The Journey to 100 Years with The ASC

ASC Celebrates its 100th Anniversary

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Richard Crudo, ASC was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He began his film career as an assistant cameraman. As a director of photography, Crudo has shot a wide range of feature, television, and commercial productions. Among his feature credits are Federal Hill, American Buffalo, American Pie, Music From Another Room, Outside Providence, Down To Earth, Out Cold, Grind, Brooklyn Rules and some 26 episodes of the Emmy-award winning Justified. He has also directed several independent features.

Crudo is Chairman of the ASC 100th Anniversary Committee, responsible for planning festivities to celebrate the organization’s centennial. He served six terms as president of ASC, in addition to assuming chairman duties on the ASC Awards Committee several times as well. As a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he has served on the Executive Committee of the Cinematographers Branch as well as the Sci-Tech Committee.

ProductionHUB: What is the ASC? Why was it formed?

Richard Crudo: The ASC is an artistic, cultural and educational organization that was formed in 1919. Membership is by invitation only to cinematographers who have proven themselves to be among the very best in the world. It was created to advance the art, craft, and science of cinematography and to promote the interests of cinematographers across all forms of production.

ProductionHUB: How has the organization evolved to address changing technology and workflows? Can you give a few examples?

Richard Crudo: From the earliest days, the history of cinematography has been a story of change and advancement - and the ASC has been there nearly every step of the way to ensure that things are moving in the proper direction. For example, during the 1920s the ASC worked with industry partners to establish standards in such areas as lighting, film emulsions and laboratory processes. The ensuing decades saw an even deeper involvement of the Society with every emerging technology and method. Since 2003 our Motion Imaging Technology Council (under the guidance of Curtis Clark, ASC) has been pivotal in developing and maintaining standards for capture, post-production, an exhibition that will carry us far into the future. And that work will continue for as long as there is an ASC.

ProductionHUB: Can you highlight some of the important contributions of the ASC in the industry?

Richard Crudo: There are so many! Since 1920, we've published the industry's bible, American Cinematographer Magazine. Over the decades our members have photographed tens of thousands of films - and thus played a direct role in the shaping of our culture. To a very high degree, we've influenced the development of equipment and technology throughout the world, and that continues today. We've educated untold numbers of students and professionals. We've turned the ASC Clubhouse into the universal headquarters for all those interested in the art, craft, and science of what we do. Our members have also been at the forefront of the effort to ensure safety and diversity on our crews.

(See timeline below for more milestones)

ProductionHUB: From your perspective, what are some of the benefits of being an ASC member?

Richard Crudo: Regardless of anything else, being invited into the ASC is the pinnacle of a cinematographer's achievements. In addition to signaling to the world that you're among the best at what you do, membership gives access to a whole new world of knowledge and personal relationships, often exchanged with people you've considered heroes all your life. It's just a wonderful thing and I count myself extremely lucky to be a part of it.

ProductionHUB: What’s next for the ASC – how do cinematographers stay relevant in the future of moviemaking?

Richard Crudo: As much as the ASC honors its past and its traditions, we are a forward-looking organization. And though the industry is changing at a blinding speed and we sometimes seem to be overwhelmed by waves of technology, the heart, and soul of the cinematographer - the artistic vision that brings images to life - will never be superseded. You also have to remember that our contribution is unique in many ways beyond the obvious responsibilities. The ASC will always be there to promote our participation in the process, yet it's up to each of us as individuals to stay involved in the creation of our images from prep through post-production. That ethic has served us for over a hundred years now...and I trust it will see us through the next hundred as well!

ASC Timeline of Milestones:

February 1913 — The Cinema Camera Club of New York and the Static Camera Club of America in Hollywood are organized. Each consists of cinematographers who shared ideas about advancing the art and craft of moviemaking. By 1916, the two organizations exchange membership reciprocity. They both disband in February of 1918, after five years of struggle.

January 8, 1919 — The American Society of Cinematographers is chartered by the state of California. Founded by 15 members, it is dedicated to “advancing the art through artistry and technological progress … to help perpetuate what has become the most important medium the world has known.” Members of the ASC subsequently play a seminal role in virtually every technological advance that has affects the art of telling stories with moving images.

The 15 original ASC members were Joe August, L.D. Clawson, Arthur Edeson, William C. Foster, Eugene Gaudio, Fred Le Roy Granville, Walter L. Griffin, J.D. Jennings, Roy H. Klaffki, Victor Milner, Robert S. Newhard, Philip E. Rosen, Charles G. Rosher, Homer A. Scott and L. Guy Wilky.

June 20, 1920 — The first documented appearance of the “ASC” credential for a cinematographer in a theatrical film’s titles is the silent western Sand, produced by and starring William S. Hart and shot by Joe August, ASC.

November 1, 1920 — The first issue of American Cinematographer magazine is published. Volume One, #1, consists of four pages and mostly reports news and assignments of ASC members. It is published twice monthly.

1922 — Guided by ASC members, Kodak introduced panchromatic film, which “sees” all of the colors of the rainbow, and recorded images’ subtly nuanced shades of gray, ranging from the darkest black to the purest white. The Headless Horseman is the first motion picture shot with the new negative. The cinematographer is Ned Van Buren, ASC.

March 1922 — American Cinematographer becomes a became a monthly publication and is published every month since. Over the years and under the guidance of several editors, the magazine grows into the leading professional cinematography publication of the world and earns multiple awards for excellence.

1927 — Hal Mohr, ASC photographs The Jazz Singer. ASC members play an important role in making a rapid transition from silent films to “talkies” feasible. They consult with Kodak on the characteristics of a new type of film that records an optical soundtrack on the edge of the film, and with Mole-Richardson on new lighting technology needed for the new film.

May 16, 1929 — Karl Struss, ASC, and Charlie Rosher, ASC together win the first Academy Award for Best Cinematography with their collaboration on Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. The other three nominated films were The Devil Dancer, The Magic Flame and Sadie Thompson — all shot by George Barnes, ASC. ASC members play a prominent role in a technology committee organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

1935 — Ray Rennahan, ASC photographs Becky Sharp, the first full-length three-strip Technicolor movie. Several years later, Rennahan traveled to the United Kingdom, where he trained Jack Cardiff, BSC and other British cinematographers in the art and craft of shooting films in Technicolor.

1935 — Jackson J. Rose, ASC edits the first edition of the The American Cinematographer Hand Book and Reference Guide. Nine updated editions would be published by 1956.

February 28, 1937 — After purchasing the property at 1782 N. Orange Dr. in Hollywood and making numerous repair and improvements, the ASC formally opened with its first meeting in its new quarters. The ASC Clubhouse was born.

1939 — Separate Academy Awards were awarded for color and black-and-white movies for the first time. Gregg Toland, ASC received an Oscar for his black-and-white camerawork on Wuthering Heights. Ernest Haller, ASC and Ray Rennahan, ASC shared an Oscar for the color film Gone With the Wind.

1940 — Linwood Dunn, ASC and Cecil Love are commissioned by the U.S. Army to invent an optical printer that can be used to produce compelling training films. The Acme-Dunn Optical Printer they design becomes an industry standard for creating visual effects. Dunn receives an Academy Award for his efforts in 1981.

1950 — The ASC Student Film Award program was started to encourage young filmmakers in the perfection and recognition of their work. The first winner was Conrad L. Hall of the University of Southern California. This inspired Hall to enter the field professionally, and he later became an esteemed member of the ASC and an Academy Award winner for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, American Beauty and Road to Perdition.

1952 — The Lion and the Horse is the first motion picture produced on Eastman color negative film. Edwin B. DuPar, ASC was the cinematographer.

1956 - Robert Gottschalk and Richard Moore, ASC co-found Panavision and invent a series of more portable and flexible 35mm cameras and lenses by working in close collaboration with members of ASC. Moore left Panavision in 1964 to resume his career as a cinematographer.

1960 — The ASC publishes the first edition of the American Cinematographer Manual, a field guide to cinematographic tools and techniques. It is today in its 10th edition. In 2002, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences presented an Award of Commendation to the ASC for its ongoing publication of the Manual.

1960 — The ASC establishes a Research and Scientific Committee, headed by ASC associate member Walter Beyer. Under his leadership, many recommendations for standards were established, which were accepted by the industry.

1977 — Haskell Wexler, ASC wins an Oscar for his riveting imagery in Bound for Glory, where he demonstrates the artistic possibilities for using the Steadicam image stabilization device invented by ASC associate member Garrett Brown.

1977 — Star Wars, directed by George Lucas, is a sensation at the box office. Future ASC members John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, and Dennis Muren play key roles in creating artfully executed Oscar-winning visual effects. They go on to play major parts in creating visual effects technologies that mesh seamlessly with live-action cinematography.

1980 — Brianne Murphy becomes the first female cinematographer to be invited to join the ASC.

1982 — NHK and various consumer electronics companies in Japan design an analog, high-definition television system with a 15:9 aspect ratio, which they propose as a global standard. ASC members reject the proposal and call for a more forward-thinking advanced television system with digital transmission and letterboxed aspect ratios that preserve the artistic intentions of the filmmakers.

1984 — Richard Edlund, ASC pioneers the integration of photorealistic digital effects into the space-set thriller 2010 by using a powerful supercomputer to convert NASA still photos of the planet Jupiter to motion images that could be seamlessly combined with live-action footage.

1986 — The brainchild of ASC members Michael D. Margulies and Woody Omens, the first ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement ceremony is held, with Gregory Peck handing out the only award that first year to Jordan Cronenweth, ASC for Peggy Sue Got Married. The following year, the program is opened up to recognize television work and its first Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, George Folsey, ASC. Today, the ASC Awards recognize exceptional work in feature films and television, as well as acknowledge cinematographers and other filmmakers — including directors, producers, and actors — for their exemplary careers or contributions to the art and craft of filmmaking.  

1987-’96 — The FCC organizes an Advisory Committee on an Advanced Television Systems (ADTV). Most members work for consumer electronics companies that have vested interests in the outcome. ASC assembles an advisory committee consisting of filmmakers and associate members from technology sectors of the industry. They convince the FCC to opt for a transition to an advanced digital transmission system which serves the best interests of the art form and public.

1989 — ASC participates in defining requirements for the 4K 10-bit Cineon “digital film system” developed by Kodak, consisting of a motion picture film scanner, imaging software and a film recorder. The first application is the restoration of the Walt Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Drawfs, completed in 1993.

1991 — Dennis Muren, ASC spearheads the visual effects industry’s move from models and miniatures to computer-generated imagery (CGI) for the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, photographed by Adam Greenberg, ASC. Muren (along with Stan Winston, Gene Warren Jr., and Robert Skotak) earns an Academy Award for his efforts. Muren’s advances in digital effects continue with the smash hit Jurassic Park (1993), earning himself another Oscar (with Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, and Michael Lantieri).

1998 — John Lindley, ASC photographs the period drama Pleasantville, which was written and directed by Gary Ross. It was the first motion picture converted to digital format for timing and image manipulation in a digital intermediate (DI) suite. Today, nearly all films are converted to digital for final color grading via a DI process, overseen by the cinematographer.

2000 — Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC suggests a digital intermediate finish for O Brother, Where Art Thou? to Ethan and Joel Coen, who produced, wrote and directed the film. Deakins extended his role from preproduction through end of postproduction.

2001 — M. David Mullen, ASC shoots the independent dramatic feature Jackpot with a Sony CineAlta  F900 24P HD camera. It is the first such digital production and released theatrically on 35mm film.

2003 — ASC organizes its Motion Imaging Technology Council (initially known as the ASC Technology Committee), which includes Society members and associates and many of the industry’s leading technology experts. The committee explores all aspects of filmmaking, from the design of new cameras, through the projection of images on cinema screens, and standards and practices for preservation.

2003/2004 – The ASC-DCI Standard Evaluation Material, known as the “StEM,” provided essential motion picture image content used by DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) to create the imaging quality requirements for digital cinema that enabled the evaluation of digital cinema projection systems.

2004 — Tami Reiker, ASC becomes the first woman to earn an ASC Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, for her camerawork in the stylish HBO series Carnivàle.

2006/2007 – In collaboration with the Art Directors Guild (ADG) Technology Committee, American Cinematographer published a supplement called “Authoring Images,” which explored how the new digital ‘look management’ and pre-visualization tools had the potential to reinforce the creative collaboration between the director, cinematographer and production designer.

2008 — The American Society of Cinematographers Color Decision List (ASC CDL) is presented by the MITC (formerly ASC Technology Committee), which has become the de facto industry standard for cross-platform primary RGB color grading. In 2012, the ASC receives a Television Academy Emmy Engineering Award for the ASC CDL, which “enables primary color correction data to be passed from the shooting set to dailies and editorial post, as well as interchanged between different color correction systems and applications”; and “helps communicate scene-specific ‘looks’ throughout the production and postproduction pipeline in an iteratively modifiable fashion that can also form the basis or starting point for final color grading.” In 2014, the ASC CDL was recognized with the Hollywood Post Alliance Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation in Postproduction.

2009 – The ASC and PGA collaborated on the Camera Assessment Series (CAS), a test which assessed the photographic performance of 7 digital motion picture cameras in comparison with film via the then prevailing Cineon-based 2K digital intermediate (DI) post-production workflow.

2009 — Photographed by Mauro Fiore, ASC with the Fusion Camera System (employing Sony HDC-F950 cameras), the 3-D sci-fi epic Avatar, directed by James Cameron, is the first digitally shot feature to win an Oscar for Best Cinematography.

2010 — The ASC begins its proactive collaboration with AMPAS on the development of the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), an innovative open and transparent cross-platform color management system supporting dynamic range and color gamut greater than film. ACES receives a Television Academy Emmy Engineering Award in 2012 and a Scientific and Technical Award from AMPAS in 2015.

2014 — The Society begins the ASC Master Class education program. Here, ASC members and other professionals teach students from around the world on subjects including lighting, composition, angles, creating mood, postproduction techniques and many other aspects of visual storytelling.

2014 — The ASC invites Pixar’s Sharon Calahan to join. She is the first member with no background in live action feature film who had worked entirely in computer animation.

December 2016 — The first ASC International Master Class session is held, in Toronto, Canada. Subsequent classes take place in Beijing, China, and São Paulo, Brazil.

2016 – The ASC forms the Vision Committee, dedicated to promoting and facilitating change. The Committee is focused on ensuring that cinematographers and their fellow filmmakers reflect the diverse population of the world, including all genders, race, religions, economic status or orientation, as well as encourage advancement for the underrepresented. In that effort, the Vision Committee organizes inspirational events intermixed with networking opportunities and has established formal mentorship and ASC Master Class scholarship programs.

January 23, 2018 — For her work in the period drama Mudbound, Rachel Morrison, ASC becomes the first woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and is also honored with an ASC Award nomination.

January 8, 2019 — The 100th anniversary of the founding of the ASC!

To start the celebration, the Society releases their list of 100 Milestone Films of the 20th Century, with the Top 10 ranking.

The evening began with the revelation of the ASC 100th seal, which has been permanently installed in the courtyard of the historic clubhouse in Hollywood. Colonel Terry Virts, alongside ASC President Kees van Oostrum and ASC 100th Committee Chair Richard Crudo, unveiled the seal. Virts is a retired U.S. Air Force test pilot and NASA veteran of two spaceflights. While in space he took more than 300,000 photos that are an integral component of the National Geographic IMAX film A Beautiful Planet, which Virts also shot and stars in. The ASC boasts five astronauts as Honorary members (Col. Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Neil A. Armstrong, Col. Michael Collins, Capt. Bruce McCandless, Dr. Ronald E. McNair).

Later, District 13 City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell presented a resolution from the City of Los Angeles, recognizing the long-standing contributions of the ASC to advancing the art and craft of cinematography.

Wrapping up the evening, an audio message from Barbra Streisand personally acknowledging the ASC’s milestone was played. Streisand received the society’s Board of Governor Award in 2015. She said, “Congratulations to the American Society of Cinematographers on celebrating your 100th year anniversary. I've always considered myself extremely fortunate that the first time I stood in front of a motion picture camera, the great Harry Stradling was seated behind it. His understanding of how to film actors in a way that enhanced their performance, and how to blend shadows and light to paint pictures in the dark, was a thrilling revelation to me. I came to appreciate that a great cinematographer is like a magician with the ability to control your perceptions by capturing the world as they want you to see it. So, congratulations again, and here are the next 100 years."

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