Roland Denning

Roland Denning

Roland Denning is an independent filmmaker and writer based in London. He was a lighting cameraman/ documentary cameraman for two decades, shooting everything from feature drama to rock promos. He still shoots when he can't afford to employ anyone else. His satirical novel, The Beach Beneath The Pavement was published in 2011.

The filmmaker's guide to surviving self isolation

Published in Production

You are doing the right thing and staying at home. But if you are a filmmaker, once you have exhausted the star potential of your family and pets, you may be at loss for what to do next. Here are some suggestions.

Do you really need a matte box?

Published in Production

A fully-fledged matte box is a thing of beauty. But complete, professional matte boxes range from £1000 to £5000 – you can get a decent camera for that. Even an elegant, clip-on, minimal matte box like the Pola Pro will set you back a good few hundred. We understand why cameras are expensive, but why should what is basically a box with slots and a few flaps cost so much? And do we really need one?

To filter or not to filter, that is the question that pre-occupies our minds. Is the glass diffusion filter really dead in the water now that we have highly sophisticated, and fast, software that can achieve a similar effect in post?

The film of the decade or a technical catastrophe?

Published in Production

Bait is a modern film shot on a clockwork Bolex camera. A case of artistic license going a little too far?

In the last part of this review Roland Denning looked at the massive changes in camera technology in the second decade of the 21st century. But beyond cameras, what was happening?

The 2010's was the decade where almost everything changed

Published in Production

If any period was game-changing in our business, it was the second decade of the 21st century.

Olde Denning’s Almanak - Film & Video in 2020

Published in Production

With uncanningly accurate predictions, Olde Denning’s Almanak has now become a RedShark tradition. We are now proud to present his predictions for 2020, which will almost certainly come true.

It is a RedShark tradition that around this time I present my uncannily accurate predictions for the year ahead. My 2017 predictions featured the ongoing analogue revival and the seemingly unstoppable increase in screen resolutions. My 2018 predictions focused on Reality TV, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and added some staggering revelations about reality itself. My 2019 predictions revealed more stunning cross-industry collaborations, Peak Drone and, from Australia, the custom Driza-Bone coat with pockets big enough to hold the BlackMagic pocket camera. As always, I stare into my ancient black and white TV, swimming through the lines of interlace until I reach the small white dot of the future.

Can resolutions get any higher? Can cameras get any cheaper? Can sensors get any bigger? Can camera rigs get any more clumsy? Will the general public still have no idea what the letters HDR actually mean? Will analogue devices continue to fascinate those too young to have ever had to use them? The answer to all these questions is a resounding ‘yes’.

2020 will offer many more surprises. The movie CATS, while savagely clawed to pieces by critics, will be an astounding success. It will herald new possibilities for Digital Fur Technology and the creation of CGI animal/human blends with disturbing erotic overtones. Look out for the forthcoming 50 Shades of Greyfriars Bobby, soon to overtaken by 50 Shades of Greystokes and the massively creepy King Dong. Not to be left out of the Digital Fur Revolution, Danny Boyle will merge the forthcoming Trainspotting 3 with Paddington 3, cornering the market for railway-themed movies about teddy bear junkies.

On the technology front, Red’s lack of success with the Hydrogen phone and the absence of the much-touted Apple automobile will not dissuade other companies from attempting to crash into established markets with wildly ambitious innovations. Look out for the Motorola Flip cinema camera, the Vinten Umbrella, the Atomos Juicer and the DJI vacuum cleaner.

All will fail. Arri and Amazon will join forces to produce the Alexa Alexa, the first voice-driven cinema camera, offering same-day fully graded rushes for Prime members.

DJI vaccum cleaner.jpg

The DJI vacuum cleaner will not be a success. Image: Shutterstock


The success of uncoated lenses will lead Cooke to offer a Custom Vintage Special range, where Speed Pancros can be ordered with condensation, fungus, random scratches and thumb prints to achieve that true ‘organic look’, counteracting the ‘clinical sharpness’ of the digital image. Zeiss respond with the ‘Well Travelled Retro’ range with actual loose elements providing organically unpredictable soft focus. Many DoP’s are delighted that if they shake one of these new lenses, they actually rattle. Panavision will introduce a range of anamorphic pinhole lenses.

Post-Brexit, the UK will return to truly British filmmaking, uncontaminated by European influences. Sub-titles will be outlawed. Get ready for the re-launch of the Carry On and Confessions Of… series, chock full of shame and embarrassment, recycling old scripts and even older jokes for environmental benefit.

Ealing Studios, now under Chinese ownership, will produce a series of delightful black and white comedies about plucky, everyday communities banding together to protect their traditional way of life. The films are regarded as a great success, but each one only runs for one day in Britain’s last remaining cinema chain, now owned by Amazon.

Netflix buys the BBC. Broadcast TV channels will be reduced to one, promoted by the slogan ‘Take Back Remote Controls’.

Header image: Shutterstock

As we move away from scheduled broadcast TV to on-demand programmes, it is harder to find audiences for the challenging and sometimes distressing material at the core of news and current affairs. Although we are seeing more and more independent filmmakers making programmes to be distributed on the internet, the job is becoming increasingly precarious.

The annual Rory Peck Awards took place this month at BFI Southbank in London. They are always a great opportunity to take the temperature of news and current affairs filmmaking.

In a recent piece for RedShark, Simon Wyndham asked What's wrong with stills style cameras for video? Here's Roland Denning's counter article.

Well, someone has done exactly that and the result has been highly acclaimed. We look at some of the logic behind our technological choices. Analogue systems give us fewer options – but that’s why we like them.

When will cinema cameras get as clever as smartphones?

Published in Production

In the first part of this article, we asked; does it make sense to shoot a movie today on a clockwork Bolex? But looking towards the future, just how smart will cinema cameras become, and will they ever become as 'smart' as smartphones?

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