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transitioning from practicing w/ cheap gear to planning with Pro gear

preproduction lighting package lighting diagram

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#1 Tarik Nathan

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 03:04 AM

I was wondering how does one transition from the learning phases of practicing lighting scenes with what you can afford ( basic tungstens, DIY Grip gear, consumer bulbs and other stuff) to being able to plan scenes confidently without those limitations.

 

 

Do you know that your daylight gymnasium scene will need 12k HMI's to get those shafts of light the way you want because of 1st hand experience? deferring to a gaffer? educated guess? photometric calculations?

 

The same question would also apply to camera packages. Do you ever recommend to a director a camera package you haven't used before? what was the basis of that decision?

 


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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 06:09 AM

There are books and online resources that allow you to get up to speed with techniques and equipment before you get to use them. You'll find it's usually a gradual process and you don't need to own the lighting gear, it can be rented. On the larger shoots people commonly start in the less senior grades, so they see how experienced DPs light scenes before they do it themselves..    


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#3 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 07:11 AM

It's pretty simple really. Practise, practise, practise. Learn as much as you can from the no-budget projects, hop on to bigger projects as an extra pair of hands. Watch, listen, learn.

If you can get in with a gaffer, and particularly one who wants you to learn. You'll pick up the basics fairly quickly.

 

As far as camera packages go, there's always times and reasons for thinking a particular camera will be best suited to the job at hand. If I were asked to do a tonne of work in super low light conditions (night exteriors without much local area lighting), and I had a limited lighting crew or package - these days I'd probably suggest the Varicam as an option.

Sometimes, when I'm worried about having enough coverage on a single-camera shoot with two tight a schedule, I might suggest shooting Red in 5k or 6k to provide greater opportunities for reframing in the edit.

If I have a particularly high contrast location to deal with, or a really limited lighting package, I'd tend towards the Alexa because it's broader latitude is more forgiving of such situations than any other camera out there.

 

Certain situations simply demand particular strengths over any other characteristics.


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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 11:26 AM

Going to film school is one option. Even a community college course can hook you up with more experienced filmmakers that you can learn from. Read books, read forums, ask questions. Volunteer on a feature film. Keep broadening your network and try to work with more knowledable and experienced people, especially professionals who are already in the industry.

I did all these things when I was starting out until I developed enough of a skill set to get hired as a PA and then an AC. I shot projects for students and friends on the side to apply what I was learning. It's an ongoing process that never ends.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 12:25 PM

I think there comes a point in your career when you do make an educated guess on some things. Now this comes out of reading and learning and listening, but sooner or later you have to make an educated guess as to what's needed (for example,  that 18K for the night  scene on a giant condor down the block). Of course when you are educatedly guessing as a DOP at a high level you generally have higher level crew around you who have used say an 18K before and will know what to do with it (and if not the gaffer the best boy etc).

As for cameras, yes I have often suggested a camera i've never used before and i've often been thrust a camera i've never used before. In those situations you  read up on the cameras as much as you can and if you get teh chance to you go and play with it in the rental house. Thankfully normally the Acs know the menues and I can just look at the image it makes. Generally i'll recommend an un-tested camera based on what i've heard about it, read about it (e.g. the a7sii is great in low-light, we used it on a web-series because we had to shoot in a strip club at night with no supplemental lighting, and a bar, and a dim parking lot, again, no lighting allowed on the permit, and it worked fine. I'd never used it before).


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#6 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 01:55 PM

Read "American Cinematographer".  

 

In the articles for the "big" movies you'll find

some scene breakdowns lightning wise - what instrument/s and

how are used to achieve the look.

 

There is an online (free) archive on their site:
American Cinematographer - Online Archives

 

Cheers.
I.

 


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#7 Tarik Nathan

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 04:17 AM

Thanks guys for the great advice. I thought about film school, but I did the college thing already and don't want to add to student debt. I would rather spend that on gear and the occasional workshops. I do subscribe to AC Mag and frequent some prominent DP blogs. I think what I feel like I'm lacking is real on set experience as well. Matt I really like your suggestion of trying to get in with a good gaffer. Any suggestions for the least creepy way to approach this?


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#8 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 04:43 AM

Thanks guys for the great advice. I thought about film school, but I did the college thing already and don't want to add to student debt. I would rather spend that on gear and the occasional workshops. I do subscribe to AC Mag and frequent some prominent DP blogs. I think what I feel like I'm lacking is real on set experience as well. Matt I really like your suggestion of trying to get in with a good gaffer. Any suggestions for the least creepy way to approach this?

 

As to getting in with a Gaffer, my suggestion would be to look them up, get a sense of the work they've done (or better yet, watch some things they've lit - so you can actually reference their work). Then call them up, tell them how impressed you were with their work on **whatever** project, then explain how you're looking to learn more about the craft, and ask if you could intern/volunteer for them.

 

Flattery and freebies are the best ways I know of to ingratiate yourself with someone (in any field)! :)


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