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Neal Norton

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  • Occupation
    Cinematographer
  • Location
    Tampa, Florida
  • My Gear
    Alexa
  • Specialties
    Commercial Photography

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  1. A company that "simply doesn't care" if the customer likes the product is not a business; its a hobby. If enough people "buy something else" I would suggest the product is a failure. Neal Norton
  2. How expensive is relative to what you have in mind. The film stock, processing & transfer will be your biggest expense so the camera is not a huge line item in your budget. Sound cameras like the Arricam require a high degree of maintenance and expertise in your camera department. Using an MOS camera and dubbing any dialogue in the european low budget system would make production far simpler and speed up your production days by a lot. In my opinion the Arri 235 is the finest MOS camera ever made and is equal to the Panaflex in design elegance. You should be able to rent a 235 package with cheap lenses (Zeiss CP-2's?) for a song or even free if you can get a shop like Panavision to back your work. Good luck! Neal Norton Director of Photography Tampa, Florida
  3. Hi Stephen: I also live here in Tampa. It is nice that you are out there making a living in a tough environment. To be a DP you need one crucial thing: The trust of your director. Everything else is negotiable and changes job to job. If you are being paid to light & help compose then congratulations you are a professional cameraman! In my humble opinion the unrelenting sameness of video production has created a very high quality mediocrity that renders even the most skilled DP a technician. Maybe some of the "fakers" are making happy accidents that a highly trained DP would never make in 100 years and if we keep our egos in check we could learn a thing or two. Neal Norton Tampa, Florida
  4. Hi Stuart: The whip pan technique I use with a gear head is to "throw" the pan wheel in the proper direction, pull or push hard using the tilt wheel as a handle and then press my hand on the top of the spinning pan wheel to very quickly and smoothly brake to a dead stop. If the whip pan is level - with no tilt involved this is very fast and quite accurate. If there is tilt up or down required then the degree of difficulty is increased. Any tilt of more than a few degrees would mean a fluid head is called for in my opinion. Even with many years of practice I would rarely try to accomplish a gear head whip pan by putting the head in 3 and turning the wheels - there are a couple of people I have known who could do this routinely but they are/were one-in-a-million operators such as Nick McLean Senior who was maybe the finest operator I have come across. Nick could routinely do what many consider impossible. It is also important to note that very few Panaheads or Arriheads I have ever come across are really much good. A great Panahead is silky smooth in all gears with no lash or drag - having enough clout to demand a perfect head is a big part of the equation. I eventually bought my own Arriheads because really good Panaheads were very hard to come by and I was pretty much pissing off the Panavision techs with my constant complaints and requests for service - they thought I was not reasonable I'm sure and maybe they were right. I found a great Arrihead tech and bought multiple heads so I could have one in service while using another. Kind regards, Neal Norton DP
  5. Hi Sean: It seems to me that you are attempting to quantify a question that is entirely qualitative. What is "normal" in a skin tone? What is representative? As a formula, (3 lights) + (Camera type) + (% grey skin tone) = N is a bit silly. I have spent a lot of thought during my time behind a camera thinking about how mediocre the craft becomes when formulas for composition and lighting are applied regularly (far too many of us learn a 'method' and creativity ends right there). The one formula I know of that almost always works is to examine what it is that I and my director hope to accomplish and then use whatever experience and empathy I have to then craft a shot that is more than just OK. With the pressure of schedules and budgets and egos it can be really hard to stay focused and work toward a creative result . . . It is way easier and mighty lazy to apply a formula and just accept the acceptable. When the fantastically smart and creative Cinematographer John Schwartzman turned me loose as 2nd unit DP on a big Warner Bros 2nd unit for him he made me promise to "**(obscenity removed)** it up". When I laughed and joked that I wouldn't have any problem doing that he got a little serious and told me he meant that he would much prefer an interesting mess rather than a super polished mediocrity. Best of luck in your studies. Neal Norton DP - Florida
  6. My experience is that in Episodic TV production the producer/show runner has the authority to determine the look of the product even down to a shot by shot basis. The DP lights the set but the producer/show runner accepts or rejects the results and the Director pretty much has to accept the situation. This does not apply to Pilots which shoot much like feature films. On a feature film the DP is usually the strong ally of the Director and the Director decides how much license the DP is allowed in designing the look of the product. The studio (if there is one) is very cautious in approving the hiring of a strong DP as once the production is shooting the Director and DP team are hard to move from the course they set in the look of the show. The very strong DP's at the top of the A-list of course are hired for what they bring to the table and are allowed a long leash in building a look for the product - and that is in both TV and Theatrical productions. Kind regards, Neal Norton DP
  7. If enough paint is thrown upon the wall, there might be something cool eventually. It is not likely to be a masterpiece but if it works then who cares if careful thought was part of the recipe? Single camera set ups are a luxury in my experience in that it requires a director who really knows what she wants and actors that can duplicate a performance take after take. But when careful thought is given to a scene and the DP can light for a single camera angle the results can be uncompromisingly good. Improv, comedy and unskilled actors go together very well with multiple cameras. Neal Norton DP
  8. The vignette will be dependent on both the aperture, the focal length and the focal distance. Each zoom (even the same make and model) might have a slightly different "ramp" in the zoom and focus that could have an effect. You will need to test with the lens at a range of stops and frame sizes and distances. Often a wide open lens at a midpoint on the zoom will looks good with a mild maybe even pleasing fall-off and a deeper stop like maybe an 8 or 11 will make for a pretty hard vignette. Best of luck, Neal Norton DP
  9. "Tokyo Story" directed by Yasujiro Ozu. Camera blocking as art. Magnificent. Neal Norton DP
  10. Maintenance especially on sound cameras is very important. A good shop like Keslow, Ottos or Panavision can be a big asset even if you can rent cheaper. Panavision has a long history of supporting young film makers that don't have a big budget. . . maybe give them a chance to help. Thanks for keeping film alive! Neal Norton DP
  11. What Mr. Mullen said. I have been very impressed with the professionalism shown by top camera crews when doing less than exciting work. I have been assigned 2nd unit DP work where the camera assistants working for me are routinely working for top DP's on major studio films and then they treat me as if I were the most important DP they have ever worked for. I will always try to provide that kind of attitude to the people I am working for. Truly caring about the work you are doing right now is what makes this work more than a paycheck. Neal Norton
  12. Shooting film or video is as complex as you choose to make it. While I agree we tend to get bogged down in technical details it is pretty important to understand the syntax of the technology we are using in order to consistently produce good results. You can learn to make pictures with a modern digital camera in an hour or two. . . producing really good results shot after shot might require more time... or hiring assistants who are expert with that equipment. In my opinion the biggest challenge applies to both video and film and that is understanding lenses. If you take the time to master the technology of optics you will be far ahead of your peers who are excited by the picture-making-computers we are using. For me the study of optics is the most challenging area of cinematography and ultimately the most rewarding. Neal Norton Cinematographer
  13. For good or ill the video tap introduced a great deal of 'noise' to the film set. Once any eye from the costume designer to the script supervisor could see the frame, the DP had a new level of input to contend with. Color video taps amplified the noise. The level of noise (opinion) on the set grew to an epic level with WYSIWYG monitoring of video cameras. Some very powerful cinematographers may be able to keep the noise level down but not many. With the expansion of voices making their input heard on the set I think a couple of very important things happen: Fewer mistakes are made and many eyes can point out problems or failures. Maybe more importantly the set has become a committee with the director filtering out the noise as best she can. The committee approach has produced a very high level of technical excellence AND in my opinion a terrible mediocrity. My happy fantasy is to shoot anamorphic film. Interesting discussion folks. Neal Norton DP
  14. A film I worked on will be arriving with a limited release May 3rd. Here is a link to the trailer: Hope you like it. Neal Norton Cinematographer
  15. The camera package rental would depend on the length of rental and the relationships between the Director and DP and the rental agency. A director with a 3 picture deal with a studio would be able to ask favors. A DP with an Academy Award might do so as well. A six week rental would be much more expensive per week than a six month rental (per week). A 2 or 3 camera package would find a better discount than a one camera package. In the case of Alexa 65 the post production costs would dwarf the camera rental. I would guess that a 2 camera package with primes, zooms and lots of support would be around 25,000/week less discount based on duration of shoot. From 40% to 75% discount. Neal Norton DP
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