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DP Mihai Malaimare Integrates Classic Cameras Into Digital Workflows

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As the industry continues to innovate with the highest quality video capture technologies, the nostalgic look and charming imperfections produced with classic analog cameras cannot be overlooked or easily replicated.

While the image capabilities of modern digital cinema cameras are ideal for capturing 4K/UltraHD HDR video, some directors of photography (DPs) opt for classic VHS-C camcorders to create a highly stylized look, establish a time period or tone, or enhance visual storytelling.

A master at the art of storytelling through cinematography, DP Mihai Malaimare (ASC) first devised a process for integrating classic cameras into a fully digital workflow for the 2017 crime drama "November Criminals".

Capturing the film's opening sequence with a VHS-C camera presented a range of challenges; although the sequence was filmed analog, the footage needed to be recorded digitally for dailies and seamlessly integrated into the production workflow. Furthermore, a video signal of the analog footage had to be routed to monitors on set for live review by the director and crew members.

Using a single cable hidden on the back of the camcorder, Malaimare routed the VHS-C signal to an AJA V2Digital™ analog to HD/SD-SDI digital video converter. Once the camera output was converted from analog to digital, the signal was recorded in 1080 24p and routed to a transmitter and the director’s monitor for live on set viewing. The voltage capabilities of the V2Digital allowed the crew to power the converter using a battery with enough power for half of the day. Malaimare shared: "I ran a test of the workflow, and everything was perfectly in sync, plus the post-production team was amazed. There’s no way you can replicate the look of a VHS-C without a workflow like this. Manipulation in post with filters won’t create the same artifacts, light streaks, or look of the lens, so nailing this workflow to capture it in camera was critical."

For the 2022 sports drama "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty", Malaimare and Cinematographer Todd Banhazl (ASC) leveraged a similar production workflow to transport audiences to the 1980s. A V2Digital converter remained central to the workflow, they shot on analog Ikegami cameras using old lenses, and Panavision provided cages that worked with modern accessories, like remote focus. For sequences shot with analog cameras, Malaimare and Banhazl recorded interlaced video to double the perceived frame rate without using additional bandwidth.

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