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...
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 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: 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 :)
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....
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!
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...
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...
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...
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 :)