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Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 15 of 16

Audience Q & A


Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 15 of 16

Audience Q & A


Lesson Info

Audience Q & A

You guys have anything ah you know a test that you've done that seemed interesting yeah yeah when you're on set are using one camera two cameras that will depend and you're definitely the first movie scented we're all one camera and the first two camera think that I shot was it was for television and it was uh that was um that it was a good learning experience thankfully I had directors who were experienced with two cameras shooting and you know kind of what kind of god me and I was alternating with another dp so I got to watch how his episode work first you normally there's there are two ways you can work with two cameras right that you can have a wider and tighter looking in the same direction or you can look in opposite directions and cover you know say both sides of the dialogue or both sides of the action at the same time and you know which is it's useful for a lot of reason that editors like it because the actions always match the actors like it because they don't have to do as m...

any takes but as as a dp it's difficult because it gives you many fewer places to put lights so you have to you have to kind of adapt your lighting style to it and that was that was a good learning experience for me now it's almost everything is two cameras that I do yeah yeah um I've made tests for like uh stabilizers like different camera movements and start using different stabilizers that something that you that you test out depending on the mood of the yeah and and the other thing the other part of the test for that is you know figuring out how it's actually gonna work like in the course of doing your job you know during the day like is how big of a pain in the butt is this thing going to be for lack of a better words like is it you know is actually going to make anything faster or is it just going to you know replace one thing slowing us down with some other things slowing us down but did you did you do how did you do your comparisons did you I'm basically just like yeah I just recorded uh holding up the karen with different thing spending it to different thing to see what kind of movements I got and were you able to tell the difference they were they were fairly different setups one was ah shoulder rig to the other one was with like a glad count camera style um I've also heard of different um different styles well you would strapped the camera to your arm because it would give you weirder rotation I tested that I mean of course it was just like using a belt and it didn't work out but right. But it's cool, you know, give you like different view yeah, I have one of my friends is starting a show where he's an operator and it's gonna be a lot on the movie camp, you know, the little the little stabilized thing thatyou handhold and s o I'm curious it's like people are people are definitely pushing the envelope with that I'm curious how that's going to go. I'm curious to see his arms afterwards sued and I feel like, well, they there's been like all these new products like the slingshot I believe it's called yeah, there's, this new one that just looks like a like a like a jetpack, right? It's pretty much the same aslo slingshot, but like more mechanical eso right? That's like all that stuff is cool. I haven't I haven't come across the opportunity to try it yet, but I'm I'm definitely interested like all of us, it's like the gear is really fun, you know, like, I'm just like if I hadn't gotten into this, I probably would have been, you know, a mechanic or an engineer or something like I'm just really interested in in nuts and bolts I was wondering about, like, how audio worked for you because I'm typically a part of a crew where you're doing everything you and leading and camera and so I was wondering what does it look like for a dp having an entirely separate unit taking care of that and what do you need to know right well you know I started out the first feature I did I was the boom operator so I you know it's like I get it from that side um most of the stuff I do it's two systems that you know the sound recordist has their own recorder and you know, the only real connection we make is they sync up time code between them and us I've done it I've done enough new style and documentary stuff where I'll have I'll be tethered to you know kind of a combination sound recordist boom operator who has a mixer you know who's basically setting their levels and it works find you get you know you get to be friends you know you know the the sound operator figures out how to move with you and you know after a while you're a team definitely wireless is definitely better for my end if that's if I was going to say something like that but you know you like you make it work if however was most reliable we're gonna uh two questions one has like see giant thes um tap movies change the way you use your equipment at all in conjunction with what you would see like in a tradition and well you know what I mean uh with special effects these type of things that affected you at all or it does visual effects it's really interesting you know, I did a couple of like political movies with jay roach for hbo the first one was recount and we shot it on super sixteen and which j really like because we did almost the whole movie handheld it was very you know, it was very fluid like the setups you know moved very quickly was very flexible in terms of where the cameras went and jay was really into that and so when we started planning game change he said I want to do it just like recount we're going to use super sixteen and then the visual effects supervisor said no, wait a minute I don't like super sixteen because it's too grainy and when we do the composites like for the convention or all of these things where were you know, stitching archival footage together with footage that we've made that kind of stuff it's going to be too difficult? So have you heard about this new camera called the alexa it's really good and you know, it's like that was the beginning of the end for me like that that was you know, that was almost the last filmed I shot on film except really film right before it was the last film I shot on film and it's you know, and definitely a certain amount of it is driven by visual effects and the other part of it is driven by the fact that you know, the monitors on satur clear like, you know, everybody feels like they're seeing something closer to what they get I think it was that and, you know, for television it was the there was ah labor dispute that between this green actors guild and, you know, on the producers that you know made the producers want to shoot on video tape rather than film and so it was, you know, all these things sort of came together to you know, to change that process, but that's why? You know, I feel like it's, um, I'm not sure how I feel about it, you know, it's it's it's like, is an inevitable change or is it? You know, like like, you know, like, should I be fighting for, you know, the way I've always done things I don't know, um, the internet sure. Great. So you were talking earlier about the camera, the town that right? Um, which you purchased earlier in your career? What camera? Today, if you were starting out, would you would you recommend that's a that's? A tricky question? I think it's the reason is tricky is that, um, you know, back then you know, like when I bought that camera the camera itself was already I think fifteen years old and but it still was as viable of the camera as you know as when it was first made because it took the same film that ran through it the lenses were older but they were just a cz good as anything that was that was being made at at the time and so I could I could buy something that was older that I could afford I could never have afforded a brand new camera I think I feel like now you know I don't want I also don't want to get in this situation like plugging one camera another I have my favorites but it's my own personal favorites um I think that the way I would go about choosing what camera I had to buy was I would look at look at how much I could afford and you know and in that range what which has the picture quality that I want and realizing that whatever camera you get in a few years there's going to be some better camera that comes out there and all if all of your worries are about you know about this particular camera and making sure it's relevant it's like it's on ly you've only got a narrow window teo either make your movie or make your money back or you know or use it before you know, before something newer better comes out so you want to find something that you're going to be happy with that even when the newer better thing comes out you're still saying, well, you know, this takes the same pictures that took when I like that two years ago so you know, why can't I keep using it now um and um you know and so it becomes an individual decision like that you know, the difference between the red and the alexa you know, some people prefer the way one look some people prefer the other way the other one looks and it's you know, it comes down to personal taste it's almost like choosing film stocks was back, you know, back in the old days and speaking of cameras and considering we have a red right there on the table what do your thoughts on shooting with a very loose framing toe offer the editor more flexibility in post, particularly when shooting digital? That is a good question I'm not in favor of that I feel like, you know, you need to be able to make a decision on the set and I you know, I I get that it's possible to reframe things and you know, and it happens all the time, but I you know, I do feel like what I would go for is, you know, tio tio have an intent when you're shooting and to get as close to that intent as possible on the camera and then if they change their mind and ending fine, I'm not you know I'm not against it, but I wouldn't go into the process saying, well, I'll just figure it out later it's like know you figure it out now and then if there's something that you want to adjust later you make those adjustments great that's my theory, I like it I like it a lot. So one last question from alex miranda from the chat rooms would like to know how you balance filmmaking in family that's a really good question like, you know, I don't know I've somehow managed to do it, but it's like my daughter's wondering what I'm doing in san francisco right now and instead of being home because I've been away so much, you know, people ask where I live and I tell them where I live in hotel rooms and tax incentive states and but I have a family that lives in pasadena and it's sort of the truth, you know, last year I was out of time most of the year the year before that I basically refused to leave town and I was able to find work in los angeles that I a couple of jobs that I actually really like doing so it's you know, from from that standpoint, I I do it year by year, rather than day by day. That makes any sense.

Class Description

Cinematographers need to do more than simply, “show up and shoot.” Preparing to film is a complex, considered, and artistic task and Cinematographer's Preparation with Jim Denault, ASC will teach you how to strategize and achieve the most creative, productive shoot possible.

Most filmmakers are in the dark about what cinematographic preparation truly entails. This class will give you with a step-by-step guide to preparing to shoot a whole range of narrative material – from the simplest moments to the most complex series of scenes. Jim will show how to break-down and analyze a script from an aesthetic, technical, and practical point-of-view. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Analyze a script aesthetically and technically
  • Evaluate and provide for the practical needs of a scene
  • Achieve maximum subjective effect within your shooting "strategy"
  • You’ll learn precise, effective, artistic, and technical approaches to shooting, which can be applied across all forms of filmmaking and length of material.

Working cinematographers, camera operators, and filmmakers will develop new skills for efficiently and beautifully conveying the artistic essence of their material.  


Zuhair Lokhandwala

Great class! Highly recommend to those starting out who are unclear about the process of getting the first job, meeting the director and keeping things organized so you feel more in control and have good clarity when you're at the shoot finally Thank you Jim!


This class is perfect for anyone who does not have years of experience as cinematographer ; it teaches everything a DP should do in pre-production, and is often not taught in film schools ! I'm freshly graduated and thus I don't have that much experience of pre-prod as DP, but this gave me everything I needed to know. It's also one of the few class of the genre online, and it's a fantastic one, thank you so much !

Christopher Lamb

There is nothing more valuable than learning from people that continue to work in their field. This course is priceless. To get into the processes and thoughts of a successful working Cinematographer -- there aren't words. Everyday I'm on set I think about the necessity of mentorship and this is the closest thing to that. Thank You Jim for agreeing to share your processes and techniques and to Mentor us in this digital age. Thank you CreativeLive for hosting this class and making it available.