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14 Jun 2016

Light Iron's Michael Cioni on the Panavision DXL - “the most advanced digital cinema camera ever made.”

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The Millennium DXL: “the most advanced digital cinema camera ever made” The Millennium DXL: “the most advanced digital cinema camera ever made” Panavision

Index

It was the camera that broke Cine Gear 2016. Michael Cioni, President of Light Iron and Product Director of the Panavision Millennium DXL, talks to Matt Aindow about the DNA of one of the most spectacular camera launches of 2016.

In 2015, when I last spoke to Michael Cioni, the Product Director of the Panavision Millennium DXL, Light Iron had just joined forces with Panavision.

So, was the Millennium DXL project on the cards from the very beginning? Michael sees it as an inevitable evolution.

“It started with the acquisition of Light Iron. If you actually look back over the last 18 months, people will start to see the DNA of this camera coming through. Light Iron is not only a colour science company it’s also a post production workflow company; buying a workflow company can really help in developing a camera ecosystem.”

Once Light Iron re-engineered their OUTPOST Mobile Post System to the Panavised OUTPOST (capable of doing a massive amount of fast rendering, storage and development) it became clear that a camera with a really powerful processing engine behind it was on the cards.

Cioni continues. “We started pushing and building up our Live Play dailies software (currently at Live Play 4) our latest cloud-based collaboration tools, so that’s part of workflow and you can connect the dots that this camera is going to have some integration with cloud-based components, etc. And then last Cine Gear (2015), exactly one year ago, we debuted the Weapon 8K sensor. We showed it on an 98’’ 8K monitor made by BOE (who made one of the first 8K monitors) because we wanted to see how the community reacted to 8K pictures and how Panavision’s newest set of large format Primo 70 lenses matched up with it. So that was all part of what we hoped would all come together.”

The Millennium DXL, in terms of resolution, pixel pitch, lensing, ergonomics, accessories and electronics, is the most advanced digital cinema camera ever made. It’s a super computer with modular accessories and superior RED electronics. But that’s not the only reason this camera is so special.

Creative control back in the hands of the cinematographer

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Light Iron President Michael Cioni and Panavision CEO Kim Snyder at Cine Gear Expo 2016

Who is controlling the image in the age of digital cinematography? At the recent international cinematography summit held at the ASC Clubhouse, lensers from around the world described a state of ‘crisis’. Guillermo Navarro warned us that “Technology has enabled ignorance — everyone's an expert… We have to convey that we are artists. We are not technicians.”

The finger was well and truly wagged at new tools and cameras. But editors performing an unsupervised re-grade got a special mention. ‘That’s not what we shot!’ is the often heard cry from DPs.

So the Panavision DXL couldn’t be more prescient. Meanwhile, whilst everyone's been talking about currently what is, Michael Cioni is really excited about what DXL is going to become.

Over the next 18 months, Panavision will announce upcoming phases of the DXL project. Cioni elaborates: “Where we are going with this camera is far more exciting than where we are starting! What you see today is literally the tip of the iceberg. I can tell you that the roadmap that we’ve outlined creates more cinematographer creative control. So even though today it’s already the most advanced cinema camera on the market, we are taking it in a technical and creative direction [Cioni previously coined the phrase “technative”].

“Of course we needed an incredibly powerful set of electronics to start with, which is what RED gave us, and that allows us to migrate into a creative direction. You're going to see how this camera has the ability to make pictures as unique as your own fingerprints. That's where the DXL project is going and that is something no one has ever done before.”

I think we nearly broke our Cine Gear booth!

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At the recent Cine Gear expo in LA, the Panavision booth was swamped. The theme running throughout the booth was ‘speakeasy’ so in a small set with a Lens Bar on the back wall with glass instead of liquor bottles, the DXL was set up so that you could put any lens from Panavision’s large-format fleet on to the camera and see how it looked on a real-world set.

Cioni is justifiably delighted about the attention the DXL received.

“Well, I think we nearly broke our Cine Gear booth! We are so thrilled and we feel so thankful that so many people came to visit. The Panavision booth was not just mobbed… It was a social event. I think that was probably the most interesting and wonderful thing that happened that we could never have predicted. People hung-out, they talked, they didn’t just bounce into each other or just talk to Panavision people, they talked to each other, they laughed, they had fun, we enjoyed each other.

“That's really what it’s about. Cinema is a community. Internationally it’s a community of people that look out for each other, care about each other and want to strive for the best pictures. Competition is fun but at the heart of all this is people. This is a people business, and people deserve to have options. The people from Cine Gear were helpful and it’s a wonderful show, probably one of the best shows in the United States.”

For readers this side of the pond, when can we expect to see the DXL in the UK? Very soon Cioni assures us, but don’t look for any DXL footage on the web just yet. “The members of the community who can appreciate this sensor need to see it properly projected.”

Panavision London has a 4K theatre where DPs and colourists (in the UK at least) will in all likelihood be able to first experience the pictures. In terms of seeing the prototype camera, Panavision will be making announcements shortly for booths at major European shows.



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Matt Aindow

Matt Aindow is a freelance artist and M&E workflow consultant, in an ever-deepening love affair with story telling via the dark art of colour grading. He believes these are jolly exciting times to be involved in the business, but is saddened that we can't deliver on gender equality. Come on! Member of SMPTE, CSI and DCS. The eternal student.

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