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Ken Tanaka May 30th, 2002 11:49 PM

Ken's Bookshelf
Sight Sound Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics
by Herbert Zettl
1999, Wadsworth Publishing
ISBN: 0-534-52677-2
Now in its 3rd edition, this book is a must-have for anyone who wants to understand the basic craft of shooting a visual story. This is not as much of an "how-to" book as it is a "why-to" primer. Zettl, a professor of media aesthetics at San Francisco State University and veteran of tv production, immediately gets our attention by illustrating how the information our brains interpret from images is heavily dependent on the image's context, our life experiences and the way that the elements of the image are structured in relation to each other.

Throughout the remainder of the book Zettl basically decomposes the basic elements of motion images (lighting, color, sound, dimensionality, et. al.) to illustrate how each contributes and, most importantly, how each can be used to achieve a specific result as part of a coordinated attack on the brain (my words ;-> ).

The book is clearly structured as a textbook but not in a distracting manner. In my opinion, what makes this book a worthwhile read is it's orientation toward understanding and managing the sensory experience of film/video presntation.

Unfortunately, although the book is not extremely thick (380+ pages) it is rather expensive at $85. BUT, fortunately, amazon.com generally features several used or like-new copies from other resellers at substantial discounts ($35-$68). In fact, that's how I purchased my copy which arrived promptly in mint condition.
At amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0534526772/

Ken Tanaka June 8th, 2002 02:03 AM

Book: Basics of Video Lighting
by Des Lyver and Graham Swainson
Focal Press, second edition, 1999
144 pages, approx: $18
ISBN: 0-240-51559-5
amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0240515595/
Like many of the Focal Press books this one is designed to cover a broad territory in relatively few pages. To do so the authors provide the reader with a solid body of how-to tips as well as a smattering of the theory and science behind lighting a scene. The mostly hand-drawn illustrations are, perhaps, the weakest link in the book but they generally get the job of exposition done.

This is an excellent, inexpensive book for beginners to lighting. It is not a compedium of lighting theory and knowledge but it will point you in the right direction towards getting your scenes lit properly.

Peter Koller June 8th, 2002 01:25 PM

I have that book, too. It is not bad, but what I really disliked about it were the drawings. How shall you see what a 3-point-lit face looks like when everything is pencil-drawn?

I rather liked Ross Lowel´s "Matters of light and depth" and Tom Letournaeu´s "Casting Shadows" both of them about twice expensive, but with real photgraphs and tons of invaluable information.


Ken Tanaka June 10th, 2002 11:21 PM

Book: Lighting for Television & Film
Lighting for Television & Film (Third Edition)
by Gerald Millerson
Focal Press, 1999
ISBN 0-240-51582-X
amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/024051582X
This is perhaps the most thorough book on lighting that I've seen. It is centered somewhat fixedly on studio/set lighting techniques. Nevertheless, it covers a tremendous amount of ground and detail on lighting principles and solutions. Unlike the smaller book I posted earlier, the illustrations in this book include a mixture of b&w halftone photos, sketches and technical diagrams.

This would be a very good addition to any videographer's library.

Ed Smith June 11th, 2002 01:54 PM

Does the book cover subjects like lighting for blue/ green screens, and interview setups?

All the best,

Ed Smith

Ken Tanaka June 11th, 2002 02:05 PM

Yes to both. Look at the amazon link, since it features a full table of contents and index.

Ken Tanaka June 12th, 2002 04:24 PM

Book: Film Directing, Cinematic Motion: A Workshop for Staging Scenes
Film Directing, Cinematic Motion: A Workshop for Staging Scenes
by Steven D. Katz
Michael Wiese Productions, 1992
ISBN: 0-941188-14-0
amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0941188140
(features sample pages and table of contents)
This inxpensive little book is a treasure trove of staging and blocking tips for amatuer / novice filmmakers. The book is filled with well-illustrated examples of how to plan and shoot a scene for maximum effectiveness. It's also sprinkled with interviews with several veteran cinematographers/producers/directors who give their thoughts on the planning and production process. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of the book is how it illustrates -how to illusratate- a staging plan and how to translate a storyboard to the choreography involved in shooting a scene.

My favorite section, titled "Estimated Schedule" (pg. 148), briefly chronicles a day's shooting. Starting at 8:00am and eventually ending at 8:35pm this scenario encompasses a garden variety of snafus from on-set rewrites to a large camera dolly running over an actor's foot. The point being, of course, that the best of intentions don't always proceed per plan. (As my first boss told me many years ago, "If it eats or sh*ts it's trouble.")

Justin Chin June 13th, 2002 12:26 AM

Hey Ken,

Another good book from Steven Katz is "Shot by Shot"

Paperback: 325 pages
Publisher: Focal Press; ISBN: 0941188108; (July 1991)

This was Katz first book before "Cinematic Motion" and I feel it's the must have book for a visual breakdown of shooting a film.

Ken Tanaka June 13th, 2002 01:43 AM

It sure does look good. It's on its way to me. Thanks Justin!

Mark Ross June 18th, 2002 10:01 AM

Gosh, you guys... It's amazing... We all seem to have the same library! Well, I guess great minds really do... read alike. BTW Justin, I like your web site.


Justin Chin June 18th, 2002 10:40 AM

Yeah, that's for sure. It's kind of creepy. ;)

Thanks for complement!

Ken Tanaka June 18th, 2002 02:21 PM

Book: The iFilm Digital Video Filmmaker's Handbook
The iFilm Digital Video Filmmaker's Handbook
by Maxie D. Collier
iFilm Publishing, 2001
ISBN: 1-58065-031-7
amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1580650317
First things first. If you're looking for a detailed compendium of technical information on making your next DV feature, you'll have to look elsewhere. This is not the book for you. While the book side-swipes nearly every imaginable topic from pre-production planning through post-production and screening it does so with such brevity and genericism that most of its treatments will only be of interest to someone who knows absolutely nothing about the subjects. So, to that end, titling this little book as a "handbook" is a publisher's fantasy.

What may make this book worth a look are some of the handy comparative tables buried in the text. Even more valuable are the resource references in the appendices. (The book's DVD features a few interesting pieces, too.) In an era of Google one might suppose that such lists are of limited value. But, even so, just discovering that something like "The Screenwriters' Homepage" exists might not be so Google-simple.

So this book is a mixed bag in my opinion. In other words, if my desk's legs suddenly became lop-sided I might consider using this book to prop it up.

Ken Tanaka June 18th, 2002 11:38 PM

Book: The Little Digital Video Book
The Little Digital Video Book
by Michael Rubin
Peachpit Press, 2002
ISBN: 0-201-75848-2
amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201758482
This book is a real jewel for the vast majority of video camera owners who just want to shoot familiar subjects (family, friends) and edit that footage to achieve better-than-average results. As it's title implies, this is a relatively short book (172 pg). But it's filled with outstanding advice on using any consumer-grade equipment to shoot and edit like a pro. Rubin has organized the material very logically and his lively writing style makes this book a real page-turner (assuming, of course, the reader is interested in the subject).

I bought this book for my wife to help her get the geneal idea of shooting and editing video. But, honestly, I found myself reading this book nearly cover to cover.

If you're a professional cinematographer, videographer or editor who earns a living with your hard-learned skills you will probably not find this book worth your time. But if you're not in that group I'd bet that you'd find this book a very enjoyable and even enlightening read. OK, so if you're a "film school" person you may have to outfit it with a plain brown cover before reading it in public. Go ahead...we won't tell.

Michael Wisniewski July 31st, 2002 12:35 AM

I agree with Ken, this book is filled with outstanding advice. It is clearly written and practical. You can probably read this entire book in an evening.

The author is experienced and you can feel it. He gets right to the point and covers what you need to finish your projects, no B.S. or non-essential theory.

I would recommend this book to people who want to go and start doing it. As Ken noted, professionals or film school people might not find it as useful, but I think everyone else who owns a camcorder will appreciate this book.


Who I am: I'm an amateur who makes shorts and home movies I'm also an avid amateur photographer.

K. Forman July 31st, 2002 07:16 AM

I think you'll find even Pro's needing a suggestion, or asking advice from time to time. No single person has all of the answers. Ok, I do, but I make some of them up :)

I read all that I can, and read as many boards as I can, just to get different opinions on things in general. Even the Computer Videomaker's How To Book gave me some interesting ideas. Sure, I would look like a complete beginner reading it. So I just put a Playboy over top.

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