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DoP's and operating


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#1 Alex Haspel

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 11:46 AM

i know that that the american system with Dop and operator(s) has its roots in the beginning time of "talkies", with the operators sitting in sauna-like blimped boxes and the Dop outside in order to oversee and control everything.

.)but why was this setup kept?
i mean, operating i a wonderful thing, and operating and Dop'ing dont exlude each other, do they?

.)and how comes that here in europe it is common that the dop operates himself?
did we leave out the era with the sauna-blimps?

.) i read an interview oliver stapleton some time ago where he sais that he loves to operate, the whole haptic side of it... which i can fully understand. so, does anyone know about other succesful dop's operating themself?

.)and finally: what about you?

Edited by haspel, 16 December 2005 - 11:48 AM.

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#2 Chance Shirley

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 11:53 AM

These days, Steven Soderbergh often works as DP on the movies he directs, and he operates on top of all of that.

Edited by chance, 16 December 2005 - 11:53 AM.

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#3 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 12:22 PM

I think DPing and operating is enough work for 2 people, actually. I think it is basically in term of production costs that there is more often 1 person doing both jobs than it could be...

Of course, there are productions for wich it's not necessary usefull nor better to have two people (documentaries for instance), but on "normal" fiction film, it should be the normal situation.

Unless you are very experienced with lighting, I think operating keeps you from seeing things and being concentrated on your lighting.

On the other hand, when you do the light setup, you are not enough avaiable for setting up the frame and movements, so that there are sometimes tricks that you don't see. Also,you don't have time to make as many rehersals as necessary, sometimes, and are not enough avaiable for the dialogue with the director, as you have to think of your lighting at the same time.

There is a risk that one of the two things is less well done, because you have to do both at the same time.

And sometimes, one of the two is a bit sacrified...

But it has become more and more diffcicult to have both a DoP and a cameraman nowadays. I don't think it's really anything else that costs, most of the time.

I never DPed nor operated a feature film, but even on short films on wich, in France, most of the time, nobody's paid (you only get the fees, lunch, hotel, etc.) so there could be 2 persons, because the cost difference is so low, well, young directors are taking the bad habit to "hire" only one person...

Every time I worked (as an AC) with "two heads" team, the work was always better done than with only one.

I operated a few shorts where a DP was hired as well, I can tell you that 2 people working on light and camera is a lot benefit to the film, but it has become very difficult if not impossible to consider working as a cameraman if you don't want to handle the lighting as well...

The french association AFCF tries to fight for this, but it's a hard job, young people considering it became a "normal" thing to do both....
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#4 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 12:36 PM

I operate everything I do. Cinematography encompasses camera movement and composition which are equally as important as lighting. Being up close I don't have to rely on a video tap...I can see the subtlties of my lighting on faces by being "up front" with the camera.

Beyond that I am really picky about operating and would rather do it myself than explain it to someone else who might not get it right the first few takes.

And not to sound pretentious, but by operating I get to be the first person to see the image. I like the feeling of complete authorship of the image.
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 01:03 PM

Hi,

I have never worked on a production with enough budget for an operator as well. I can see that in a large production time could well be saved so am not against it in theory. Being able to concentrate totally on the lighting would be good thing.

Just my 2c

Stephen
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 02:12 PM

Operating is its own art form and some DP's are excellent operators and some are not. I'm an average-to-medicore operator when it comes to movement (complex dolly moves requiring that I squat up & down while booming, following fast-moving actors as they suddenly stand up, etc.) but better when it comes to composition.

As shoots get more complex, it's harder to split one's time between setting up a shot and practicing the move as an operator while also dealing with tweaking the lighting plus spending time with the director to discuss the scene coverage.

The problem gets even worse if you are talking about two-camera coverage or more, because as a DP/operator it sort of drives me nuts not knowing what the second camera is doing, and I don't want to spend all my time playing back their video-tap footage after every take.

And if you're shooting HD where so much more of the information is to be seen on the big HD monitor, not the little eyepiece monitor, it makes more sense for the DP to be at the monitor, not at the camera. Now combine that with a two-camera HD shoot...

So there are arguments both ways, for a DP doing their own operating, versus finding a real pro operator to handle that aspect. Certainly I'd rather operate myself if I can't find a better operator than myself to do the job.
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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 02:18 PM

Certainly I'd rather operate myself if I can't find a better operator than myself to do the job.


David,

I think that says it all.

Stephen
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#8 Max Jacoby

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 05:35 AM

On one camera shoots I've seen both approaches work really well, in the end it comes down to the people involved and how they like to work. Personally I like to operate, because I am closer to the actors. It really is like Eric says, you are the first person to see the performance. I do not like to judge an actor's performance through the video assist, the viewfinder is much more intimate.
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#9 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 01:16 PM

Max, did you operate the camera on the short films you directed?
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#10 Max Jacoby

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Posted 18 December 2005 - 04:49 AM

Yes. The last one almost exclusively (except the steadicam of course), and on my previous one I split operating with the Dop: I did most of the tripod stuff and he did most of handheld. I did not want to operate handheld dialogue scenes, because we had some long takes and after a while the camera got so heavy that it would have been hard to concentrate on the actors' performance.
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#11 Bob Hayes

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Posted 18 December 2005 - 09:52 PM

Being a DP operator has its advantages and disadvantages. On the positive it?s a great experience to see the scene performed at well lit through the camera. I find it easier to judge lighting through the viewfinder and notice the subtleties more. Also my relationship between what the director want and what he/she gets on the screen seems to be cleaner. There are times when we want really specific operating which I can nail but might take an operator several takes to get. Finally I find I can run the set faster and with more assertiveness from behind the camera. That is especially true when I shoot handheld.

When I have an operator I find I can spend more time with the director. Working over shots or even talking about a shot while it is in progress. It is easy to manage the bigger picture while an operator is setting the shots up. Sometimes I find myself in long conversations with producers or AD?s talking about the next day?s work which I can?t do as a dp/operator. I find myself more rested when an operator can share the burden.

I am tempted to Direct and DP a feature like Steven Soderbergh or Peter Hyams or Robert Rodriguez but I haven?t tried that yet.
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#12 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 01:14 AM

There is a commercial director I work with who likes to operate and I must admit that when I work with him it is a little bit of a relief. It gives me a chance to breathe. When I'm operating AND lighting I don't even have time to get a water from craft service. It's a great way to wear yourself out...doing both.
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#13 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 02:04 AM

Operating is its own art form and some DP's are excellent operators and some are not. I'm an average-to-medicore operator when it comes to movement (complex dolly moves requiring that I squat up & down while booming, following fast-moving actors as they suddenly stand up, etc.) but better when it comes to composition.

As shoots get more complex, it's harder to split one's time between setting up a shot and practicing the move as an operator while also dealing with tweaking the lighting plus spending time with the director to discuss the scene coverage.

The problem gets even worse if you are talking about two-camera coverage or more, because as a DP/operator it sort of drives me nuts not knowing what the second camera is doing, and I don't want to spend all my time playing back their video-tap footage after every take.

And if you're shooting HD where so much more of the information is to be seen on the big HD monitor, not the little eyepiece monitor, it makes more sense for the DP to be at the monitor, not at the camera. Now combine that with a two-camera HD shoot...

So there are arguments both ways, for a DP doing their own operating, versus finding a real pro operator to handle that aspect. Certainly I'd rather operate myself if I can't find a better operator than myself to do the job.



Hi,
For me it also depends on the format, as the DP your job is never done, and often when you are practicing a camera move you could have added or tweaked a light that made a big difference, But on the whole I like to operate when shooting film, mainly because the viewfinder is way more accurate way to judge focus etc than most video taps. But on HD the small viewfinder is no match for the big HD monitor, and especially when a move involves moving through various lighting set-ups or exposure/color levels, the only way to judge this accurately is either to have an onboard HD monitor (most shoots dont like shelling out for a big monitor for the dirctor and another onboard for you) to operate from, or to sit at the big HD monitor and watch while someone else operates. Also I have found Director's opinions about operating are very varied, some get scared if you dont operate, and others panic when you leave their side at the monitor even for a second. It all depends on many variables, also on the head you are using, some people are not comfortable with geared heads will others cant use fluid heads very smoothly and vice versa, so it all depends on the format, DP, Director and head that is being used.
Cheers.
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Broadcast Solutions Inc

Metropolis Post

Paralinx LLC

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Tai Audio

Aerial Filmworks