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Questions on professional cinematography


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#1 Krisztian Nagy

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:24 PM

Hi everyone!

 

I'm a film production student at a relatively prestigious film school and I'm currently taking an important film production course. My main interest is writing and directing but I'm also a huge fan of cinematography and I very much enjoy editing as well. I have a friend I've worked with very closely last semester, I shot four of his projects on a smaller scale production class, those films were all B&W, silent shorts with some very minimal lighting in two of them. I've learned a lot about designing shots, I found out technical things about the camera in great detail, (digital though), this friend and I have worked on a lot of projects together in the past months. A few weeks ago he asked me to shoot his next project which is going to be a color, 16 mm short with dialogue. A lot of money is going to be put into it (in student terms at least), he's planning to bring this one to festivals, he's got a great script too. Point being: it's a huge project and a huge responsibility for any student DP to shoot.

 

I've done one hands-on class on cinematography so far but the more I learn about the subject, the more I realize that I really don't know much at all. I'd like to think that I can design solid/interesting shots, perhaps I might know what shots would make sense to shoot in a sequence and I also know a bit about cameras as well. However, my knowledge about lights and using them properly is very limited. I don't really know the brands/models, I don't know how to maintain unity in lighting style, I don't know what lights to pick for different scenarios etc. I think all of this is because I just never had a chance to spend enough time with lights at all. As much as I wish I could jump on this opportunity of working with 16mm (which I've also never done, being one of the first film students growing up in the digital era) I feel like I wouldn't be able to deliver the results that are expected of me as a DP, and I know that neither I or my friend would want this film to look like "a student film", whatever that might mean. I think I understand the impact of powerful cinematography enough to know that I wouldn't be able to execute quality interior lighting which makes me inclined to refuse the offer.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for encouragement or moral support here, what I'm curious about is what might be the best way to learn some of the most fundamental things about lights, how to maintain unity in different set ups, what are some of the things that I definitely need to look out for when lighting, what are the mathematics that I need to keep in mind when using the light meter, etc. Is there an online tutorial of some sort that I could read through that would make me more prepared for the challenge if I decide to shoot it? I understand that filmmaking is a learn-by-doing process but since I'm not majoring in cinematography, I don't have that many opportunities to learn some of the more advanced, and to me very relevant aspects of the subject, which is why I don't feel quite ready to shoot this film the way it deserves to be shot. I'd appreciate any feedback, and thank you so much for your time!

Best,

Krisz


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 01:14 AM

I learned how to light -- other than from studying movies and reading -- by owning one light. I found a 650w open-faced tungsten halogen movie lamp in a garage sale for $5 -- it was made in the 1960's for Super-8 shooters.  Later I found out that replacing the bulb cost me $26 when it finally burned out...

 

So I had one bright, harsh light.  I also had some paper lanterns and reflector dish lamps that used ordinary household bulbs or photofloods.

 

So basically I had one strong light and one soft light and I learned how to create almost every type of lighting effect between the two of them.  I could also bounce the bright light off of ceilings, walls, floors, or white cards and sheets.

 

You basically learn how to light from starting out with one or two lights and then you learn what you can and can't do with them.  If you find that a 650w open-faced tungsten lamp isn't bright enough for some things, like to put outside of a window to create sunlight, then you know that you have to scale up.  And if it is too bright and powerful for some things, you learn that you have to scale down.

 

Most lighting effects are either hard or soft, and small or large.  Big soft source, small soft source.  Big hard source, small hard source.  Hot, medium, or dim. From the front, back, sides, below, above.  Of course, beyond that there is color, flagging, creating shadow patterns, etc.


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#3 Abhilash

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 05:49 AM

Hi David:

 

That's interesting note on your experiments. Me too on learning path now ..But all these confuses me a lot ..whole set of "settings" coupled with mathematical confusions.. - almost explodes in my brain,when I actually wants to shoot a good shot. :)

 

So I decided to go step by step now as given below - it is impossible for me to comprehend everything until I practice a lot- I believe. 

 

# First focus on compositions & only compositions.. Patterns back/fore ground, rule of third, shapes ..etc etc.. 

   Am reading &referring on arts and paintings now a days and which really gives great enthusiasm -Regret for being out of these world for such a long long time.

 

# My next focus would be command over my camera to control light and play around..

 

#  Post which, I would love to study more on colors and its effects..

 

# And progress to light effect and play around them.. possibly indoor first with available lights and then to outdoor..

 

Hope these basics of still photography will turn to sound platform for cinematography too..

 

Abhilash Nair 


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