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Fujinon Lenses Chosen for New Discovery Networks-Sponsored Graduate Program at Montana State

(July 24, 2001)
Montana State University's (MSU) new Science and Natural History Filmmaking Program employs two Fujinon lenses, including a high-definition lens, for all its imaging applications. Starting this fall, the three-year graduate program - sponsored by Discovery Communications, the parent company of The Discovery Channel - will offer students with a science background a 60-credit-hour master of fine arts degree in documentary filmmaking.

The lenses, a Fujinon A36x10.5 ERD telephoto and an HA15x8BEVM HD ENG lens, were recently deployed during "The Search for Lewis and Clark," an MSU-affiliated production for The Discovery Channel that retraces the route of Lewis and Clark's famous expedition through what would become Montana, the Dakotas and Oregon. The hour-long special is set to debut in April 2002.

Ronald Tobias, a veteran filmmaker and teacher who has produced, directed and written 14 films for The Discovery Channel, is the founder of the graduate program and serves as director and executive producer of "The Search for Lewis and Clark." Tobias says that the Fujinon lenses, which were affixed to two Sony high-definition cameras (HDW-700A's), performed flawlessly during the shoot - even in adverse weather conditions.

"We used nothing but Fujinon lenses on this shoot, and everything we saw just blew our socks off," Tobias explained. Because the production was on a very large scale, organization and logistics presented a few problems. "The weather was hot, mosquito-infested and extremely dusty. We had a 40-foot crane, and just getting it down to the site was a nightmare. And then we got a bit blind-sided by a hailstorm, but we ended turning it to our advantage."

According to the journals kept during the expedition, the explorers Lewis and Clark also faced a hailstorm at the very same campsite. Tobias quickly decided to use the opportunity to shoot some footage: "We had storm covers, so the cameras didn't take any abuse. As for the dust, there was no problem whatsoever. The lenses did not have even a minor malfunction to slow us down."

During the first year, 20 students in the new Science and Natural History Filmmaking Program will receive intensive film and television instruction, from cinematography and sound to production management and nonlinear editing. In the second year, students produce a 15-minute broadcast-quality film. Students may work with a broadcaster, such as one of the Discovery Network channels, but must find a company or agency to underwrite the cost of the film -- typically between $30,000 and $50,000. Students may do their fieldwork in Africa or India, in a U.S. national park or at any of NASA's space or research centers. In the third year, they expand their films to 30 minutes or, with a commission from Discovery or other network, take the production to a full hour.

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