“Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff is a 2010 documentary film that explores the work of the cinematographer Jack Cardiff. It reviews his work and with the input of many of his contemporaries, examines his legacy as one of the most influential film makers in the world and details how he became master of the Technicolor process. The film includes interviews with Cardiff as well as Martin Scorsese, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Lauren Bacall, Kim Hunter, Kathleen Byron, John Mills, Alan Parker, Richard Fleischer and many others….”
Earlier this year I accidentally came across this cornucopia of documentary videos by and about, oddly enough, cinematographers and cinematography.
It is an invaluable learning and teaching resource I would have loved to have had when I was a student and a teacher.
Nice to see the name of my long-deceased distant relative and my father’s namesake Robert Gottschalk of Panavision in the USA flash up on screen in at least one of the documentaries here!
YouTube – Cinematographers on cinematography – “All material for educational purposes only. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976. Joined 7 May 2020.” – I wonder who is responsible for putting this incredible collection up here?
The artificial intelligence based colour grading system Colorlab Ai certainly looks like it could transform the grading process. Colorlab AI advisor and investor Steve Bayes explains why he became involved and how this technology should eventually become available to Final Cut Pro X users.
The current state of the world has posed challenges for all of us. As filmmakers, our challenges have been extra unique. Budgets are reduced, crews need to be smaller, and we are generally expected to work with less resources. That’s why we created the free Ninja Filmmaking mini-course: to show you how to create big results by outthinking your challenges. We’ll break down exactly how to plan out your story and be a far more proactive, stealth and intentional filmmaker.
Graphic courtesy of Muse Storytelling.
Graphic courtesy of Muse Storytelling.
The Muse Storytelling folks have launched a free online short course under the title Ninja Filmmaking that is aimed at helping moviemakers cope and survive if not thrive in this pandemic-affected world.
If things were difficult enough for independent self-funded documentary moviemakers before the arrival of COVID-19, they are even more challenging now with personal income and resources radically reduced and yet even more need for us to produce compelling visual storytelling to production standards that are constantly growing higher and higher.
Luckily, we are in the post-DSLR filmmaking revolution era, the now well-established mirrorless hybrid era with high quality, affordable cameras that can record excellent stills as well as video footage to current UHD broadcast and cinema projection standards.
Moviemaking remains, however, a predominantly white, middle-class occupation except in places where those of us locked out of the system have banded together in cooperatives with the support of donors and mentors to equip and teach ourselves to tell our own stories.
The last such organization located in Sydney’s inner-city suburb of Paddington shut its doors several years ago after charging high fees for equipment rental and training during its later years.
Any free or affordable training by well-qualified moviemakers is welcome and I am for grateful Muse Storytelling’s ‘Ninja Filmmaking’ online course and advice on what for current production standards by one-person bands.
Moviemaking remains costly here
As Drew Turney of Filmism.net shared in a recent newsletter:
We all know moviemaking is an inherently expensive exercise. Even the amount of money we’d consider low (or no) budget filmmaking would be enough to get the average middle class family out of debt for the rest of their lives.
Drew bounces between Perth in Western Australia and Los Angeles, and is doubtless aware that moviemaking is an even more costly exercise in Australia than it is in the USA, with our exchange rates, lack of importer and retailer competition and local unavailability of many key items as well as non-representation of a number of useful, even essential, brands.
Nonetheless the equipment list shared by the Muse/Ninja folks is a good one based on the currently most affordable and versatile feature-quality Super 35 hybrid camera, the Fujifilm X-T4, supported by microphones from Australia’s own world-famous audio equipment maker, Røde Microphones, along with other currently popular lighting and grip products.
Production hardware recommended by Ninja Filmmaking
Fujifilm X-T4 with Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens.
Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR professional Red Badge standard zoom lens.
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 with Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric wide to standard zoom lens.
Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric Power OIS zoom lens mounted on Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, water-splashed to demonstrate weather-sealing on lens and camera. Image courtesy of Panasonic Australia.
Panasonic Lumix DC-G100 mirrorless digital camera with Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric zoom lens and Panasonic DMW-SHGR1 Tripod Grip.
Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K aka BMPCC 4K.
Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K aka BMPCC 6K with Meike 35mm T2.1 Super 35 cinema prime lens.
Sigma fp L-mount 4K 35mm sensor hybrid video and photography camera.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 with Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens and Atomos Ninja V 5″ 4K HDMI Monitor/Recorder.
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art EF-mount fast zoom lens can be adapted for a range of Super 35/APS-C cameras or for cameras with larger sensors that can be set to Super 35/APS-C.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro professional prime and zoom lens collection as of late 2017, all with manual clutch focus, invaluable for fast, accurate and repeatable manual focusing as well as linear focus-by-wire and autofocus.
Meike 35mm T2.1 Super35 Cinema Prime with EF or PL mount.
Miller Air Carbon Fiber Tripod System.
Sachtler System FSB 4 Fluid Head with Sideload Plate, Flowtech 75 Carbon Fiber Tripod with Mid-Level Spreader and Rubber Feet.
Rotolight Aeos 2-Light LED Kit for video or stills photography.
The Muse Storytelling team’s Ninja Filmmaking gear list is a good one and in the best of all possible worlds would be affordable and findable at local retailers, had COVID-19 not arrived to disrupt supply chains and global air freight not to mention Australian and US postal reliability, or rather, the lack thereof.
As underlined by the Ninja Filmmaking list’s reliance on Røde Microphone’s products for audio recording, Australian brands such as Atomos, Blackmagic Design and Miller Tripods are highly regarded in video production around the world for their affordability and durability under challenging conditions.
While Fujifilm’s X-T4 Super 35 hybrid camera is an impressive performer and the company’s Fujinon prime and zoom lenses are justly respected by cinematographers, there are other approaches to video production.
Panasonic has been making strides in its S-Series 35mm sensor hybrid cameras with the Netflix-approved Lumix S1H while the recently announced S5 looks like a respectable and affordable lower-specced alternative A or B camera.
Panasonic’s G-Series Micro Four Thirds hybrid cameras like the Lumix GH5, GH5S and even the G9 have impressive video capabilities, excellent IBIS and a documentary-style Super 16 4K look and feel, though many moviemakers regret the company’s reliance on DFD contrast-detection autofocus when autofocus rather than traditional manual focus-pulling is becoming increasingly important for one-person bands.
While Westcott’s Flex Lights are impressively versatile in combination with the company’s Scrim Jim bounce and diffusion system, I have long relied on industry-leading Rotolight’s LED lights for stills and video.
Sachtler’s Flowtech tripods are reportedly fast and efficient to use on location by solo moviemakers while Miller’s solo user tripods are solid performers and prove great investments, lasting for many years in the trenches.
Independent stills and now video tripod maker 3 Legged Thing continues to expand its range with constant innovation in a field where innovation was sluggish for years.
Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro manual clutch focus cum fly-by-wire autofocus professional lenses are benchmarks of lens design in any sensor format whereas Meike’s expanding collections of affordable geared cinema lenses show real promise in independent production compared to the exorbitant prices usually charged for cinema primes.
The question is, then, what look and feel, what visual and operating style suits you, your personality and your personal circumstances best?
Hardware and software Ninja Filmmaking forgot
The Muse Storytelling folks have assembled a great core list of hardware recommendations but they left out some essential items of hardware and software for the “proactive, stealth and intentional filmmaker.”
To date no hybrid camera other than Fujifilm’s X100 series comes with built-in neutral density filters so one must invest in sets of fixed value neutral density filters or the variable neutral density filters that are most appropriate for one person run-and-gun moviemakers.
Quite a few documentary and video journalism cinematographers have matching variable NDs permanently attached to each lens in their kit to avoid exchanging filters on the spot.
Brands to look out for include Aurora-Aperture, Breakthrough Photography, Formatt-Hitech Firecrest, PolarPro, SLR Magic and many others.
If you are collecting filters with industry-standard diameters of 77mm or 82mm then you need step-up rings to attach them to lenses with smaller filter diameters.
Brands I use and recommend include Breakthrough Photography, Heliopan, PolarPro and Sensei, but I lean towards hardened aluminium or better yet brass, and look for knurled step-up rings for ease of use, and fast removal and attachment in the field.
Lastly, whatever camera you are using, you cannot go wrong with Paul Leeming’s Leeming LUT Pro system for creating perfect colorimetry and colours indistinguishable from what your eye sees.
Expose your footage using Mr Leeming’s recommended ETTR aka expose to the right method, demonstrated on the Leeming LUT Pro web page, and your footage will be eminently gradable to feature film standards in editing and grading software like Final Cut Pro and DaVinci Resolve.
3 Legged Thing – “The most technologically advanced tripod system in the world.”
Blackmagic Design – DaVinci Resolve – “DaVinci Resolve 16 is the world’s only solution that combines professional 8K editing, color correction, visual effects and audio post production all in one software tool!”
Leeming LUT Pro – “Leeming LUT Pro™ is the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table (LUT) system for supported cameras, designed to maximise dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted colour casts and provide an accurate Rec709 starting point for further creative colour grading. The Pro II LUTs are designed for perfect Rec709 colorimetry and have a linear luma curve, with an average measured dE(2000) of less than 1, meaning they are visually indistinguishable from reality to the human eye.”
Rotolight – “From the very first LEDs to offer the shoot what you see benefits of continuous lighting and High Speed Sync flash all-in-one, to the brightest 2×1 soft light ever made, Rotolight LEDs streamline the workflows of imagemakers across the world.”
This epic, five years in the making, is made up of 14 episodes narrated by Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, Adjoa Andoh, Sharmila Tagore, Kerry Fox, Thandie Newton and Debra Winger. Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema follows in the footsteps of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: An Odyssey, to give us a guided tour of the art and craft of the movies. Using almost a thousand film extracts from thirteen decades and five continents, Cousins asks how films are made, shot and edited; how stories are shaped and how movies depict life, love, politics, humour and death, all through the compelling lens of some of the world’s greatest directors – all of them women.
We don’t have access to TCM here but if we did, we would be glued to the TV set for the duration of Women Make Films.
“Made In Her Image, Panavision, Light Iron, and LEE Filters present the virtual roundtable discussion “Through Her Lens: Creating a Truly Inclusive Film Industry.” Moderated by Made In Her Image founder Malakai and featuring cinematographers Mia Cioffi Henry, Melinda James, Kira Kelly, Cybel Martin, Keitumetse Mokhonwana and Sade Ndya, the conversation addresses inequities within the motion-picture industry through the lens of women of color behind the camera.”
I am glad to see Panavision, a company to which my family has an odd and distant connection, along with Light Iron and LEE Filters presenting this discussion by a number of inspiring black female cinematographers, moviemakers and activists.
When I was living and working in the United Kingdom I was located near the centre of a world of photographic creativity, photography education and commissioning photography the like of which I have never seen in Australia and most likely never will.
I was constantly exposed to creators, critics, educators, publishers, thinkers and innovators whose activities made me feel alive and excited about photography itself as well as its associated fields of cinematography, design, publishing and exhibiting.
I did not meet art director, editor, educator, moviemaker, photographer, podcaster and writer Grant Scott back then and I would have loved to have known him, but at least I have easy access to his insight and knowledge via his The United Nations of Photography website and the now three three books he has written.
Grant Scott’s latest book is ‘New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography’, to be released on the 28th of November 2019, and I am very much looking forward to it.
Those born since the digital revolution, seem to have the hardest time re-imagining the role of photography in the world today. Thinking of photography as a visual language is the approach this book adopts to addresses this challenge.
Considering photography in this way develops the metaphor of ‘learning a language’ when attempting to explain what photography can be, and what it can give a student in transferable creative and life skills. This begins with challenging the pre-conception that successful photography is defined by the successful single image or ‘the good photograph’.
The book emphasises the central role of narrative and visual storytelling through a technique of ‘photosketching’ to develop the building blocks of visual creativity and ultimately to craft successful bodies of photographic work.
New Ways of Seeing explains how to both learn and teach photography as a visual language, appropriate for both professionals and students working today.
Instead I cobbled together my own way of teaching based on my own life and experiences, and on my understanding of photography as a visual language, a way of seeing and a documentary medium.
The table of contents of ‘New Ways of Seeing’ is intriguing:
The Narrative Eye
1. How Did We Get Here
2. Speaking in a Digital Environment
3. The Basic Vocabulary of a Visual Language
5. Building the Narrative
6. Developing Fluency
7. Speaking Out
Meanwhile Grant Scott has made a vast quantity of thought-provoking material available on his The United Nations of Photography website and I highly recommend watching his feature documentary on the late Bill Jay.
I have just enjoyed reading ‘Do Photographers Need a Brief? Was Alexey Brodovitch Right?’ at The United Nations of Photography where Grant writes that “when Brodovitch commissioned photographers he used just two words “Surprise Me!” That was it. No written brief, no visual reference or complicated requirement was placed on the photographer. He trusted the photographer to respond to a situation and gave them space to be themselves. The work that was created was ground breaking and timeless.”.
That is exactly how I commissioned photographers when working in advertising, based on how I would have loved to have been treated as a photographer, and the results spoke for themselves.
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc – New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography – “The book emphasises the central role of narrative and visual storytelling through a technique of ‘photosketching’ to develop the building blocks of visual creativity and ultimately to craft successful bodies of photographic work. New Ways of Seeing explains how to both learn and teach photography as a visual language, appropriate for both professionals and students working today.“
Grant Scott Photography – website – “After fifteen years art directing photography books and magazines such as Elle and Tatler, Grant began to work solely as a photographer for a number of commercial and editorial clients in 2000. His images bring together all of his experience working with some of the greatest photographers of the last century with his graphic and journalistic talents. His aim is to create engaging photographic narratives from every commission. Grant is currently based in the South West of England.”
“Ron McCormick trained as an artist at Liverpool School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools in London before moving across to photography. He played a significant role in the formation and development of photography galleries across the UK in the 1970’s – including Half Moon Gallery in London, Side Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne and the original Ffotogallery in Cardiff.
Ron taught on the Newport Documentary Photography course alongside David Hurn and established ‘The Newport Survey’ publication that students worked on as part of their studies – produced over a decade in the 1980’s….”
Ron McCormick was a Visiting Fellow in the School of Art and Design at Curtin University in Perth when I was teaching after being a student, all the while engaged in my own efforts to radically reform art and photography education there and in other places in Western Australia.
Ron spent most of his time photographing in the goldfields and other outback locations and three images from those trips are featured in this set of interviews along with his earlier work in the east end of London and south Wales.
Meeting Ron and seeing some of his work led to spending a year in the United Kingdom shortly afterwards, meeting a number of photographers including the great Brian Griffin, stiffening my resolve to continue my reform efforts back in Australia by whatever means possible despite the gatekeepers and power brokers controlling the medium.
ffoton: Ron McCormick in Conversation with Paul Reas, Cardiff, June 2019 – Part 1
ffoton: Ron McCormick in Conversation with Paul Reas, Cardiff, June 2019 – Part 2
ffoton: Ron McCormick in Conversation with Paul Reas, Cardiff, June 2019 – Part 3
“If we consider the zoom range and fixed f4 aperture in the FUJINON lenses in this segment, to me, the most reasonable option is XF16-80mm. From wide-angle to a medium telephoto zoom range makes this lens ideal especially for street and travel photographers. Even for general architectural shots (no ultra-wide angle), the lens has high-end features that will satisfy anyone who wants to work with a single lens. Let’s look at the other details….”
FUJIFILMglobal: Huseyin Aldirmaz x XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR / FUJIFILM
Each year I always look forward to the Sydney edition, as it were, of Fujifilm Australia’s People with Cameras event and that anticipation is no less eager this year with the event coming up for tomorrow, Saturday September 7th, 2019.
I will be carrying my trusty Fujifilm X-Pro2 and a handful of Fujifilm Fujinon prime lenses, along with an X-H1 kindly loaned by Fujifilm Australia’s PR folks.
I have been enjoying the many virtues of the X-H1, and am hoping that an X-H2 is on the horizon for release early 2020, if we are lucky.
The X-H1 in combo with my X-Pro2 is a powerful kit when engaged in documentary work and portrait photography.
The X-H1 is, of course, the better option of the two for top-quality video using the Pro Neg Standard, Eterna Cinema or F-Log profile depending on taste and need, and I highly recommend using Paul Leeming’s settings below when shooting with the X-H1, X-T3 or X-Pro2, as well as their other cameras.
When shooting video, or stills for that matter, always best to expose to the right aka ETTR in order to avoid burnout at the shoulder end of the exposure scale.
Paul Leeming’s video settings for Fujifilm cameras:
Pro Neg Std (best option on the X-Pro2), Eterna Cinema, F-log (or HLG for the X-T3)
H265 recording format
DR100 for all profiles
Highlight tone 0
Shadow tone 0
Noise Reduction -4
Zebra level 100%
I have been hoping a lens like Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR would turn up for quite some time since acquiring my first interchangeable lens Fujifilm camera, a standard zoom lens offering better quality than the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit zoom which has, however, proven surprisingly good for its class though the latter is not everything I might wish for.
The X-Pro2 and X-T3’s lack of in-body image stabilization ruled out considering the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR, a lens that appears better suited to a gripped IBIS-equipped X-H1 than the two smaller cameras.
My time in DSLR-land with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and its Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM kit zoom lens taught me the value of lenses with optical image stabilization and a bit extra on the long end of the focal length scale when shooting documentary stills and video.
The in-development announcement of the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR came as a pleasant surprise to many of us who had been hoping for a one-lens replacement for several prime lenses when weight and size would be an issue and Hüseyin Aldırmaz’s report on his experience with a pre-production copy looks promising.
Now to the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR’s release and falling into the hands of well-qualified non-Fujifilm Ambassadors for some in-depth reviews so we have some idea of whether this is the all-purpose standard zoom lens we have been waiting for.
I was lucky enough to spend a very short time with a pre-production model of the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR at last Saturday’s Fujifilm People With Cameras event in Sydney and can report that the lens feels good and solid with fast autofocus and good balance on the Fujifilm X-T3 upon which it was mounted.
I was asked not to save any photographs or video shot with it so my assessment is limited.
Thanks to the ever-keen eyes of the folks at Fuji Rumors, I have now added some reviews of pre-production versions of the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR to the links list below.
Enjoy, until the first in-depth reviews of the production version of this lens start appearing.
Bill Fortney – The New Mid-Range King! – “I will cut to the chase and tell you now it will replace the 18-135 as my standard middle zoom. In fact for my upcoming trip to the UP of Michicgn and Acadia N.P, it and the 10-24, and 100-400 will be my three zoom package. “
Fujifilm South Africa – THOUGHTS ON THE FUJINON 16-80MM F/4 – Anton Bosman – “For professionals who are looking for an all day carry around lens and for the traveller who is looking for a compact carrying kit, yet they still want the ability to create images that will hold their own against the best on any platform. For videographers there is good news, the lens has very little breathing.“
Ivan Joshua Loh – XF16-80mm. – “If you are looking for a zoom lens; this could be it. Of course there is the XF18-135mm lens but I would go for the XF16-80mm. I would prefer a wider advantage than a tele. I would not use this lens professionally as the optically on a different level when compare with XF16-55mm F2.8”
jonasrask|photography – Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR first look preview – “The XF16-80mm f/4 R WR OIS is without a doubt one of the new Fujinon XF classics. It is a phenomenal performer with great image stabilisation, and good IQ throughout the zoom range. Especially at 50-80mm. It’s sharp and has good looking out-of focus rendering. It focuses very fast and precise, and the build quality is fantastic.”
Leeming LUT Pro – production of Paul Leeming’s LUT pack for Fujifilm XF cameras is currently under way.