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Advice for improving my work; it lacks that "something" that is the hallmark of a professional


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#1 David Bowsky

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:38 PM

Good morning everyone!

I recently shot a short narrative film, and despite the overwhelmingly positive response to my work, I am dissatisfied. For lack of a more efficient description, I feel that my work still lacks the hallmarks of a true professional and hope that I can garner feedback from the friendly and helpful folks here.

I know that it can be problematic to discuss a single shot, without having seen more of the film and where/how the shot in question cuts into the whole. I'll try to give a bit of information that I hope will help.

The piece was rather "high-concept" in that our heroine is traversing various corners of her memory (as represented by a single house) and re-encountering the relationships of her past. This particular encounter occurs late in the film. The clip begins with the actors obscuring camera to give us a hidden edit point to change from a glidecam to our jib. We have just seen her enter the room in OTS, the young man comes to greet her and sweeps her away into this particular shot.

The clip is here, password protected:



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A bit of self-critique. Here are what I feel are some of my mistakes:

-- The operating is clumsy at best, and incredibly chunky at its worst. This is take 13 of 14, and in each take there is some form of operating error or another.

-- General underexposure, and not enough range of luminosity in the room. I could go into a very long paragraph on this, but it would just sound like making excuses. Suffice to say that in navigating the compromises of the day, I feel I could have done a much better job. Particularly where the hero couple lands at the end of the shot. There is also weird reflection as she exits (light bounces off the door she opens) which comes from our HMI instruments outside and a whole host of other issues.

-- Excessive Warmth. This is probably a function of several factors, including the camera. We shot at 3200, though the paper lanterns we used were slightly off-white and warmed our already warm bulbs. The yellow walls of the room enhances this to create an effect that makes the shot feel as though it were at the wrong color temp. It is also possible that the camera trends toward yellow, but I previously thought that trend to be a function of my old Canon FD lenses (not used on this piece) I didn't think to compensate for this on the day, and although the bottle's label and the table cloths appear correct on my monitor, some of the skin tones where actors are farther from lights seem pretty yellow-y.

-- The overall flow of the shot seems just ... off ... For example, I should have asked the director to have the dancing couple that swings the camera back to its left (after the shot of the wine bottle) to continue their movement all the away across the lens, rather than panning off of them to continue the move. This was the director's first film (though he has extensive theater experience) and we did work together closely on blocking as there is movement throughout most of the film.

-- While I would like to avoid turning the discussion into one about the camera I used, I do understand that there are many who vehemently dislike certain cameras, but hopefully we can set all that aside. ;) Understand that I used the camera that was available to me, as I feel the craft is more important than the tool. I would rather shoot with what is possible, than sit around wishing I could shoot on something that is not. On the other hand, I am more than happy to hear any and all recommendations for getting the most out of the tool I used, which was my GH2.

Many advance thanks to all who are willing to help me improve my work. Please don't hold back. There is no critic that will ever be as harsh to me as I am to myself. :D
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#2 Nico Nonne

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 06:27 PM

Most of your self-critique seems quite valid.
There are some camera jerks in there, but a bit of stabilisation should smooth that out. The whole shot is 1:20, without a lot of practice mistakes are inevitable.
I think anyone who has seen the Zacuto shootout knows the GH2 is a fine camera as long as you light for it. And frankly I'm not a big fan of the lighting in that scene. More separation between the fore- and background, along with different tables etc., would have been nice, but you pointed all of that out already.
The thing is: as long as there is an interesting story and good acting, you can put your camera on a table, point it at the actors and be done with it. It will still be a joy to watch.
I cannot judge what this scene adds to the story, maybe there are important developments that I simply don't see, because I don't know the story. Every shot should add something, reveal emotions, show new paths and new angles. This scene has no emotional impact on me, there are people at a party, a girl walking around. It does not capture my imagination.
Then again, it might just be me or simply a lack of context.
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#3 Hyun De Grande

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 03:44 PM

Apart from the camera jerk and the technicalities, I think the movement of the shot started very interesting. The crossing with the woman, and changing direction was nice for example. But you lost me at 0:30, when the bottle is put on the table. From there on, I felt the shot was failing to serve a narrative point. I didn't know what to look at. For me, there wasn't any guidance anymore. This feeling was enhanced by your lighting. It didn't guide my eyes enough to the things I should look at. So a+b made it lack some functionality in my opinion.

So I think you should have played a little more with your lighting, and accentuate the things you want your audience to look at, especially in a shot like this. And you could have other people guiding the camera movement from 0:30 on..
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#4 David Bowsky

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 02:05 PM

Thanks to you both! 

 

I agree on the issues with the lighting.  Much flatter than I was going for, in addition to the other problems. Live and learn. :)

 

Nico, you've definitely touched on the one thing that I couldn't quite place - how these visuals serve to further or enhance the narrative. The idea the director wanted to convey was the main character "loosing herself" in the memory of the party/celebration.  Having nailed the lighting better could have helped to convey that, though I wonder if there are other elements we missed, or perhaps a different approach where we lost, found, lost, found again our main character.  The director and I worked pretty closely on our shot design and blocking, so I was definitely in a good position to have made additional suggestions, though I know that is not always the case.

 

Also, Hyun that you are right, more people guiding the camera in the last half is needed, and might have better helped convey that notion of her having "lost herself" in the moment.


Edited by David Bowsky, 20 February 2013 - 02:09 PM.

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