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Old February 28th, 2014, 05:03 PM   #1
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Cinematography chops!

Would you please share which exercises helped you the most in learning/teaching yourself cinematography?
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Old February 28th, 2014, 05:29 PM   #2
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Re: Cinematography chops!

I'd say the #1 thing is to watch a wide variety of films, to note which styles you like and dislike, and to pay close attention to every detail of the attractive footage.

One resource is this documentary, which is available on Netflix:
The Story of Film: An Odyssey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jack Cardiff, who was a pioneer Technicolor shooter, studied painting.
Jack Cardiff - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There is a documentary about him, also available on Netflix.
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010) - IMDb

I am in the process of watching The Red Shoes. The color and texture are amazing. Many of the scenes look like a Rembrandt painting. I've never seen any digital camera ever capture such a look. (Whether you like or dislike the look is another matter. Make your own signature style!)
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Old February 28th, 2014, 06:07 PM   #3
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Re: Cinematography chops!

Consume, consume, consume, consume.

If someone considers it a classic there is probably a reason. If it is acclaimed, there is probably a reason. Watch it, and find out why.
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Old February 28th, 2014, 06:41 PM   #4
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Re: Cinematography chops!

Turn on your favorite movie, but turn off the sound. Now watch the movie, paying attention to lighting, composition, and the pacing of the editing!
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Old March 2nd, 2014, 01:22 PM   #5
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Re: Cinematography chops!

What about making very short movies? Anyone want to share?
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Old March 2nd, 2014, 04:19 PM   #6
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Re: Cinematography chops!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Casey Danielson View Post
Would you please share which exercises helped you the most in learning/teaching yourself cinematography?
stability , no doubts about it. The definition and resolution comes right after, then the rules (thirds, center, framing straight or angled, to cut the top of the heads in close-ups etc., but the first thing is to exercise (literally) keeping the thing steady , even on a tripod, even on a steadycam, even on a shoulder or shoulder mount, let alone handholding it. Stability, stability, stability. I started going to the gym because I'm getting older and I need more strength and concentration every new other day more now. If you ask they'll make you do a specific program for the shoulder, arms, wrist and legs.
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Old March 3rd, 2014, 03:52 AM   #7
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Re: Cinematography chops!

Continually learning to 'see' light...
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Old March 3rd, 2014, 04:42 AM   #8
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Re: Cinematography chops!

Watch other people's work.

Try and figure out how the shot was done. What the lighting was like ... and how they stitched it together.

If you can figure that out, the rest will fall in to place.

Just remember, when your working in the field filming ... you have to take risks to get creative shots.
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Old March 3rd, 2014, 12:23 PM   #9
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Re: Cinematography chops!

Iíve been out of the game a little while myself and I am re-familiarising myself with a daily routine. As they say practice makes perfect. I am picking a subject. Any subject will do. Close to home and easy is best for me such as a lighthouse or a seagull.

I've been going out with my camera and been concentrating my efforts on my framing, angles and various shots. The day after shooting I analyse my raw footage to see what worked and why as well as what didnít and why.

Here are a few thoughts:

Framing (Rule of Thirds)

With my framing I am sticking to the rule of thirds for now. I try to get a variety of shots that can tell a story such as:

Establishing Shot
Extreme Wide Shot
Very Wide Shot
Wide Shot
Medium Shot
Close Up Shot
Extreme Close Up (Macro)
Cut Away

Angleís

As above I try to put in different angles in my shots to aid telling the story. There are plenty of angles you can use to tell a story such as:

Birdís Eye
High Angle
Low Angle
Eye Level

Types of Shots

With framing and angles in mind I try to shoot a combination of these below to tell a story in six minutes. Even something as simple as a follow pan takes a lot of practice to really nail it every time and with the likes of a pull focus practice is the only way to achieve perfection.

Rack Focus / Pull Focus
Over the Shoulder
Locked-Off Shots
Survey Pan Left and Survey Pan Right
Follow Pan Left and Follow Pan Right
Whip Pan Left and Whip Pan Right
Tilt Up and Tilt Down
Zoom In and Zoom Out
Track Forward and Track Back
Lift Up and Lift Down

If time permits I will also try and perfect one technique for one of the following once a week:

Shoulder Mounted, Steadicam, Slider, Dolly or Crane.

i.e. I might try a survey pan with a Crane.

And as everyone else says watch loads of programs, films, documentaries and try to analyse in the same way as you critique your own work.

Best of luck!
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Old March 3rd, 2014, 06:10 PM   #10
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Re: Cinematography chops!

All of the above advice is good. I would amend it by saying that consuming/watching/observing is absolutely important, but doing/creating/making is the other half of the coin.

Example: find a scene that you think looks great. Take notes, draw diagrams, dissect it as you see fit. Try to work out the lighting scheme, think about the focal length in use.

NOW: try to recreate it as best you can. See if your guesses on lighting were correct. One light at a time, try moving the unit around in space until it best matches (and pay attention to what the other results are along the way). Observe the difference in framing with a long lens from far away vs a wide lens from closer (the subject may occupy the same real estate in the frame, but the background will be very different).

As you go through this type of exercise, you'll find that each time you return to look at more material (step 1), you will be able to dissect and understand it faster and better. Same thing when you move on to the execution phase. Cinematography is a hands-on medium and the fantastic thing about today's technology is that you can instantly view the results.
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Old March 4th, 2014, 07:20 PM   #11
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Re: Cinematography chops!

In fact, there are (at least) three legs to this stool:
1) Watch enough film to find your preferred set of "looks" and style,
2) Gain experience in efficiently and effectively making those "looks" and style, and
3) Apply your skills in a way that best serves the story.

For instance, you might absolutely love cameras that fly around to follow action, or the immediacy of handheld shooting with fast cuts, but for a given scene the best choice might be a long-duration shot on a locked down tripod in order to build tension.

I saw an interview with Director Robert Zemeckis and DP Don Burgess. For the the shooting script for "What Lies Beneath", they added numbers indicating the amount of camera motion. Zero would be locked down. Ten would be an earthquake cam. They didn't worry about exactly what the numbers in between meant (3=Steadicam); they just focused on the story and the feeling that they wanted to convey. It was only after the story arc was mapped out that they assigned gear and techniques to each of the shots.

I attended a good presentation by Amina from stillmotion Filmmaking and Storytelling Blog | Stillmotion that contrasted what they used to do (start with their cool tools and techniques to shoot a project) to what they do now (listen to the story before deciding anything.)

Here's a film stillmotion did for a kickstarter project. One might assume that you'd shoot a single interview with the inventor telling about the product features and the kickstarter deal, shoot some b-roll and edit it together. Instead, they hook the audience through a personal story and built the piece from that. The key is "personal" and they compliment that with lots of tight framing and shallow DOF shots. It's an optimistic piece, so the body of the video (after the "down" intro) uses high key lighting.


So to summarize:
1) Watch,
2) Listen (to the story),
3) Do.
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