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Failing to create New Broadcast Standard for all platforms will harm the industry: Haim Saban

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NEW DELHI: Asserting that it is “not just important, it is vital,” Univision chairman Haim Saban has urged the development of a new broadcast transmission standard “to allow us to deliver our signal to all platforms, all the time.”

Addressing the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas, Saban said “If we do not, we will be left back in the 20th century. It is not an option.”

He called on the Advanced Television Systems Committee to “seriously not consider anything else.” “Make it freakin’ happen,” Saban added, urging the NAB to lead the effort.

Saban’s remarks came during a frank and lively keynote conversation with NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith. 

During the discussion, Smith additionally asked Saban about his support for retransmission consent. “I don’t understand what the argument is,” Saban said. “‘I have got your content. I’m going to sell it and get paid for it—but I am not going to pay you. It is illogical; it does not make any sense.”

He got a laugh when he recalled selling Fox Family Worldwide, which included the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers franchise, to Disney, only to buy the Power Rangers back “at a fraction, fraction of the cost."In that specific case, I guess we were better than them," he quipped.

In another session, Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC, spoke about the film ‘Gravity,’ the groundbreaking Alfonso Cuarón-directed film that has the whole motion picture industry re-examining the once-clear borders between animated and live-action filmmaking.

Produced in partnership with the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), the session was presented in the form of a lively interview with the ASC’s Jon Witmer. Set in outer space, the film positions real actors inside an almost entirely virtual environment. Lubezki recalled the first time he heard Cuarón’s idea for ‘Gravity.’

The film combines the shooting of actors with elaborate CGI work, so VFX supervisor Tim Webber came on board very early in the production process of determining exactly how to create the elements necessary to realize Cuarón’s vision.

“We can do it very simply,” Lubezki recounts Cuarón saying. “It will be one actor. It’s in space so we can shoot it in front of a black background.”

Lubezki explained that they immediately realized the procedure was “the opposite of normal. Usually, you shoot the actors and then [the VFX artists] make the CG work with those [elements]. This time, we had to make an entire CG movie, then shoot actors to incorporate into that.”

The CG artists at visual effects house Framestore built an elaborate pre-visualization of the film with all the shots planned precisely, with roughly animated likenesses where the real actors’ faces would later be composited. Lubezki discussed his collaboration with the 10 animators at Framestore who were creating much of what would become the movie.

“It was a group of different artists with different ideas and different solutions,” he said. “I would say I want the sun to be a little to the right in this shot and they might see it as ‘cheating.’ ‘That is not where the sun would be if there is a cut from here to here,’ they would object. It was like working with 10 different gaffers!”

As the CGI took form, the filmmakers were still figuring out how to shoot and light the actors who were going to be composited into the “CGI movie” they were creating. So much of the texture and feeling of cinematography comes from the way the subject, environment and light all interact. And the filmmakers still wanted as much of that magic to take place in camera as possible.

Lubezki explained that the way the actors floating through space was simulated, was through a combination of moving the actors on platforms, and flying cameras and lights around them using robotic arms. Much of the shooting of the actors was done inside a specially-designed “light box,” a small room of approximately 12 x 12 feet, constructed entirely from LED panels on which the production could project appropriate portions of the pre-vis so that the actors could see what the characters were seeing and the illumination from the projected scenes was actually reflecting on them.

“If you zoom in on [Sandra Bullock’s] face,” Lubezki said, “you can see the environment and even other characters reflected in her eyes. That’s the kind of thing we really did not want to try to do in post.”

The then-new ARRI Alexa made the film possible, he reported. This was partly due to its ability to shoot at EI 1600, which he says was sometimes necessary in order to get the exposure he wanted with the LED panels serving as the primary source of illumination. He also explained that despite his love of shooting film, his initial testing indicated that film’s texture — even stocks with the tightest grain — simply didn’t work for the 3D experience.

The fact that ‘Gravity’ was always designed to be shown in 3D informed everything about the way he shot the live-action portions. He worked primarily with very wide lenses — mostly 18 mm and 21 — and at deep stops—generally T-5.6 —“to give the audience an immersive experience.”

While his approach was clearly a departure from the simpler style that has helped Lubezki’s work stand out for some time, he emphasized that he didn’t really see his work as a cinematographer as essentially different on “Gravity” than on any other project. “It felt exactly the same. It was about lighting and framing and movement. It was everything I do on a ‘normal’ movie, just using different tools.”

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