Posts Tagged ‘postproduction’

Arthur Cambridge slips away into the night.

Arthur Cambridge, the legendary film grader from Colorfilm and later Atlab, has died.

Arthur was one of the small cadre of Colorfilm staff who had a hand in more feature films in those glory days of the 70s and 80s than anyone else in the industry. He, negative matcher Margaret Cardin, lab liaison Bill Gooley and optical effects specialist Roger Cowland, were the dream team!

Arthur CambridgeFrom the early days of the Australian film renaissance, Arthur developed an eye for colour balance, but more importantly, an empathy for exactly what look and mood the cinematographer and director wanted to achieve in telling the story of the film. For film after film, Arthur’s first answer print (made once the camera negative had been cut) was almost invariably accepted with very few further corrections – no mean achievement in the days when colour video monitors bore only a passing resemblance of the projected film print image. His skill in delivering the right look with only the rudimentary controls of red, green or blue, lighter or darker, was remarkable. None the less, Arthur would emerge from grading almost every feature announcing that it was the most difficult job he’d ever tackled.

Some jobs were indeed difficult, however: ironically, the challenge of blending archival newsreel footage of the Maitland floods with Phil Noyce’s new material for Newsfront, despite it all being black and white, had this writer and Arthur working late into the night – but successfully so, as when the film was released in the UK, the director gave up trying to match our results through his UK lab, and requested prints from Colorfilm.

When Colorfilm closed in 1990, Arthur moved straight over to Atlab: his skill was undiminished, but the best days were over. The dream team was no more, with only Roger Cowland of the four still around, and feature production was slumping after the removal of the 10BA tax breaks. However, he continued grading for another decade before retiring.

While younger film graders made the switch to digital colour correction, Arthur remained resolutely a film grader, using the familiar Colormaster equipment. This writer recalls an occasion however, when he was called to a telecine suite by a colourist who couldn’t match two shots in a print that Arthur had graded. Arthur watched the colourist struggle with gamma, lift and gain controls for a while, then quietly asked if he could try. He reached across, moved each control once, and the shots matched perfectly!

Arthur’s extraordinary skills came into their own again when Atlab produced restored prints of many of the features of that era for NFSA’s Atlab/Kodak collection. He had graded most of them the first time around, and remembered exactly how they looked then. Picnic at Hanging Rock came back with exactly the same brooding atmosphere, while The Night, The Prowler was exactly the right shade of blue – something no other grader would have imagined!

At an editors’ conference around 1991 this writer gave a talk (as part of a panel) about the arrival of computers into film editing rooms, and the consequent loss of a training path for assistant editors. As an analogy it was pointed out that the introduction of computers into the grading room some years previously had reduced opportunities for assistant colour graders to learn the skills – and as a result there was no ‘next wave’ of film graders coming through. During questions, someone asked the panel if this was true, and what we would all do when Arthur Cambridge retired. One of the other panellists muttered “stop making films, I suppose”.

Arthur is survived by his wife Jan and sons Doug and Mark.


This memory was first published in Screenhub.


The barista – hairdresser or shoemender?

In my marketing course we learnt about the difference between shoemenders and hairdressers.

Of course there are plenty: for example they deal with different ends of the body. But this was all ab out the “Servicescape” – that is, the environment in which you do business with these providers. It proved a particularly useful distinction for me at work, in helping shift the film processing laboratory’s way of thinking to that of a digital postproduction house. Different headspace, different boots? Well it’s more than that.

The theory goes that when you need your shoes repaired, you simply go to the booth in the shopping mall and leave them there. The work isn’t done on the spot; it’s in some backroom somewhere, possibly off site in a workshop environment. You don’t know or care who does it or what their name is, and are don’t really care to stay around and watch the process or get involved in it. (“Could you try a touch more glue there, look, just under that corner of the heel?”). And there’s nothing really glamorous even about the sales counter. It’s functional, that’s all. You just drop the shoes off and pick them up a few days later. Job done.

The hairdresser is different. I’m not thinking of a traditional men’s barber (short back’n’sides, half price on Tuesdays). The modern hairdresser is quite different. For one thing you can’t leave the job there to be collected later! So the working environment is important, as you’ll be there for the duration. The décor, the music, and the type of chatter you have to put up with, all figure strongly. If they offer coffee is it up to par? You might ask your friends for recommendations before you walk into a new place. And you’ll want to know who is going to do your hair, and probably request them by name after you’ve been a couple of times. Finally, you are going to be involved all along. (How do you like that? A bit less weight on top, do you think?)

It worked that way for the film laboratory – shoe-mender model: you drop the film off to be processed – out the back where it smelt of chemicals but who cares, you aren’t going there. (Probably you don’t even go to the lab, it’s the runner who takes it). You don’t know the name of the processing operator, or which brand of chemicals will be used. And the film despatch counter is probably no more customer-friendly than the shoe-repair booth.

The digital post house is the hairdresser in this story. The environment is everything. The coffee machine almost as critical as the grading suite: you will certainly request a particular colourist (see, it is like a hairdresser), and you’ll certainly seek recommendations before you commit to a new place. Once you are there, you’ll be deeply involved with the whole process, and probably get to know the staff looking after you quite well.

It’s a clear distinction. Different businesses work on different levels of customer/employee contact, and build the business environment to match.

So where does the barista fit in? Many of us grab a coffee on the way to work – or duck out during the day to get a shot of caffeine. It’s become important that the coffee is just right. Baristas are as precious as good hair stylists, and customers will follow them from one place to another. They get to know you, and a good barista will get to know your choice of coffee shot after a day or two (so many of them are ‘he’, have you noticed?). There’s the daily chat, a bit of ‘attitude’ and pride in serving the best possible cup of coffee. Clearly this is the hairdresser model, not the shoemender (who’d probably serve you a weak instant coffee in a paper cup, with no ‘tude).

So what is it with the servicescape in a coffee shop? The most sought-after coffee places are crowded, uncomfortable (the most popular one up the road offers milk crates to sit on), and noisy. The coffee grinder makes a racket, drowning out the noise of the bus going past right outside, and the customers are all shouting at each other to get over all that other noise. Surely it’s not an environment you’d build deliberately to attract people. And yet, the place up the road that had big comfy sofas to sit on, peace and quiet, a door that actually closed to keep the street noise out, went out of business. (Of course it was Starbucks which explains a lot).

I think the Servicescape theory works well at either end of the body – heads and feet – but it’s got a bit of explaining to do before it can account for what goes in between.