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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old June 14th, 2005, 11:17 PM   #16
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Good point, Nicholas. When I first went freelance 15 years ago, I had already worked 2.5 years as the resident cameraman/editor for a small production company, had shot hundreds of local commercials (no exaggeration) and corporate pieces. But I still only felt comfortable calling myself a "lighting cameraman" for several years. These days, though, it seems that a lot of folks who buy themselves a DV camera think nothing of describing themselves as DP's. There really isn't an implicit level of experience within the title anymore.
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Old June 14th, 2005, 11:57 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert
Good point, Nicholas. When I first went freelance 15 years ago, I had already worked 2.5 years as the resident cameraman/editor for a small production company, had shot hundreds of local commercials (no exaggeration) and corporate pieces. But I still only felt comfortable calling myself a "lighting cameraman" for several years. These days, though, it seems that a lot of folks who buy themselves a DV camera think nothing of describing themselves as DP's. There really isn't an implicit level of experience within the title anymore.
I don't for a second imagine you'd be exaggerating... Most of my background has been either news or programs, but the station where I've spent most of my career so far used to have a busy commercial production department as well, and one crew (usually just a producer & cameraman) would shoot up to 3 a day sometimes.

"Lighting Cameraman" is about where I've decided to rank myself too, and that's after nearly ten years shooting (on and off). Some days I'd even consider that to be a stretch, as my reel is almost 100% comprised of available-light shooting. Would it be a stretch to call the manipulation & position of available light to the benefit of the picture "lighting"?
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Old June 15th, 2005, 10:49 AM   #18
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It might be--I would think it could be a bit difficult to land a job that did require lighting with such a reel ("we need to see how you light interiors...?) If that is a stumbling block, you could always shoot some local indies to plump up the reel in that department. I still have a number of those on my reel, primarily because I had more free reign to experiment on those projects (and I was also picking them based on their visual possibilities).

However, being able to shape natural light is without question a "cinematographic" skill. Simply adding negative fill (i.e. solids) can transform an otherwise straight-out-the-box image into an interesting one; picking the orientation to the light, focal length and lens height are all important factors, even choosing the right time of day to shoot a particular shot is key. I've told the story here before that the two times I worked with legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, we were doing exteriors and he had designated the exact time of day to shoot each shot to the point where we simply sat and waited for about an hour before we were able to roll on one of them. The results were beautiful, and he didn't use one piece of gear to augment the natural light.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 11:27 AM   #19
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I think most people (probably including myself) deserve the title "guy with camera" for at least five years.

At least four times in the last two months, I've told people that their photographer is actually just a guy with a camera, not a photographer.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 11:57 AM   #20
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The cinematographer is primarily concerned with lighting the set and actors. He supervises the assistants who do the loading of film, setting of exposure, pulling of focus, and all those setting up and adjusting the lighting. All of the factors involved should be planned out in advance in colsultation with the Director to establish the lighting and camera parameters that everyone else works within to get the intended look.

The Director dictates where the camera is placed and pointed, and the various camera moves.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 06:23 PM   #21
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Please someone let me know if I start to drag this thread too far off target, I'm happy to make a new one if need be :)

Quote:
It might be--I would think it could be a bit difficult to land a job that did require lighting with such a reel ("we need to see how you light interiors...?)
That's my instinct as well... If they want you to light, they're going to have to see that you can light.

Quote:
If that is a stumbling block, you could always shoot some local indies to plump up the reel in that department. I still have a number of those on my reel, primarily because I had more free reign to experiment on those projects (and I was also picking them based on their visual possibilities).
That's a good idea. Have you found that people are happy to view that sort of material on its own merits, rather than based on who you did the work for? Further to that, how do you imagine "orhpan" shots, that didn't belong to any production, would go over on a reel? The scene down here isn't quite as vibrant and busy as I imagine it would be in (for example) LA, and there simply aren't that many people making indie films of any sort of quality.

One option I've considered has been to script (or find scripts for) and stage a few isolated scenes in various locations/styles, and use them. They certainly provide evidence of lighting ability (provided they're actually any good, of course) but is a prospective client/employer going to baulk when they realise they don't "belong" to a production? Of course there's always the argument that if you're going to go to the trouble of staging multiple locations, you may as well just make a short yourself... an option with some appeal.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 07:51 PM   #22
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Sorry, I've been meaning to move this thread for the last week. As you were. :)
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Old June 15th, 2005, 11:12 PM   #23
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From Standard References

From the IMDB Glossary:
Quote:
A person with expertise in the art of capturing images either electronically or on film stock through the application of visual recording devices and the selection and arrangement of lighting. The chief cinematographer for a movie is called the director of photography.
From the Wikipedia online encyyclopedia:
Quote:
A cinematographer (from 'cinema photographer') is one photographing with a motion picture camera. The title is generally equivalent to director of photography (DP or DoP), used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and techical decisions related to the image. The cinematographer is sometimes also the camera operator. The term cinematographer has been a point of contention for some time now; some professionals insist that it only applies when the director of photography and camera operator are the same person, although this is far from being uniformly the case. To most, cinematographer and director of photography are interchangeable terms.

The English system of camera department hierarchy sometimes firmly separates the duties of the director of photography from that of the camera operator to the point that the DP often has no say whatsoever over more purely operating-based visual elements such as framing. In this case, the DP is often credited as a lighting cameraman. This system means that the director will consult together with both the lighting cameraman for lighting and filtration, and the operator for framing and lens choices.

The American system tends to be the more widely-adopted, in which the rest of the camera department is totally subordinate to the DP, who with the director is the final word on all decisions related to both lighting and framing.

The cinematographer typically selects the film stock, lens, filters, etc. to realize the scene in accordance with the intentions of the director. Relations between the cinematographer and director vary; in some instances the director will allow the cinematographer complete independence; in others, the director allows little to none, even going so far as to specify aperture and shutter angle. Such a level of involvement is not common once the director and cinematographer have become comfortable with each other. The director will typically convey to the cinematographer what s/he wants from a scene visually, and allow the cinematographer latitude in achieving that effect.

On some shoots, a director may assume the duties of the cinematographer, especially when shooting nude scenes or in other physically intimate settings where the director wishes to have as few people as possible present.
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Old June 16th, 2005, 12:39 PM   #24
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Cinematography is the art and craft of the authorship of visual images for the cinema extending from conception and pre-production through post-production to the ultimate presentation of these images. All and any processes, which may affect these images, are the direct responsibility and interest of the cinematographer. Cinematography is not a subcategory of photography. Rather, photography is but one craft, which the cinematographer uses in addition to other physical, organizational, managerial, interpretive, and image manipulating techniques to effect one coherent process. Cinematography is a creative and interpretative process, which culminates in the authorship of an original work rather than the simple recording of a physical event. The images which the cinematographer brings to the screen come from the artistic vision, imagination, and skill of the cinematographer working within a collaborative relationship with fellow artists.

American Society of Cinematographers, May 2000
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Old June 16th, 2005, 03:03 PM   #25
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This definition really helps.

Someone mentioned feature films shot digitally already, but what caught me off gaurd on first viewing were the "Director of Photography" credits that appear at the end of "The Incredibles" !!

No film, no CAMERA even !!
The whole movie was rendered by computer, HOWEVER, someone still had to design and craft the lighting and color style, framing, "mood" of the images, etc.
The definition above seems to fit today's applications very well.
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Old June 16th, 2005, 05:26 PM   #26
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Nicholas:

My experience is that good images belong on a reel regardless of who paid for them. There really isn't any such thing as an "orphaned" shot--as long as you were responsible for creating the image, it doesn't matter what the original context was. Shooting material specifically for your reel is fine, that's what spec reels are all about.

As far as creating a short film for the purposes of making images for a cinematography reel, it may work out but it's a little bit of putting the cart before the horse--the film should succeed because of the story, characters etc., so starting with the imagery and working backwards is often unsuccessful on that level.

I used to take on shooting shorts based on the following criteria: can I get 4 or 5 good images for my reel out of it, at the very least? As a result, I worked on quite a few that didn't have the strongest scripts, and I can tell you that the films never got any better than the scripts, regardless of how good they may look.
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Old June 22nd, 2005, 09:17 PM   #27
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Videography = TV??? What about music videos shot on 35mm or 16mm? What about high end TV shows like CSI or 24? There is no cut and dry definition as it is so subjective. Like I said earlier, it is like trying to define "musician."

Ultimately, one thing that is NOT arguable, is that it is your reel and your body of work speaks much louder than the label you assign yourself...



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Old June 22nd, 2005, 09:19 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ash Greyson
it is like trying to define "musician."
Ugh... don't even get me started on that one! :P :)

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Ultimately, one thing that is NOT arguable, is that it is your reel and your body of work speaks much louder than the label you assign yourself...
I agree with that 100%
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Old June 23rd, 2005, 09:02 AM   #29
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Just because an individual is studying, is interested in, or partakes in cinematography (emulsion-based or digital-based) does not make them a cinematographer. A cinematographer has reached a certain level of expertise, peer acceptance, and success.

Let's separate the activity from the title.

If you get a cut and "doctor" yourself up, are you a doctor? If you have a still camera (emulsion-based or digital-based) and like taking pictures, are you a photographer? Our peers, the industry, and our skill level all play a part in determining when we have reached that certain point in our career that we can respectfully use a given title.

Anyone can give themselves whatever title they want. But it soon becomes evident whether or not their title fits their skill.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
I think most people (probably including myself) deserve the title "guy with camera" for at least five years.

At least four times in the last two months, I've told people that their photographer is actually just a guy with a camera, not a photographer.
I'm sad to say that I, too, am guy with camera.
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