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The Future of Cinematoraphy


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#1 Drew Emery

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 09:00 PM

Hey guys, just joined so I could ask a question that has been bugging me for awhile. I'm an aspiring Director of Photography, and right now taking a class on Color Grading using DaVinci Resolve. When shooting flat, it almost seems like you lost all control over what you create as the DP. With all the new capabilities that come with this powerful program, being able to change almost anything in the scene, where are DP's jobs headed? Knowing the program and having the power to be able to change the color of any object, the lighting, and color temperature, what will we be needed for on set? How do you feel when you are almost giving away all your creativity to the colorist?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 09:25 PM

A colorist should be one of your greatest collaborators. And, you should still be trying to retain your authorship of the image by shooting it the way it should look in the first place, instead of relegating those choices to post. Yes, these tools are powerful; and they can server you, but only if you as a DoP know how to ensure your images look the way they are supposed to look. This is difficult with Raw type cameras ect, but not impossible. Do all you can to include yourself in the color correction session. Send your colorist corrected stills from set with your intentions. And light and color your scenes in the way they are supposed to be lit and colored. Post tools can only go so far, after all.
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#3 Keith Walters

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 05:41 PM

where are DP's jobs headed?

Well first of all, we appear to be on about the 10th generation of the: "Fix everything in Post" concept.
The reality is, the problem-solving capabilities of Shooting "Raw" (which no current video camera actually does, at least not in the Still world concept of the term), have been greatly over-sold. Contrary to what a lot of people would dearly love to believe, you still have to get the exposure etc at least approximately right on set.
Maybe one day there will be advanced cameras with so much sensitivity and dynamic range that something like that (ie unlimited FIIP) will be possible, but that's a long way off.

The other thing is, that's only one part of a DPs job.
The DP is supposed to take a written script and convey what is described there to the viewer as efficiently as possible.

Framing, depth of field, lighting, choice of lenses are just a few of the tools the DP is required to master, and they're all pretty much format-independent.

Also, remember that a large part of the colorist's job is to ensure as far as possible a consistent "look" for the entire production. You will have to learn to accept that your ideas of what a particular scene should look like, may not necessarily flow smoothly with the rest of the footage.
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#4 Blake Z Larson

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 07:38 PM

I was just thinking about this the other day. I finally caved in a few weeks ago and sold my traditional video camera for a DSLR. One of the things that interested me was the Technicolor cinestyle profile, as I had heard a lot about it through the internet. As I was preparing the shoot a short film with the camera, I shot a few tests (especially since I was shooting with an older set of primes) with both the Technicolor profile and the neutral Canon profile. After looking at the footage, I was appalled at how the Technicolor profile absolutely sucked the life out of the image. I had to entirely rely on the grade to create my image, which really troubled me. I ended up shooting the entire film with just the Canon profile and for the first time ever, I didn't do any color correction at all to the image. I was able to get the image exactly how I envision with just the combination of lighting, exposure and the older lenses (which had fantastic contrast and flare characteristics). I really loved having the control back in my hands and I've decided to start shooting most of my films like this now.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 06:28 AM

Shooting "Raw" (which no current video camera actually does, at least not in the Still world concept of the term),



Point of order - you can theoretically do it on Alexa with a Codex recorder, or at least you can if that option is out yet, which I believe it has been for a while. I think you might be able to do something similar with F65 at 8k but I'm less familiar with the workflow options. Perhaps someone can advise.
You could also describe what something like Viper does as legitimately raw, but of course that's a rather different thing.

Theoretically you could do it with a Canon C500 but I'm not sure anyone's yet advertising the ability to do so. Aja's Ki Pro Quad does the debayer on board and records RGB prores.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 08:31 AM

I was just thinking about this the other day. I finally caved in a few weeks ago and sold my traditional video camera for a DSLR. One of the things that interested me was the Technicolor cinestyle profile, as I had heard a lot about it through the internet. As I was preparing the shoot a short film with the camera, I shot a few tests (especially since I was shooting with an older set of primes) with both the Technicolor profile and the neutral Canon profile. After looking at the footage, I was appalled at how the Technicolor profile absolutely sucked the life out of the image. I had to entirely rely on the grade to create my image, which really troubled me. I ended up shooting the entire film with just the Canon profile and for the first time ever, I didn't do any color correction at all to the image. I was able to get the image exactly how I envision with just the combination of lighting, exposure and the older lenses (which had fantastic contrast and flare characteristics). I really loved having the control back in my hands and I've decided to start shooting most of my films like this now.


That's fine... but most of us, knowing that we will be grading the image, want to be able to pull details from shadows and highlights and prefer to start out with a wider dynamic range image. Narrative movies are edited, from many takes and over many scenes -- you shoot thousands of set-ups and 50, 60, 70 hours of material if shooting on a digital camera -- the odds that nothing will need to be graded to balance out and match are very unlikely.

The trouble with recording in a format with a gamma that makes it look correct on a monitor is that you can only record about 8 to 10 stops of dynamic range (and 10-stops only if you use a low-contrast profile), whereas if you are used to shooting film negative you'd have 14 to 15 stops of dynamic range to start with in color correction suite to get down to the displayable number of stops in a film print or a monitor. You are then able to roll off your highlights gracefully using knee compression and whatnot, or use windows to selectively hold detail in bright areas like windows, or a piece of white clothing, etc. Which is why it is nice to shoot with raw or log gamma cameras which come close to giving you that wide latitude and create a final film-like image without harsh clipping.

Not to mention, very few people make zero mistakes when shooting, or only shoot in optimal lighting conditions, or never have to change the look in post because of how the sequence was edited, so having more information to work with in the grade makes a big difference.

You may think you've nailed the perfect exposure using Rec.709 gamma burnt-in for a set-up of two people in a restaurant sitting by a window... only to have the sun come out of a cloud in the middle of a take or a white delivery truck park in the shot, and discover that the director and editor picked that take with the bad exposure because it was the best for performance. So you'd have a better shot at making the image usable if you were working with 14-stops of dynamic range instead of 9.

The point isn't making the image correct for the monitor you are shooting on, it's making it look correct in the final delivery format. No viewer cares what it took to get to that point. There are good reasons to nail some things in camera or in front of the lens and there are other image issues where it doesn't matter whether you do it in post or in camera, and there are some things better done in post. It is up to a cinematographer to find that balance of techniques.

Now of course one argument for not shooting a flat log gamma image on a DSLR is that it is a very compressed 8-bit recording so even if you had more detail in post to play with, you'd have problems with banding in gradients and whatnot so it doesn't necessarily help you.

But regarding raw, log, cinestyle low-contrast profiles, etc. versus baking in final broadcast gamma, you have to ask yourself if a professional still photographer would rather bake-in the final look in a high-contrast JPEG, perhaps setting his camera to VIVID let's say, or shoot raw and create that look in Photoshop. Most, unless they are under some short deadline, are going to shoot raw. You are just so limited in creating nice gamma curves for roll-off into clipping if baking in broadcast monitor gamma.
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#7 George Ebersole

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 11:47 PM

Hey guys, just joined so I could ask a question that has been bugging me for awhile. I'm an aspiring Director of Photography, and right now taking a class on Color Grading using DaVinci Resolve. When shooting flat, it almost seems like you lost all control over what you create as the DP. With all the new capabilities that come with this powerful program, being able to change almost anything in the scene, where are DP's jobs headed? Knowing the program and having the power to be able to change the color of any object, the lighting, and color temperature, what will we be needed for on set? How do you feel when you are almost giving away all your creativity to the colorist?

In 88 and 89 I had some friends working at Apple show me some prototypes for digital editing. The technology was shared and licensed out to other developers to see what they could do with it. At the time I was just starting do some camera assisting gigs, but, given what was in store with digital post and CGI, I thought the writing was on the wall for the traditional crew.

Erm, I was sort of right. Feature films still require big crews, and the editing and other post stuff is sleeker than before, but computers haven't eliminated the need for the DP, grips, gaffers, and all the rest. So, I begged off on a camera operator / DP career, and focused on writing and concept development instead (veering away from crew work).

I wish I hadn't. The DP may find himself manning some robotic controls or standing behind an assistant doing the same thing, but he needs to be there to make a judgment call. Framing, blocking, spotting a shot on the fly, grabbing coverage ... that's part of what makes film a human endeavor. We make things that we and other people like. To do that you need the talent and skill to make that happen.
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