This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be a guest at a SIM2 press event in Northern California's Napa Valley. The event was held at Francis Ford Coppola's Rubicon Estate, a gorgeous 1,500 plus acre ranch nestled in the mountains of the Napa Valley. The Rubicon Estate has a storied history dating back to the mid to late 1800's and is one of the few, if not the only, vineyards in Napa Valley still making wine the old fashioned way; one bottle at a time and in limited quintiles the way Gustave Niebaum (the original owner and founder of the Rubicon Estate) did in the late 1800's. Francis Ford Coppola purchased the vineyard in the 1970's following the completion of "The Godfather" and later purchased the estate in the early Nineties and has been producing his flagship wines at this location ever since.
SIM2 thought the Rubicon Estate would be a fitting local to host a media and dealer gathering announcing their partnership with Coppola, which you'll see in a series of upcoming advertisements for their newest projectors. Guests arrived at the Rubicon Estate on Friday and were treated to a twenty minute sit down with Francis Ford Coppola himself where he spoke about his time in the film industry as well as what he sees the future of the film industry as being. It was refreshing to hear one of Hollywood's most storied filmmakers in Coppola speak so favorably about the emergence of digital cinema and digital filmmaking. For a man in his 70s, Coppola is surprisingly with the times and is very much in favor of the digital revolution and has been since the late 70s when the idea of digital filmmaking was barely in its infancy.
Coppola spoke about his latest film "Tetro" which he shot on the Sony CineAlta HDW-F900R HD Camera, a first for Coppola. He said the F900R was the first HD camera that he'd seen that had an image quality that compared favorably to 35mm film cameras. Aside from the F900R's image quality what he seemed to value most about digital filmmaking is its freedom not only on location but also in postproduction. According to Coppola he approached SIM2 (he stressed this several times during his candid conversation with the various members of the press) after doing exhaustive research into Texas Instruments' DLP technology, of which he is a huge fan and avid supporter. Coppola went on to say that he personally flew down to SIM2's headquarters in Italy to view their products in action before choosing a projector that suited his needs, both personally and professionally, though he never said which SIM2 projector he chose.
Following his candid conversation with the group he took a couple of questions, which were mostly geared towards his relationship with SIM2 and SIM2 as a brand. I was able to sneak a non SIM2 question into the mix asking Coppola about what he thought of the current crop of digital cinema cameras and the effect its having on the cinematic experience, mainly going to a movie theater versus staying home on a Friday night. Coppola's went on to answer by saying, "digital cinema cameras have gotten to the point where they're equal to 35mm film cameras ...digital cinema and digital cinema projection is the best way to view movies today, but what you're able to view in the home with a digital projector using the technology from Texas Instruments is quite amazing." I asked him which digital cinema camera he preferred to which he replied, "George (Lucas) recommended the Sony F900R so we went with that," he then threw in a little jab at the independent filmmaker favorite RED 4K camera calling it a "computer server with a lens." "I don't like the idea of having a team of technicians and repairmen on set just to operate a camera, which is what you need if you're going to film with the RED," Coppola added.
Following the last of the questions and a brief autograph session, Coppola exited and we were treated to a beautiful lunch in the Rubicon courtyard before taking a tour of the grounds that ended in a wine tasting. Later that evening Coppola was gracious enough to join us for dinner, though his people seemed to have forgotten a prior commitment and he had to hurry off half way into the second course. All and all it was a delightful trip and a rare opportunity to spend some time with one of the biggest directors of all time-not a bad weekend if you ask me.