If there’s a theme to this week’s Focal Points, it’s perspective.
Perspective from all sorts of industry voices including Mark Hamill, Bill Murray, Shane Hurlbut, Mark Vargo, Christopher Nolan, and a handful of cinematographers lending their voice to the film vs. digital debate at Sundance. There’s also perspective from the camera’s lens in a dolly zoom montage.
And to put that into, well, perspective, consider what Truman Capote said: “Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”
Are you ready to rearrange the rules? Here we go…
7 Great Focal Points to Check Out
In this short 11-minute Vimeo doc, Mark Vargo, ASC explains what it is grips do on a film set. He explores their role in helping shape light through the use of flags, scrims, and diffusion as well as their responsibilities to rig, rope, and move the dolly. While it may be nothing new to those with experience on set, it’s refreshing to see the grips given credit when most audiences have no idea who they are and what they do.
The first time I ever saw a dolly zoom (where you simultaneously zoom in or out while dollying in the opposite director) it blew my mind. It’s largely seen as a cliche these days, but those who use it properly produce a powerful effect in doing so. This video montage shows some of the best uses of the camera move back-to-back-to-back.
Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut teaches you how to read a light meter with detailed instructions, illustrative pictures, and a knowledge of why – even in this digital cinema age – it’s important. To round it out, he even offers recommendations for light meters to buy.
“I would never begrudge the attention on a film,” says director Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Inception, Interstellar) in response to a question about whether internet movie theories bother him. It’s this pragmatic and reasoned approach to filmmaking that has helped Nolan reach the top of the Hollywood hierarchy where he has a unique perspective to share in this interview.
One’s Luke Skywalker and the other’s Peter Vinkman – both cult heroes answering whatever questions the Reddit community can throw at them. Mark Hamill’s AMA is interesting because of his perceptive look at Star Wars and his positive outlook on his career. Bill Murray steals the show, however, because of his honest candor including a really long answer about why he took the role in Garfield and how he tried to save the movie.
All you need to know about this article is this choice quote from cinematographer Jay Hunter, “If you have a machine gun and you are trying to hit a target you’ll hold that trigger down and fire a million bullets. Eventually you’ll hit the center of the target but you’ll make Swiss cheese out of everything around it. If you have three bullets and a revolver you are going to take your time and really aim that gun perfectly before you shoot one of your precious bullets. That’s film vs. digital.”
It took me many more words to say almost the same thing Seth Godin is saying here: the aesthetics, the tools, the superficial elements of any creative work don’t matter as long as they are “good enough.” In the end, it’s more about the soul and substance than the style and slickness.
This Month at The Black and Blue
Some of the great articles posted in January on The Black and Blue that you may have missed:
- The New Year’s Resolution that Could Get You More Work
- Five Lessons from the Other Side of the Freelance Fence
- A Beginner’s Guide to Basic Steadicam Positions
- Happy 4th Birthday to The Black and Blue!
- Raw Stock: Why You Shouldn’t Run on a Film Set, TV Framerates and Business Card Titles
- 5 Useful Cinematography Android Apps (Part 2)
- Download This Cinematography Case Study of Janusz Kaminski, ASC
- What Camera Assistants Don’t Do
- Adam Carolla Explains Why Cameramen Dress the Best