Filming, Roger Deakins, 1D IV and Saving Ball Sacks!

Cameras have got smaller & people scruffier

It has been a busy couple of weeks since the last post and that’s down to not having a spare second…  I’ve been up at the crack and back home way past bed time…  To be honest the last month has been exhausting… but I’m far from complaining or after any sympathy, that would just be very Sad! Especially, when there’s so many people out of work!  Every freelancer needs to work and when it comes in big chunks it’s something to be gloriously celebrated!

In this last month I have mainly been shooting TV promos, which have all been 30 seconds in length and we have been shooting one per day.  I have had the luxery of working with two fantastic directors Nizar Safair and Hector Fernando and had the support of a full size commercial style crew daily.

The camera formats have been a mix of RED and Canon 5D MK II and 1D IV.  Using the 1D has been a new experience for me which I will share later in the post. Oh yer, I also did a day of High Speed work on the Phontron BC2 and a Kleenex commercial too… but I’ll save them for another post.

This month (as per the picture) I am growing a filthy Tash, yep it really is FILTHY!

SAVE THE BALL SACK!

Now I wasn’t holding a board with my name on in South Louisiana in this picture, but for the second year running I joined the Movember band wagon and I’ve just noticed on Twitter  that Philip Bloom is also sporting the cause and a mess of hair too…   If you want to help save the ball sack please help and donate to Movember and support Philip and myself on our slightly embarrassing hairy mission to help prevent one man dying every hour due to prostrate Cancer…  The Tash is a hero and I am sure will be the Fashion soon!

Anyway, your interested in what have I learned throughout this period Cinematography wise and what I can share..?

Well sounds obvious, but planning!  It’s an old favorite, but it’s key and it’s not just down to the Producer (darn).  The DOP needs to plan too (double darn)!  I have been shooting back to back days including weekends and usually ordering the next days equipment the day before the shoot mainly due to last minuet changes with talent availability and different promos having to be shot on varying days. With almost no recce’s and just storyboards to go on, it’s been a little tricky. A very experienced DOP once told me that it’s always best to ‘over order your lights, just in case’.  With reduced budgets that’s not always possible these days, but even when I think I am pushing the order and getting more than I really need I always seem to use everything on the truck!

The other day for a night shoot in a football stadium I had x1 12K, x2 6K Pars, x4 4K’s HMI, x2 2.5K HMI, kenos, and a bunch of tungsten lights and still managed to use everything…

Lighting in Football Stadium

Cinematography, can be a little like make up – ‘less can sometimes be more’.  The question is ‘when do you stop lighting?’ especially at night, it’s easy to get carried away – if you have the time and crew available there’s always small tweeks that can be made that do make a big difference.

If you can do a lighting plan ahead of the shoot, it is always best.  Just by looking at a story board and chatting to the director you should be able to judge the mood and atmosphere or a scene and have a good idea how you are going to light it regardless of seeing the location.

A Top Tip: Even if you have a lighting plan, do not be afraid to ‘ad lib’/ improvise and just do what feels right on the day.   Lighting is as much about feeling as anything else.  Lighting either looks good and fits the scene or simply doesn’t…

My favourite line is ‘if it looks good, it is good’ – equally if it looks ‘guff it is guff’.  As a Cameraman you should be able to judge this yourself without having to ask anyone – you’ll know the answer.

The best DOP’s are often the most modest ones.  Take Roger Deakins for example.  If you follow his forum (which is like a bible for me) and if you don’t I urge people serious about Cinematography to join and you will quickly see why.

Roger often critiques scenes that he has shot that to the rest of the world are beautifully photographed and faultless. Roger gives invaluable information, sharing his skills and knowledge.  Congrats Roger for the recent ASC Lifetime Achievement Award!  I bet Roger’s had a cool Tash in his day!

It goes to show that it’s not just you and me that walk away thinking I wish I did this or that and had more time or more/ bigger lights and if I did this I could have done a much better job…  No DOP will ever say a scene is perfect, but that is a sign of progression and developing.

One of the best ways to help get impressive results is to surround yourself with talented people.  If you are working with a Gaffer ask for his suggestions, you don’t always have to go with them, but you will generally learn a lot from them (don’t forget they are working with different DOP’s almost every day) and often they will give you a different perspective and options how to approach a situation.  I firmly believe no two DOP’s will light the same scene the same way, but each could be beautiful and fitting in it’s own right.

Now onto a different subject about the Canon 1D IV

Over the past year I have done so many shoots on HDSLR cameras and am growing to really like them.  Especially when they are fully pimped out with prime lenses, follow focus unit, matte box and so on.

The Canon 1D IV is undoutbly a fantastic stills camera, but how is it for filming?

Well to be honest it’s very similar to the 5D MK II, but has the added ability to shoot slow motion which is a bonus.   It shoots at 24, 25 and 30fps at 1920 x 1080,  1280×72 60 or 50 fps

Like the Canon 7D it’s not a full frame sensor, but the depth of field is still mighty shallow.  It has similar video specs to the 7D which is much cheaper so is it any better?

The answer is it’s definitely much better built, it’s got weather proofing and is larger and heavier and feels like more of a professional filming camera.   It’s meant to be much better in low light than the 5D MK II, which I found marginal to be honest.  The only negative point is the record button is very small and amongst other buttons of similar size.  If you are used to the 5D MK II you will fumble around a bit.  However, I was very impressed with the colour tones it reproduces! Once approved and aired I will post a detective style promo I shot up on the 1D IV on the blog.

I wonder what Legend DOP/ Director Jack Cardiff Pictured above would make of HDSLR Cameras…  Much easier for hand held work…  His book Magic Hour is a must buy!

Recently, I have had quite a few people contact me and asking ‘How do you Become a Cameraman/ DOP’.  So I decided to write it all down and present it as four books as part of the DOP Blog series.   I hope you enjoy them and get some great tips and advice.  All comments and feedback welcomed!

How to Become a Cameraman/DOP

How to Light for Film and TV

Filming on Location and How to Beat the Competition

If you are serious about becoming a professional DOP then you will definitely find this info very useful.

http://www.howtobecomeacameraman.com

HG