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Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 13 of 16

How to Set Up the Camera

Jim Denault, ASC

Cinematographer's Preparation

Jim Denault, ASC

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Lesson Info

13. How to Set Up the Camera


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:06:20
2 What Are the Basics to Know? Duration:28:35
3 Prepare to Get the Job Duration:39:18
4 How to Do the Meeting Duration:14:32
8 Essential Documents Duration:12:06
10 How to Prep for the Tech Scout Duration:11:25
11 How to Go on Tech Scouts Duration:32:43
12 The Basic Gear Package Duration:23:03
13 How to Set Up the Camera Duration:11:38
14 How to Camera Test Duration:03:50
15 Audience Q & A Duration:12:23
16 Parting Words Duration:02:20

Lesson Info

How to Set Up the Camera

Now you've got the equipment, and you want to get the camera set up so the camera assistants will go into the randall house, you know, the day before, or two or three days before a week before, depending on how much equipment there is to deal with and how much time they've got. Um, so they make sure the cameras working, they make sure that all the internal settings are set up the way that that the production needs them, and normally it's, you know, like back when it was filmed, like the dp would pick the film stock, but setting the settings inside the camera isn't necessarily like that. It's, you know, there's a whole chain of people that I have to deal with, what comes out of the camera, so picking the frame rate, picking the compression off that kind of stuff is really it's a conversation more than something that that the dp would dictate, you know, there's a lot of people that that, you know, have their say into that this is this is teresa, who is a camera assistant who helped me pu...

t together off this all this gear, so the the camera systems will make sure that those settings air, right, they'll check the lenses, they'll make sure that they that they're calibrated you know that the focus is right on all of them and that you know and they'll go through all the accessories and make sure it all fits together, organize stuff and you know, make sure that we're basically ready to shoot what I do I'll set up I will make my own frame lines and this is like it's one of those things that I realized in you know, in the old days with film there was this little area that was on the film but that was outside the frame line that was still in the shot and with digital frame lines, you know, most of the standard frame lines that you get are drawn right to the edge of the frame and the way your mind the way the operators minds tend to frame things it puts things so close the edge of the frame that the masking and a movie theatre is just a little bit off or the television was just a little bit off you'll have, you know, the tops of people's heads chopped off in that sort of things. I've kind of cooked out my own ninety six percent safe area and I make back the heavy line and then the gray shaded area outside is the safety area in the viewfinder and you know, every different camera has a different way of making that happen, but you know, I'll the bottom line is that I kind of make the frame lines for, you know, for the camera too reflect that little safe area. The other thing I learned the hard way is that the neutral density filters with the I r especially the heavier ones um will make the image go green to the point where it becomes really hard to correct it out in dailies so we'll go through the filters, the camera systems and I will put them on you know we'll go outside white balance the card in our white balance the camera on, you know, on a white card outdoors through each filter and if the white balance setting, you know, when you when you white balance it shows you how much it's correcting and, you know, with the alexis, the cameras I'm most familiar with, so when you see that that that green magenta setting is going like much more than six or you know, if there's if there are certain filters that are way out of the range of most of the filters, I won't take them and then we'll we will usually make a white balance setting for the camera you know, outdoors is when you tend to use nd filters so we'll make a white balance setting corrects out kind of the average amount of green that's in there, which is usually somewhere around three and that's uh that was another you know, it's another one that we were in the hard way but I think that that's like that's kind of key um and then I'll just make sure that all the monitors their caliber red and usually this kind of comes in you know, we'll we'll either have a deity or daly's colorist depending on you know like for me I prefer to have a dailies colorist to is backed by the editing room or you know, somewhere like not necessarily on the set pushing their card around I think that after like the the conditions are better for them to get everything matching right and and it's you know it's uh um you know it like I feel like the dailies process is a little more efficient it's also more familiar to me like you know, shooting film like you'd send the film and you'd have some guy back at the lab who would just look at a great card and you know and time it and you know based on you know, one conversation you've had at the beginning of the shoot and it usually worked out okay so we'll get the I'll get the monitors that I'm using on set calibrated to match the colorist and then whatever settings those monitors have you know it's usually some little digital number I'll make sure I'll write it down because invariably they will get changed somehow I don't know how and then once we've done that, the other thing I'll do with the dailies colorist is creative viewing lot. So, you know, sometime during the testing process, either at the rental house or during the hair makeup test, I would have gotten a shot of a great card grayscale and, you know, with a person in the shot and, you know, I'll light it, you know, just some kind of nice, even lighting, and but it's, mostly about setting up some contrast and color color values, and but I've found with most of the cameras, is that the viewing lots that come with them, the stock viewing let's? And this is it doesn't the viewing that is not what we cook, what effects what's recorded usually you're recording, you know, log, see image, but the viewing that is what processes what comes out of the output, you know, to watch on the screen, so you're seeing something that is kind of semi color corrected. Um and you know, so my my process, I try to make the the lot less forgiving than the actual image would be, and most of the standard lots that come are very flat looking they tend to you tend to see be able to see a lot of detail in the shadows and highlights. And then when you get into the final car correct you realize that there's not much information the image has been looking bright to you on the set so that you you stopped down stop down because it's been looking bright and then you get into the final color correction and all of a sudden it's like, oh, yeah, you were right at the edge of under exposure so crane come yeah. So then you crank up the contrast. So what I do here is kind of an example although let me look at it, you can see a little bit um, this is I kind of did this in photo shop and of course, every monitor is different and this monitor is different than mine. But what I know what you can kind of see is especially the highlight end of that the shadows are a little bit more open than I would have thought that the highlight end of that, how the two are almost blending together and the shadows should almost be blending together. This monitor is a little bit brighter than the one I use, but you know what? This monitor down here that I'm looking at looks exactly right. So go figure that's why you need to calibrate the monitors, but and, you know, essentially what I did and there are different every day camera bender has their own proprietary terry software for making the viewing lots for their camera but essentially what I did was this to the curve where if you like this is this is the the output of the light and this is the exposure so I you know I made it so that the first two stops these first two steps don't you know aren't as bright and then these last two two steps which are these two are you are a little bit less bright so it makes this part of it a little more contrast and you can see even this side like even on this mother it looks a little bit more a little punch here a little more dimensional and this is this kind of a curve this kind of reproduction is is more typical for what you would expect from you know from film print stocks and so it's setting up just putting a little bit more contrast into your into your viewing lot if you're lighting and you can't help but be influenced by what you see when you're looking out on the mother even if you even me I not having lit with monitors for twenty something years and then finally getting a monger I look at the monitor and I'm like, oh, I'm you know it's the monitor is showing me exactly what I get but it's not exactly what you get it's different than then what will be projected on a movie screen that's different than you know, the wreck seven of nine that comes out of here is different than what happens when you're in a digital cinema space so I just build in a little bit of extra insurance for myself I make it seem a little bit more pessimistic for myself and and so then I am more pleasantly surprised later when things go the way they do so like I you know, I like to work with a with a dailies colors but you guys like there's anybody here you know, shoot a lot with a d I t on set yeah, I've been in a few sets with deity, but they've just been handling you know, all the data but they haven't uh, nobody's ever been on set actually doing any calling cramping? Yeah that's interesting it's like, you know, there was a time when it it was almost all color correcting and I think there's do you tend to have teresa you tend to have diabetes on set that air doing contracting for commercials or doing he's? Yeah on dh they really depends on the shoot and how quick of a turnaround or something they want um uh they'll do downloads obviously, but not always calling right depending on the dp yeah, they will do it or not yeah, I don't do as many commercials, but I know that it seems like it's more common tohave the onset color correction for commercials and, like, you know, for me, it's and most of the tv and movie stuff. It's more common tohave. Ah, dailies facility who doesn't? Later, even if there is somebody who is a d I t that sampling data management, the color correction usually happens. They call it near set, not on set. So somewhere nearby usually, you know, in the editing room, um, from the from the chat rooms just want to let you know, uh, kenny has had deity color dailies and it's the best thing in the world. So definitely a lot of agreement there and deities on commercial sets, but not not for others. So yeah. So that's that's an agreement? I was, I'm honestly curious myself, because, you know, it's like you, I'm you. We all kind of work in our own little bubble. So part of the reason, martin, the motivation for me doing this is to get out and see what other people are doing and, you know, especially people that are, like, you know, out in different parts of the world.

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.