did better than the 8K, 4K cameras down-resed. And I thought the oversampling was going to negate that, was really going to make a difference. But it didn’t. It was the great leveler for those cameras.
ARC: What trends do you see in the industry right now? Does the GH2 represent a turning point? Or the Black Magic? What do you think about that camera?
BL: I haven’t seen footage. I’ve had it in my hands, but I wasn’t allowed to shoot files. So I don’t really know about that. But I have friends that have them, and they’re quite pleased with it. But until I get hands on myself and get it into Resolve, I’m not really gonna know. I’m on this tirade now, where I think DPs have to take control of color correction. And if that means being their own colorist, I think they should be. If the want to maintain and be the “auteur” of the image, they’re going to have to take control of that process. To have a producer and a colorist go in and decide how it’s going to be, I don’t think that’s acceptable anymore.
ARC: You used to decide, before you shot, the look you wanted.
BL: Exactly, you had so little – you had color correction and density – that’s all you had when you were doing photochemical negative. Now that we’re shooting RAW, it’s very hard for the DP to control the image at that point. I mean, the good lighting’s never going to go away, but as far as controlling the look, if it’s not there and taking hold of that process…
ARC: So you see those roles merging in the future, potentially?
BL: Well they have for me. The last two features I’ve done I’ve color corrected myself. I can go straight to where I want.
ARC: And what’s your camera of choice these days?
BL: Well this would just be a moment in time, because ask me again next week… But I really like the Alexa. And I really don’t mind whether I’m shooting RAW or ProRES. I don’t see a lot of differences.
ARC: Thanks so much for your time!
BL: Thank you.