Author Archives: robertocimatti

The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #175 – Director Nick Ball

Director Nick Ball is our featured guest on the show today.  We chat about his beginnings in Australia, making spec ads to start his career off, and how not saying yes helped put him on a path to success. 

Definitely take a minute to watch a small sample of Nick’s work below and check out his instagram as well.

Enjoy!

Patreon Podcast – The Format

I called this episode the format but really it should be entitled the Framework.  

Instead of looking at a listener submitted project this week we are trying something new out and looking at a project most people will consider a cinematography success story, Blade Runner 2049.

We breakdown two seemingly normal scenes and discuss what Roger Deakins so well and why it appears to be simple yet difficult at the same time.

To see the images and listen to the special breakdown podcast click the link below:

The Wandering DP Patreon

Featured Guest – Director Nick Ball

Personal Website:  Nick Ball

Instagram: @ballztopia

The post The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #175 – Director Nick Ball appeared first on Cinematography Podcast & Tutorials.

Save 40% on Adobe Creative Cloud Plans (For a Limited Time)

Adobe has announced a meaty sale that can save you big money on Creative Cloud.

Have you been sleeping on subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud? Well, if you’re a first time subscriber who lives in the US, Canada, or Mexico, now might be the best time to finally sign up.

Starting today, Adobe is running a sale that will save you 40% on Creative Cloud’s All Apps and All Apps + Adobe Stock plans. Instead of paying $52.99/mo. and $82.98/mo. respectively, you’re looking at a very affordable $29.99/mo. and $59.98/mo.

And for new editors who have been wary of committing to paying subscription fees every month, this is a great opportunity to jump into Adobe’s universe without having to drop a lot of cash.

But the sale price isn’t the only reason to jump on the CC train. This year, Adobe has rolled out with some very impressive upgrades to Creative Cloud apps, including After Effects‘ amazing “Content-Aware Fill” feature and the Freeform View in Premiere Pro, so editing your projects will be easier, quicker, and more dynamic than ever.

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DaVinci Resolve 16 Is Now Ready for Your Entire Post Workflow

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 16 Beta 2 has been released. Here’s a complete guide to all of its important new tools.

A decade ago, Blackmagic Design revolutionized color grading for the masses by turning the high-end, hardware-based DaVinci Resolve into a hardware agnostic software accessible to the masses. In the intervening years, they have continued to add features to it, creating a competitive all-in-one post solution. The iterations have been at times painful (as anyone who tried to edit anything substantial in versions 12 or 13 well knows).

After spending a little time looking under the hood of Beta Version 2, we can say that there is a lot going on here beyond the main bullet points addressed in the initial NAB announcement. Blackmagic has created a fully integrated, collaborative post-production workflow suitable for everything from quickie web content to features.

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The Technical Magic Behind The Burning of King’s Landing

“We set fire to twenty-two people…twice.” How do you create the fall of Kings Landing with technical perfection?

We’re in the last season of Game of Thrones, and I’m not sure we’ll ever get a television like this ever again. Over the previous eight years, Game of Thrones has sauntered up to the idea of “television being a lesser medium” and last week it lopped that idea’s head off like it was advising Daenerys Targaryen.

It’s no secret that I love Game of Thrones. There are times I think the only reason I work at this website is to evangelize to the dozen people across the world who aren’t enjoying the high drama and action in Westeros.

Even if you’re not enjoying the character arcs in the final season, and I’m aware that’s a lot of you, your jaw must still drop at the technical magic of the scope and scale of the story.

Plus, some cool lens flares.

Today we’re going to look at the technical details of Game of Thrones and discuss just how they created the look and feel of “The Bells”, a.k.a. the burning of King’s Landing.

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Tokina Vista Primes

Planning for the Tokina Vista Primes began in 2013. During the early stages, Ryan Avery, VP of Formatt KT America and Tokina Cinema products, met with cinematographers to get feedback. He also came up with the name: Vista Primes. From the beginning the lenses have been designed to cover beyond Full Frame and cover the RED 8K VV sensor (46.7mm image diagonal) that was introduced in June 2015. The image illumination of the longer focal lengths covers the 5K image area of the Alexa 65 camera that was introduced a year earlier, in September 2014. The lenses came to market a year later, in 2016. read more…

Samyang Announces AF 45mm f/1.8 FE Lens for Sony Full Frame Cameras

Samyang Announces AF 45mm f/1.8 FE Lens for Sony Full Frame Cameras

If there’s one lens almost every photographer or videographer can get some use from, it’s a wide aperture, normal length lens. Samyang has thrown their hat into the ring with the announcement of the AF 45mm f/1.8 FE lens, which offers Sony shooters a cheap and light option appropriate for a multitude of shooting scenarios.

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What Are the Best Ways for Hobby Photographers to Make Money? These Were Mine

What Are the Best Ways for Hobby Photographers to Make Money? These Were Mine

There’s a myth perpetuated that photographers either do it for a hobby or they’re professionals making money. The truth is, the majority seem to float in the gray area between the two.

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The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #174 – LED Lighting

Today on the podcast we are taking a last look at our series of commercials set in locker rooms, light with all LED lights, and shot on the Alexa LF with Arri Signature Primes.  I know many of you will be happy to see this series of breakdowns come to an end so let’s go out with a bang.

The brief for this ad was a smokey back alley poker game style with a bit of humor thrown in for good mix.  Let’s take a look at what went in to making this look a reality.

Enjoy the episode!

Patreon: Extensive Breakdowns of Your Work

If you enjoy these breakdown episodes and want more of them then Patreon is the place for you.  We are breaking down listener submitted projects and talking about all things lighting and camera.

This week we extend our look at a recent Spec ad shot by one of our Patreon members and go over the good and the bad.

To get your work featured on the show simply leave a link with a description in the comments section over on the Patreon home page.

You can find this week’s Patreon content by clicking the link below:

The Wandering DP Patreon Group

If you are a fan of the podcast and want more video content the patreon group is the place to be.  Each and every week I release an exclusive podcast, video, or live stream just for the Patreon members.

Patreon members also get access to the Private Facebook community for the show.  The podcast couldn’t exist without the Patreon support and I do my best to take care of the supporters.

Full Frame + LED Lighting – Don’t Fight the Funk

This commercial was all about the gear.  A relatively straight forward comedy spot but we tried to lift the level of the images by going with the Alexa LF and the Signature Primes.

Camera Gear:

Check out the gear I use on all of my commercial shoots by clicking the link below:

Wandering DP Commercial Cinematography Gear

The only kit not listed on that page is the set of Signature Primes and the Alexa LF.

For lighting we went all Kino LED.

The Spot – LED Lighting

Set Up #1 – The Moving Master

The Shots

The spot opens on 4 rugby players at a poker table in a dimly lit locker room..

The Lighting

The wide sets up our entire lighting approach for this spot.  The location dictated the fixtures we ended up using because of the lack of space as well as the layout of the locker room.  

We needed low profile fixtures that were easily color tuneable.  Enter the Kino Flo LEDs.  Light(ish) fixtures with enough output to get us to where we needed to be.

We used one Kino 850 over the top as our main light for the table then in the background we used some generic LED tubes as in shot practicals.  It would have been way easier to use the Astera Titan tubes but we shot this before those were out.

For the foreground element we added a smaller 450 Kino to help bring out the table.

Add a bunch of haze and that was it for the wides.

The Result

Behind the Scenes

Alexa LF – Full Frame

Set Up #2 – The 4 Shot

The Shots

We swap sides and punch in for a tighter 4 shot.

The Lighting

The overall lighting is the same with the addition of some smaller Kino 450 LEDs to edge out the players and create some depth plus some flags to keep the practical LEDs from ruining our contrast levels. 

The Result

Behind the Scenes

Alexa LF – Full Frame

Set Up #3 – In Tight

The Shot

The singles is where the DOF on the Alexa LF really starts to stand out.

The Lighting

We adjusted the existing fixtures from the previous set up and added another LED to act as a ctach light in the eyes.

The Result

Alexa LF – Full Frame

Set Up #4 – Another Single

The Shots

Matching the previous set up.

The Lighting

Same fixtures as above adjusted for the new camera position.

The Result

Alexa LF – Full Frame

Set Up #5 – The Last Single

The Shots

Matching the previous set up.

The Lighting

Same fixtures as above adjusted for the new camera position.

The Result

Shot #6 – The Coach Enters

The Shots

Matching the previous set up.

The Lighting

Same fixtures as above adjusted for the new camera position.

The Result

Shot #7 – In Close

Shot #8 – The Table

The post The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #174 – LED Lighting appeared first on Cinematography Podcast & Tutorials.

The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #173 – Jonathan Furmanski

Cinematographer Jonathan Furmanski is our guest on the show today.  Jonathan recently completed the feature film, Good Boys,  with director Gene Stupinksy and we chat about his experience on set, deciding on a camera package, and his specific workflow for getting the images he is after. 

Be sure to give Jonathan a follow over on instagram and check out a small selection of his work below.

Enjoy!

Patreon Podcast – Nothing Lasts Forever

The feature film breakdowns are no more over on the Patreon site.  The powers that be brought it all to a crashing halt but that hasn’t stopped us from pushing ahead with even more educational content.

We have started a new series taking an extensive look at Patreon members own projects.  We will look at the lighting, framing, composition and more just like our regular breakdown episodes but this time it is all about you.

I am excited about sharing Patreon members work with others and getting the word out on these projects.

To get access to the Bonus podcasts and check out the show notes for the breakdowns with all of the images discussed in them head over to the Wandering DP Patreon page.

The Wandering DP Patreon

Featured Guest – Jonathan Furmanski

Personal Website:  Jonathan Furmanski

Instagram: @kosherpork

The post The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #173 – Jonathan Furmanski appeared first on Cinematography Podcast & Tutorials.

The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #172 – Ross Emery ACS

Ross Emery ACS is our guest on the show today.  Ross has an enormous amount of experience at the very highest level of cinematography and we touch on his beginnings shooting 2nd Unit and go right through to the kinds of projects he is currently working on.

It as a real pleasure to chat with Ross and be sure to check out some of his work at the links below.

Enjoy!

Patreon Supporters: A Detailed Breakdown Podcast

This week over on Patreon we are continuing our long form breakdown of how we recently shot a feature film.

We are going over each day, each set up, each lighting challenge and discussing the good along with the bad.  If you ever wanted to know how a feature film gets made from a cinematographers point of view this is the show for you.

To follow along with the Feature Film journey  click the link below to check out the weekly breakdown podcast:

The Wandering DP Patreon

Featured Guest – Cinematographer Ross Emery ACS

Personal Website:  Ross Emery ACS

Instagram: @rossemeryacs

The post The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #172 – Ross Emery ACS appeared first on Cinematography Podcast & Tutorials.

The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #171 – Full Frame Capture

Super 35 who?

Resistance is futile…

With the recent announcement of the Alexa Mini LF and the other camera manufacturers already having their own version of larger than S35 sensors the age of full frame image capture is officially upon us.

While the Alexa LF may have cracked the door open for some productions to embrace full frame capture, the Mini will end up blowing the entire house down.  In this episode we will take an extensive look at a spot I shot using the Alexa LF and the Arri Signature Primes.  

There are pros and cons with any format change and we outline a few of the big ones in today’s show.

Enjoy the episode!

Patreon: Feature Film – The Final Countdown

The breakdowns are now coming thick and fast over on Patreon.  We are plowing through the schedule and looking at exactly what it takes to make a feature film and how the lighting approach chagnes based on scenes, timing, budget restrictions and more.

If you are interested in seeing what it takes to get a feature film in the can then this Patreon series is for you.

You can find this week’s Patreon Breakdown Podcast by clicking the link below:

The Wandering DP Patreon Group

If you are a fan of the podcast and want more video content the patreon group is the place to be.  Each and every week I release an exclusive podcast, video, or live stream just for the Patreon members.

Patreon members also get access to the Private Facebook community for the show.  The podcast couldn’t exist without the Patreon support and I do my best to take care of the supporters.

Alexa LF & Signature Primes – A World Apart

This commercial was all about the gear.  A relatively straight forward comedy spot but we tried to lift the level of the images by going with the Alexa LF and the Signature Primes.

Camera Gear:

Check out the gear I use on all of my commercial shoots by clicking the link below:

Wandering DP Commercial Cinematography Gear

The only kit not listed on that page is the set of Signature Primes and the Alexa LF.

For lighting we went all Kino LED.

Alexa LF – Large Format Cinematography

Set Up #1 – The White Wall Wide

The Shots

In the opening shot we see a sole rugby player snacking on something when another player enters from frame left.

The Lighting

This entire spot was LED and the main challenge for all the angles was keeping the ambient levels low enough to actually get some shape on the areas we wanted.

The white walls everywhere made it challenging as did the low ceilings and lack of any windows.

We used a variety of Kino LEDs kitted out with egg crates to help direct the level right where we needed it to sit.

The Result

Alexa LF – Full Frame

Set Up #2 – The First Single

The Shot

A classic single to deliver the comedic lines.

The Lighting

Here the full frame sensor of the LF really becomes apparent.  This is the 47mm somewhere near wide open and look at how much the BG falls away.  The depth of field is millimeters wide.

The lighting was the same as the previous shot but as we get tighter we can fly in some diffusion to help wrap the light to make it more pleasing.

The Result

Tech Scout Reference:

Full Frame Blow Up:

Set Up #3 – The Reverse

The Shot

Straight forward reverse of the previous set up.  Normally we would orbit around more to have a tighter eye line on the dialogue but in this case the more we came around the more we shot straight in to a white, boring wall.

The Lighting

Same set up as the wide but we moved the floor lamp camera left closer and angled it to get more wrap on the shadow side of his face.

The Result

Arri Alexa LF – Full Frame

Tech Scout Reference:

Set Up #4 – In Tight

The Shot

This was the hero shot for the gag of the ad.  

The Lighting

Nothing really changed from the previous single here for light.  It was just a change in distance of the subject relative to camera which then changes the out of focus characteristics.

The Result

Depth of Field

The post The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #171 – Full Frame Capture appeared first on Cinematography Podcast & Tutorials.

The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #170 – Kristofer Bonnell

Cinematographer Kristofer Bonnell sits down with us today to chat about his experience getting started in Canada, we take an extensive look at one of his most recent projects, and we talk about the business side of cinematography.

Kristofer has a range of interesting projects on his website so make sure you scroll down to check out some of the work mentioned in this episode and give him a follow on Instagram.

Hit the Hotline:

Hit the Hotline

Click the link below to leave your question or message for the show and get it featured on next week’s episode 

If you have questions or comments about the show that you want featured on future episodes hit the button below to leave a voice recording.  

We go through and listen to all the messages each week and we will do our best to get your recording featured on next week’s episode.

Feature Film Podcast – The Days Go By

Our detailed look at what it takes to put a feature film together is continuing over on Patreon this week.  For the most in depth cinematography break downs make sure you head over to the Wandering DP Patreon site and check it out.

To follow along with the Feature Film journey the link below to check out the weekly podcast:

The Wandering DP Patreon

Featured Guest – Cinematographer Kristofer Bonnell

Personal Website:  Kristofer Bonnell

Instagram: @kristoferbonnell

The post The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #170 – Kristofer Bonnell appeared first on Cinematography Podcast & Tutorials.

Otto Nemenz

Take 40

Innovator / Otto Nemenz

ONI_TRIO(2)

Take 40

Innovator / Otto Nemenz

Header Image (l-r): Fritz Heinzle, Marketing Manager; Otto Nemenz, Founder; Alex Wengart, General Manager

Although we like to think of innovation often as a “light bulb” moment for the innovator (perhaps an “LED moment,” in the world of modern filmmaking), for Otto Nemenz, the name behind Hollywood’s legendary camera shop Otto Nemenz International, or ONI, that innovation may have been innate.

Though Austrian by birth, Otto Constantin Nemenz spent the bulk of his childhood in Istanbul, raised by his mother. The multilingual Nemenz helped his grandmother write and translate the real estate offers she did business in – for his own 10% cut. And later, when the American Fleet would arrive, he’d leave school – without his mother knowing – to offer his services as a tour guide and interlocutor. The chocolates and chewing gum they gave him were sold, in turn, for additional profit.

He learned something else growing up near a port, too: that he loved being in sight of the ocean. And now, in the 40th year of overseeing his own company, he gets to enjoy a couple of distinct views of the Pacific: one from his home in Maui (his company also has a Hawaiian location, along with outlets in Utah and increasingly-busy Atlanta), and the other from his backyard atop the hills in Pacific Palisades.

It was there we caught up with him, after just returning from the Islands, while he mused again about how much he cherished those ocean views. He is also cherishing the view looking back on a storied career that has also included the founding of Cine Gear, a Sci Tech Oscar, and an award of distinction from the ASC.

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Armed with an optical engineering degree after college, Otto and his first wife eventually made their way to America, alighting briefly in New York. But it didn’t provide those balmy beaches that Otto missed from his own childhood, and Hollywood’s siren song lured them further west.

The ambitious young engineer found himself responding to what he thought was an appointment at Panavision in the early 1960s, only to be told – in those days before such responses were emailed – that they’d keep his resume “on file,” but had nothing for him at that particular moment.

Dejected, he made his way back to the battered car he’d parked in the rear of the lot, and our story might have ended there, except that Panavision co-founder and head, Bill Gottschalk, roared into the lot in a 1962 Cadillac which Nemenz recognised, and soon a chat about the car’s specs led to talk about optical and lens specs. Nemenz was now presenting himself as an Austrian engineer specialising in “precision mechanics,” which led to him being taken back into the building, where he wound up with an entry level job cleaning and organising filters.

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A few dropped filters later, they were still willing to nurture Nemenz’s talents, and he spent the next year honing them as a camera technician.

This not only led him to purchasing his first Eclair camera – the nub of the business he’d launch by decade’s end – but also to a job on the James Garner-starring Grand Prix (1966, dir. John Frankenheimer, DPs Lional Lindon/Saul Bass) to be shot in Europe. “I sold myself as an optical technician,” he says, and went on to help wrangle the 20 or so Panavision cameras deployed on the shoot, along with the 65mm zooms being used.

“I started freelancing after that,” he recounts, but what he also did was start gathering up equipment – tripods, film heads, and a fleet of 16mm Eclairs. “Mine were the best maintained, and the quietest, too.” And he began renting them out from his garage. That is, “until my neighbours got upset.”

Tom Hanks presents Otto Nemenz with an Academy Sci Tech Award for the Canon/Nemenz Zoom Lens
Tom Hanks presents Otto Nemenz with an Academy Sci Tech Award for the Canon/Nemenz Zoom Lens

“An ongoing industriousness [from Otto] has included, among other innovations, customising a Canon stills photography lens that the legendary Haskell Wexler ASC brought to him, saying he loved it, “but I can’t zoom with it.””

From there, it was a move to 1,000 square feet on Sunset Boulevard, in 1979 – thus making this the 40th anniversary year. And Nemenz notes that his first employee, Alex Wengart – still the general manager of ONI – “has been there longer than me, because I was late the first day!”

But as the second-longest tenured worker in his own company, Nemenz has more than made up for it with an ongoing industriousness that has included, among other innovations, customising a Canon stills photography lens that the legendary Haskell Wexler ASC brought to him, saying he loved it, “but I can’t zoom with it.”

Machining their own parts, the eventual Canon/Nemenz Zoom Lens would be the one that brought the company its Sci Tech award. Numerous film credits include classics like Terminator: Judgment Day (1991, dir. James Cameron, DP Adam Greenberg ASC), Fargo (1996, dir Joel Coen, DP Roger Deakins CBE BSC ASC), which started a relationship with the Coen Bros. that continues through The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (2018, dirs. Ethan & Joel Coen, DP Bruno Delbonnel AFC ASC), various Fast & Furious installments, and TV shows too numerous to mention.

Otto_Cake_Cut

As for the future – the next forty-plus years – ONI will be leaving its storied Vine Street locale, having maxed-out the space, for 40,000 square feet in booming Culver City, closer to where the former MGM, now Sony, is located, and where an expanding Apple – which also started in a garage, just like Otto – will be joining an ever-expanding array of other tech and showbiz brands.

And of course, there’ll be an expanded machine shop, which Nemenz says he “loves having.” They may not manufacture cameras as such, but they can “make the camera the way you want it.”

And people have been wanting them for a very long time. And the company will still be “part of the Westside,” Nemenz allows. “It’s a good place to be.” He also allows that they’ll even be that much closer to the ocean – where the view keeps pointing to new journeys ahead.


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Mike Eley BSC “Works Of Heart”

Works Of Heart

President’s Perspective / Mike Eley BSC

TWC_D01_128.CR2

Works Of Heart

President’s Perspective / Mike Eley BSC

The greatest film ever made? For much of the twentieth century it was universally acknowledged to be Citizen Kane. And in the making of that classic, Orson Welles recognised the essential truth of cinema by paying Gregg Toland ASC the highest industry compliment in sharing his screen title card with his cinematographer.

The new genius of cinema grasped instinctively an essential fact; that it’s all about where you put the camera, frame the action and light the story. Orson discovered very quickly that he wasn’t in the theatre anymore. Fade to black.

Fade up. The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences had been making not-so-discreet plans to cull technical categories from the live broadcast of the 2019 Oscars to bring the televised show in under three hours and, therefore, boost viewing figures and increase advertising revenue. Like its plan to create a whole new category (Best Popular Film), it had been hoped by many that this idea would fall by the wayside. Sadly, it didn’t.

Thus, we had the Academy announcing, just two weeks before the event, that the categories of cinematography, editing, live-action short and make-up & hair-styling would not be broadcast live but, instead, be recorded, edited and inserted into the live broadcast at some juncture of the evening (the ceremony would be available later on-line ‘uncut’, apparently).

Cue, a heartening and gut-led response to what, at best, could be termed an unconscious slight toward those who have devoted their lives and passions to their profession.

I don’t think we can doubt the Academy’s best intentions to please everyone involved. Every editorial sleight-of-hand would have made it appear as if the ceremony was one continuous live broadcast, slipping seamlessly from one category to another. “The viewing public would never have noticed the difference”, was a phrase used to defend AMPAS’s move. Perhaps not, but symbolically it was depressing and, for cinematographers especially, a marker as to where we sit in the purview of those overseeing our industry.

It was always about the showbiz, of course, but didn’t Hollywood use to revel in the reputation of its technicians and artists alike? The catalogue of movies depicting, often self-consciously and self-referentially, Hollywood’s backlot culture is evidence of that. The Dream Factory knew its entirety was its allure, its magic. And it was all shot through the prism, literally, of the camera.

“Now is the time, surely, that the BBC and BAFTA, inspired by AMPAS’s moment of reflection, get their act together and face up to their responsibilities. Honour and recognise properly and publicly, the men and women who create the images that make up the industry they represent.”

– Mike Eley BSC

It’s worth noting that AMPAS’s move, had it gone ahead (although they reversed their decision within a week of publicising it), would have been far less clumsy (and, quite frankly, more respectful) than BAFTA’s annual end-of-show debacle where it fast-shuffles through what it deems items still outstanding.

Now is the time, surely, that the BBC and the British Academy of Film & Television Arts, inspired by AMPAS’s moment of reflection, get their act together and face up to their responsibilities. Honour and recognise properly and publicly, the men and women who create the images that make up the industry they represent.

Both corporation and Academy should do this if only for the sake of diversity. If honoured equally, the position, be it cinematographer, production designer, editor or any other deemed below-the-line, becomes more visible and more likely to spark enquiry from those curious about a place in the industry (they’ll learn soon enough it isn’t all red carpets and call-ups to the stage, but by then they’ll be inspired by something more substantial). How many young women, for instance, are aware of the legion of women editors in the annals of moviemaking?

It cannot be just about the stars. Look up the definition of ‘academy’ and you will see the word ‘promote’. Where is the promotion in “… and other awards given out earlier in the evening included…”?

As I write, the 91st Academy Awards have yet to happen, but the first BSC Awards have. I was unable to attend due to work commitments but I sincerely wish I had been there. By all accounts it was a memorable and successful evening which saw the society’s honours presented in a fashion that I hope will become the norm. It was a proud night for the BSC and testament to the hard work and diligence of the BSC’s Events Committee that played midwife to what, I’m sure, will become a date of note in the awards season.

The society’s motto, ‘Preserving The Vision’, could have been coined for the film that picked up Best Cinematography In A Feature Film that night. Roma, photographed by its director, Alfonso Cuarón, is a loving recreation of a childhood – beautiful, elegant, human and humane. A worthy winner among a startlingly strong nominee list, the sort of shortlist that gives one heart for the state of cinematography today.

I’ll give the last word to Alfonso’s compatriot, Guillermo del Toro, who commented the week of the AMPAS controversy. It’s worth seeing in print again, and perhaps should be engraved on Academy walls: “Cinematography and editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical or literary tradition: they are cinema itself.”

Mike Eley BSC
President
British Society Of Cinematographers


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Aaron Rogers

Cooking up looks

Meet the New Wave / Aaron Rogers

Sara's Fav

Cooking up looks

Meet the New Wave / Aaron Rogers

Filmography (so far): Shorts – Pommel (2018), Last Christmas (2018), Thinking In Time (2018), Pollution Of The Heart (2016), Last Leg (2015)

When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?

When I was 16, I studied film and TV production at South Downs College in Portsmouth. I watched an Australian short film called Apricot, directed by Ben Briand and shot by Adam Arkapaw. It’s beautiful and the cinematography stood out to me. I then wanted to know everything there was about the role.

Where did you train?

Ravensbourne, but I was the worst student. I spent the whole three years working in the industry as a spark, working on everything I possibly could, whilst doing most of the coursework online.

 What are your favourite films, and why?

Se7en (1995, dir. David Fincher, DP Darius Khondji AFC ASC) – my No.1 movie. The stunning lighting and unique compositions blew my mind.

True Detective – season one (2014, multiple dirs., DPs Nigel Bluck, Adam Arkapaw, Germain McMicking) – the most captivating performances and filmmaking in a series.

Tyrannosaur (2011, dir. Paddy Considine, DP Erik Wilson) – a brutal but somehow beautiful account of a character, played by Peter Mullan.

Screen Shot 2019-01-26 at 09.29.08

What’s the best advice you were ever given, and from whom?

“The role of a DP is 70/30. 70% diplomacy, politics and communication, 30% skill and ability. So, be nice, work hard and play the long game, because people will remember if you are unpleasant.” Aaron John Walters, gaffer.

Who are your DP/industry heroes?

Darius Khonji AFC ASC – Se7en is a remarkable piece of work, and every time I watch it, it still blows me away. Darius’s lighting is impeccable along with his ability to capture intense moments within a story with class and intimacy.

Seamus McGarvey BSC ASC – there is an elegance to Seamus’s lighting and camera-work that I find mesmerizing.

Eben Bolter BSC – Eben grew up in the same area of South East England as me and I’ve always looked up to his wonderfully varied and beautiful cinematography, along with his work ethic. I’d love to follow a similar path.

Khalid Montaseb – the visceral and atmospheric imagery that Khalid creates encourages me to push for my own sensibilities, and to be proud of my voice as a cinematographer.

Have you won any awards or received any nominations?

I won my first award as a 2018 BSC Emerging Cinematographer for the short film Pommel, directed by Paris Zarcilla.

What’s your proudest moment?

BSC Emerging Cinematographer Award. Getting signed to Casarotto Ramsay & Associates, and this article.

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Shooting the short Pommel

What’s the worst knock-back/rejection you ever had?

There have been many. However, I always try to convert them into constructive learning experiences.

What have been your best/worst moments on-set?

Best: I shot the short Pommel, a year or so ago and loved every minute of it. It was extremely challenging but definitely the most rewarding film I’ve had the pleasure to work on. Pommel was based upon a true story and we were working with two young gymnasts, Michael and William, who played our protagonists. On more than one occasion I remember being in the middle of a scene and welling-up in the eyepiece. The atmosphere on-set the moment we ran a take was extraordinary and my director, Paris Zarcilla, was exceptional to work with.

Worst: On one of my first productions as a spark trainee, I ran 100ft of 63a cable the wrong way round, in a slate quarry in Wales in the sideways rain. Then had to swap the ends around with everyone watching. Luckily, the DP thought it was funny.

What was the biggest challenge on your latest production?

Attempting to track an ECU of an Olympic rower, on the tightest end of the Optimo 24-290, with a doubler, whilst he was rowing at full pelt along a canal in Manchester, with no time to practice as the wind was picking up.

Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?

On my first feature we were doing a lot of long days and early starts. I woke up one morning feeling delirious and I had a moment of utter madness. I thought it would be funny to pour a splash of boiling hot water from the kettle on the hand of my loader, Austin Phillips at breakfast. Somehow, we are now really great friends and he tells me he still sees the funny side!?

Away from work, what are your greatest passions?

My wife, and our miniature Dachshund.

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“I adore lighting – when you spend X amount of time prepping a lighting set-up based upon notes and references from your director and then move on to developing that into a reality with your trusting gaffer.”

– Aaron Rogers

What one piece of kit could you not live without?

Light metre (for finesse), and Easy Rig (to save my back).

Which films are you most proud of to date?

Pommel. Last Leg. And the music video for Metaxas titled “Sirens”.

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever shot in?

Kliptown in Johannesburg, at an outdoor bar location which also served as a barber shop, chapel, scrapyard and small farm for animals yet to be thrown on the BBQ.

What’s the hardest shot/thing you’ve had to light/frame?

I shot a Polish speaking short in Warsaw where I had to light a staircase for an aerial night shot from the top looking down. We wanted it to be dramatic and the whole film was super-stylised so we chose a mixture of Peacock blue (moonlight) and Hi Sodium (urban street light) as our palette. We employed an array of Tungsten Fresnels (300-2K) either direct or bounced into mirrors/poly to hide the fixtures in the little space that we had on each floor.

Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?

I know my way around a pre-1970s narrowboat engine (used to live on one).

In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?

Se7en (1995, dir. David Fincher, DP Darius Khondji AFC ASC)

What are your current top albums?

‘Hounds Tooth’ – Dope Lemon; ‘Chiaroscuro’ – Ocean Alley; ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ – The Wombats.

AAR_Headshot

Can you tell us your greatest extravagance?

Food… so much food!

What’s the best thing about being a DP?

I adore lighting. When you spend X amount of time prepping a lighting set-up based upon notes and references from your director and then move on to developing that into a reality with your trusting gaffer. It’s the moment the director sees my interpretation of their vision on the monitor for the first time, and their reaction, plus my relief, once they tell me how much they love it.

What’s the worst thing about being a DP?

When the above doesn’t have the desired outcome…!

Give us three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?

Adaptive. Supportive. Emotive.

If you weren’t a DP, what job would you be doing now?

Chef. I will go to culinary school some day. 100%.

What are your aspirations for the future?

To continue to do my absolute best on every project and remain open-minded, positive and respected by my peers and heroes.


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Inside The New Issue: 93

Feast your eyes on the new edition of British Cinematographer magazine – digitally* via our website, or in print**, from 16th May 2019 onwards.


On the Cover
George Richmond BSC
on Rocketman

In our latest cover feature, George Richmond BSC speaks to us about teaming up again with director Dexter Fletcher to style the visuals on the musical fantasy of Elton John’s life, Rocketman.

Richmond, son of the renowned cinematographer Anthony Richmond BSC ASC, tells us about the movie’s journey of colour, the joy of being free to be whacky and experimental during the production, and the challenge of shooting the entire film in just 60 days.


Alan Stewart on Aladdin

Having served his time on a variety of second unit work and shooting under many leading cinematographers, Alan Stewart has taken the lead to create the visuals on the live-action remake of Disney’s 1992 animated film Aladdin.

He reveals his thoughts on stepping up to the top role, how a variety of locations were utilised for shooting, and why he and his crew graded as they went along.

 

Gavin Finney BSC on Good Omens

Having previously worked on three other Terry Pratchett fantasy novels adapted for TV mini-series, Gavin Finney BSC took on Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s collaborative novel Good Omens for Amazon Prime/BBC.

Finney tells British Cinematographer why the look is best described as ‘hyper-real’, how the sheer complexity of the story required numerous period moods in the grade, and the situations where Lester Dunton’s projection system proved invaluable.

 

Maja Zamojda BSC on The Spanish Princess

A graduate of NFTS and a former British Cinematographer ‘New Wave’ inductee (BC72), Maja Zamojda BSC took on the role of shooting Starz’s production The Spanish Princess.

She discusses the inspirations of Atonement, The Revenant and Marie Antoinette, how a tricky tonal balance was achieved, and the benefits of using a lot of colour contrast.

 

Don’t Miss…

Plenty more soundbites, comment and opinion from productions by Nancy Schreiber ASC, Michael Coulter BSC and former ‘New Wave’ inductee David Procter.

Learn more about gaffer Lee Knight, aspiring cinematographer Ann Evelin Lawford, Jeremy Braben’s Helicopter Film Services and LED fixture-maker LiteGear.

And that’s not mentioning opinion from Roy H Wagner ASC, BSC president Mike Eley’s column, a round-up of the 2019 NAB show, our regular comprehensive guide to which DPs are shooting who and where, and more…

A subscription is still the only way to read the complete British Cinematographer, so buy one today to fully experience Europe’s No.1 cinematography magazine.


ISSUE 93:
AVAILABLE ONLINE* AND IN PRINT** FROM 16TH MAY 2019 ONWARDS.

* With an active ‘Digital Only’ subscription, or the digital part of an active ‘Print & Digital’ subscription.

** Issue 93 will only be received in printed format by those with an active ‘Print’ or ‘Print & Digital’ subscription purchased before 7th May 2019. Any new ‘Print’ or ‘Print & Digital’ subscription purchases made from 7th May 2019 onwards, will NOT receive this issue in print as part of their purchase. Eligible subscribers should expect to receive their copy within 7 days of the release date if in the UK, and 14 days if overseas.

 

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Roy Wagner ASC shoots Stand! with Blackmagic Design cameras

Cinematographer Roy H. Wagner ASC shot the upcoming musical drama Stand! using several Ursa Mini Pro cameras for principal photography, along with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K for select shots.

The story of Stand! revolves around the general strike that occurred in Winnipeg in 1919, an event that inspired such modern causes as the Occupy movement, as well as many union efforts throughout history. Directed by Robert Adetuyi, the movie uses a musical format to tell a “Romeo & Juliet” style love story set in the violent events of the era. Starring Gregg Henry, Laura Wiggins, Marshall Williams and Hayley Sales, Stand! is slated for release in 2019.

Shot on location in Winnipeg, Wagner knew he would need a reliable camera system that could withstand the rigours of location shooting, whilst also being easy-to-use.

“This is a camera I’ve done extensive tests with and have found it incredibly competitive with the most expensive camera systems,” he says. “The crew had never used the camera before, and yet were able to pull a brand new camera out of its case and have it fully-prepped within three days.”

The style of photography called for dynamic lighting contrast, deeply detailed shadows and brilliant highlights, requiring a camera with enormous exposure latitude.

“What amazed me when shooting with the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro,” said Adetuyi, “was that it allowed us to get into low-light situations and still capture really thick, rich blacks. We went for a very aggressive style, and the images allowed us a lot of latitude for interpretation in post production.”

Wagner was also happy with the detail in the shadows. “The resolution, the sharpness, the dynamic range, will please any demanding cinematographer. We were filming with atmospheric smoke, filming through layers of lace and open weave material that would have caused aliasing with other cameras.”

The project put a high demand on unique imagery, both for its period setting and also its musical style. “It was a great challenge to capture 1919 in its fullness, yet tell a poignant and dramatic story, and Roy created such beautiful images,” says Adetuyi. “There were a lot of typical issues with time that meant the cameras were under combat style conditions. We never waited for camera problems nor was I ever told I couldn’t accomplish a difficult task. The cameras were incredibly light and small enough to place wherever I needed.”

Wagner’s experience helped him to develop a unique style that was not afraid of contrast, yet embraced the story within the imagery. Wagner has driven the visuals of such diverse and innovative shows as CSI, House and Elementary. He is a multiple Emmy Award-winner, and is a member of both the ASC as well as being an honorary fellow of The British Royal Photographic Society.

Wagner has seen the transition from photochemical film to digital, and was deeply involved in early development of high definition imaging, photographing Pasadena, the very first dramatic episodic network television series in HD. Whilst always eager to embrace new technologies, he has not always been pleased with the results.

“I’ve done extensive tests with the Ursa Mini Pro and knew I was able to let the highlights overexpose and then bring them back in post production,” explained Wagner. “I could expose for the shadows and print for the highlights, which is what we used to do with the photochemical process. I was astonished at how it reproduces skin tone. I’m not having to use cosmetic rouge on the keylight, like I’ve had to do with virtually every other digital camera.

“Most modern cameras are like using medical devices. I’m having to put a great deal of diffusion in front of the lens, or something between the lens and the sensor in order to protect the actors. That was not the case with this camera. The filtration choices I made were creative.”

Wagner concludes, “This camera loves what’s in front of it, and gives me a chance to be an artist again. It can compete with any camera on the market now. But most of all, I’m excited about Blackmagic Design team because they love cinematography as much as I do.”

 

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My Journey in Photographing the Northern Lights

In December 2014, I decided that I wanted to practice shooting the night sky in order to expand my photography skills. Of course, I made every possible mistake. My compositions were completely off, I severely underexposed or blew out the sky and the images were not sharp.

At the end of that month, I headed out again determined to fix all my mistakes. I had learned that in order to nail my compositions, it was wise to shoot a few seconds at highest possible ISO and use those exposures to adjust my comp. When I examined my first shot from that evening, I saw greens in-camera. My first thought was: “What have I done wrong now?” Then it hit me like a hammer — aurora! I had no idea we could get aurora this far south in Norway. Fresh as I was, I had no knowledge about Kp values or aurora forecast services.

To say that I cried when it dawned upon me that I had stumbled upon aurora would be an exaggeration, but that my eyes became filled with tears is true.

My first aurora image:

*Moonlight Shadows.’ ISO 3200, f/4–30 secs, 16mm

There was moonlight that evening, but I, of course, blew out the moon. The moon here is added in post, placed approximately where the original moon was located in the sky. If I had edited this image today, I would have done things differently — with more subtlety. And there is too much magenta in the snow.

During my first night’s outings, I had learned the hard way that if I underexposed I would have a hard time picking up the shadows without being left with a lot of noise and magenta color cast. After each shot, I now carefully examined the histogram making sure I hadn’t blown out the highlights and that I had enough shadow detail to play with.

Those evenings out training, I had also been reminded about my fear of the dark. That fear somehow vanished or was forgotten when I now stood in the midst of something so amazing it defied words.

A little later that evening:

‘Double Cross.’ ISO 3200, f/2.8–25 secs, 16mm

My first attempts at editing this image were small catastrophes. Back then, photographer Ivan Maigua did very well on 500px and was one of my great inspirations – it was beyond me how someone could create such striking and beautiful images. So when he said yes to edit one of my images from this evening I was super happy. Of course, Ivan had a few tricks up his sleeve and made this scene come alive. Most importantly, he generously shared his approaches with me. Enlightened, I again embarked on the project editing this image.

After that day, I learned to keep a keen eye on aurora forecasts and headed out every time we had a clear sky and the forecast predicted Kp5 or higher.

Fast forward to the beginning of September 2015, and the forecast predicted around Kp6. That evening offered the strongest display of aurora I had ever witnessed up to that point. The colors were breathtaking. I could see the greens and now and then outbursts of magentas, but the bluish/purple tones were hidden in the dark something which resulted in not few ‘wow’ moments when I later examined the raw files. The camera sensor picked up the colors I couldn’t see.

‘The Embrace.’ ISO 3200, f/2.8–25 secs, 15mm

We also had a very strong outburst in December. That evening the moon cast a golden glow across the landscape. The snow fell late that year, but patches of ice had formed on the lake.

‘Ethereal.’ ISO 100, f/2.8–20 secs, 15mm

By now I had learned to blend exposures in Photoshop and always shot extra exposures for the shadows making sure that my main exposure hadn’t blown out highlights. It was often hard for someone who still struggled with paranoia in the dark waiting for a two-minute, or at times four-minute, exposure for the shadows to run its time.

One of my most popular aurora images to date was shot in the middle of March 2016. I had spotted an opening in the ice a week prior and hoped that I somehow could take advantage of it. Great was my luck when the forecast predicted aurora. I had the moon behind me. It opened up the shadows, but also to a certain degree unfortunately washed out the colors in the sky.

‘Euphoria.’ ISO 3200, f/4–20 secs, 15mm

April 2017. The aurora wasn’t very strong but I headed out anyway. I had gotten the Pentax K-1 a few months before and I was curious if it, like my former camera, would leave me with tons of magenta in the shadows if I pushed the files. It didn’t.

‘Polarization.’ ISO 6400, f/2.8–30 secs, 15mm

Approximately half a year later, and I was on my way to bed. The forecast had predicted a possible aurora but I wasn’t motivated to head out, not in the least because I had classes the next morning. Before wrapping myself in the duvet I peeked out the window. Was it greens I saw above the hill? I ran down, grabbed my camera, ran up the stairs again and shot an ISO 24600, 2-second handheld exposure to check if my eyes served me right. They did.

I got dressed again, said goodnight to my wife, and drove as fast as I could to the lake. It was interesting to note how swiftly motivation returned.

‘Visitation.’ ISO 6400, f/2.8–20 secs, 15mm. Shadows: ISO 3200, f/2.8–80 secs

The last time I shot the northern lights was at the beginning of May 2018. Around 30 minutes after midnight, it was sufficiently dark to get decent shots. I intentionally underexposed this image with around two stops to see what the Pentax K-1 Mark II was capable of. It did very well.

‘Final Visitation.’ ISO 1600, f/2.8–25 secs, 15mm

This past year could be summarized like this: Kp5 or higher: overcast. Clear sky: Kp1/Kp2.

But there is something utterly magical about standing under an aurora-colored sky, and one can easily become addicted to such magic.


About the author: Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a landscape photographer and math teacher from Norway. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Skjelstad’s work on his website, Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.