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Movie/TV Show prep phase (What to do?)

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I’m curious about the role of DP’s during the prep phase for a movie or TV show when given an extended amount of time (a month or more) before principal photography begins.

Is there a set of guidelines to adhere to?  I’m sure it’s different for everyone based on personal preference and scope of the project but generally, what are the most important things to work on?

I know testing lenses and determining an overall look (building LUTS) is a big part, but what are some strategies to go about doing that?  With so many lenses and filter combinations it can be overwhelming and shooting color charts at a camera house doesn’t seem like it would tell you that much.

I assume there are lots of screen tests with actors/stand-ins.  Are you shooting in practical locations? Are you bringing in a small crew to do lighting tests as well (testing diffusions and levels of contrast?)  How close to recreating an actual scene is it necessary to get to in order to find the look you want? I'd think getting as close to the real thing would go a long way when trying to help the director find their vision as well as your own.

Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions

And sorry for the barrage of questions 🙂

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It really depends on budget, the nature of the script, the expectations of the director, and how the DP likes to work. I've DP'ed features where there was zero prep or even discussion about the cinematography, but then I worked on a spec PSA once and the director wanted to discuss at length every aspect of the cinematography down to also visiting the location to discuss it even more. I worked on a feature that was completely storyboarded by the director, but we never much discussed lighting, etc. 

I think I've DP'ed 9 features, but I don't remember ever doing any screen tests with actors. 

When performing lighting tests, it's generally to work out a difficult lighting situation or to test a non standard technique, so really, it's more about just knowing what will work and what won't work on the shoot day.  

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On 5/23/2019 at 7:25 AM, Kyryll Sobolev said:

jeremy benning explains in detail how he has prepped 'the expanse', at least from the lighting/set design side


and this is an interesting podcast as well, where jeremy talks about shooting a tv series

Hi Kyryll,

Just listened to the In Love With The Process episode.  It was really insightful!  Thanks for the tip


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