Jump to content

Neal Norton

Basic Member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Neal Norton

  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
  16. Hi Dominik: The Arri Master Anamorphics in my opinion are superb lenses by almost any measure. They also offer flair attachments that can be added if you want to mess up the image in camera. If I could not shoot Panavision anamorphic I would choose the Master anamorphics for primes and I also really like the Angenieux Optimo 30-72 T4 and the 56-152 T4 for lightweight zooms. The other lenses you mention are not very good in my opinion unless you really want to create a distorted or stylized effect. As to the investment idea. . . if you cannot put these lenses to work right away and have a secure avenue for continued rentals then I would do something more conservative with my money. Neal Norton DP
  17. Hi Sanji: I have one for sale. Includes custom case. 2,500 Neal
  18. Ummmm, maybe these hipster dudes are really good? With enough enthusiasm and native talent they might produce something a whole lot more interesting than the perfectly exposed video mediocrity predominant today - just by not knowing any "better". As a fine DP friend of mine directed me when I was shooting a second unit for him: "Just F*** it Up!" ie., don't do boring normal stuff. And. . . . it was a Red Camera. Silhouette (or close to it) might be the best thing a Red Camera can do. Neal Norton DP
  19. Good work. The older lenses do help to "humanize" the sterile emptiness of the video image. Anything we can do to vandalize the oh so sharp high definition computer boxes seem like a good thing to me. I have a set of TLS speed panchros. They are pretty much my favorite spherical lenses on the Alexa. Thanks for sharing your work.
  20. Thanks, David, this is a very interesting subject considering the somewhat contrary ideas of manufacturers pushing a larger negative (sensor) size at the same time we see smart phones becoming the cinema screen of choice for many. At the very least we are discussing the way light is being manipulated by lenses and not the strange fetish for file sizes produced by Bayer imagers. The depth of field for any given shot can be a great tool in our kit to help tell a story the way we want. Early in my career I was working for Vilmos Zsigmond as a B camera operator and he asked me what stop I wanted for that set-up. I thought he was joking with me so I looked to my AC and smirked "sixteen". He pushed me away from the camera and looked through and dialed in a stop and then adjusted his ND to suit. From that point on I paid more attention to how the aperture worked for each and every shot. The idea that larger sensors will always provide one with limited depth of field implies that we would ignore using this effect for the benefit of the story we are telling. Neal Norton Tampa, Florida
  21. Oh really? With what lenses? All those great cheap lightweight large format cine lenses? And who is going to pay for the massive storage of all this wonderful video of close ups with no backgrounds? Oh, and where are you going to find the focus pullers that can keep that 1/2 inch depth of field where you want it? I know only a handful of first AC's that can manage 35mm not to mention large format. I'll be looking forward to seeing all this big chip magnificence on my I-phone like everybody else; but I think I'll keep my 35mm lenses for the time being. Neal Norton
  22. Hi Mark: I used the Alexa XT Studio for a film I shot last year. We spec'd this camera because we were shooting a bunch of projected images and the regular Alexa would consistently have some kind of image problems with projected video (banding, tearing, etc.) We tested for months and even considered using a Sony F65 with a mechanical shutter. The Alexa studio won the hearts of the visual effects supervisor for the best results with the projectors. We were shooting "Open Gate" and the optical finder will not show the whole image as recorded so the optical finder was pretty useless for this job. We capped the optical finder and used the regular EVF-1 and an on-board monitor to operate. After a while I figured out that the studio camera handles motion and flicker issues better than the non-mechanical shutter Alexa. I ended up shooting the studio whenever I could - the pictures are simply better. If you don't have both cameras side by side then the small improvement in image quality is very hard to see - but it is there. The mechanical shutter is really of benefit if you can afford to shoot the camera. FYI I also worked on a film where the DP operated "A" camera and he also used the on-board monitor to operate the Alexa Studio even though it was not "Open Gate". I would use the optical finder when I was on that camera and liked it. We had no problems with shutter noise. The camera is very quiet. The studio cameras are not a great option for steadicam or a lot of hand held. It is heavier and the wider shape is a liability. If you are stacking filters up front instead of the internal filters I think you might like the EVF-1 better... but I never had much of a problem with that. Regards, Neal Norton Director of Photography
  23. I have done some work with very old lenses in order to produce the swirly bokeh. The petzval lens design is well known to produce this effect and I have had good results with antique view camera lenses adapted to modern cameras like the Alexa. My favorite is a voigtlander petzval from the 1860's that was made for a small view camera. Most of these lenses are of focal lengths of 135mm and longer with 160mm being common. I use two polarizers stacked one in front of the other in order to control exposure for day exteriors. Here is a picture of one of the lenses I am working with: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/petzval-pl-mount-conversion-neal-norton?trk=prof-post Neal Norton Director of Photography Tampa, Florida
  24. Haris I am in agreement with you about the S4 iris shape. I personally really find it a distraction. I think the strong interest in finding and using lenses with "character" is a reaction to the very clean and sometimes clinical or digital look of video cameras. There is an element of "human-ness" that lens aberrations such as flare, chromatic aberration, field curvature, spherical aberration and geometric distortion can impart to an image. Hand crafted versus machine made. Filters can help but they produce an effect far less complex that a lens with "character". The argument for and against 'sharpness' or 'softness' in a photographic image is as old as photography itself. As early as the 1860's there were photographers that resisted the scientific aspect of photography and worked with soft-focus lenses to create images that were strongly influenced by the impressionist paintings popular at the time. Anglo-American Pictorialism was a very popular school of photography that from about 1890 to the 1920's produced very stylized photographs that looked much like impressionist paintings. Lenses like the Pinkham and Smith portrait lens and the Cooke Portrait lenses were used to introduce very strong spherical aberration to the image creating a strong sharp focus with a soft OOF image overlaid to make the image quite 'painterly' or 'artistic' and much less scientific looking. Around 1925 there was a revolt against the Pictorial School that produced the F64 school of photography which advocated photography as its own art form and strongly rebelled against the soft-focus movement. I think it is fair to say that for the most part the F64 school was the winner in a sometimes vitriolic debate about what photography should be. From the 1920's to today the Pictorial School has been mostly seen as old fashioned. With the move away from film based cinematography and into the present world of digital cinematography I think it is very useful to explore the use of lens 'flaws' as a way to produce images with a more craftsman like look. Of course if the story demands a crystal sharp and clean image then there are many lenses capable of the job. Neal Norton Director of Photography
  25. I just saw the first half of the 70mm Roadshow print at the Veterans AMC in Tampa. I did make it all the way to the intermission. No way I was going to sit through the second half of this film. Really not my cup of tea. My least favorite work by the great Bob Richardson. 70mm or not. The lighting just was impossible for me to believe. Neal Norton
  • Create New...