by James Mathers
Cinematographer and Founder of the Digital Cinema Society
(Excerpted from the December 2021 Digital Cinema Society eNewsletter)
The world of in-person events and entertainment has been thrown into chaos amid an explosion of COVID-19 cases. While this might seem like a headline from March 2020, it has never been more current, now attributable to the highly contagious omicron variant. The Digital Cinema Society, which depends on holding our own in-person events and covering industry conventions for a large part of our activities, has also been negatively impacted. We pivoted, believing the situation would soon pass, organizing our DCS Cinema Technology Spotlight online interview series in lieu of covering conventions like NAB, and holding web events such as our annual Focus on Cine Lens panel, which had previously been held for many years in front of a standing room only crowd at Cine Gear Expo.
We were lucky to have held our 2020 Cinema Lighting Expo on the last day of February, just before lockdowns were announced. Always hopeful that the pandemic would soon subside, we scheduled the 2021 Lighting event two different times, only to have our hopes dashed by new waves and variants. Now it looks like our 2022 Lighting Expo, which we were hoping to hold this coming February, will have to again be postponed due to omicron.
While events were mostly on hold, we managed to keep busy producing mini documentaries such as “Looking Your Best On The Web,” to help prepare everyone for all the time they would be spending on the likes of Zoom. We also produced “Getting Back to Work Safely in the Age of Covid,” with tips and techniques for returning to production after the lockdown. We’re happy to report that industry production, to a large extent, has resumed using the kinds of protocols we outlined in the doc.
We also produced original content for the launch of our upcoming DCS Illuminates web channel, including programs on the Cineo Reflex R15, The Rotolight Titan, and DMX for DPs, as well as participating in a program covering accessories for the ARRI Orbiter. Additionally, we documented our testing of the Blackmagic URSA Mini 12K, as well as a unique type of lenses for micro/macro photography from Infinity Photo/Optical.
Once the vaccines were available, we again thought we would be out of the pandemic woods. We were very sad to see it become politicized, and for the pandemic to persist with new waves and variants. Observing Covid safety protocals, we did manage to sneak in a couple of smaller events in L.A. and Chicago to highlight our testing and documenting of the Infinity lenses, and we also participated in a slimmed down Cine Gear Expo. And I have to say that I give a lot of credit to Juliane Grosso and Karl Kresser, the producers of Cine Gear, for persevering and putting on a safe and successful show at the L.A. Convention center, even with a scant number of exhibitors and attendees compared to their usually bustling events on the studio backlots.
Another bright spot has been the movie going public’s return to the theaters to see Spider-Man: No Way Home, which shattered numerous box office records as the first blockbuster of the Covid era. The debut raked in over $600 million dollars even as worries about the omicron variant have been growing.
So where do we go from here? Major industry events are now largely back to their traditional pre-pandemic timelines. CES is scheduled to go forward starting in just a couple of weeks, with NAB following in April, and Cine Gear Expo in June. Will they again have to postpone or cancel, as IBC was forced to do earlier this month? I will be disappointed, but not surprised if that ends up being the case. The list of cancelled events grows by the day, but here’s an update of some of the other industry and holiday happenings to be impacted by the latest Covid surge:
- On Broadway – Hamilton and Aladdin have closed until further notice
- Fox’s New Year’s Eve Toast & Roast 2022 originally scheduled for December 31st and now canceled
- A Christmas Carol at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theatre originally scheduled to run through January 1st is now canceled
- Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala originally scheduled for January 6th is now canceled
- AFI Awards originally scheduled for January 7th are now postponed with future plans TBD
- BAFTA Tea Party originally scheduled for January 8th is now canceled
- Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes originally scheduled to run through January 2nd is now canceled
- Jagged Little Pill originally scheduled to run indefinitely has now closed for good
- Critics Choice Awards originally scheduled for January 9th has now been cancelled
- Hollywood Critics Association Film Awards Ceremony originally scheduled for scheduled for January 8th, is now postponed to February 28th
- New York Film Critics Circle Awards Ceremony
originally scheduled for January 10th is now postponed, with future plans TBD
Although we have managed to keep busy at DCS throughout the pandemic, the financial picture has not always been rosy. Longtime stalwart sponsors like Canon have stopped supporting us altogether and others have cut their annual donations in half. It has left us in a bit of a financial lurch, but we are getting by greatly assisted by the tremendous response we received to last year’s funding appeal. The DCS membership stepped up to not only keep us solvent, but to also let us know how much you all appreciate what we do. It was a great shot in the arm, both financially and emotionally.
Our ethos has always been to adapt in order to survive, and we are too stubborn to quit, so you can look forward to a revamped Digital Cinema Society in 2022. Our new website should be ready to go online any day now, and our membership tiers will be changing. We’re still working out the details, but we plan to make it easier to for those who don’t like to commit to full membership, to simply sign up for the eNewsletter (consider it DCS “membership-light”). However we will also be figuring out ways to honor and reward our Founding Members, Lifetime Members, and Supporting Members, some of whom have been with us going on nearly 20 years.
So, don’t be counting DCS out of the game; we are here to stay. We are not currently asking for any dues payments, but if you care to make a small tax deductible donation before the end of the year, you can follow the convenient PayPal link (using any major credit card, and you don’t need to be signed up for PayPal) or you can send payment to our offices at P.O. Box 1973, Studio City, CA 91614, USA.
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Thank you in advance!