Since 1978, John Carpenter has owned Halloween. South Pasadena, Calif., just made it a little more official.
On Wednesday, the powers-that-be in the town where the director filmed his 1978 horror classic Halloween proclaimed Oct. 31 to be “John Carpenter Night” to honor the filmmaker.
With as many fans as he has made in his 43-year career in Hollywood with The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Starman, The Fog, Escape from New York, Christine and many others, it’s not hard to imagine John Carpenter Night becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
“I like that a lot. That’s a good idea,” Carpenter says with a laugh.
A recent 35th-anniversary Blu-ray was released to celebrate the introduction of Michael Myers as a masked horror icon, Jamie Lee Curtis becoming a young Hollywood star as a babysitter trying to avoid being murdered and Carpenter’s ultra-creepy musical score and tinkling piano melody. The movie would ultimately spawn nine more Halloween films — the two most recent were in 2007 and 2009 by Rob Zombie.
The original Halloween‘s also returning to the big screens all over the country this month with a new HD transfer courtesy of Screenvision. (The fourth and fifth sequels are also returning to cinemas, though Carpenter wasn’t involved in their creation.)
“It’s pretty shocking that after 35 years they’re bringing this thing back,” says Carpenter, 65. “When I was young, before there was cable television and home video, they used to re-release movies all the time. Really oddball things. It wasn’t a shock to see a re-release, but it is now.
“They’re still flogging this dead horse trying to get it up.”
These days, a perfect John Carpenter Night — for Carpenter at least — probably involves more Los Angeles Lakers and Call of Duty on his TV screen than horror films. The filmmaker talks with USA TODAY about his current hobbies, his best acting role, Halloween around the household and his future in the movie business.
Q. Does it feel like 35 years since you unleashed the first Halloween?
A. Yes and no. Yes, because I’m older and I can feel my aches and pains as an old guy now. And I’ve made a lot of movies in between. But no, because I can look back on it and remember vividly the experience making it. So it’s a mixed thing.
Q. At that point in your career, who was your biggest cinematic influence?
A. My biggest inspiration had nothing really to do with horror movies. I’m a big giant fan of Howard Hawks. He was the director I most looked up to and thought was the great American director.
I had grown up watching science fiction and horror movies, especially when I was young. The golden age of monsters from outer-space movies was in the ’50s, and I was right there as a kid. I loved every one of them.
A lot of history had gone on in this genre for me to be able to apply some of it to Halloween.
Q. Of the many things it’s famous for, from the “Final Girl” trope to the infamously ominous theme to Michael Myers’ mask, what’s the must underrated aspect of the original Halloween?
A. I must be really frank with you — I think people like the movie more than I do. (Laughs) I look at it and I see, oh my God, we only had $300,000. The sound in that scene is just awful. Why did I do that? Why didn’t I shoot it better? But other people ignore that, which to my delight makes the movie play.
Q. Halloween just had a recent Blu-ray, and so have They Live, Prince of Darkness, Body Bags (out Nov. 12), Assault on Precinct 13 (Nov. 19) and others. Your stuff is being introduced to a new generation of fans.
A. That’s right, and it’s all good! The more money in my coffers, the better I like it.
That sounds very crass, but you get jaded in the movie business. I got into it for the art, and I realized very quickly that no one gives a (expletive) about the art.
Q. A few of your movies have been remade — obviously Halloween, but also Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog, too. Is there something you’ve done that if you had your druthers no one would touch?
A. No. I don’t think I’ve made a perfect movie, and it’s the director’s film. It’s what a director does with it, so if somebody took one of my movies and brought themselves to it, they may do it better. I don’t have anything precious.
See, I thought that way about Halloween. I thought, “You know what, there is really no more of a story to this than the first one. There’s nothing else to say. That’s a perfect ending and a perfect wrap-up for that story.” But no, the call of money — they continued to make sequel after sequel.
Q. Did you ever watch any of the Halloween sequels or remakes?
A. I watched a couple in the beginning, and I thought, “I just can’t do this anymore. I can’t watch this.”
Q. So there wasn’t anything new they were bringing to it.
A. Well, they were fooling around with, in my mind, the MacGuffin: This guy Michael Myers is an absence of personality. He’s an absence of humanity. He’s somewhere between being human and being supernatural. You don’t want to go deeply into that — you want to keep that a mystery. And I thought they went the exactly opposite wrong direction trying to explain him. You can’t. You shouldn’t, I think, but that’s me.
Q. You must find it slightly ironic then that people are still dressing up as him for Halloween.
A. It’s hilarious, are you kidding? The fact that we took a Captain Kirk mask and spray-painted it white, and now people are buying brand new masks and dressing up for Halloween is ridiculous. It’s absurd! But it’s great. I love all of it.
Q. What is Halloween like at the John Carpenter house?
A. My wife loves Halloween so we have candy prepared for any trick-or-treaters. And we have two residences, basically — one is an office, one is a home. My home in the Hollywood Hills, no one comes by. It’s very quiet so I sit here and watch basketball or play video games. My wife goes down to the office, which is in Hollywood but on the flatlands, and a lot of kids come by. She gives out candy and dresses up and it’s great. I don’t at all.
Q. Do the kids know her as John Carpenter’s wife, or is she just the lady with the candy?
A. She’s the lady with the candy in the white house. (Laughs) With a white dog that barks all the time.
Q. Soon after Halloween was released, did your career veer in the direction you wanted it go?
A. I got to become John Carpenter. It was unbelievable. I am so lucky to do what I did in my career. I got to do all sorts of different things and make all sorts of different movies, and I couldn’t be a happier guy about it.
I can’t think of a movie I would have loved to have directed other than the ones I did.
Q. Some people might be surprised to find out that you’re connected with an Oscar-winning project.
A. I worked on a short film at USC (1970′s The Resurrection of Bronco Billy) that won an Academy Award. I didn’t win an Academy Award — the movie won.
Q. So you don’t have an Oscar hanging around on your bookshelf.
A. The head of the USC cinema department brought the Oscar in a paper bag and showed it to us. That’s the height of arriving in Hollywood.
Q. The Halloween theme on its own has become iconic and will be a part of many people’s creepy playlists when they celebrate John Carpenter Night later this month. Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever heard the tune?
A. Coming out of my wife’s cellphone as a ringtone. But the strangest version was a heavy-metal version back in the ’80s. It was unbelievable. I can’t remember the band but it was great.
Q. Do you still tinker with music and songwriting?
A. Yeah, sure, all the time. But now, the most important thing in my life — the thing that will consume me — is the upcoming beginning of the NBA season. I cannot wait.
We’re not going to do very well this year, but I like the Lakers. We got decimated last year. What a bad year that was. Ooof.
There are a lot of great teams. I hate the Miami Heat. Hate them. And I hate them for a bunch of different reasons, but they’re very good.
Q. When did you get interested in basketball?
A. Grade school, and then through high school, college and adulthood, I’ve always loved the game. I understand it — I was never any good at it.
Q. What would still surprise some folks about you?
A. I became a commercial helicopter pilot in the 1980s. I flew into the ’90s, and then I had to stop because I realized if you don’t fly helicopters every day, you’re not safe. You can’t do it part time — you have to do it all the time. So I gave it up.
Q. In addition to composing, you’ve done a lot of acting in your movies, too. Did you foster any aspirations in front of the camera, maybe before settling on being behind it?
A. If I was more of an actor I would have aspirations but I couldn’t act! (Laughs) God, I’m so bad in some things.
Acting is tough. That’s a whole different ballgame. I can judge and coach and give help to actors, but I don’t want to get up there and do it.
Q. Did even a little bit of acting help your directing in a significant way?
A. Sure it did. Back in high school, I was in an acting class and I had to do a play where I was on stage the whole time. I learned what it takes.
Once I got over being frightened of actors when I started in the movie business, I understood that they’re as insecure as everybody is — maybe even more so — so just help them out. Once I understood that basic idea, everything was fine.
Q. Bestow your own personal Oscar to any of your acting performances.
A. (Laughs) I now announce that the Oscar for best acting goes to John Carpenter for Body Bags as the Coroner!
Q. That’s a fun one, chewing up scenery in a morgue as a Crypt Keeper-type character.
A. It was a blast. And the secret is the makeup. Once you’re covered up in that Rick Baker makeup, you can do anything. You just felt free to be a fool, which is the whole secret of it.
Q. Who is the most interesting actor you’ve ever worked with?
A. That’s a tough one. I’m going to have to say Donald Pleasence. Not only did he become a close friend of mine, but Donald Pleasence had a way of reading lines and playing scenes that were completely unexpected.
I would write a line on a piece of paper when I was writing the script, I would hear it, and he could turn that line around and say it in a completely different way and make it even better. He was really an interesting man.
Q. He was in Halloween, too, and was almost your muse for a while.
A. He was in three of my movies, yeah. What impressed me was he was a fighter pilot in World War II — a machine gunner.
Q. Of your movies that have found cult success, any surprises in there?
A. People pick up on various movies that I’ve made and it always surprises me. Some people really love Big Trouble in Little China. Some people love In the Mouth of Madness. Some people love They Live for God sakes. There was a book written about They Live, it’s amazing.
Q. Is there a particular favorite for this generation of new film fans?
A. They all seem to love Big Trouble for some reason. I don’t quite know why.
Q. Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton does have an enthusiasm that is child-like.
A. Yes, he does!
Q. He’s like a lovable trucker Indiana Jones on crack.
A. He’s an idiot, though! He doesn’t realize he’s a sidekick in the movie. He thinks he’s the hero.
He believes that “Relax, everybody, I’m here,” and he can do nothing right. Nothing. He’s a complete buffoon, but you love him.
Q. The last film you directed was 2010′s The Ward. What’s next?
A. I’m working on a couple things, but you know what, I’ve turned 65 and I’ve decided it’s time to relax a little bit. I’ve had a long career, and making movies puts really serious miles on your physical and emotional life. I like kicking back. I’m really a big fan of video games so I play a lot.
Q. What are you into now?
A. I’m playing old games waiting for the new releases: the new Assassin’s Creed, new Battlefield, new Call of Duty, those kinds of games. Right now I’m playing through probably for the fifth time Borderlands 2, which is an unbelievably great game.
Q. Do you play online with other people?
Oh, God, no. These 13-year-olds will kick my ass. I don’t want to do that. (Laughs)
Q. So, which will happen first: the Lakers winning another NBA championship or you directing another feature?
A. That is really a great question. That’s a coin toss.
(Sunday Geekersation is a weekly series of Q&As featuring luminaries, mainstays and newcomers of geek culture discussing their projects, influences and pop culture.)
Buy John Carpenter films on Amazon
How to Create Realistic Wounds
Here’s a video to show you how to apply realistic wounds that are both realistic but also within budget. Great for all those indie horror filmmakers out there.
In the video, Tohline breaks down the editing of the famous final scene in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly mathematically — taking each shot, categorizing them, and counting how often, and in what sequence, they appear. He reveals how this editing technique tells an incredible story where there is none.
Buy The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on Amazon
Just in time for Halloween. Not only is this film a horror classic, it is also a great film for indie filmmakers to study and learn more about the process.
With the latest edition, more extras have been added and Blu-ray.com has the full review:
Halloween Blu-ray Review
It looks new, but ‘Halloween’ will never feel old.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 17, 2013
He is coming to Haddonfield.
Halloween only cost around $320,000 to make, but its smallish budget doesn’t reflect the finished product’s quality nor its legacy. Director John Carpenter’s (The Thing, Escape from New York) Halloween has become not only a seminal end-of-October Scare picture and a staple of the Slasher sub-genre but also a gargantuan influence across the Horror landscape and a herculean presence on the greater world of cinema. It’s also one of the handful of quintessential films that perfectly demonstrate how vision, skill, and dedication can overcome any financial hurdle or the burden of any limited resource throughout the filmmaking process. This is a film that gets everything right, and even in its small little flaws there’s a charm to the basic effectiveness and fundamental workmanship of the crew’s problem-solving skills. Halloween is, daresay, a near perfect film in a terribly imperfect film world, one crafted through inspiration and with purpose, both of which would shape a movie that would become the template for so many others to follow and hope to copy but also one that could never quite be replicated to the same level of simplistically effective, moody, musical, and atmospheric success.
One Halloween night, a young boy named Michael murdered his sister. He’s been locked away since, but years later on Halloween night he’s escaped from his confines and left a bloody trail on his way back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois where the plans to kill again. He’s chased by the dedicated and frantically obsessed Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) who knows Michael’s thought processes and anticipates his moves. Meanwhile, in Haddonfield, the town prepares for Halloween night. Teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a straight-and-narrow sort, is to babysit Tommy (Brian Andrews). Her friends, however, are a bit more boy-obsessed. Annie (Nancy Kyes) wants nothing more than to ditch her babysitting duties and spend the night with her boyfriend Paul, while Lynda (P. J. Soles) plans an intimate evening with her boyfriend Bob (John Michael Graham). Little do they know that Haddonfield’s most notorious killer has other plans in mind.
At its core, Halloween is really quite the simple movie. The story of a menacing killer stalking a handful of teenagers wasn’t particularly groundbreaking then and it’s certainly nothing novel now. The secret to the movie’s success, then, lies beyond the superficial and in both the picture’s ability to so perfectly capture the true essence of terror and its creator’s vision for a sum that’s greater than the parts. Fundamentally, Halloween plays on basic human fears of the unknown and the fully dangerous manifested in the physical form. It takes elements from the classic “boogeyman” (which is how many of the characters describe Michael Myers throughout the film) scares, the “haunted house,” and the “urban myth,” all of which, here, just so happen be, for one night, anyway, the living truth in the lives of a few unfortunate souls. Carpenter expertly makes all of these pieces fundamentally frightening by combining them with a very simple but effective back story, a haunting mood, and a sense of urgency that’s crafted through the frantic rants and ravings of the Dr. Loomis character. Loomis exists to give weight and purpose to the terror, which is a fundamental must that so many other imitators lack. The simple appearance of the monster isn’t enough; there must be a context for the killings or else it all becomes a hack-and-slash blur. In fact, there’s precious little in the way of killing and even less gore in the film, putting the entire thing’s success on the broad shoulders of Carpenter’s know-how and vision. Halloween works because it understands the demands of the genre and it capitalizes on each of them in a way that none of the sequels and very few other modern-era genre pictures can match.
Carpenter’s vision is perhaps the most critical of the key factors that make the movie great. It’s more than his vision for the story but also his vision for the way he frames it, thematically, emotionally, and visually all. Much of the film’s first hour is defined by the characters going about their lives, squabbling about romance and homework and babysitting. It’s a very casual atmosphere that’s juxtaposed against sudden sensations of fear as seen through Laurie’s eyes, glimpses of “The Shape” here and there that are more important as plants in her and the audience’s subconscious and less important as physical scares in the movie. Carpenter often depicts Myers from a distance, from an over-the-shoulder perspective, or shrouded behind some obstacle that obscure’s Laurie’s, and the audience’s, vision of him. Myers presence is felt or implied through mood and music and only occasionally seen across many of the film’s backdrops. Close-ups reveal only the chest-down area or that over-the-shoulder angle. As the characters nonchalantly go about their lives, Myers often lurks, literally, right around a corner, on the other side of a door, or behind the laundry left outside to dry. Carpenter masterfully manipulates the characters and his audience with the contrast between the happy-go-lucky “everything’s fine” mentality of most of his characters — the ones who will die, primarily, for lack of vision or feeling (not to mention sexual promiscuity, but that’s an entirely different discussion) — and the constant fear of dread and death that hangs over most every moment but that doesn’t factor into the characters’ mindsets until it’s too late. He uses foreground and background visuals to striking effectiveness, and combined with appropriate musical cues the sense of doom never relinquishes even in the film’s most mundane moments. Of course, these are contrasted against Loomis’ fanatic search for Myers and his equally frantic search for anyone who will believe him and, more, help him track the killer down, a part of the movie that reinforces the audience’s sense of dread more so than that of any of the teenage characters’ aimless motives and unaware lifestyle.
Halloween Blu-ray, Video Quality
Halloween‘s original Blu-ray release has been subjected to a rather large amount of controversy and criticism for its color timing, turning off some would-be buyers, angering purists, and leaving diehard Halloween fans to settle for an inferior product, albeit a product that was otherwise well-received. But there’s good news. Anchor Bay has revisited the title almost six years later and produced what most will agree to be the definitive home video version of the film yet. Better, the transfer has been overseen and approved by none other the picture’s Director of Photography, Dean Cundey. It’s a compelling selling point, and Anchor Bay definitely wants the film’s legions of fans to know that this is a safe version to buy. After all, it’s stated no less than three times on the packaging, twice on the back label and once on the inside. So this is the film as Cundey wants viewers to see it, much the same way The French Connection was re-issued with a cinematographer-approved transfer a few years after the original pressing also ran into controversy. With that out of the way, how does Cundey’s transfer stack up against the old title and, more importantly, on its own merits?
In short, this is Halloween like it’s never been seen before on home video. First, colors appear significantly less warm and bright. There’s a slight cold, gray feel to even the film’s brightest seasonal outdoor shots. Skin tones have been reduced from “hot” to “neutral.” There’s less an explosion of brightness and more a balance of natural, if not slightly reserved, coloring. Green vegetation and bright clothes aren’t blinding but rather balanced. Oranges enjoy stable, accurate pop, particularly the opening titles and the accompanying pumpkin. Dark scenes are rich and firm, with deep, accurate blacks and no unwarranted or excess brightness. What’s even more impressive is the transfer’s pure film-like texture. Light grain accentuates nearly every scene and helps define a beautiful cinematic flair. Details are incredibly crisp and film-true, right down to strands of hair and light fuzzes and frays on clothes. Sidewalks, housing façades, tree trunks, and leaves are as well defined as the source and the format allows. This is a naturally sharp, very pleasing image. However, it’s not without a few hiccups. Very light, barely noticeable speckling does appear throughout, though to no unwelcoming level. A stray hair is visible at the bottom of the frame for a few seconds around 26:30 mark in a scene inside Laurie’s bedroom. It also appears in the previous Blu-ray release. A few shots go smeary around the edges, though that appears inherent to the source and not an issue with the Blu-ray presentation. Overall, this is a significant upgrade from the previous release. Not only do the colors enjoy a cooler, more natural tone, but the image is significantly more crisp and well defined. Fans should be ecstatic with this presentation.
NOTE: Screenshots 1-30 have been sourced from this new “35th Anniversary” Blu-ray disc. Screenshots 31-40 are comparative screenshots sourced from the Oct 02, 2007 Anchor Bay Halloween release referenced above.
Halloween Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Halloween returns to Blu-ray with an all-new Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack, alongside the original soundtrack. The result of the 7.1 track is a revealing, usually engaging listen. The film begins with the picture’s legendary score drifting into the stage, first, with well-defined sharp piano notes that offer natural clarity and fine front spacing. A deep, foreboding, and familiar low end follows with a rise in surround support to bring a remarkable definition and presence to the acclaimed score. This is more than likely the best presentation most audiences will have heard of that classic refrain to date. The action transitions to the exterior of the Myers home and provides light and mood-critical background ambience to start. The track doesn’t always require environmental elements thereafter, but the occasional chilly late October breeze, driving rain, and booming thunder — the latter of which grows in intensity the closer Loomis comes to the asylum — are all perfectly implemented and create several unforgettable sonic moments. It seems this track is capable of better defining some of the film’s smaller sound pieces, too. There’s greater definition to even the most subtle sound effect or the most aggressive kick of music. Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper comes through a little more evenly when it’s heard playing lightly in the background around the 31-minute mark. Nevertheless, some of the older effects that never enjoyed much definition before still come up short. The splattering of Tommy’s pumpkin early in the film plays with a sloppy, undefined thud. Some of the heaviest, most piercing screams heard late in the film come through as a little overly sharp and unnatural. Dialogue plays firmly and evenly, save for an exchange between Laurie and her father when they’re first introduced; it’s significantly more shallow than any other exchange in the film. Otherwise, the track is really quite amazing. Music benefits the most, and considering just how important it is in the film, the uptick in clarity and stage presence is most welcome.
Halloween Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Halloween‘s 35th Anniversarry Blu-ray release arrives in a thin, but attractive, DigiBook package. The cover is lightly textured and, inside, the book contains a detailed, well-written and insightful text on the picture. Various black-and-white photographs are interspersed throughout. The disc is housed inside the back cover in a cardboard sleeve that lists the included special features.
- Audio Commentary: Writer/Director John Carpenter and Actor Jamie Lee Curtis sit down for a track newly recorded for this release. They offer plenty of minor anecdotal observations but also provide some greater in-depth insight into the technical aspects of the shoot. Discussions include secrets behind the wardrobe and hair, thoughts on modern Horror and what sets Halloween apart, the picture’s contrast between reality and lurking terror, Carpenter’s directorial style, casting and the cast’s contributions, life after the film, and plenty more. Curtis is particularly enthusiastic in her look at the film in hindsight and observing its brilliant structure. Unfortunately, there’s no discussion of the remastered Blu-ray.
- The Night She Came Home!! (HD, 59:43): Jamie Lee Curtis discusses the “monetization” of Halloween for charity. This film follows Curtis in November 2012 (at one point the date is listed as November 2013…hooray for the invention of time travel!) as she meets fans, schmoozes with franchise cast and crew, signs memorabilia, snaps photos with attendees, and addresses the audience. There’s also plenty of fan interview snippets. This is a wonderful piece; Curtis comes across as amiable and sincere.
- On Location: 25 Years Later (SD, 10:25): A visit to the South Pasadena neighborhood years after the shoot, including a look at the restored Myers house. The piece also features discussions of the requirements of the film’s shooting locales, the actors’ presences on set, Carpenter’s filmmaking style, character dynamics, and making use of location dynamics.
- TV Version Footage (HD, 10:46): A collection of scenes that played in the film’s television cut.
- Trailer (HD, 2:42).
- TV Spots (SD): A trio of television advertisements for the film. The first two run thirty-two seconds each, while the final spot runs a mere twelve seconds.
- Radio Spots (HD): Each spot plays over a Halloween graphic and run twenty-nine, twenty-seven, and twenty-eight seconds, respectively.
Halloween Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Halloween has been picked apart and studied and watched more than most. Fans know it by heart, not just dialogue or how scenes play but the importance of a glance, a musical cue, or a camera pan. It’s a picture that effectively embodies everything thats right about the low budget filmmaking process and the Horror genre. It demonstrates the staying power of a good movie, not represented by the number of sequels but rather the raw perfection of every piece. Halloween is a quintessential, timeless film that would rightly be selected by many as the one picture that best epitomizes its genre. Anchor Bay’s 35th Anniversary Blu-ray release of Halloween features high quality, cinematographer-approved video; a fantastic 7.1 lossless soundtrack; and a good amount of extra content. It’s not the perfect package most fans probably wanted — there are too few supplements for that and plenty that haven’t carried over from previous home video releases — but it’s certainly worth adding to the collections of both the Halloween die-hards and casuals fans who wish to populate their libraries with the best of the best films. More, the picture quality is significantly improved. Very highly recommended.
Staircases to Nowhere: Making of The Shining
Endorsed and supported by The Kubrick Estate and Warner Brothers! And tweeted about by the British Film Institute and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences! The full oral history story of the making of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece ‘The Shining’.
In October we made a 17-minute oral history using content from The Elstree Project, an oral history project designed to record, preserve and share the memories of people who have worked at the studios of Elstree and Borehamwood. Since then it has received over 100,000 hits and has been shared on numerous blogs and websites.
Now we present the full story, at 55-minutes in length, and with contributions from nine crew members who worked on the film and Stanley Kubrick’s widow, Christiane. We believe this is the most in-depth exploration into the making of “The Shining” on film, from the perspective of those who actually worked on the production. Additional content includes memories of the fire at Elstree, a more in-depth look at the Stages at Elstree and the Steadicam, the work of the Second Unit on the film and what it was like to work with Kubrick.
Brian Cook – 1st AD
Jan Harlan – Producer
Christiane Kubrick – Wife of Stanley Kubrick
Mick Mason – Camera Technician
Ray Merrin – Post-Production Sound
Doug Milsome – 1st AC and Second Unit Camera
Kelvin Pike – Camera Operator
Ron Punter – Scenic Artist
June Randall – Continuity
Julian Senior – Warner Bros. Publicity
The interviews in this film were recorded over a period of three years, and with eight students getting the chance to gain live work experience as part of their undergraduate degree course in Film and Television in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire. The film has been made as part of The Elstree Project which is a partnership between Howard Berry of the University and Bob Redman and Paul Welsh MBE who run the volunteer group Elstree Screen Heritage. Please consider contributing to the project, by using the “tip jar” feature on this video, and help us make more videos like this.
We would like to thank all of our interviewees, and an extra thanks to Jan Harlan for his help and assistance, as well as Lee Unkrich for his encouragement and assistance with research. We would also like to thank Steven Adams, Associate Dean (Research) and Judy Glasman, Dean, in the School of Creative Arts.
Arri put out this handbook for cinematographers to get the most out of their arri kits.
Even if you don’t use arri lights, the information in this free handbook is extremely insightful.
Read the handbook at this link:
13 Steps to Directing Famous Actors in a Microbudget Film
As I wind up my festival and theatrical run of my film Between Us, it’s gratifying to see the amazing reviews for our four-person ensemble cast, with critics using blurb-ready adjectives like “brilliant,” “razor-sharp” and “career-best” to describe the performances of Julia Stiles, Taye Diggs and Melissa George. David Harbour, in particular, just won the Best Actor prize at the Woods Hole Film Fest, and many reviews agree that he steals the movie in his breakthrough film performance. Naturally, all credit is due to the actors themselves. But a couple people nicely said that I couldn’t have screwed up the directing too much, or these performances wouldn’t have shown up on screen. So, to answer the question of how to actually direct fancy actors on a microbudget film, I’ve come up with a few suggestions based on my own experience:
1. Cast Well. When I was getting ready to make my first film, Omaha (the movie), I was lucky enough to get advice from two great directors. Harold Ramis, coming off Groundhog Day, told me to grab a pencil and write down these two rules: #1 “Hire Bill Murray” and #2 “Turn on Camera”. Wait, that’s it? Yup, he said. (When I saw Lost in Translation I finally understood what he meant.)
Likewise, Robert Altman, who became something of a mentor to me, reiterated his famous advice that 90% of directing is casting. As for the other 10%, that was up to me to figure out. I’ve already written extensively on how to get an A-list (ish) cast on a microbudget, but the question is what do you do between hiring them and turning on the camera?
2. Rehearse. Whether you’re making a $200 million blockbuster or $100 iPhone epic, it might be a good idea to rehearse your actors – especially if it’s a dialogue-driven movie. This sounds obvious, but it rarely happens, no matter what the budget.
For one reason, SAG says you have to pay actors for rehearsal. Of course, that’s only true if you call them “rehearsals,” do a formal call sheet and require the actors to show up. But, if you refer to them simply as “get-togethers” or “long lunches” and just say to each actor, “Oh, YOU’re terrific. YOU don’t need to be there…. but I think the rest of the cast is coming,” then trust me, they will show up.
On Between Us, this is pretty much what we told all our actors and their reps. It’s an ensemble piece about two couples yelling and throwing things at each other, and all four parts are essentially equal in number of lines and depth of character. If you’re getting serious actors who are doing the film because they want to do a substantive indie rather than a paycheck studio film, then there is no way these actors will want to skip out on rehearsals, only to be outshone on set by the other three actors. It’s a matter of pride, ego and craft. We bluffed with the agents and said we needed two weeks rehearsal. In reality, I thought maybe we’d get one week at most. But sure enough, all four showed up in my kitchen for rehearsal two weeks before principal photography! (Why my kitchen? Because my garage was already our production office and stuffed with our crew.)
3. Use Rehearsal Wisely. It seems obvious that rehearsal is a good idea, but really, a movie is NOT like a play. Actors don’t need to memorize more than a page or two at a time, and there’s always opportunity to rehearse on set or run lines during make-up. And if you rehearse ahead of time, it could be three weeks before you actually shoot some of the scenes. Depending on the film, you may prefer spontaneity over stale performances that could sound phoned in. So why bother rehearsing in advance – especially if you’re starting with great actors?
For Between Us, it turned out to be a great idea: Mainly to get the actors – who were all playing old friends – to develop a rapport together. They also all came to the material with very different acting styles and backgrounds, and the rehearsal period helped smooth out those differences and give the dialogue a consistent rhythm and pacing. David Harbour had originated the role of “Joel” some seven years earlier when Between Us was a hit play at Manhattan Theatre Club (in fact, based on his performance there, he was cast in a Broadway revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, where he picked up a Tony nomination. He can now be seen on The Newsroom.).
Playwright Joe Hortua and I had adapted his play into the screenplay, but most of the dialogue was the same. David knew his character – and most of his lines – inside and out. But there were subtle changes we’d made – in character, dialogue and structure – and obviously acting styles need to be adjusted between stage and screen. The challenge for the other actors was keeping up with David, while he adapted his own theater experience to this film.
4. Overlapping Dialogue. For all the actors, part of the challenge was getting them used to overlapping dialogue – something anathema to traditional TV and studio-level filmmaking. The play had built-in overlaps throughout, and my own style (influenced as it was from Altman) also favored overlapping dialogue. I knew that on set, each actor would have their own lavaliere mic going to an individual track (in addition to a back-up boom mic). I’d done this on my prior film, the real estate musical Open House (which had an even larger ensemble…plus live singing!), so I knew that even on a microbudget, this was still the way to go, even if it takes a little longer in post.
As Altman once told me, why trust the lowest paid member of the crew – the boom guy – to make artistic decisions about whom we’re going to listen to? “I’m the fucking artist,” he told me bluntly. Those decisions are best made by the director in post-production. The other big advantages are you get more naturalistic performances, you never have to do ADR, and your actors never know when they’re being recorded. They tend to stay in character longer and give you great nuggets of dialogue before and after takes. Whether you’ve got a tight, specific script as we had, or an improvised mumblecore film – overlaps are the way to go.
5. What’s My Motivation? When it comes to working with actors, you need to appreciate that there are no silly questions, but there are time-consuming ones. All actors – and especially the good ones sometimes – will have endless questions about their characters, motivations, and backstories. And that’s fine. They will give better performances if they feel confident in their choices. The problem is that on a low-budget film (or for that matter, on a network TV drama) where you’re trying to shoot nine or 10 pages a day, you simply don’t have time to answer these questions on the set. With designated rehearsal (or “get together”) time, you’ve got the luxury and patience to talk about the meaning of a single word, or what the character’s favorite color is, for hours on end. It may not objectively matter what the answers to these questions are as much as you’ve shown respect to the actors in talking about these issues and hearing out their concerns. And when you do finally come to set and the question comes up again, you can simply say “We discussed that in rehearsal – don’t you remember?”
6. Trust Your Scriptie. I’m a big believer in script supervisors. When you think about it, on any set, 98% of the crew is there to make the film look and sound good. But only the director and script supervisor are specifically focused at all on the editorial side of filmmaking (crossing the line, getting coverage, etc.). So when it came time for our rehearsals, I knew that we’d want our script supervisor, Shannon Volkenant, there with her pencil in hand. If there were any subtle dialogue changes – which inevitably there would be – Shannon would dutifully write them down. And right before our start day, she prepared the final version of the shooting script for everyone. But a good scripty is more than a dutiful stenographer. She (or he) is also your most loyal ally as a director. Shannon remembered every little discussion and nuance of rehearsal and the cast trusted her as much as I did to remember it all.
7. Encourage “Chemistry” Among Your Cast. We were lucky enough to score a deal with the Redbury Hotel – a new boutique-y hotel in Hollywood – to house all of our actors. They wanted to become the new Chateau Marmont, and we assured them of at least one celebrity suicide if things didn’t go smoothly. Sadly for them, things went a little too smoothly. The actors all loved the hotel, and we wound up actually shooting two-thirds of the movie there, too. So while we rehearsed in my kitchen for the first week, we transitioned over to the Redbury to work on what would become our actual set. The nice thing was that the actors were getting together on their own at the hotel and running lines and otherwise making chemistry together (some more than others).
8. Behave Like a Big-Budget Production. Just because you’re not paying your actors more than $100 a day (SAG’s ultra-low budget rate), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat the actors as if it’s a studio film. The nice thing about working with famous actors is you can actually get a lot of amenities (including actual cars!) for free for them if you know whom to ask. Use their celebrity status to your advantage and you’ll all be happier.
It’s axiomatic that actors don’t eat carbs, and in fact rarely eat anything at all. So you don’t need extravagant food, but it does have to be nice. My loving wife bought fruit at Costco and cut it up everyday for the actors (for rehearsals and gift baskets), and we even had a designated “rehearsal chef” for light lunches of fresh grilled veggies. I think we maybe spent $100 total for rehearsal food, but it was worth every penny. During production, I have no idea what the actors ate. They seemed to disappear at lunch break, and return happy, so I thought it best not to inquire.
Big budget-style courtesy was important throughout principal photography. You don’t necessarily need three-banger trailers for each actor, but you do need to give them all their own space to relax and gather their thoughts. That was one advantage of shooting in the same hotel where the actors stayed – they could always retreat to their own rooms if they wanted. It helped that we were scrupulous in abiding by our “favored nations” clause in the actor contracts that said we had to treat all four equally in all respects.
Your hair and makeup artists need to be professional and on top of it; that is your team who will ultimately spend more time with your cast than you will. A bad experience with supergluing eyelashes on one of our actresses on the second day of production led to tears (or at least would have, had the tear ducts not been glued shut). Appropriate staff changes were made and all was fine after that. In order to give our cast the impression that at least some of us were trained professionals and not just a ragtag troupe of students, interns and ne’er-do-wells, we brought in the occasional ringer. You know what’s cooler than having two Golden Globe-nominated actresses in your movie? Getting an Oscar-nominated documentary director to shoot their behind-the-scenes interviews. Yup, instead of some 17-year-old kid with an iPhone, I got my pal Adrian Belic (Ghengis Blues) to do the two-camera interviews on a separately lit set. (THIS is why I give Adrian a ride to Park City every year in my minivan… he owed me one.)
9. Block Scenes On Set. On the most basic level, directing is simply telling your actors where to stand, and telling your cinematographer where to put the camera. But on an indie film – with limited time, budget and locations – you’re lucky if you have full control over either of these elements.
No matter how much you rehearse, your actors will rightfully want to do blocking rehearsals when you get on set. There’s no substitute for a real location, with real lighting, props, costumes, cameras and a hovering crew. It’s almost pointless to even try any blocking during rehearsal itself. It took me a few (sometimes rocky) first days on set to figure this out, but ultimately we settled into a nice rhythm of clearing the set except for the actors, my cinematographer, script super, 1st AD, and myself. We’d run the scenes a couple times, figure out the blocking, then bring in the assistant camera and sound teams to make marks and take focus measurements.
This process isn’t that dissimilar, I imagine, to big-budget filmmaking. The differences are more subtle. On a studio movie, you’ve got time and trained personnel to move lights and cameras around quickly for every setup within the scene. Also, if you’re paying your actors big money, they might be more likely to stand where you put them. On an indie film, blocking is more of a partnership than a dictatorship. It’s not called a collaborative art form for nothing.
Working closely with Nancy Schreiber (my kick-ASC director of photography) before the actors showed up on set, we could figure out where were the safe places actors could go that wouldn’t require massive lighting moves later in the scene. Our primary locations were a big house (with lots of windows) and a small apartment (with almost none) – both of which presented their own unique challenges. Once the actors showed up, then it was a matter of delineating where they could go broadly, but leaving the minutiae of individual movements and gestures more up to them. The actors and DP all felt part of the creative process, and if they were all happy, I knew I’d get the performances and shots I needed, and still make our days (well, most of the time).
10. Use Multiple Takes as Your Coverage. The advantage of using name actors – and especially after rehearsing them – is that they tend to be incredibly good at what they do: In general, they wouldn’t have become famous if they weren’t good actors. They know their lines, they give you great performances, they take direction well, and they hit their marks. Inevitably, I was more than satisfied with our first or second takes with every set-up. Nancy and her top-notch crew (including many of her AFI students) nailed the camera and focus moves every time. And with five unique tracks of sound running on each take, I never worried about sound problems.
Actors, though, are by nature interested in trying different nuances to their performance and even if you as the director are satisfied, it doesn’t mean they will be. In our case, I knew that lighting changes were taking a long time, but camera changes weren’t. We were shooting two cameras all the time (REDs), usually with one on a dolly and one on sticks.
So frequently instead of a true third take, Nancy and I would make subtle camera changes: a slight dolly move, a zoom in, a focus change, etc. that might only take a minute or two to change up, but give us far more options in editing. Take 1 and 2 on Camera A might have been close-ups, but 3 and 4 might have been two-shots. Meanwhile, our B Cam could shoot reactions from one actor in the first takes and another on the next couple. So after four or five takes, without tweaking the lights much at all, we could have full coverage of a scene with a variety of performances to choose from. To make matters more interesting, we were shooting on 4K and knew that we’d finish in 2K, so Nancy and I could turn a 2-shot into a closeup in post if we needed to, almost doubling the coverage we’d shot.
11. Have Faith in Editing. It’s good to have a general sense of how you’re going to edit the movie before you start shooting. Are you going to have long shots with a “European” pacing? Then make sure you get the performances you like on set because you won’t be able to change them later. Or do you prefer a jump-cut style? Then get the variety you need from both actors and camera angles – even if that means intentionally making continuity changes.
My own druthers tend to be for a quick cutting style, where I prioritize the audio tracks over the visual. The rhythm of the dialogue dictates the picture (I sometimes close my eyes during editing and just listen to the audio. Other times, though, it’s napping). I think this probably comes from doing Omaha (the movie), shot on 35mm short ends – the cheapest way to get film stock for indies back in the ’90s. With short ends, you’d barely get a minute of useable footage on each take before hearing the dreaded film snapping in the camera and your 1st AC bellowing, “Roll Out!” And with that same movie, we cut the film on the Paramount lot using ’30s-era sync blocks and upright Moviolas (hey, they gave us the rooms for free). If you’ve ever cut a film that way, you get used to cutting audio first on the sync block and then checking picture on the Moviola. It’s the original non-linear editing system!
Given our multitrack audio and knowing my own intrinsic style, that also gave me more latitude on set with the actors. If an actor was giving me too many pauses (dramatic or otherwise), I knew I’d be able to cut out the gaps in editorial, and speed up the pace. Likewise, if an actor burned through the dialogue without pausing where I wanted, I knew I could always cut to reactions from the other actors and extend moments as I saw fit. I had neither the need nor the time to do 96 takes on a scene to get exactly the performance I wanted for my final outcome. Just because you have “endless” footage available on digital media these days, doesn’t mean you need to shoot endlessly. I think Martin Scorcese once called this “selecting” rather than “directing.”
12. Say Something to the Actors. I remember when I went to film school at USC, we had exceptional faculty who taught us every technical step of filmmaking we’d ever need to know. But learning how to actually direct actors was far more elusive. Once, Robert Zemeckis came for a guest lecture. At the time, he was definitely known as a cutting-edge technical director (Roger Rabbit) and brilliant storyteller (Back to the Future), but pre-Forrest Gump, he was not exactly known for his dramatic directing chops. But he’d just worked with Meryl Streep on Death Becomes Her and he was excited to tell us his secret to directing. We got ready to take notes. He said, “When I wanted Meryl to be happy, I’d say, ‘Meryl, be happy’ and she became happy! And when I wanted Meryl to be sad, I’d say, ‘Meryl, be sad!’ – and she became sad. It was amazing!” We were stunned. But two years later, Zemeckis won the Oscar for Best Director, so maybe he was onto something.
With Between Us I kept remembering that dubious advice that he’d imparted. What to say to actors between takes? I frequently went with the Preston Sturges/Billy Wilder/Kevin Smith method and just said, “Faster! Faster!” But actors don’t always like being gears in a stopwatch, so that wouldn’t always work.
They all respond differently to in-scene adjustments. With some in particular, I went with some variations of “great” and “super.” If I really liked a take, I went with “super-duper” (see Melissa George and Julia Stiles talk about this in the video clip below). For others, we’d talk more about backstory and recall those questions from rehearsals. Some begged for more takes, even when they weren’t necessary, and others declined them when they were. One refused to be touched.
13. Methods to their Madness. Every actor brings a different creative process to your production. With Between Us, that was very evident. We had one actor who was so “method” he (or she) would hide in a corner until he (or she) heard “action” and then storm onto set fully in character. Other actors were jovial with the crew and chatting away one second, and then could turn into character at the drop of a hat. We even had one actor whom I thought was completely happy-go-lucky off camera, but only a year later I found out that their personal life during the shoot was in such turmoil (closely paralleling our script), that they were probably the most method of all the cast even if we didn’t know it and they didn’t want to be.
Especially when you’re making a dramatic film with characters throwing such vitriol at each other on a daily basis, it’s hard to have a “happy” set all of the time. Honestly, making a musical comedy is way more fun! But as my pal, director Kevin DiNovis, reminded me every day after I’d call him in a panic after wrap: “It doesn’t matter if an actor is yelling, you’re yelling; he’s crying, you’re crying – what matters is are you getting great performances in the can?”
At the end of every day, I’d ask myself that question and know that we had. The film gods had given me this extraordinary gift of four amazing actors who were delivering the performances of their careers. Creating the conditions for the cast and crew to do their best, and having the confidence to know when that’s happening, might be the 10% that Robert Altman was talking about.
After 22 festivals and a 50-city theatrical release through Monterey Media, Dan Mirvish’s award-winning film Between Us, starring Julia Stiles, Taye Diggs, Melissa George and David Harbour, is currently available on VOD, iTunes and DVD.
Steven Soderbergh – Filmmaking Advice
Soderbergh on working with actors:
You’ve talked at length about giving actors as much freedom as possible. That’s resulted in a number of performances that have launched, revived, and revitalized careers. In the case of Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight, you’re responsible for her only good film performance.
It’s not that I never say no; I’m just not trying to control them. I’m looking to amplify and showcase whatever it is about them that I find compelling. You know, my attitude is that all of us have to submit to what the film wants and needs to be. So the best version of the thing is sitting up here, and you have to submit to that.
How do you accomplish that?
I keep the environment pretty relaxed — relaxed but focused. I work with the same people all the time. There’s a form of band humor that develops: inside jokes and references that only a core group of people understand. It’s fun. Some people believe tension is a good creative tool, that you get more out of people if you make them feel insecure. I’m not one of those people, and I don’t want to be around that when I go to work.
More advice in the video:
While photographer Norman Seeff has transfixed onlookers with iconic faces married to the lens, he has also captured the minds behind the camera—the directors. In his newest collection, “Director Series,” Seeff unveils never-before-seen images, as well as some rather famous ones, of some of entertainment’s most brilliant minds, including Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jim Henson, Ridley Scott and John Huston. And the reveal is right here on LAist.
Richard Linklater – Before Midnight Q&A
Host Jeff Goldsmith interviews co-writer/director Richard Linklater about Before Midnight
The third part of the “Before” series, which were filmed nine years apart.
Another great interview from the Craft Truck webisodes. This one is with cinematographer Dean Cundey.
This is a cinematographer who has left an indelible mark on the history of film making. Not just a man who has traversed pretty much every genre–horror, action, drama, comedy, western, etc.–but also always shown a commitment to storytelling first. Dean Cundey just knows a tonne about how to make images work. He’s been dealing with special effects before computers were involved at all, shot the groundbreaking “Jurassic Park”, and continued on from there. A trailblazer, a visionary, and a gentleman.
Nominated Oscar – 1989 for “Best Cinematography Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).” Nominated ASC Award – 1996 for “Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Аполлон 13 (1995).” Nominated ASC Award – 1992 for “Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Hook (1991).” Nominated BAFTA Film Award – 1996 for “Best Cinematography Аполлон 13 (1995). USA.” Nominated BAFTA Film Award – 1989 for “Best Cinematography Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).” Nominated Best Cinematography Award – 1995 for “Аполлон 13 (1995).” Nominated Best Cinematography Award – 1988 for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).” Won Daytime Emmy – 2002 for “Outstanding Achievement in Single Camera Photography (Film or Electronic) “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” (1997). (PBS). For episode “The Face: Jesus in Art”.” Won President’s Award – 1999
Truth & Treason – 2012, The Glass House – 2012, Long Time Gone – 2012, Jack and Jill – 2011, To Beauty – 2011, Back for the Future – 2011, Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster – 2010, The Spy Next Door – 2010, Shannon’s Rainbow – 2009, Camp Rock – 2008, Whisper – 2007, The Holiday – 2006, Garfield – 2004, Looney Tunes: Back in Action – 2003, The Face: Jesus in Art – 2001, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly – 2001, What Women Want – 2000, The West Wing – 1999, Partners – 1999, Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming – 1999, The Parent Trap – 1998, Krippendorf’s Tribe – 1998, Flubber – 1997, Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair – 1996, Apollo 13 – 1995, Casper – 1995, The Flintstones – 1994, Jurassic Park – 1993, Death Becomes Her – 1992, Hook – 1991, Michael & Mickey – 1991, Nothing But Trouble – 1991, Back to the Future Part III – 1990, Citizen Soldier – 1990, Back to the Future Part II – 1989, Tales from the Crypt – 1989, Road House – 1989, Who Framed Roger Rabbit – 1988, Big Business – 1988, Project X – 1987, Big Trouble in Little China – 1986, Warning Sign – 1985, Back to the Future – 1985, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear – 1984, Invitation to Hell – 1984, Romancing the Stone – 1984, Amazons – 1984, D.C. Cab – 1983, Tales of the Unexpected – 1983, Psycho II – 1983, M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against Drunk Drivers – 1983, The Invisible Woman – 1983, Halloween III: Season of the Witch – 1982, The Thing – 1982, Halloween II – 1981, Jaws of Satan – 1981, Separate Ways – 1981, Escape from New York – 1981, Without Warning – 1980, Galaxina – 1980, The Fog – 1980, Roller Boogie – 1979, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School – 1979, Angels’ Brigade – 1979, Halloween – 1978, Hanging on a Star – 1978, Goodbye, Franklin High – 1978, Hi-Riders – 1978, Charge of the Model T’s – 1977, Bare Knuckles – 1977, Satan’s Cheerleaders – 1977, Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks – 1976, Creature from Black Lake – 1976, Black Shampoo – 1976, The Witch Who Came from the Sea – 1976, That Girl from Boston – 1975, Where the Red Fern Grows – 1974, So Evil, My Sister – 1974, Brother on the Run – 1973, The No Mercy Man – 1973, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties – 2006, Leave It to Beaver – 1997, Beware! The Blob – 1972, Deep Rising – 1998, Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It. – 1970, Naked Angels – 1969, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves – 1997, Looking Back to the Future – 2009, The Making of ‘Whisper’ – 2007, Return to ‘Escape from New York’ – 2003, Visions of Light – 1992, Halloween: The Inside Story – 2010, Storm Stories – 2009, Halloween: 25 Years of Terror – 2006, Cinematographer Style – 2006, Looking Back at the Future – 2006, The Ashlee Simpson Show – 2004, ‘Halloween’: A Cut Above the Rest – 2003, Behind the Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit – 2003, Tales from the Mist: Inside ‘The Fog’ – 2002, ‘Halloween’ Unmasked 2000 – 1999, The World’s Greatest Hoaxes: Secrets Finally Revealed – 1999, The Thing: Terror Takes Shape – 1998, The Making of ‘Jurassic Park’ – 1995
How to make realistic bullet effects using Adobe Photoshop and Premiere instead of explosives.
A great documentary of Martin Scorsese on the set of Goodfellas from 1990.
Martin Scorsese’s films on Amazon
Michael Caine teaches the art of acting to a few lucky students.
Kodak Cinematography Masterclass Series. A studio lighting comparative workshop with Donald McAlpine and Denis Lenoir.
Richard Linklater on his movie career and a connection to each movie he directs. He reveals how he relates to Billy Bob Thornton’s character Morris Buttermaker as well as Dewey Finn played by Jack Black in School of Rock.
View Linklater’s films on Amazon
What the chart shows is that, for a 50-inch screen, the benefits of 720p vs. 480p start to become apparent at viewing distances closer than 14.6 feet and become fully apparent at 9.8 feet. For the same screen size, the benefits of 1080p vs. 720p start to become apparent when closer than 9.8 feet and become full apparent at 6.5 feet. In my opinion, 6.5 feet is closer than most people will sit to their 50″ plasma TV (even through the THX recommended viewing distance for a 50″ screen is 5.6 ft). So, most consumers will not be able to see the full benefit of their 1080p TV.
More info from Carlton Bale at http://carltonbale.com/1080p-does-matter/
Joel Grimes offers some great lighting tutorials for flash photography but these styles and techniques can also transition over to a film set.
The 180 Degree Rule is one of the first topics that comes up in film school. With this video, here’s the basic rundown and how to understand this concept.
Here is also a useful video that talks about composition and how to frame your shot.
Might be a simple rundown for most, but here’s a series of videos that describe what a lens does and how to achieve certain looks with your DSLR.
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
A good tutorial from Zacuto to help you better understand hard and soft lighting.
Flags are pieces of black duvetyne held together by metal frames. Flags are generally held up by c-stands in an effort to cut or shape light and provide “negative fill”.
It’s important to mention that when using c-stands you should first position your flag exactly as you want it with the c-stand joints loose. Then when your flag is ready, tighten the c-stand joints in order to secure the precise position of the flag. This will not only help you precisely establish where your shadows will fall, but it will also save you a lot of time during your setup.
Many independent filmmakers rather than using black fabric flags and c-stands, will instead use tripods, clamps and black foam core. A large piece of black foam core can be purchased from an art supply store for around $10-$15 and it will have essentially the same impact. In fact, virtually any opaque object can be used to flag light.
Where to position your flag?
Video from Lights Film School
Check out Joe Carnahan’s films on Amazon
To view Edward Burns’ Films on Amazon
From the Craft Truck webisodes on YouTube:
Gordon Willis is regarded by all of his peers as one of the greatest cinematographers in the history of film, and for many as the greatest of all time, period. Between lensing The Godfather trilogy, many of Woody Allen’s best films (including Annie Hall, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Interiors, and others) and several master thrillers for Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men, Klute, The Parallax View, The Devil’s own, and others), Gordon Willis practically single-handedly re-invented the craft of cinematography and the nature by which films were and are composed, lit, and executed. He has left an indelible mark on the craft of filmmaking and we are delighted to present him in a two part interview here. We hope you enjoy a small window into a great man’s achievements and approach.
Here’s a clever way to create a spinning effect around a large landmark:
David Lynch could be a wonderful stage director.
Crazy to say, perhaps, but perhaps not. Despite his relentless visual craftsmanship and tests of the limits of that craftsmanship, parading images in front of us that are luscious even when you can barely tell what’s being filmed, there is always an aspect of the staged to every film he makes. Part of it is his privileging of the naked, screaming utterance, from Lula’s “Sailor Ripley, you get me some music on that radio this instant, I mean it!” in Wild at Heart to Frank’s “I’ll fuck anything that MOOOOOOOOOOVES!” in Blue Velvet. These statements always have an ersatz quality to them, as if they were plucked out of another conversation and dropped into the movie at hand. It’s hard to link them, directly, to their contexts—and that incongruity is what makes them memorable. But, ultimately, they come to express truths about the people saying them, as if he, she, or it simply couldn’t wait any longer, just had to burst out with a plume of vulgar, unrestrained self-expression. We laugh, a little, when Sailor Ripley asks, “Did I ever tell ya this here jacket represents a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedoms?”—but we also don’t. Though Lynch is, in a sense, a truly joyous filmmaker–in that he’s able to transcend scenes of tremendous violence and energy that would pretty much eat up any other filmmaker’s intentions from the inside out, instead making them part of a grand and coldly perfect scheme–he is also, to state the wholly obvious, someone who thrills in catching us off guard, a crucial trick of theater. Why does Robert Blake’s white-faced, ghoulish menace laugh like that in Lost Highway? What’s he laughing at? What could possibly be that funny? Where’s the laugh coming from? No one knows. What’s important, though, is that he’s laughing. The laugh itself has significance beyond what precedes or follows it, and it doesn’t leave you.
And then there’s the matter of the act of performance in his films. In how many of his movies does someone perform, in some sense, so that we watch them doing something they would not normally do, often in a virtuosic fashion? Well, let’s see. There’s Isabella Rossellini’s Dorothy Vallens, singing the title song in Blue Velvet (not to mention Dean Stockwell’s brilliant Roy Orbison lip-synching, by now a milestone in the cinematic education of anyone my age, though the scene itself has no purpose within the film’s storyline), there’s Agent Cooper’s talk-show-esque conference, in a room lined with red curtains, with Laura Palmer and the Man from Another Place in Twin Peaks; there’s Betty Elms’ (Naomi Watts) orgasmic and career-making audition in Mulholland Drive, and, later in the same film, Rebekah Del Rio’s performance of “Llorando” in an old theater, to name but a few examples. These scenes occupy an inherently elevated position, as if Lynch were saying: This is what the film can really do for you—all the rest of this stuff is just work. This film will never be any better, or these characters any more exalted, than at this moment. And the scenes always have a hypnotic effect; as we watch, we suspend whatever we might be feeling—horror, revulsion, elbow-deep irony—and simply observe, excited at the thought of what Lynch might be about to offer us. Once the moment has passed, we don’t analyze it or question it. We know the scene is indispensable, but we have no idea why.
And what about Lynch’s characters themselves? There are very few of his major figures that can be said to be simply “getting through the story” in a utilitarian fashion—almost all of them have exaggerated traits that make the arcs they move through larger than life. Think of Willem Dafoe’s hit man Bobby Peru in Wild at Heart, whose rotting, dilapidated teeth alone describe an entire life story; or Kyle MacLachlan’s Jeffrey Beaumont, his untouched face ravaged by the end of Blue Velvet. Nicolas Cage’s Sailor Ripley is, himself, a walking metaphor for the redeeming power of performance. On the point of being beaten up by a group of thugs at the end of Wild at Heart, Sailor’s last recourse is, like a good performer, to put a good face on things, maintain his Elvis-esque persona, and take his beating. And the moment when Jeffrey Beaumont does the duck walk while courting Sandy Williams in Blue Velvet has the vaguely rhapsodic, pastoral quality of a scene from Eugene O’Neill, something from Ah, Wilderness, say. It’s not a real moment, since the gesture is neither a declaration of love or a shoving away of reality—and yet we have the sense it’s as real as these characters ever get.
A writing teacher, a poet and sometime playwright, once told me and the other students in his poetry class, after he’d asked us to write plays and we responded that we signed up to write poems: Close your eyes, imagine an empty stage, and then think of something you’d like to happen there. That’s your play. Oversimple as this advice might have been, as Lynch’s career has progressed, one might easily imagine he’s making a similar leap into creative desire to fashion films, as his seemingly random, aggressively disorienting and confusing work increasingly resembles the happenings staged by Allan Kaprow or the Fluxus artists who followed him, more than the more traditional “art films” his earlier works resembled. Even in his life outside his work, Lynch has a flair for the theatrical, as when, prior to the release of Inland Empire, he sat with a billboard at the corner of Hollywood and LaBrea Boulevards, his only companion at the time a large cow. Whether this was a publicity stunt, a satire of Hollywood film marketing, or both, its performative aspect was practically its entire content. The events that take place in Inland Empire, Mulholland Drive, or Lost Highway are not necessarily parse-able—who could explain the figures with rabbits’ heads wandering through Inland Empire? Who would want to try? You could, though, depending on your degree of sympathy with Lynch, say they made visual sense within the director’s larger body of work. And they are, beyond that, figures that hold your attention on screen while also encouraging a prilferation of interpretations. Can we say that of a majority of big-budget films? When was the last time you felt mystified at a multiplex?
It is, as suggested earlier, silly to say, of a filmmaker or an artist in another medium, He could have been X, as if X were the ultimate destination, the artist’s current accomplishment only a way station. However, in Lynch’s case, what I want to suggest is that the source of his power is less the ability to shock than the ability to shout. It is through this ability that Lynch’s characters gain their great gravitas, his movies their substance. It seems entirely conceivable that, thousands of years ago, when actors were screaming into the depths of Greek amphitheaters, their statements, far from being the golden-tongued outcries of rage we’ve come to expect, might have been, in the context of their time, closer to this:
“Heineken? Fuck that shit! Paaaaaabst Bluuuuuuue Riiiiiiibbon!”
A concept created by Malcolm Gladwell which basically claims that the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.
Some clips from the film:
Here’s two videos that will help demonstrate the proper way of cleaning a camera lens.
There are multiple factors to consider for a chroma key shot in preproduction, on set, and in post, and in the following videos Richard Harrington will take you through those factors and show you how to pull a good key and produce a believable composite.
This webinar covers a variety of topics, including lighting, camera, various techniques for setting up your background plate, and the keying plug-in zMatte.
In the previous video, Richard touched upon making depth mattes in Photoshop. Here he discusses the technique in greater detail.
The video was produced for PBS by Steve Goldbloom (who also stars in the video). He is currently the Innovation and Business Development Manager for ITVS.
A funny look on how to work the Sundance scene.
If you’re looking to expand your filmmaking knowledge, then you might want to check out Coursera.org with their offering of online classes. There’s one class that’s upcoming about sound design with filmmaking.
More info at:
Worth a watch
If you’re looking at sprucing up your time lapse video, here is a nice one done by Jamie Scott.
Looking to hear what some of the top screenwriters for this award season have to say about their craft? Then check out the interview the full uncensored interview with Judd Apatow, Mark Boal, David Magee, Chris Terrio, Michael Haneke and John Krasinski
If you want to catch up on some great films that might be older classics or unknown gems, you should check out Criterion’s selection of films. Criterion has released a variety of titles on dvd throughout the years and now they keep re-releasing and adding new titles to bluray as well.
To check Criterion’s selection of films:
This is fun website if you want to a listen to a movie – especially if you’re at work. Another neat thing about this site is that they have uploaded a variety of different commentary tracks as well.
Here’s a link to the commentary tracks for the films:
The first known example of that process was found in the National Media Museum in the UK and has finally been made available through digital scanning. The film has been dated to 1901/02, and with the help of BFI National Archive experts, they were able to restore the footage and view it as it was intended.
A brief interview with Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh:
Lilliput monitors were the go to for DSLR indie filmmakers on a budget. Now it seems that this company is trying to go up against SmallHD.
With this new Lilliput monitor, the size makes is a great monitor to have out in the field. It also has some of the same features as a SmallHD monitor:
Can be powered through popular Sony batteries, or through Canon LP-E6 with a battery plate adapter. Folding sunshade, simple Analog Dials for adjustments, and Gimbal Yoke for easy re-positioning.
Only 1024 x 600 res on a 9.7″
About the person who created this video:
Joe Buissink is coming to creativeLIVE! Joe will show you his award-winning photojournalistic approach to weddings. He’ll teach you how to find your own style and bring your own personality out in your images, because the most important thing about photography is who YOU are! Your clients want you for your passion, and Joe will help to bring out the artist in you. Joe will also get into the technical aspects of his business, talking about how he designs his contracts, packages, and prices, and why he designs them that way.
Joe is an internationally sought-after wedding photographer who has shot weddings for celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey, Christina Aguilera, Katharine McPhee, and others, and now on creativeLIVE he’ll share the passion, knowledge and skill that makes him such a success!
This is courtesy from BH Photo.
Sometimes, the phrases, acronyms and strings of numbers or number-letter combinations used to identify photographic hardware or techniques can be daunting to the uninitiated neophyte photographer. We’ve prepared a list of the basic terms. Have we left any out that you think should be added? Please let us know!
Shorthand term used to describe HD video recorded at 720 horizontal scan lines per inch progressively. Measuring 1280 x 720 (921,000 pixels), 720p video recordings broadcast at 60 frames per second match the highest temporal resolution levels for ATSC and DVB standards.
Also known as “Full-HD,” 1080p is a shorthand term for video recorded at 1920 lines of horizontal resolution and 1080 lines of vertical resolution, and is optimized for 16:9 format playback. The “p” stands for progressive, which means all of the data is contained in each frame as opposed to “interlaced” (i), in which the image data is split between two frames in alternating lines of image data.
Similar to 1080p video, the “i” stands for “interlaced,” which differs 1080p (progressive) video in that each frame contains about twice the data of 1080p video files, which makes them more detailed but also too large for many output applications. Depending on the region in which 1080i is employed the frame rates can be 25, 30 or 60 frames per second.
A distortion of image quality or color rendition in a photographic image caused by optical limitations of the lens used to capture the image. Aberrations commonly show up in the form of halation around contrasty portions of the image or “smearing” of color toward the edges of the frame. Aspheric lens surfaces and advanced lens coatings are often used in more expensive or complex lenses as a means of reducing aberrations.
Image resolution as expressed in horizontal versus vertical pixels (e.g. 1600 x 1200 Pixels is the absolute resolution, and is also expressed as 2.1 Megapixel, having more than 2,000,000 pixels on its sensor).
The A-D Converter converts the analog signal that is emitted from the image sensor into a digital signal.
To import digital image files into a software application for processing or editing purposes. The term is often applied differently within different types of software.
Adobe RGB (Adobe RGB 1998)
A widely accepted color space that encompasses a wider range of color than the more commonly used sRGB color space. Adobe RGB is the preferred color space for images intended for prepress applications.
Aka Continuous Focus, AF Servo, is maintained by partially pressing the camera’s shutter release button, which enables you to continuously maintain focus on a moving subject as the subject moves within the frame. Shutter-response times are usually faster in AF Servo since the subject is already in focus.
The process by which smooth curves and lines that run diagonally across the screen of a low-resolution digital file take on a jagged look as opposed to a smooth, natural rendition. Smoothing and anti-aliasing techniques can reduce the effects of aliasing.
AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode)
AMOLED is an advanced version of an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode), which offers better contrast, lower power consumption and a physically narrower profile than OLEDs and LEDs.
Anti Shake (Image Stabilization)
Also known as Image Stabilization (IS), Vibration Reduction (VR), or simply image stabilization, anti-shake technology is a method of reducing the effects of camera movement on the photographic image. Image stabilization can be achieved in the lens or in the camera body. In-camera Image Stabilization is achieved by mounting the camera sensor on a “floating” micro-geared stage that rapidly shifts the sensor in the opposite direction of the camera’s movement, which effectively cancels out the image movement.
The alternative method of canceling camera movement is by employing a gyroscopically-driven “floating” element in the rear portion of the lens that rapidly shifts the element in the opposite direction of the camera movement. Needless to say, either process is quite complex and requires extreme high-speed data processing coupled with precision lens/sensor movements in order to achieve the desired effect.
The ultimate benefit of IS technology is that it enables you to handhold a camera three to four shutter-speeds slower than non-IS enabled cameras or lenses.
Note: Although image stabilization is usually a function of the lens, some camera manufacturers, including Pentax and Sony/Minolta feature in-camera image stabilization, which enables sharper handheld shooting with lenses that aren’t IS-enabled.
The adjustable opening—or f-stop—of a lens determines how much light passes through the lens on its way to the film plane, or nowadays, to the surface of the camera’s imaging sensor. “Faster” lenses have wider apertures, which in turn allow for faster shutter speeds. The wider the aperture is set, the shallower the depth of field of the image.
Wider apertures allow for selective focus, the ability to isolate your subject from background and foreground within the frame. Conversely, if you stop the lens aperture down to its smallest openings, you increase the depth of field, or the amount of focus from foreground to background. Generally speaking, most lenses display the highest level of resolving power when set to about three stops down from the widest aperture.
Note: The term “highest resolution” does not mean the greatest level of depth of field. It just means what is in focus cannot be rendered any sharper by that particular lens regardless of the image’s depth of field.
A metering mode in which the photographer sets the desired lens aperture (f-stop) and the camera in turn automatically sets the appropriate shutter speed to match the scene being recorded. Portrait photographers usually prefer wider apertures for shallower depth of field (DOF), while landscape photographers prefer smaller apertures, which bring more of the scene into sharper focus. (See Shutter Priority,below)
Aperture priority is a preferred method of maintaining a fixed degree of depth of field while shooting under rapidly changing lighting conditions.
A term used to describe the size of the digital imaging sensors used in almost all compact DSLRs. The name is derived from the APS (Advanced Photo System) film format that was introduced in 1996 for the amateur point-and-shoot market. The APS format is 50% smaller (23.6 x 15.8mm) than a standard 35mm frame (24 x 36mm) and has a 1.5x magnification factor (multiply the focal length x 1.5) for determining the 35mm equivalent focal length of lenses used on APS-C format cameras. APS-C format DSLRs from Nikon, Pentax, Fuji and Sony (Alpha) contain APS-C sized imaging sensors.
Canon’s compact DSLRs, which include EOS Rebel-series DSLRs, contain APS-C format imaging sensors that are slightly smaller than competitive compact DSLRs (22.3 x 14.9mm, so the lens factor for these cameras would be 1.6x). It should be noted this slightly smaller size does not affect image quality in relation to the larger APS-C imaging sensors, though it does further reduce the effective AOV of your lenses, i.e., they are slightly more telephoto than their 1.5x brethren.
APS-H format imaging sensors (1.3x) are smaller than full-frame (24 x 36mm) imaging sensors but larger than APS-C (1.5x) imaging sensors. Though currently only available in Canon’s high-speed 1D series (not 1Ds) cameras, APS-H format sensors were also used in Leica’s first digital rangefinder, the M8, as well as Leica’s short-lived add-on digital back for the now-discontinued Leica R reflex camera system.
Artifacts refer to distortions within the image as a result of image compression or interpolation. Artifacts can be seen as light halos around dark areas of an image or as a “blocky” quality in the highlight area of an image. Forms of artifacts include blooming, chromatic aberrations, jaggies, moiré, noise and halation.
There are a number of software applications available that have been designed to diminish or eliminate artifacts from a photograph post-capture.
An abbreviation of the American Standards Association, ASA is the term used to describe the light-sensitivity levels of film and camera imaging sensors. The higher the number, the more sensitive—or faster—the film or sensor is. While traditional cameras don’t have a specific ASA rating, most digital camera sensors have native, or basic ISO sensitivities of about 100, which depending on the make and model of your camera, can be extended upwards of 6400, 12800, with many top-tier DSLRs’ ISO sensitivity levels upwards of 100,000-plus. That’s about seven to eight times more sensitive than the human eye.
With few, if any, exceptions lower ratings offer better color, sharpness levels and tonal qualities, as well as less noise and grain. The terms ASA and ISO (International Standards Organization) are interchangeable.
Aspect ratio refers to the shape, or format, of the image produced by a camera. The formula is derived by dividing the width of the image by its height. The aspect ratio of a 35mm image is 3:2. Most computer monitors and digicams have a 4:3 aspect ratio. Many digital cameras offer the option of switching between 4:3, 2:3 or 16:9.
An Aspherical lens surface possesses more than one radius of curvature, which allows for the correction of lens aberrations common in simpler lens designs. Sharper definition towards the edges of an image is the most common benefit of a lens containing aspheric elements.
Almost all digital cameras, including the most basic and most advanced, can record audio to go along with their video-capture abilities. Depending on the make and model of the camera, sound can be recorded in monaural or in stereo using the camera’s built-in microphone(s), or via higher-fidelity mics that plug into the camera’s audio jack. Even for still images, most cameras can record short audio annotations that are embedded into the image file.
The ability of the camera and lens to keep the subject in focus during the exposure. Autofocus can be Continuous, meaning focus is maintained regardless of where it moves within the frame, or Single, meaning the point of focus is locked regardless of where the subject may move.
Average metering takes all of the light values for a given scene—highlights, shadows, and mid-tones—and averages them together to establish a good overall exposure. Average metering is best used for front-lit subjects under average lighting conditions. Backlit subjects tend to be silhouetted when metered in Average mode.
AWB (Auto White Balance)
An in-camera function that automatically adjusts the white balance (color balance) of the scene to a neutral setting regardless of the color characteristics of the ambient light source. (See White Balance, below)
Note: Although AWB generally does an acceptable job of cleaning up the color balance of a scene, there are times when AWB should not be used. Examples of times you should avoid AWB are sunrise and sunset, which would lose their warm qualities if the camera were to be set to AWB. In the case of sunrises and sunsets, the camera should be set to Daylightin order to maintain the warmer qualities that make dawn and dusk so visually inviting.
An optical distortion in which the image bows out of square (like a barrel!). Barrel distortion is usually associated with less expensive wide-angle lenses and digital cameras, and is most apparent in architectural photographs or images containing lines that run parallel to each other in the horizontal or vertical plane.
The ability to scan and process more than one image in a single action. Batch scanning is only recommended if all of the images being scanned or corrected are equal in tonal values.
A bit (binary digit) is the smallest unit of digital information. Eight bits equals one byte. Digital images are often described by the number of bits used to represent each pixel, i.e. a 1-bit image is monochrome; an 8-bit image supports 256 colors or grayscales; while 24 or 32-bit supports an even greater range of color.
A method of storing digital information by mapping out an image bit by bit. The density of the pixels determines how sharp the image resolution will be. Most image files are bitmapped. Bitmap images are compatible with all types of computers.
Term for lack of, or loss of, shadow detail in a photographic image, usually the result of underexposure or images captured by a lower resolution (and less dynamic) imaging sensor. Although lost shadow detail can often be (partially) reclaimed in Photoshop or similar photo editing applications, HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging, in which two or more bracketed images are sampled and combined into a single image file containing increased levels of shadow, highlight and mid-tone detail has become an increasingly common in-camera solution for retaining both shadow and highlight detail.
The appearance of a bright or colored halo around brighter areas of digital image files. Blooming is caused when a portion of the imaging sensor in a digital camera is exposed to too much light, causing signal “leaks” to the neighboring pixels. (Also see Chromatic Aberration)
Blowout is caused by overexposure, which results in a complete loss of highlight details. With the exception of RAW files captured within two stops of the correct exposure, blown-out highlights are difficult, if not impossible, to correct after the fact.
A bit-mapped file format used by Microsoft Windows. The BMP format supports RGB, indexed-color, grayscale and Bitmap color modes.
An English transliteration of a Japanese word that means “haze” or “blur.” Pronounced boh-keh, it refers to the out-of-focus areas in a photograph with limited depth of field, particularly around, but not limited to, the highlight areas. Bokeh appears as little circles in the unsharp areas. Depending upon the shape of the opening formed by the blades of the lens’s aperture, the circles appear either more or less circular. Good bokeh, which has a more “natural” appearance, is most commonly defined by smoother, round-shaped highlights that blend smoothly into the darker shadow areas, an effect that’s directly attributed to the degree of roundness of the lens aperture.
Bracketing involves taking multiple images of the same scene, usually in 1/3, 1/2 or full-stop increments in order to have a choice of exposure options. Many cameras offer the option of bracketing as a custom function. An advanced application of bracketing is HDR imaging (High Dynamic Range) in which several bracketed images are sampled in camera and selectively combined into a single, optimized image file.
A buffer memory is a temporary “holding area” for image data waiting to be processed in a camera. Buffers enable a camera to continue capturing new image files without having to shut down while previous image files are processed. Printers also make use of buffers, which allow you to queue up several pictures at a time while the printer outputs previously queued-up image files.
The number of consecutive images a digital camera can capture continuously before filling the memory buffer or memory card. In order to capture a burst of images the camera must first be locked into “Burst” mode or “Continuous” mode.
A device that allows you to transfer data directly from a camera’s removable memory card to the computer without the need to connect the camera to the computer.
CCD (Charge-Coupled Device)
A semiconductor device that converts optical images into electronic signals. CCDs contain rows and columns of ultra small, light-sensitive mechanisms (pixels) that, when electronically charged and exposed to light, generate electronic pulses that work in conjunction with millions of surrounding pixels to collectively produce a photographic image. CCDs and CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) sensors are the dominant technologies for digital imaging.
Aka scanner-type CCD, linear CCDs are long, thin sensors that capture an image by recording a vast number of individual “exposures” while scanning across the picture frame. These are best suited for still subjects and continuous illumination. Linear CCDs are predominantly (if not exclusively) used for technical applications.
Also known as color fringing, chromatic aberration occurs when the collective color wavelengths of an image fail to focus on a common plane. The results of chromatic aberration are most noticeable around the edges of contrasty images, especially toward the edges of the frame. Chromatic aberration is most common on less expensive lenses, although even the best optics can occasionally display lower levels of chromatic aberration under certain conditions.
Another form of chromatic aberration is called “purple fringing,” which are the purple streaks or halos that often appear within images produced by digital cameras. Purple fringing originates from light refracting from the light-gathering micro lenses that cap the sensor’s pixels. In backlit scenes, this form of purple fringing is commonly called “blooming.”
CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)
A type of Imaging Sensor. CMOS chips are less energy consuming than CCD-type sensors and are the dominant imaging technology used in DSLRs. Though once considered an inferior technology compared to CCD sensors, CMOS sensors have vastly improved and are now the dominant sensor technology.
CMY Color (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow)
These three secondary colors can be combined to recreate all other colors. Like CMYK, CMY is used in printing to create the colors seen in a print, though with less density in the blacks as compared to CMYK color. CMY color is used in some of the least expensive desktop printers.
CMYK Color (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)
CMYK is the color space used for commercial offset printing. CMYK is also a common working color space for inkjet, laser, dye-sublimation and wax thermal printers.
A codec is an application in a camera or video playback device that encodes or decodes video for recording and playback purposes. Without a codec you cannot record or play video. Codec formats include H.264, MJPEG, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 and AVCHD.
A process by which the image source (digital camera or scanner), monitor and output (printer) are calibrated to use the same or similar color standard, i.e., Adobe RGB, sRGB, etc). This ensures that the image viewed on the monitor has the same range of colors as the image that is printed, and any adjustments made to the color of the image in the computer are accurately represented when the image is printed.
The number of distinct colors that can be represented by a piece of hardware or software. Color depth is sometimes referred to as bit depth because it is directly related to the number of bits used for each pixel. A 24-bit Digital Camera, for example, has a color depth of 2 (2 bits of color) to the 24th power, resulting in a dynamic range of 16,777,216 colors. Similarly, an inexpensive 8-bit color monitor can only reproduce a total of 256 colors, which is far less than the expansive range of color contained in the digital image files captured by almost all consumer digital cameras.
A system of coordinating and calibrating the color spaces of digital cameras, scanners, monitors and printers to ensure that the color and tonal values of the image you see on the screen match those in the final print image.
A palette is the set of available colors. For a given application, the palette may be only a subset of all the colors that can be physically displayed. For example, many computer systems can display 16-million unique colors, but a given program would use only 256 of them at a time if the display is in 256-color mode. The computer system’s palette, therefore, would consist of the 16 million colors, but the program’s palette would contain only the 256-color subset.
The range of colors that can be reproduced on a computer monitor or in print. The most commonly used color spaces for digital imaging are the baseline sRGB and wider-gamut Adobe RGB (1998).
Compact Flash Card (CF card)
A popular flash memory device, which is available in a number of storage capacities. Unlike earlier mechanically driven MicroDrives, newer CF cards are solid state, quite stable and are capable of operating under extreme environmental conditions. Once the dominant format for in-camera data storage, CF cards have receded from the spotlight as smaller SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards have become the card of choice in ever-smaller digital cameras.
A method of reducing the size of a digital image file in order to free up the storage capacity of memory cards and hard drives. Compression technologies are distinguished from each other by whether they remove detail and color from the image. Lossless technologies compress image data without removing detail, while “lossy” technologies compress images by removing some detail.
Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) is a lossy compression format supported by JPEG, PDF and PostScript language file formats. Most video formats are also lossy formats. TIFF files are not, and as such, are far more stable than JPEGs and other lossy file formats.
A linear scale for measuring the color of ambient light with warm (yellow) light measured in lower numbers and cool (blue) light measured in higher numbers. Measured in terms of “degrees Kelvin,”* daylight (midday) is approximately 5600-degrees Kelvin, a candle is approximately 800 degrees, an incandescent lamp is approximately 2800 degrees, a photoflood lamp is 3200 to 3400 degrees, and a midday blue sky is approximately 10,000-degrees Kelvin.
*Named for engineer and physicist Lord Kelvin (William Thomson), who conceived of the thermodynamic temperature scale, in 1848.
A hardware device designed to analyze the color characteristics of a swatch of color.
Dark Current (aka “Noise”)
Pixels collect signal charges in the absence of light over time, which can vary from pixel to pixel. The result is known as dark current, or more commonly, noise.
Depth of Field (DOF)
Literally, the measure of how much of the background and foreground area before and beyond your subject is in focus. Depth of field is increased by stopping the lens down to smaller apertures. Conversely, opening the lens to a wider aperture narrows the depth of field.
Depth of Focus
Depth of focus is the measurement of the area in focus within an image, from the closest point of focus to the furthest point of focus.
Digital Asset Management (DAM)
This is the process of managing tasks and making the decisions regarding the import, export, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets such as image files.
Digital Negative (DNG) is an open raw image format owned by Adobe and used for digital photography. It’s based on the TIFF/EP standard format and incorporates the use of metadata.
Unlike an optical zoom, which is an optically lossless function of the camera’s zoom lens, digital zoom takes the central portion of a digital image and crops into it to achieve the effect of a zoom. This means that the existing data is not enhanced or added to, merely displayed at a lower resolution, thereby giving an illusion of an enlarged image.
DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)
A single lens reflex camera that captures digital images.
A printing method where a waxy ink is heated to temperatures high enough for the ink to vaporize and bond with a special receiver paper, resulting in images with continuous tone color. The word sublimation is used because the dye goes straight from being a solid to a gas and completely skips the liquid stage. Dye-sublimation prints are also known as Dye-subs.
Dye-sublimation printers, or “dye-sub” printers, are digital photo printers that, unlike ink jet printers, which spray fine droplets of ink upon the print surface, employ a cellophane ribbon that when heated at extremely high temperatures, momentarily vaporizes as it’s transferred to the print surface. Essentially a three-color process (Cyan, magenta, yellow and a protective over-coating), dye-sub prints are popular among commercial printers for their ability to output durable, high-quality photographic prints quickly and relatively inexpensively.
The range of brightness and tonality reproduced in a digital (or traditional) photographic image. Wider dynamic range translates into greater tonal values (and detail) between the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights.
DPI (Dots per Inch)
Printing term for resolution. Also referred to as PPI (Pixels per Inch) when describing monitor resolution. The higher the PPI/DPI, the higher the resolution of the resulting image will be. For viewing images at magnifications of up to life size on a computer screen, you only need 72 DPI. For offset printing the image must be set to 300 DPI at the desired print size, and for inkjet prints, anywhere from 180 to 360 DPI at the desired print size, and preferably with a number divisible by 3.
Note: DPI settings above 400 can diminish the quality of inkjet output.
The effective pixels of a sensor are a measurement of the number of pixels of a sensor that actively record the photographic image. As an example, a camera might hold a sensor that contains 10.5 megapixels, but an effective pixel count of 10.2 megapixels. The reason for this discrepancy is that digital imaging sensors have to dedicate a certain percentage of available pixels to establish a black reference point. These pixels are usually arranged frame-like, along the edge of the sensor, out of range of the recorded image.
Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
An electronic viewfinder digitally replicates the field of view of the area captured by the camera lens. While once considered a poor replacement for optical viewfinders, newer EVFs containing a million-plus pixels and faster refresh times have become quite accurate, and in many cases, approach the clarity levels of optical finders. An advantage of EVFs is their ability to display exposure data and grids on demand.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode)
An advanced type of LCD that offers improved contrast, blacker blacks, less power consumption and a thinner profile compared to earlier-generation LCDs.
EXIF (Exchangeable Image File)
Commonly used header format for storing metadata (e.g. camera/lens/exposure information, time/date/, etc.) within digital image files.
The process of sending a file out through a specialized mini-application or plug-in so as to print or compress it. The term is also used to describe the action of saving the data to a specialized file format, i.e. JPEG or GIF.
Exposure is the phenomenon of light striking the surface of film or digital imaging sensor. The exposure is determined by the volume of light passing through the lens aperture (f/stop) combined with the duration of the exposure (shutter speed). The proper exposure, which is best determined using a light meter, can be established in a number of exposure modes including manual, program (automatic), shutter priority and aperture priority.
Adding to or subtracting from the “correct” exposure time indicated by the camera’s light meter, which results in a final exposure that is either lighter or darker than the recommended exposure time. Most cameras allow for exposure compensation in 1/2, 1/3, or full-stop increments.
Note: The “correct” exposure is not necessarily the “best” exposure.
A term used to describe the aperture, or diaphragm opening of a lens. F-stops are defined numerically: f1/4, f/5.6, f/22, etc. Larger, or wider apertures, allow more light to enter the lens, which calls for faster shutter speeds. “Faster” (wider) apertures also allow for selective focus (narrow depth of field), while slower (smaller) apertures allow for greater depth of field. Wider apertures are preferable for portraits, while smaller apertures are preferable for landscapes.
Ranging in size from a few inches to about a foot diagonally, field monitors serve as a highly accurate alternative to the smaller viewing screens found on most video cameras and camcorders, assisting with critical focus and exposure calibration. With the advent of video capture using HDSLRs, field monitors have become part and parcel of many HDSLR users’ equipment inventories.
The way an image is saved to a digital camera’s memory. JPEG, TIFF and RAW (DNG or other proprietary file formats) are the most common file formats found in digital cameras.
Software programs or data that have been written to read-only memory (ROM). Firmware is a combination of software and hardware. In digital cameras, the firmware is the program that allows the user to activate and control the features of the camera.
Flash sync is used to describe either the connection point where you plug an external electronic flash into your camera (usually a PC port or the camera’s hot-shoe), or the fastest shutter speed your camera can “sync” with an external flash. Most DSLRs have top sync speeds of 1/125th to 1/320th-second, although some camera/flash combinations can be synced at speeds of up to 1/15,000th-second.
Focal Length Magnifier
Also known as Magnification Factor or Crop Factor, this term is used to describe the angle of view (AOV) of a lens used on a DSLR in terms of how it would appear on a full-frame 35mm camera. As an example, compact DSLRs contain sensors that are about 50% smaller than a standard 35mm frame. As a result, the effective focal length (or AOV) of a 50mm lens on a compact DSLR would be reduced, or cropped to the equivalent of a 75mm lens. Canon EOS Rebels and other compact Canon DSLRs have a 1.6x magnification factor which would make a 50mm lens effectively an 80mm lens. Similarly, Canon EOS 1D-series DSLRs have a 1.3x magnification factor, which effectively makes a 50mm lens the equivalent of a 65mm lens.
A follow focus is a focus-control mechanism used in filmmaking (with film cameras) and in television production (with professional video cameras). There are now follow-focus units that have been designed for use with HDSLR cameras that are used to capture video footage.
Four Thirds (4/3)
A compact digital camera format designed around a 17.3 x 13mm imaging sensor, which is half the size of full-frame (35mm) imaging sensors. Four Third cameras and lenses are manufactured primarily by Olympus and Panasonic. Lenses for Four Third format cameras are made by Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma and are in the planning stage from Carl Zeiss (as of 2/11). A variation of Four Thirds is Micro Four Thirds, a mirrorless FourThird camera format, which is even smaller than standard FourThird format cameras. The sensors in Four Third and Micro Four Third are identical, but Micro Four Third optics cannot be used on standard Four Third camera bodies, due to their smaller lens mounts.
Fringing, commonly associated with less expensive lenses, describes the “bleeding” of color along the edges of contrasty portions of a digital image. Fringing often shows up as cyan blurring on one side of a contrasty object, complemented by red or magenta blurring on the opposite side of the object.
The brightness curve of the color spectrum as displayed (or reproduced) on a computer monitor, a printer or scanner.
Gain refers to the relationship between the input signal and the output signal of any electronic system. Higher levels of gain amplify the signal, resulting in greater levels of brightness and contrast. Lower levels of gain will darken the image, and soften the contrast. Effectively, gain adjustment affects the sensitivity to light of the CCD or CMOS sensor. In a digital camera, this concept is analogous to the ISO or ASA ratings of silver-halide films.
Graphic Interface designed by CompuServe for using images online. This is a 256-color or 8-bit image.
GPS (Global Positioning System)
A technology used for establishing the location of earth-based objects using coordinates obtained by orbiting satellites. These coordinates can be embedded into the headers of digital images as accurate reference points to where the photograph was taken.
GUI (Graphical User Interface)
Pronounced “GOO-ey.” Refers to a program interface that takes advantage of the computer’s graphics capabilities to make the program easier to use.
A method of calibrating a digital camera, scanner, printer or monitor using specialized hardware such as colorimeters, densitometers and spectrometers.
A digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) that can also capture high-definition video. Most current DSLRs are also HDSLRs, making the terms almost interchangeable.
A visual representation of the exposure values of a digital image. Histograms are most commonly illustrated in graph form by displaying the light values of the image’s shadows, midtones and highlights as vertical peaks and valleys along a horizontal plane. When viewing a histogram, the shadows are represented on the left side of the graph, highlights on the right side, and midtones in the central portion of the graph.
A “live” accessory shoe, usually located on the top of the camera prism housing, which enables you to mount and trigger an electronic flash or wireless transmitter. Hot shoes can also be used to support external microphones, electronic viewfinders, GPS devices and field monitors.
ICC Profile (International Color Consortium profile)
A universally recognized color-management standard for specifying the color attributes of digital imaging devices (scanners, digital cameras, monitors and printers) in order to maintain accurate color consistency of an image from the point of capture through the output stage.
Image Stabilization (See Anti Shake)
A printing method in which the printer sprays micro-jets of ionized ink at a sheet of paper in droplet sizes as small as 2-picoliters. Magnetized plates in the ink’s path direct the ink onto the paper in the desired shapes and patterns to make an image.
Interlaced video is a commonly used video capture technique in which in which the imagery consists of two fields of data captured a frame apart and played back in a manner that reproduces motion in a natural, flicker-free form that takes up less storage capacity than progressively captured video.
ISO (International Standards Organization)
Film speed rating expressed as a number indicating an image sensor’s (or film’s) sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive and faster the sensor (or film) is. Although traditional cameras don’t have a specific ISO rating, digital cameras do as a way to calibrate their sensitivity to light. ISO is equivalent to the older ASA.
Most digital cameras have native (basic) ISO ratings of about 100, but can be “extended” far beyond this base rating in order to capture sharp imagery under lower lighting conditions. When shooting at extended ISO levels, image quality begins to suffer in terms of sharpness levels, noise, contrast and added “graininess.”
Term for the stair-stepped appearance of curved or angled lines in a digital image file. The smaller the pixels and/or the greater their number, the less apparent are the “jaggies.” Jaggies are most common in photographs captured at lower resolving powers and Hello Kitty-type digital cameras.
JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
The de facto standard for image compression in digital imaging devices. JPEG is a “lossy”’ compression format, capable of reducing digital image files to about 5% of their normal size. The results in decompression of the files can cause “blockiness,” the “jaggies” or “pixelization” in certain digital images. The greater the compression levels, the more pixelization or “blockiness” that will occur. The greater the pixel count is, the less of a chance there is that pixelization will occur.
1,024 bytes, written KB, is used to refer to the size of files, which relates to the amount of information in a file.
A perceptually linear color space (RGB and CMYK are non-linear color spaces) that utilizes luminance as a means of increasing contrast and color saturation.
Also known as shutter lag, lag time refers to the delay that sometimes occurs between the time the shutter button is pressed and the time the shutter fires. Shutter lag is most prevalent when using less expensive point-and-shoot cameras.
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
LCD screens, usually found on the rear of digital cameras, allow you to preview and review photographs you are about to take or have taken. LCDs utilize two sheets of polarizing material with a liquid crystal solution between them. An electric current passed through the liquid causes the crystals to align so light cannot pass through them. Each crystal, therefore, is like a shutter, either allowing light to pass through or blocking the light and producing an image in color or monochrome.
A type of rechargeable battery that was originally developed for use with camcorders and is now used as a power source for most digital still cameras and camcorders.
A data-compression technique that can reduce the detail of a digital image file. Most video compression techniques utilize lossy compression. See non-lossy or lossless.
Used with digital imaging, low-pass filters are integrated into many digital sensors to suppress color ghosting and the effects of infrared light.
Also known as Segmented Metering, Matrix metering takes the total image area and breaks it into sections, which are analyzed by the camera’s light meter and compared to the light values of the surrounding sections. The results are then compared to similar lighting situations stored in the camera’s memory and a correct exposure is established. This entire process occurs in a few microseconds.
1,024 Kilobytes, written MB, is used to refer to the size of files or media such as hard drives. Refers to the amount of information in a file or how much information can be contained on a memory card, CD or DVD, hard drive or disk.
A megapixel contains 1,000,000 pixels and is the unit of measure used to describe the size of the sensor in a digital camera.
The camera’s file-storage medium. Most cameras use flash memory, which is a safe, highly reliable form of storage that doesn’t need power to hold the images after they are saved. It won’t erase the images unless the user chooses to do so. Some cameras contain a limited quantity of built-in memory, but certainly not enough to capture more than a dozen or so images.
In digital photography, a memory card is a removable device used in digital cameras to store the image information captured by the camera. There are several different types of memory cards available including Compact Flash, SmartMedia, SD/SDHC/SDXC, XD and Memory Stick.
Developed by IBM, micro drives are one of the original types of digital memory cards for digital cameras. Essentially small hard drives, micro drives have given way to solid-state Compact Flash cards, which contain no moving parts, and as such, are far more reliable.
Micro lenses are commonly mounted onto the tops of the light-gathering portion of pixels (a.k.a. photons) and are often angled along the edges of camera sensors in order to capture and redirect light back into the pixel, as a method of reducing light falloff on the edges of the image and redirecting it for image processing.
Patterns formed in portions of a photographic image as a result of confusion between a pattern within the photographic scene and the pattern of pixels within the sensor. Moiré can often be eliminated, or greatly reduced, by moving either closer to or farther from your subject. Higher-resolution imaging sensors tend to be less prone to moiré problems.
NiCad ( Nickel Cadmium )
A type of rechargeable battery, the NiCad battery was one of the first successful rechargeable batteries used in small electronics such as digital cameras.
NiMH ( Nickel-Metal Hydride)
A commonly used rechargeable battery for digital cameras and camcorders. A NiMH battery can have two to three times the capacity of an equivalent size nickel-cadmium battery.
A common bugaboo of JPEG files, noise is the appearance of color artifacts within a digital image. Mostly noticeable in the shadow areas of images captured at higher ISO ratings, the image processors used in many current digital cameras utilize noise-suppression software to minimize the appearance of noise artifacts. Heat build-up due to continuous shooting in hot environments can also cause noise artifacts within digital images. Noise is considered the digital version of grain in film negatives.
A process within a digital camera’s image processor in which the artifacts caused by “pushed” ISO ratings or other electrical or heat-related artifacts are suppressed or eliminated in an image.
Non-lossy (aka lossless)
A term that refers to data compression techniques that do not remove image data details in order to achieve compression. This method is generally less effective than lossy methods in terms of reducing file size, but retains the entire original image. See lossy.
A type of memory card that retains data when power is turned off. Camera Memory Cards (Compact Flash, SD, SmartMedia, etc.) use non-volatile memory.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode)
An advanced form of LED that does not require backlighting, the OLED displays denser blacks and higher contrast compared to standard LEDs, and can be manufactured with thinner profiles than standard LEDs.
The physical resolution at which a device can capture an image. The term is used most frequently in reference to optical scanners and digital cameras.
Another name for a zoom lens, which is a lens that enables you to change the magnification ratio, i.e., focal length of the lens by either pushing, pulling or rotating the lens barrel. Unlike variable focal length lenses, zooms are constructed to allow a continuously variable focal length, without disturbing focus.
The result of recording too much light when taking a picture, which results in a light image. In digital imaging, overexposure can usually be corrected to a certain extent by the use of image-editing software, depending upon how overexposed your image is. RAW files offer more latitude than JPEGs and TIFFs for correcting overexposure.
The difference between the image seen by a viewing system and the image recorded by the imaging sensor. In point-and-shoot cameras, as subjects move closer to the lens, the variance increases. Only through-the-lens (TTL) viewing systems avoid parallax error.
PC Card (PCMCIA Card)
PC cards are about the size of a credit card and were developed to be a standard for hardware capability expanding devices. PCMCIA cards provide an easy way to transfer photos from the camera to a notebook or desktop PC. In recent years, PCMCIA have become less common as newer (and smaller) technologies have taken their place.
A standardized connector for connecting and synchronizing external electronic flash units (strobes) to cameras.
The PICT format was originally developed by Apple Computer in the mid-1980s. The PICT format supports RGB files with a single alpha channel, and indexed-color, grayscale and Bitmap files without alpha channels. The PICT format is especially effective at compressing images with large areas of solid color.
Short for picture element, pixels are the tiny components that capture the digital image record in your camera. Pixels are also the individual components that collectively recreate the image captured with your digital camera on a computer monitor. The more pixels there are, the higher the screen or image resolution will be.
The breakup of a digital image file that has been scaled up (enlarged) to a point where the pixels no longer blend together to form a smooth image. Pixelization can also appear in the form of step-like or choppy curves and angled lines (also known as the jaggies). As a rule, the greater the number of pixels there are within an image, the less likely it is that you will see pixelization in the image.
An optical distortion, common in less expensive lenses, where parallel lines on the horizontal or vertical plane bow inward. Pincushion distortion is the opposite of barrel distortion.
PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
Developed as a patent-free alternative to GIF, this format is used for lossless compression for purposes of displaying images on the World Wide Web. Adopted by the WWW consortium as a replacement for GIF, some older versions of Web browsers may not support PNG images.
Racking focus is the technique of directing the attention of the viewer of video footage by shifting the focus of the lens from a subject in the foreground to a subject in the background or vice versa.
Many pro and semi-pro digital cameras have the option of capturing RAW files, which unlike JPEGs, TIFFs, and other file formats contain all of the data captured during the exposure in an unedited format. When processed, RAW files can be adjusted far more extensively than images captured in other imaging formats, and can be saved as JPEGs, TIFFs, etc. The original RAW file remains unaltered and can be reprocessed at any time for other purposes.
Red eye is the term used to describe the reddened pupils of the eyes that sometimes occurs when photographing people or pets with an electronic flash. The red color appears when the pupil of the eye is dilated, usually in a low-light environment when the light of the flash strikes the rear portion of the eye and illuminates the blood vessels there. Red eye can often be avoided by placing the flash further than 6″ from the camera lens.
The reason red eye is most common with compact digital cameras is because the flashtube is often adjacent to the lens and enters the pupil of a subject head on. A common pre-capture cure for red eye is to bounce the flash onto an adjacent wall or ceiling, which softens the light and eliminates any red-eye effects.
A method of reducing or eliminating red-eye from flash photographs by using a short burst of light, or pre-flash, to momentarily “stop-down” the pupils of the subject’s eyes prior to the actual flash exposure. Some cameras have a built-in pre-flash that fires several times to coax the pupils into contracting, before making the final flash and image capture. Red-eye can also be eliminated electronically after the fact in many photo-editing programs. Many digital cameras contain software applications that electronically eliminate red eye in camera.
A reflex camera is one that utilizes a mirror system to reflect the light (the image) coming through the lens to a visible screen. The image seen in the camera’s viewfinder is the same image that strikes the camera’s imaging sensor (or film plane). This system provides the most accurate way to frame and focus. The reflex system avoids the parallax problem that plagues most direct view cameras. Reflex cameras are also called SLRs or DSLRs.
The ability to trip the camera shutter from a distance using a cable release or wireless transmitter / transceiver.
Refers to the number of pixels, both horizontally and vertically, used to either capture an image or display it. The higher the resolution is, the finer the image details will be.
RGB Color (Red Green Blue)
Computers and other digital devices handle color information as shades of red, green and blue. A byte is comprised of 8 bits. A 24-bit digital camera, for example, will have 8 bits per channel and can use a total of 8 ones and zeroes for the red, green and blue channels. This allows for 256 different variations, or 28, or 256 different values for each color.
In HDSLR terms, this is a support and focus system designed especially for capturing video footage with an HDSLR camera. Since the ergonomics of the DSLR camera were not meant for the process of video capture, and HDSLR rig provides the support, focusing and monitoring capabilites that are more inherent in single-purpose video cameras.
Saturation is the depth of the colors within a photographic image. Photographs with deep levels of color are described as being heavily saturated. A photograph with lighter levels of saturation is described as having a muted color palette. A totally desaturated color photograph becomes monotone—or black and white.
SD Card (Secure Digital)
Far smaller than CompactFlash cards (CF), Secure Digital memory cards have enabled camera manufacturers to further reduce the size of digital cameras. They are also commonly found in cell phones, PDAs and other small electronic devices that incorporate removable memory. Newer-generation (and faster) SD cards include SDHC and SDXC memory cards.
A mechanism in the camera that controls the duration of transmission the light that reaches the film or sensor. Leaf-shutter lenses, which include most view camera lenses and many medium-format lenses, contain their own proprietary shutters.
A metering mode in which the shutter speed is fixed and the exposure is controlled by opening or closing the lens aperture. Most modern cameras have step-less shutters that can be triggered to open and close infinitely between the camera’s fastest and slowest shutter speeds, i.e. 1/236th-sec, 1/54th-sec, 1/5829th-sec, etc.
The length of time the shutter remains open when the shutter release is activated, most commonly expressed in fractions or multiples of a second.
A camera that utilizes a prism and mirror system to project the image seen by the lens onto a focusing screen located below the prism housing. The image the user sees in the viewfinder is identical to the image being recorded. The advantage of SLRs is that you get to view the exact scene the camera will be recording.
Spot metering is the measurement of very small areas of the total picture area. Older cameras, as well as less-expensive digital cameras, only offer a single, centrally-located measuring point, usually between 1 to 5 degrees in coverage. Many newer cameras offer a selection of 3, 5, 7, 11 or more reference points for selective metering, which enable you to selectively measure important areas of the photograph, including areas that are off-center to the frame. Spot metering is a very effective way to take readings of backlit subjects.
The standard color gamut for Windows operating systems. sRGB is also the “lowest common denominator” for color standards, as it can be reproduced on the least expensive computer screens. Adobe RGB is a wider-gamut color space, and is preferred for those seeking higher accuracy in color rendition.
Storage Card (Memory Card)
A compact memory storage device used to store data captured by a digital camera. Storage card formats include CompactFlash (CF), Secure Digital (SD), xD, SmartMedia, and Memory Sticks.
Small, contact sheet-sized image files used to reference or edit digital images. The images that appear on a camera’s LCD are thumbnail images of the larger file.
TIFF (Tagged-Image File Format)
TIFF files are flexible bitmap image files supported by virtually all paint, image editing, and page-layout applications. Also, virtually all desktop scanners can produce TIFF images. This format, which uses the .tif extension, supports CMYK, RGB, Lab, grayscale files with alpha channels and Bitmap files without alpha channels. TIFF also supports LZW compression, a lossless compression format.
A series of photographs captured over a period of time. These images can be captured in variable or set time intervals over the course of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc.
Although several more advanced cameras offer the option of custom function time-lapse imaging, most cameras require optional hard wired or remotely operated triggering devices to capture time-lapse imagery.
A term used to describe the quality of color and tone ranging from an image’s shadow details through the brightest highlight details, including all of the transitions in between these extreme points. Tonal range can also be described in terms of “gamut.”
TTL (Through The Lens)
TTL refers to a metering system that determines the proper exposure based on measuring the light that strikes the imaging sensor (or film plane) after passing through the camera’s lens. TTL readings are usually more accurate than handheld meter readings since all exposure factors, including filtration and any optical peculiarities, are taken into account when determining the final exposure. Many dedicated camera flashes also utilize TTL metering to determine the proper flash exposure.
An “acquire” or import interface, developed as a standard for communications between scanners, imaging devices, digital cameras and the computer software. TWAIN allows you to import (acquire) an image into your software. This is the generally the interface of choice for the Windows platform.
The result of recording too little light when taking a picture, which results in a dark image. In digital imaging, underexposure can usually be corrected to a certain extent by the use of image-editing software, depending upon how underexposed your image is. RAW files offer more latitude than JPEGs and TIFFs for correcting underexposure.
The ability of a digital still camera to capture segments of variable-resolution video intended for use in email or Web pages.
System used for composing and focusing the subject being photographed. Aside from the more traditional rangefinder and reflex viewfinders, many compact digital cameras utilize LCD screens in place of a conventional viewfinder as a method of reducing the size (and number of parts) of the camera. Electronic viewfinders (EVFs) have become increasingly better in recent years and are slowly finding their way into traditional DSLRs.
Darkening of the edges of a photographic image due to the inability of a lens to distribute light evenly to the corners of the frame. While correctable with filtration using on camera, center-weighted neutral density filters, or electronically in Photoshop, it is often valuable as a creative device to direct the eye back to the center of the frame.
Traditionally, a watermark is an image or icon that is embedded into paper for security purposes (American paper currency has a watermark). In digital photography, a watermark refers to information that is embedded in the image data to protect the copyrights of the image.
The camera’s ability to correct color cast or tint under different lighting conditions including daylight, indoor, fluorescent lighting and electronic flash. Also known as “WB,” many cameras offer an Auto WB mode that is usually—but not always—pretty accurate.
A small, narrow-profile memory card format designed for use with the smallest digital cameras, PDAs and cell phones that accept additional memory.
Shooting a time-lapse is not a science. There is no perfect formula to ensure you are successful every time. However, there are a few things that will improve your chances of nailing your shot. In this video I will be covering the different types of equipment I USE TO SHOOT A TIME-LAPSE.
Triggering your Camera
The first thing you need to do is to find a way to trigger your camera, and there are a few different options. Now depending on the camera you are using, you may have an intervalometer built in. However, WHEN I SHOOT A TIME-LAPSE, I USE ONE OF FOUR OPTIONS.
The first is the Canon Intervalometer which is the most pricey of the bunch. It works great; however, this is my second Canon intervalometer and the cable frayed on both. The next solution is the no-name intervalometer. The one in the video was purchased from Amazon and does everything that the Canon intervalometer does, BUT the cable can be removed or replaced if necessary. There are many options on either Amazon, B&H or eBay for whichever camera you may be using.
The third solution I use is a battery grip with an intervalometer built in. I purchased it in a kit with 2 batteries, a remote and cable release for under $100 on eBay. It is another cheap solution; however, sometimes when using the grip you loose control of the aperture dial and you need to remove the grip and re-install it to regain access to the aperture dial. Just something to keep in mind.
The last solution I use most often is the Kessler Camera Control Module. This unit, in conjunction with the Oracle is by far the most versatile of the group when shooting motion controlled time-lapses. It allows you to accomplish more things than the standard intervalometer, such as shoot-move-shoot. I will touch on this more when I go more in depth about shooting motion controlled time-lapses.
Powering Your Camera
Now once you have a device that will trigger your camera, you need to worry about powering your camera. For this, I have a few different options in front of me.
When shooting shorter time-lapses, I use both Canon batteries as well as the no name flavour. The no name flavour works great and is a fraction of the price. However, it is key that you find the ones that will charge on your Canon chargers, as there are some solutions that will require a proprietary charger. In my experiences however, the Canon batteries seem to hold the charge longer.
If I am doing longer time-lapses, I use one of three options. The first is a battery grip. In front of me are two different options. The first is the Canon battery grip and the second one is the no name flavour. They do virtually the same thing; however, the Canon grip is much more reliable than the no name one. This solution lasts for approximately 6 hrs for me — depending on how old your batteries are and whether you are using the canon batteries or the no-name ones.
The second solution is the Kessler batteries. Using the cable suited to your camera in conjunction with one of these batteries, you can do extended time-lapses — multiple day time-lapses if you want. There are three different options for batteries. You have the Bescor 12v (7.2 Ah) battery, the Bescor 12v (12Ah) battery pack and the new Kessler ION BATTERY SYSTEM (lithium iron phosphate battery) as well.
- Ultra-light weight.
- Most powerful and longest lasting battery on the market for the weight.
- Provides up to 4 times the life of other conventional battery systems.
- Can handle 2000+ charge cycles.
- There is no charge “memory effect.”
- Built in smart battery charger with charge meter so you can easily top off the battery.
- Weather proof padded case with built-in device storage and rain guard for when the
weather gets rough.
The last solution I use for powering my camera is the Canon wall mount adapter (ACK-E6 AC ADAPTER). If I have access to AC and am wanting to do multiple day time-lapses, this is my go-to solution.
There are a few other essential elements that I have in my kit as well when I am shooting. I will cover each item more extensively when we setup the time-lapses. The first things you will want in your kit are filters, and there are many solutions on the market. Obviously the more you spend, the better they will be. When I shoot time-lapses, I use Polarizer filters, Vari-ND filters & grad filters.
Polarizer filters are used to reduce reflections on some surfaces as well as to bring out the sky. Vari-ND filters are used to control up to 8-stops (depending on filter) as well as to blur motion when shooting during the day. Grad filters are used to darken an overly bright part of the scene.
I recommend spending a bit more on your filters. If you are putting glass in front of your lens, it should also be high quality.
You will also want to make sure you keep your lenses and sensors clean. I don’t know how many time-lapses I have ruined from not having a clean sensor or lens. Take ten minutes after each shoot to make sure your gear is clean. It will help with the longevity of your gear. I use sensor cleaners, lens wipes, lens clothes and a puffer to keep things clean. I will show you in a later video how I clean my camera after a shoot.
As for media, I have had great success from the Transcend cards. The price point is great and I have yet to have any issues with buffering time from these cards — or loosing data from corrupt files.
Another piece of gear I have in my kit is my phone. On my phone there are a few different apps I use to help with time-lapses. The first is the Kessler App which has many great tools built in — including a time-lapse calculator. I will be covering these apps in a later video.
- Kessler App
- Sun Seeker
- Star Walk
- Google Earth
- DSLR Remote
- Sunrise & Sunset
If there are any apps that you find helpful when shooting time-lapses, please add to the comment section below.
Supporting your Camera
The first type of time-lapses we are going to look at is the static time-lapse, and there are a few variables to consider when selecting your gear. You will want to consider the type of shot you want to accomplish as well as the environment you are shooting in (including the surface you are shooting on, if you are hiking long distances or if it is windy).
There are three types of tripods I choose between. If I am hiking long distances I will choose both the gorilla pod and a small carbon fibre tripod (Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 3-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs). The brand doesn’t matter for tripods; however, I have included the model number of each item. The Gorrilla-pod is great because of its size; however, it is limited on the types of shots you can accomplish as well as weight capacity. The small tripod is a great solution; however, either if it is windy or if you are shooting on a surface such as sand, it may be difficult to keep the camera stable. One thing you can do is attach a weight to the centre column to bring the centre of gravity lower. I will talk more about this when we setup a static time-lapse.
The most versatile option of the bunch when you aren’t hiking long distances is a heavy duty carbon fiber tripod (Manfrotto 536 4-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod). This tripod is great because it is relatively light and its reach is outstanding. At its lowest height, you can get the camera about a foot off the ground and with the same setup, you can get your camera about 8ft in the air.
Now, if you are just getting into shooting time-lapses and are either unsure what to purchase or your budget doesn’t allow for the products I am using, just keep in mind the basic elements of each section. Light tripod for longer hikes — heavy duty tripod for other applications. Basically any type of tripod will work. However, if you are going to spend any money on gear, don’t skimp on a tripod or other support gear, as support gear always outlasts your camera if you take care of it.
When you are shooting either Astro Time-Lapses, Day-To-Night Time-Lapses, Bulb Ramping, Boat-Lapses or Walk-Lapses, you want to make sure you are using a heavy duty tripod in all scenarios. It is extremely important to have a solid base when setting up any of the shots. I will include a more extensive breakdown of rigging in each of the sections when I set the shots up.
Motion Controlled Time-Lapses
The last section I want to look at in this video are the different motion-controlled setups. I will be focusing exclusively on Kessler gear for this section. If you have any questions or were hoping that I was going to cover other solutions, please read my ETHICS STATEMENT. I have used other solutions, but Kessler gear is by far the best solution I have used. When shooting time-lapses, time is money and it is extremely important to have gear that is consistent.
Kessler offers a few different solutions depending on your shooting scenario. For either hiking or traveling there are two solutions. The first is the traveler and mini length sliders. These are extremely compact and fit in a suitcase. A new solution that has come out from Kessler is the Shuttle Pod Mini which breaks down into a small kit for travel. If you want to make it longer, simply attach more sections.
The Kessler Shuttle Pod Mini is a smaller, easier to transport version of the original Shuttle Pod. It is about half the size and half the weight of its big brother, yet still provides the versatility needed to get the manual or motorized shot you require.
The Shuttle Pod Mini is designed to break down into a small, easy to manage package. Using the shorter 2’ rail sections, it can even be stowed in a backpack for those long hikes up the mountain.
If you aren’t looking for a compact solution, there are other options as well. There is the Cineslider that comes in either 3ft or 5ft as well as the full size Shuttle Pod. If you are looking for moves longer than 5ft, you will want to purchase the full-size Shuttle Pod.
For each of the dollys/sliders above you will need to also motorize them. To view a few different options, check out the Kessler website.
There are a few different software solutions I use as well and will be touching on each when I do the post-production section. These programs will include Premiere Pro, LR Timelapse, Lightroom, After Effects, Photoshop, FCP 7, Quicktime 7, GB Deflicker, CHV Time Collection, ProRes vs CineForm, Photomatrix, GBS Timelapse & more.
This tribute was created to honor Academy Award Winning Director Steven Spielberg, as part of the Jacob Burns Film Center’s 10th Anniversary Award Celebration. Mr. Spielberg was the 2011 Vision Award recipient.
An interesting video from AFI with Christopher Nolan and about how he works with his actors.
One aspect of filmmaking or to be more in depth – directing, which always has that mysterious element to it. That element is directing actors. There’s plenty of books out there, but Judith Weston’s book is one of the better ones out there.
She posted some videos on her YouTube channel.
1. Learn about the filmmaking process from a director’s perspective. This means make your own movies!
Muren: “Study art, photography, nature because you want to have ideas for full shots in your head. Not parts of shots but the whole finished thing, even though you may not be [responsible] for all of that. You want to understand to the filmmaking process from the point of view of the director — even if you want to do special effects.”
Tippett: “I would encourage that — an art and film history background. And there’s no excuse for not making your own movie. You’ll learn so much if you just come up with a little story that has a beginning, middle and an end. If you commit to doing it, you’ll learn so much more by doing that than most people going to school.”
2. Listen to the voices in your head.
Tippett: “If you make your own film, it really helps that you know what a cut means. A cut is very important to know because it helps structure things. The sounds, too. When we started on Jurassic Park, I spent a week or so with [sound designer] Gary Rydstrom because it was very important for Steven to have the voices for the characters. That was very helpful to inform our performances. Once you have the voices in your head, then you can work to the voices. That knowledge is essential.”
3. Understand how VFX fit into the storytelling process.
Rosengrant: “Recognize that we help tell a story and that’s what’s most important first. Understand that our role is to maybe embellish that story and make it more interesting. But know how you fit into telling that story because it’s very collaborative.”
4. Don’t just imitate your visual effects heroes. Dare to be original.
Rosengrant: “I see people trying to get into effects who are trying to copy something instead of understanding the real anatomy of the art. All of this comes into play. I think that’s what makes Jurassic Park work.”
5. Think of your best friend as your worst enemy .
Muren: “Your best friend is your enemy when it comes to breaking into the industry. I think it’s a very competitive time now, with film schools churning out so many effects people, that you’ve got to be better than your best friend.”
Tippett: “They could be thinking the same thing about you — that ‘I have to be better than you are.’ Just strive for the best. Tenacity. Don’t give up. Keep plugging away at it. Find out if you’re good at it. You may not be good at it.”
6. Rest assured that visual effects is now a viable career option.
Muren: “When we were starting out, there was no visual effects career. There were maybe 20 people in all of L.A. and maybe the world who did visual effects. They would hire people from different unions to sort of flesh out something.These guys were old-time expert guys that really didn’t know anything like we do because they did it so seldom. It’s amazing now that it’s actually a business and you can look at it as a job.”
7. Don’t listen to the job entry horror stories — there are visual effects pros out there who want to nurture (and not just torture) up-and-comers.
Tippett: “It depends on where you start out. Most of us try to be good to the people just starting out. You don’t want to burn out artists. You want to encourage them.”
Muren: “I hear a lot about that, too. That it’s really going on and [companies] are really taking advantage of it because there are so many people that want to do it. That’s unfortunate and I hope it doesn’t happen often.”
8. Don’t be surprised when the visual effects industry is not as glamorous as you imagined.
Tippett: “I think one of the more bitter pills to swallow is the intensity [of VFX]. Because you think it’s one thing and it’s cool and sexy and it’s fun. Then you sit down and look at the dailies and someone says, ‘That’s wrong, that’s wrong and that’s wrong. Fix that, fix that.’ It’s just like [mimes choking someone.] Someone tells you, ‘Just fix it. I’ll see you tomorrow.’ It’s not like what people imagine.”
9. Get ready to continually adapt.
Rosengrant: “[The new visual effects guys] are jumping onboard now after so many years of things evolving. We think back 18 years ago with Jurassic Park; during that 18 year period, things have been moving like a freight train. So when you get on that freight train now, you’ve got to have all of this other knowledge behind you. Study what went on in the past but get ready for a train ride.”
More info can be found here:
When trying to write a script, you will find that there will be good days and bad ones. Some days you will feel you were very productive and put a lot down on paper. Most days – you will not. Seeking advice on what to do and how to do it in the area of screenwriting is always welcomed.
Thankfully Scott Myers has this advice to offer:
While you are writing one story, you are prepping another. Research. Brainstorming. Character development. Plotting. Wake up early. Take an extended lunch break. Grab a few hours after dinner. Stay up late. Whatever it takes, carve out 2 hours per day for story prep. Create a master file Word doc. Or use a spiral notebook. Put everything you come up with into that file. You’d be amazed how much content you will generate in a month. Most professional screenwriters juggle multiple projects at the same time. Here’s how you can start learning that skill-set: Writing one project, prepping another. Two hours per day so that every week, you devote 14 hours to prep.
Here is the explanation for the 1,2,4,14 formula:
- 1: Read 1 screenplay per week.
- 2: Watch 2 movies per week.
- 7: Write 7 pages per week.
- 14: Work 14 hours per week prepping a story.
“Acting is like sculpture, it’s what you take away from yourself to reveal the truth of what you’re doing that makes a performance”
Aaron Sorkin talking about he writes dialogue in his scripts:
A song in a musical works best when a character has to sing— when words won’t do the trick anymore. The same idea applies to a long speech in a play or a movie or on television. You want to force the character out of a conversational pattern.
Now we slow down and get a glimpse into his pain. The oratorical technique is called “floating opposites”— we did, we didn’t, we did, we didn’t… But rhythmically you don’t want this to be too on the money. You’re not just testing the human ear anymore; you want people to hear what he’s saying.
More about this interview can be found at:
So many cables, so many connections… so little time.
How can you ever find out what cable matches up to what connection? If you’re an indie filmmaker, not only do you have to worry about cables during production with your audio rigs and cameras but then also in post production with your edit bay.
Thankfully BH Photo has made things easier with their cable finder. A cable catalog that allows you start with one side of the cable and then it gives you choices to see what sort of connections are compatible with this cable.