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We Don't Talk About That


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#1 Chris D Walker

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 05:46 AM

Where will the line be drawn?
BBC Approves Canon 5D Case-by-Case

For every cinematographer that oozes over this 'incredible' camera (Shane Hurlbut, Gale Tattersall etc.) why is it we never hear a horror story from a professional about its obvious limitations?

Before drifting off to sleep last night I was thinking of maybe sharing some bad experiences. No one can be working in a perfect business with the right tools at any given moment. This isn't a case of naming names, but maybe through sharing some of the bad we've suffered we can learn to become more vigilant in our future work.

How about:
- a camera that kept breaking down or didn't yield the desired image
- actors or crew members with a bad attitude
- an overly ambitious director ignorant of what they want over what they have
- bad equipment
- no time/overworked
- no money/pay dispute
- creative differences

I'll start off to get things rolling. I was working as a cameraman on a documentary crew for a local artist and her dance installation tour around the country. There were four of us plus one; a boyfriend who wanted to work in the business. We were on two cameras, working around the dancers and their setup which was low light and shifting from one room to the next. We're doing a great job and approaching the end of the show; I've been operating the camera back and forth with my colleague for the whole day and now I'm shooting the final furlong. But then, while filming over the shoulder, I feel something pulling against me, maybe trying to get my attention. I couldn't believe it. The boyfriend was trying to take the camera off my shoulder so he could shoot the finale. This a**hole was trying to rip the camera away from me so he could shoot it himself. Naturally I was pissed, but I wasn't ready to get into an argument with the boyfriend of a crew member so I acted like I was cool with it. I wasn't and I'm not now.

Anyone else care to share? This could be therapy.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 06:59 AM

But then, while filming over the shoulder, I feel something pulling against me, maybe trying to get my attention. I couldn't believe it. The boyfriend was trying to take the camera off my shoulder so he could shoot the finale. This a**hole was trying to rip the camera away from me so he could shoot it himself. Naturally I was pissed, but I wasn't ready to get into an argument with the boyfriend of a crew member so I acted like I was cool with it. I wasn't and I'm not now.


How on earth could you act cool with something like that?! It's one thing if, say, the Executive Producer or Director tries something like that, but some other schmuck who isn't even a professional?! I would've swung the camera around, bopped him in the head, told him to quit f'ing up my shot, then go back to doing my job.

That was entirely unjustifiable and unforgivable.
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#3 John Sprung

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 07:51 PM

This a**hole was trying to rip the camera away from me so he could shoot it himself. .....


Ah, but we do talk about that. It's the kind of ludicrous experience that you'll laugh about for years to come -- and that you won't get to have again as you move up into more professional work, where everybody behaves appropriately, which can make it about as much fun as plumbing or carpentry.

I had a shoot on which one evening the producer/director phoned me up and fired me. Then he phoned again and hired me back. Then he phoned again.... All in all, I was hired seven times that night and fired eight times. Treasure the A**holes, for without conflict, there is no story. Hang onto that memory, you may need it for a magazine interview in a few decades. ;-)




-- J.S.
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#4 Brian Rose

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 08:19 PM

I was DPing a shoot in college, dealing with a director who was that most dangerous variety: ill-informed, yet decisive. For example, she was insistant on doing a magic hour shoot. Fine. I informed her of all the potential risks (losing the light, etc) and advised we meet an hour earlier than the call time she had wanted. Needless to say that did not happen, and by the time we were all assembled on location, and had blocked the shots, she was dismayed when we started LOSING THE LIGHT.

Another day, we had an afternoon shoot in a field, with a character wearing a dress the director had designed herself. This was patently clear because she had given no thought to the impact of photographing the material: the purest white covered in polished, silvery beads and other fanciwork...basically a human bounce board. She then insisted that I expose for the dress, to capture the detail work on the dress. Of course, I get a panicked call from her several weeks later when she gets back the rushes, and the rest of the shot was underexposed!

Finally, I had to shoot on a soundstage, and she opted to use 64D Fuji. Fair enough. I had to pump in some high wattage for exposure. I get everything lit, and then she reveals she was wanting a spot light effect on top of the lighting I've already added. Her idea of a spotlight was moderately large flashlight! At this point I finally got angry, having spent all this time lighting a set, all the while she has her own lighting planned, and she doesn't understand at all the power and wattage involved. Needless to say I had to scramble to reconfigure the lights both to achieve proper exposure, and leave me with a high enough wattage lamp to get a proper spotlight effect.

Argggh!
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#5 Simon Wyss

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 04:03 AM

About twenty years ago I thought I could direct. Twenty minutes short, a modern fairy tale in black and white. Most experienced DoP, an assistant spoilt in the ad business, a technician together with the crane I used completely out of synch with everybody. Half a dozen actors in complicated costumes, a nervous horse, bees. The worst of all was me. I was not able to manage it all, so one of the actors who had directed himself long before me took over. How I felt ashame! That is one of the reasons why I never did any play directing again.
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#6 Karel Bata

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 08:41 AM

I wouldn't worry about the BBC 'approving' the DSLR. That's only a kids programme, and should be seen in the context of the BBC willing to give anything a go. I welcome that approach. In the past they've commissioned series shot on Hi-8, Super-8, S-VHS... Doesn't mean a thing.

If it'll make you any happier, the DSLR has just gone redundant:

Posted Image

http://bit.ly/Canon4k Kinda ugly eh? Are they trying to copy the Arri BL?
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#7 Karel Bata

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 10:19 AM

Worst tale of woe? Tough one. So many to choose from...

I remember one shoot many moons ago that was meant to be a record of a live event, a launch party/presentation from setting up to late at night. It was a bit cheap, and we were shooting on U-Matic. A Sony camera with a long umbilical trailing back to a 9800 recorder. I was shepherded around by a DP who told me what to point at, and did a bit of cable-bashing. There was no way to start/stop recording from on-board camera (can't remember why) but the producer told me not to worry because he'd blagged a huge pile of one hour tapes, so I should just keep recording and change tape every hour. The DP and I had misgivings about this, saying he'd end up with hours of unwatchable rushes that someone would have to sift through. He told us not to worry, as he'd also blagged an editor and edit-suite from some post facility in Soho. We had no way to stop/start recording conveniently, and stuff was happening all the time, so what could we do?

It was a long day, but it all went hunk dory (that's a good thing in the UK) and we had a celebration meal later, very happy with ourselves. But we must have had 14 hours of rushes...

Two days later I got a call from the producer saying the editor had rung him complaining these were the worst rushes he'd ever seen! Why did some stupid cameraman just leave the camera running? The editor it seems did the wise thing and walked away. The producer then decided to blame me! I reminded him that....

Oh well..

:lol:
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