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#1 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 12:56 AM

Whenever someone asks me who my favorite cinematographer is, I'm always inclined to say, "a bunch of TV guys you've never heard of." It seems that feature film DP's get all the glory, but there's some really outstanding work being done by television DP's. These guys (and ladies) turn out consistently beautiful images often on par with the best feature films, but on a strict schedule and often limited budget. Much of what I've learned about lighting, and an efficient approach to setups, has come from watching this stuff on TV over the years.

Some of the (mostly) TV-only DP's who's work has has caught my eye in recent years:

John Aronson - Heroes, Without a Trace, Crossing Jordan
Tom Yatsko - Brothers and Sisters, CSI MIami
Glen Winter - Smallville
John Newby - Las Vegas
Aaron Schneider - Murder One, Supernatural (pilot)
Billy Dickson - One Tree Hill, Ally McBeal
David Boyd - Firefly, Without a Trace, Friday Night Lights
Ross Berryman - Angel, Ugly Betty

and as always:
Ron Garcia - Numbers, Providence
Brian J. Reynolds - NYPD Blue, The Closer
Constantine Makris - Law and Order

I'm constantly learning new approaches to try by watching how these guys handle the basics of modeling and separation, motivation of light sources, continuity between different angles, special circumstances and so on. Being able to deliver a consistent look across multiple locations, with different production variables, and over several months is a real challenge. You can't just "fudge" the look of a scene to accommodate the shooting conditions when you have a mandate to deliver a consistent look.
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#2 Xavier Plaza

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 09:39 AM

Totally agree with you i just want to add to your list my two favorite DP Nathan Hope and Michael Slovis, gorgeous work, this two guys are awesome...And one question, Anybody can tell me what's the differences (about budget) between a middle feature and a tv chapter ?...
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 10:59 AM

Rather similar - the higher-end TV shows have to shoot about five pages a day and spend a couple of million per episode, which is similar to a mid-to-low budget studio feature. The pace is a little faster though and it goes on for month after month.

My experience shooting "Big Love" is that it is similar to shooting features... except that you have a crew and AD staff and the budget to do whatever it takes to work faster and go home at 12 hours, so there are pre-rig and wrap crews, pre-calls for cast and crew, more sets, etc. On "Big Love" I would have to be on set 15 minutes before call time to watch a rehearsal with the cast, before they finished make-up, so that at call time exactly, the crew would walk in and watch the rehearsal, and we'd be lit and ready to shoot fifteen minutes after call. Compare this to my last feature where crew members would not only wait to even touch their equipment or go to their trucks until call time (let alone, show up on set) and we generally couldn't get the first set-up done until an hour after call time.
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#4 Xavier Plaza

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 04:36 PM

My experience shooting "Big Love" is that it is similar to shooting features... except that you have a crew and AD staff and the budget to do whatever it takes to work faster and go home at 12 hours, so there are pre-rig and wrap crews, pre-calls for cast and crew, more sets, etc. On "Big Love" I would have to be on set 15 minutes before call time to watch a rehearsal with the cast, before they finished make-up, so that at call time exactly, the crew would walk in and watch the rehearsal, and we'd be lit and ready to shoot fifteen minutes after call. Compare this to my last feature where crew members would not only wait to even touch their equipment or go to their trucks until call time (let alone, show up on set) and we generally couldn't get the first set-up done until an hour after call time.



Thanks David, great example. BTW I think there are these differences (in production) because they are different ways to treat or manage the production (policies), or I'm wrong...?
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 05:34 PM

Well, certainly the role of the director is different for TV shows versus features -- the true creative control is in the hands of the show runners, producers, head writers, etc., and the cast to some degree.
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#6 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 06:13 PM

Whenever someone asks me who my favorite cinematographer is, I'm always inclined to say, "a bunch of TV guys you've never heard of." It seems that feature film DP's get all the glory, but there's some really outstanding work being done by television DP's. These guys (and ladies) turn out consistently beautiful images often on par with the best feature films, but on a strict schedule and often limited budget. Much of what I've learned about lighting, and an efficient approach to setups, has come from watching this stuff on TV over the years.

Some of the (mostly) TV-only DP's who's work has has caught my eye in recent years:

John Aronson - Heroes, Without a Trace, Crossing Jordan
Tom Yatsko - Brothers and Sisters, CSI MIami
Glen Winter - Smallville
John Newby - Las Vegas
Aaron Schneider - Murder One, Supernatural (pilot)
Billy Dickson - One Tree Hill, Ally McBeal
David Boyd - Firefly, Without a Trace, Friday Night Lights
Ross Berryman - Angel, Ugly Betty
and as always:
Ron Garcia - Numbers, Providence
Brian J. Reynolds - NYPD Blue, The Closer
Constantine Makris - Law and Order

I'm constantly learning new approaches to try by watching how these guys handle the basics of modeling and separation, motivation of light sources, continuity between different angles, special circumstances and so on. Being able to deliver a consistent look across multiple locations, with different production variables, and over several months is a real challenge. You can't just "fudge" the look of a scene to accommodate the shooting conditions when you have a mandate to deliver a consistent look.



Great point.

I say also:

Olivier Wood "Miami Vice"
Jean De Segonzac "Homicide" "Law and Order"
Christopher Misiano "Law and Order"


I've always enjoyed how two shows "NYPD Blue" and Law and Order" can be both about
police in Manhattan and both shot so differently and both be so compelling.
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#7 Tom Lowe

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 08:20 PM

I always enjoy the cinematography on Smallville. Aren't there several DPs who shoot this? At least two? I remember an article about it in AC about a year ago.

David, have you ever been offered a chance to shoot Smallville? That would be a lot of fun, IMO!
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 08:26 PM

I met David Moxness, who won the ASC Award for an episode of "Smallville". Nice guy, and talented. And Canadian, which probably helps if you're trying to get hired to shoot a TV show shooting up in Canada...

"Big Love" is my first exposure to TV. One of the directors who did an episode was interested in me for a new series he was producing, but it was starting production in September when I was still on "The Sophomore". My agent has gotten some calls asking me to come in and sub on a few other shows for a week or so, but I've never been available.
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#9 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 08:55 PM

I always enjoy the cinematography on Smallville. Aren't there several DPs who shoot this? At least two? I remember an article about it in AC about a year ago.


Many of the TV shows I've mentioned have had several DP's, sometimes two or more per season, and of course some turnover on shows that have run for several seasons. I always watch the credits of shows that I like and singled out Glen Winter's stuff as consistently beautiful. To be fair, the show always looks good...

Part of the reason I brought this thread up was as a way of discussing the nuances that make an individual DP's work unique. Shows that have multiple DP's usually do a pretty good job of keeping the look consistent across episodes, yet there are little things that distinguish each DP's approach. Sometimes it's as subtle as the amount of return or edgelight on closeups, other times it's the angle of the key, etc.

For example season one of Heroes was pretty seamless across DP's but one thing that John Aronson has always done particularly well is keeping the contrast on the actors just slightly lower than the backgrounds, which really helps sell the illusion that they are indirectly lit by practical sources/ambience on the set (as well as providing separation via difference in contrast). Most other DP's tend to keep the contrast similar between foreground and background, and just take care to stage light against dark and vice versa for separation. And again to be fair, Nate Goodman's stuff was excellent, and I'm admiring Charlie Lieberman's use of egelight/underlight on faces in the last two episodes.
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#10 Bill Totolo

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 08:27 AM

I used to work with Tony Askins' daughter a couple years ago. While we worked together her father won the emmy for cinematography on a sitcom two years in a row (Will and Grace).

It makes you re-evaluate something easily taken for granted.

Plus, my job allows me on set for a lot of cable and network programming and I'm always impressed. Latest set visit was "Dexter" shot by Romeo Tirone. Nice work, great sets. I get to grill the gaffer/best boy and learn a lot.

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#11 Hal Smith

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 12:36 PM

My experience shooting "Big Love" is that it is similar to shooting features... except that you have a crew and AD staff and the budget to do whatever it takes to work faster and go home at 12 hours, so there are pre-rig and wrap crews, pre-calls for cast and crew, more sets, etc.

Same crew for all episodes? That would certainly help on-set efficiency.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 01:05 PM

Same crew for all episodes? That would certainly help on-set efficiency.


The DP and the AD department alternate, otherwise same crew.

I was talking to Kevin Janicelli, the gaffer, who said that on "The Sopranos" they also alternated gaffers along with the DP, so he could work with the same DP all season.
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#13 Michael Most

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 07:27 PM

Aaron Schneider - Murder One, Supernatural (pilot)
Billy Dickson - One Tree Hill, Ally McBeal
David Boyd - Firefly, Without a Trace, Friday Night Lights
......Brian J. Reynolds - NYPD Blue, The Closer


Having had the pleasure of working with all of the above cameramen (I was on "Ally McBeal" with Billy - still one of my closest friends - for all 5 seasons as Visual Effects Supervisor, and with Brian on both "Civil Wars" and "NYPD" for its first 3 seasons as final colorist), I strongly concur. The toughest part of doing a series, as David has noted, is keeping up your energy for as long as 10 months straight. There are very few features that go that long. Doing a series is like running a marathon, and I consider it rather miraculous that the names you mentioned, along with numerous others, are able to deliver the kind of vision and talent over the course of an entire season that they do. Anyone who's worked on the crew of a series knows just how tough that is - for everyone, but particularly for those with ultimate responsiblity. I'm glad you mentioned David Boyd - I did a number of episodes of Without A Trace with David, and instantly developed both respect and admiration for him (not to mention that I just really like the guy!). He's not only talented - that's obvious - but he might be the "happiest" cameraman I've ever met, someone who genuinely loves what he does and brings that love to the set every day - and it's infectuous.
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#14 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 07:45 AM

Id just like to put a vote in for David Boyd and the other DPs (Lyod Ahern, Joseph Gallagher, and others) for their work on "Deadwood". I think it was great and really well shot. The seasons really changed from episode to episode, the compositions looked as if someone new was at bat each time. Very exciting. I was also surprised to see Walter Hill had directed Deadwood. He's discussed quite a bit in " Every Frame a Rembrandt '.
Also, while this isn't a drama, I think the BBC show "Top Gear" is very well shot and the camera people deserve full credit for consistently making every sports car look very sexy. The have watched a lot of Tony Scott films judging by their use of grads.
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#15 kpv rajkumar

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 10:29 AM

I'm glad you mentioned David Boyd - I did a number of episodes of Without A Trace with David, and instantly developed both respect and admiration for him (not to mention that I just really like the guy!). He's not only talented - that's obvious - but he might be the "happiest" cameraman I've ever met, someone who genuinely loves what he does and brings that love to the set every day - and it's infectuous.
[/quote]

hi mike ! just chiming in to say how much i'm enjoying this th(read) and how much i'd like to be seen as someone like david boyd too, by the filmmaking fraternity here in this part of the world lighting up lives. it's infectious indeed ! thank you dave ! thank you mike ! kpv rajkumar

Edited by kpv rajkumar, 24 October 2007 - 10:30 AM.

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#16 Xavier Plaza

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 11:40 AM

And again to fair, Nate Goodman's stuff was excellent, and I'm admiring Charlie Lieberman's use of egelight/underlight on faces in the last two episodes.


Michael, once again agree with you Charlie Lieberman's have a beatiful work especially at camera... :lol:
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#17 timHealy

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 08:31 PM

I have liked some of the work by Geoffrey Erb and Glenn Kershaw

Best

Tim
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#18 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 01:29 AM

I think the BBC show "Top Gear" is very well shot and the camera people deserve full credit for consistently making every sports car look very sexy. The have watched a lot of Tony Scott films judging by their use of grads.


While I agree that 'Top Gear' looks pretty good, I have a strong suspicion that most of the work is done in post, not in camera.
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#19 Craig Mieritz

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 04:34 PM

I agree that there has, and continues to be, some very good work done in TV. You have to admire the speed with which much of this work is done. I have recently been watching some old series, back to the 1950's. With all the new DVD's out, you can see what the images really looked like, as opposed to how they looked on your TV as a rerun. I get a real kick out of IMDb'ing the DP's. Some of them had been around since the teens and early 1920's and had dozens and dozens of films under their belt. I love reading these threads. It's heartening to see so many people who really love what they do.
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#20 Logan Schneider

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 05:45 PM

I've learned so much watching TV DPs work.

Some of the best have been:

Bob Primes, ASC
Chris Manley
Bill Roe, ASC

There are more, but I learned huge amounts from these guys in a very short amount of time. There is a fluidity that comes with having shot so many episodes over so many years. The cinematography becomes very assured, detailed and incredibly fast.
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