Lend Me Your Ears
As I’ve said before, the first time I stuck earbuds in my ears and fired up a podcast (I think it was the Slate Magazine daily podcast at the time), I had a “where has this been all my life” moment. Today I barely listen to the radio – I listen to podcasts – I’m currently subscribed to 72 of them. Filmmaking, news, science, NPR shows, visual effects, awesome horror short stories, on and on. I’ve even blogged a few times about podcasts that I believe filmmakers should consider listening to. And now I’m making one of my own.
Shortly after I bought my first iPod (I want to say around 2006) and discovered podcasts, my good friend and fellow camera geek Illya Friedman was working at the now-defunct Dalsa Digital Cinema offices in LA. In these pre-RED days, Dalsa was the only camera capable of the coveted 4K resolution, a sort of holy grail at the time for digital cameras to reach in order to (theoretically) equal the majesty of celluloid. Dalsa had tackled the problem by creating a pretty awesome custom 4K chip and then encasing it in a rather large camera-shaped computer called the Dalsa Origin – not exactly the most practical thing in the field. But they did their best.
But the massive, bone-breaking, cumbersome size of the anvil-with-a-lens-like camera aside, big-time DP’s were intrigued by the possibility of a digital workflow that equaled or surpassed the quality of film.
And as Illya laid out for me the virtual who’s-who of cinematographers who came to check out the new camera, it occurred to me that Dalsa could easily own the cinematography space in the podcast world, so I suggested to Illya that Dalsa start a cinematography podcast.
Not a podcast, I said, about Dalsa – but a podcast about cinematography underwritten by Dalsa. Really, they’d just have to provide two microphones and some office space, I could do the rest because that’s all you really need to produce a podcast. Introduce the thing with some information about Dalsa, interview lots of cinematographers, maybe plug Dalsa again at the end. It would be a podcast about creative process, I said, not a podcast about Dalsa. Great marketing and PR, letting people know that Dalsa was on the cutting-est of edges with their shiny new podcast.
“What’s a podcast?” Illya asked.
It wasn’t long before the RED One camera came out with a great PR push and a more production-friendly workflow and form factor, marginalizing Dalsa’s giant Origin camera and even its follow-up, the Evolution. Then the company, known for high-end sensors for satellites and spy planes and such, left the cinema business for good.
Illya worked for a few other companies before going all entrepreneurial in 2009 with his innovative MTF to PL mount adapter (basically allowing professional movie lenses to be put onto digital cameras anyone can buy for under $3,000). And by then Illya knew what a podcast was and the value it might have for his business, so we resurrected the idea of doing one except now for his cool, scrappy, cutting-edge company Hot Rod Cameras.
Also, in the intervening years, podcasts – which I would never say had gone “mainstream,” had at least become something more common and listenership was gaining. Household names like Adam Carolla were casting aside terrestrial and even satellite radio in favor of building their own audiences and listeners were getting used to the idea of long-form interviews. By the time Illya and I revisited this idea in 2010, comedian Marc Maron had reinvented his career with his groundbreaking WTF podcast, and the subjects covered in the podcast world were vast.
And yet cinematography was sorely underrepresented.
And as a new breed of digital cinematographers tackled the visual image with vigor, there were some good podcasts out there but none that (in my opinion) were covering what I wanted to hear covered. That is the art, craft, and philosophy of the moving image rather than the tech. For the best in camera tech, I would suggest checking out The RC or That Post Show (which, despite it’s moniker, talks about a lot of camera and production tech).
Basically, we wanted a conversational, WTF-style approach to the medium that was unbound by time constraints and hopefully evergreen in content because creative processes, art, and problem solving are pretty common issues that all creative types need to tackle.
And although I’m not a cinematographer myself, I enjoy shooting and I find the work of great cinematographers to be alchemy of the highest order and I want to understand it. So in our “free” time Illya and I (we’re co-hosting the thing) have finally resurrected and published the 7-year-old idea and you can get it for free. Now. My good friend and frequent collaborator Kays Alatrakchi provides all the music – he’s the best and you should hire him for your next project.
And you should.
Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get podcasts (I personally use the awesome app Downcast, which I think is far superior to Apple’s clunky alternative). If you like what you hear, give us a rating. Leave a review. Leave us suggestions – we want to improve it and make it more what people are looking to hear.
Currently there are 3 episodes up – featuring in-depth interviews with Jason Wingrove, Chris Chomyn ASC, and Frazer Bradshaw – and we have more in the can and are working through them as we go. I hope you enjoy it!