Pushing the boundaries of cinema

Griffith Film School PhD graduate Dr Daniel Maddockhas been nominated for the Chancellor’s Medal for his research on virtual cinematography — a cutting-edge technique used in Hollywood blockbusters like GravityandThe Jungle Book.

Virtualcinematography involves melding live-action performances with images created on computer, combining the real and virtual in a single frame.

He put his research into practice on the set of a new feature film, Space/Time, helping to create a slick, sci-fi thriller on a shoestring budget.

Dr Maddock believes this technique will allow independent filmmakers to compete with big-budget Hollywood productions.

“Traditional cinematography uses cameras to record images, but a lot of films now are creating images on a computer,” he said.

“It is still a very new technology and it isn’t used much outside Hollywood because of the cost.

“I’m working on a sci-film called Space/Time, which is a low-budget independent film made in Brisbane, but using virtual cinematography, we’ve been able to create a seamless blend of cinematography and sophisticated visual effects.

“A lot of it was shot in a studio at Griffith Film School, but it looks like a big-budget feature.”

Dr Maddock said the use of virtual cinematography could be traced back to the very earliest days of cinema.

“My research shows that it’s been practiced for more than a century – the first kind of tricks involved using freeze frames, double exposure and painted glass in front of the camerato add to the scene.”

Dr Maddock spent more than decade working in the film industry before deciding to embark on a PhD at Griffith Film School. He said his doctoral studies had given him the time and resources to explore filmmaking in more depth.

“I’m one of the first people to have written a PhD on cinematography, it’s not an area that has really been explored in an academic setting before, so being nominated for the Chancellor’s Medal was such a validation,” he said.

“As part of my PhD, I was also lucky enough to get the support of Griffith Film School in making a feature film.

“It’s is the only film school with cinema-quality equipment, they have a great soundstage with a green screen, and the faculty are amazing.”

Griffith Film School lecturer Dr Debra Beattie, who supervised Daniel’s PhD, said he was an outstanding candidate.

“Daniel is the first student in Griffith Film School’s history to be nominated for the Chancellor’s Medal, and that reflects the quality of his work,” she said.

“Supervising his thesis was a fantastic experience and a huge learning curve for me too, his research is absolutely groundbreaking.”

Dr Beattie is planning to use virtual cinematography to complete her next film, The Art Lovers, a biopic on Brisbane sculptor Daphne Mayo.

“I’m using these new techniques on my next film, not to create a futuristic world, but to reimagine Brisbane’s past.

“As a filmmaker it’s incredibly liberating – a way to make reality more real.

“The work that Daniel has produced here at Griffith has made a real contribution to the industry – it’s a game-changer.”