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Do emerging cinematographers own lens sets?


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#1 Sean Ryan Finnegan

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 07:34 AM

I'm on the verge of graduating film school and I've built up quite a bit of my own gear. However, I'm lacking a nice set of prime lenses since I've made use of the Zeiss super speeds we have at our school. Unfortunately, I won't be able to use them for free after graduating. Do emerging cinematographers usually have their own set of lenses, or is it customary to rent? I imagine that having your own set would be a plus for producers, since that's less money they have to spend.
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 08:08 AM

I'm on the verge of graduating film school and I've built up quite a bit of my own gear. However, I'm lacking a nice set of prime lenses since I've made use of the Zeiss super speeds we have at our school. Unfortunately, I won't be able to use them for free after graduating. Do emerging cinematographers usually have their own set of lenses, or is it customary to rent? I imagine that having your own set would be a plus for producers, since that's less money they have to spend.


Hi,

You don't need any equipment, it really won't help you as you will be taken advantage by producers who will want to hire you and the lenses for less than the rental house charges for the lenses on theie own.

I know many people who bought a RED, hardly ever got a paying job & now need to upgrade sensor.

Stephen
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 09:43 AM

I don't know too many emerging cinematographers who can afford a good lens set....
I got lucky that I got a set with my SR3 camera when I bought that, but they're rarely used. I also got lucky that the 35mm package I got came with a lens set which I have used (camera a lenses) just once.
If you really want to invest in gear, forget lenses for a bit, and go with lighting which is needed on every set.
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#4 David Rakoczy

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 09:47 AM

I know many people who bought a RED, hardly ever got a paying job & now need to upgrade sensor.

Stephen



:lol: .... keep the drive alive Stephen!
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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 11:06 AM

Don't buy gear unless you're renting it so much that it makes more sense to buy.
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#6 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 11:46 AM

Excerpts from "What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood"


What do I really need to have?

Do I need to buy a camera? How does this work?
No, you don’t have to buy a camera. In fact, all you really need to do the job is a basic light meter. Depending on your skill at using it and your knowledge of what the film stock or the HD camera can handle in terms of light, one simple light meter should be enough. A combination incident and spot meter will run you around $800.

A small director’s viewfinder can come in handy, particularly in preproduction tech scouts when you won’t have the full complement of lenses and a camera assistant at your side.


Okay, I got the job. What now?
Now the work begins. When you read the screenplay, you’ll be looking specifically for those moments that have specific photographic or environmental interest. For instance, an entire sequence in which the principal action takes place in a deluge of rain with heavy winds and lightning in the dark of night three hundred feet from shore on a floating platform should peak your curiosity for a variety of reasons. If it doesn’t, you probably aren’t ready to be a DP.

“Break the script down,” making note of absolutely everything that could affect you and your job in any way. Scribble down ideas that you get for possible shots, angles, camera moves, lighting, and “mood.” You’ll share your ideas and any concerns during your preproduction meetings with the Director. Once decisions have been made, you’ll disseminate these notes when you sit down with your Gaffer, Key Grip, and Camera Assistant to figure out exactly what equipment is needed and when.

And with that in mind, you’ll want to start lining up your Keys (Gaffer, Key Grip, Operator, First AC) as soon as you can. Figure out with whom you’d like to work and find out if they will be available. Even if they won’t be officially hired for a few weeks, it’s good to get some people onboard as soon as possible so you’re not scrambling at the last minute for whoever is available. You want the people whom you are comfortable with, not just the next guy on the list.

A tech scout means looking at the actual sites that will be used as shooting locations. Your Gaffer and Key Grip will be there as well as the Director, Producer, Production Designer, First Assistant Director, and Location Manager, among others. With any luck, the Director has a good idea of what he wants to shoot and exactly how he wishes to shoot it. This isn’t always the case, so you have to be willing to “go with the flow” as much as possible. And really, unless he wants to do something completely out of the norm, such as a helicopter shot or a 200-foot dolly track move, your “normal” lighting, grip, and camera package should be sufficient to cover all contingencies. But this is what the tech scout is for. This is your time to talk with everyone involved to figure out what the plan is so that there are no surprises once there is an expensive crew standing around wondering what to do next.

You’ll also want to shoot tests. Individual Actors need to be lit in various ways. Fabrics and colors take light differently as do set walls and specialty props, like shiny swords. And maybe this time the Producer wants you to shoot the movie with a high-definition camera instead of your traditional film camera and film stock. The very last thing you want to do is get to set on day one without a clue about how the technology is going to work or how you’re going to have to light each location and each Actor. While you have to stay fluid and make it up as you go sometimes, anything you can do to avoid on-the-spot improvisation will be highly beneficial for everyone. Test, test, test!



Your "tools" are the people around you, not necessarily the hardware. As you enter the professional world, you're not selling your equipment, but instead, you're selling yourself and your skill. The minute you purchase equipment is the minute that you have to start paying for it, which means that you'll NOT be able to take any job that comes along, instead, you'll be opting for those jobs that will help you pay off the stuff you've bought.

As mentioned above, if a particular job opportunity does arise where it makes sense for a purchase over a rental AND you can get the production (UPM) to rent it from you (as opposed to the production buying or renting from someone else), then you'd go ahead and buy. You'll get the rental (that hopefully will pay off most or all of your investment) and you'll get a tax deduction as a business expense.

Otherwise, no one is necessarily going to hire you because you have lenses or any other gear. They will hire YOU for YOU, not for the gear you have in the garage.
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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 12:52 PM

:lol: .... keep the drive alive Stephen!


The low budget market seems to have gone 5DMKII, hapilly I mainly shoot 35mm even when it's 'internet only' (5 Days next week, normal DOP rate for commercials)
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#8 Tom Jensen

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 04:00 PM

No, do not buy lenses. You won't get the return on your investment unless you are working every day. Lenses need proper maintenance and if you don't have to tools or the knowledge to work on them, don't bother. If you have a problem on a shoot with your lenses, you have to have a back up. You are the one that would be liable. If you rent the lens from a reputable rental house and have a problem, you simply call them and they will replace it.
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#9 Mathew Rudenberg

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 04:11 PM

My take on it would be the following:

If you have a regular shooting job in which you find the company or companies you're working for are renting the same equipment, than it makes sense to buy that equipment and take the rental fee instead of letting it go to a camerahouse.

If you don't have a regular shooting job and you invest in equipment you are likely to spend more time renting out the equipment if you want to make money off it.
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#10 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 05:00 PM

I don't know too many emerging cinematographers who can afford a good lens set....


Not unless they have rich parents....
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#11 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 06:21 PM

I imagine that having your own set would be a plus for producers, since that's less money they have to spend.


Why would that be less money they have to spend? Unless you're giving away your equipment and taking in less money than you should or could be, then it's going to work out the same.

What happens when you want to shoot with different lenses than you own? Your lenses are going to be sitting at home, effectively costing you money while the production rents.

My view is this: let rental houses take all the depreciation hits. They're renting enough to make up for it. You probably won't be with most items. If there are things, usually small things, that you can bring with you all the time and get a proper rental for, then go for it. I'm putting together a good kit of filters for that purpose.

A postscript about your website, Sean, is that listing so many possible job categories is generally a bad thing. When I see someone list themself as a camera assistant, operator, cinematographer, and editor, I assume they're right out of school and skilled as a PA at best. Nobody can do all of those things to the best standard. Unless you want to work on those indie films where you're the operator, art director, and the crafty person, I would get good at one thing.

Edited by Chris Keth, 06 February 2010 - 06:24 PM.

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#12 David Rakoczy

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 09:12 PM

I'm on the verge of graduating film school and I've built up quite a bit of my own gear. However, I'm lacking a nice set of prime lenses since I've made use of the Zeiss super speeds we have at our school. Unfortunately, I won't be able to use them for free after graduating. Do emerging cinematographers usually have their own set of lenses, or is it customary to rent? I imagine that having your own set would be a plus for producers, since that's less money they have to spend.


Lenses are useless without a Body and Support. Buy a Camera Package..... or rent.
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#13 David Rakoczy

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 09:13 PM

Don't buy gear unless you're renting it so much that it makes more sense to buy.



I agree....or using it so much it pays for itself ;)
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#14 Sean Ryan Finnegan

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 06:26 AM

A postscript about your website, Sean, is that listing so many possible job categories is generally a bad thing. When I see someone list themself as a camera assistant, operator, cinematographer, and editor, I assume they're right out of school and skilled as a PA at best. Nobody can do all of those things to the best standard. Unless you want to work on those indie films where you're the operator, art director, and the crafty person, I would get good at one thing.


Thanks for the advice on my website. I definitely understand how too many listed positions can be detrimental, so I've modified it a little bit. However, do you think that cinematographer, camera operator, and camera assistant is still too many? As I'm sure you know, newly graduated students fulfill a number of different responsibilities upon entrance into the field and I would like to be able to convey the fact that I have experience doing multiple things within the camera department to potential clients, namely other cinematographers. While first and foremost I am a cinematographer myself, with formal education, training, and experience lighting for HD and film, I have always operated the camera as well - which leads me to believe that I could, if asked, fill the responsibilities of a camera operator under another cinematographer. Similarly, I have done a lot of assistant camera work for other students whom I went to school with, and for other graduated cinematographers who I met through alumni groups and other things of the sort.

So I guess my question is whether or not there's a better term to accurately convey that I feel confident in my ability to fulfill any of those three positions, as my primary background is in camera department. I think cameraman might cover it - but that's an oldschool term and for industry professionals, they might take that the wrong way.
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#15 Stephen Williams

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 06:34 AM

However, do you think that cinematographer, camera operator, and camera assistant is still too many?


Hi,

I don't take cinematographers as camear asistants, nor assistants whose websites claim to be 'Diretor / DP's' because they will be calling up every few days for the next few months asking how to do the shoots they have got!

Stephen
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#16 Tony Coan

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 09:04 PM

I'm lacking a nice set of prime lenses since I've made use of the Zeiss super speeds we have at our school. Unfortunately, I won't be able to use them for free after graduating.


You shouldn't list gear that is not your own on your website.

If you want to be a cinematographer, then at least attempt to commit yourself to that, although working your way up through G&E and/or Camera is a good way to get the real world experience and contacts to make the leap.
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#17 Chris Keth

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 10:08 PM

Hi,

I don't take cinematographers as camear asistants, nor assistants whose websites claim to be 'Diretor / DP's' because they will be calling up every few days for the next few months asking how to do the shoots they have got!

Stephen


There's one straight from the horse's (no offense, Stephen :lol:) mouth. I guess you need to ask yourself if you really get consistent, fully paid work doing all three of those things. If the answer is yes, then i guess you're doing something right. The answer, though, is almost certainly "no." I don't know anyone who gets real work in all three of those categories at once, let alone directing and editing as well.
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#18 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 03:06 AM

I guess you need to ask yourself if you really get consistent, fully paid work doing all three of those things. If the answer is yes, then i guess you're doing something right. The answer, though, is almost certainly "no." I don't know anyone who gets real work in all three of those categories at once, let alone directing and editing as well.

This is very true. It's good to remember that DPs are generally looking to hire assistants and operators who are the best at their jobs and will make them look good (professionals, in other words), not someone who is looking over their shoulder and trying to compete with them for the same work next week. So even if you are shooting on the side to build your reel, it's not really something you want to publicize until you're ready to make the leap to shooting exclusively.

Of course, YMMV depending on what region you're working in. I haven't worked in LA, but I hear from my friends down there that this is especially the case in that area. I'm always careful when I apply for jobs on LA productions that come up to San Francisco - I make sure my resume only reflects the position I'm applying for. You wouldn't want to put your student DP credits on a resume for a union loader gig! ;)
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#19 K Borowski

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 11:56 AM

No no no. RENT lenses. Maybe get one versatile zoom or one prime if you favor a certain lens and use it in most of your work.

If you're being hired based on your inventory of equipment, then you need to move up to better clientele.
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#20 Tom Jensen

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 12:58 PM

Hey, I was just thinking that most emerging DP's can't even afford underwear. Where do you get the money for lenses?
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Opal

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Willys Widgets

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

Visual Products

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Wooden Camera

Tai Audio

CineTape

Glidecam

Paralinx LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

rebotnix Technologies

CineLab

Abel Cine

The Slider