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How can i improve my camera shots?


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#1 Fuad zulkifli

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 09:32 PM

Any advice on how can i improve my camera shots. Sometimes each time when i read the script, it seems like i can't visualize any shots.
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#2 Rob Vogt

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 09:42 PM

There's mixed feelings about these sort of things. Usually the director already has an idea of what he wants, your job is to make that possible by knowing what equipment to use and having the ability to light. Those are the boring shoots...

A good way to start thinking is to read a script that's been made into a movie already, then watch the movie, try to see how the coverage was and think about why each shot was done. For a whole movie this might be excessive, but for a scene or two that you like it might be helpful. If you can't figure out how a specific scene was lit or shot just ask, there's plenty of people here who would be able to help.

The reason I say there are mixed feelings about this is because when the director has an image in his head already, and if your ideas are way off from what they wanted you might've just lost yourself a job buddy, so best to just see what the director wants and get an idea of their style. So it might be best not to come in with a bunch of ideas, but always have the technical ability to pull off what they want and that will get you, hopefully, a repeat customer.

Edited by Rob Vogt, 09 November 2009 - 09:45 PM.

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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 10:05 PM

Must be an awful script. I read a good script and my head is just bursting with images I want to make.

Edited by Chris Keth, 09 November 2009 - 10:05 PM.

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#4 Fuad zulkifli

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 01:08 AM

Thanks for the advice guys. But may i know does a good director of photography have to be good in photography as in good with angle shot and composition.? As i have a problem with me, if you were to give a DSLR camera to shoot, i can't picture anything at all and my angle composition really sucks . But as for video camera, i able to picture alot of angle shots.
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#5 Serge Teulon

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 07:49 AM

Hey Fuad,

There is a recent post which has some really good information as to what a dop should excel at.

In relation to your own assessment about your still photography and your moving photography. I think you need to assess the differences between them.

They are both very closely related.
In still photography you have to capture the whole story or suggestion in 1 frame, whereas in moving photography you can tell the same story/suggestion within several frames.
Neither is easier than the other. They both require the right feeling.
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#6 Tom Jensen

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 10:31 AM

Find interesting locations and use the background to give the shot depth. When in doubt, move closer.
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#7 Joe Giambrone

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 12:27 AM

"Find interesting locations and use the background to give the shot depth. When in doubt, move closer."

I like that.

What I do is try and envision two things, foreground and background. Sometimes they will shift during the shot to some new foreground and/or background of course. But, by clearly getting a handle on what you would like to convey (to the audience) via foreground and/or background, you may better plan your shots.

Often the most memorable shots are memorable because of something communicating to the audience without words, something they didn't know coming into the scene, and which moves the story forward opening up lots of possibilities. This information might be unseen by a character on screen, but seen by the viewer. Or vice-versa. It should all be worked out at script stage, and is the essence of good screenwriting.

Now, if you have a crap script...
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#8 Fuad zulkifli

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 02:02 AM

Find interesting locations and use the background to give the shot depth. When in doubt, move closer.


What do you mean by that?
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#9 Tom Jensen

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 12:53 PM

What do you mean by that?


If you are shooting a city scene, it is often but not always more interesting to see down the block than it is to shoot someone against a flat building. And often but not always, if a shot isn't working or looks odd, you can sometimes solve issues by moving in closer.
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#10 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 02:10 PM

Watch films that you know already with the idea of concentrating on the composition, the way each scene is broken down into individual shots and how those shots fit together.
Take notes, watch again, analyze...
Look at photographs, paintings and comic books. Find images you think are strong in terms of composition and try to figure out why you think they are strong. Try to break down the elements of the image into geometric shapes and look at how these shapes relate to each other and the center, top, bottom and sides of the frame.
Take notes, try recreating some of these ideas with a digital camera or camcorder using family and friends.
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#11 Fuad zulkifli

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 08:47 AM

Thanks for the advice guys. But how do you what's the reason behind the shots? As in why is it shot in this way?
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#12 Hal Smith

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 09:41 AM

Many fine Cinematographers talk about the influence of great paintings on their work. Spend time in museums with fine Art. You need to be looking at the artist's work itself, not prints. One look at a Renoir or Van Gogh original that you've seen in reproductions a hundred times will teach you why it's important to get to know the original works.

Here's a link to a Forum thread on Storaro that has some posts about fine art and its influence on Cinematography:

Storaro Thread
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#13 Phil Jackson

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 12:32 PM

It's also important to remember that filmmaking is a conglomeration of different arts and different disciplines. It isn't just photography in a vacuum and in the case of most narrative work, probably shouldn't be looked at that way. Often you're working to capture performances, emotions, as well as blocking and staging. All of these will obviously affect the, 'why' of a particular composition. Imagine someone sitting at the desk simply saying the world 'yes,' and imagine how the meaning of that performance could change if the camera is low, eye level and craning down on the person, each conveys a different meaning.

If you are very novice I would recommend investing in the Hollywood Camera Work DVDs. They won't make you a Spielberg, but you will gain a rudimentary understanding of basic camera positioning, moving the camera around, and most importantly how your photography works alongside the director's staging and the editors ability to storytell from your work. The last two are crucial and arguably for a DP being able to compose for a specific blocking or in such a way that the final product overall makes sense visually and emotionally, are probably more important than being able to spontaneously come up with the most ridiculously beautiful composition ever on every setup.

Also study, study, study voraciously. I think David Mullen said he's read every ASC magazine going back to like the 50s. That's a treasure trove of knowledge. In this day and age with Flickr, YouTube and blogs like this there are probably more opportunities than ever to consume art and expand your horizon. I watched all of Sunset Boulevard on YouTube (not sure that Billy Wilder had that in mind, but the stuff is out there). Kodak has a great educational series, the AFI lecture series are being posted now, even product manufacturers like Lowell often have insightful tips or training videos. The sky is the limit. To me the ability to be a great cinematographer is akin to being a great musician. You may become accomplished technically, but the greats are always exploring and exposing and pushing themselves. I think you could ask any Deakins, or Kaminski or Chris Doyle or Storaro, and they'd all tell you they spend probably as much time being inspired as they do being inspirations themselves.
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#14 Mei Lewis

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 09:38 PM

...
A good way to start thinking is to read a script that's been made into a movie already, then watch the movie, try to see how the coverage was and think about why each shot was done. For a whole movie this might be excessive, but for a scene or two that you like it might be helpful. If you can't figure out how a specific scene was lit or shot just ask, there's plenty of people here who would be able to help....


That sounds like a great idea!
I'm a stills photographer just getting interested in moving images. I don't think I want to shoot them, but I do want to understand how they work so I can fold that back into my stills.

Is there a specific film you can recommend that is good cinematographically and which it's easy to get hold of the script for?
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