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Things we wish we'd done differently


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#1 David Desio

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 09:03 AM

Hey all. Just felt like sharing a bit. So I just saw a rough cut of a music video that I DP'd a few weeks back and my overall reaction was disappointment. While there were no complaints from the director or producers, for me it felt a little lacking. I was seeing little lighting things that made me cringe, mistakes that I didn't catch until much later, things like that.

I was wondering what are some of the biggest regrets you all have when seeing footage that comes back and isn't what you envisioned; and as you progressed in your careers, do you still find imperfections in your work and what are the most common ones for you?

best,
dave
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#2 Marque DeWinter

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 09:27 AM

Hey all. Just felt like sharing a bit. So I just saw a rough cut of a music video that I DP'd a few weeks back and my overall reaction was disappointment. While there were no complaints from the director or producers, for me it felt a little lacking. I was seeing little lighting things that made me cringe, mistakes that I didn't catch until much later, things like that.

I was wondering what are some of the biggest regrets you all have when seeing footage that comes back and isn't what you envisioned; and as you progressed in your careers, do you still find imperfections in your work and what are the most common ones for you?

best,
dave


I'm almost never happy, but then again I'm always looking to improve, and improve, and yeah improve. I wouldn't say I find common imperfections because I do improve. For instance I shot an industrial for this company in 2005 for the first time (I shoot it every year). Its basically sit down interviews very straightforward the client loved them. But on the last interview, which was one of the most important for the client, I tried too hard and messed with my lighting and ended up have the lights reflect in his glasses. Only when he looked at this one certain angle. Now it is an ENG style crew of two (myself and a mixer/assistant) and the gentleman seemed to be more animated with where he was looking than most when answering the questions, but it still bothers me. It wasn't a case where I didn't have the tools I needed (well I could have used another trained hand to adjust the lighting)...but its usually things like that. I'm made big mistakes too...but the big mistakes I tend to find, while my fault, are usually things that I screwed up because I didn't take the time I needed or I didn't have the time I needed or I was just completely off my game. You can't fix a bad day or even really learn much from it since the big stuff I already knew not to do. Its the things that are little that I use to improve and build my skills with. I'm also mostly an AC/Loader so practice isn't too frequent.

So doc can I get off the couch and will you take a check?

~Marque
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#3 Serge Teulon

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 10:24 AM

I once read a interview of R Deakins and in it he said, that if ever what he produced was exactly how he saw it with the eye in his mind, he would give up.

It's very unlikely that you'll ever find a dp that isn't critical of his/her work.

If you'd like to get a peer critique then you could post it on this forum.
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#4 David Desio

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 10:41 AM

I once read a interview of R Deakins and in it he said, that if ever what he produced was exactly how he saw it with the eye in his mind, he would give up.

It's very unlikely that you'll ever find a dp that isn't critical of his/her work.

If you'd like to get a peer critique then you could post it on this forum.



Interesting responses. No, I'm not writing a book but I do accept cash for counseling :)

I guess it's true though, if everytime you went out to shoot and came back with footage exactly the way it looked in your head, it could get quite dull, though what a problem to have!
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#5 Serge Teulon

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 11:12 AM

I think that problem can only be as big as you make it.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he must constantly think "Phew!! Got away with another one!!" :rolleyes:
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#6 Ira Ratner

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 12:20 PM

Stayed single?

(Just read title of thread and then this.)
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 12:40 PM

I think most of us are prone to analyzing our work and wondering if we could have done it better.

It sort of breaks down like this: one-third "this was the best I could do given the circumstances", one-third "maybe I could have done this better in retrospect" and one-third "boy, this turned out pretty good!" You can imagine which third ends up on your reel...

I'm only joking about this rule of thirds, it can break down in different percentages.

I think it was Howard Hawk who said that a good movie had three good scenes and no bad ones. Over the years, I've come to feel that it's the "no bad ones" that's the hardest part, not getting the three good ones.

You could also break it down like this:
-- broad conceptual issues
-- broad technical issues
-- specific technical problems with some shots
-- specific artistic problems with some shots

A broad conceptual issue, when related to the script needs, might be "was it a good idea to desaturate the whole movie? Was I playing into a cliche? Was I going against expectations too much? Did I make boring safe choices throughout when I should have made bold, unsafe choices? Was I going too far? Not far enough?"

A broad technical issue may be "Should I have used x digital camera / film stock / format / lens / processing trick / diffusion filter, etc. on the whole movie? Should I have made a different choice?"

Then a specific technical issue would be some regret in how the shot was exposed or focused, etc. "Maybe I shouldn't have shot at f/2 in retrospect for this shot -- the lens clearly lost sharpness and the actor is barely in focus half the time." "Maybe this was the wrong scene to push one-stop on".

A specific artistic isssue might be "did I use too much fill on that shot? Is that composition rather bland? Was that wide-angle lens too extreme for the moment? Should I have lit her better?" "Was that colored gel too much?"
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 08:48 PM

Gordon Willis said that if something you've lit doesn't look right, then you are either trying to do too much (over-lighting) or you have placed the key light in the wrong place (conceptual mistake). I believe the latter is a more critical mistake because it changes not only the feeling of a scene but also the meaning of it. It seems clear to me that the more experience you have, the fewer conceptual mistakes you make; you just spend more time trying to perfect the small details.

I still make a lot of conceptual mistakes, though I learn from every one. I don't usually make the mistake of over-lighting though, I usually under-light. Hope I get the right mix one day.
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#9 David Rakoczy

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 09:04 PM

Somewhere in the back of his mind he must constantly think "Phew!! Got away with another one!!" :rolleyes:


Absolutely. Now that is the reality...

Great line Serge!

I agree, we as DPs take for granted the wonderful shots we are blessed with and at the same time beat ourselves up with constant disappointment.
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 09:15 PM

Biggest regret, not film related, well that's family stuff
biggest regret film wise, the lighting in an apartment I just color corrected.. too flat and perhaps not darkening down the bar a bit more... of course that's just today.
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#11 Justin Hayward

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 10:26 PM

It’s funny, occasionally time will glaze over those mistakes and when you look back, you realize they weren’t as bad as you thought. Or sometimes your taste will evolve to like something you considered a mistake in the past.

This is a little off-topic, but now that some time has past between some of the first things I shot, I actually enjoy watching the old stuff as it reminds me of that time of my life; where I was living, who my friends were, how naive I was (that feeling never goes away), what my priorities were and so on.
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#12 David Desio

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 12:20 PM

That's funny about the old footage. Last weekend as I was cleaning out my office, I found a few old digital 8 tapes with some of my earliest attempts, one was a short horror movie I made when I was 12! Anyway, I noticed glaring mistakes but it was very nostaligic. I remember how exciting it was to just turn the camera on and shoot, no worries about lighting, "the line" , rules of composition, etc. Just make it look cool and pretty. Every time I shot it was an experiment and learning those basic techniques like using lines to create a vanishing point in the frame; was so exciting.

Not that I'm a 20 year vet in "the biz", but I'm at a point where I know just enough to sometimes cripple the kid who just wants to go out and shoot.

Sharing can be fun :)
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#13 Evan Winter

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 03:23 PM

Just a quick note to say how David consistently impresses me with his insight. I love your breakdown and it summarizes many of the different emotions I've felt during production and in post-production when watching footage.

Evan W.
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