Jump to content


Photo

Working your way up to being a DP -- G&E vs Camera Department


  • Please log in to reply
7 replies to this topic

#1 Salil Sundresh

Salil Sundresh
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 98 posts
  • 2nd Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 19 January 2009 - 06:15 PM

I'm curious as to what people think is the better way to work your way up to becoming a working DP--
Start in the Grip and/or Electric Department, work your way up to the Gaffer and then DP or start as a camera pa/loader and work up to an operator and then DP? I ask this mainly because these days on low budget projects in particular that are shooting digital, the cameras are fairly easy to use and light meters aren't being used for setting exposure, so could working with the lighting department be a better choice for the 2009 aspiring DP on digital sets? What are the benefits of each route? Any thoughts?
  • 0

#2 David Rakoczy

David Rakoczy
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1579 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • USA

Posted 19 January 2009 - 06:44 PM

Having become a DP coming up through Grip & Electric, I believe having the ability to Gaff and Key Grip is more useful. After all.. what are you doing.. Lighting. Lighting is the most useful trade you can learn to advance your career as a DP. Nothing worse than a "DP" who doesn't light and is only available when his Gaffer is available to light for him/her.

Don't get me wrong. There are so many things you need to know and understand from the grip & electric equipment used to the stocks, lenses and filters to all the post options and how each affects the other.. not to mention blocking and staging etc.. etc.. etc.. the list seems endless... (pheeew, how do we do it?).

In the end, knowing lighting will be your greatest asset. Heck, I didn't load a mag until I bought my own Arri S16 SR2 which was long after shooting four features for HBO.

If I may suggest.. work to become a (real) Gaffer and then shoot as many Student/ Lo/No Budget projects (esp. Film) as you can... for free if need be... to build your DP Reel. I and many others certainly have. Shoot as much Film as you can so you can use your meters and train your eye.
  • 0

#3 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 19 January 2009 - 09:30 PM

As you already know, to be a fully qualified Director of Photography means knowing everything you should about Grip, Electric, and Camera...in addition to being aware of what everyone else on set does and how it could and does affect not only the "photography," but the logistics of "making the day."

No one will argue that a DP should know how to light for film and "electronic image acquisition," but getting that job (as a DP) goes beyond the skill and qualifications and enters the realm of politics and relationships. For that reason, there are likely more working DPs who have made their way through the Camera Department as most of the industry equates "DP" with "camera."

Also, as the aspiring DP is making the move up, he (or she) will likely be required to operate his (or her) own camera for those low-budget indie films being made for the reel and to build relationships. Just as a Camera Assistant doesn't have the opportunities to set up lights and flags in a typical day, Grips and Electrics don't usually have the opportunities to operate a camera, to learn the "why this gear and not that gear?" particulars, and work with the Director (as Operators) in blocking the talent.

EVERY job on set is important to creating each setup and completing the entire project so learning what everyone does and the logistics and potential pitfalls for everyone is priceless information, particularly for the aspiring DP who will have to take everything into account as he decides exactly how to build each setup.
  • 0

#4 James Martin

James Martin
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 227 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 20 January 2009 - 05:18 AM

I'm in a similar situation to you, and a very successful DP that I know worked his way up the "traditional" route, but a student he knows went on set as an electrician and is now a full-time DoP.... guess there are merits to both ways. Perhaps you could think about which area you know LESS about, then go that way? eg. If you're great with cameras etc... but not lighting, maybe you should consider expanding your knowledge by "gripping"...
  • 0

#5 Delorme Jean-Marie

Delorme Jean-Marie
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 513 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • paris, france

Posted 20 January 2009 - 06:47 AM

hi
it really depends on what you call a DP
nowadays i see many kids in their 20's introducing themselves as DP.

with the introduction of vidéo cameras a lot of people had the oportunity to do short films, documentarys music videos.....
and they learned theire tools the best they could.

does it make them DP's? yes certainly but what are we talking about.

each industry has it's own tools, tricks, rules, network and experience.

so one can be an HDV music video excellent DP or director but can he market himself as a DP

Being a DP is a life long experience so ones should always be verry honest with directors, producers and crews on what level DP they are.

I always introduce myself as a beguiner DP as i never shot any long feature film, but i still have a solid 12 years of experience on majors and smaller productions in the camera department as well as over ten shorts as DP.
i takes a while to learn dping and it's true that it's not when you'r first AC that you'r going to learn much on lighting and flaging as well as lab work. but as a second AC you have more time for that.
and i would have been mortified to dp a film and not knowing how to load the camera.

and again theire are no rules as long as ones makes good films.
  • 0

#6 David Rakoczy

David Rakoczy
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1579 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • USA

Posted 20 January 2009 - 10:04 AM

The DP is paid to frame and expose the Film.. not load it. I always have a 1st, 2nd and Loader on each feature so I was as concerned with loading my own Film as I was bringing my own lunch or where I was going park the honey-wagon. Not at all. You can teach yourself (as I did) how to load in about 10 minutes. Framing, operating, knowledge of film stocks, lenses, filters, processing and printing techniques, digital post etc.. etc.. are far more time consuming (and pertinent) to the trade of being a DP than stringing a celluloid strip with a proper size loop. On my earlier gigs, I was far more mortified that I didn't (fully) understand Color Temps, Pushing, Pulling, Cross Processing, under and over Exposure and how each affects the other.

The main thing here is experience. Shoot as much film as you can.. paid or otherwise. Whichever way teaches you how to block, light and expose is the best route. Obviously, I feel that being a Gaffer first will better suite you in these areas than working in the camera dept.
  • 0

#7 Delorme Jean-Marie

Delorme Jean-Marie
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 513 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • paris, france

Posted 20 January 2009 - 11:23 AM

I was not critisizing you Mr Rakoczy and again there are no rules.
I was expressing my personal feeling about the responsabilities of a DP on set as you expressed yours regarding the best route to become a DP

to me the DP isn't only paid to frame and expose the film, but also to lead the camera department it means at last to take technical decisions about equipment, crew and problems with equipents and crews.
and to take those decisions you need to know what you'r talking about :
(cameras, makeup, forecast, grip equipment, lighting equipment and electrical issues........)
in order to take the best decisions for the film, to explain them to the producer or to the director or both

Also don't forget what area we are talking about, in Europe we don't use much the gaffer as you do in the US
  • 0

#8 David Rakoczy

David Rakoczy
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1579 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • USA

Posted 20 January 2009 - 11:37 AM

I appreciate that Delorme and I couldn't agree with you more.

As Bryan stated.. you have to know it all. However, that takes time. So, in the meantime... fake it till you make it... just be sure you deliver. ;)
  • 0


Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

CineTape

Willys Widgets

Visual Products

rebotnix Technologies

Tai Audio

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

The Slider

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Technodolly

FJS International, LLC

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

Aerial Filmworks

Glidecam

Opal

CineLab

Wooden Camera

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Willys Widgets

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

Aerial Filmworks

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Glidecam

Rig Wheels Passport

Abel Cine

Paralinx LLC

Visual Products

CineLab

Metropolis Post

Tai Audio

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery

FJS International, LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineTape

Technodolly