Continuing the ongoing series of interviews with creative artists working on various aspects of movie and TV productions, it is my pleasure to welcome Anka Malatynska. In this interview, she talks about her passion for photography, the transition of the industry from film to digital, differences between feature films and episodic shows, and the impact of Covid on the industry. Between all these and more, Anka dives deep into her work on the recently released “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin”, as well as a sneak preview into the upcoming “The Listener”.

Kirill: Please tell us about yourself and the path that took you to where you are today.

Anka: My name is Anna Malatynska, and I’m a Polish-born American-raised cinematographer. When we moved to US, Poland was still a communist country. I have these early memories of the National Geographic magazine with color pictures sent to us from relatives from the Western world, and those pictures opened up this world. My father was a Himalayan mountain climber who got to travel all over the world, even though we were locked in a communist country, and he brought a lot of ideas and pictures.

For me it was the pictures that resonated as a vehicle to be able to move beyond my immediate world. The first thing I remember was wanting to know as much about this planet, and the people, and the different ways that you can live, and photography looked like the avenue. I was involved in shooting and developing my own pictures by the time that I was thirteen. And by way of that I discovered acting. I did local theater productions that lead to a commercial agent. It was there I got a glimpse into the film industry and I thought that it was a horrible place. So I moved away from it, and got into math and science.

Somehow that journey of acting, storytelling, pictures, math and science deeply translates into the art and craft of cinematography. As a cinematographer, you are using all of those parts in your work every day. In college, again, I was enamored with storytelling and got back into photography, and all of that led me back to cinematography.

I’ve been doing it ever since. I started working in camera departments immediately after graduating from NYU. I knew that image making was where my soul was guiding me too. It’s been a lifelong task.

Cinematography of “Monsterland” by Anka Malatynska.

Kirill: Would you say that you straddled both sides of the film to digital transition? Do you feel that we have lost something with a gradual decline of film as the medium?

Anka: I was raised as a filmmaker right in the transition between film and digital. The year that I was doing my student films at NYU was the last year that they used an editing Steenbeck where we cut the negative. Those were some of the last years that we were using 16mm film.

I didn’t go from college to graduate school straight away. I worked for several years in the industry in between, and when I did go to the American Film Institute, most of our work there was already digital.

If you want to be a cinematographer or a photographer, it’s important to understand photography at its elemental level. Film is the really elemental level. There’s an element about film that’s tactile, and I’m a tactile visual learner. It’s easier to get concepts in my body that are rather abstract, be it the zone system or how to see light the way a camera sees the light. It’s helpful to go through the physical process of developing a negative and rendering a print that lands these concepts deep in the brain. Start with Black and White film photography, and once you know the basics and have that background, you can keep up with however the technology changes, because in the end, the basics are the same.

Now we can talk about what has been gained and what has been lost. What has been gained is that there are people who have access to cameras who in the past would not have been able to access storytelling. We gain a lot of the world from that. In the end, all of human culture at the baseline is about storytelling. The more varied the people that can tell and express their stories are, the more interesting of a society we have, and the more ideas we can have.

On the other hand, maybe not all of these stories are compelling. You might have a great actor in the film, but there’s an absence of a cinematographer, big gaps in the visual language of it. Sometimes you watch something, and it looks like a storyboard for a film, an outline or a concept for something that could be executed better. This is the other side of everybody being able to get a camera and calling themselves a cinematographer.

We lost some things, but we also gained important things through what has been more of a democratization. Filmmaking is now more accessible at a financial level.

Cinematography of “NCIS” by Anka Malatynska.

Kirill: Looking at the balance between the art and the technology of it, would you say that a great cinematographer needs to have both of these? Can you be just an artist, or just a technician? Do you have to be both?

Anka: One hundred percent you have to be both. One doesn’t really exist without the other. It is an art and it is a craft. And like any craft, you have to be physically grounded in that craft. That’s where the intuitive artistic decisions will come from later on down the line. You have to work without the stress of thinking about how to achieve a certain thing.

You have to have that bag of tricks. In filmmaking, no matter how prepared you are, you will get a lot of curveballs and a lot of things will not necessarily go as planned. You’ll have to adjust the plan that you planned for, and still tell the story, and still get the scene, and still make the day.

Kirill: Do you think that both art and craft can be taught, or is the artistic side something that one is born with?

Anka: I believe the human condition has a great propensity for art and imagination. We dream up the life that we live. We make up the societies that we then participate in, and that takes imagination and artistry.

When you watch little kids, you see how deep in their imaginations they are, and we continue that throughout our lives. As we grow, we gain the ability to truly express it and put it into the world at a physical level. I think we all begin as artists. Whether we learn to execute that art and whether we feel empowered enough to gain the skills to be able to execute the art – that’s more of the question. We all have the capacity, but can we get the training, the inspiration, the encouragement, and the idea to pursue such a thing?

Cinematography of “The Kindred” by Anka Malatynska.

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Into 2023

December 31st, 2022

It’s been a busy year for my desktop-focused projects, and things are look bright going into 2023. Here’s the rough outline of what I’m planning to work on.

The first big chunk of work that will probably take at least another two or three months to complete is going to be bringing the full ribbon component to Aurora. This has started a few weeks ago, and I’m done with the first pass of prototyping the ribbon APIs. Those are not final yet, and they will get tweaked as I get to the implementation details of the many moving pieces underlying this component.

The second big chunk is going to be around defining and using colors. Code-named Chroma, this effort aims to bring more clarity and control over working with colors in core and custom skins, inspired by the ongoing evolution of design systems such as Material and others. Falling under the overall umbrella of the Ephemeral design system, the plan is to introduce it to both Aurora and Radiance, and replace the existing color scheme and their mappings.

And last but most definitely not the least, are the plans to explore the third twin to Radiance and Aurora, and bring the full breadth of Ephemeral, including its theming layer and all the components, to the world of Flutter. Much as Aurora, this is going to be a multi-year project.

Happy New Year and stay tuned for more details!

Continuing the ongoing series of interviews with creative artists working on various aspects of movie and TV productions, it is my pleasure to welcome Victoria Paul. In this interview, she talks about changes in the way stories are made in movies and television over the last few decades, the ever-raising quality and expectations bar from the viewers, the impact of Covid on the industry, and the advice she would give to people just starting out in it. In between all these and more, Victoria dives deep into her work on “A League of Their Own”.

Kirill: Please tell us about yourself and the path that took you to where you are today.

Victoria: I started designing for theater, working as an assistant for some terrific designers on Broadway and designing myself off Broadway. I lived in New York, and I thought that was my path. It’s a rich collaborative experience, and in a way it’s more temporal than working on a movie because it’s immediate, it happens every night. It’s a genuine family that gets formed there.

As an assistant designer, the equivalent to an art director in the film world, I was dealing with a lot of the technical and logistical parts, mounting the show and making that train run on time. At some point I was contacted by a friend who told me that a film was coming into New York which needed a draft person / assistant art director. That was “The World According to Garp”, and the production designer was Henry Bumstead, who’s a legend in American film design. Doing that film was a transfomative experience. It was a big learning curve, not technically because those skills translate, but about what the world of film was.

Kirill: How has that experience changed for you over time. If you go back to early ’80s and then jump straight into 2022, would it be a big shock, or is it based on the same building blocks and just the technology is different?

Victoria: The way we make movies and television has changed in a couple of fundamental ways. I don’t think you can say it’s just the technology that’s different, because the technology is fundamental to what we do. We’re artists, but we’re also craftsmen, so our toolkit is how we function.

The process now is much faster. We used to have many weeks of prep, and that’s all been shortened. And it’s been shortened because we can turn visuals out quicker, because of how we draw now, because of how we pre-vis. We can get decisions quicker because we can turn out pre-vis and 3D models, and show directors what they’re going to get sooner. The technology helped speed up the train, but what was lost is maybe some of the time we would spend ruminating and talking and thinking. Back then it was a harder to visualize as quickly. I think what the technology has done is let us communicate better.

I can take a ground plan or a 3D model of something and show it to a cinematographer, and we can have a chat about where windows are, or where doors are, or where lighting sources are, and get that sorted out quickly.

Concept art and set photo of Beyer Field outfield on “A League of Their Own”, courtesy of Victoria Paul.

Kirill: When I talk with cinematographers, there’s the big topic of the industry transitioning from film to digital, and a lot of people miss the physicality of film as medium. Is there such a big thing that in your part of this industry that would be perhaps equivalent of that?

Victoria: Maybe younger set designers and assistant art directors may not miss it, but when I started, all drawing was hand drawing – and it was beautiful. The drawings themselves were wonderful objects. And the great thing about the drawings was that you could always tell who did them. They had the mark of the maker.

Although the information is the same and the layout is the same, you could tell by the style of drawing, the style of lettering, the size of lettering, the kind of font they use. You could immediately tell who drew each piece.

And now we’re in a digital art department where one set designer can start on something, build a ground plan and some elevations for me, and then I can give it to someone else to do some modifications or a quick director’s plan, and they exchange it, and when we look at it, it’s not clear whose iteration was the last one. In some way, it has lost personality. But it’s a small quibble, and certainly not as quite as big a discussion as the look of film versus the look of digital.

Kirill: What used to be special effects is now done digitally with VFX, you have new technologies available in different departments, and the world of visual storytelling itself is shifting with the advent of streaming platforms. Do you find that the boundaries of what it is that you’re responsible for are shifting?

Victoria: I don’t see a lot of difference between film and episodic in terms of how we approach the work these days. The big difference is in how many weeks of prep you have, and how much money you have – which translates into what you can build, and also into how big your art department can be. It’s not so much about film and TV, but rather about where’s your overall budget.

In terms of what the art department and myself as a production designer are responsible for, I don’t think that has changed very much. What has happened is that we have more tools at our disposal. There has always been a big conversation with special effects. If something is getting blown up, or a vehicle is going to crash into my building, I have to know what special effects needs from us to make it work. We still need to design and build it. That has not changed. I just wrapped a show called “Twisted Metal” and it’s all about vehicular mayhem. We were in constant discussions with the effects people on how to achieve things. But no matter where the effects take over, we’re still designing it.

Concept art and set photo of the factory floor on “A League of Their Own”, courtesy of Victoria Paul.

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Radiance 6.5.0

December 1st, 2022

It gives me great pleasure to announce the next major release of Radiance. Let’s get to what’s been fixed, and what’s been added. First, I’m going to use emojis to mark different parts of it like this:

💔 marks an incompatible API / binary change
🎁 marks new features
🔧 marks bug fixes and general improvements


  • 🎁 Add tri-state checkbox component
  • 🎁 Add switch component
  • 🎁 Migrate previously internal circular progress component to public API
  • 🎁💔 Revisit layout configuration of command button panels. Support fixed-column and adaptive layout spec for row fill and column fill panels.
  • 🎁 Support configurable content padding in command buttons and command button panels
  • 🎁 Add more presentation model options for command button panels
  • 🎁 Add presentation model for rich tooltips
  • 🔧 Fix crash on displaying rich tooltips under Java 17+
  • 🔧 Fix text wrap logic in command buttons under big presentation state
  • 🔧 Fix vertical positioning of command button content under tile presentation state
  • 🔧 Fix issues with command popup menus not closing in certain scenarios


  • 🎁💔 Revisit configuration of popup content. Full documentation here.
  • 🎁💔 Unify fill and highlight painters.
  • 🎁💔 Revisit how specular fill painter is configured.
  • 🔧 Fix crash in specular fill painter
  • 🔧 Fix crash in table UI delegate
  • 🔧 Fix crash in opening the window title pane menu
  • 🔧 Fix crash in update font of a tree component
  • 🔧 Fix incorrect offset of vertical scrollbars during scrolling

Kotlin extensions

  • 🎁 Add indexed access operator overload for ResourceBundle.getString

I’ve wanted to get this release out a bit earlier than anticipated to cover the functionality gaps between Radiance and Aurora, and to address some crasher bugs that snuck into the last major rewrite of Radiance’s rendering pipeline. With this release out of the door, the roadmap for 2023 remains as planned:

  • Add the ribbon / command bar component to Aurora
  • Revisit the way colors are defined and used in both Radiance and Aurora

There’s still a long road ahead to continue exploring the ever-fascinating depths of what it takes to write elegant and high-performing desktop applications in Swing. If you’re in the business of writing just such apps, I’d love for you to take this Radiance release for a spin. Click here to get the instructions on how to add Radiance to your builds. And don’t forget that all of the modules require Java 9 to build and run.