I didn't go to film school. Most of my training came from internships in middle and high school (also my family was in local television) and those connections worked into jobs when I got out of school, so I'm not familiar with the film school scene, in fact, many of my mentors in the business advised me that unless I had a lot of money and could afford UCLA (this was 1978, by the way) or something equivalent, not to waste time and money on film school, especially since I had already had a good bit of hands on training during my volunteer work. It worked out for me pretty well , but that was a different time.Throughout the years I've done some consulting and community college level teaching, but never on a film school level until a year and half ago when I taught a cinematography class for the New York Film Academy in Celebration, Florida.
I had a blast, great students and I got to work with some high caliber folks and for me the coolest part was I got to work with Arri S 16mm cameras that I thought I would never see beyond a museum again. Tri X Reversal, it brought back memories of high school football games and early 60's newsreels, my childhood and early adulthood.After reading up on NYFA both pro and con, I got the impression that many were questioning the wisdom of teaching students on an "old clunker" when the big guys are shooting with RED's and Alexa's. Fair enough, but you have to remember, this level of student, high school or early college is not going to start out with one of those anymore than I did with a Arri SR or Aaton Prod.You also have to take into consideration the number of students that aren't interested in becoming cinematographers. About two thirds of my students were wanting to be actors, directors and producers and they certainly weren't going to take it to the Panavision level.
So here are the options for this level of student that I see. HD Prosumer or DSLR: I would lean toward either DSLR or perhaps some of what Black Magic is offering. This is where I have to criticize NYFA on their choice of the Panasonic prosumer grade cameras they use. Great cameras, but they're ENG and no matter how much you play with camera tape markings on the lens barrel,it's still not a proper lens for that. I offered the students the option of using that or the MF numbers on the monitor, as most AC's I've seen these days follow the cam op via a small flat screen monitor.Now DSLR's are great, but here again, they're not designed for a Hollywood type film crew operation unless you spend a good deal of cash on camera cages and follow focus attachments. This would be economically impractical in this type of situation, I could imagine the nightmare of trying to keep up with that many DSLR kits students were sent out with on the Disney backlot. High school students and even the adults in that type of situation need to keep the number of items in the field small,and the many pieces of tinker toy type stuff that goes with DSLR's would be a nightmare to contend with.
Then you have super 8 and 16mm. I love super 8 and I could see it being used on a basic "primer" type of project, but beyond the avant garde scene, yuppie weddings and a certain type of look, its not really such a good training format either,It's best reserved, in my opinion for the "intimate" hand held, home movie or retro doc look, which is exactly what we're seeing the industry currently using it for. Then you have the old stand by, tried and true 16mm "clunkers". I love these things, they're my classic muscle cars, what I cut my teeth on, but it disturbed me to see so much precious film footage being wasted on exposure tests and workshops.Moreover , such a volume of labwork was a nightmare for scheduling projects, These days, especially for a film student on a budget, 16mm film stock is like oil and seeing it used like that is almost like driving a Hummer to the corner store.
Check out this video:http://www.youtube.c...h?v=SYADhAZsPNA
Now let's say a film school has a fleet of "old clunkers". They're still good for training the basics on, but if,say you converted half of the fleet to a digital hybrid, the student could learn basic composition,exposure, work flow and camera crew operation and once they've mastered that, then they can move on to shooting their projects with real film cameras, if that's the direction, if not, they will still be prepared for the film type work flow that is currently standard procedure in the industry, rather than pick up bad habits from being trained on an ENG camera. P and S Teknik is already doing this with Arri 16 SR 3's, offering a digital mag and as I understand someone else is working on a digital super 8 cartridge.
What are your opinions on this?
Semi retired cameraman