Matthew Johnson’s Sundance Film “Operation Avalanche” Shot on Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras

Blackmagic Design announced the highly anticipated Sundance film “Operation Avalanche” was shot using Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras. The film, by award winning director Matthew Johnson and DPs Jared Raab and Andrew Appelle, was shot using the Pocket Cinema Cameras, along with a unique film conversion workflow to capture the look and feel of an underground 1960s documentary.

“Operation Avalanche” is a found footage film where four undercover CIA agents are sent to NASA posing as a documentary film crew, and what they discovered leads to one of the biggest conspiracies in American history. Matthew Johnson, the writer and director of the film, was the creator of the sleeper hit film “Dirties,” which won the Slamdance Film Festival in 2013 and was later released by Kevin Smith.

To capture Johnson and the DPs’ vision, the film had to be shot with the look of 1960s film stock and had to look like most of the footage was shot covertly. Shooting in RAW, footage was converted into a 2K scan from the Pocket Cinema Camera’s Super 16mm image. Footage was then graded after the final 16mm conversion.

“Basically, we wanted a final print that looks like it was shot in the 1960s and buried in the ground and found in 2015,” Johnson said. “We developed a one of a kind conversion process to pull this off. We shot all our guerrilla footage with the Pocket Cinema Cameras and then did a 1:1 Super 16mm conversion that we invented ourselves. The Pocket Cinema Cameras were perfect because we get great image quality and the Super 16mm gate is the same as a Super 16mm film gate, which made conversion much easier.”

Another benefit to Raab and Appelle of using the Pocket Cinema Camera was the camera’s small size and ability to shoot discreetly.

“In order to convincingly pull off the concept that ‘Operation Avalanche’ is a real documentary filmed in the 1960s, it was important for us to use as much of the real world as possible. Shooting discreetly in public is something we learned how to do on our last film, ‘The Dirties,’ and we were determined to keep using our formula in this film. We needed a camera that wasn’t going to get us noticed too quickly, but could get us footage that was going to stand up to our complicated post process of making it look like archival 16mm film,” said Raab. “The Pocket Cinema Camera, with it’s impressive dynamic range and tiny form factor, became indispensable to our process. In the final film, footage obtained from the Pocket Cinema Camera seamlessly cuts with beautiful archival film from the 60s, and I challenge anyone to be able to spot the difference.

“In one scene for the film, Matt Johnson’s character had to sneak on to the set of a famous film, which was shooting near London in 1967. We set up a location scout at the actual studio where filming had taken place and had our characters arrive to the ‘scout’ in full costume. Luckily the studio had retained many of its original buildings, so out came the discreet Pocket Cinema Camera, and we started running scenes.”

“It is great working with a hardware company that is in lockstep with us in terms of quality and innovation,” finished Johnson.