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Kyle Sather

Becoming a DP

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I want to add the importance of editing experience. A great Cameraman will know not only how to create a great looking shot, but WHICH shots he should shoot (and what shots he shouldn't waste time on) and how to shoot them so that they cut together.

 

Can you just crush in the zoom for the closeup or should you actually switch lenses and move the camera? Can you just do a pickup or should the entire shot be redone? Can the greenscreen shot you're shooting today actually cut with the shot on set you did three months ago?

 

Of course creating great looking shots in and of themselves is important, but how they all cut together to create a cohesive movie is the point and what takes precedence and in most cases, only investing time in edit bays cutting footage will give an aspiring Cameraman the knowledge he should know before ever stepping on a set.

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I want to add the importance of editing experience. A great Cameraman will know not only how to create a great looking shot, but WHICH shots he should shoot (and what shots he shouldn't waste time on) and how to shoot them so that they cut together.

 

More of a director's decision process, no? Usually the director plans out the shot sequence, blocking, story boards, etc. The DOP isn't usually relied upon to block a scene in my experience although he certainly offers his advice.

 

R,

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I think it's important to know how things cut together and bring up (in pre production or on the day for one of those "one of, brilliant ideas") that the shot you're about to to may not cut with the rest for reasons x/y/z. But yes, primarily a director's job, but I think part of the DoP's job is covering the director's behind, and making them aware when things might not work (use this when you have the trust of each other, and when you think necessary. never tell the dir what to do, of course). That's just me, though.

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The DOP isn't usually relied upon to block a scene in my experience although he certainly offers his advice.R,

 

You are kidding right!!!? Every Feature, Short, Commercial or Music Video I have ever Shot as solely the DP, I was involved in the Blocking. After all, who says "Mark 'em there".? I shot an entire Season of Silk Stalkings (USA Network) as the Camera Op (much less the DP) where I was relied upon everyday for blocking .

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You are kidding right!!!?

 

Ah, no. :blink: I think the director is the one primarily responsible for blocking a scene. What's wrong with that? That has always been my experience. I said the DOP is involved in the process, but I haven't seen a situation where the story board artist gets approval and guidance from the DOP.

 

R,

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The truth is Richard, true 'Directors' are far and few between. You may very well be [one] of them. I hope you are! We need more of them that is for certain. Great Producers too!!! However, on most Series Shows like House, Desperate Housewives, Gray's Anatomy etc... Directors come and go. It is up to the DP to retain the 'Look' and the Camera Op to retain the 'Feel'....... so to speak. So when speaking about Features you are correct regarding Blocking... but the sad truth is that more people see what is broadcasted on their Plasma TV than what is on the Silver Screen at the Theatre... and a large percentage of the Blocking they see is by the Ad Agency, Director, DP, Camera Op and even Producer, Artist, Lover, Spouse, family member..... Driver...

 

.. but I know what you mean ;)

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Ah, no. :blink: I think the director is the one primarily responsible for blocking a scene. What's wrong with that? That has always been my experience. I said the DOP is involved in the process, but I haven't seen a situation where the story board artist gets approval and guidance from the DOP.

 

R,

 

I think that you're technically correct, that the Director is primarily responsible for the decisions that he'll see in the edit bay. However, the reality that I have dealt with more Directors who look for guidance on shot choice and blocking than those who don't.

 

Some of the responsibilities of the DP are very clear cut, however those that tend to be seen as part of the Director's job are in that gray area that is widely contested. For anyone who has put years of sweat into this business, it is well known that more than a few Directors are fairly inexperienced when it comes to shot choices (blocking, camera placement, lens choice, etc) so the DP is actively engaged in the "directing process" whether it is his job or not.

 

There's theory and there's reality. Sometimes, if the Director is a big enough prick, will gladly step back and let him shoot himself and his project in the head. But often, we happily jump in, if for no other reason, than to just get the work done so we can all go home at a reasonable hour. We might not get the credit for the work we really do as "Directors," but those who matter do tend to know who is responsible. The storyboard artist is a lot like the Screenwriter. It's easy to write and draw what they WANT to see, but when we're really there in the trenches with time and budget pressures along with moods and weather and everything else that impacts a production day, it is generally up to the DP to make the choices that keep the day going so that the project gets the shots it needs. Some shots get more time devoted to them while some get significantly less, and THOSE decisions tend to be made by the DP more than anyone else.

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The truth is Richard, true 'Directors' are far and few between. You may very well be [one] of them. I hope you are! We need more of them that is for certain. Great Producers too!!! However, on most Series Shows like House, Desperate Housewives, Gray's Anatomy etc... Directors come and go. It is up to the DP to retain the 'Look' and the Camera Op to retain the 'Feel'....... so to speak. So when speaking about Features you are correct regarding Blocking... but the sad truth is that more people see what is broadcasted on their Plasma TV than what is on the Silver Screen at the Theatre... and a large percentage of the Blocking they see is by the Ad Agency, Director, DP, Camera Op and even Producer, Artist, Lover, Spouse, family member..... Driver...

 

.. but I know what you mean ;)

 

And I see what you mean when you present it in the context above. Especially on TV shows where there is a set "template" to work from for every episode.

 

On The Dogfather, I had done much of the blocking in advance, I had every shot story boarded. On "the day" I made adjustments as needed, plus I knew that since I was also the editor I had a good idea of what shots would stay and what shots would go.

 

Denis Maloney made numerous suggestions each day, many of which I incorporated. But, the cast and crew looked to me for the final say and over all design of the blocking. I am saying this in advance of the movie being seen, so I will sink or swim on my own words :huh:

 

On Dark Reprieve I was Director, DOP, Camera Op, and Editor, so that was me 100% when it came to blocking. But that was an unusual case that I will not be repeating.

 

R,

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I think what's important is that the director has the final say, overall. I've done a few projects where I picked all of the shots myself, broke down the script etc, because the director just wanted to focus on performances, and that was fine. No biggie. But even in those situations, the director needs to have final say.

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