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Help Me I'm STARVING!!!!!!


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#1 Sean Elder

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 07:16 PM

I hope that I am putting this in the right forum, or else someone please point me in the right direction. I am a current digital film student, and I am creatively starving for projects to work on. I have ideas on what I would like to do, but for the most part my classmates are not coming up with any challenging projects. To date all I have done are projects that require no more than setting up two or three minimalistic lighting setups :( :( :( . So besides producing my own projects (in which I have already begun to do) what else can I do to cut my teeth on being a cinematographer???? NOTE: I don't want to sound like I am complaining about the quality of work that my classmate do, but I am EXTREEEEMLY BORED with our projects. I enjoy being on set, painting with light, and over all creating "looks", but ME WANT MORE!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:
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#2 Sean Elder

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 11:08 PM

I hope that I am putting this in the right forum, or else someone please point me in the right direction. I am a current digital film student, and I am creatively starving for projects to work on. I have ideas on what I would like to do, but for the most part my classmates are not coming up with any challenging projects. To date all I have done are projects that require no more than setting up two or three minimalistic lighting setups :( :( :( . So besides producing my own projects (in which I have already begun to do) what else can I do to cut my teeth on being a cinematographer???? NOTE: I don't want to sound like I am complaining about the quality of work that my classmate do, but I am EXTREEEEMLY BORED with our projects. I enjoy being on set, painting with light, and over all creating "looks", but ME WANT MORE!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Let me add that most of my projects are still in the pre-production stage and are no where near ready to be shot. So while I am focusing on my projects I would like something to do whilst hyping myself up for my own work, make sense???
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 07:46 AM

Why must you use minimal lighting on the projects you're on now?
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#4 Sean Elder

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 09:53 PM

On all of the sets that I have worked on, I have found that my classmates misinterpret what our instructors teaches us, and just ignore what they tell us. Or it's just out of laziness that they use very basic and extremely flawed 3pt lighting, but that's complaining.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 29 August 2009 - 02:29 AM

Fair enough, but why not change it?
I mean, I'll be the first to admit, sometimes all I can think of is to throw a level of ambiance all across the room (bounced open-face off of the ceiling), but even on the student films I did/do (though now I get to charge something for 'em) I found myself being a little bit bold. Normally (thankfully) the dirs have trusted me enough to let me have one or two moments of interesting shooting.
In a situation like that, it kinda sounds like it's up to you to speak up, in an aside, and say, hey, I know you want to key/fill/rim this person, but what if we just had a rim light up and something really small to catch in his eyes?
Trust me, that as "more," comes so does more of other things-- namely responsibility and stress which you may or may not be ready for. It's one thing to really screw up on a student film but, quite another when you're dealing with a client/director and thousands of dollars of production value (or more.)
Cut your teeth, a bit, be bold when you can be, conservative when it's necessary/motivated and the rest of it will come if you're good enough and moreover if you can survive enough. Not every project is going to be stimulating, or interesting; sometimes you do just work for the pay-check despite your best intentions. And, if you're all students, and you're DPing, well then it's your job, says me, to speak with the director about style, on a shot by shot level if you can, and I think at least, let the director know what you're thinking, give him/her your ideas and input. Don't forget s/he is the skipper, but I'd say you're a comfortable 2nd in command in terms of lighting and visuals so speak up!

(note: this is just my DP style. I tell the director exactly how I see the film looking/moving/feeling and on the day of if I see something or think something I mention it. I make sure the Director does know s/he is in charge and I am only trying to bring up ideas which s/he is welcome to discount if they choose to. At least then, you can say you tried. Also, sometimes saying "No," with a good reason, the right chemistry and TRUST is the best word you can have come out of your mouth.)

Also, look into the DVD cinematographer's style. You'll get some insight into other (much better) DPs and their opinions and insights on things. There is also a great little section on lighting; really short (too short!) but it's a nice footnote which you can bring up when needed, and show giving examples of how light(ing) motivates and moves things.

Aside from that, shoot things! It doesn't have to be a movie. Shoot stills, paint something, write some poetry, drink too much one night and listen to music that you'd never listen to ever in your life (opera perhaps?). Go for a long walk at sunrise, sunset, midnight, noon, through all the places you can. Sit in a coffee shop and notice how the light changes and how different people sitting in the same chair catch light differently. Ride the subway/bus/in your car with a pretty girl, and watch how people look differently as light moves over them. Remember these looks and figure out ways to recreate them (practice with a stills camera and whatever you can) and then pull 'em out at the right moment.

My (a bit too long as I wait for an export of a film) 2 cents.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 03:16 PM

On all of the sets that I have worked on, I have found that my classmates misinterpret what our instructors teaches us, and just ignore what they tell us. Or it's just out of laziness that they use very basic and extremely flawed 3pt lighting, but that's complaining.


You're the DP. Why are they choosing the lighting? Half of your job is to help directors find their look.
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#7 john david tressel

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 02:14 PM

It sounds to me like you are really wanting to experiment at all cost possible.

First of all it's your job to decide how the lighting is done so you must take control of it. When working with people regardless of their experience you will "always" have to defend your choices, this applies to most creative fields even more so when it's a collaborative effort. At times it will be an uphill battle sometimes it will be smooth but do not expect to be doing things without going at lengths as to the why and the how.

Second of all, students don't care about what profs say most of the time because they don't see it's usefulness in the real world. I have gone through this so many times when I was in school where I would say something and people would either ignore me, deny my advice, or reply "you sound just like a teacher". Too often have teachers later repeated almost word for word what I had said.
back to the first point, you may have to prove your point by doing and showing.

Third, sometimes less is more and vice versa. Try not to suffer from gear lust which we all can at times. If you want to try out the most gear out there just to get the feel of it will take time, and you may often have to experiment by yourself before you are able to grasp the full scope of the intricate possibilities moods and feels that a piece of kit can procure.
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#8 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 01:44 PM

Try to remember that you can be artful with a single light.

Also, there can be a lot of variety to a 3 point lighting setup: How is your key positioned? 3/4, side, top, slightly lower? How much fill do you add to achieve a pleasing ratio? A little, a lot? From what direction is your "backlight"? Do you need it? If so, how intense should it be, or how soft? Do you always need to go for warm saturation and deep blacks, or can you do something cooler and less contrasty? How is your background lit? What colors are you emphasizing? How sharp is the image? How are you utilizing the depth of field? How is the person framed?

The point is that there can be a world of variety to even basic setups. Take control and do something different than you normally do.

Good Luck!
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#9 Sean Elder

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 09:21 AM

Fair enough, but why not change it?
I mean, I'll be the first to admit, sometimes all I can think of is to throw a level of ambiance all across the room (bounced open-face off of the ceiling), but even on the student films I did/do (though now I get to charge something for 'em) I found myself being a little bit bold. Normally (thankfully) the dirs have trusted me enough to let me have one or two moments of interesting shooting.
In a situation like that, it kinda sounds like it's up to you to speak up, in an aside, and say, hey, I know you want to key/fill/rim this person, but what if we just had a rim light up and something really small to catch in his eyes?
Trust me, that as "more," comes so does more of other things-- namely responsibility and stress which you may or may not be ready for. It's one thing to really screw up on a student film but, quite another when you're dealing with a client/director and thousands of dollars of production value (or more.)
Cut your teeth, a bit, be bold when you can be, conservative when it's necessary/motivated and the rest of it will come if you're good enough and moreover if you can survive enough. Not every project is going to be stimulating, or interesting; sometimes you do just work for the pay-check despite your best intentions. And, if you're all students, and you're DPing, well then it's your job, says me, to speak with the director about style, on a shot by shot level if you can, and I think at least, let the director know what you're thinking, give him/her your ideas and input. Don't forget s/he is the skipper, but I'd say you're a comfortable 2nd in command in terms of lighting and visuals so speak up!

(note: this is just my DP style. I tell the director exactly how I see the film looking/moving/feeling and on the day of if I see something or think something I mention it. I make sure the Director does know s/he is in charge and I am only trying to bring up ideas which s/he is welcome to discount if they choose to. At least then, you can say you tried. Also, sometimes saying "No," with a good reason, the right chemistry and TRUST is the best word you can have come out of your mouth.)

Also, look into the DVD cinematographer's style. You'll get some insight into other (much better) DPs and their opinions and insights on things. There is also a great little section on lighting; really short (too short!) but it's a nice footnote which you can bring up when needed, and show giving examples of how light(ing) motivates and moves things.

Aside from that, shoot things! It doesn't have to be a movie. Shoot stills, paint something, write some poetry, drink too much one night and listen to music that you'd never listen to ever in your life (opera perhaps?). Go for a long walk at sunrise, sunset, midnight, noon, through all the places you can. Sit in a coffee shop and notice how the light changes and how different people sitting in the same chair catch light differently. Ride the subway/bus/in your car with a pretty girl, and watch how people look differently as light moves over them. Remember these looks and figure out ways to recreate them (practice with a stills camera and whatever you can) and then pull 'em out at the right moment.

My (a bit too long as I wait for an export of a film) 2 cents.


I Agree with you 150% I have tried to no avail to let my fellow students know that set hierarchy is pivotal to the success of a shoot. On projects where I am the designated DP I have tried to recreate some of the lighting that I have taken notice from the movie Cinematographer Style, in which I had purchased from the ASC site along with the first volume of transcripts which is very informative. And I will do as suggested, and I appreciate the advice. Thank You very much!
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#10 Sean Elder

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 09:30 AM

Try to remember that you can be artful with a single light.

Also, there can be a lot of variety to a 3 point lighting setup: How is your key positioned? 3/4, side, top, slightly lower? How much fill do you add to achieve a pleasing ratio? A little, a lot? From what direction is your "backlight"? Do you need it? If so, how intense should it be, or how soft? Do you always need to go for warm saturation and deep blacks, or can you do something cooler and less contrasty? How is your background lit? What colors are you emphasizing? How sharp is the image? How are you utilizing the depth of field? How is the person framed?

The point is that there can be a world of variety to even basic setups. Take control and do something different than you normally do.

Good Luck!

To answer your question(s) our instructor teaches us I guess you can call it a clock system where from the character's perspective the direction s/he is facing is 6 o'clock, Ratios are our basis for the look, and we are instructed to light the background so as not to distract the viewer. My classmate however somewhat discard environment (I don't know if it's lack of creativity or they don't properly analyze movies in their entirety.) I really believe that your environment and decent set design ("decent" due to the fact that we are all college students with limited funds) can really make a scene stand out. The usage of colors, DOF, and wardrobe also fall onto the back-burner for my classmates. Once again I feel as if I am complaining.
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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 10:01 AM

Ha, I can't tell you how many times I've said similar things. I mean, sometimes you gotta bash it over some people's heads that the camera will only record what is in front of the camera. Production Design is so very important to good/great cinematography, and a great set with a camera phone will look a lot better than a boring white room and a fern on anamorphic 35mm (ok, generally, not always.)

Perfect example, one of the best looking films I shot was a student project, which we did on the Z1U. Now it's a nice camera, not the best nor the worst, standard fare for student productions, and for lighting, when I did any, it was primarily "naturalistic," soft, just letting the people "be." and the only reason why it worked so well in our main location was because it was a historic building, fully decorated already, with beautiful colors and textures all over the wall. The film worked because our location worked. However, I was working another short, nice sized budget (20,000 overall) on S16mm using my SR3, having a ball, fresh '19 in the mag shooting like wild, even got to use some Cooke lenses. Of course, we get to a sequence which all takes places in this tiny, white hallway with staircase, and of course, no matter what you do, it looks like a tiny white hallway with a staircase. Now, that wasn't a bad thing, per say as it was supposed to look like a tiny white hallway, but when we got into actually having to do some lighting, stuff just didn't work. It was to the point where I had my first reshoot, ever, because we couldn't get the lights to flicker the right way to make this white hallway look depressing and dim for one sequence (and the fact that I'd've never guessed that Christmas lights for our primary source would be too bright despite EU on the meter...). So in brief, always push for the production design that helps not only the story but helps you as well.

Of course, that being said, you still get into situations where there isn't much you can do and you have to make the best of a bad situation. The sad truth often is that when you're on a lo/no budget shoot you have to take what locations are available to and for you and work within the limitations of time and equipment. As you progress on it gets easier (sometimes) because as the stakes increase, normally the budget does as well as the pre-production schedule.
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#12 Sean Elder

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 04:33 PM

I really would like to thank all of your for your help, and I really think that you guys have helped me out with ideas and your suggestions. Since my last post I have taken more pictures and tested out a few camera movements with the tools that I do have. I know that with time and a ton of practice I will become as good (hopefully better :lol: :lol: :lol: ) as you guys here. I know that I won't be a Dexter, Mullen, Wexler, etc, but to be listed as a cinematographer like the majority of you guys and to learn from you all. I will continue to work my hardest, try new things, and think outside the box as much as possible.
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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 07:06 PM

Just keep learning and trying and you'll be fine. I do it daily still and probably won't ever stop. And, every shoot will always be a challenge.
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