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Old November 8th, 2002, 12:28 AM   #31
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Lighting for Digital Video & Television

Lighting for Digital Video & Television
by John Jackman
CMP Books, 2002
ISBN: 1-57820-115-2
@amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1578201152/
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I probably have ten books on the subject of lighting for video and/or film work. But among them, John Jackman's new (at this writing) book probably represents the best overall primer to the subject for the amateur and semi-professional. Why?

For starters Jackman is a good technical writer who uses words carefully and knows how to construct a paragraph properly, somewhat uncommon attributes to be found in this genre of books. He uses these skills to cover an impressive variety of topics in a relatively short (187 pages + appendices) book. Each chapter and topic is treated in sufficient depth to give the reader a firm handle on its subject but not so exhaustively that the reader will nod off.

For example, in an early chapter Jackman discusses the nature of human sight ("Human Vision, the Camera and Exposure") by comparing the eye to capabilities of film and video cameras, effectively setting the context and goals for the overall undertaking of lighting for video. This is followed by a chapter on basic electrical principles, calculations and considerations fundamental to the subject of lighting. Not too much, not too little. Each successive chapter maintains tight focus and topical treatment on practical issues and methods. This disciplined approach produces a book that moves forward smoothly and deliberately.

That's not to say that the book is monotonously predictable. Quite the contrary. Several later chapters present topics you might not expect to find in such an introductory text. For example, a topic titled "Lighting Darkness" discusses the tricky subject of how to light scenes that are supposed to be dark. Another topic titled "Flat Lighting" discusses studio-style shadowless lighting. There are even sections devoted to food and product lighting and to "fire" lighting techniques. All within 187 pages! The book also features a excellent 15 page illustrated glossary which readers will find very helpful for decoding such a union jargon-laden subject.

The book's liberal sprinkling of diagrams, tables and product photos greatly helps to illustrate the text. Higher-quality halftone b&w photographs would have been a welcome design feature for this book, as would the use of color pages for the color temperature management topic section. But, as we've learned with other CMP books, this seems to be a concept too innovative and extravagant for this publisher.

In summary, I would have no reluctance or reservations recommending Lighting for Digital Video & Television to anyone looking for a good overview on the subject. It's inexpensive, it's an easy read for even a moderately motivated reader, and it's very informative in practical matters. What more could you ask of such a book?
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Old November 19th, 2002, 01:46 PM   #32
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I'll second Ken's recommendation as I've just finished reading the book myself. I am new to the field of video and this book gave me a lot of solid, fundamental knowledge. Both creative and technical, this book is a good start for those new to anything video, be it interviewing or dramatic movie making.
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Old December 12th, 2002, 12:52 AM   #33
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Crafting Short Screenplays that Connect

Crafting Short Screenplays that Connect
by Claudia Hunter Johnson
Focal Press, 2000
ISBN: 0-240-80378-7
At amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0240803787/
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Many of us aspire to, or already do, produce short dramatic pieces. But relatively few of us have probably had any training on writing screenplays for such work...and it usually shows in the final product. Our visual images and sound may be technically good but the story just seems lifeless or silly.

Claudia Johnson's book takes dead aim at how to craft better screenplays for short pieces. In a nutshell, she emphasizes that screenplays, particularly those under 30 mins., must make a deep connection with viewers through the introduction of conflict and other common-denominator devices. As anyone who has taken a dramatic writing class will know, this is hardly a new concept. But in a relatively short book (261 pg) she skillfully weaves these points through numerous examples to present a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening crash-course on screen writing.

This is well worth your time and expense if you've any interest in writing your own screenplays or if you would just like to gain better insight into viewing films.
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Old December 15th, 2002, 10:37 PM   #34
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In The Blink of An Eye

In The Blink of An Eye
by Walter Murch
Silman-James Press, 2001 (2nd edition)
At amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg.../-/1879505622/
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Last October my colleague Paul Sedillo noted this little book in another thread and it caught my eye. As a multiple Academy Award-winning film and sound editor, and as a close colleague of Francis Ford Coppola, Walter Murch has many features to his credit. (Ex: The Conversation, American Graffiti, Julia, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather (parts II and III), The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Ghost, Crumb, Romeo Is Bleeding, First Knight, The English Patient, and The Talented Mr. Ripley) This book, basically an expanded transcript of a lecture he gave at the UCLA Film School, presents a mixture of film history, Murch's philosophy and his perspective on the digital future of movie-making in an engaging and easy-to-read package.

If you're looking for an instructional book filled with dance-steps on how to make edit decisions (as, apparently, a few misguided amazon reviewers were) you should look elsewhere. That's not the point of this work. Rather, "In The Blink of An Eye" is more like spending an afternoon with a senior family member...who just happens to have spent more time looking at, and successfully cutting, feature films than you'll probably see in your life. Murch has spent enough time analyzing the process to vividly express complex concepts in famliar terms (as with the concept behind the title itself).

What makes this book such a gem is that Murch devotes nearly half of the book to a prospective look at film's digital present and future. Somewhat surprisingly, his views are not the sclerotic, film-or-nothing views you might expect from someone with his background and credentials. Quite the contrary. Murch sees a very interesting and bright future for the inevitable (his word) digital transformation of the medium.

All in all, this book is certainly worth the small cost to spend an afternoon with a man like Walter Murch.
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Old December 16th, 2002, 02:20 AM   #35
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Counterpoint

Hi Ken,

What is it that you like about this title? What did you learn from it?

I like Walter Murch's sound design and film restoration resume, but I've paged through this book and didn't find it stocked with useful insights or hints'n'tips as a young editor might expect an old one to offer in a book such as this. I recall a smattering of stock anecdotes and some brief commentary on the most rudimentary aspects of editing, but nothing so informative as an in-depth examination of particular editing challenges or innovations Murch pioneered. Murch's thoughts on digital editing are by now antique.

Like I said, I didn't give it a thorough read, and I don't have a better book to suggest over it, so I won't rail against it, but I am curious what those who like the book found intriguing about it, other than the fact that it's by Walter Murch.
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Old December 16th, 2002, 04:26 AM   #36
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There were numerous things that I took away from this little gem.

His comments on "The Rule of Six" was something that I had not really considered before and was the one of the things that really stands out. "The Rule of Six" is a set of criteria that Mr. Murch uses to determine the best possible cut. Each point needs to satisfy the following (with each criteria being weighted):

1) Emotion 50%
2) Story 23%
3) Rhythm 10%
4) Eye-Trace 7%
5) Two-dimensional plane of screen 5%
6) Three-dimensional space of action 4%

He stated that Emotion "is the thing that you should preserve at all costs." If you have seen Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, or Ghost (just to name a few of the movies he edited) you see how Emotion drove his edit decisions.

This one chapter made it worth the price of admission. Considering that you can get this book used on Amazon.com for $9.27, I think it is a bargain.

As Mr. Tanaka stated:

"In The Blink of An Eye" is more like spending an afternoon with a senior family member...who just happens to have spent more time looking at, and successfully cutting, feature films than you'll probably see in your life."

Very well put sir.
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Old December 16th, 2002, 10:44 AM   #37
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Robert,
Basically, what Paul said. I had never heard of Walter Murch. Like most people outside the cloisters of the film trade or academia, I'd not paid any attention whatsoever to the names that roll past after a movie's ended. So I didn't approach this book like the tablets passed down the mountain from Moses. As far as I was concerned it was just another book by some schmuck trying to make an extra buck.

As I noted, it's not a dance-step book. It's mostly an introspective work. Perhaps the most prominent "tip" I took away from the book was never to lose the emotional level of a scene. I also enjoyed reading his thoughts on the future of editing.

So would I pay $30 for that tip, a few others, and being entertained by an afternoon with Walter Murch? You betcha. I've spent tens of thousands for much worse advice and experiences.
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Old December 16th, 2002, 02:57 PM   #38
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I finished reading this book recently and am now reading "The Conversations. Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film" This book is a transcript of a conversation Murch had over the course of a year with Michael Ondaatje, the author of "The English Patient."

This book is more of a discussion on particular editing discussions and his techniques, which maybe what most people are looking for in an "editing" book. Nevertheless, I found "In the Blink of an Eye" most interesting, in fact I would say it is more a book on Murch's philosophy of editing than on his editing technique. And I fully agree with Paul on "The Rule of Six" section, quite profound.

I've been a fan of Walter Murch's work for many years now so for me these books were a must, yet I still would recommend them as there's any things one can learn from them.
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Old January 1st, 2003, 09:02 AM   #39
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An interesting page on, about, and from Mr. Murch

http://www.filmsound.org/murch/murch.htm
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Old January 1st, 2003, 09:05 AM   #40
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Great find! Thanks for posting the link.
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Old January 16th, 2003, 01:39 AM   #41
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Final Cut Express Visual QuickStart Guide

Help is on the way for folks diving into FCE. Peachpit Press is planning to release the above title March 31, 2003. The book will be authored by Lisa Brenneis, who also wrote PP's FCP Quickstart Guide.

For more information see the Peachpit Press site.
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Old February 7th, 2003, 05:28 AM   #42
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I must agree. I finished this suprisingly readable volume in one sitting which is astonishing considering that I have the attention span of a three year old on a sugar rush.

:-)
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Old May 8th, 2003, 12:24 AM   #43
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I just checked it out of the local campus library. I can't believe they actually had this book here but they do. Too bad it's finals week... I'll have to wait awhile to read it, but I can't wait.
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Old June 2nd, 2003, 09:04 PM   #44
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Book is not bad. It's nice to have when a question comes up since FCX doesn't come with a printed manuel.
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Old June 4th, 2003, 05:34 PM   #45
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Just curious if anyone has used "final cut express for dummies" as an alternative to the above mentioned book. From my experience the "for dummies" books can be great or abysmal as well as anything in between
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