Howard Phillips is an accomplished cinematographer, filmmaker, media technologist and teacher. I met Howard when I was a student in the Filmmaking program at Boston University’ CDIA where he was Associate Director of the program. Over the years I have relied on him for his clear and deep knowledge of film history and technology as well as his insights into the future of filmmaking.
You can listen to a two part interview that I recorded back in November of 2007 where he discussed the school, it’s digital filmmaking program and his background and experiences in filmmaking.
The interview process began last year when we met during a presentation on producing videos with the Canon D5 MkII. Afterward we had an interesting conversation and I asked him to sit down with me to discus this topic at length.
While we were able to stay on topic throughout the interview, we still managed to cover a wide range of issues related to filmmaking in general, and digital single lens reflex cameras in particular:
- depth of field and depth of focus
- the Impact of large sensors on the development of digital video cameras
- an exaggerated use of depth of field to create a new look.
- a brief history of film technology
What I found particularly interesting was how he connected the introduction of 16mm to the small size of the chips used in DSLRs like the Canon 7D and 60D. The smaller negative area of the 16mm made it appear more news-like and helped define the style of a small number of independent filmmakers into the French New Wave movement.
We discussed the clash between photographic and cinematographic sensibilities as these two fields are crossing over into each other’s turf. As an example he refers to the recent movie, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and the well known cinematographer: Janusz Kamiński.
Among the practical limitations and strengths of using DSLRs for filmmaking he talked about moire (an unwelcome rainbow smear), the reasons why DSLRs don’t shoot full video and the dreaded Jellocam.
At one point Howard mentions an upcoming announcement from Canon and you have to remember that this interview was recorded back in August of 2011. He is referring to a November event where Canon would unveil the C300. You’ll find information about the C300 in a show I posted earlier this month in Episode #231 with Larry Thorpe. Also, You’ll find that Dr. Bob Arnot talks about using the C300 as a field camera in Episode #234.
Howard also mentions the Sony FS100, which was already available at the time that we spoke.
Here are links to individuals the he referred to in the interview:
- Robert Nelson – Independent Filmmaker
- John Cassevetes – Actor, Director, Writer
- Eric Rohmer – Director, Writer, Actor
- Michael Corrente – Actor, Director, Producer
There are three or four brief annoying moments where background noise is intruding into the conversation and making it difficult to hear what is being said. I was aware of it during the interview, but i decided it wasn’t worth the price of interrupting the interview’s momentum and I was also hoping I could rely on the fact that the lavaliere mics we were using wouldn’t pick up the sound as strongly as I feared. And I believe I am correct on that last point.
Given a budget and a little more editing time I could have minimized the the impact it had on the listenability of the conversation, but it would have been an example of spending 90% of the time editing 10% of the audio. I try to avoid falling into that trap.
Thanks for listening, it was a pleasure talking with Howard and I think you’ll find a lot to take away from the conversation.