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Learning cinematography without film


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#1 Jeremy Ivan

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 03:03 PM

I have a BA in Telecommunications, where I learned editing and field production stuff - but all on HD and standard video - and always either documentary or TV/internet projects; nothing like film/motion picture stuff. As such, I really am clueless when it comes to lenses, filters, film stock, etc. All of our filtering was done in post-production with Final Cut Studio.

Where can I learn more about 1) Making video look like film, and 2) Film-specific techniques (like what exactly certain grains do, etc. ? I don't have time or money right now to get a film camera; I am still doing a TV internship - but I can read up on it at least, and do that later on. Are there any good internet resources for this?

Thanks!
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#2 Jeremy Ivan

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 03:19 PM

Oh, I'll add that I'm hoping to apply for an advanced degree (video-based if possible) a few years down the road - but just want to get some experience first. In general, I know what I'm doing in terms of directing and editing - but lighting and cinematography is my Achilles heel. I'd like to change that a bit.
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#3 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 03:27 PM

If you're able to spare a few hundred dollars, you should pick up an SLR and some reversal film. Go out and shoot, and get your film processed and mounted as slides, and you can project it and see exactly what you shot. There are a ton of books on photography and about how film works; check some out from the library and go to town. There are some books that are recommended on this site through the link at the top. I really seriously recommend doing this- very few kids coming out of school today have any knowledge about film, and having a really thorough understanding of all of the principles of photography will give you a leg up on them. You don't need a motion picture film camera to learn about film. A stills camera will serve you quite well.
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#4 Jeremy Ivan

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 04:02 PM

Thank you for your reply. That doesn't sound like a bad idea..but I do have a question about processing. You mean that I should just go get it processed at a center? Essentially, do a bit of my own lighting, shoot pictures like I would film, and see how they turn out after being processed?
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#5 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 04:27 PM

You should get it processed at a place that does processing for professional photographers if possible. But yeah, that's the basic idea. Learn how exposure works, learn how to judge what it's going to look like when it comes back, learn what effect light has when you place it here vs. there, or when you bounce it, etc.
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#6 Dominic Case

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 05:57 PM

Shooting reversal stills will ensure that what you get back from the processing lab is exactly what you shot, with no automatic colour correction on a print. Also, reversal film has less latitude than negative, so while you won't learn what you can do with neg, you will learn the effect of over- or under-exposure really quickly.

I used to have my students do assignments with an SLR and slides to demonstrate depth of field, lighting set-ups, colour temperature and so on. It seemed to work well, and there doesn't seem to be any point in using more than one frame of film at a time for these things ;)

And you don't really need to be able to process colour neg to be a good film cinematographer. (Although I think manually processing stills in a black and white darkroom is a definite advantage to understanding how it all works.)
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Aerial Filmworks

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Wooden Camera

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Glidecam

Technodolly