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Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 8 of 16

Essential Documents


Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 8 of 16

Essential Documents


Lesson Info

Essential Documents

When you show up, the other thing that happens is you get handed, you'll get handed some paper um or email now it's all email it's like yeah, figuring out how to start it out and your email is just I'm not going to tell you how to do that because I still haven't figured it out myself but the things that you get that you'll get the production calendar which basically tells you you know, it'll tell you when the when the tech scout is when the production meeting is if there's some, you know, hair and makeup tests planned and when the first day of shooting is, which is kind of the you know what everything counts down to and then you know kind of a subset of the production counter will be a prep schedule, which kind of day by day, hour by hour tells you what meetings you have when you're going on scouts, that sort of thing and then you'll have the one line schedule or the strip board, which is the schedule for actually what scenes you're going to shoot on one day and then which is in a kind...

of summarized form I have a picture I'll show you in a bit and then there's the shooting schedule, which is a more elaborated version of of the one line schedule that shows all of the information that the assistant directors know about what the about what each scene requires so you'll be talking to the assistant director you'll look at the one line schedule and one of the things that the assistant directors like to do is figure out whether it's even possible to shoot all the stuff that they have to shoot on one day so you'll make a little timeline they'll have some idea they'll say well this scene's going take us three hours to shoot this scene is going to take us five hours to shoot and you know then we're done and you can look through that timeline and based on what you know from talking to the director about the shot list from you and from what you know about you know hopefully you've seen the location you know? So at this point you're you're gonna have to make some kind of guests of I can I do that in three hours that we're gonna be able to pull this off and you know and or do we need more time for that and how like what's going on you know, how are we going toe figured out out at the same time you're going to go through it's like, well, this takes three hours and this takes four hours and the sunsets at five thirty like we're not going to be able to get all this stuff in daylight so how do you know how do we deal with that? Um so like you have those kind of logistic conversations with the first a d and one of the things that you you can do is go through your breakdown sheets your your pages that you've got and say you imagine the crane shot or set you know, the underwater unit like the first lady has probably figured out where the underwater unit works but you know, maybe you need a crane or maybe this is the day that the director said I'd really like a you know, another camera crew you'll have all that stuff and you kind of make sure that the first a d has all that information to put in their students schedule sometimes they have it already sometimes you know, sometimes you're the person who who figured it out so you want to make sure that you pass that information on so that you know the production knows that that is coming they can figure out whether to spend the money on it or not um, you know and uh and so the like later, when you get into the tech scout in the production meeting, all that information gets distributed to the camera department, the grip on electric department so I like I come up with my own little filing system is it's a little boring but it's pretty straightforward I've got, you know, projects that I'm things are still going on and you know, including glimmer of hope, our project that so inside that folder I've got the keynote presentation that we're looking at right now it's crazy it's like it's within itself and then you know, I was able I kind of label the folders this is all like strictly housekeeping but it's like learned the hard way so telling you I come up with, you know, with some sort of short little thing to label each bolder because there's nothing worse that like, you know, then looking then putting some equipment list and the wrong equipment list bolder because every folder, every sub folder of a project that's called equipment list so I tryto make it specific is possible and this is all in dropbox and not that I'm being a dropbox ad but what's cool about drop boxes that I can also get teo my phone, my ipad like all of this information, I'm not stuck with my laptop, you know, which is kind of a pain to you know you're out on the set you can I could just like put stuff in, you know, if I need to look at an equipment list, I can pop it up on my phone it's is so cool um so then you know, inside the schedules boulder will be some of the things that the first a d gives you so now we're going to look at the one line schedule in the shooting schedule for a glimmer of hope that my friend julian made this weekend you know, I kind of uh pressed into service so here's a sample one line schedule and already it is wrong because you know when we do the actual shooting were going to shoot the exteriors first we figured that out you know, in the production meeting that happened after julian did this but that's you know, welcome to film production that's usually what happens up until you know but like this schedule is constantly changing that's why I like making sure that you know that whatever system you have this kind of is flexible enough to keep up with that is sort of key so here but the parts of it are way see, you know he's got the title of the movie which which schedule it is like there's a you know, it's called white I'm not going to get into the color order but as different versions of a project are are brought out you know it'll be on white paper blue paper pink paper and you know sometimes you'll get all the way around after several different color is backto double whites and double blues depending on how many things there are updated and we'll put the date so that you can keep track of which you know which version you're out and then within within this each one of these air called strips and it references back in the old days before we had computers, they would have long strips of cardboard that you know were held in a little folder and they could shuffle them around. Each strip represents this scene, so this is scene one it's just you know there's the slug line and the synopsis and then when it says day one there there's only one day in the story of our movie, but say that there was another scene where dan comes back to life a month later or there's a flashback tio previous scene this might say day two or it might say flashback one you know, so that tells you kind of where you are in the knot in the in the days of the schedule, but in the inn what days there are in the in the story this four pages that tells you how long the scene is one and two those air, the character numbers for number one is dan number two his hope this this particular thing has, you know, that he puts the location so you can keep it straight and then there's some weird little codes there and we don't understand what those are yet, but we will find out um and so and then the other thing that's counterintuitive about reading on one lance schedule is that it'll say the end of day one and this is like a holdover from when they made the strips and, you know, laid out the cardboard strips so everything above here is april first everything you know and but it's it's often really easy to get confused I still do it and read everything below as being the date that's listen here, but you just have to make sure you you remember that it's the stuff above. So that's briefly reading the shooting schedule are the one line schedule. So yeah, and here's the shooting schedule, which is basically just ah it's an expanded version of the strip bored so we see now the cast members have their numbers one and two and you can see their names next to it. And then julian has gone through and he listen this all the props that you know so these are things that the prop department is goingto have tto bring to set, you know, maybe we need special effects. Tto make the the tea kettle boil, or maybe we're just going to boil the tea kettle will see whether there is some steam and definitely, you know, dealing with hot water spilled on camera that's you know, we want to make sure that's done safely and maybe, you know, he's always thinking maybe we need doubles for the shoes and pants in case he gets wet, so the eighties will have gone through and thought about all that kind of stuff and what you can do is if let's say, you know, for for this particular thing, you know, you need a special dolly or you want a jib arm or a macro lens or anything like that, you got the I d know and it will end up in this shooting schedule, so then, you know, the the production is is aware, and they'll make sure that the equipment gets ordered, they'll, you know, and and shows up on time, so then you can see his little codes at the end of that strip, you know, so he's got he calls them speed bumps, which is, you know, things that might possibly slow things down on us. So we've got special effects we've got time consuming reset, which is the the spilled water that's what the ras thing was, I didn't know what that was either until I looked at this and then their visual effects, the visual effects are when dan's phone rings do we need to have some sort of graphic that shows up on their and are we going to be able to make that happen on the set, or is that going to be something that gets done in postproduction or do we even need to see the phone and that's you know? So he puts that in and then it's a because he's thinking about what all the possible things are and then we talk about like how are we going toe you know what? What is the reality? And then this will get revised they get revised up until the last day of shooting and then you don't really need to know that much about this but he made it so I'm going to talk about it it's the day out of days often you know we only have it with the actors here but you know if you have a special expensive piece of equipment, a techno crane or something like that often that will be they'll generated day out of days for that too so across the top you'll see dates we only have one day so there's only one date but there would be more and you know if you know on the first day that something works this has to do with how the side contract works but it kind of applies to equipment too on the first day that something works there will be an s if it's just working then there will be a w and the last day that works there's an f and so in this case they start they work and they finished on the same day but sometimes those letters will be will be spread out. It's this's. Probably the my least used form. But when it does get used, its, I'm reading it to see, like how many days the techno crane works. That's. Usually what is, or the insert car.

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.