“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.”
I have been using several different types of medical and non-medical face masks for a while now to help protect against coronavirus infection amongst the many locals who have yet to receive the memo about safety in the age of COVID-19.
So far none of the masks I have tried have done the job well enough, all of them fogging my eyeglasses up to various degrees.
The last straw was this morning when having my eyes tested at an optometrist and neither my own mask nor the one provided by staff there worked entirely fog-free.
Time to look for something better.
Social distancing and wearing masks are not popular where we live
Photographs by Karin Gottschalk.
Given members of my family are highly vulnerable to infections due to genetic variations, it is crucial that we make greater efforts to protect ourselves and others than those who live around us.
As the owner of a local café told us recently, the locals where we live “just do not care” about social distancing.
Good enough for them, perhaps, but not for me and mine.
When Emily Skye shared on Instagram that she had chosen the Hudson Spider Shooting Mask for her cast and crew on a feature film about to start production, after exhaustive tests of many such products, I enquired about availability.
My objective was to purchase one mask to try it out with my usual eyeglasses and in my customary all-day shooting scenarios.
Here is the reply from Sarah Hudson of Hudson Spider:
The biggest issue we have right now is with no passenger planes coming in from the US, shipments times into Australia are impossibly long, usually more than 3 months. We can definitely Fedex quickly but the cost is more than the mask, so we’d need a bulk shipment to make it worth It for the buyer…. The irony is when the jets return to Australia you will no longer likely be required to wear masks, catch 22.
We sometimes have shipments going to Framelight in Sydney (literally last week we sent one) but I can let you know next time we have a shipment heading downunder.
Movie lighting company Hudson Spider now offers two types of face masks
Images courtesy of Hudson Spider.
The Shooting Mask by Hudson Spider.
So, still without a good enough solution to the fogging problem, I have begun looking beyond masks as such and cast my mind back to my days as European Contributing Editor for not only Black+White magazine.
I had often encountered globetrotting photojournalists, documentary photographers and cinematographers sporting the large cotton scarfs known as shemaghs or keffiyehs due to their ability to wick moisture away as well as help protect against dust and other airborne particles.
Now I am off to Amazon and eBay to research this other potential solution, possibly choosing a keffiyeh or shemagh in blue, grey or black to match my usual shooting clothes and aid in blending into the background when needed.
Australian feature film cinematographer/director Paul Leeming has released the first camera profile correction look-up table in his Leeming LUT Pro set for Fujifilm X-Trans sensor-equipped cameras, for Fujifilm’s F-Log logarithmic shooting profile, with Eterna Cinema, Pro Neg Std and HLG for Rec709 LUTs to come.
This is a significant and long-awaited event given that Fujifilm has finally delivered on its longtime promise to radically improve its cameras’ video capabilities with the Fujifilm X-T3 and X-H1, with the coming X-H2 hopefully improving on the X-T3 as a moviemaking hybrid mirrorless camera in Super 35 format.
Super 35 has long been the feature film format of choice for narrative and documentary production, and the arrival of improved video capabilities on Fujifilm’s X-T2 cameras was a relief after the disappointment of the X-Pro2’s video support.
Leeming LUT Pro for F-Log on Fujifilm cameras with X-Trans sensors
Even the recently announced X-Pro3 appears to have 4K Super 35 video features that may prove good enough in a pinch when more video-oriented cameras are unavailable.
The Leeming LUT Pro expose and correction methodology is based on exposing to the right aka ETTR followed by correction via camera-specific look-up-table files in one’s nonlinear editing suite or colour grading software of choice.
The ETTR method’s most vocal proponent was the late Michael Reichmann who was in favour for its use in photography and videography, and although he and many other photographers constantly lobbied camera makers for auto-ETTR in their Live View-capable cameras, to no effect so far.
Why camera makers continue to ignore the necessity of optimal exposure is anyone’s guess.
For that reason I am grateful that Paul Leeming has applied himself to solving the problem of correct exposure followed by correcting colour via Leeming LUT Pro, with the added benefit of making footage shot on a variety of affordable cameras usable in the same timeline without excessive shot matching work.
The ideal, maximum possible dynamic range and realistic colours, using Leeming LUT Pro and Expose-To-The-Right (ETTR)
Uncorrected camera maker luma and colorimetry
Luma curve and colorimetry levels corrected with Leeming LUT Pro
In the light of camera makers’ tendency to fudge their camera’s video output as illustrated above, exposing to the right appears to make footage appear darker than one may be accustomed to, but Mr Leeming has made available other, secondary, LUTs to quickly and easily raise footage low values, as explained below.
As usual, the LUT will “darken” the footage, which really just means it will make the curve perfectly LINEAR. Examine the attached image using your waveform scope in your favourite editing software, and you’ll see what that means, with the exposure steps forming a perfect “X” shape in linear fashion. This is of course ETTR, so if you under-expose your image, it will look darker.
The LUT(s) don’t make the image darker. The LUT(s) correct the manufacturer luma curves to be linear. In most (but not all) cases, this results in the image “appearing” to be darker, but it’s not affecting anything, nor clipping anything, nor adding additional noise that wasn’t in the shot to begin with.
Don’t forget, you also have the Apollo Pro Quickies to use after the corrective LUT in case you want to brighten the image without clipping the highlights or adding any more shot noise. But when you can, please ETTR and save yourself the problems (and give yourself the cleanest possible log image to begin with).
If your shot after LUT application has its highlights not reaching 100% IRE, then you underexposed it. Use the zebras as per the guide to see where the clipping point is. Expose just shy of that and you’ll maximise sensor dynamic range and minimise shot noise.
If you HAVE underexposed or simply want a brighter image post-corrective LUT, try following it with one or more of my Apollo Pro Quickies, which are expressly designed to lift the shadows in a natural way without clipping the highlights.
Stills frames from feature film shot by Paul Leeming, ungraded then graded with Leeming LUT Pro
Ungraded, straight out of camera footage. The sort of non grading currently popular in Australian TV commercials.
Graded with Leeming LUT Pro. Cinematic and filmic, and far more emotive.
Settings for shooting video Fujifilm cameras for processing with Leeming LUT Pro
Pro Neg Std, Eterna Cinema, F-log or HLG
H265 recording format
DR100 for all profiles
Highlight tone 0
Shadow tone 0
Noise Reduction -4
Zebra level 100%
Quick and dirty Leeming LUT Pro for Fujifilm F-Log tryout with Fujifilm X-H1 F-Log footage
Ungraded, out of camera footage from Fujifilm X-H1 with F-Log.
Graded footage from Fujifilm X-H1 with Leeming LUT Pro for Fujifilm F-Log, plus a LUT from Leeming LUT Pro Quickies and colour correction.
I shoot documentary stills and video rather than make narrative feature movies, so often work alone under challenging conditions as in this example.
The Fujifilm X-H1 had a vintage Zeiss Jena Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 MC Auto prime lens attached to it via a Gobe M42-to-X-mount adapter with no neutral density filter, and I fudged on setting a custom white balance as I was more concerned with understanding the creative possibilities of this lens for video than in getting technicalities perfect.
An adapted 50mm lens on an APS-C/Super 35 camera equates to 75mm in the 35mm sensor format, which is one of my favourite focal lengths for documentary photography and video.
I have been throughly enjoying trying out this lens and its companion, a Panagor PMC 28mm f/2.8 wide-angle prime lens that Paul Leeming kindly gave us.
These sorts of vintage prime lenses are rare and overpriced here in Sydney, at least ever since camera stores like Foto Reisel with their secondhand gear cabinets closed down.
Fujifilm Super 35/APS-C hybrid cameras capable of shooting 4K and Cinema 4K F-Log video as well as in other picture profiles: X-T3, X-H1 and X-Pro3
Fujifilm X-H1 with VPB-XH1 battery grip and Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR professional zoom lens. Image courtesy of Fujifilm Australia.
Fujifilm X-Pro 3 with MHG-XPRO3 grip and Fujinon XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR prime lens.
Fujifilm X-T3 with VG-XT3 Vertical Battery Grip and Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS zoom lens.
The Luminous Landscape – Expose Right – This once-essential website is now paywalled, though a limited number of free page views is permitted before paying for access.
The Luminous Landscape – Optimizing Exposure – “In 2003 I wrote a tutorial titled Expose Right. To my knowledge this was the first generally available essay that discussed the realities of digital exposure, as opposed to that required for film. Since then the technique described has become known as ETTR (Expose To The Right)…. A live-view histogram-based auto-exposure system is all that needed to generate the best possible exposure from a technical perspective.”
Wayback Machine – Optimizing Exposure: Why Do Camera Makers Give Us 19th Century Exposures With Our 21st Century Cameras? – “In digital photography, exposing to the right (ETTR) is the technique of adjusting the exposure of an image as high as possible at base ISO (without causing unwanted saturation) to collect the maximum amount. So – here we are, more than a decade into the DSLR revolution (and the new century) and camera makers are still using 25, 50, even 100+ year old exposure technology in our latest cameras. Why? I really can’t say, but they should be taken to task for not delivering the best image quality that their cameras are capable of and thus get the optimum performance out of the digital image sensor.”
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.”
“In this article, Sam Mestman looks at each Apple product that can shoot or edit, indicates its place for filmmaking and also tells us which models he recommends. If you’re thinking of buying a new Mac, iPad or iPhone, this is for you!”
Expatriate ex-Wollongong moviemaker Sam Mestman and longtime contributor to Final Cut Pro website fcp.co recently assumed an editorial role there with the aim of stepping up his articles for the site after giving up his coalface role at post-production workflow company LumaForge.
Mr Mestman has been instrumental as an ambassador, educator and advocate for moviemaking for the people throughout the United States and shares invaluable insights in his articles.
I highly recommend regular visits to fcp.co to all moviemakers whether you use Apple hardware and software or not.
Emily Skye of shewolffilms recently released her dramady series ‘The Erectors’ via Amazon Prime and she has a full slate of in-development and about-to-be released productions, an inspirational success story for this British-born former model.
Those upcoming projects include a documentary series, other television series, feature films and no doubt more of the music videos with which she established her reputation.
According to her IMDB biography, “Emily Skye is an American screenwriter, director and producer. She began her career at an early age after being scouted by Wilhelmina Models. While working on multiple film and television shows, Emily discovered her passion for directing was greater than modeling. With multiple music video directing awards, Emily ventured into narrative supernatural, sci-fi fantasy feature films and TV series dramas.”
‘The Erectors’ is, according to Amazon Prime, about “two single mom’s trying to make it in Hollywood as filmmakers” while the next production soon to be out of the shewolffilms gate will be ‘Binders Stash’, where Ms Skye helps us “explore the world with Host Bill Binder, as he searches for the best whisk(e)y! Meet legends that share new releases, unheard stories and go off the beaten path to discover distilleries that are making incredible juice!”.