At Panavision Production in the Era of the Large-Format Camera

Interview Haluki SADAHIRO
 Director of New Product Development and Electronics Engineering 〉 



It’s been a few years since I last visited Panavision, located in the Woodland Hills area north of L.A. For the past 50 years, Panavision has been the driving force behind many of the entertainment industry’s popular and iconic film and television.
What makes it unique is that Japanese Americans have been in prominent positions within the company from the beginning.
Tak MIYAGASHIMA (1928-2011), a Japanese-American, has been recognized for his contribution to technology which earned Panavision many industry awards.
He is also famous for designing Panavision’s logo, which appears in the closing credits, and the fact that his name appears in the company’s main theater is testament to his stature in the company.


Memorial corner of Tak MIYAGISHIMA

Haluki SADAHIRO, a Japanese-American, is another of Panavision’s valued employees.
He was born in Japan and moved to the US as a child.
He worked as a camera design engineer for Ikegami Electronics and  other image-censer company, a Japanese broadcast camera manufacturing company, before joining Panavision in 2011. Since then, he has managed  various projects in product management, electronics engineering, and optics.
He has also had a hand in developing the DXL2 8K camera, which has been used to shoot dozens of feature film and television productions and the recently introduced LCND filter. He shared his thoughts with us on these products as well as a glimpse into what is on the horizon.

The advantage of getting closer to customers

Panavision is a company that holds a very special place within the motion picture industry.
Our primary business is equipment rental, and gives us the opportunity to develop close relationships with our customers.
My department deals with product development as well as electronic engineering, and we are able to hear directly from customers on what they think about a certain camera or lens, which allows us to incorporate that feedback in product development and customer service.
This makes my work very enjoyable.

Panavision / Director of New Product Development and Electronics Engineering


The road to DXL2

The original DXL camera, utilizing the RED Dragon sensor, was developed to be used on set for motion picture production with the RED camera.
The majority of the feedback we received at Panavision was that the RED camera’s specs were somewhat lacking, so we made some adjustments so it could be used on set without any issues.
When we upgraded to the DXL2, we changed the RED Dragon VV sensor, or “RED Vista Vision”, for the new Monstro/8K sensor. The Monstro sensor has the same characteristics of RED, and it covers the noise that some of our users were concerned about.
Once we were able to confirm the sensor’s remarkable performance, we released the DXL2 with it as the mounted sensor. As for the image quality, we took the color attributes characteristic of RED and created “Light Iron Color 2”, our latest LUT.
This LUT offers traditional film-like density.
The first generation DXL was also deployed with an LUT: “Light Iron Color 1”, but when we switched to the Monstro sensor, the noise improved, which was a significant overall upgrade.


Panavision DXL 2 Camera

In terms of an update for accessories, regarding the lens control mechanism we have integrated MDR modules. We are not limited to Preston, but with the C-motion controller and the WCU4 from ARRI.

As for the workflow update, in terms of audio, you can now record wirelessly to capture scratch-track audio (sound used for reference) using Comtek’s audio receiver in-camera.

Panavision LCND

An increase in OTT productions

The DXL cameras currently used on set are mostly on feature films, but OTT (Over The Top) is on the rise.
The popular companies: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney, and Apple TV have all improved the quality of OTT productions, and they are now seeking to achieve cinema quality image production in order to set themselves apart from TV content of old, and there are more cases where DXL and our lenses are being used.
Netflix in particular has a lot of original content, and I believe they want to differentiate themselves with their originality and quality compared to other content holders.
I can’t say for sure, but we have close to 100 DXL cameras, and they are so popular that most of them are in constant use.

What we are looking for from camera manufacturers is ease of maintenance.
The appeal of the RED camera, which the DXL took as its foundation, is its framework of module units, which makes it rental-friendly.
In terms of maintenance, it’s only a question of exchanging that one module if it breaks down, so there’s no need to send it back to the manufacturer each time.
When you do have to send something back to the manufacturer, you face that costly downtime as a rental company.
But in the case of RED, if there is sensor trouble, for example, and we need to send the camera body for repair, the factory is located near our company (in Irvine) so it’s convenient.

Large-format as a tool

We saw even 6 years prior to it happening – during the super 35mm era – that the age of the large-format era, like the 35mm full-size, was inevitable.
At the time digital cinema cameras and super 35mm size were mainstream, and they were the same size, so it wasn’t surprising that the end product looked the same, and filmmakers needed to find a way to differentiate themselves.
In order to do this, they can create their own LOOK, but another means is to use the large-format.
When you go from a super 35mm to full-size, the depth of field becomes shallower because longer lenses are used to maintain the field of view.
The typical magnification of a human eye is approximately 50mm and when switching to large format at 50mm, the wider field of view increases the immersive experience of a scene.

This has been happening since the days of film.
Many of the manufacturers originally making 35mm full-size still cameras and lenses already had experience with full-size technology, and so it wasn’t such a huge leap to evolve from there.
It was because of this that the large-format was able to evolve so quickly.
This goes for anamorphic lenses, too, which explains the differentiation the differentiation and the push towards large-format.

At Panavision, we have been making large-format lenses from the film era, and we also have know-how of anamorphic lenses and 65mm film lenses.
As for lenses that we have been renting out over many years, we have a 60-year history of maintaining performance as well as service technology.
I think that the era of the large-format in the mainstream will continue for a while.



This PANAFLEX camera used for “STARWARS” movie series, It was maintained exactly.
The name of1st cam, ”MILLENNIUM FALCON”, and 2nd cam, “DEATH STAR”.


The adjustment section of the lens is very wide.


The name of TAK MIYAGISHIMA THEATER sticks to the widest preview room.


Japanese motion pictures

I watch a lot of Japanese movies, and the ones influenced by a traditional shooting style like that of Kurosawa, who’ve made films with great care, those are highly praised abroad even today.
The movies that are popular with young Hollywood are shiny and extravagant movies that are high-speed with fast-paced editing, and can be watched on a small screen.
Young people today are watching and being influenced by those kinds of productions.
I think Japanese productions should make more movies that appeal to young people by shooting in that style.

Another thing I wish would improve is lighting and color correction.
Sometimes I come across movies where the skin tone looks green.
I wish they had put more effort into improving that.

End-to-End Service

The key words you might hear a lot at Panavision are “End-to-End service.”
t means that our services include everything from recording to delivery, and what becomes important here is workflow.
However, workflow can mean different things depending on the production or the company.
For us, our speciality is the workflow from production (shooting) to post-production.
It is becoming more important to deliver production data seamlessly over to post-production, which was difficult to do well in the past.
This is going to be a big issue in future.
As the number of movies requiring VFX and CG in post-production increases, so too will the budget, and people’s opinions and requirements will become more demanding.
What will become important is how you transfer the data necessary for post-production most efficiently in the workflow.

But in the end, the important thing is that motion pictures are works of art.
If you focus too much on the workflow, you should not lose sight of the artistry of cinematography.
Not only is this our work, but it is also our responsibility to respect this while improving work flow.