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 :)
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 surroundings...how 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 ;)
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 Cohen 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: https://www.facebook.com/stuckshortfilm
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 :)
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!
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 :)
CORRUPTION: Starring Olympia Valance & Maurice Mammoliti
If you've been following the blog you're probably sick of seeing these two and hearing about "Corruption", my first director/DP/art film, showreel piece. Well, to be honest, I've spent so fricken long with this project now that even I'm sick of it hehe ;) But I'm so glad it's done and I'm really happy with the end result. I have this thing in my life where I'll get 90% of the way there and just quit right before things are finished (personally speaking of course, I wouldn't do that on your film!).
The whole idea of Corruption came about when Grass Valley (the guys behind EDIUS) approached me and asked if I would create some 4K content for them. So, instead of taking a girl to the beach and filming her playing the violin or getting macro shots of flowers, I suggested that I take it the next level and create a sort-of-film/commercial/epic 1.5 mintute short film. As a cinematographer, I cannot open my eyes and NOT think about lighting or shots. It's something that I have practiced for most of my life, even before I ever had a camera. To me, it's about looking for beauty in everything you see, because it's there, it just needs your attention. On top of that, when my eyes are closed I'm imagining shots...with guns, slow motion, drama and I explore ideas that relate to who I am and what I believe in.....but yeah, I think you get the idea. I'm very visual. ANYWAY! So after putting a few ideas on the table, we settled on a "perfume style commercial", with a cinematic feel. I was given complete creative freedom to come up with whatever I liked. So, it was time get inspired.
I started researching perfume commercials through YouTube and really loved THIS ONE, Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn, starring Blake Lively, for Gucci. The colors, music, 50p-slow-motion and camera movement were all very appealing to me, but how was I going to achieve anything like that? Especially when my budget was barely enough cover pizza for three days, a tiny wage for my crew and enough cash to pay for one location. It was going to be a huge challenge, but I was determined to make it work. Also, the Blake Lively commercial inspired the hell out of me! I just loved it. I've been trying to find out who shot it to give them a shout out, anyone?
So the inspiration was there, but now it was time to actually come up with a short story. I'm not a writer...no way. I'm used to people coming at me with ideas of which I'll get lost in and create more from, but coming up with something from scratch and being responsible for telling it is something very new to me. The cool thing was that there wasn't a lot of pressure to tell a compelling story - it was more about cool shots :) Knowing that, I jumped right in and had a go...here's what I came up with:
Corruption is a short film about a detective who is working tirelessly to solve his biggest case. Michael is struggling to focus clearly and put the last pieces of this complex puzzle together. Loretta Fox, his sexy and confident new love interest is constantly on his mind, clouding his thoughts and distorting his judgment. When lust and persuasion take hold, does murder become forgivable?
So, the final piece marginally rests on this idea, but I'm not quite sure how complex the puzzle is when Michael ends up finding her perfume bottle sitting at the scene of the crime hehe ;) The point is though, it was fun and turns out, I want to do it again. Since completing this piece I've conjured up a some super crazy ideas. One of them is to create a trailer for a film that doesn't exist yet. It involves a car chase, crazy stunts where a guy flies through the air horizontally, smashing through a bus-stop firing his gun towards camera, in slow motion, AND a cool twist. More on that later, but it WILL happen.
Writing aside, the most challenging thing about all of this, was without a doubt, finding and securing suitable locations. I was very clear about what I wanted visually, but actually finding that was another story, especially when you don't have thousands of dollars to flash around. In the end, we shot in a total of five locations over four long days. The main compromise was that we couldn't secure anywhere with city views at night (basically very similar to the Gucci commercial), had trouble with power and creating rain and also being allowed to shoot at all hours of the night.
LOCATION 1: (requirements: Expensive looking hotel room, warm tones, no white walls)
As you can see, we ended up settling for white walls all round and a tiny bedroom. It can be dis-heartening when you have such a grand idea of what you want in your mind, but in reality some times you have to make do with much less. I think it worked in the end though, mostly because these two guys were simply amazing to work with. They had a connection on screen that was just perfect. A big thanks to producer Katie Baker's friends, The Kitson Family, for letting use use their home :)
LOCATION 2: (requirements: Dark, abandoned industrial warehouse, power, rain)
This location was always going to be tricky. The problem with abandoned warehouses is that they don't have any power, water, are very dangerous and are sometimes frequented by Turkish gangs with machetes who make themselves known by throwing rocks through the big windows above (true story). It was a VERY stressful evening, and although I missed four important shots, we were lucky to get what we did. No power meant LED's only on limited batteries, and no water meant no rain. Oh well :) Caution tape, chalk and quick thinking sorted us out in the end.
LOCATION 3: (requirements: Luxurious, gold, opulent hotel foyer, lots of reflections, no people)
Almost all of Melbourne's grand hotels have been burned by film crews before, so none of them were particularly friendly or helpful when we approached them asking to film "corruption". In the end, we settled on a 70's theater, but I honestly wish we never paid the ludicrous amount of cash they wanted for those two stair-case shots.
LOCATION 4: (requirements: Massive old style bridge for open wide shot)
This place was and still is, one of my favorite spots on earth! It's completely open (broken locks) to the public to explore. It's basically a massive old train bridge that looks phenomenal, inside and out. The wide shot I was hoping for didn't really work out because of the extreme over-cast nature of the weather, and lack of time. I definitely want to go back there and shoot some more!!
LOCATION 5: (requirements: Car, rain, power, concrete walls, ability to fire gun)
The original plan was to drive 3 hours out of town to a private block and shoot this scene on a farm. Sure, that could have worked, but the travel distance would have made it difficult for everyone and the scenery just wasn't what I had in mind. Thankfully Paul Norton (www.portfirestudios.com) allowed us to use his car park, right out the front of his studio! All legal and legit, with water and power. It went very well :) For an in-depth behind the scenes look at how we shot this scene, please visit HERE.
Locations and logistics are a nightmare. I was so lucky to have the help and support of three amazing people though, my Producers, Katie Baker, Jonathan Trakas and Aylin Gedik. They also had the added pressure of producing Corruption right around Christmas and maaannnnn....what a stressful thing that was. Thanks guys!
THE LOOK OF CORRUPTION
With complete creative control, I wanted to light and shoot this thing as if it were almost some sort of modern day noir. I wanted the golden beauty and flow of the Guccii commercial, but also a dark and dramatic tension, something like you might see in Max Payne. I was very specific about colours, framing and lighting, and wanted to keep the camera stationary for most of the film. I like setting my self restrictions like that - it forces you to think creatively. My next piece will be all about MOVEMENT though, for sure :)
Aside from the actors, location and lighting, I also HAD to include a perfume bottle, right? That is part of the look of corruption for sure. Aylin found me these on eBay which cost us about $60 if I remember correctly, absolutely perfect :)
That's pretty much how I lit the product shot, just one LED to the left but I also used a flashlight to light the black background which turned it a silvery grey once illuminated. If I moved it carefully, it created a sort of sun-set transition. Here were original tests for that:
Lighting the rest of the film I just used my basic kit, 300w and 650w tungsten fresnels for interiors and daylight balanced 1000LED's for locations without power and the rest. I also wanted the detective's torch to be a main light source for him. That was tough. A lot of my shots were underexposed too...which adds a nice texture when you bring it back up in post. The other (hopefully) obvious choice was to keep a stark contrast in colour when cutting from warm to cool scenes. Even though that sounds like purely a grading/post production choice, you still have to consider lighting on the day, set design, colour temperatures, etc in order to get the best results.
For the warm "romantic" scenes, I also used a home made smashed glass filter for some added distortion and texture. It worked really well! Just slide this into your matte box, shine a torch at it, or let light in from behind :)
Before editing the piece, I knew I had to find the perfect song. This is SO important and completely changes the tone and feel of the film with a different track. My go-to music library is www.premiumbeat.com which is where I found (after many hours of browsing) "Heavens Gate" composed by Olive Musique. I really liked the flow of this piece. I am a huge fan of the piano and progressive ambient music. I especially love it when I cut to the overhead shot of the blood in the basin, how the strings come on strong and the tension goes through the roof. It's a beautiful song, so thank you Olive! If you're prepared to extensively look for the right track, Premium Beat are sure to have it, those guys are awesome :)
Once I had finished the edit, it was time to look at colouring the film. I literally spent an entire week trying different looks but ended up settling on the pallet below. It's a variation of the typical Teal and Orange look, but I think it works really well with this piece. I'm working on a new tutorial for you guys as we speak which covers a lot of cool stuff in Resolve that I've been playing with lately :)
As promised, I'll have a few (4K RAW .R3Dclips) for you guys to download and play with, but I'm also thinking of providing an AAF/XML timeline with a an .R3D snapshot of every shot as it appears in the edit. I'm thinking this will be a great way to learn how to match an entire project when colour grading, rather than just focusing on making a single shot look good. It's gonna be awesome, I promise :)
In the mean time feel free to download the .mp4 from Vimeo and take a closer look, it's much nicer than Vimeo's compressed version. Finally, if you're at NAB this year, make sure you come and say hello, I'll be at the Grass Valley booth using this exact footage to demo my post techniques and colour correction ideas. Thanks for visiting!
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 drama....so 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!
Are you a passionate, punctual and focused individual who enjoys not just films, but also the collaborative yet complex social systems of a film set? Are you prepared for long hours and stressful situations? Do you have experience with cameras, lights, lenses, grip or gaffer tape? I'm looking to expand my networks and meet people who are interested in working as part of my camera crew as a focus puller and camera assistant. Nothing is set in stone or guaranteed, but this year has some exciting films coming our way...
If you're keen, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm not particularly interested in resumes and CV's, who you've worked with or what camera you've touched. I'm interested in your character. 2014 is finally shaping up.... Thanks! :)
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!
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 Thirty, Snow White and The Huntsman, and Killing them Softly are just a few of his recent works.
Speaking of inspiration, after watching this awesome super slow motion gun scene from Killing Them Softly, I simply had to try it myself. Now wait a second....that looks like it was shot at, at least 1000fps (Phantom Flex anyone?), and I certainly don't have access to a camera like that. But maybe I could try it at 300fps....maybe.
I was at the time, half way through shooting my very first director/DP gig, titled 'corruption' (I'll share it soon...probably after NAB). I've always had this dream to shoot some sort of filmy thing where a detective get's caught up with the wrong girl who ends up being the murderer on the case he's trying to solve. Sure, it's been done before, but I wanted to do it super stylized, super sleek and in a way that could be a commercial for, perfume for example. So after assembling a team, I fleshed out the script, we hired some actors, secured some locations and got cracking. It was all very rushed and all around Christmas - I'll never do that again, but it's pretty much done and I'm super happy with the result, considering the budget and time constraints we had.
Wait...back to the rain, the guns, and the super slow motion. So yeah, half way through my shoot I thought fuck it, I'm going to give it a go. I hired a RED Epic camera from Darren at Ignition Pictures in Melbourne for a night, purchased a $15 hose from Bunnings and kindly asked Olympia Valance if she'd be keen on "shooting" one more night. Thanks Olympia!! :)
In Australia, we don't really like guns....well, we do, but not like Americans do. To us, they belong in movies and with the bikers on Lygon Street. So to access a gun, let alone fire one, you need a licensed armourer. I found a legend of a man named Paul Norton, owner and operator of Portifre Studios in Melbourne. He was more than willing to help us out. Not only does he have any gun you could think of, he's great to work with and is actually a talented DoP too! Below is the man himself, firing an UZI that we will be using in an up-coming film, written and directed by Daniel Pearson titled 'Thrombosis'. I shot this test below using the Sony FS700 and an external RAW recorder at 2K, 240fps. It's surprising how slow 240fps is! It's also surprising how dangerous an empty bullet shell-casing is when it flys out of an Uzi towards your face (eye protection FTW)!!
Anyway, so back to the night of the pistol, Olympia and the rain. I did some tests with tungsten lights, but found that they flickered at 300fps. They were okay at 120fps but much higher than that and the filament cool-down can be seen in the footage as the pulse of electricity powered it in the 50Hz cycle we have here in Oz (60Hz in the US). To get around this "cool-down" you need REALLY big lights. My tungsten's are 650watt, not nearly enough heat is generated to keep the filament hot enough to shine bright through the cycle I mentioned a moment ago. To beat that, you need something along the lines of a 5000watt tungsten lamp. Not only do I not have one (or four) of those, but I don't have 40K of power to strike them, and I didn't want to set mums car on fire.
SO!! LED's saved the day :) God I love LED's!! The are balanced at 5600 Kelvin, run off batteries, don't get hot and can be placed almost anywhere. Luckily for me, the shots I wanted allowed me to place the lights quite close to the subject, since LED's don't have a very long throw, they're best suited to this sort of lighting.
Once the LED's were dimmed, they started to introduce a noticeable flicker....so be careful with that. At maximum intensity they were fine, but you'll notice Seb holding the mother reflector, blocking the flickering fluro behind him on the wall that we could not turn off. Thanks for suffering for us Seb :)
So what about our rain machine? Well, it cost $15 and it looks like this >>>
And here's Seb, gracefully quivering the rain machine's nozzle to create the perfect droplets...
Above I positioned the mother reflector in front of the firing gun so that the muzzle flash would bounce back light into Olympia's face during ignition. Worked a treat! You'll also notice the very expensive sand bags used to secure light stands where needed.
And here's some actual frame grabs from the footage :)
So where did I get these LED's? What brand are they? I get asked this question more than "can you please make more tutorials about Davnici Resolve?"...but the problem is, I purchased them from eBay over a year ago from a seller that doesn't exist anymore and they don't have a brand on them! I paid $500 each, they are NOT color temperature adjustable, they have 1000 LEDs, are balanced to 5600 Kelvin and are Dimmable with a V-Lock battery mounting plate on the back. I use them on almost every single shoot :)
For the shot above, I've created a lighting setup diagram HERE :)
Sure, it's no Killing Them Softly, but the shots we got totally transform my little film. I'm so glad I gave it a go...and that's why I've written this post! Because often that is all it takes - to get out there and try. I can't stress that enough. People should shoot more, and talk less. I'm not interested in what camera you have, what lenses you've used, or who you've worked with. I'm interested in actual results and hearing about your experiences. There's too much "shop" talk going on and it makes me mad hehe....I learned so much from this shoot and cannot wait for opportunities to work with serious budgets and all the gear in the world.
Below is a shot straight through the green tinted windows of mums car, enhanced some what in post. I love it! You should see the rain fall over the glass, distorting the image ever so slightly...below that is a shot that didn't make the final cut, 300fps :)
So, what's the point of all this? Well for a start, none of it could have happened without the support of my friends and family, so don't forget about them! Team work, collaboration and support go a long way....and so does Crust Pizza. But the main point I'm trying to make (with my entire blog) is that great cinematography is about what you CAN do, with what you already have. It mostly just requires you to get out there and try.
I also want to give a big thanks to Cameron McCulloch for taking these bad-ass, behind the scenes stills. They totally make this post more cool, love you Cammy!
Have you ever shot and lit for slow motion? What's the slowest you've shot with LED fixtures?
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*
What's worse than a low light test? A LENS test of course!! Ahhhh tests. They are what fuels the internet when it comes to camera and film-making forums. So, here's one that's sure to get your argumentative type on. This is more of a comparison though, not really a test, but hopefully you'll get something positive out of it.
Not long ago I purchased a Rokinon/Samyang Cine lens set which included the 16mm, 24mm, 35mm and 85mm primes. After much research on line, I found mostly positive reviews and comparisons which was great! Although, I did read a lot of garbage which basically came down to people throwing around words like "un-useable wide open", "un-acceptable distortion", or "pointless without the 50mm". What gets me is If words like that come from the mouths of people with enough forum posts next to their name, it could deter people from actually making a decision for themselves. I for one rarely listen to what other people tell me hehe. That's not to say I don't listen to people! Of course I do! I'm talking about taking advice, and taking it as golden without looking into it myself. So, if you get through this post, please don't take my word for anything...go a borrow the set and see for yourself :)
Once I received the lenses (how exciting!!) the first step was to destroy the notion that these babies are "un-useable" wide open. That's what THIS TEST was all about :)
The next thing I looked at was, how do they compare to my trusty Nikkors from the 80's? I say trusty, not because of what I've read on-line, but because everything you see on my blog up until a few months ago was shot with them. It took me a good while, browsing through hundreds of e-bay listings and combing the net for reviews (thanks Ken Rockwell), but over the course of a few months I gradually parted with a good chunk of cash and built up a set that have served me very, very well - for almost 5 years in fact.
Why Nikkors? And hey wait...isn't it Nikon? Ahhh, that's right, the lenses are "Nikkor", the camera's are "Nikon" :)
> They're affordable (especially when comparing them to Canon L's or Zeiss)
> They're very sharp (from f4 onwards, but also perform well below that)
> They have excellent build quality (most of my lenses are over 20 years old)
> They use hard-stop friction driven focus rings (Knowing where your focus begins and ends sounds like a standard thing right? Not with a Canon L and many other still lenses. Nikkors stop hard and the focus feel is silky and smooth)
> They have aperture control on the lens (Great for adjusting the aperture! No seriously, try that with a Canon L on a camera that doesn't support electronic lenses)
> They are of super compact design (great for traveling)
> They are cheaply and easily converted to fit any camera mounting system
> Not all lenses match in terms of color and contrast (means more work in post)
> Focus direction is the opposite to most (hard to get used to, frustrating when you're brain switches back to auto-pilot during a take)
> No focus gears (this can be fixed, DIY style)
> Aperture "clicks" when you adjust it (not so good if you're trying to achieve a smooth iris pull, although it can also be fixed DIY style)
> Noticeable breathing is present (not as bad as the Zuiko's and it's never bothered me or my clients)
MEET MY NIKKORS!
For a couple of years I did have the Nikkor 15mm 3.5 which cost me an arm and a leg. I found the distortion (dare I say) un-acceptable and the flaring was crazy too. That on top of the fact that a Tokina 11-16 2.8 is faster, has less distortion and less flair issues, I had to sell it..leather pouch and all! It was a sad day but in the end it's the image which is important to me, not the brand or coolness of what I'm shooting with. That being said, it is a fucking cool lens and I miss it. I mean LOOK AT IT! Not to be confused with a fisheye, this baby is aspherical, although the massive bulging front element literally looks like a fish's eye. The SKATEBOARDING SHOT at 1:02 in my old DSLR reel was shot with this, and so was a lot of this high energy stuff: RUNNING LATE
The 24mm, f2.8 can be picked up fairly cheaply, between $150-$250+ on e-bay for something in decent condition. This lens is not bad wide open, but it could be better as you'll see in the comparison below. That being said, it's worth every penny and like all of these Nikkors, it's nice and sharp when stopped down to f4 and above. I also love the flairs you get on this lens, not that it flairs like crazy but if you let it go, it's nice :)
The 35mm, f2.8 is the cheapest of the bunch. Again, somewhere around $150-$200+ on e-bay, but you'll find most of them are cheaper than the 24. I find this to be the worst performer of the bunch however in terms of sharpness, you'll see what I mean in the comparison below when it's at f2.8, but I have fallen in love with it's flaws. Shooting a subject close, wide open really does look beautiful...soft-ish, but beautiful.
The Nikkor 50mm, f1.4 is a stunning lens. It's sharp (in my opinion, sharp enough by f2) and is a pleasure to look through. Contrast is awesome, color rendition fantastic, flaring minimal and bokeh beautiful. It can be found on e-bay for $250-$500+ and I highly recommend it. Since there is no Rokinon/Samyang 50mm just yet, I still use this as part of my "go-to" kit. It's awesome! I was lucky enough to get a really good one...it felt like it was brand new! That's saying a lot for a lens that was constructed over 20 years ago.
The Nikkor 85mm, f1.4 is the pick of the bunch. It's SO FRICKEN SHARP it's not funny. The flare is so beautiful..the contrast superb and the sheer physical feel of the thing is almost arousing. This one's not cheap though, but can be had between $400-$800+ on e-bay. It out-performs my Rokinon/Samyang Cine in terms of sharpness and interestingly has a much closer focusing distance than the Samyang so it's more versatile. Mine was dropped by my AC and it's never been the same since :(
The Nikkor 105, f2.5 isn't as fast as the 50 or 85 but it makes up for it in focus feel and bokeh. This lens has the most creamy bokeh I've ever seen (apart from Cooke's hehe). It's affordable and very compact for it's speed and reach. Focus distance is nice too...it's a tough choice picking this or the 85 sometimes. Since Rokinon/Samyang haven't released a telephoto Cine just yet, this is also part of my "go-to" kit.
The Nikkor 180, f2.8 ED is the only one of these lenses that is actually sharp, wide open. So, Not as fast as it's little brothers and sisters, but wow. I shot THIS AWESOME SCENE from Dead Therapy with this lens, wide open. It has a loooong focus throw, amazing build quality (you could kill someone with this thing) and a handy built in hood! Focus distance isn't very close but that's why I've got the 105 :) If you can find a good example of this lens, buy it. They're relatively cheap from $250-400+ (depending on condition).
That completes the Nikkors in my kit. I do however have a really cool 80-200, f4 "CRASH" zoom Nikkor that is surprisingly sharp for how cheap it was. I found one on e-bay for $110. I bust it out ever now and then if I'm shooting hand-held action scenes (don't go there). The lens's construction means that you don't twist it to zoom in, you literally pull it back and forth (don't) to change focal lengths. It's a really cool look and when you get used to it, you can create some awesome crash zoom effects. The other cool thing is that the focus point does not change throughout the entire zoom range. Get one! They're mad :)
SO! They were the very first lenses I ever purchased and I still use them today on my biggest shoots. Every now and then I get temped to go and browse the e-bay seller listings for others...there's a super speed set (24mm f2, 35mm f1.4, 50m f1.2 105mm f1.8) but they're double the price. I think you're better off with the Rokinon's I'm about to talk about. That being said, there's something special about the old Nikkors that are just, well, hard to beat. It's almost as if you can feel that they have been in the hands of other artists and seen amazing things over the years. I love 'em. Anyway, I have now replaced the 15, 24, 35 and 85 with my new Rokinon/Samyang Cine primes and I have been LOVING the results. These lenses are worth every single dollar, and that includes shipping and taxes hehe :)
When it comes to shooting films, time is of the essence. I like to make use of that time making creative decisions, not technical ones. The less I have to worry about technically, the better I am creatively. Don't get me wrong, I love problem solving but having lenses that are all "geared" towards cinema, straight out of the box, is a big deal. This also means I can better communicate with the director and my crew because my mind isn't thinking about weather or not the lens I chose will reach the matte-box or be compatible with my follow focus for example.
I'm not going to profile these bad boys like I did the Nikkors. Honestly, I've only TESTED THEM and shot a few things professionally at this stage so I don't know what I could write, other than:
> They're REALLY affordable (compared to anything)
> They're very sharp (from f2.5 onwards, some of them are sharp wide open!)
> They're SUPER FAST (Most of them opening up to T1.5, that's a whole extra stop of light)
> THEY GOT GEARS BRO! (Yep, permanent gears on the focus ring AND aperture ring)
> NO CLICKS CUZ! (The aperture ring not only has gears, but it's smooth like butter so iris transitions are the same)
> They use hard-stop friction driven focus rings (maybe not AS super silky smooth as a nikkor in good condition, but still smooth with good friction and throw. They also focus in the right direction)
> They come in all of the common mounting options (Nikon, Canon, M4/3rds, Sony, etc)
> They have focus marks on the side of the lens, not the top like the Nikkors (This means that your AC can see them when he/she is pulling focus for you)
> They have a red line on them, which makes you look professional!
> They have a red line on them, which makes you look "professional" (Okay, I'll stop)
> They're not as tough as a Nikkor (But they're tough enough, solid with a good quality feel)
> Noticeable breathing is present (not as bad as the Nikkors but again, it's never bothered me or my clients)
> The complete set isn't complete! (Currently (Jan 2014) you cannot purchase a 50mm or higher than an 85mm, that sucks)
[ Now, no doubt this next part is going to piss someone off because it's not a "scientific" test....blah blah...look...I got bored one night and decided to compare my new "cine" lenses to the kit that I already have. Turns out that they're better in almost every way, and they're cheaper. There's no test charts and nothing REALLY measurable here. I'm mostly sharing my thoughts and enthusiasm about what is available to film-makers today. From the few times I've whacked these baddies on the front of my Scarlet, I've been gobsmacked. The comparison images below don't really give off that same vibe, but they do tell a story worth sharing.
Since I sold my glorious 15mm Nikkor, I have replaced it with a Tokina 11-16mm. It's a great lens, but I hate the build quality and the design. Also, I've compared the Nikkor 105mm to the Canon 100mm Macro which is super sharp, great for macro shots (obviously) but the focus is down-right disgusting and impossible to use for cinema.
Finally, before we dissect, note that I have compared all of the lenses at f2.8 which technically isn't really fair to the Nikkors (24 and 35) or the Tokina, since the competition get's to stop down some. Lenses perform better in all aspects when they are stopped down, hitting their sweet spot around f5.6. I'm aware of this, but it's not really a comparison to see which lens is "better", it's more of a comparison to see which lens is a better choice. That's far more practical in my mind. Feel free to download these or if you want the hi-res TIFF files, I can supply them. ]
THE SUPER WIDE
THE LONG END
At the ultra-wide end, the Sammy and Tokina have noticeably different distortion patterns. I feel this comparison doesn't give the Samyang justice though. Since I've been using it, I've liked it's distortion better with human faces.
The Sammy's seem to be longer than they say too, notice that? There's an extra couple of mm crop you get compared to the Nikkors.
Chromatic aberrations are better all round on the Sammy's at f2.8 (helped some-what by being stopped down) with the exception of the stellar Nikkor 85.
The Nikkor 105 performed superbly well since the Canon is known to be REDONKULOUSLY sharp and costs nearly four times as much.
All in all, I was very happy with this comparison. I would have paid that price for the gears, de-clicked aperture and markings alone, but on top of that I get better performance at f2.8 AND an extra stop of light if I'm desperate. If you're interested to see how the Sammy's perform wide open, check out the link I've pimped three times now > LOW LIGHT IGNITE Every one of those shots are wide open at T1.5.
Finally, if you do a Google search you'll find plenty of in depth reviews and proper tests, but I hope you found this post interesting and informative. My opinion on lenses is that you're better off spending masses of money on a decent tripod, lighting and catering ;) Cheers!
Can you imagine being a chef and going out for dinner to a new restaurant? Or a builder who's looking to buy a new home? What are they looking for in a meal? Or a house? I think it's natural for anyone passionate in their field to study and enjoy the work of their peers, but sometimes it gets in the way of the experience. I know I find it very difficult to watch a movie and NOT analyze the craftsmanship behind it....but you know you're watching a good one when all you can see is the story un-fold, but even then I can't help but notice things like lighting choices, camera moves and color.
Not only was I completely glued to the screen and scrambling for clues to solve the case, but nearly every single scene had me looking with awe at the masterful cinematography and film-making craftsmanship that was before me on screen. The inspiration to write this in-depth blog post came to me after a friend of mine (I won't dare mention his name hehe) said that the film did nothing for him!
So, below I've picked some of my favorite scenes from the film and have outlined things that I noticed and appreciated about the cinematography and other interesting elements. I'm always analyzing films and shots but this is the first time I've ever published those thoughts....it has been a great experience for me and hopefully you get something out of it too :)
Here's the dissecting part....so it took me a while, but I decided to go through the entire film and look for things that I may have missed during my first viewing. Instead of writing paragraph upon paragraph, detailing the craftsmanship that I noticed behind each scene, I decided to sort of make a book. I for one like pictures and the less I have to read, the more engaged I am. That's just me, but I'm sure you'd rather this format than listening to me waffle on for pages at a time.
Please keep in mind that I had nothing to do with this film! The notes I have made cannot be accurate in the sense that I actually don't KNOW what is going on, what lens was used, etc. They are more of an observation based on, dare I say, educated guesses. In any case, I found it to be a great learning experience as I looked for beauty and subtle details in these shots....I hope you get something out of it too :)
Here's the first quarter of what I plan on finishing over the next month or so. It's quite time consuming, believe me! Hope you enjoy and please comment or make notes where you think I've missed something, or disagree with something.
CINEMATOGRAPHER STYLE (pun intended)
A cinematographer's "style" could be put down to things he or she does on a consistent basis that are noticeable from film to film, right? Noticing a style means that you notice elements within the art form that you've seen before and can associate with the artist across their body of work. When I look at Roger's work, it's almost as if he has 'no style'. Now, please don't stop reading this blog after that sentence! hehe....allow me to elaborate.
For me, Roger seems to be SO exquisitely in tune with the story that needs to be told, the directors vision and his own artistic vision that the resulting cinematography is so perfect and so fitting, it's almost unnoticeable! His style is literally a service to the story, 100%. That being said, I could say that I've noticed Roger seems to like wider lenses. It's pretty rare that you'll see an 85mm closeup in his work. He's often pushing in close with a 50mm and sometimes wider. I could also say that it's quite rare for Roger's camera to be moving frantically around, even during intense, high impact scenes. It's almost always smoothly moving precisely where it needs to move in order to frame what is happening, with absolute perfection. You could also say that his lighting seems to be driven by practicals rather than back-lighting every shot to make it look good. He has perfected (and continues to perfect) the art of lighting a scene with existing sources, only adding emphasis where it's needed with extra light, but doing so in a way that is mostly unnoticeable. He is for me, at the top of his game. Where I want to be. I've never been so inspired!
It's important to note that many of the things I point out in this study aren't related to cinematography. Things like set design, color choices, framing and shooting angles for example, aren't necessarily the sole decision of a DoP. If you've read any of my other articles, you'll quickly realize that I appreciate and talk about the many departments it requires to make a film, and my understanding that film-making is a massive collaboration between departments. With that said, I still think there is value in the points I have made and I hope you gain some insight from my study!
P.S. When I get some time I will add some extra notes and thoughts to these (color is a good one to talk about in this film) I think I have over 60 frames to go! Thanks for visiting :)
P.P.S. I know my spelling is bad but hey, I never did like School.
I have never been good with patience. Ever since I was a kid I would get frustrated having to wait for anything! Now, don't let that paint any spoiled-little-brat pictures of me in my youth...I was far from it. The difference is that now I'm almost an adult (I'm 33), I have complete control over my life....right? hehe....again, far from it! I'm still just as impatient as I ever was.
When you're lucky enough to shoot exciting films like NINJA: Immoveable Heart, Queen Of The Bees and Dead Therapy (I also hear that something isn't too far away with Thrombosis, Daniel?? hehe) there's the frustrating part that comes with the job. Waiting. Sure you get to look through the lens and get a quick review of a shot, but waiting to see something from the depths of post can feel like a lifetime! That being said, when a teaser lands...it really does tease! Working on set as DoP is one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had (and I've many)...but actually seeing everyone's hard work come together on the screen is something very special indeed.
Written by Brett Bentman, Directed by Lucas Sheffel
NINJA: IMMOVEABLE HEART
Written & Directed by Rob Baard
QUEEN OF THE BEES
Written & Directed by Joseph Russell
2013 has been amazing!! Bring on 2014 :)
For my presentations at InterBEE this year, (trade-show in Japan, kinda like NAB but smaller), I was demonstrating color correction at the Grass Valley booth. I talk about knowing your medium and how super important it is for DP's to understand the process of colour grading and what can be done in post. When you know the advantages and limitations of RED footage for example, it really does help you make better choices on set - shooting with optimal ISO's for a given situation, using the right white balance, understanding RED's resolutions, etc, etc. So knowing your medium is important, but so is actually having some grading skills under your belt. What bugged me over the past few days though, was that people were asking me to show them how to create "the film look". Or how to create a "Hollywood" look.
Lucas Sheffel, director of DEAD THERAPY (written by Brett Bentman) was kind enough to let me share this clip from the film with you before the trailer is even released! (Madness, thanks man!) I think it's a great example of "the film look"...but I also think it has little to do with how I graded it. Sure, it looks pretty slick (even if I do say so myself), but most of that "look" has to do with the AWESOME location, AMAZING acting, the blocking, the dust on the steps that I made sure was floating there before each take and of course, the lighting and lens choices I made. Let's no forget makeup and wardrobe either....and remember, this shot doesn't even have sound added to it yet. Can you imagine how much more engaging it could be with the first sound you hear being that shotgun shell falling into frame? Mad.
Anyway my point is, "the film look" isn't just some LUT and a few nodes that transform your shots into masterpieces. Yes, colour grading is amazing and adds huge value to any shot, but once again, it's about collaboration and dedication. It's about caring enough about what you're doing before production, during the take and later in post. When all departments come together and share the same passion and dedication, magic happens.
Below is a 30 minute tutorial where I show you step by step how to create this look :) Thanks for visiting!
(here is the youtube version if you have trouble with vimeo: http://youtu.be/lvRhE93aNS8)
I recently purchased the 16mm, 24mm, 35mm and the 85mm Samyang Cine lenses for my RED Scarlet-X. As much as I love my Nikkors (and always will), I knew what an advantage that extra stop of light was, especially when shooting extremely dark scenes like the shots above and below.
*Sorry guys, I shouldn't have started this post without finishing it. In short, the Samyangs are excellent value for money and have already opened up creative doors for me. Don't be too skeptical about bad reviews on line...even the 24 is good (better than my Nikkor 24 which is great). If you need a sharp lens that doesn't have any issues wide open, then go spend $15k per lens and be happy. If you want a fast set of primes that are sharp as hell at T2.8, and very, very useable wide open (see images and clips above), then you can't go wrong with these babies! I purchased them from FATJUMP on ebay. Fast postage, great price, it was a risk but it paid off.
Now get out there and shoot something!!!
BTW, if you're interested in how I lit this, here's a DIAGRAM.
This year has easily been one of the best years of my life! I'll be 33 years old in a couple of weeks and things are going well according to the master plan hehe :) That is, to start my own family (found the best girl on earth) and to shoot the biggest and best films on earth, or mars, or wherever that may be over the next 50 or so years. The good thing is, I somehow have the same enthusiasm that I did when I was a kid playing Zelda on my Nintendo in 1990, the same passion I had when skateboarding for years until I was 23 and the same desire to be the best I possibly can be in everything I do. The other cool thing is, even though I act like a kid and probably write like one too, I think I'm figuring out how to be an adult....no wait........that's a terrible idea! Adults have responsibilities right? Exactly.
A few months ago I finished shooting the Australian action packed feature film NINJA: IMMOVEABLE HEART which was an incredible challenge, to say the least. A lot of good things came from shooting that film, the best being my amazing crew, (see the CREW page above) but I also learned a lot about my responsibilities as Director of Photography. I love shooting, lighting and composing what I think are amazing shots. That's why I started this shit! But there's a lot more to it than that. Committing to a film means hours of pre-production, meetings about locations, gear, styles, shots, color, moods, budgets, effects, scheduling and crew. But more to the point, it means that I am responsible for a lot more than just "the shot".
When it comes to responsibility, bringing the director's vision to life is one of the small feats required of the DoP, and to make things even harder, imagine that their vision conflicts with your own creative ideas! What if their vision forces you to do things you don't like doing? Or think in ways that go against everything you work for? This may seem like conflict, but honestly, it's one of the best things about being a cinematographer. When you take full responsibility for the job, you are forced to push the boundaries of comfortable shooting and what you think you know is best.
Since the Ninja, I've had the pleasure of working with three very different directors on three very different films (Queen of the Bees, Dead Therapy and Thrombosis). Each film presented it's own set of challenges in terms of shooting styles and complex shots, but the thing that is becoming easier and more enjoyable for me, is allowing myself to explore new territories and really embrace true, creative collaboration.
Whenever I use the word cinematography to describe what I do, I use it as a descriptive word that encompasses many art forms and responsibilities from many different departments. I've talked about collaboration and team work a lot in previous blog posts because for me, cinematography isn't really about 'camera work' or lighting...it's a multitude of things that when in harmony, can produce amazing images. So not only do I embrace collaborative creativity (film-making), but I'm also realizing that collaboration really comes alive when each department is 100% dedicated and responsible for their contribution to the film. It also makes life easier when you don't have to worry about another person's job, because ideally (as my 2nd AC pointed out the other day), every person is doing their job better than anyone else could! That's a perfect crew, right?
Will I ever stop harping on about crews, on-set relationships and what it means to be a cinematographer? Probably not, but I'll try and ease up ;) I actually have some useful posts coming up which include lens reviews (Rokinon Cine series) some lighting experiments, talk about blocking (so important!) and more broken glass filter action...stay tuned and thanks for visiting :)