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How long does it take to become proficient


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#1 joshua gallegos

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 09:40 PM

I recently did a short film, it was really my first short film and I'm really ashamed of it, to be fair I was filming at night mainly with a rebel t4i and some Canon lenses - I know a lot can be done with that by someone who knows how to actually use it, but mainly I felt it was such an incompetent effort. To begin with I had to shoot in the interior of a car without any lighting equipment, because I couldn't get a generator, etc and the result was a grainy mess, I finally finished a cut of it and I wasn't happy at all. I was looking at some cinematographers' careers and their first work and trying to see if I had any semblance of ability, because I do believe cinematography is a talent, and it requires a technical ability to really make your vision flourish before the screen.

 

Granted, I only had one light that I managed to use at some point, it was a Kino 2ft - 4bank, but it's been nagging at me, if I should quit or attempt it again and concentrate more on the writing and directing aspect of filmmaking. I love cinematography, but I it's really hard to know if I have what it takes to do it. Since I don't go to film school I hope I could get some constructive criticism, and I hope you can be brutally honest, since I know I f-ed up a lot. To begin with the H.264 encoding introduced some more noise to the image, more so than what should really be there; perhaps I'm expecting too much  from an entry-level DSLR, but I've seen other people do interesting things with it. The thing that I hate most is the doubt, how do you find the confidence to carry on, knowing your next project won't be as horrible as the last, is it really something that takes years? I might as well show it. I don't think I'll be able to do much with it, except learn a valuable lesson.

 

https://vimeo.com/78866429

 

password:

 

Bette Davis


Edited by joshua gallegos, 19 November 2013 - 09:43 PM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 10:21 PM

Well, the only time you really fail is when you quit. I would say it is something that takes a lifetime-- and them some-- to ever really "arrive" where you're not seeing your mistakes in your face. Just other people seem to notice them less and less over the years.


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 11:51 PM

I spent ten years, from the time I was 16 to 26, shooting my own short films in Super-8, plus test after test.  The idea that you'd do something right on the first go around is crazy, you wouldn't expect to be great at a sport the first time you played the game!  You wouldn't expect to paint a masterpiece the first time you picked up a brush.  You wouldn't expect to play a violin or play a piano with great skill the first time you tried.  If it's your passion to become good at something, you practice at it over and over and over again for the rest of your life.

 

It doesn't really matter whether the first thing you ever shoot is good or not (and what you shot is pretty good for a beginner), what matters is that you make progress as you shoot each successive project.

 

If you aren't looking forward to trying again and improving your skills, then it's not confidence you lack or need, it's passion.  As a learner, confidence isn't that important.  It may have professional importance later in life -- in that a professional learns at least to hide their lack of confidence, their insecurities and doubts -- but for an artist, it is less of a factor.  Besides, confidence comes from experience, knowing what you know and what you don't know, so confidence in a beginner is just blind confidence, there's no reason to have confidence that you know how to do something you have barely done yet.

 

Over time, you get a clearer picture of your skill level, your rate of improvement, your natural talents, and at that point, you may develop some confidence based on a realistic appraisal of your skills.  But what should be driving you now is personal interest, passion, the drive to learn and to improve your skills.

 

You aren't the only person kicking themselves for not being as good as Roger Deakins, believe me!


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#4 Christopher M Schmidt

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 11:53 AM

No lights at night with a dslr is actually kinda tough...usually isn't enough light. Your thoughts on your work show you have lost perspective to a certain degree haha because it looks pretty good for a first time student short actually. the quality of the picture is not bad and remember "quality" is subjective it does not mean Glossy and expensive looking. Many beginning filmmakers spend a lot of time trying to make "high quality" images when what they need to be doing is making creative images and finding there own voice. There are plenty of great hyper grainy films again every aspect is subjective grain is not necessarily bad nor is under exposure or anything else ....there is no right way. 

 

you also did everything on this film direct/write/produce/shoot/edit? its hard to have any perspective on your work when your that close to every aspect. A great thing about collaborating is that it gives you distance and helps to see the work more objectively 

 

 

this is a great quote by Ira Glass I think is very applicable 

 

 

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 
― Ira Glass

 

 

Best of luck


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#5 Brett Bailey

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 07:55 AM

Josh,

 

The footage isn't that bad. I only had time to briefly scan over it. My suggestions would be...

 

1. Study the psychology of lighting. Constantly observe how certain set-ups convey mood.

 

2. You said you only had access to a Kino?. You're limiting yourself. Ingenuity is key. At 8:07, I see a lamp in the background. I would have probably had the lamp on. Have it spill some light against that back wall and possibly put the actor in silhouette. Preferably, you want pools of light to create a sense of depth. Always think outside of the box. If you're close on your subject... say... at 8:33... you can easily buy a few practicals from the local store and rig them just outside of the frame on the left for more light (motivated from the lamp). For the interior of the car, did you think about finding a light source that you could run off the battery /cigarette lighter socket?  Also, you should have done a rack focus at 2:25.  You're shifting the viewer's attention from the man to the young lady. The bench footage at around 11:07 isn't bad at all.

 

3. Don't be scared to mix color temperature.

 

4. Everybody who DPs is constantly learning. Heck, everything we do in life... we're constantly learning.


Edited by Brett Bailey, 22 November 2013 - 07:59 AM.

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#6 joshua gallegos

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 12:36 AM

Thanks for the advice everyone. I've been thinking of trying to get work as a "cinematographer" in student films, to further my understanding and knowledge of the craft. I've actually come to like it so much I don't think I can just let go so soon. I really didn't have any tools to create a look, it was just the 650D and a flimsy tripod that I borrowed and a 2ft-4bank with 56k tubes and a 90 degree louver attachment.  I think my composition will be a lot better in my second opportunity, if it were up to me I would've made an elaborate lighting scheme to light it properly, I would've also have liked to film at 400 ASA most of the time to retain richer contrast, in the opening I had to film at 1600 ASA and opened up the lens to f/1.8 on the 24mm and it was still about a stop underexposed, I rated the camera too high for that reason, which inevitably introduced too much noise, but I had no choice. I think if I would've had the tools I could've done a much better job, but I'll let it go and just learn from the experience. The next one will be much better, I know I should be concentrating on the storytelling aspect of it, but I feel I still need to learn so much about the technical aspects of filmmaking, primarily in lighting, which is of great interest to me.thanks for the encouraging words everyone.


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#7 joshua gallegos

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 12:50 AM

Josh,

 

The footage isn't that bad. I only had time to briefly scan over it. My suggestions would be...

 

1. Study the psychology of lighting. Constantly observe how certain set-ups convey mood.

 

2. You said you only had access to a Kino?. You're limiting yourself. Ingenuity is key. At 8:07, I see a lamp in the background. I would have probably had the lamp on. Have it spill some light against that back wall and possibly put the actor in silhouette. Preferably, you want pools of light to create a sense of depth. Always think outside of the box. If you're close on your subject... say... at 8:33... you can easily buy a few practicals from the local store and rig them just outside of the frame on the left for more light (motivated from the lamp). For the interior of the car, did you think about finding a light source that you could run off the battery /cigarette lighter socket?  Also, you should have done a rack focus at 2:25.  You're shifting the viewer's attention from the man to the young lady. The bench footage at around 11:07 isn't bad at all.

 

3. Don't be scared to mix color temperature.

 

4. Everybody who DPs is constantly learning. Heck, everything we do in life... we're constantly learning.

There's the Kino Flo single 12' inch that runs on the lighter socket, but that was 80 dollars to rent for one day, it was inordinately expensive, I initially wanted to have a 650w tweenie to bounce as the key and a 200w midget to light the back of the car in the opening scene, I would've added some 1/2 CTO and a 013 straw to get the yellowish look of an sodium vapor lamp, but getting a generator was the issue, so all of that went out the window. I don't see a light at 8:07, did you mean 7:07? That wasn't the lamp, it was actually one of the ceiling halogen lights from the diner, I set the kino further on the right, you can see the falloff on the woman's hair,


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#8 Brett Bailey

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 01:32 AM

There's the Kino Flo single 12' inch that runs on the lighter socket, but that was 80 dollars to rent for one day, it was inordinately expensive, I initially wanted to have a 650w tweenie to bounce as the key and a 200w midget to light the back of the car in the opening scene, I would've added some 1/2 CTO and a 013 straw to get the yellowish look of an sodium vapor lamp, but getting a generator was the issue, so all of that went out the window. I don't see a light at 8:07, did you mean 7:07? That wasn't the lamp, it was actually one of the ceiling halogen lights from the diner, I set the kino further on the right, you can see the falloff on the woman's hair,

From 08:07 - 08:15 , on the video that I viewed, there was a young gentleman drinking a beer, with a bedside lamp to his right (in the background).  I was stating that I would have used that bedside lamp.  Especially, as it pertains to motivated lighting.  Then, at 8:27-8:37, I would have grabbed a cluster of household bulbs (if need be to suppliment the light from the lamp) and held it right outside of the frame.  Thus, creating split-lighting.  I would have aimed at possibly obtaining a 8:1 ratio (3 stops) due to the dark nature of the subject matter.


Edited by Brett Bailey, 24 November 2013 - 01:37 AM.

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#9 joshua gallegos

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 11:43 PM

i see what you mean, I turned them off because the lamps didn't, match the 32k tubes on the kino that I put on the desk out of frame, I ended up aiming it to the ceiling to get enough footcandles, even when I changed the color temperature on the camera it didn't match with the other lights. I didn't have time to get practical bulbs I remember, poor excuse I know, but oh well.


Edited by joshua gallegos, 25 November 2013 - 11:43 PM.

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#10 Freya Black

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 04:53 PM

Think the short looks okay quite frankly.

 

Suggest you get some fairy lights from the pound shop or the dollar store or whatever you have there.

Get some plain white ones and some colour ones too if you can.

It's the right time of year to stock up! :)

 

There's a lot of everyday lights that you can make good use of with some creativity.

Experiment and see what you can do.

 

Freya


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#11 joshua gallegos

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Posted 02 December 2013 - 01:06 AM

Thanks a lot, I consider my first short very sloppy in the way I put it together, but it was kind of like my film school, since I'm learning how to color grade and such, I would've also given my images more headroom, I never got to do any real lighting which was a shame. To really get a "look", I understand it's all about the locations, the art department and the costumes, the lighting really is an addition to all those things and without it, the film won't be visually striking to any degree. 

 

I started color grading my footage, it's an amateur attempt, but I've added some additional footage that initially deleted, will have a new version (cut of my short up soon. In the meantime, here are some images of the color graded footage. I realized I had some color matching problems, the windshield was dimmed on the car and it rendered a greenish look, etc. It's part of the reason why I deleted the footage, but I'm trying to make it work better. 

 

http://lastzoetrope....ills-short-film


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#12 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 02 December 2013 - 02:17 PM

Josh,

 

You are being WAY too hard on yourself and quitting would be a huge mistake.  I actually thought the film was pretty good for your first.  To put things in perspective for first-time shooting, the first roll of Super 8 film I shot came out completely blown out.  Why?  Because my understanding (or lack thereof) of f-stops was completely reversed.  I was shooting wide-open into direct sunlight, so you can imagine how felt when I looked at the results...lol

 

Of course, over time, I've learned a great deal but that comes with numerous tests, mistakes, observations (by watching as many films as possible) and trial & error.  So I would agree with Adrian: a true filmmaker never stops learning. 

 

I actually liked the graininess in the car shot.  I miss seeing grain.  Even today's film stocks are so fine-grained that its refreshing to see now and then.  Digital has this pristine look that simply isn't suitable for all subject matter.  Your film is a prime example.  The subject matter was dark.  I actually would tried keep the grainy look present throughout the film with a bit more shadow, too.  I liked some of your compositions, mainly the opening shot, and when you went wide when he first walks over to Carmen in the diner.

 

It's a common problem, but try to stay away from an over-abundance of talking heads (in the diner & train station mostly.)  The shot-reverse-shot technique can be a tricky thing to combat, but too much of that back & forth action can bore the spectator.  So I would work on your editing.  Cinematography makes its own impact, but editing is where the story can really come together.  And a combination of two can make for extremely effective visual storytelling.  And that's where it's at.

 

So I think a lot of the story could have been told visually rather than through dialogue (which you did at certain points with the flashbacks.)  Try it for your next project.  And I think we should learn that the guy has cancer closer to the beginning of the film.  It would give the audience an understanding of just how much he is wrestling with and why he may be attempting to help this girl.  The final scene would then make it feel as though the character has reached some form of solace.

 

Overall, I liked it.  These are just ideas I'm throwing out there.  In any case, KEEP FILMING!!!  DON'T GIVE UP.


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#13 joshua gallegos

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Posted 02 December 2013 - 02:57 PM

Thank you, I've gotten over it and I'm doing my next project, I actually studied film history before I decided to make my movies, I never touched a camera in my life until a few months ago, so it's all very new to me. As for the story, I had to do a very talky short because of budget, which I had none of, but I think if I had planned it better and had some money the results would've been a bit better. Not sure the script was too good to begin with, but it was a pretty good learning experience, wish I could get to to do some real lighting some day. 

 

here's the script, a lot was cut out. http://www.scribd.co...ript-for-Carmen


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#14 Carl Looper

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Posted 02 December 2013 - 07:47 PM

Re. shot/reverse shot.

 

Unless you are working under deadlines that don't allow it, I'd avoid shot/reverse shots altogether. The only reason they are used (I'd argue) is that they are just easier to do - rather than that they represent good cinematography. This is advice more for drama than documentary.

 

Every time you cut back to a previous shot you are effectively delaying advancement of the visual narrative thread. From one point of view, of course, real time has progressed forward, but if the shot itself hasn't progressed forward, the result comes across as just a delay in the narrative. Each camera angle should advance the narrative (as much as anything in the scene taking place in front of the camera). Each cut should introduce something new to see, rather than repeat a previous composition. Or at least that is my take on it.

 

In other words, don't shoot different angles just to provide a choice for the editor. Shoot those angles which give the editor no choice. Editors will, of course disagree.

 

To do this requires designing the cinematography and editing as conceptually inseparable from each other (where only the practice would be separate). It requires designing the editing at the same time as the cinematography rather than as something deferred until after (at the editing table).

 

C


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#15 joshua gallegos

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Posted 02 December 2013 - 08:33 PM

I disagree completely. I don't see why the camera should move any other place just for the sake of variety, I prefer the old Ernst Lubitsch way, with that being said, the Lubitsch form only works when you have two great actors. A good example would be Ninotchka, the restaurant scene between Melvyn Douglas and Greta Garbo, the technique is effective because we are watching Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. I will say the stuff I filmed is overall ineffective, there isn't that moment where there is a spark, it's very dull, and I blame it on my writing. Another example would be this one from The Master, the shot is fixed only because Joaquin Phoenix is transfixing to watch and the dialogue is intrguing. https://www.youtube....h?v=3kPurV5qsL0

 

Also the dialogue scene in the diner in Se7en https://www.youtube....h?v=a8WIiHbyxIQ , 

 

What I realized is that there is no movement in the stuff I shot, it's just talking heads, there's no action at all. I'll never forget something Joseph Mankiewicz  said about films that have good talk and bad talk, since he was criticized for lack of visual style, but I see the dialogue was overall ineffective, so, there's that,,,


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#16 Carl Looper

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Posted 03 December 2013 - 07:40 AM

Yes - the camera should not move just for the sake of variety. It should only move to reveal something of the narrative it can't otherwise reveal from where it is otherwise located. A perfectly satisfactory film can be made where the camera doesn't move or change angle at all - where it is the scene (or actants within the scene) that can carry forward evolution of the narrative. Stranger Than Paradise and Down By LAw are very good examples of this aproach

 

The issue of returning to a previous composition in a shot/reverse and back again, is that the "back again" shot. If the third shot just returns to the first shot it is analogous to eating leftovers. Most of the time anyway. Sometimes it works perfectly. But as a rule (I'd argue) it doesn't.

 

Carl


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#17 Nicholas Bedford

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 06:24 AM

I started learning cinematography (and directing, and editing to a degree) after about 2 years of seriously taking on photography so I had a good start on the visual perspective. The amount of things I've learnt since has been huge, however, and what I've learnt in cinematography has translated back into my lighting and composition in my portraits and other stills.

My first efforts at creating a music video for my friend's band were scrapped. The lights were wrong, the setting didn't work (giant glass window walls reflecting the lights), I messed up angles of the performances. My second effort which is what came to be the first one I completed was a big improvement, but in the two music videos I've created since, my knowledge and techniques have improved dramatically again. If you want to see them, my website has a Music Videos section which is chronological from newest to oldest.

I'm actually really looking forward to the next project I have on the cards simply because I've already learnt a whole lot from my mistakes and shortcuts and other things in my most recent music video.

Just keep doing it, making sure to hone in on what you did and didn't like about your most recent project and try to fix them the next time around. As long as you can tell what needs work, then you are going to learn very quickly and your work will reflect that.

And... watch and scrutinise LOTS of movies, bad ones, good ones, great ones. That's how I learn new ideas and techniques.

All the best in it. Once you get over the initial hurdles, you'll be hooked.
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#18 joshua gallegos

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 04:30 PM

I finally colored the short film I made, and I also made adjustments to the cut and made it less rough, I won't go back to do any more editing since this is the best I could do considering the footage I shot, I also added new shots, etc. I've decided to enter it to local film festivals to hopefully get some support from my next film, I've decided to make a 40 minute feature that takes place in a cabin. Anyhow here is the "improved" version of what I posted, i augmented the tungsten color in the hotel to give it a distinct look, since the whole thing replays in flashbacks.

 

https://vimeo.com/81714115

 

password:

 

Vertigo


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