Michael Plescia is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer from the San Fransisco Bay Area. He has 10 years experience as a visual effects compositor in feature film, commercial, television and promo. His work has been seen in films including JUMPER, THE LEGEND OF ZORRO,, ZODIAC and most recently JACK REACHER, where he was tasked with digitally removing Werner Herzog’s fingers.
He has worked closely with a roster of high-profile clients including Nike, Audi, AT&T, Hugo Boss, Gatorade and Janet Jackson. Michael now resides in Los Angeles. A sampling of his visual effects work can be seen on vimeo.
Mourning the loss of celluloid film? Hate tinny skin tones? Don’t necessarily want more pixels, just better ones?
Then get excited. I am.
After having the privilege to participate in a test shoot with a beta model of the Digital Bolex, I can state with full confidence that this camera is the real deal and is the one filmmakers like me have been hoping for. Congratulations to Joe and the Bolex Team.
Why do I make such a claim?
I’ve never before seen images of such a rich, filmic, organic and narrative quality from a digital camera. Especially when imaging human skin. The footage is a dream to work with and grade. It’s like putty. When you lay a hand on it with abusive curves and you think it’s going to break, it doesn’t.
The D16 is certainly an adjustment from shooting with a DSLR. The way it sees light. What it wants to be pointed at.
It’s not all about depth and bokeh and closeups like with DSLR’s. The D16 Bolex is about surfaces, textures, gradients, tonal nuance, skin, performances. It comes alive in traveling masters, and lock-offs don’t feel harshly static. You feel permission to film wider; to let the mise-en-scéne unfold. The image has confidence so you have confidence that the camera will capture the life in front of it- so you have less of an impulse to overcompensate for a lifeless frame by moving the camera and over-cutting. It loves handheld in wider lenses. The grain is pleasing. Lowlights have a soul again. The image feels like story.
I couldn’t be happier that the Bolex team committed to tackling the difficulty of harnessing these analog sensors and their immense data throughput. You don’t see that extra data at first. Then, when you grade, you feel it.
Some pointers I’ve learned when shooting the D16 opposed to DSLRs: The Kodak (TrueSense) sensors give indescribably filmic images if you play by their rules:
It likes more light than less.
Highlight clipping should be avoided religiously. Don’t do it. It ruins the illusion.
Images don’t at first appear to come out of the sensor looking as beautiful as DSLR’s. The D16 Bolex is not an easy bake oven. At first glance, this can feel discouraging. But the data needs good grading–both to neutralize the image of any disproportionate color shifts and then to make it sing. It can look tinted at first, then colours that you thought were all mushed together, suddenly separate and the camera’s magic emerges. This type of grading would break DSLR footage.
After a good grade, I find the images from the D16 Bolex express a very substantial quality to them–they have weight, rather than feeling thin, tinny, pallid.
Note about the downtown LA beta test footage: My grade is an attempt at accentuating the inherent celluloid look of the camera by marrying it with my shimmer-graining processes to give it an early to mid-90’s era Kodak appearance. This process is slightly destructive and introduces flicker, color fluctuation and softness not native to the camera and does not reflect the true sharpness of the Digital Bolex sensor.
In the coming weeks I plan to discuss more about how I get the most out of footage that originates on these sensors.
Lenses \ ZEISS CONTAX 25 mm f/2.8 & 50 mm f/1.4 & CP2 85mm and 21mm
Cinematography \ Kurt Lancaster & Michael Plescia
Edit \ Grade \ Michael Plescia
Music \ Michael Plescia \ soundcloud.com/rinjen
RAW convertor \ Adobe Camera RAW in After Effects