Celebrated an Oscar Nominated ASC, ACS Australian Cinematographer, Donald McAlpine, is impressed with Panasonic Varicam, particularly Varicam Pure. He claimed that DOPs can use it to shoot in practically low-light situations and create the realism that used to take them hours to achieve in the older days
Which is the first camera that you used?
My first experience was during my teenage years when I bought a black and white camera and shot a lot of stills. My first brush with cinematography was when I was at the university, training to be a physical education teacher. I started using a 16mm camera for capturing sporting events, particularly to film athletes who were preparing for the Olympic Games in Melbourne. My film career started in 1972.
Every cinematographer wants to control the light. What are your thoughts about this? How do you do without sunlight and how does the Panasonic Varicam help you with this?
I think in the past, cinematographers tried their best to control the light. This comes from the fact that film was so sensitive that you had to introduce a lot of artificial light. Of course, that has changed, particularly with the Varicam Pure. Now, you can shoot in practically low-light situations and create the realism that in the older days, we used to work for hours to achieve. It is really a matter of controlling the situation better.
How has your experience been using the Panasonic Varicam?
I remember I was shooting a film in Australia when the possibility of shooting with Varicam came up because I had heard about it at ASC. I tested it against other cameras from the competition and found it was much more accurate. The file sizes are reusable and generally you need it to be changeable with the 800. And I used the camera on that film, which gave a fantastic result.
How does Varicam help you to frame your shots better?
The palette of the Varicam Pure is close to film than any other camera. Of course, with the digital world, you can actually correct any aberration, especially in the 4K digital wonder. But the real hook is its 5000 ISO speed range – when you shoot at that number without sacrificing any detail whatsoever. On my last movie, particularly, I interchanged between 800 and 5000 on the same scene and yet manage to get a solid depth of focus.
India has varied weather and tempera-ture conditions. How has it been working in the country where the colour tempera-ture is different? How has Varicam helped in this?
For this film that I am working on currently in India, called ‘Rajma Chawal’, I have adopted the approach of trying to make India look as realistic as I can. From my foreigner’s viewpoint, I see these special qualities particularly in the city of Old Delhi, where we are shooting, which really appeal to me, and I believe will also appeal to the audience. And I am trying to pick up many elements that the viewers will accept. It has been a really great experience trying to capture the essence of what makes India, India.
How does Varicam help in achieving realistic and expressive cinematography?
With every film, you start a new approach. It does not matter if it is something elaborate like ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ or ‘Rajma Chawal’, which we are trying to make as realistic as possible. You just start your approach, stick to it and generally people like what you do.
Colours define a film’s mood. How are the colours by Varicam?
The colours captured on Varicam are quite pleasing. It is a totally personal thing for everyone looking at it – nobody sees colour exactly the same as anybody else. However, coming back to 4K, one has so much flexibility in post to change, re-adapt and rethink in the colour space – that it is never a problem.
What is your favourite element of nature – water, air, fire, earth or space?
It guess it would be water to a degree – of course, if you are underwater for too long, air would become very important to you!