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12 years full time stills man moving into cinematography.


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#1 Martin Briggs

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Posted 15 January 2014 - 02:41 AM

Hello all,

I am a full time "people" photographer here in the uk and have been for 12 years. I specialise in natural light and use reflectors and black screens a lot. I also do a lot of studio work and understand how to light a face and body. I know many lighting styles for portraits. I understand how my cameras (film and digital) see light and can meter light with my own eyes 9 times out of 10 within a stop of my light meter. I work with teams of people and perceive myself to be a pretty good leader, considerate but able to get things done without a swear word in sight. I understand colour balance. I understand what my lenses can do for me and own many primes for my nikon. I fully understand composition and even shoot stills in a 2:1 format, not far from 16:9.

So after what's sounds like a rather big headed intro I would like to know what I should dive into re wishing to be a DOP. I'm 42 and uni is not an option and after reading bits online and in books I'm scaring myself at how much I already know. All this being said I feel my weak areas are types of constant lighting available, movie film stocks, and movie editing software and how to use it. I love film and always watch movies with an eye on the cinematography, some times even shouting at the screen much to my wife's annoyance.

It's a quiet time of year for me now so I have a little time to delve into this. It's been on my mind for a number of years. Basically what gaps do I need to fill first? Do stills photographers make good potential Dop's? And re progression (remembering I'm in the UK) what would be your first move?

Wonderful forum here by the way and wonderful conversations. So a big hello to all and many thanks if you have bothered to read this.

Martin Briggs
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#2 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 08:50 PM

It really depends on what you want to shoot.  If you're primarily a portrait photographer, where is your interest in cinematography coming from?  Do you want to tell stories and learn how to shoot narrative film?  Or are you just looking to do wedding films, music videos or documentaries?

 

Film school can help with everything but it's highly recommended if you're actually looking to go into narrative.  Cause there's just way too much to learn on your own and it's a huge help to have a few years of education in it.  

 

That said, you can certainly push forward without school and practice shooting interviews, landscapes and events and cut your teeth on those sorts of low risk gigs and learn as you go.  

 

Just don't rule out film school.  My first year I had people of all ages, races and backgrounds. Nothing unusual about that.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 28 January 2014 - 08:52 PM.

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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 09:13 PM

Well it sounds like you need to find a good gaffer to cover you in the areas of lighting you don't (yet) know. It's not hard to pick up what light to use-- well at least it wasn't for me. The main difference in lighting for motion -v- stills is that your talent moves, so you have to think of how to light areas as well as faces in order to make it look "right" whatever right may be for your project. It's easier now, with so much digital, since you can see what you're doing without having to use your imagination, and I find once I set my key the rest really falls into place based on the blocking and knowing how it's been decided to tell the story visually.

You don't need film school-- in fact in many ways it can be an encumbrance-- mostly due to the fact that you'll be paying for it for years and years, which is quite difficult, then, to break into a very hard to get into industry which you need to devote your life to, often, which doesn't pay well to start. The best benefit of film school, aside from sweeping mistakes under the rug, is networking. However, one can accomplish that other ways as well-- such as offering to shoot school projects without being enrolled in the class-- there are many which post up on jobs boards.

 

You don't really need to know editing systems to be a cinematographer, aside from editing your own reel; which is a good way to learn them tangentially. What you do need to know, however, is post for the projects your working on. This is a moving target, since cameras and formats change very quickly and each of them has their own way of doing things. Truthfully, though you get supported tremendously by the crew around you and the post team as a DoP and your success is very much so due to their work. Therefore, if you already are great at working with people; this will help you tremendously. My recommendation would be to continue to read books (Set lighting technicians handbook, ASC manual, ect) and begin to get your feet wet on shorts or music videos, or commercials with other people just now entering the fray.

Seek answers to questions as they come up, embrace your mistakes and shortcomings, learn from them, and don't make them again. And most importantly, remember, it's not really about how good or bad you are. Rather, I find it's much more about how long and how hard you can work for it which will win the day. It's a long trek towards making a living as a DoP, unless you are both insanely talented and lucky, but it is a worthwhile road-- perilous but with grand rewards.


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#4 Bruce Greene

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 10:50 PM

Hi Martin,

 

Welcome to the world of cinematography!

 

I'd just like to add, that while photography is a significant part of the creative job, story telling is, for me, the major part.

 

I'm not sure how you can learn this without going out and making your own movies.  These days, it's not too expensive, as long as you don't overdo it.  A simple digital capture device, a  laptop, and off you go!

 

Best of luck to you.  And never give up, and never surrender.


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#5 Martin Briggs

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Posted 29 January 2014 - 04:15 AM

Well thank you all ever so much. Im going to read all your replies several times to really take it all in. In fact i cant do it now as im just dashing out to assist on a show reel shoot for an actress!!
So here we go my very first toe dipped into the world of Cinematography. I'll let you know how it goes.
Many thanks again.
Martin.
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#6 Martin Briggs

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Posted 31 May 2014 - 12:48 AM

Thanks again for all your advice and if you are interested here is my first attempt at DOP on a short. This is just the trailer.


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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 31 May 2014 - 10:18 AM

Looks a bit TV style in being a bit close up. Maybe that's a good thing in these days of web video tho.

I love the shot at 00:20! That really works. Some of the other framing is a little off.

 

Freya


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#8 Martin Briggs

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 03:06 AM

Thanks Freya
TV style? I have filmed wider shots although they have not been used in the trailer edit.
What do you mean "maybe that's a good thing in these days of web video" though?
And if you could expand on my other "off" shots that would be great.

Martin
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#9 Freya Black

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:28 AM

Thanks Freya
TV style? I have filmed wider shots although they have not been used in the trailer edit.
What do you mean "maybe that's a good thing in these days of web video" though?
And if you could expand on my other "off" shots that would be great.

Martin

 

TV tends to have a lot less wides because of the smaller screen.

...and of course web video is even worse as people might be watching it in a little window in a smaller screen or even on their phone! So maybe being a bit more telephoto will become more of a trend, who can say! :)

 

I don't have any h.264 on this computer but will try and get another look at the trailer a bit later.

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 01 June 2014 - 10:30 AM.

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#10 Martin Briggs

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:46 AM

I didn't concern myself with its eventual output re screen size. Personally if I thought it would be viewed on the web only I would still shoot as if it was on at the cinema! Most living romm TV screens are huge nowadays anyway. A lot of scenes were shot on the 200mm as I like the compression of distances and sometimes I needed to drop the background right out of focus as i only wanted to hint as to what was there or withdraw attention from it altogether.
Anyhow, thanks for your comments.
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#11 Freya Black

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:54 AM

I didn't concern myself with its eventual output re screen size. Personally if I thought it would be viewed on the web only I would still shoot as if it was on at the cinema! Most living romm TV screens are huge nowadays anyway. A lot of scenes were shot on the 200mm as I like the compression of distances and sometimes I needed to drop the background right out of focus as i only wanted to hint as to what was there or withdraw attention from it altogether.
Anyhow, thanks for your comments.

 

Well mobile/tablets is a very significant thing nowadays. Anyway I was just explaining that it's a tradition in TV to shoot a lot less wide. Tony Scott was also a fan of long lenses in the way you describe tho so maybe you are following in his footsteps!

 

Freya


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#12 Martin Briggs

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 11:17 AM

I'm not familiar with his work but I shall certainly look it up. I've spent 14 years shooting stills full time and I think my love of the long lens has come from that.
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#14 Royce Allen Dudley

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 11:36 PM

Welcome... you and every other still shooter is becoming  DoP :/

 

The big difference to remember is that stills are time independent when viewed, and stand alone, as a rule.

 

Motion images are tied to time when viewed, and each relates in linear fashion to the images seen before and after each. If you love each shot, you may work slow as molasses. Okay for an ad agency on a budget; otherwise.... not good.

 

Not a big difference; yet massive.

 

The hot light vs speed light thing will come easily.

 

Best of luck.


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#15 Martin Briggs

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 01:20 AM

Welcome... you and every other still photographer is becoming Do


Maybe that's because every other office worker, chef, midwife and teacher is becoming a stills photographer!

The thing is its perceived as a desirable job and now digital is here everyone can have a pop at it. Thankfully almost all of them don't have the eye for it and the understanding of light or the social skills to be able to make a successful business/career. I'm sure it's the same in cinematography. If I'm no good at it I will just dissappear on the wind and some other dreamer will take my place.
I love images, I see them all the time, it's like an album in my head so it felt natural to move into the moving image. Thank you for your comments, they make sense and I am learning more each day. It just feels right. :)

All the best and thanks

Martin
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