#1: From interview [Canal+, 2011]

#2: "The Tudors"

#3: 2004

 

   


OUSAMA RAWI   BSC/CSC

 

Born: 3 March (or May) 1939, Baghdad, Iraq.

Career: 'Ousama Rawi was born in Iraq, but was schooled in Scotland and began his film career as a 'tea boy' for a commercial production house in London. He discovered that the best way to move upwards was to make friends in the film business and get a little lucky. "While I was a glorified PA making tea," Rawi remembered, "I befriended a would-be director, somebody who had a penny or two and was going to shoot a short film. I told him I would shoot it for free and I had access to equipment. At the commercial production house, I made friends with editors and people at the rental houses and labs who told me 'if you want to borrow a camera or purchase a roll of film, we'll get it for you.' "So I shot the film for him, and the editors at the commercial house gave their time to cut the half-hour short. Then [the young director] submitted it to the selection committee of the Cannes short film festival. It went in as one of two British entries, and to my surprise it actually won second prize. Rank Film Distributors chose the short to open the program for the 1965 feature 'The Collector'. "So now I was a 'tea boy' with a film I had shot on the circuit with 'The Collector'. I guess I must have been 20 or 21." Rawi next moved to a regional television station as a newsreel cameraman where "I got my union card." After about 14 months, he moved to London as a freelance cinematographer "calling myself a DP and hoping someone would give me a break." It came as a commercial for a hair product, Brylcreem, which the director said even he could light. "That was my first experience working on a real job that wasn't newsreel." Two or three weeks later, the director called Rawi to shoot another commercial, then another. "Soon other companies were using me and before I knew it I was a busy commercial cameraman." The cinematographer's first feature was Mike Hodges's 1971 crime thriller 'Pulp', starring Michael Caine, from United Artists. UA was initially opposed to the unknown Rawi as DOP, but Caine, one of the co-producers, was persuaded by industry friends to hire the young shooter. It was just about the time 'Pulp' was released that Rawi was invited to join the British Society of Cinematographers. Rawi's introduction to Canada came in 1977 as director of photography on the UK/Canada co-production 'Power Play'. Writer/director Martyn Burke, a Canadian, initially shot scenes in Germany, to be followed by the rest of the shoot in Toronto. However, money problems shelved the project until 1977, when Rawi crossed the Atlantic to film the balance of the picture. During those eight to nine weeks, Rawi met several Canadian producers and, shortly after returning to the U.K., he was offered a 12-month contract to shoot commercials in Canada. He then joined two commercial producers to form a production company and "in the blink of an eye, 10 years went by." Finally, "I had to get back to long form because I missed it terribly." He moved to Los Angeles in 1994, but maintained a home in Toronto and now travels back and forth for personal and professional reasons.' [Don Angus]

Ph & directed numerous commercials.

Joined the CSC in 1981.

Was married [1981-96] to actress Rita Tushingham.

Appeared in the doc 'Borgia Diaries' [2011, Michael Driscoll; 7m].

Awards: As doph: CSC Award TV Drama nom [2002] for 'Ruby's Bucket of Blood'; CSC TV Series Cinematography Award [2008] & 'Gemini' Award [2008] for 'The Tudors' [ep #6, 1st season]; ASC TV Award nom [2008], CSC TV Series Cinematography Award [2009] & 'Gemini' Award nom [2009] for 'The Tudors' [ep #1, 2nd season]; CSC TV Drama Cinematography Award [2011] for 'Ben Hur' [Night 2]; 'Emmy' Award nom [2010] & CSC TV Series Cinematography Award [2011] for 'The Tudors' [ep #10, 4th season].

As dir: Mystfest 'Best Film' nom [1987] for 'A Judgment in Stone'.


'The Tudors' [2006]: 'The most remarkable feature of the series is how it looks: rich and dark with bright pools of fire and candlelight, the warm browns of wood panels and furniture and the brilliant colors of bejeweled gowns, necklace-festooned doublets and scarlet ecclesiastical robes. For the viewer who cares about such things, the immediate assumption is: 'this is 35mm film.' That viewer would be wrong. Seasons 1 and 2 were shot with the Panavision-modified ['Panavised'] Sony F900 HD digital video camera, Rawi told CSC News in telephone and email interviews from Ireland, where the series was being shot. "I contemplated using the more modern F950, but I decided against it. Although it gave me the full-color space of 4:4:4 compared to the F900's 4:2:2, the major disadvantage of the F950 for me was the fact that the capture part and the recording part of the camera are separated by a cable. This would make it inconvenient for shots where the camera would start low on a dolly and jib up to maximum height, having to cope with one more cable that could get entangled."

He said the camera he wanted from the start was the Panavision Genesis. "In my opinion, it was the most convenient and cinematographer-friendly HD camera. It has a full 35-mm-size chip and takes standard 35mm Panavision lenses. They are true and tested lenses, and by using them I would get normal 35mm look depth of field, something grossly lacking in the small-chip HD cameras."

However, the budget wasn't there to carry four Genesis cameras on the first two seasons. "When season 3 came along, I had a long discussion with Panavision, and we somehow worked it out that I could have my first-choice camera, the Genesis."

Rawi, who had never before shot a series, said his only previous experience with HD was in 2003 on a Showtime cable movie, 'DC 9/11: Time of Crisis', shot on a Panavised Sony F900. The DOP said the lighting design for 'The Tudors' would have been different had it been shot on film, but the HDTV decision had been made by Showtime.

"My first task was to fully understand the characteristics of the camera of choice and learn its idiosyncrasies. Its limited exposure latitude, which I found to be seven stops, was a big impediment. Its biggest weakness is the inability to effectively deal with highlights. Even with the seven-stop latitude, there were only three stops available in overexposure before clipping occurred. I had to learn to fool the camera and to make the clipped highlights acceptable in the broadcast legal sense and appear to be completely normal to the viewer's eye."

Rawi said he deliberately created deep shadows and bright highlights to increase contrast because "the HD cameras I was utilizing constantly wanted to flatten the images. I had to learn how to successfully fight that tendency.

"Given that in 16th-century England the only source of light was natural daylight - sunny or gray - or the flame from candles, torches, flambeaux or fireplaces, I decided to restrict myself to mimicking those sources of light."

Rawi's next decision: What kind of candles? "I had special candles made to test on camera. I selected the best parchment color for the wax that both the production designer and I determined was authentic looking enough for the wax color of the day. I then had them made with a single wick, a double wick and a triple wick. This gave me three different levels of light output to test. The triple-wick candles, though much brighter, making my work easier, were unacceptable to the F900 cameras. They were clipped immediately, thereby having virtually no detail registered wherever the candles were placed within the image. "This would have made the images unacceptable for transmission. I settled for the double-wicked candles. My decision enabled me to get adequate illumination without the danger of clipping. Thus I was often able to use the candles themselves that were in shot as the actual source of light. Also, I measured the color temperature of the different flames and gelled any of the artificial lights I was using to match the candles, the flambeaux and the fireplaces.' [From article "Bringing 'The Tudors' to Life: HD Wizardry of Ousama Rawi, CSC/BSC, turns the Court of Henry VIII into Moving Art" by Don Angus on the CSC website, November 2008.]


 

 FILMS

1965

Daniele [Georges Robin] 16mm/b&w; doc/30m

1966

Zabaglione [Georges Robin] c; short/14m

1967

The Image [Michael Armstrong] b&w; short/14m; premiered in 1969

1968

A Little of What You Fancy [Robert Webb] c; mus doc/75m; cph: Richard Bayley & Ron Granville

1970

The Science of Farming [Don Higgins] c; comm doc/28m; for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1970

Two Boys and a Donkey [Murray Smith] c; short/26m

1971

The Present [Don Higgins] c; comm doc/35m; for Dymo International

1971

Pulp [Mike Hodges] c

1973

The 14/The Wild Little Bunch [David Hemmings] c

1973

Gold/The Great Gold Conspiracy [Peter Hunt] p/c; 2uc: Jim Devis

 

[Left] with Don Siegel and c.op Jimmy Devis [right] - "The Black Windmill"

Photo Thys Ockersen Archive

 

1974

The Black Windmill [Don Siegel] p/c

1974

Rachel's Man/Ish Rachel [Moshe Mizrahi] p/c

1974

Alfie Darling/Oh, Alfie [Ken Hughes] c

1975

The 'Human' Factor [Edward Dmytryk] c

1975

Sky Riders [Douglas Hickox] tao 35mm/c; aph (+ dir aerial action): Greg MacGillivray & Jim Freeman

1977

Bovver Boots [Nikolas Janis] c; short/21m; 2uc: Chris Moore

1977

Power Play/Le jeu de la puissance/Operation Overthrow/State of Shock [Martyn Burke] c; 2uc: James B. Kelly

1977

Starlock [Gordon Hessler] scheduled to start filming in October; status unknown

1978

La petite fille en velours bleu/Little Girl in Blue Velvet [Alan Bridges] c

 

"Zulu Dawn"

 

1978

Zulu Dawn [Douglas Hickox] p/c; 2uc: Peter MacDonald

1979

Love Bite [Douglas Hickox] scheduled to start filming in August; status unknown

1997

Parting Shots [Michael Winner] c

1998

Blackheart [Dominic Shiach] c

2001

Avenging Angelo [Martyn Burke] c; aph: John Trapman

2004

Somebodies [Hadjii Hand] HD/c

 

"One Night"

 

2009

One Night [Shelagh Carter] c; short/15m

2015

Before Anything You Say [Shelagh Carter] c

2016

Stegman Is Dead [David Hyde] c

 

 TELEVISION

1970

Philby: A Ruthless Journey [Douglas Hurn] doc/70m; cph: John Philby; for BBC2-tv

1976

Echoes of the Sixties (A Musical Trip) [Kevin Billington] special/60m for NBC-tv (1979)

1976

Once Upon a Time Is Now... The Story of Princess Grace [Kevin Billington] doc/74m; addph: Gerry Fisher; ep NBC-tv series 'The Big Event'

1979

Charlie Muffin/A Deadly Game [Jack Gold] tvm

1996

After the Silence/Breaking Through [Fred Gerber] tvm

1998

Pirates of Silicon Valley [Martyn Burke] tvm

1999

The Wishing Tree [Ivan Passer] tvm

2000

Picnic [Ivan Passer] tvm

2000

Ruby's Bucket of Blood [Peter Werner] tvm

2002

The Pact [Peter Werner] tvm

2002

Jasper, Texas [Jeff Byrd] tvm

2003

DC 9/11: Time of Crisis/The Big Dance [Brian Trenchard-Smith (replaced Daniel Petrie Sr.)] tvm/HD (Sony F900)

2003

Family Sins/A Matter of Family [Graeme Clifford] tvm

2004

Vinegar Hill [Peter Werner] tvm

2006

The Tudors [10 ep dir by various] 38-part series, 2007-10; 1st season/HD (Sony F900), 2007; see above

2007

The Tudors [10 ep dir by various] 2nd season/HD (Sony F900), 2008; see 2006

2008

The Tudors [8 ep dir by various] 3rd season/HD (Genesis), 2009; see 2006

2009

Ben Hur [Steve Shill] 2-part tvm

2009

The Tudors [10 ep dir by various] 4th season/HD (Genesis), 2010; cph (3 ep): Des Whelan; see 2006

2010

Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure [Michael Lembeck] tvm/s35-to-HD

2010

Three Inches [Jace Alexander] pilot for Syfy-tv

 

From doc/interview [Canal+, 2011] - "Borgia"

 

2010

Borgia/Borgia: Faith and Fear [12 ep dir by various] 38-part series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2011 & 2013-14; 1st season, 2011 (12 ep); addph: Klemens Becker; filmed 2010-11; not to be confused with the Showtime-tv series 'The Borgias' (2011-12)

2011

The Bling Ring [Michael Lembeck] tvm/HD (ARRI ALEXA)

2011

Of Two Minds [Jim O'Hanlon] tvm/HD (2012)

2012

Borgia/Borgia: Rules of Love, Rules of War [12 ep dir by various] 2nd season, 2013 (12 ep); see 2010

2013

Dracula [ep #1-2 dir by Steve Shill, #5-6 dir by Nick Murphy & #9-10 dir by Tim Fywell] 10-part series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2013-14; other ph: Chris Seager (4 ep)

2014

Dangerous Liaisons [Taylor Hackford] pilot/HD; 2uc: Peter Reniers; for ABC-tv

2014

Killing Jesus [Christopher Menaul] 2-part tvm/HD; for National Geographic Channel (2015)

2015

Anne of Green Gables [John Kent Harrison] tvm/HD (2016)

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1963

Heads I Win [Georges Robin; short/b&w/24m] co-prod; ph: ?

1984

Flying/Dream to Believe/Teenage Dream [Paul Lynch] assoc prod; ph: Perci Young & Brian Foley

1995

La cérémonie/A Judgment in Stone [Claude Chabrol] participation in the adaptation of Ruth Rendell's novel; ph: Bernard Zitzermann

 

 FILMS AS DIRECTOR

1985

A Judgement in Stone/The Housekeeper [feature; + co-exec prod] ph: David Herrington