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#1 Joseph Arch

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 12:54 PM

It is the beginning of the year and I would like to get into Cinematography more then before. I am still learning and in baby steps. I am not a technical person and most of the jargon is baffling in here. I am confused and I do not know where to begin. After mixing up the shutter speed and frame rate, I assumed shutter speed gives a night streak effect, I want to re-evaluate my understanding of the technical side of Cinematography. I feel low and insignificant in this forum compared to the people in here. What I would like to learn are the basic/intermediate level -

-What is the aspect ratio
-What are the films stocks and how many are there.
-Making a film look. How to go about doing it? The process of Cinematography
-Different types of Camera's and their technical specifications, what do they mean
-Learning to tell what something was shot on and to replicate it
-Do directors like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Steven Soderberg, James Cameron, Mel -Gibson etc.. are they technically knowledgeable and have a higher understanding of Cinematography
-Understanding how to make visual effects like super slow motion, night timelapse etc..


I hope I am not being over whelming and forever grateful for your guidance.

Books, websites and anything to lead me on the right track.


Thanks
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 01:49 PM

Well lot's of people here have paid to go to film school, have you thought about that?

R,
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 01:51 PM

Joe, that's a lot of questions. I think most of us here are still working to get through some of 'em. I'll do what I can to answer though (and don't feel low and insignificant on here either, we're all here to learn, teach, and grow)

1)Aspect ratio is the ratio of the frame length and width, expressed as a ratio e.g. 16x9 or 1.78:1, sometimes referred to as 1.78. The aspect ratios are, 4:3 (1.33:1/1.37:1), 16:9 (1.78:1), 1.85:1, 2.39:1 (sometimes called 2.35:1, 2.40:1). Those are the basics as I understand them, ranging from standard def TV you know the square one, which was also seen in early silent film as well as non silent film. 16:9 is your HDTV-- wide screen as you see it on TV now. 1.85:1 is your widescreen cinema film, about the same size as 1.78:1 this would be a movie you see that isn't quite epic as anamorphic is, which is 2.39:1 the widest and most rectangular. Now all the technical stuff isn't there, but that's the basic way I at least understand it. Each aspect ratio has it's place and purpose, mind you, and through experience, and taste, you'll flavor your films with them.

2)For film, you have the basics : Color Neg, Color Reversal, Black and White Neg, Black and White Reversal. The Colors are futher diveded into Daylight and Tungsten Balance, and most are available as either 8mm, 16mm, 35mm, or 65mm. There are also intermediate stocks and print stocks, but let's focus on what goes into the camera. 2 major companies produce film, Kodak, and Fuji, lets stick with those. Each stock has a "speed," and a "color balance," where speed is a representation of the films sensitivity to light. the lower the # the less sensitive it is to light because it's grains are smaller, so the more light you need. The, some films are balances to resolve Daylight as "white," and others Tungsten. So, we have a 50D film from Kodak (7201/5201) and that number tells us it's a slower, finer grained, daylight balanced film, whereas 500T, (7219/5219) from Kodak would be a "Faster" (fastest in fact!) tungsten balanced film. For all their films, look at their respective catalogs:
http://motion.kodak....ction/index.htm
http://www.fujifilm....ture/index.html

3)Has no answer. Film has no "look," per say. It just reads what you put in front of it. Deciding what to put in front of it is your job. You do it how you do it, and you talk it out with the director and figure out how this film should, well, look.

4)You need to be a lot more specific here, there's a lot of cameras and a lot of specs. Basically you have SD/HD/Film/D-Cinema camera types; Standard Definition, High Definition, Film, and Digital Cinema. But therein there are hundreds of differing cameras. Don't think of the camera too much; it's just a HOLDER FOR THE RECORDING MEDIA, whatever that is. A Panavision camera and an Arri Camera with the same lens recording the same scene to the same type of film will record it the same way! But, a Sony XDCam EX and a Sony HDCam will not.... It depends on what format you're recording onto and what lenses you're recording with. And this changes at breakneck pace often and especially in the realm of HD and D-Cinema.

5) Why Replicate? What something was shot on doesn't matter as much as why it was shot in a certain way. Get away from formats, move moreso to understanding why someone would light and frame in such a way. That is what you do, light, whether that light is going to be recorded by film or video, you have to find the right lighting for the scene. Now, of course sometimes you need a specific format, but that will come up as it comes up. Focus on lighting first.

6) Higher understanding than whom? And, does it matter? They are human, fallible, and people. They make films as they make films, and I am certain they collaborate. They know about formats, and lenses, and composition, etc; but do they know more about film stock than a Kodak chemist? Probably not. . .

7) Super slow motion--- high frame rate played back in real time. Night time lapse--- Interval recording (1 frame ever 2 minutes for example). Again, this will come up as it comes up, it doesn't make up the bulk of most films.

Now, for the meat and potatoes, get the American Cinematographer's Manual, 9th edition, learn it all. And there is a pinned book section on this site, I highly recommend it. Also, I like to read "Masters of Light." It's interviews with some great DPs, gets into their head a bit. And keep your head up. It takes a lifetime to learn everything you can learn ;)
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#4 Ram Shani

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Posted 03 February 2009 - 01:54 AM

hi

take a look at recommend books here at the forum
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#5 Joseph Arch

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 01:33 PM

WOW Adrian, you have went out of your way to help me. Much appreciate it. I did not expect this. Thank you man.

I am reading as much as possible. Only time and energy are against me.
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 01:37 PM

You just got lucky that I was bored online ;) always glad to help!
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#7 Ira Ratner

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 07:13 PM

Adrian is the BEST!!! And I apologize for not responding to his African adventures in the way that I should have! (Been real busy at work.)

Hope all went well!
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 08:01 PM

Oh Ira, far be it for me to be mad at someone for working! Hope all is well.
And Joe, clear out your inbox so i can message you ;)
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 09:26 PM

Forums are good places to ask specific questions to areas where you are still confused even after reading a book or an article. Forums are not well-suited to disgorge entire areas of study, whole disciplines.

With online resources like Wikipedia, I hope people will do a little basic research first before asking for help or a clarification.
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#10 Joseph Arch

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 09:53 PM

I have too many specific questions to ask, David. However, I will keep it to something I just don't get from now ;)


Adrian, PM box cleared.
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#11 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 10:10 PM

I've been devoting a lot of time lately to forums like Yahoo Answers, AnswerBag, MySpace Film Forum, and College Confidential. Many of the same questions continually come up despite the books, schools, forums, and repeated answers by myself and others.

When I was entering this business, there really were no books out there to explain the necessities and filmschools mostly (still) cater to the "art" with little attention to technical and practical concerns regarding careers.

Thankfully, today, there are more resources for aspiring filmmakers to refer to including this incredible access to real professionals via the internet. (I often wonder how different my own career and life would be if all of this was available then!).

BUT, I think my point is that there is SO much information out there now, sometimes it can be difficult to sift through it all to find the answers to the specific questions we might all have. I and others have written books in order to help consolidate the information we feel is important to know, but from time to time, I don't feel that there's anything wrong with reaching out to help the new generations with their specific concerns. Of course we can only give fairly surface answers that require further study by those who are interested. If the person asking isn't passionate enough to research on his/her own, then he/she won't get very far anyway. But if we extend our professional experience to those who ARE interested and passionate, then this business will have better and more qualified people involved.

If we're not here (and elsewhere) to help others, then what is the point of having a forum at all?
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 10:31 PM

If we're not here (and elsewhere) to help others, then what is the point of having a forum at all?


I'm not suggesting that we not be helpful, I'm suggesting we could be more helpful if the questions were more focused, more specific.

I can't give an entire education into the whole subject of cinematography in one post. I can't cover the entire history of the film industry in one post.

Plus is it a waste of time to answer really simple questions that could easily be answered in a basic Google search. Those questions I sometimes answer if I have the time, but honestly, how can one hope to have a career as a cinematographer or filmmaker if they have such poor researching skills? I mean, I could answer the question of "who shot Citizen Kane?" but on the other hand, anyone could look that up on IMDB. The fact that there is an overabundance of information on the internet doesn't mean you can just give up and not bother doing some basic research.

When I was in elementary school, I took lessons in using a library -- the lesson I actually learned was that if you really want to teach someone something important... teach them how to find things out for themselves.

I'm looking forward to answering any specific questions that Joseph has.
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#13 Joseph Arch

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 10:48 PM

Brian is absolute spot on to a tea when he says "filmschools mostly (still) cater to the "art" with little attention to technical and practical concerns regarding careers."

I have come out of university with nothing learnt in film. Everything I have known so far has been in this forum. Yet, I am still a noob but most people who come out of university see me as someone big in knowledge. That shows you that universities are way behind in film with technical aspects. VFX universities and ones focused on a particular and one subject tend to do better then those focused on films in general.

If David was to go to university and teach them a few things from the industry, I guarantee you all of the class would walk out after him begging him to be their mentor.

What I have learnt in this forum alone has been an unforgettable experience.

Edited by Joseph Arch, 04 February 2009 - 10:49 PM.

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#14 Serge Teulon

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 06:24 AM

Hi Joseph,

Film schools are good for 2 things:

1. Time on equipment
2. Contacts

The rest comes from putting in some 'elbow grease' ;)
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#15 Joseph Arch

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 06:29 AM

That's true. Even thought most of their equipments are out dated. Like most of the teachers. What I have learnt on set in one day, I have never learnt at university.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 11:27 AM

That's true. Even thought most of their equipments are out dated. Like most of the teachers. What I have learnt on set in one day, I have never learnt at university.


Students are always obsessed with getting up-to-date production technique training, but if you are getting a degree like an MFA, I believe there has to be an academic component to your studies -- it can't all be "practical". You have to learn your history, you have to learn aesthetics, and you have to learn photographic concepts... none of which require up-to-date equipment.

Truth be told, I'm not sure it's necessary for students to have access to the latest gear because a master's degree program is not a trade school. Plus most of them will start out in low-budget filmmaking using older & cheaper equipment. I suspect if you talk to any top DP working today about what equipment he learned on, whether as an apprentice or in school, and it would probably be some outdated (at the time) camera.

Truth is that I learned mostly by shooting Super-8, and an Arri-S was about all I really needed to know in terms of 16mm photography. Above that level, and it just starts to be about convenience, extra features, etc.
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#17 John Allen

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 11:57 AM

Yeah, I think what David is saying is very truthful, as always. But I mean, one of the best ways to learn is when you are making low to no-budget films. See then you are forced to try and get a really beautiful image, and portray to story with what you have. You learn a lot by doing that. It's kind of like when my dad started teaching me how to play guitar. I really wanted to learn on a small electric, cause it was smaller, less painful on your fingers and it just felt much more smoother than the acoustic. He made me learn on the acoustic though, because it was harder, which made me learn a lot very fast. Later on when I got an electric, I was able to play it with absolute ease. The same concept applies to cinematography I think. When you are forced to use little to none, or old/outdated instead of new equipment, then in the long run you will learn how to get the best image from just the sweat of your hands and the passion in your heart.

I know all of you look at me as just a 17 year old, but I'm just saying my opinion. Over the past 2 years of working on various films, I have had to sometimes use just a few shop lights to get what I wanted, but I learned very fast as a result of it and I have not had any college learning yet. You might think I don't know anything, and you are probably right, but it's just my opinion so you can take it or leave it. So I hope, from commenting a lot on this forum, that I haven't come off as a pompous and arrogant know-it-all. ;)

But again, I agree with David.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 12:12 PM

Now to play Devil's Advocate... with the ridiculously high cost of most film schools today, I'm not surprised when students start demanding more for their money! If I were paying $30,000/year to go to a film school and all they had was some old Arri-S and Bolex cameras and most of the coursework was taught by TA's and people who just got a degree themselves and were willing to work cheap as an underpaid professor... I would wonder where my money was going to.
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#19 John Allen

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 12:20 PM

Now to play Devil's Advocate... with the ridiculously high cost of most film schools today, I'm not surprised when students start demanding more for their money! If I were paying $30,000/year to go to a film school and all they had was some old Arri-S and Bolex cameras and most of the coursework was taught by TA's and people who just got a degree themselves and were willing to work cheap as an underpaid professor... I would wonder where my money was going to.


Yeah I know it's pretty ridiculous. I'm planning to attend Columbia College Chicago in a couple of years and they cost about $35,000 a year, but luckily I have heard very good things about that college. I have heard of a lot of "film schools" though that cost over 30 grand and they only learn by text books.
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 12:28 PM

I just don't see how any art degree can be worth dropping $100,000 on by the time you are finished. The market doesn't really support that sort of investment except for a few, so you end up with a bunch of rich kids in film schools.

When I went to CalArts in 1988, it was $9000/year -- and that seemed like a lot. Luckily for me, after the first year, I got half the tuition covered by a scholarship. I think I borrowed about $26,000 to get my MFA and I was worried about how I was going to pay that off (again, I got lucky -- my parents paid off the loan.)

These days, I'd probably pray I could get into a state program like at UCLA and pay state resident fees. When I was at UCLA from 1982-84 getting my BA, it was only about $2000/year.
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