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Sony’s Pinewood-based centre of excellence for filmmakers

Sony’s Digital Motion Picture Centre Europe (DMPCE), based at the world-renowned Pinewood Studios, provides a meeting point for European cinematographers to get hands-on with Sony’s top-end cinematography cameras in the heart of the UK’s film industry.

Sony’s Pinewood-based centre of excellence for filmmakers

The DMPCE really helps. It’s unique and anyone can come here and pick up the skills

Robin Vidgeon BSC

It's only been open for just over a year but Sony’s DMPCE has already guided hundreds of established and aspiring filmmakers through invaluable practical experience of its 4K CineAlta cameras – the F5, F55 and F65 – via a series of well received, expertly tailored courses and masterclasses.

Real film sets

The centre is built around a number of film sets – including a living room and bar area – that’s fully equipped with film lighting, Sony 4K cameras and a range of cinematic lenses. All students attending courses at the DMPCE are given plenty of opportunity to try the cameras out for themselves, with Sony even commissioning an exclusive short film script to shoot at the centre, incorporating the sets of the DMPCE.

Courses and masterclasses are run at least twice a week and are free to attend. Recent courses include a masterclass run by 'Hellraiser' cinematographer Robin Vidgeon BSC, specifically created for up-and-coming filmmakers enrolled on this year’s Slenky course.

“I started off my masterclass with an explanation of what I do and how I do it, then it’s a matter of using the resources Sony offers here; all the sets and the bar area,” explains Vidgeon.

“For the Slenky project, students have five days to shoot a film, and their visit to the DMPCE is a great opportunity for them to learn the basics of lighting, setting up a shot and capturing images on industry leading cameras such as the F55 so they are prepped up for their own shoot.”

“I want them to learn traditional film crew skills in a digital world so I also focus on that a lot to try to reinstall that discipline,” he adds. “The DMPCE really helps. It’s unique and anyone can come here and pick up the skills.”

Reaching out to the marketplace

Sony promotes the centre across Europe as a resource for all European cinematographers to come and use. “We actively market the courses through the camera guilds in different European countries, including Italy, Germany, Sweden, Turkey and Belgium,” says Sony’s Head of Customer Training Ann-Marie Hiscox.

The same week Vidgeon ran his course at the DMPCE, the centre also welcomed visitors from the Swedish Society of Cinematographers, including the president Haken Holmberg, to a bespoke two-day course, again with plenty of practical hands-on experience of the F5, F55 and F65.

“The courses usually start with an introduction and demo of the products and a tutorial on 4K then the students have free rein over what they do with the cameras,” explains Hiscox. “The students go onto the floor, shoot with the cameras and get hands on with all the equipment. We have a grading suite here too, so you also get a chance to grade your material.”

“Visitors here work in film, TV, live production and drama,” she continues. “We do around two courses every week where we show the range of Sony 4K products and explain how it’s really not that complex to shoot in 4K with Sony.”

“We’ve had a very positive response to our courses so far. Students enjoy learning about the cameras and enjoy the atmosphere here,” adds Hiscox. “The DMPCE isn’t just about training on the cameras – it’s a space for us to interact with cameramen and get feedback about the cameras and how they use them, and any issues they may have. It’s Sony genuinely reaching out to the marketplace.”

This view is shared by Sean Mulhern, Head of Engineering at OB company Telegenic, who recently attended a course at the DMPCE. He says: "The great thing about this constantly changing dynamic business, is there is always something new to learn, and the Sony DMPCE team certainly proved that. The team delivered their unsurpassed knowledge with a thoroughly informative, warm and friendly manner."

Training people for the industry

Two in-house Sony product experts are also permanently based at the DMPCE – Richard Lewis, Sony Chief Engineer and Cinematography and 4K Application Specialist, and Pablo Garcia Soriano, 4K Workflow Specialist, D.I.T and Colourist.

“If anyone knows the technical stuff, Richard does. With Pablo and Richard together, there’s nothing they don’t know,” sums up Vidgeon.

Pablo Garcia Soriano has an enviable background in the industry, having worked as a D.I.T on high-profile feature films and TV productions including The Inbetweeners Movie, A Young Doctor’s Notebook, Some Girls, The Wrong Mans and Night at the Museum 3.

He began his career working in Spain as a self-taught editor, filmmaker and colourist, before moving to the UK to take up the role of D.I.T with a focus on grading. “The D.I.T is the link between the editor, grading, vfx, DP, make-up and the art department. You can help everyone to achieve the best looking film and ensure the colourist’s job is more creatively focuses rather than fixing problems from the shoot.”

Garcia joined the DMPCE just after it opened last year, and, as he explains: “One of the things I love about the centre is it’s a really social place. It’s a brilliant idea. It’s great for doing make-up tests and receiving advice on lighting, finding out about colour temperatures of lighting and the colour performance of Sony cameras.”

Garcia works on a 4K DeVinci Resolve grading suite with a 4K TRIMASTER EL display at the DMPCE. “Having the Resolve suite here really helps show cinematographers the full 4K workflow and gives them an understanding of what they can do in the grading suite. And, as with everything else here, they, of course, get a chance to have a play with it themselves.”

Technical and Creative know-how

Sony’s Richard Lewis plays a leading role in devising the content for the courses at the DMPCE. “There’s a maximum of 12 to 15 students on each course and most of the courses are roughly split into three or four parts,” he says. “The beginning is an introduction to 4K and an explanation of what 4K is and the theory of it. Then we move on to the detailed stuff on the F5/F55 – the menus, how to correctly expose and use LUTs.”

“Next we shoot for two to three hours based on a script we had written for the sets here, which was created by writer/director Martin Scanlon,” continues Lewis. “In general, it’s a script-to-screen course, so we finish with a few hours of post production, with participants learning how to handle and ingest data and do a basic grade. We’re training people for the industry.”

“During the practical sections of the courses, we try to assign roles based on the experience and desires of each of the students,” says Lewis. “Whatever role the student is given, we ensure everyone leaves here knowing how to set up a F55 from a factory reset, which is essential for when you're out in the field.”

As well as the courses focused on the F55, Lewis says he runs a dedicated monthly course for the F65, which is “always busy”. The team has also run a number of courses on the new Sony FS7 camera, which have all been “packed out.”

Lewis stresses the centre is a place designed with filmmakers at heart: “We’re not corporate at all here,” he says. “It’s a relaxed environment and atmosphere. People can drop in and discuss whatever they want. Some filmmakers just come along to do specific tests – camera tests, make-up tests, lighting tests, and so on. We can devise days around people’s needs, particularly on specific productions.”

“Everybody is welcome – it’s a non-biased, non-corporate place. They are Sony products but we’re here to help and support your knowledge of a wide range of products and help you get the best out of them. We’re also really in the heart of the film industry here at Pinewood Studios, so there’s a great buzz about the place.”

Book onto a free course today

The Pinewood DMPCE is one of a number of similar Sony centres in creative hubs across the globes, with DMPCs also in LA, Mumbai and Beijing. Each has been set up to help filmmakers enhance their technical skills, 4K knowledge and creativity.

View courses planned at the DMPCE- Register your place today