STEADY CAMERAS (the evolving composition)

Ever had an amazing idea for a Steadicam shot? It's simple right? If you want smooth flowing camera movement that covers more ground and is more flexible than a dolly, you just bang your camera on a Steadicam and away you go! If only it were that simple hehe :) Keeping in mind that as I type this, technology is quickly catching up to that possibility. Simple, AFFORDABLE, smooth, flexible camera movement is coming and I'm damn well excited :) (Gimbal stabalizing technology built onto the sensor for example)


My obsession with moving the camera started when I first got my 5D Mark II and the Glidecam Pro 4000, back in 2009. Just like most film-makers out there, I wanted to do all the cool shit Hollywood was doing without the cool gear that Hollywood had to do it! Slow pushes, sweeping arcs, cranes and tracking shots that covered some serious ground...but where was my chapman dolly, steady tracks, techno cane and motorized head? Not in my grasp is where. So, after building a couple of dollys that ultimately, didn't really work, I decided to (dare I say) MASTER the Glidecam. The clip below is collection of shots that I captured on my adventures about 5 years ago over the course of a years worth of practice, that's right, a year of trying different weights, different lengths, different lenses, different drop times, different walking styles and also, a year of pushups hehe ;) 

Then I got bored with slow controlled movement and decided to make a clip where I literally RAN with the Glidecam >>>


The art of flying Steadicam is definitely something that not only requires a a good sense of composition but also a massive amount of technical knowledge, patience, strength and most importantly, a MASSIVE amount of practice time. Jo Simon put out a nice tutorial to get you started, check it out HERE :)

Several years later, I purchased my very own RED Scarlet-X. I think my very first blog post talks about those days actually...but suffice to say, the convenient days of DSLR shooting were about to change for me, at the time, in favor of High Dynamic Range, High Bit Depth, RAW video recording. This all came at a cost though......WEIGHT. 

A V-Lock battery that lasts longer than 40 minutes weighs almost double what a 5DII does. Put that on the back of a camera like the RED Scarlet-X, plus a matte-box, remote follow focus, monitor and let's not forget, lens, and you're stepping into "I'm gonna need a much bigger rig to fly this thing" territory. With the added weight comes added bulk and serious limitations to flexible movement. What once was literally a few kilos and a one arm job (don't go there), I now had to invest time and money into a bigger rig.

Thinking that I could just plonk my Red Scarlet-X onto the Glidecam was a bit ambitious after literally trying to fly it without a vest, I in"vest"ed in the Glidecam-X10 arm kit to go with my pre-existing Glidecam 4000 Pro. This was going to help with the weight. Even then it wasn't really a compatible system but I did manage to get some fairly decent results. 

I've written about my experiences with the Glidecam and Red Scarlet-X in greater detail HERE if you're interested. It covers issues that I had powering the camera, monitoring, etc. Eventually though, I decided that I needed something more stable, easier to fly and with power/monitoring options already built in.

And then came along eBay :) I got rid of the Glidecam X-10 and picked up the CAME steadicam for just over a grand, delivered! Here's a link to it > CAME STEADICAM

After playing with the rig for a about a week, I began to get a good feeling for it. It was totally different to flying a single human arm, no vest Glidecam, although the principals were the same. The camera is just SO much heavier and responds differently to a DSLR. The CAME Steadicam is amazing and for the price, it solved all of my immediate struggles with flying the Scarlet :) Don't get me wrong, it's no REAL Steadicam replacement. In other words, yes it's possible to get decent results with it, but things like build quality, adjust-ability, comfort of the vest, ease of balance etc, cannot be compared with that of the Zephyr for example. But then again, you could buy TEN of the CAME Steadicam units (delivered), or ONE of these > STEADICAM ZEPHYR

So, value for money is not something worth debating. In fact, the CAME Steadicam is too cheap not to buy if you're looking at learning how to fly.

So I gradually got better at flying this thing and began offering my services as a "Steadicam Operator" in addition to my cinematography packages. That choice didn't fair well with other true Steadicam Pro's out there but hey, at the end of the day it's always about the final result, and dare I say I've been getting some decent results :)

Here's a few clips from recent films that I DP'd and shot "Steadicam" for, using the CAME unit.

The above shot was something Daniel Pearson and I came up with for his film 'Thrombosis'. It's actually my favorite steadicam shot ever :)  

These shots (out of order and un-graded) were a result of many nights of pre-production with Director Rahul Perry-Prasad for his film 'Some Kind of Beautiful' which excitingly has been accepted to screen at Cannes Short Film Corner! Fucking epic :) So excited for you guys!!

The two above are from a film I shot for director Joseph Russell called 'Queen Of The Bees' which made it to the New York International Film festival! We are super excited for our next film which is currently in the works...a feature length this time, and yes, with lots of steadicam action hehe :) You'll notice in these shots there's a fair bit of micro judder/vibrations. Part of that has to do with my walking/operating (too heavy footed) and the fact that I over-loaded the rig...I was a few kg's over it's 15kg limit.

So, camera movement can add a lot to what normally might not be a very interesting shot. But even if you can fly (and I'm still learning), there's another huge challenge. Lighting. Because your composition is constantly changing and more of your environment is coming into view, it can be really difficult to light your scene without showing the lights themselves! Planning your shot is really important. 



The diagram to the left is what Director Jad Olivier and I came up with after a brief visit to the location for the film Mr. Ghost. As you can see from the final shot though (below), we ended up changing the first bend because it was literally too difficult to hide the lights!

We also ended up scrapping the overhead Kino because the house was super old and we didn't really have safe rigging equipment to get it up there. Instead we moved one of the 2.5K's up above on the stairwell.

Lighting for the film was supposed to be very stylized and although I think we achieved what we were going for, next time I'd soften it up a bit. Also, if you watch closely you can see a lens flair towards the end of the hard to hide those lights!! 



Since then I've been asked to shoot a lot more steadicam, and with that demand came for even more challenging setups...

If you've never used Shot Designer Pro (phone and tablet app), then you gotta get on it. Much better than a pen and paper, it's fricken awesome. I'll be doing a more in depth post about that later. 

Anyway, the above shot was for the feature film "Chloe Lives" which we only just wrapped for a few weeks ago (hence why I can't show you the result just yet). Notice how there are no lighting icons in the diagram? That's because there was literally NO WHERE I could place lights! Luckily it was fairly "lit" already with practicals, and the constant movement and business of the shot helps hide the fact that maybe it was under-lit ;) The cafe was on the second level of a the building so I couldn't even put lights outside the windows! Lighting aside, the shot was tough. Not so much because of crafty moves (it was relatively simple) but due to the sheer lack of space and the challenges that low budget film-making bring - we had no wireless video for my focus puller/1st AC Kate Tartsus! She was following me throughout the whole shot, as was our sound department was chaos! But we got the shot...16 takes later hehe :)

I think it's an awesome thing to be able to offer a Steadicam service, even if you aren't a pro. Just make sure you get the practice hours in and watch that horizon! There's a huge community committed to sharing knowledge about the art of flying Steadicam, so make sure you explore that on your journey. If some fuck-tard tells you "don't bother flying yourself, just hire a pro", kindly ignore them and go about your business, but then again, don't do something stupid like testing your new rig out for a day and then start calling yourself a Steadicam op. I personally have learned a few things "wrong" and they're super hard to un-learn (walking style, monitoring setup, etc). Practice hours, strength and the ability to balance different setups is key, but so is knowing what looks good in a dynamically changing composition.

Also, when discussing shots with your director, make sure you question the use of steadicam. There's nothing more annoying than a director asking for a steadicam shot that doesn't really need to be a steadicam shot. Use this power for good! Use it to reveal environments and draw your viewer in...use it to tell better stories...don't just use it because it's cool.

Wrapping up, I'm sure we can all agree that camera movement, if done right, is just sexy. I'm still learning how to best incorporate that movement in a way that best services a script and it's awesome fun, especially when your director works with you in achieving that goal.

Another film I shot with Jad Olivier, titled 'The Constants', is about to enjoy a festival run. We experimented with some awesome camera movement in that film - below is one of my favorite shots. Can't wait to collaborate with you again mate (and what a crew!) :)

That smooth jib was operated by Brayden Alden, and man what a feat! He skillfully flew the camera above that antique was nerve racking and awesome to watch :) Nice work buddy!! Here's a few BTS shots from the night...

Posted on February 19, 2015 .

VISA SHOOT & THE SONY A7S (risking the hype)

Recently I was contacted by good friend, amazing actor and talented Director Ben Mcnamara about shooting a commercial for VISA..."HELL YEAH!!" was my initial reaction, as I've always wanted to work with Ben on the same side of the camera. Anyway, after reading the brief, studying the mood board and watching the reference clips my "HELL YEAH!!" turned into a subtle "OH SHIT!". Even though VISA are a massive company, there are always budget constraints to consider. In this case we were time poor and restricted to a very small crew...oh....and NO lights.

When discussing what camera we should use, my initial suggestion was to shoot RED, not because I'm a fanboy (seriously, I'm the opposite), but because it's a camera I know very well and work quickly with. Confidently assuring your employer that you can deliver what you say you can deliver is part of the job, but ACTUALLY delivering is far more important. With the Scarlet, I'm well aware of its strengths and weaknesses and I know where it can be pushed...which brings me to why we decided against it.

Let's go back to "NO LIGHTS" for a second. Now, before we get into the whole "low light" camera debate, this really is a situation where the RED would suffer. Don't get me wrong, I've had great success with my Scarlet in low light (Low Light Ignite!) but that was planned, refined and in a controlled environment. This shoot for VISA was the complete opposite - and then some. The sheer amount of shots that were scheduled for the time we had, was crazy, and although the locations were awesome, they varied from full direct sunlight to dark bowling alleys and under-lit cafes...and to top it off, I had to shoot at 50p so my light was cut in half! 

What camera's are available today that can reliably capture quality 1080/50p (no moire or aliasing), record to cheap internal media, support almost any lens type, allow for 1080p out via HDMI whilst recording internally, have the ability to shoot "flat", have a codec that can (although only 8-bit) be pushed around in post, weigh as much as a V-Lock battery, can be mounted on a bike with ease and is light enough to shoot all day without breaking your shoulder....ANNNNND.....shoot in virtually NO light without an issue? Let's not forget the full frame sensor either :) There aren't many. In fact, I could only think of one (Jan 2015).


So after reading that, you might see why I considered this camera over the RED, but my decision had to be backed by confidence which meant testing the thing in person :) Was all the hype true? You bet....but hype aside, there are honest reviews out there that help make decisions like this much easier. Guys like Dave Dugdale are massively helping the community we work in, and I for one really appreciate the time and effort he puts into his reviews, thanks mate!! :) After watching this (Dave's Sony A7S review), I pretty much knew what to expect from the camera, but even then I had to test it for myself before the shoot. A day of Recce with Ben and the camera was enough to seal the deal...this camera is SICK!!

The A7s isn't perfect though...certainly not a RED Scarlet replacement. The codec, although pretty darn good is only 8-bit and if for example you shoot with an incorrect white balance, it falls apart pretty quickly when correcting that in post. For this job though, it was all hand held, supposed to look a little raw (not THAT raw ;) and the grade was being handled by the client who had asked for a flat picture style. I had been given references as to what the final grade would look like and was confident delivering footage like what you see above. I shot the entire thing s-LOG2 (Sony's FLAT picture style) which has a base ISO of 3200. 





That's right, 3,200 ISO as a BASE. Of all the advantages I could have ask for on a shoot like this, I think that one alone was the deciding factor for me. Just to put things into perspective, a RED Scarlet's "base" ISO (which is still being debated about almost 4 years after it's conception) is either 320, OR 800, depending on which forum god ( you try and interact with. Regardless, I think you'll see my point that when it comes to sensitivity and image quality, the Sony A7S smashes the RED out of the park when shooting above 800 about 12,800 ISO? See below :) 

Did I mention that even though the brief said, NO LIGHTS, I through in 2 of my 1000 LED panels anyway ;) 

Sure, there's no RAW, and the highlights clip quicker, but the above shot would not have been possible to shoot as nicely with a RED, considering the light levels. Even with the two LED's I brought with me (hehe) I had to shoot this at a crazy high ISO to get decent exposure, but how clean is it?!?!?! Unbelievably clean for 12,800 ISO :) Lighting wise I bounced a tungsten LED off a white board on the ground, and another 5600K LED camera left, off of the red curtains. Then it was time to head outside....full sun....

With a shit-tonne of ND and shutter of 1/100th (for the 50p), we were set to shoot in any location! The rig we had was built from a few bits and pieces, crafted by my awesome AC, Kate Tartsus :) Wireless HD video for the client was up 100% of the time and worked flawlessly. With the super packed schedule we had, I don't think it would have been possible (regardless of how awesome this camera performed) without the help of an amazing crew. A big thanks to Kate Tartsus, Kate Murphy, Ben, Bobby, Natalie, Tomas and 1st AD Sean Tu for creating an awesome experience on set! 

Check out the finished clip below...I had nothing to do with post on this one, but I think it come up pretty nice all things considered. It's such a luxury to be able to see your own work so quickly after shoot day - I think the guys at Hub Productions (Marco especially!) had a rough edit done the day after!! All time-laps was done by Ben Mcnamara (nice work mate!)

*** This clip has been compressed 3 times, so not much use for pixel peeping sorry, I don't have the original but was lucky enough to be able to share this :) ***

You might have noticed that not one of those shots was actually played back at 50% speed, so turns out I could have shot at 1/50th 25p which would have looked much nicer, but hey, it's good to have the option and that's what the client asked for :) 

So, is the Sony A7s the ultimate full frame camera? Maybe right now it is.....when it comes to low light performance, it can't be overlooked. The biggest gripes I had with the thing were battery life (can be solved) and lack of RAW, but for $ can't really complain. Full frame, usable 12,800 ISO, LOG modes, over-cranking without compromise, 1.6x crop mode (awesome feature!), support for almost any lens, decent latitude even though 8-bit, surprisingly good built-in viewfinder, full res HDMI out, recordable 4K output via HDMI, decent after-market cages and rigs, cheap media, small enough to go almost anywhere. For certain jobs, considering the price, it's perfect :) Again, it's not a RED replacement, no way, but it does have a place on my camera shelf.  


Posted on February 18, 2015 .

MAKE OR BREAK (#setlife #woddup)

Follow this link to my Vimeo Page for the moving shot: [MTS]Films Vimeo Page

Follow this link to my Vimeo Page for the moving shot: [MTS]Films Vimeo Page

Big budgets, big lights, amazing cameras and gourmet food don't mean SHIT if you're surrounded by people with big egos who don't really seem to be phased about the film we're all working so hard to make. "Let's work as a team and do it my way" can sometimes be the underlying tone of a film-set that pushes me to new levels of tolerance and ultimately leaves me feeling like time has been wasted. Thankfully, this shoot was nothing like that. We've almost finished shooting the pilot for a new Australian TV series "Make or Break" Written and Directed by Thomas Petrakos (A mega friendly and talented bloke). I know I've written about this before, but I continuously find myself happier and more in-line with what I want to do in life when I surround myself with friendly, passionate people who are also striving to do their absolute best and contribute to the art of Film Making, as a TEAM, which is exactly the sort of "setlife" I experienced on Make or Break. 

"Setlife", frequently hash-tagged on Instagram and Twitter,  often shows the glamorous side of the life we film-makers would all like to be living. The exclusivity of being part of a film crew, working with stars and people of note, closing down roads and temporarily shutting down businesses, breaking for meals and eating together like family, marching around with special passes that access restricted areas, playing with guns and blowing up cars, after-parties and red's all very intoxicating and exciting. But, there's often another side of "setlife" that isn't so glamorous. For example, imagine working with people from all walks of life who all have different opinions about how things should be done, working with little sleep (sometimes 16 hour days) when sometimes, open and clear communication just simply cannot be achieved, placing everyone under pressure so great that it feels like the world may come to an end (a little dramatic I know). This sort of environment often brings out the worst in people, including me. BUT! With the right people, it can also draw the crew together, turn the cogs of collaboration and result in such a rewarding, fulfilling experience that makes all the struggles worth while. That, is worthy of the #setlife hash-tag. That, is what it's all about! Pulling together, working together and being respectful along the way. Big budgets, big lights, amazing cameras, gourmet food AND a crew of people who work as a team communicating openly and clearly, all pushing their own limits of greatness and creativity to reach a common goal. Does such a world exist? You bet! And I can't wait to be part of it :)

ANYWAY! Russell Brand's book REVOLUTION is starting to rub off on me....better get back to the blog ;) 

The time we had to light this film was scarce, but Tom and 1st AD, Andrew Cruickshank DID let me push the boundaries of schedule and I was able to, by the 5th and last take, tweak my lighting to a level of comfort (I'm rarely happy with my lighting...I could tweak and tweak for hours if I had the time). In fact, the little amount of time we did have was used efficiently thanks to the awesome gaffing team I had with me, Glen Cook and PiDicus Rex :) While I'm mentioning crew, I shouldn't and can't forget my amazing camera crew, Kate Tartsus (1st AC) and Jessa Rose (2nd AC/Data Wrangler). You guys are amazing :)

 Although the film is still in production, Tom has been kind enough to let me share with you a couple of grabs from the film, before it's actual public campaign begins (one moving shot from the cafe too! Thanks mate :)

Check out the LIGHTING section at the top of the page to see diagrams and breakdowns.

We didn't have the budget for a truck full of lights, so we hired a a few HMI's (575w and 1.2K) and backed that up with my small tungsten kit and a couple of LEDs. Granted, I'd wish (all three) for  a massive truck(s) full of the biggest, brightest lights money can buy, along with all the modifiers and gels too, but you certainly don't NEED that stuff, right? It just makes things easier, and I guess, would give you more choices. I've actually never used anything brighter than a 2.5K maybe I'm talking out of my ass. I do find myself wanting larger sources the more I shoot though, I guess I'll have to wait for those "big budget" films before I continue writing like I've been there hehe ;)

Anyway, lighting aside, this was the first film that I have ever used Pro-Mist filters. Basically, a Pro-Mist filter is a piece of 4x4 glass this sits in front of the lens, lessens contrast, rolls off highlights and depending on the strength you chose, soaks your image with a soft, pleasing, but barely noticeable glow, WITHOUT reducing sharpness or detail. Recently, I was lucky enough to visit, in person the "B&H Photo and Video" super store, in New York. Here, I spent a good deal of cash on a few pieces of this magical glass and I'm absolutely loving what they do to my highlights. While 1/8th was basically in the matte-box the whole time, I'd sometimes jump for the thicker, denser 1/4 or in some cases, the 1/2 Pro-Mist. When a light source is in frame, it just blooms and cries with beauty...sometimes a little much, but man, I'm loving the varying degrees of halation these filters offer. 

As the film progresses through production and eventually into post, I'll be updating the blog with additional lighting setups from this shoot and talking more about blocking and set design. Thanks Thomas Petrakos for letting me share a couple of frames with the film making community!

If you're interested in learning more about how I light my films (I'm still learning) be sure to check out the LIGHTING section at the top of the page. Here, you'll find other breakdowns from films I've shot and lit in my short career. Thanks for visiting! #goodpeople 

Click on the image above to learn more about how I lit this shot at the LIGHTING section of my website. 

Posted on January 6, 2015 .

A WORLD OF GREEN...[ The Parting Gift ]

ABOVE: Ben Mcnamara, lead actor in The Parting Gift, always bringing his A-Game, which is game changing. He's awesome!

I've shot green screen before, but it's never been this intense or important that I get it right. When Chris contacted me asking if I'd be interested in shooting his next film "The Parting Gift", ENTIRELY on green screen, I jumped at the opportunity with excitement :)

I'll never forget the day that I stumbled across a chroma key tutorial at Creative Cow almost a decade ago, in which (my hero) Andrew Kramer taught me all about spill suppression and how to create a nice key. I shot my very first chroma key test with my brand new (at the time) Sony Z1 and boy did I learn a lot about the importance of compression, chroma sampling and why I need a true progressive camera. Since then I've been required to light and shoot insert shots for various films and music videos over the years, but often they were a static camera where the shot might only last for a few seconds on screen, if that.

Above: A chroma key shot for the music video "Ain't That A Bitch" by Twelve Foot Ninjas

The green screen requirements for The Parting Gift were completely different, and much more challenging. For one, it wasn't just a few seconds, it was an entire film, and two, they weren't just static fact, Chris was clear from the beginning that every shoot would incorporate some sort of camera movement...dollying, pushing, tracking, booming, you name it! Fortunately, visualizing what Chris wanted was easy because he had already completely animated the entire film in 3D, in addition to the stunning story boards you see here.

Having a super clear picture of what Chris was going for creatively, I then had to make sure that the technical aspects were covered. How much light would be needed to light the chroma key adequately? How much and what sort of light would I need to light the scene and actors? How much space would we need to move and position a 13ft Jimmy jib and a new York taxi?

The space we had wasn't glamorous, but with some clever heads and hands, we knew could make it work (or at least give it a decent crack). A few test shots and it was game on! Once again, Chris' 3D model came in handy because it was actually to awesome :) Moving and positioning the jib without interfering with the space or casting shadows wasn't easy! Luckily we had the help of talented and technical, Luke Skilbeck (jib owner/operator) and his awesome crew who were able take the lead in that department. The smooth and fluid motion you'll see later below is a result of Luke controlling the jib and sometimes Chris at the front controlling the head.

Lighting the film was a massive challenge. My usual approach is to visit the shooting location, take a look at what light is already there and enhance it while staying true to the tone of the film and the scene at hand. Since there were no locations to visit, and no pre-existing light sources to enhance, I had to really get into a different head space and think about where light would be coming from. Let's not forget that I also had  to light and expose a usable green background behind every shot and on top of that, I had to think about motion tracking markers, parallax issues and depth of field.

My first goal was to sufficiently light the chroma key BG. Our budget was tight, so 4 x 4Bank Kinoflows with daylight balanced tubes would have to do. Lighting for the actors had to be flexible, powerful and preferably daylight balanced (so as to keep noise levels to a minimum). Some scenes were at night, others at sunset and some in the middle of the day.

Lighting kit (hired from LITEMUP in Melbourne)

4 x Kino Flow (daylight balanced tubes) 

2 x 2.5k HMI

2 x 575w HMI

3 x 1000 LED panels (daylight balanced)

2 x 650w Tungsten Fresnels

2 x 300w Tungsten Fresnels

Working with Dan von Czarnecki (best gaffer in the biz) was a pleasure :) With the time pressure we had, Dan's quick, creative and problem solving mind got us over the edge. Dan has gaffed for me a few times now and I highly recommend him :)

I mentioned depth of field a second ago, and for this particular project it was super important. Using a shallow depth of field is a great way to separate foreground and background, helping guide your viewer to where you want them to look. Unfortunately for this shoot I didn't have that luxury because keeping tracking markers relatively sharp was crucial for the tracking software to work.

With the light levels I had the budget for, my exposure would be sitting around f4 at best (taking into account the light loss I had because of the polarizer). On a super 35mm sensor (1.6x crop) rated at 800iso, I was pushing exposure. Normally that doesn't really worry me, but for this shoot I had to keep in mind that the shot wouldn't work if the key wasn't clean. I was often right on the edge....

With all of these challenges at hand, what really made the difference was not only Chris's genius pre-production, but the actors who were able to put themselves in a world that did not yet exist. Eye lines, screen space and reacting to things that weren't there...I was amazed by the talent and professionalism we had on set. I've worked with Ben Macnamara (lead) before, but never in this capacity. What an absolute legend!

Check out a compilation of my favorite shots, pre-keyed....

A private screening for the cast and crew happens later this month and the film will be released publicly, shortly after that :) Stay tuned! We're all very excited :)


Posted on November 13, 2014 .

YOU MUST HAVE A REALLY GOOD CAMERA! ( I do, but that's not the point )

"Wow! Cool shot! But of course it is, you've got a RED you lucky thing...what lens? "

You may have heard something similar before, and it does get frustrating. We spend hours, days, long nights, weeks away from our loved ones and years dedicating ourselves to the craft of photography (motion or stills) only to be summed up in a few seconds by the brand or logo on the side of our camera, which mind you, had nothing to do with luck - that logo cost a lot of money and required a lot of hard work to attain ;) Fortunately, I actually do think that most people, even the ones who say things like the quote above, DO know that the camera is only a part of the equation. "Wow, this food tastes delicious! You must have a really good oven..." Seems to expose the flaws of such a compliment even better, but you get my point ;)

I was a bit tricky when I posted these tests. Firstly, I knew that the Sony A7s had only just been released, which mind you, already has a reputation for being a low-light, full frame pocket sized monster. So I used words to describe this video that aligned with the strengths of the new Sony. I basically played on the hype that new camera's seem to get these days, and that's the point of this article.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark II  Lens: Canon Kit Lens 24-105 f4 L  Light: Overcast daylight, Flames  Exposure: F4, 1/50th, 1250ISO

Download the above clip in 14-bit RAW .DNG and process it yourself (see DOWNLOAD SECTION), or grab a single RAW .DNG frame HERE :)

With a new camera/sensor being released every 6 months or less, it makes sense that companies push their product like there's no tomorrow - boasting new features like cleaner images, super sensitive sensors, higher dynamic range, amazing colour rendition, better resolution, etc, etc. The problem is, people seem to be getting carried away with the hype! Hype'd specs (or even actual specs) are NOT what makes nice images.

I was originally going to shoot this test with my RED Scarlet-X, but lately I've been playing with Magic Lantern (much love to you guys!!!) and the 5D Mark II. Being mindful of the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the 5DII, using this super hack,  I've been getting some really, REALLY nice results. The workflow is SLOW, but the video quality is astonishing. I also revel in the fact that my 9yr old DSLR camera in some ways out-performs my RED. But I'll get into that later. For now, I just want you look at these test videos and think about how little the camera has to do with the shot. Actually, if you could imagine that these images were captured by the new Dragon sensor, or the new Sony A7s, how much would you want that camera? I mean look at the skin tones, the sharpness, how clean those blacks are at 1250iso (don't visit reduser if you don't want to talk about noise issues and the dragon), and look how much detail is in those flames! Could it be possible these clips were actually shot with a 5D Mark II through the 24-105 wide open (which has been through absolute hell)?? Absolutely.

Now days, the camera and the lens are not so important. Understanding light, contrast, exposure, composition and what is achievable in post is what really matters.

"Everyone who has a DSLR thinks they're a cinematographer" is the cynical sentence flooding blogs and forums of late, and let's face it, that's not entirely wrong. A more accurate one might be "Anyone with a DSLR can be a cinematographer, because now they have a powerful tool to learn with".

I was looking at purchasing the Panasonic GH4 to replace my trusty 5DII, but I've been holding back because I think I'd miss RAW too much, and the full frame. Maybe the next gen of DSLR's will offer something nicer? Meanwhile, I've been spending money on OTHER THINGS that I cannot wait to experiment post for that coming soon :)

Posted on October 30, 2014 .

I'M A DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY ( what does that mean, and is it okay with you? )

You know those conversations at parties where the discussion eventually ends up at:

"So, Matt, what do you do?"?

I've personally always felt uncomfortable labeling myself as a "Director of Photography", especially since I then need to go into detail about what that means exactly, and once that awkward explanation is done, the next question inevitably arises:

"Cool, how exciting! So what movies have you shot, anything that I would have seen?", probably not, unless you follow the indy circuit, or happened to be in Geelong for the two weeks THE NINJA was screening ;) I say. Either way, I just feel like I'm big-noting myself with the title "Director of Photography", only to end on what seems like a lack of success since I didn't shoot Skyfall or Transformers 8. But should I feel that way?

There's an interesting discussion going on over at REDUSER at the moment. While it tends to go off track and cover other topics, it got me thinking more about what it means to call yourself a cinematographer, or Director of Photography. 

Even though I've worked in Photography, television and post-production since my early 20's, I've really only got 4 years experience as a full time "Director of Photography", and it still feels a bit pretentious giving myself such a title. I know a title isn't what defines me, so how else does one make waves in this quickly rising sea of "DoP's"? Are you head of the camera department, working tirelessly to master the craft of lighting, camera movement, blocking, shooting for the story and post production techniques? Do you keep up to date with technology, learn new camera systems and test them? Do you work well with people, communicate clearly and enjoy collaborating with other departments, striving to bring a story to life with your own style whilst servicing the Director's and Writer's vision? Are you an artist, a technician and a teacher? Do you care more about the film you are working on than the #setlife pics of you and a zoom lens? And finally, is this what you do for a living?

Personally, I feel that if you think you think you're a DoP, then go ahead and call yourself a DoP :) I'm not here to enforce any unwritten laws - I'm just a guy who writes whatever he wants at a blog. I do however believe that with such a title, you need to understand the responsibility it carries. Remember, people like Roger Deakins use the same title. Does that mean by calling yourself a cinematographer or DoP, you're comparing yourself to the great masters of the trade? Not at all. But it's not a title that should be chosen lightly, or used without respecting/exploring what it fully represents.

Another reason this topic has been running around in my head of late, is because of this video:

Whilst I agree with some of the words and admire some of the beautiful shots in this clip, the whole thing just makes me shudder at the self importance it casts on "Cinematographers", and seems more like a "What it means to be a hipster" promo. We certainly are passionate about what we do, and there's more to it that positioning the camera and "lighting a couple of frames", but honestly this is NOT how I want to be perceived when I get asked that question at a party. Especially since the work I do relies so heavily on the involvement and collaboration of many other important departments.

Okay, wow, that got pretty heavy, pretty quickly. Sorry about that. I wasn't planning on having such a strong opinion...but it is Tuesday...that weird day of the week that doesn't seem to have much meaning.

Anyway, I guess I'm trying to make the point that you have to start somewhere, and if you're 100% dedicated to the job, respectful and professional, then when is it okay to define yourself as a DoP? How many years experience or IMDB credits do you need? And how many more times can I write the words DoP, cinematographer and Director of Photography in this post? AND! What is the difference between a Cinematographer and a Director of Photography? One sounds more important....and maybe that's my other point. Sounding important shouldn't be a big part of the equation, but I didn't invent the title! Anyway, back to what I love doing :) Got a Dragon in my grips this Thursday and look forward to seeing what it can do! PEACE!

Posted on August 5, 2014 .

GLOURIOUS BASTERDS ( a breakdown of the first chapter )

After the overwhelming response I got from my previous cinematography breakdown (see the Prisoners breakdown HERE) I've decided to dedicate another week of my life to creating a new one. It's really nice to know that people appreciate what I share here at the blog! When I started work on the Prisoners breakdown, I was not expecting it to be so well received and I'm really glad...

Posted on July 28, 2014 .

NEW DOWNLOADS SECTION (download that shit!)

RAW clips from 'Corruption' courtesy of Grass Valley.

It's been a long time coming but I've finally sorted out some sort of cloud storage solution so that I can share clips with you guys :) A few thank you's are in order too, because without the support and generosity from people like Steve Wise (Grass Valley), I wouldn't have quality content to share in the first place! Cameron McCulloch has also been kind enough to let me share a clip from his film "Sissy Boy", part of THIS popular DaVinci Resolve Tutorial (shot below)

Lucas Scheffel has also given me permission to share this shot from his film "Dead Therapy"! So excited :)

 They will be up soon, but for now, enjoy what is there. Over the next couple of weeks I'll upload more...but believe me you, it takes some serious time to organize this stuff. Many hours of research and design, and let's not forget it takes me about 5 hours to upload 1GB of data. Anyway, I hope this new feature of the blog helps you learn more and master your craft. It will be great for future tutorials too. Please respect that these clips are the property of either [MTS]Films or the corresponding writer/directors who have given me permission to share. Educational use only! If you would like to share your colour grading results, please mention the site and help me help you :) I'm always looking at ways in which I can serve the community. Thanks for visiting :)

Posted on May 16, 2014 .

DO YOU EVEN LOOK? (study your environment)

This morning I woke up for my first day in Dubai as I'm running a workshop for a production here. Ever since I was a kid, I've always been fascinated with my things around me worked, why they worked, how they got there and why...I would always ask mum, why? Mum actually reminded me of the day I would ask her what everything ate. What do trees eat? What do leaves eat? What do houses eat? How annoying I must have been hehe...anyway, that appreciation and fascination of my surroundings is still with me today. This morning I noticed a unique lighting design in my hotel bathroom, which got me thinking.... not what it eats or how it works, but how I could recreate it and use it for something like a Calvin Klein commercial...(me planning the future). And then I got thinking even more...the new generation's phrase "do you even lift" (google it if you're old like me) refers to someone who doesn't work hard enough at the gym, and also suggests that no matter how hard you work, it's not hard enough. I like it....and now I'm applying that same tag-line/humour/message to the learning and mastering of cinematography. Look at your surroundings. Appreciate what's happening in your environment when it comes to lighting, and get inspired. "do you even look?" is what I'm going to be asking my students today. Dubai day #1 FTW ;)

Posted on May 7, 2014 .

STUCK (A short drama I shot in Perth)

More than a year ago, Aaron Kamp (writer/director of STUCK) contacted me asking if I would be interested in shooting a film he had written. After a quick read I was sold! I love dramas...but before I speak too soon, I don't mean real life dramas. After agreeing to shoot the film in a few months time, about a week later I received a call from another producer asking if I would be interested in shooting a feature film. Problem was, the two film's dates clashed!! Now this next part is nothing I'm proud of, that's for sure. I sat with the idea for another week, thinking about the feature and how it might impact my career....and then I made the call. I was on the phone to Aaron, completely apologetic, telling him that even though I had already said yes to shooting his film, I had to cancel because I just agreed to go and shoot a bigger one. He took it surprisingly well (thanks mate)....but let's not forget that I also said that as a way of making it up to him, I would shoot his next film for FREE !!

Almost a year later, I got the call from Aaron, and as of yesterday we wrapped the 4 day shoot with great success :) Not to bore you too much longer, but since that experience I have decided to honor my commitments 100% of the time, no matter what. That means when I'm scheduled to shoot an indy short and I get a call from Coen Brothers to shoot their next feature, I'll kindly and gently let them know that it will have to wait hehe ;)

So, Aaron was kind enough to let me share a few frames with you guys of which I've created some NEW LIGHTING SETUPS . We shot principal photography over three days and had a day of pickups, but it was well scheduled and things flowed on set. With 1 x 1.2K HMI, 1 x 575w HMI and 2 x 300 open-faced tungsten lamps, I had a lighting plan for the entire film. The curve ball was the direct sunlight on day 3, which was supposed to be overcast. That's where the 300x300 frame and silk came in handy, along with the 'we-are-so-lucky" free power outlet at the park, which gave me the 1.2K to help with contrast.

The other challenge was getting three car shots which REALLY required a proper car mount/rig. Something we didn't have. So with a pillow, some gaff tape and a single suction cap I managed to get two really nice shots, check out the vid below (coming soon) :)

I love playing with the grade and just going over the shots, looking for things I do and don't like about my work. I have a long way to go if I'm going to be working with the Cohen's, no doubt, but as I learn and experience things on different sets, I'm more than happy to share those things here, with you. Let's learn from each-other and lift the film industry all over the world. That's my plan!

For more info on the film, be sure to check out the facebook page:

Posted on May 3, 2014 .

NEW OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR 'Queen of the Bees' (fricken awesome short)

Last year was an amazing year for me as a cinematographer in Melbourne. I was involved in some very exciting projects and met some truly remarkable people. One film that I shot which was particularly challenging in terms of time and ambition was Queen of the Bees, written and Directed by Joseph Russell for Space Tourist Films. Although it's currently being submitted to festivals, here is the latest, official trailer for the film!! Enjoy :)

Posted on April 28, 2014 .

HELP ME STORE STUFF FOR YOU (cloud storage for tutorial content)

I know I've been promising a lot lately in terms of downloadable footage and new tutorials but trust me, I haven't forgotten! I'm just trying to find time, but more importantly, I'm looking for a cloud storage solution that will allow me to share content with you guys, in gigs and gigs. Of course there is Drop Box and Google Drive, but they are slow and cumbersome. Also, if I'm to keep everything on my site absolutely free, I cannot afford to pay for a file sharing solution. Is there anyone out there with ideas or contacts that could solve this problem? Maybe a sponsor willing to support [MTS]Films? I'm looking into things like WE TRANSFER which is very nice.

In the mean time, I have a small tutorial coming with a project containing the first frame from every clip in CORRUPTION as a RAW .r3d snapshot. It's a nice compromise but nothing like being able to play with full clips.

Let me know your thoughts or any ideas, thanks!


Posted on April 22, 2014 .

GOOD PEOPLE AND GUNS (movie style poster shoot)

This post originally was going to have little to do with people, and more to do with lighting and art direction, but hey....

When the chips are down and life sucks I find it very difficult to actually ask for any sort of help or support. It's just the way I was raised - to be completely self sufficient. In some ways it's great because I always find a way to carry on, keep living the dream and pushing forward through what sometimes seems impossible. On other hand, it's rough because I FEEL like I'm literally on my own. That's clearly not the case since I have a loving family, wonderful friends and the best lover anyone could ask for :) 

I was going through a rough patch earlier this year, but whatevs, shit happens. What came from that was awesome though. My perspective on people and support became clearer and so did my vision of what I want to achieve with my career. The last shoot day of CORRUPTION was made possible by some awesome people of who'm I've already mentioned and thanked in previous blog posts, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to REALLY thank Paul Norton. 

I met Paul when looking for an armourer in Melbourne to get my film finished earlier this year and wow, what a breath of fresh air! There are really good people in this world and I feel lucky to have met and befriended Paul. Not only is he a talented DoP, but he also has one of the craziest gun collections I've ever seen. His respect and understanding of the craft of film-making sets him apart and makes working with him on any shoot an absolute pleasure, but on top of that, he's just a really good bloke :)

Not long after our first collaboration, Paul asked if I would be interested in shooting a poster for him to help promote his services as an armourer. We briefly spoke about the steampunk styled theme he was looking to achieve and what sort of lighting he would require. My job was simple since the styling and concept was left to their respective departments - all I had to do was light and shoot (and in this case it was a luxury only shooting for one single frame!). Below you'll see how I lit it, and some of the post processing I did for the finished shot.

I spent a lot of hours perfecting this shot, but I'm really happy with the results. It really is a luxury working on a still frame, as opposed to correcting a film which is constantly moving, but it does make the challenge more considerable since there seems to be no limit with what you can do in Photoshop.  

Finally, to give credit where credit is due, most of the "look", posing, styling, makeup, etc, was not done by me. Those things all add up to make something awesome, as does working with a crew who respect each other's job.  

Concept:  Paul Norton

Art Direction: Dan Johnson

Models: Kate Elizabeth Jean, Paul Norton, Steph Elkington

Makeup: Lucia Mammarella

Lighting, Photography and Post Production: Matthew Scott

Shot at: Portfire Studios 

Also a big thanks to Matt Weekes for his help on the shoot.

*For an overhead lighting diagram of this shot, click HERE and thanks for visiting :)

Posted on March 24, 2014 .

THE COLOR OF CORRUPTION ( grade almost done )

It's been a few months in the making but my first ever personal project is almost complete. A lot of ideas have grown since it's beginning, one of which is a film idea! Anyway, more on that later. In the mean time, here is a mosaic showing the basic color pallet I have chosen for the piece. Cliche for sure, but effective none the less. The piece is titled 'corruption', a spec perfume commercial I conceptualized, directed and shot (and now also coloring). I've always wanted to shoot a film about a detective, his love interest, slow-motion guns, rain and last year I decided to explore the possibilities of getting it done and here we are. I'll be releasing the finished film right after NAB this year, along with a new Resolve Tutorial :)


Oh and BTW, if you're not following me on Instagram you're missing out on behind-the-scenes stuff and camera/set life :) Follow @mtsfilms thanks!

Posted on March 7, 2014 .

PEAKS & TROUGHS (sometimes it's shit)

2014. Since late last year It's been a shit-house couple of months...nothing is working out the way I planned, in fact nothing at all seems to be working out. I'm losing friends, loosing money and I'm apart from the person I love most (not for long honey!). I'm not sharing this because I'm looking for sympathy, I'm sharing it because it's real and it's part of my life. Ultimately, it's perfect I guess....Shit times like these give me new perspectives and a space to think. They also bring clarity to the bigger picture and my biggest dreams. Is it all better now? Time to take charge? No, not yet. I've still got some moping to do hehe ;) Keep'n it real!

Posted on February 27, 2014 .

LIGHTING FOR HIGH SPEED ( behind the scenes of "corruption" )

Grieg Fraser has been an inspiration for me since I stumbled upon this fricken awesome piece titled 'Burn', which he shot on a DSLR. From there I stalked him and found more of his television commercial work from a few years back. I really like his style and how far he has taken his career - especially since he's an Ozzie hehe :) Yep, he's an Australian DoP who is smashing it...Zero Dark ThirtySnow White and The Huntsman, and Killing them Softly are just a...

Posted on February 12, 2014 .

RESET (after seeing "HER" I got thinking)

Are you doing what you truly, deeply and desperately want to be doing with your life? If not, are you doing whatever you can to empower those around you? Just over 5 years ago I hit the reset button of my life. Not some soft reset, where most of your settings are retained. I'm talking, ripping the plug out of the wall reset, crash the system, total non-bootable, system failure, reset. It was quite literally my most terrifying experience to date (I just turned 33). At the time (2007) I had a long term partner, a house, my dream car, my own piano, an awesome cat, a big back-yard and I was just about to build an underground studio and buy a drum kit. The problem was, I hated my job(s), I wasn't happy in my relationship (after much effort to mend it) and I knew that my time could be spent doing much greater, much more rewarding things, or at least help others do the same. "Things" weren't even that bad.... I mean, I had great health, was relatively happy, had a reliable, disposable income and could basically do what most people enjoy doing - holidays at Christmas time, adventures on the weekends, movies on Tuesdays and take out twice a week. But let's go back to that phrase.... "relatively happy". That's the part that bugged me. To me now, that sounds like a living hell. I'd rather be depressed, than moderately happy. Sounds like a curse, right? Sometimes it feels like it. Sometimes, like this year so far (hate to sound negative hehe) it's shit. But I know those shit times aren't permenent, and usually a shit time means positive change is coming.

I have by no means figured out life, but I know that I'm now on a path that resonates with whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing on this earth and it's awesome. As I navigate my way through these uncharted waters (I'm a really bad swimmer), it's nice to remember that I'm lucky enough to have an amazing family that support me no matter what I do, beautiful friends to share experiences with and THE most perfect of perfect life companions to help me along the way - Laura McCann (love you maddly baby xx)

When life gets shit for too long, dont be afraid to change it... or better still, feel the fear and do it anyway. There really is no reason you shouldn't be doing what you love. These days with Facebook, Mini Magnums and 4K TV's, it's easier and easier to be "relatively happy". I say, fuck that. That's like watered down, diet cordial in a plastic cup. Grow some balls and hit that reset button. Or tell me I'm crazy and we can still be friends :) PEACE!

*you can Blame Spike Jonze for all of this*

Posted on February 4, 2014 .