From March 22nd to 23rd it was time for the 2019 edition of Microsalon Rome at legendary Cinecittà Studios. When I mentioned to my friends a while back that I wanted to visit the Microsalon, they were inquisitive, ”why do you want to go there? It’s small and it’s all in Italian.” But I’m happy I persevered, the weather is fantastic, 22° celsius and not a cloud on the horizon. Furthermore the Italians are friendly and helpful, there’s lots of laughter and good cheer all around -and quite a few familiar faces here at Cinecittà Studios!
And in fact, there’s nothing much ”Micro” about The Microsalon Rome. The show is big enough (97 exhibitors) and there’s plenty for the eye and mind to take in. Everywhere in Cinecittà there are tall, Beautiful Roman Pine trees which lend almost a fairytale atmosphere to this classic studio. And, of course, these signature trees are also all over Rome itself.
Distinguished Italian Cinematographer Daniele Nannuzzi, AIC, has kindly agreed to meet me at the entrance of stage 10, home to the Microsalon exhibition. Signore Nannuzzi is pretty much the mastermind behind this event, and he explains to me how he visited the Microsalon Paris a few years ago and said to himself “this is very interesting and beautifully organized, why don’t I try to arrange something like this at home?” And that’s what he did. The first Microsalon Rome was held in 2013 and did not attract all that many exhibitors -but since then the event has grown, and this year the exhibitors number almost a hundred.
Stage 10 lies right alongside the legendary stage 5, the soundstage where Federico Fellini created his masterpieces “La Dolce Vita” (1960), “8 1/2” (1963) and many others. You’re really not allowed anywhere near stage 5, but being hopelessly curious by nature, I sneak a peek through the stage door. The stage is immense, one of the largest in Europe, and the fact that the stage floor is beautifully painted to resemble the kind of marble you’d find in the Vatican suggests that Paolo Sorrentino’s eagerly awaited new HBO-series ”The New Pope” has wrapped here recently.
And there is a lot to remind you of ancient Rome here at Cinecittà. Right behind stage 10, concealed behind a high wall but looming menacingly over it, the sets from the HBO TV series ”Rome” (2005-7) still stand. We’re allowed in for a peek and Daniele points out that the set, with its brightly coloured buildings, is historically accurate. ”Many American movies depict Rome as all white, but in reality the buildings were all painted in stark colors”, he informs me.
And the leitmotif of the ancient world continues as we step into stage 10 where the exhibition is. A huge bronze statue of some Roman deity is holding a severed head over the throngs of people entering the stage.
The very next thing that catches my eye is a lot younger, however. La ragazza Sara Conti Alvarez is a highly capable steadicam operator who displays her consummate skills flying a Tiffen rig in and around the Cartoni Booth close to the entrance. Sara’s seemingly effortless graceful swirling with the Tiffen rig is living proof of the ingenious principles behind the Steadicam, that brute force really isn’t the key factor at play here, but rather the harnessing of the laws of gravity and making them work in your favour.
And just ten paces down the aisle from Cartoni, we find even more Steadicams at the GMC booth. Here cinematographer Luca Cestari, AIC, manufactures his own brand of stabilizers, and with a 3000 € price tag they won’t hurt your pocketbook either. Luca explains his rigs have been used on prestigious projects shot by Italian Ace Director of Photography Luca Bigazzi.
As I remarked before, everyone is in an especially good mood here at the Microsalon Rome! Anna Piffl is positively beaming as she demonstrates the P&S Technic Technovision lens, and she also informs us that the P&S Technic Lens Checker played a vital role in an incident recently!
It turns out that during the shooting of Sony’s upcoming action movie ”Charlie’s Angels” (2019) the crew had been filming extensive car chases and explosions, and they were concerned some of their lenses had literally ”taken a hit”. But fortunately they had brought a P&S Technic Lens Checker along, and went through their lenses in the hotel room, and sure enough one lens was dangerously out of focus.
In this particular instance, it turned out that the lens itself had survived unharmed, but that the lens mount on the camera body had been damaged by the excessive G-forces. Either way, without equipment to reliably check optical performance in the field, in a worst case scenario a crew can run the risk of not discovering damaged lenses and through their continued use wind up with unusable footage!
Anyway, this is just one example of how the P&S Technic Lens Checker can save the day on a demanding shoot. Other useful applications for the Lens Checker is to make sure that newly arrived lenses on the set are okay without tying up the production camera -or why not check center tracking on a zoom lens, or sensor coverage?
The Lens Checker is no more cumbersome than you can bring it along on a production and set it up on location like the crew on ”Charlie’s Angels” did.
The exhibition is really crowded, and I happen to bump into Adolfo Bartoli, AIC. Turns out he has done extensive filming in Stockholm, Sweden, for Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca back in the day! I admit I’ve also worked on an AstraZeneca corporate production early in my career, and we compare our experiences and have a nice little chat about it.
But by now, my tummy signals it’s time for a little snack. Having set up camp just outside the studio door with a Technocrane and a “Russian Arm” pursuit car on display, Panavision hosts an off-again on-again buffet, featuring -among other goodies from the Italian cuisine- a parmesan cheese the size of a car wheel!
Daniele is outside too, and I explain to him that travelling from the airport, I’ve seen advertising for a theme park named ”Cinecittà World”, and I was a little bit nervous that part of this 80+ years old classic film studio had been converted into an amusement park. But Daniele puts my fears to rest, it turns out legendary Italian filmproducer Dino De Laurentiis had his own film studio, built in the 1960s and affectionately named ”Dinocittà”. It is situated about 25 kilometers southwest of Cinecittà.
And it’s the ”Dinocittà” movie studio which, a few years back, was turned into an amusement park. But the whole thing was done with great taste, under artistic supervision of world-famous production designer Dante Ferretti, whose three Academy Awards (and seven nominations, thank you) for productions like “The Name of the Rose”(1986), ”Hugo”(2011) etc, speak for themselves.
Relieved that the venerable studio we now find ourselves at is out of harm’s way, and having regained my strength through generous helpings of olives, cheese and prosciutto, I feel ready for another close encounter with the Microsalon exhibitors! And I can only confirm that, if Anna Piffl was in a good mood, Carey Duffy, European Sales Director at Cooke Optics, well nigh falls off his chair with mirth while demonstrating a Cooke S7 lens! Who knew selling Cooke lenses was this much fun?
But pulling himself together, Carey explains that he has a rewarding relationship with his customers simply because he knows he provides them with lenses that will stand the test of time, retain their value and yield sterling service for decades to come. And that is a nice feeling, it’s as simple as that.
A few booths down the aisle, completing this trio of lens manufacturers and -shall we say- striking a slightly more solemn pose than his colleagues, in the Leitz booth we find Tommaso Vergallo. At the IBC last year, Leitz announced their new series of full format lenses, wishing to offer the marketplace a roadmap as to where they were heading with their product. On display in Amsterdam at that time were a series of prototypes, but Tommaso is pleased to say that they are now able to start delivering the various focal lengths to customers ahead of schedule and eight different lenses will be available for delivery during the latter half of 2019.
Tommaso’s wife Ariane is actually a stills photographer, and she has shot a number of nice portraits with the Leitz Cine lenses, some of which are on the walls of the booth.Their beautiful bokeh is evident in the photos and she isn’t the only one who appreciates them. Since the IBC, Leitz have lent their prototypes to distinguished cinematographers for a trial spin, and the reception has been most enthusiastic. As a result of this, Leitz now have a healthy catalogue of preorders on these lenses, as well as on the two full format zooms which are also part of this new family.
Saying ”Ciao!” to Tommaso and doubling back towards the other end of the exhibition hall, I discover a familiar face from back home in a corner, only this one is a little grumpier than the others. Jonas Elmqvist from BB&S inc is little bit upset with the booth he’s been assigned to: ”what, you wanna put me here in a corner where no-one can see me?”
No problem, Jonas. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet you are now plenty visible! And Jonas goes on to demonstrate this ingenious new product invented by Jakob Ballinger from The Light Bridge Inc. A finely ground mirror which lets you project very soft light from a hard source. You can create soft light from a much shorter distance than when shooting your light through diffusion, and you lose very little light in the process, about 87% reaches the subject. What’s not to like about that?
Running around in the exhibition area, one tends to lose track of time, but it’s actually 7.30 in the evening by now. As I stick my head out, people are beginning to wrap up their gear outside stage 10 and darkness has begun to fall. I decide it’s time to call it a day, but in fact, Cinecittà is such a vast and sprawling place, that I get lost trying to find my way back out. Ironically I meet another group of confused visitors who ask me for directions! Fortunately, together we manage to find an exit after a while, and then it’s almost a mile walking back along the surrounding wall to the main entrance and the Cinecittà subway station. The place is big enough, alright.
And I consider myself lucky, taking the subway back home: there are advantages to leading a simple life. By comparison, when I left Daniele Nannuzzi, at the end of an arduous day at the office he still had to face the tough decision which one of his cars to drive home… 😉
Lars Pettersson, FSF