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Where did you learn your 35mm Skills?


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#1 Mike Pecci

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Posted 04 May 2005 - 06:51 PM

Where did you learn your 35mm Skills?

I?m curious to hear the war stories and tales of how you learned how to helm the mighty 35mm format. Film School? Assistant Camera positions? Or just sinking cash and playing? How did you do it? What gave you the opportunity?
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#2 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 04 May 2005 - 07:30 PM

Hello mike,
For me the skills neccessary to shoot 35mm can be divided into three categories: 1- The technical knowledge (exposure,processing etc).2- the practical on-set knowledge (how to load, thread, how to look after assorted camera parts etc) and 3-the creative aspect (how to light, and frame complelling images on 35mm). I think for a lot of people these skills are learnt sepereately through different avenues. For me I learnt most of the first categorie and also the basics of categories two and three at film school, good books can also help a lot to supplement the first categorie, however for the second categorie particularly I found that assisting or even just watching other experienced cinematographers using the 35mm format helped more than any book or class I had ever taken to show me what to and not to do when using these cameras. The third categorie is one that I feel is largely a matter of natural instinct and seems to be that unquantifable thing that seperates a great artist from someone who puts poop in a can and calls it art. However even the best artist can only achieve there full potential with much practice, and the third categorie relies mostly on experience- meaning, the more times you actually DP on 35mm the better you will get at it.
Cheer.
Tomas.
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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 04 May 2005 - 08:14 PM

Before I started in the business - American Cinematographer magazine. It was the best film school ever - I've been a subscriber since I was about 15 years old. In fact, when I went to some film workshops in Maine many years ago and attended the Basic Cinematography course - I got really bored because everything they went over I already knew from AC!

Later I learned the technical aspects of it as a clapper/loader and First AC. Good, valuable lessons to learn - you need to be familiar with the gear to realise it's full potential.

Exposure is just experience. I've always been kinda irreverent there and not afraid to take chances. I've screwed up sometimes, but less than I probably deserve. A very good rough guide to underexposure and latitude can actually be found on the Panic Room special edition DVD where the exposure and light tests are included and clearly marked.

As for lighting and composition - I'm still learning and I will do so for the rest of my life. But watching a lot of movies have been a great school and inspiration.
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#4 J. Lamar King

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Posted 04 May 2005 - 09:23 PM

Really, beside the specifics of certain equipment and formats, shooting with 35mm isn't any different than any other format.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 May 2005 - 11:39 PM

I spent ten years shooting in Super-8 and trying to make it look like 16mm. Then I spent about three years shooting 16mm trying to make it look like 35mm. By the time I started shooting in 35mm, it was easy to get good results (technically -- that pesky art-thing takes a lifetime to master...)

The question is, are you training to be a camera assistant or a DP?
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#6 Mike Pecci

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 11:32 AM

I spent ten years shooting in Super-8 and trying to make it look like 16mm. Then I spent about three years shooting 16mm trying to make it look like 35mm.  By the time I started shooting in 35mm, it was easy to get good results (technically -- that pesky art-thing takes a lifetime to master...)

The question is, are you training to be a camera assistant or a DP?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I?ve been training to be a DP and have shot about 15 short films, 1 Television pilot, 2 music videos, and recently my first feature. The unfortunate thing is that since film school (NYFA) they have all been on video. Main reason for that has been the independent scene here in Boston tends to want video. It?s been great because it has forced me to be ultra creative with video and stretch the limits of the format putting me high on this towns list, but there is always that tugging at my heart to become a ?professional? and that means finally shoot film. I have spent time slowly familiarizing myself with the gear and have surrounded myself with an exceptional lighting and camera crew. But I just haven?t had the chance to put my hands on the format and screw it up(I say that because I?m sure I will the first time and actually look forward to it. Seem to learn more that way). My strength has always been camera work (compositions and movement), lighting has taken me much longer to master (mainly back to the Indi thing again. Producers don?t want the large units or crew needed to maintain the lovely big sources). Needless to say it?s very frustrating. Sure I can go crew for people as a grip or AC (I?ve done it in the past). Carrying C-Stands and babysitting Lenses has taught me a lot so far. It just doesn?t give you the chance to test your concepts and skills as a DP. I know almost everyone on here is in the same boat, and I?m really not expecting the golden answer that will solve all my problems. There is a reason why most DP?s are over 40..haha. And no one is ready to pull someone up through the ranks just to have them take the future jobs. So I will keep struggling and if anyone has any tips or suggestions in which direction to struggle I would appreciate it greatly! Thanks for being here and continuing to inspire!
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#7 Mike Pecci

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 11:35 AM

Before I started in the business - American Cinematographer magazine. It was the best film school ever - I've been a subscriber since I was about 15 years old. In fact, when I went to some film workshops in Maine many years ago and attended the Basic Cinematography course - I got really bored because everything they went over I already knew from AC!

Later I learned the technical aspects of it as a clapper/loader and First AC. Good, valuable lessons to learn - you need to be familiar with the gear to realise it's full potential.

Exposure is just experience. I've always been kinda irreverent there and not afraid to take chances. I've screwed up sometimes, but less than I probably deserve. A very good rough guide to underexposure and latitude can actually be found on the Panic Room special edition DVD where the exposure and light tests are included and clearly marked.

As for lighting and composition - I'm still learning and I will do so for the rest of my life. But watching a lot of movies have been a great school and inspiration.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Thanks for your response. I went to your website and your work is stunning! Where did you go to school?
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#8 Austin Schmidt

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 12:58 PM

As everyone can attest to, this is an extremely hard business to get work in, especially in such an honorable and skill/experience role as the DP. For most people wanting to climb the ladder, the problem is more about finding the chances to "practice". How does a person wanting to become a DP find a director/producer who is willing to risk their whole production on your skill set as you are just getting your hands dirty? Even if you have all the training in the world it won't necessarily help you get the job because of a lack in hands on experience and comfort in the medium. Sometimes, it is through connections and friendships formed at film school or continual set work. That is the path I took and was able to make that work, but it only seemed to go so far, just as it seems in your case. My advice to you is to save as much money as necessary to purchase a film camera package. I would recommend putting enough money in to buy a quality camera such as a moviecam or arri synch package rather then an mos rig as that will allow you to do more work in all realms of narrative, commercial, and music video.

It is extremely hard to paint without brushes and if you somehow get "lucky" in being able to do so, it will certainly be a longer time then most like to put in. The key is to be able to provide your potential clients with something that most of your competitors can not. Why should they take the risk in hiring you? Because you can provide them with camera equipment that saves them money. It may mean you will be shooting low budget and student films that pay very little but at least it pays something for the equipment use and you will be able to add footage to your reel. This will ultimately allow you to shoot films and gain experience as you gain a wider clientele base. I took this route as soon as I left film school and after a lot of hard work, and Ramen noodle dinners I am able to do this for a living at a very young age. Is this the best way to do it? Certainly not as it is a huge financial risk and obligation, but it is one way, and you can make it work as long as you are willing to take that risk.
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#9 Rik Andino

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 02:50 PM

I somewhat agree with A. Schmidt
Getting a film camera is an easy way to insure you shoot film...
Easy being a relative term...since getting a film camera is not really easy.

Owning a film camera (I recommend S16) forces you to shoot more film...
It marries you to the film format for however long you have the equipment.

Granted most of the work you'll be offered won't be the best
Mostly students and low budget indies who can't afford to rent at full price
But in a few years you'll have a long list of film projects you shot.
& very important you'll have the experience to compete in the film world.


Your two other option are:
Shoot some of your own stuff on film with your own money...
Rent a camera, buy film, pay for the post and developing, etc...
Of course you'll be using your own cash--it's better to learn on someone else's $.

Or you can find students or low budget productions & offer your services for free
On projects that you really really want to work on that will shoot on film.

It's very hard to break into the business (as has been already stated)
And it's even harder not to be pigeonholed into a certain position.
If people see you as a videographer or video shooter
They won't see you as a film shooter
& will be relunctant to use for their film projects
Especially over a more experienced film shooter.
Only if you're willing to up the ante to compete--
Meaning work for free or providing a deal that they can't refuse.

Getting work is all about marketing and selling yourself.
Shooting on film is all about practice and experience.
You have to jump into the pool to learn to swim...it's the same with filmmaking.


Good Luck
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#10 Nate Downes

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 04:57 PM

Don't even need S16, I've gotten work with a wind-up B&H 200EE magazine 16mm camera, about as old and obsolete as you can get. But it got me in the door, and now I have a few cameras to shoot with.
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#11 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 06:37 PM

The problem with owning gear is that you get hired for owning gear. And you have to ask yourself if that's where you want to be? It can be a good way to build a reel - but it can also mean you have to shoot 20 shorts that suck and that won't advance you or take you to the next level.

Quantity in the film biz is worthless.

Edited by AdamFrisch, 05 May 2005 - 06:38 PM.

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#12 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 06:41 PM

Thanks for your response.  I went to your website and your work is stunning!  Where did you go to school?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Thank you. I'm more or less self-taught except for some 2 month workshops in the USA.
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#13 Matt Pacini

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 02:09 PM

The problem with owning gear is...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I agree in theory, but I keep asking this question, and keep NOT getting answer:

How many of you guys who keep telling people it's bad to own gear, who are now working DP's, got to that point WITHOUT having owned your own gear at some earlier point in your career?


Matt Pacini
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 02:21 PM

How many of you guys who keep telling people it's bad to own gear, who are now working DP's, got to that point WITHOUT having owned your own gear at some earlier point in your career?
Matt Pacini

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I learned by shooting Super-8, so I owned a Super-8 camera. I never really earned a living from it (OK, one karaoke video was shot with it.)

I'm against someone going into debt to buy an expensive 35mm or Super-16 package with some idea that THEN they can get work with it. I'm also against buying a camera package to shoot one's own feature unless there are mitigating circumstances (like it being shot only on weekends over a long period of time) because one can usually rent a MUCH better package than one can ever afford to own.

But I don't have a problem with someone buying an inexpensive set-up as a learning tool, like a Super-8 or DV package, or really basic 16mm, as long as they are not under the illusion that owning gear is an easy way of getting work.

For anyone to really LEARN, they have to be able to shoot a lot and make mistakes, so whatever system or format they choose to learn with, it should be cheap to use.
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#15 Matt Pacini

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Posted 09 May 2005 - 02:48 PM

"...  I'm against someone going into debt to buy an expensive 35mm or Super-16 package with some idea that THEN they can get work with it.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I'll certainly agree with you there.

I've spent maybe $5,000-ish on my 16mm gear (including lighting), but I'm with you;
these guys who pop $20K+ on a camera rig for the sole purpose of getting work with it, are probably going to take 15 years just to make the money back.

But I don't think it's a bad idea to spend a couple thousand on a decent 16mm camera setup to at least get some decent Material for a reel going.

OK, now you let the cat out of the bag:
We want you to post your S8 kareoke video!

MP
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#16 Mike Pecci

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Posted 09 May 2005 - 02:53 PM

I'll certainly agree with you there.

I've spent maybe $5,000-ish on my 16mm gear (including lighting), but I'm with you;
these guys who pop $20K+ on a camera rig for the sole purpose of getting work with it, are probably going to take 15 years just to make the money back.

But I don't think it's a bad idea to spend a couple thousand on a decent 16mm camera setup to at least get some decent Material for a reel going.

OK, now you let the cat out of the bag:
We want you to post your S8 kareoke video!

MP

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



HAHA yeah!
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#17 Eugene Lehnert

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 11:30 AM

I just took a look at Adam's website and his stuff does look great. I really liked the obsessed guy in the volvo commercial. How was that look accomplished? Was a lot of the color done in post?
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#18 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 02:11 PM

Thanks.
That was done in telecine entirely. I lit the exteriors with uncorrected tungsten, but I didn't use much at all (too little in retrospect - I miss a glint in the eye myself).
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#19 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 13 May 2005 - 02:25 PM

Adam

beautiful work.

Can you provide some detals on how you shot the stunning User "to feel", specifically the

close ups on the beach of water and rocks
beauty close ups in the cloudy scenes on the barge - with the crown
and the shots of her on the board - her bottom left in frame
the lighting on the barge
did you ask for anything special for make up to hands ang faces considering the look out of TK

The entire video is available at

http://www.s56.com/V...?subArtist=User

thanks

Rolfe
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#20 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 14 May 2005 - 04:21 PM

Thanks, Rolfe.

Well, sometimes you get lucky.

That video is full of half-assed mistakes and the shortest shooting schedule ever. 2 locations, one short autumn day, water, barges and surf boards. Recipe for disaster.

Close-ups on the barge is a 2,5kw HMI's in a Chimera (straight in her face above camera) and graduated filters for the sky. The make-up artist was a top notch still girl and I think that really helped (she got paid more than I did, I recall). They're wet too, which doesn't hurt.

The framing on the board was a combination of trying to frame the wake of the chase boat out and the fact that the eyepiece was completely fogged up! Couldn't see a thing!

The crane shot was one of two we had time to get - both were mistakes that ended up all over the place and grossly missing their mark - they decided to cut it in which I probably wouldn't have done.

The water-stuff is me wading around trying to stabilise the splash box with sand bags, finally giving up in the freezing water and deciding that a wobbly horizon is "creative" and "fresh".

Despite all this it somehow turned out quite good. I like the grade and I got lucky with the sun in the morning and the heavy skies in the afternoon.

Happy accidents, as Conrad L. Hall used to call them.

BTW, it was shot with one of my favorite series of lenses - the older zeiss T2.1's.

Edited by AdamFrisch, 14 May 2005 - 04:24 PM.

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