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About becoming a cinematographer


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#1 Aloe Vera

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 07:37 AM

Before going to university to learn cinematography what aspects should i study myself. Like lighting rooms or people or technical study or taking pictures. Just to be curious how much cinematographers earn? In hollywood and europe. Im bit confused between choosing cinematography or directing/writing, because i like taking pictures and filming(films, not weddings etc) and i also have many many ideas about scripts and movies. And i cant decide whats best for me. Any suggestions?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 08:55 AM

Before going to university to learn cinematography what aspects should i study myself. Like lighting rooms or people or technical study or taking pictures. Just to be curious how much cinematographers earn?


You need to study ALL aspects.

Cinematographers earn from nothing to bucket-loads. There are no standards really other than the union pay scale rate, and even then, how much you make depends on how many days a year you find work, what type of work production it is, etc.
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#3 Michael Most

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 09:04 AM

Before going to university to learn cinematography what aspects should i study myself. Like lighting rooms or people or technical study or taking pictures.


You don't "go to university to learn cinematography." You go to university to learn life. Life includes art. Art teaches you cinematography.

"Becoming a cinematographer" is a long - often life long - pursuit. You don't go through a four year school and, poof, you're a cinematographer. It takes a deeper understanding that is usually achieved through a combination of art studies, ability to understand storytelling and the visual nuances that aid it, and, yes, technical know-how. Having an ultimate goal is certainly a good thing, but the one you're choosing is not something that is taught in a school. At least not beyond the basics.

And, by the way, if you're considering this for financial reasons, you really should consider other lines of work.
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#4 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 09:12 AM

Before going to university to learn cinematography what aspects should i study myself. Like lighting rooms or people or technical study or taking pictures. Just to be curious how much cinematographers earn? In hollywood and europe. Im bit confused between choosing cinematography or directing/writing, because i like taking pictures and filming(films, not weddings etc) and i also have many many ideas about scripts and movies. And i cant decide whats best for me. Any suggestions?


Check out the Kodak Student Filmmakers website:

http://www.kodak.com/go/student

Good publications to give you insight into filmmaking:

http://www.kodak.com...o...1.4.9&lc=en

And articles from film schools:

http://www.kodak.com...o....4.11&lc=en

Also try the University Film and Video Association:

http://www.ufva.org
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 10:13 AM

Before going to university to learn cinematography what aspects should i study myself. Like lighting rooms or people or technical study or taking pictures. Just to be curious how much cinematographers earn? In hollywood and europe. Im bit confused between choosing cinematography or directing/writing, because i like taking pictures and filming(films, not weddings etc) and i also have many many ideas about scripts and movies. And i cant decide whats best for me. Any suggestions?



Important questions there and it's good that you're thinking about it all right now. :)

The first question to ask yourself is what do you enjoy the most? As a Cameraman, you'll be viewed (and sometimes treated) as a mere "technician." While there indeed is a creative element to it, because you are the Director's link to the technical crew, you'll tend to be lumped into that category more often than not. If you did get a start as a DP on large enough projects, you MIGHT eventually get the chance to Second Unit Direct on action films or the like, so you'd be able to pursue both of your interests. No guarantees though. With that in mind, there are also no guarantees that you'll become a "feature" DP either. Hollywood is littered with very qualified people who worked very hard and are more than technically competent, but never quite got that lucky break. You might work a day and manage to meet the exact right person who takes your career to the top or you might work a lifetime on low budget projects and never get where you always dreamed of. Be prepared to enjoy the journey because the destination may never come.

In terms of Directing vs Cinematography, I personally can relate to that question. It is one that I have dealt with over the years myself. Directing is viewed as a purely creative endeavor and the profitable ones (notice that I didn't say "good ones") are given carte blanche to do as they please. The truly good ones also know the ins and outs of the set and what everyone on the crew does. Having a "vision" is only part of the job. Beoing able to bring a high budget project in on time is important as well. You mention that you have a lot of ideas, but one of the best ways to enter the fray as a Director is to be a great writer. If you haven't already, start turning those ideas into screenplays. If you find that you're not a great writer (and it won't happen on the first attempt so don't let that stop you), partner up with someone who is. More than one working Director got his start by pitching a script and insisting that he be allowed to direct it. There are many avenues to getting that job and if you want it, you'll have to figure out what way is best for you.

However, if you choose Cinematography, the best way to start is to just go out and do it. You don't need anything fancy to practice. You don't even need a camera at the beginning. I recommend studying the lighting in your favorite movies. First, watch the people and how they are lit. Start with a dark room and then try to emulate those looks that catch your eye. Use whatever "regular" lights you have. You'll quickly learn where to put the key light and how you need to control it. Figure out where the backlight needs to be. Eventually you'll want to add the camera into the mix and see what different lenses and movement do and how it all affects how you light a set. Once you have some hands on experience, all of those Cinematography books and seminars (and schools) will start to make a whole lot more sense.

Whatever you choose, just realize that life in the entertainment industry is more of a lifestyle choice than anything else. You might start working right away and make a ton of money, but the typical scenario is decidely different. Be prepared to not work for a months at a time as you look for worthy projects to invest yourself into.

Very soon I'll have a book available with a lot more information that will help you. Go to the website listed in my signature to find out more.

And good luck!
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#6 Aloe Vera

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 01:42 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I enjoy the art side of cinematography more than technical. I like to watch and study arthouse movies just to watch cinematography and pictureside of the film. I have done some lighting myself for photography and for filming and i really enjoy the outcome. Especially i love colors and depth. Actually i dont have even video camera i only have digital photocamera and i've used it for everything. I've created allkinds of lamp ad-ons to change the color and brightness of light. About Directing i have to say i dont like editing and post-production process much. And i dont want to become a cinematographer for money, i've never thought about how much they earn so when i was here i thought i ask this, cuz probably i'll need sidejob to make a living.
I forgot to add that i dont live in US or in UK. I live in counrty where cinema is at very very low stage- Estonia.

Edited by exklusi, 01 August 2006 - 01:46 PM.

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#7 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 07:38 PM

I enjoy the art side of cinematography more than technical.


All screen end art is technical. As a painter you need to know how colors and brushes behave, as a sculptor you need to know stones, wood and tools and everything else you might want want to work with. If you have achived a certain control and understanding of those elements you are able to create something great not only by luck.
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#8 Michael Collier

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 03:05 AM

If you wanna make movies, then the best advice is make movies. Where your at you probably need to start your own projects, rather than try and get hired at first. I don't know first hand what Estonia's film market is like, but if there isn't much going on, get a good Dv camera or 8mm/16mm film camera and start a few movies. If you make it a point to make 3 or 4 shorts a year, you will be surprised how quickly you can pick things up.

Cinematography has an art to it, but keep in mind the scope of a film and the logistics all films present. You don't have the luxury of sitting at an esel and painting for hours, carefully mixing colors and seeing the whole picture flesh out before you in a controlled and familiar environment. The whole movie exists in your mind right up until the last day of photography. When you get on location you have several decisions to make in short order. Lens, movement, lighting, blocking, logistics, efficency controll etc. With all this flying at you at a mile a minute you really don't have the luxury to overthink things. This is where preperation comes in. If you have a good prep you may not know every shot (though you should know most), but you have developed a system of thinking of the movie that alows you to quickly make artistic decisions on the fly where needed. In this way you can let your creativity flow easily, without it being bogged down by technical matters. It also makes you better able to adapt to the problems the reality of filmmaking presents. If you can't light or stage the way you wanted to, you can quickly come up with a good (sometimes better) method for the scene or shot.

You said your not much for the post side of things. Find people who are. Films are not made alone, its a team effort and if you don't find interest or skill in a particular path, find someone able to do it. Find people who want to start out just like you. You can probably organize a club to make a few short movies a year. Costs can be devided, reels built. From there you already have your starting network.

Its hard career, I can atest to that. If you can get a side job in photography you will be able to experiment a bit at work. From there, just make sure your dedicated and stick to it. If you really want to make motion pictures, you will. The size of the production really won't matter, and you will never be disapointed with a long life shooting small indie arthouse films. (what else are you gonna do, pour concrete? sell insurance? nah.)



Oh- and save all your early films somewhere safe. I lost all my shorts and features from when I was young. There were some good ones (a lot of really, really bad ones too). Color of blood rocked. Best epic film ever shot on an RCA moviecam VHS. I swear Gladiator stole the idea from me.
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#9 Biki

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 11:10 AM

When you want to make movie, make it. Make movies and upload them to free video uploading sites. There are many such sites like www.thinkgottalent.com and others. Upload you movies to te respective section. Let other see and decide how good you are. You will sure get the needed feedback.
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