Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fix it in post...WTF!

What has happened to the integrity of the craft of filmmaking? There once was an attitude of keeping the level, the quality of the image superior, but lately I've seen the opposite.  I've seen DP's make huge mistakes, in their exposure and in their color settings.  Either it's ego, or incompetence, but it's a problem that is hurting the very image that they are so desperately trying to produce.  It's funny that I see two sides of the equation, one side is that DP's fear that their work will be manipulated in a way they don't approve, and that they become some cog in the production machinery, where their work has no style or substance, or they work as a part of the production, delivering a product that works to the benefit of the production.  I see the DP's working to achieve a look to define themselves, but they do so with reckless abandon, STOP getting in your own way, and don't be afraid or stubborn to receive good info from your AC's or DIT.

Working in the new digital cinema is different than working in film, and each camera has it's own palette, that a DP should learn and use to his/her benefit.  I've shot commercial photography for more than most DP's have been alive, but I understand the balance of delivering a quality product, to deliver a great final product.

Shoot it right in camera as much as you can.  Not all jobs have a budgets or time to be perfect, but be perfect when you can.  Don't rely on some colorist to fix your mistakes.  Unlike a still photographer that follows his work from camera to delivery, most DP's leave their work when they leave the set.  If they make mistakes, those mistakes are corrected by a colorist in post production.  When the DP finally sees his/her work, it looks better, and most often they think they did a great job, no, the colorist did a great job saving your project.

There is no free lunch.  For every under/over exposure, every incorrect color setting, their is a consequence.  You cannot correct without damaging your image quality, period.   Most feel they can get by being sloppy, it's very common today, blown highlight, underexposure to the point of no information at all.  This is not rocket science, shoot smarter, shoot better, be a contributor to the filmmaking process, and not the loose canon, or ego maniac.

I believe it would be in every DP's best interest to go back to school and learn how to shot digital, learn why to shoot a gray card, learn or re-learn the basics, because in the end, it will only serve you well.

As a commercial still photographer, I know most cinematographers if given a still assignment, would fail.  Why, because they cannot light, and they cannot make a single image beautiful.  I'm not saying all, but most.  This is a challenge to all DP's, make beautiful images, one frame at a time, don't sabotage your work for fear of a colorist or editor ruining it.  Deliver the very best image, the very best color, the very best exposure to insure your projects success.  Don't be afraid, or fear will be your enemy.

For those of you that just got in the business, learn how to shoot, don't be a hack!!


  1. I agree with you on many points, but I think singling out DPs is unfair. Cheap technology has diluted the talent pool across the board. DP's, editors, and still photogs have all had their craft invaded by untrained amateurs who think buying the gear makes them qualified.

    Good DPs are frustrated that hack editors are ruining their footage. Good editors are frustrated that hack DPs are submitting crappy footage, and both are frustrated that still photogs are cutting in on their turf trying to get a piece of the video market without really understanding the medium.

    I've been in both roles... editor and shooter. You make a sweeping assumption that DPs are spoiled by the work of colorists and post people. Many DPs are dissatisfied with what happens to their footage in the edit room. Their LUTs and color notes are being cast aside by the post people, usually out of incompetence or lack of time. It's not dereliction of duty that keeps DPs out of the post-process. It's lack of respect, time, or budget on the part of producers.

    You say most motion picture DPs couldn't pull off a stills job. We have to admit that the opposite is also true. I've seen many talented still shooters try to hop on the video bandwagon and fail. My inbox is full of emails from stills colleagues who need basic training in the nuances of shutter speed, file formats, pulling focus, using hot lights, shooting for the edit, and other skillsets that differ between stills and motion photography.

    Again, I admire the good points you've made, but I think there needs to be a mutual respect between still photogs and DPs. Still shooters are not superior to DPs and vice versa. Our jobs are similar but still very different. We must recognize that every field has its hacks and shining stars.

  2. I thank you for your comment. I do however stand behind my post. I know the pressure to get it done fast. The point you make of still shooters not able to shoot motion, points more to the process, not the image, they can make a good image, but the requirements that are common in motion differ from still quite a bit, the only common denominator is the framed image, there the still shooter sometimes has an edge over his/her motion counterpart.

    But this is neither here nor there, the point, main point I'm making is make sure you use the modern tools correctly, sure you can venture off the norm path, it's your creative decision, but don't hang yourself, or back yourself into a corner because of what may be added downstream in post. I've had nothing but full agreement from editors and colorist that have seen my blog. Post is the last stop, they see it all, both the good and the bad, and more times that not, it can be done a bit better.

    I'm on set with a full set of scopes, and DP's (some) come to me for exposure consultation. I'm a good consultant with over 36 years shooting and exposure evaluation experience. This does no happen as much as it should.