To read the full list go TheBlackandBlue
1. Don’t Get Distracted with Technique
“Operating the wheels needs to become second nature as it can be a disaster if the technique of operating distracts from the relationship that an operator has with the subject.
When I was starting I practiced doing figures of eight with the wheels and progressed to signing my name with them. I don’t feel the need to practice anymore but I do reassure myself that I can still sign my name each time I start a new film, if I am using a gear head.
A gear head is not everyone’s choice and I don’t always carry one but it does have distinct advantages on certain set ups and on certain films.”
2. You Must Discover Your Own Style
“I am very wary of showing too much in the way of plans and diagrams. Not because I am secretive and I don’t want to give away something that is personal. Not at all!
I just remember that when I began as a film maker and a cinematographer I never watched another cinematographer at work. The closest I ever got to seeing ‘how it was done’ was by shooting some documentary footage of Doug Slocombe at work on ‘Pirates of Penzance’. I loved seeing him work but it had absolutely no influence on the way my work evolved.
Our styles could not be more different. That’s my point really. You can’t learn your craft by copying me or anyone else. I hope what I do can do is in some way inspire others but I would be appalled if I though my work was being studied as ‘the right way to do the job’.
My way is just one of an infinite number of ways to do the job.”
3. Compromise is Sometimes Needed for a Better Film
“Sometimes, as with the death row scenes on ‘Dead Man Walking’, it is better to compromise composition, lighting and perhaps even sound a little and shoot with two cameras in order to help an actor get their performance. Sometimes it is better to go wider to include a prop in frame than break an actor’s concentration.
When an actor appears on set ready to do a take it may be too late to change anything. At that time if I see a bad shadow or an eyeline that is slightly off I might talk to the actor or I might not. Perhaps I might think it better to change things for take two. If not then I judge it my mistake and I must try not to let it happen next time.
In the end a film can look lousy but work because of a great performance but not the other way round. That’s something always worth remembering.”
5. Every Film is the Director’s Film
“I do have a problem with the ease with which you call what we do ‘art’. That is for someone else to conclude. To me it is a job, a creative job that I love to do but a job nonetheless.
The collaborative aspect of the job is very important but then so is the hierarchical nature of a film crew. Every film is the Director’s film and we must never lose sight of that.”
7. “Cinematography is More Than a Camera”
“Cinematography is more than a camera, whether that camera is a Red an Alexa or a Bolex. There is a little more to it that resolution, colour depth, latitude, grain structure, lens aberration etc. etc. etc. The lenses use for ‘Citizen Kane’ were in no way as good as a Primo or a Master Prime and the grain structure in that film is, frankly, all over the place. But the cinematography? Well, you tell me.”
8. Aspect Ratio is Ultimately a Directorial Choice
“I usually do suggest one format over another for a particular film but the final decision belongs with the director, as with any other aspect of production. Like most of the decisions I make it is, for the most part, an instinctive one based on a sense of the film I get from reading the script.
Some films, like ‘The Assassination of Jesse James…’ or ‘Jarhead’, lend themselves more obviously to a wide screen format whereas I could never imagine ‘House of Sand and Fog’, “The Man Who Wasn’t There’ or even ‘Shawshank Redemption’ in a wide screen format.
I would say my preference is for a wide screen image shot in Super 35mm on spherical lenses but the majority of films I have shot have been standard 1:85.”
10. Camera Choice is a Personal Decision
“In the final analysis you can only judge picture quality by eye and make a personal decision as to what you like and what you don’t like. Perhaps some people really can not see a difference between a 2K scan and a 4K scan of the same negative and I am sure some people really do prefer the look of an image produced by the Red Camera to one shot on film.
The choice of a camera system is no different than the choice of a lens set, a camera position or where to put a lamp.”
14. Being Local Helps Your Chances for a Job
“I don’t know what other cinematographers do but my assistant hires our crew. We do sometimes take on a local PA but not often a trainee. Everything is done on per project and the budget has a big influence on who we hire and where they come from. I tend to do lower budget films and hence we hire at least the loader and the PA locally. Sometimes the 2nd AC also.”
16. Internships Are Scare, Learn By Discovery
“Personally, when I am shooting a film I am totally focused on the job in hand and find even having a silent observer detrimental. There are many people who ask to be a part of my crew or to merely observe on a production that I might be shooting. Because of my hesitancy to accede to their requests perhaps my consequent feeling of guilt has led to the creation of this site.
For good or bad I never, as a student, had the luxury of observing another cinematographer at work on a set. It was only when I came to work in the US that I actually visited another set. I say this because I genuinely feel that cinematography, like photography in general, is not something that can be learned but, pretentious as it may sound, can only be discovered.”
17. Pulling Focus is a Tough Job for the AC and the Operator
“The 1st AC’s job is one of the most responsible on the whole crew. I know I could never do it and I have great admiration for someone who does the job well. I have worked with the same 1st AC for many years and we are very much in sync. I do think judging focus is very much intuitive but it is also the job of the operator to watch for image sharpness and for the timing of a pull etc.
Sometimes, as when I am making up the shot or on a particularly tight close up, I will work on a fluid head and have one hand on the focus knob just as if I were shooting a documentary. When you are working fast and without real rehersals, as is becoming the norm, there is little choice to do otherwise.”
18. If You’re Going Handheld, Go with an Experienced AC
“The first thing I should say is that I work with a very special assistant and he rarely needs to work from marks. If I am shooting hand held, as I was in the boxing for ‘Hurricane’ or for pretty much all of ‘Jarhead’, my assistant will attach a remote focus to the camera or I will control the focus myself. I find this is the only way sometimes, especially if I am ‘creating’ shots as things unfold. I spent many years shooting documentaries where I always controlled the focus myself as the kind of films I was shooting demanded a very instinctive way of following the subject.
You could use a fast stock to get a greater depth of field but, in truth, it would give you relatively little advantage. You might need to build the light levels to an F8.0 to gain any real advantage from lens depth of field. I would suggest using an experienced assistant at the end of a remote focus system.”
20. Collaboration and Trust Between the DP and AC is Key
“My equipment list actually changes very little from film to film. Of course equipment has advanced and that has made for different choices but the basic idea of the package is the same.
I have worked with Andy for some time now and I rely on him to test the package before a shoot. We work together on concocting any special items such as the ‘helmet cam’ for shooting the game in ‘The Ladykillers’ and we usually spend a day shooting tests even if the film is quite straightforward.”
23. Feeling Intimidated is Normal
“I generally feel intimidated! One of my first films was with Richard Burton and I felt intimidated by his talent (‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’!!!), at least I felt was until he gathered the crew, thanked us all for one of the most pleasant days he had ever experienced on a film, and then told us he had in fact felt totally intimidated by our youth!”
25. It’s Your Job to Find a Way to Work with Others
“As I have said before every director is different and may require something different from a cinematographer. The onus is on the cinematographer to find out how best to work for and with a director and with other members of the crew, for that matter.”
To read the full list go TheBlackandBlue
Creating The Pre-Visualized Effects For ‘Thor 2′
To create the world of Asgard in Thor: The Dark World, filmmaker Alan Taylor enlisted the help of digital effects company The Third Floor. Using a process called previsualization, The Third Floor created fully rendered low-res CG sets and characters, allowing the director to see, plan out, and experiment with scenes before shooting them.
We Have Band
This is one of the most interesting music videos I have seen in a While.
Directed by Fleur & Manu
Produced by DIVISION
Editing, grading & compositing at Home Digital Pictures
SFX by Machine Molle & Mathematic
Please read the related article here: cinema5d.com/news/?p=22066
When director Jan Woletz asked me to join his team as a DP and help creating a teaser for his (hopefully) up coming “Wienerland” web series I immediately said yes!.
Besides the fun of realising other peoples dream, it was a good chance to quickly test before and in between takes the new Sony A7 that landed a day earlier on our desk (together with the A7r and the RX10) and give it a run for a “low light” test.
To the full article: cinema5d.com/news/?p=22066
Read the details on this review here:
Instagram is an incredible resource for all kinds of images. I wanted to create structure out of this chaos. The result is a crowd source short-film that shows the endless possibilities of social media.
The video consists of 852 different pictures, from 852 different instagram users. If you are one of them, shout and I will add you to the credits.
music: The black Keys – Gold on the ceiling
This is a very interesting making of an underwater shooting, a friend of mine from Mexico did, held at Cenote Car Wash, Quintana Roo, México. It talks about the vision of the photographer and the inspiration behind the shooting with a free diver champion.
MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci has described Prager’s work as “intentionally loaded,” saying “it reminds me of silent movies – there is something pregnant, about to happen, a mix of desire and angst.”
Inspired by the photography of Weegee and Enrique Metinides, and films such as Metropolis and Un Chien Andalou, Compulsion confirms Prager’s vivid cinematic aesthetic. Unlike her previous work, however, the protagonists remain anonymous and distant.
By Scott Beggs
Terrence Malick loves using images of fire and water in his films. He also loves earth and air, so he’s got all of 450BCE’s favorite elements locked down. This minute-long exploration fromkogonada juxtaposes scenes from Malick films in order to find some structural and contextual similarities between the way the filmmaker uses those first two elements.
It’s gorgeous, as Malick’s work tends to be, but it’s also fascinating to see how he captured some of the same shapes from two very different entities, as well as how people and other natural structures impact the visuals. The video composition is truly stunning, but more than anything it goes to prove how deliberate Malick is as a filmmaker (even when, you know, he’s slicing entire performances out of the final cut).
Original Post on FILM SCHOOL REJECTS
photo credit: Ricardo Diaz
As a camera assistant, I almost never touch the lights on a set. I don’t run power. I don’t set flags. I don’t drop scrims. I don’t touch ballasts. And I don’t mount Kinos on stands.
Basically — professionally speaking — I have no experience lighting.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t picked up some cinematography tips by sitting next to the camera.
Even though I’m purely a camera assistant with only tentative long-term plans to maybe-kinda-sorta be a cinematographer at some point, working directly with the director of photography (DP) has illuminated the process of lighting for film.
So today I want to share five cinematography lessons I’ve learned from my spot beside the camera.
1. Less Lights Makes Everyone Happier
Cinematographers operate in a strange limbo where they have to reconcile their creative imagination with the practicalities of filmmaking.
And sometimes reality slaps them pretty hard. There might not be enough space for a light, the clouds might cover the sunset during magic hour, or there’s not enough money in the budget for the necessary gear.
But as my film professor would have said, “Creativity is problem solving.”
In many cases, the creative solution is to work with less lights.
From a practical standpoint, the less lights you use, the happier everyone will be. Literally, everyone. The assistant director will be happy with less setup time, the G&E departments will be pleased to lug less equipment, and the director will appreciate more time for rehearsals and takes.
There is, of course, a caveat — you must be able to use less lights in a way that satisfies your creative mind. If you are able to use less lights while still achieving the look you envisioned, everyone will love you for it.
While this can be a challenge, it is also rewarding and makes you more flexible as a cinematographer. You won’t have to fear lower gear budgets and you’ll be able to do run ‘n gun style shooting with skeleton crews with ease.
And you’d be amazed at some of the beautiful shots that can be had with few lights or no lights at all.
Often I stand next to the camera and watch a DP command 5 or 6 lights for a simple close-up shot. In the end it looks good, but I’ve seen similar shots use ambient light from a window, clever blocking, and 2 – 3 lights to fill in the gaps with similar results.
Basically, less lights will force you to be more creative while also saving time.
2. Just Point the Camera and Shoot the Story
As you begin to work on projects with higher budgets, it’s tempting to use all the amazing tools filmmakers have at their disposals: jibs, cranes, dollies, Steadicams, and sliders.
But just because you can use something doesn’t mean you have to.
Much like using less lights, a simple composition may be just what the scene you’re shooting demands. If the story, the characters, and the dramatic tension in a scene is strong enough, you don’t have to do anything more than point the camera and film it.
This is the first lesson I ever learned working on a large film set and one that I have subsequently come to believe 100% after studying several films.
And, again, like the lighting example above, this saves time.
I see a lot of DP’s panic and directors whine when their epic Steadicam tracking shot gets cut from the day because of scheduling issues. They’re then forced to re-think the scene in compositions that are easily achievable — usually static shots — and block the characters in a way in which they provide kineticism inside the frame instead of the camera.
Many times these shots become more powerful than the moving shot planned before it.
Of course not every scene or shot will benefit from this simplification, but you’d be surprised at how often they do — because nothing is worse than ruining the drama and performance in a scene by adding distracting camera moves.
Sometimes the audience cares more about what’s happening inside the film world than what’s happening with the frame.
And when a story is that commanding of the audience, don’t make your job as DP more complicated than it needs to be: just point the camera and shoot the story.
3. Ceiling and Wall Bounces Work Wonders
The ceiling or wall bounce blew my mind the first time I saw it used. I was in school at the time and I distinctly remember chuckling to myself at how brilliant of a trick it is. For whatever reason, I had never thought to utilize the location as a tool to manipulate light.
And when I showed some of my classmates how effective it was, they were also fascinated and stupefied they had never thought of it either.
(The concept of the ceiling/wall bounce is to shine a light at either surface in order to have it reflect into a scene or onto a subject.)
Now I’m no Roger Deakins so I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you reading this are thinking, “Well, duh. Everyone uses ceiling bounces!” To which I say, “Good!”
Because the ceiling/wall bounce is one of the most underrated lighting techniques in use.
I work with one DP who uses them heavily and the images he creates are stunning. He swears by them and, after several films with him, I’ve come to learn the advantages:
- The motivation of the light is natural (in most cases)
- The spill/softness of the light is natural (in most cases)
- The setup time is minimal (since you only set the light, not a reflector)
- The footprint of the gear is smaller
- The throw you can achieve is huge
- You can transform hard light sources instantly into soft ones without softboxes
If you’re as amateur of a cinematographer as I was when I first discovered this technique, you’re in for a treat. Watching others master this technique as a camera assistant (and experimenting with it on my own) is the single greatest lesson I’ve ever learned.
Like any lighting technique, the ceiling/wall bounce isn’t meant to be used in every instance, but it can be a great trick to have up your sleeve as an alternative to reflectors, when in tight spaces, or to adhere to lesson 1: shooting with less lights.
4. A Great, Talented Gaffer is Invaluable
Behind every talented cinematographer there is usually an equally skilled gaffer.
Gaffers — the department head of the electricians — have a wide range of responsibilities that differ depending on the project and their relationship with the director of photography. But many times, they play just as much a role in lighting a scene as the cinematographer.
Though the DP is most definitely the creative head of lighting, they are often heavily influenced by the talents of their gaffer.
It’s not uncommon for a DP to describe the type of mood or lighting they want in generic terms and the gaffer to deliver on it. For instance, I watched a DP once request “a little bit of a hair light” on a character in a wide shot. It was the gaffer who then chose the light, dimmed it to the correct brightness, and set it in the scene.
Once he got the nod of approval from the DP, it was finalized.
How many DP’s does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Just one, if he’s got a good crew to do it.
That may seem like “cheating” if you’re used to making all those decisions yourself, but it’s not — it’s simply leveraging an important work relationship between your crew and yourself. If you trust the skills of your gaffer, you can spend much more time focusing on the overarching “look” of a shot and not get caught up in the tediousness of “how many stands are left?” or “do we have the right scrims?”
Without the trust of your gaffer, you’ll be wasting that relationship. Anybody can set a light stand, but not everyone can interpret your creative direction and execute on it the first time you ask them to.
Great gaffers — just like any talented below-the-line crew — are indispensable in helping you execute your vision as cinematographer.
So once you find one you like, hang on to them and cultivate that relationship.
5. Perfection is a Commodity
If you offer a DP to spend all day lighting one shot, they might just take you up on it. There’s always a kicker to add, a shine to remove, or something in the frame not quite right. They could spend hours trying different silks, cutting with flags, and shaping shadows to perfection.
But perfection — at least, true perfection — is a commodity on a film set.
That’s because perfection clashes quite loudly with reality.
And the reality of filmmaking is that you’re on a budget with a tight schedule and rarely have the time, crew, or resources (or all three) to get the image in a state where you are completely happy with it.
(Even if you do manage to make an image you’re completely happy with, your tastes can change years later after your skills improve.)
All too often I’ve sat next to the camera for unbearable amounts of time while the contents of the frame were touched up and detailed. DP’s, directors, producers, and anyone else with creative input are all equally guilty for succumbing to this vacuum of perfection.
It’s good to ambitiously strive for perfection, but it’s hubris if you are unable to see the damage you do when you fail to give it up after awhile — lost time, lost takes, and a rushed production.
So take it from the guy who’s almost always ready by the time a scene is lit: perfection is rare. So, if you’re allowed to chase it, don’t spend the rest of the day doing so because you won’t find it.
Bonus Tip: There is No “Right” Way
By no means do I consider myself a cinematographer.
But I do consider myself a pretty good camera assistant who has worked with talented cinematographers. I have sat next to the camera and soaked in their knowledge, watched their practices, and witnessed them indulge their habits — both good and bad.
The five tips I’ve provided above are what I have taken away from my career as an AC and they are lessons you can apply right now if you’re striving to be a cinematographer.
It’s hard for DP’s to see each other work without dipping their toes below-the-line, but if you’re OK with doing so, I highly suggest you take the opportunity to work on another DP’s crew. Watching others work is one great way to improve your skills.
My last piece of advice is what any (smart) person giving advice ends with: Nothing is gospel. Do what you want. Ignore the rules if you need to. Forget my tips if they don’t serve your vision.
Because the most important cinematography lesson I’ve learned from watching various cinematographers is there is no “right” way.
About the author: Evan Luzi is the editor and founder of The Black and Blue as well as a freelance camera assistant.
Part of it’s going to depend on the director’s choice, but I’m not sure if I go back to shoot on emulsion again.
I really think this year and next year will be it, really.
Roger Deakins talks about his Oscar Nomination for True Grit, and the end of film for the Movie Line Magazine
The startling beauty of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Oscar-nominated True Grit — and in most Coen brothers films, for that matter — owes to frequent collaborator and award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, who’s lensed all but one of their films since 1991’s Barton Fink. But as much as the nostalgic Western serves as a throwback to simpler times, simpler heroes (and heroines), and a yearning to stick to one’s principles in the face of obsolescence, True Grit could also mark a wistful point in Deakins career — his last film shot on film.
Following his ninth career Academy Award nomination, Movieline revisited theTrue Grit shoot with Deakins, learned which scene was almost shot with CG, and heard the legendary DP (and recent digital convert) predict the imminent death of film.
Is it still as exciting as your first Oscar nomination?
It’s great. I’m so pleased the film is getting the kind of recognition I think it deserves. I mean, that’s what’s so good about people getting nominated; the recognition for the film. Nothing changes, you know. The film is the film but it’s rewarded when it gets more publicity and more people see it.
You’ve worked for a very long time with Joel and Ethan Coen. When they came to you with True Grit, was it a no-brainer that you’d be on board?
Oh, yeah. They said that they were writing the script and I hadn’t read the original novel, so I went and read the book. I’d seen the original movie, but that didn’t really relate to what we were doing. So I went back to the novel, read it for the first time. What an opportunity, but it’s always an opportunity working with them because they’re always going to do something different and imaginative. It’s such a pleasure working with people who have such a love of the medium.
True Grit takes a much more straightforward visual approach from your recent Westerns, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and No Country for Old Men. How would you describe the difference in approach?
So much comes from the script. The script for Jesse James reflected the book of the same title; it’s very much a tone poem and meditation on the West and this particular character, and that the world is basically passing him by. It’s much more a poem in a way than a linear narrative. No Country is a meditation, too, but probably on the nature of evil. It’s much more of a brutal, stark, nihilistic view, you could say. So that fuels the imagery. And True Grit is probably more traditional, it’s much more of a straight linear narrative. Joel likened it to, on the one hand, a teenage girl’s adventure story, but also like the trials of Job, really. The poor girl — how could it get any worse? So the three films have very different starting points, and the way the visuals evolve very much come from those starting points.
Your field is in a very transitory stage right now.
Very much so, especially with digital imagery and cameras. The whole way of making movies is changing. Pre-visualization of shots. The amount that you do live and the amount you do as a CG element afterwards is changing enormously.
Are you particularly interested in integrating 3-D or motion-capture technology into your work?
Again, in animation we did 3-D on How to Train Your Dragon, and I was in a motion-capture studio the other day at DreamWorks Animation. I’ve not done so much in the live-action world, but I’m experiencing quite a lot in animation. I’m not sure about 3D in the kind of dramatic live-action films that I work on. I can’t imagine True Grit in 3D. I think it would be appalling. You’re actually trying to create a different experience for an audience.
Will you continue to shoot features on film, or are you being drawn more to shooting digitally?
You know, I’m not sure. I just finished this film Now, which I shot digitally for the first time, and I was very impressed. Part of it’s going to depend on the director’s choice, but I’m not sure if I go back to shoot on emulsion again. It depends on the project. If I had a digital option when we started True Grit I’m not sure I would have shot it digitally, just because of the nature of the film. But I don’t know, it’s a real transition now. I don’t personally think film emulsion is going to be used for very much longer at all. I know people have been saying that since — well, since I started in the business — but I really think this year and next year will be it, really.
To read the whole Interview, go to the MOVIELINE main site