Guest Post By: Roman M France On New Cameras And Lighting.


Our good friend Roman M. France asked if we would post his reaction to our recent Cinematography post. Here is his email in it’s entirety unedited.

Thanks for taking the time to write this. Click here to check out Roman’s website.

The HDSLR revolution has proven to be a little bittersweet. On the one hand it provided countless artists with powerful and affordable tools to bring their imagination to life. Images reminiscent of Hollywood feature films were seemingly in everyone’s grasp now. You no longer had to attend film school or continuously rent gear to explore the medium. What the HDSLR revolution also brought with it was a new found focus on the technology and not the craft. Less is more became the motto to a fault, shallow depth of field became the norm, and lighting became optional. “Well the 1D Mark IV can go up to 3200 ISO clean, so I’m sure the LED light will be fine”. People were chasing exposure instead of atmosphere. With the introduction of the Canon C300 and it’s much touted ISO 20,000 capabilities along with a slew of “Workshop DPs” running around claiming to be experts, it appears craftsmanship is at an all time low. How do we remedy this? Well let’s start with this one fact.

What separates the amateur DP from the Hollywood DP? Gear? Sure. We can’t afford to take 30 18Ks to the depths of the desert like my man Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, but it’s also knowledge. Lighting can make or break your film. Lighting sets the tone and adds another layer to storytelling. Knowing where to place your lights and more importantly WHY to place them there is everything. What’s the conflict in the scene? What’s really going on? What’s the tone of the scene? From there you have to grasp what kind of source is the right one for the scene. More often than not if you find the answer to the questions above, you will find the answer to this one. Placing your light is simple, when you walk onto set, into the very room or area the scene takes place, ask yourself this “What is my dominant source of light?” If you’re shooting a scene in a bar, it makes little sense to have a ginormous 6K blaring through a window acting as your key. To really learn how to light you must examine lighting in all facets of your life. Check out the lighting in hotels, airplanes, nightclubs, restaurants, bedrooms wherever. Understand what we’ve come to know as visual truths in the world.

Skip the Workshop, hit the SET
Workshops seem to be the new hotness in the DSLR community. Everyone wants to teach you how to be a filmmaker. Great, the sharing of ideas and experiences will do nothing but benefit you. But don’t get it twisted, attending every damn workshop that gets produced isn’t going to make you a great DP. Hell it probably won’t even make you a mediocre one. You’ve got to get out there and start putting some of these concepts to use. You have to FAIL a little in order to become great. Thinking you can sit back fill up your notepad and run out there and have it all figured out is foolish. You have to determine how much you want it. It’s a risky business we are in and great fortune doesn’t come to the ones who play it safe.

You’re a DP, not a Rental House
Listen, I know you love your Canon camera, I love mine too, but this doesn’t mean you have to buy every product they produce. People are buying cameras by the boatload like they’re trying to become the next AbelCine, it’s ridiculous. They want to have an A camera, B camera, C camera, and hell let’s throw in a D camera for kicks. There is this influx of scatter-shooting (Wally Pfister, ASC term) poisoning cinematography. You’ve got all these angles going there’s no way all of them are going to be satisfactory. More scary than that is you have all these cameras and a skimpy lighting kit to boot. Or better yet you have all these cameras and a bunch of crummy tripods to go with them (ugh). Be smarter with your money guys. I know it’s hard when you go over to the OTHER GUYS site and it’s full of ads, but master the gear you already have. Don’t be overzealous, don’t fall in love with a new fad and blow $5K in timelapse gear. Do what’s best for your career, not what you think will win you fans at NAB. With that said I’m out, thanks for reading my rant!

Stay Fierce!

Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
  • vince gaffney

    This is more mandatory reading. The first question should always be “how do I want to light this?” great rant.

  • Salah Baker

    F in A TRUTH!

  • Terry King

    Rant?  This needs to be made into an audio recording played on loop in the bedrooms of the misinformed while they sleep.

  • @BrentwGraham

    This is so great.
    Very eloquently put.

  • Pingback: Wide Open Camera: It’s About the Lighting, Stupid | Kelly On A Tangent

  • Ryan Grimm

    Where is the industry experience and/or standout portfolio to make such an arrogant? Seems like you should probably heed your own advice and learn some of the basics instead of spending so much time writing blog posts aimed at people that probably aren’t going to take your advice.

  • Portaplay

     C’mon RyanG, if some1 loves to write blogs – dont be rude – let him. “Where is industry experience”: in hands of bankers… Let people do what they like… “aimed at people that probably aren’t going to take your advice.” life will verify that, are U have all the answers ? Don’t be all peoples advocat…