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ever get depressed looking at one's work?


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:11 PM

Back in 2001 I did a low-low-budget movie called "Infested", almost as a favor -- it was made in 15 days for something like $100,000 on the Sony F900. For some reason, it came out on Blu-Ray of all things, so I bought it and took a look... what a disaster! There are so many things bad about the way it looks -- for starters, it was finished on an editor's AVID DS system and color-corrected by an editor, not a colorist, on uncalibrated equipment (and I wasn't there). The efx were done at near SD resolution as well. So the whole thing does not look like 1080P photography on Blu-Ray but like a bump-up from PAL or something. On top of that -- looking fuzzy -- it's too bright in general and thus clippy. And the reds are over-saturated.

Then artistically, there are only a couple of moments where I think my lighting is OK, otherwise it's pretty mediocre. Part of the problem is inherent to the story... it's a killer bug movie that takes place on one story day and the bugs are sensitive to light so the characters hide in a house with all the lights on and all the curtains open. That doesn't leave much room for mood lighting. Plus it's all daytime stuff until the last act. And with such a short schedule, we had to shoot outdoors in high noon lighting for many scenes, there was no way to schedule around that (well, maybe there was but let's say that I wasn't given a lot of help in that regard...)

It boils down to a couple of problems -- one is that when you run out of time, you have no choice but to just shoot the action and get it in the can, so to speak, regardless of the quality... unless you want to put your foot down and run over schedule, which I tend to be loathe to do. So sometimes I feel I am my own worst enemy because I end up going along with everyone's desire to get it down on time rather than standing up for the visual needs of the scene. Second, I probably should have just ignored the script regarding the need for the rooms to look bright all the time and gone for mood, because that's what the movie needed regardless of story logic. Third, I really got screwed in post by some cost-cutting decisions and maybe the mistake was taking the project in the first place knowing that the money was so tight. But then, in the spring of 2001 I wasn't in the union yet and was still taking almost anything that came my way.

Well, lesson learned I guess.

On the plus side, I had a good time with the cast and director and crew, for whatever that's worth, plus being in Long Island in the springtime was nice...
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:22 PM

Yep! My first feature I shot (while I was still in college) was on Kodachrome 40 and I was SO NOT qualified nor experienced enough for that at the time. Maybe now I could pull it off with that stock, but the movie I shot then was haphazard at best.

I'm happy to say that I've gotten a lot better at knowing the technology and how to control the image I intend to capture so I don't look at those types of past efforts as failures, but rather they are part of my valuable learning process.
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#3 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:23 PM

Knowing what you know now, would you have preferred your name be, or not be in the credits?

I also wonder if you have the right to sue for a better representation of your work. I think I have a great eye at color and contrast correction, and if I had shot something and someone else finished it poorly, I would probably not let it rest in that state. If color and contrast correction would improve the quality of the production, then a letter from a legal firm on your behalf could result in the product being re-corrected.
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:40 PM

The problem with doing low budget stuff is that it's rarely finished competently, which makes it very tricky to build a reel out of it.

And of course, where I come from, $100k isn't really low budget...
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:46 PM

Alex, God knows I've had to resort to the legal system to get things done from time to time, but can you say "frivolous lawsuit?" That sort of excess is why they're pulling friggin' jungle gyms off of playgrounds tort lawyers and school administrators afraid of people like you!


I think the only case he'd have is if he A) weren't paid, or BN) they DESTROYED his master. There's something that happened like that with a pinater whose paingtingt was damaged, or altered intentionally by the owner. I can actcually, to a certain extent see that, but only even there, to a degree.



I've shot nothing that has gotten to the point of putting me in that situation, but saw plenty of newspaper photographs in HS , college, that were poorly cropped, printed, and there was always a penchant that the editors had to pick my worst hsots of the take that I submitted!

But ultimately it is a job and you get paid for it; movies are never completed they're only abandoned.
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#6 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:36 PM

I'm going to have to agree with Karl on this one. Alex, that is sortof weak and I hope you arent serious. This industry is one that I hope will not resort to peoples ego becoming that large where they will sue over having their skills "misrepresented." Fact is, if you choose to be on a low budget set then you should know what the implications of that decision may be.
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#7 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 10:00 PM

Everything I create is like a new child to me, how can one not love ones children. :lol:

R,
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:18 PM

Hell; I get depressed looking at almost everything I shoot because I always think, well after the fact, damn if only I had.....
But it's part of the game. You live and your learn. We've all done bad shoots. We all get into those low budget days just starting out. It doesn't matter really. What matters is if you grow from it, and David, one can certainly say you have.
You learn and you go on. What more is there to do?
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#9 Daniel Lee

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 05:50 AM

If that's what depresses you I don't even want to think about what I've done. In fact, I think I'll go take an amnesia pill.
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#10 Keith Walters

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 05:52 AM

The first commercial I ever worked on was made in New Zealand just on 30 years ago. We made it for about $400 (that is, the client paid us that, there was no agency involved!

We shot it in the product manager's kitchen using a borrowed JVC low-band U-Matic portable VCR and (if I remember correctly) a JVC KY2000 definitely non-broadcast camera.

It was edited of a couple of early JVC desktop 3/4" machines, which had no frame or PAL servos, so there was only a one in four chance that an edit would come out right. With NTSC you could get a correct edit or a whip edit, with PAL you get either of those with the additional option a flash of green faces, or not.
You just have to keep repeating the edits until you get it all correct.

We snuck the tape into a production house in the wee hours of the morning, and in exchange for a carton of amber fluid, got the "opticals" put on, and had it timbase corrected and dubbed onto some "second hand" (yeah right) 2" tape.

The TV station accepted it with no problems, but when we saw it, it was full of the characteristic banding you get with dirty heads on a quad machine. When we complained, they said the problem was the tape not their cart machine, because it played everyone else's tapes OK.

It made me cringe every time I saw it, but it ran for nearly 10 years! I've got a VHS copy of it somewhere; that doesn't look much different from the 2" version!
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#11 Chris Millar

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 01:40 PM

The first commercial I ever worked on was made in New Zealand just on 30 years ago. We made it for about $400 (that is, the client paid us that, there was no agency involved!

We shot it in the product manager's kitchen using a borrowed JVC low-band U-Matic portable VCR and (if I remember correctly) a JVC KY2000 definitely non-broadcast camera.

It was edited of a couple of early JVC desktop 3/4" machines, which had no frame or PAL servos, so there was only a one in four chance that an edit would come out right. With NTSC you could get a correct edit or a whip edit, with PAL you get either of those with the additional option a flash of green faces, or not.
You just have to keep repeating the edits until you get it all correct.

We snuck the tape into a production house in the wee hours of the morning, and in exchange for a carton of amber fluid, got the "opticals" put on, and had it timbase corrected and dubbed onto some "second hand" (yeah right) 2" tape.

The TV station accepted it with no problems, but when we saw it, it was full of the characteristic banding you get with dirty heads on a quad machine. When we complained, they said the problem was the tape not their cart machine, because it played everyone else's tapes OK.

It made me cringe every time I saw it, but it ran for nearly 10 years! I've got a VHS copy of it somewhere; that doesn't look much different from the 2" version!



I was a TV addict bak then - spill, what was it for ?


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#12 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 02:51 PM

I got depressed at the premiere of Drawing With Chalk. It opened at the Quad Cinemas in NY in March and despite the fact that it looked decent on the big screen and we had a good turnout, the overall weekend reception was coming off the heels of a nasty review of the film in the NY Times.
As an unknown cinematographer, you're always hoping that a film will succeed and take you along with it. Working with zero budget, it's very difficult to get a film with no stars into a theater to begin with and when a reviewer takes that opportunity to just rip it up, after years on the festival circuit where people seemed to really respond well, something seems so utterly unfair. Someone else might have reviewed it and really liked it and who knows where the film might have gone. I don't take it personally but it was definitely depressing.

Edited by Michael LaVoie, 24 July 2011 - 02:52 PM.

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#13 Keith Walters

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 06:47 PM

I was a TV addict bak then - spill, what was it for ?

It wasn't much of an ad, just a 15 second short for some el-cheapo fruit juice (or maybe "fruit juice"). However I've just checked, and the company is still in business, so I can't say really more than that, since some of my partners-in-that-particular-crime are still active in the industry! B)
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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 07:10 PM

To answer the original question: yes. I get depressed when I look at more or less anything, from news headlines, TV schedules and the cover of "Hello" magazine, to mirrors and even, sometimes, the inside of my own eyelids. Especially mirrors, obviously.

But in terms of work? Hell no. I don't think I've ever been pleased with anything I've ever done. In many ways, a healthy degree of self-skepticism is an essential technique of self improvement.
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#15 Richard Boddington

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 07:26 PM

the overall weekend reception was coming off the heels of a nasty review of the film in the NY Times.


Now you know why so many Hollywood films open with, "not screened for critics before hand."

Who wants to risk their 100 million dollar investment to a reviewer who will most likely savage the movie.

What makes me laugh is when a studio allows critics to see a new horror film before it opens, the critics savage the movie, and then the movie still opens big. The critics must get really cheesed off when that happens. "But, but.." they say, "we told them it was crap and they still went?"

R,
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#16 Hal Smith

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 09:51 PM

The project I was the Producer of record for that the "Dailies" took two weeks to get to Chicago from India for processing...and were pitch black. Followed by my frantic telegrams to India saying to get the gear to Delhi to see the heck had gone wrong. I could say something catty about the ethnicity of the camera involved but there are members here who would take offense...and rightly so.
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#17 Rick Cook

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 09:17 PM

I am really glad I saw this post.

I had a chance to shoot my first feature about 3 months ago. It was a disaster. There was equipment budget. So I borrowed everything I could, and was very fortunate to have the friends I do have, as they came through giving me a decent lighting package for the interiors.

I feel the film could have been a success, but I almost feel like because I had not shot a feature, the director would step over my decisions and ruin shots. I knew we didn't have the equipment to completely control all the light coming through these large windows, but he wanted to them in frame.

What I feel really hurt the film was his love for wide shots. On every shot, he wanted it wider. The film began to have a soap opera feel, as they were all oddly frames mediums.

On top of this, the director is editing and grading. The shots are cut at point that don't make sense and there are odd transitions. His idea of grading is to reduce the saturation and add a "warm" filter.

As a beginning DP I have lost sleep worrying that this project that I did ENTIRELY for free (even after learning the cast was paid) will ruin my future chances.

Knowing that others have these "projects from hell" makes me relax a little. But, I still hope I don't get screwed of future chances because of this.
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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 09:28 PM

Ah, the old problem - people will tell you to do freebies for your reel, but of course most freebies you wouldn't want on your reel...
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#19 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 09:34 PM

Don't fret Rick; I think we're all done freebies for our reel which we wish we could condemn to the depths...
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#20 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 12:31 AM

I did a short film at University - basically a comedy / send up of the 1970s martial arts genre. To be honest, I didn't really get along with the director that well and a number of times, he would step over to the camera and alter my compositions. I admit that I stuffed up a camera movement in one scene - it was tilt, combined with a zoom out...though I'm surprised we didn't do more takes, considering that we were shooting on tape.

Later on in the shooting schedule, there was a very tricky shot which incorporated a zoom, simultaneously combined with a pan, beginning wide (as a static shot initially) and then ending up as a close up of the main character's face. And it was to be done quite quickly too. And to add to the difficulty, the main character is walking from left to right and then stopping during the same shot. I admit that I wasn't really entirely confident about pulling it off. However, on the first take, I had immediate success. I was really happy with my performance. I centered the actor's face perfectly at the end of the pan / zoom. The other two takes I did after that were okay but I was quite surprised by my precision in the first take.

Then the director asked if he could have a few tries of his own with this shot, operating the camera himself. He admits that he stuffed up his first two attempts. Though he seemed pleased with his third attempt. He played back his third attempt to me but I wasn't so impressed. His shot waved back and forth like he was trying to correct, or compensate, for his innacuracies. However, he played his take back to the other crew members and they all loved it. And there was a unanimous decision among them to use that particular take for the final edit, without even seeing any of the other takes.

On the first day of editing I believe it was, we played back the takes for the pan / zoom shot. It was just me, the editor and the director in the room at the time. And the editor preferred my 'best take' to the director's wavey take. Even so, we didn't get around to editing that particular part of the film that day. Anyhow, the director finished the editing of the film in another session, working on it alone. And guess which take he chose for the zoom / pan shot? He chose his own take. So for anyone seeing the final film, they'll never be able to see my take of that particular shot which was used to introduce the main character.

Dammit, that happened years ago and I'm still very annoyed when I think about it.
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