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Studying/Practicing Cinematography when not shooting (4 replies and 8 comments)

LVM
4 weeks ago
LVM 4 weeks ago

Hello Mr Deakins/Anyone else reading this post. I'm an aspiring cinematographer who will be entering film school later this year. I've just been wondering what your methods are when it comes to practicing/studying cinematography when not shooting, I know that photography is most certainly a brilliant way to practice and I therefore take still images all the time, however I wonder if there are any other ways of practicing/studying? I'm sure you don't need to study so much anymore due to your vast experience, however I can imagine when you were starting out you would have done so. I hope this question makes sense, and I hope I don't sound idiotic, thank you for reading and I wish everyone a brilliant day!

(I have moved this subject topic to camera as I don't think website chatter was a suitable place to put it.)

Bo-Yu Chen
2 weeks ago
Bo-Yu Chen 2 weeks ago

Hi,

This is a great question, I hope we get a lot more replies! I find this topic relevant in recent months when production has been slow (for me at least).

I want to mention Roger's excellent advice on observing nature in one of his first podcasts. He said going fishing was something that gave him a great sense of how natural light works! So I'd say observation is a great place to start. It would allow you to know what you want, which is very helpful even if you don't yet know how to recreate that during a shoot.

Then there's that quote "if you know how to light a face, you know how to light everything" (also mentioned in a Team Deakins podcast). I've been trying to practice by recreating lighting from closeup screenshots of films I like with some bulbs in my house. I've been struggling but having fun with it. Anyone has experience with this method?

 

This forum has been great! Thanks Roger and James for creating it and also members for keeping it so active!

Cheers,

Bo-Yu

Bo-Yu Chen
2 weeks ago

Oh man I wish I could edit this. Sorry Roger for misspelling your name.. Hope you don't see this but apologies if you do..

Mike
2 weeks ago

I have corrected it for you. Interesting post.

LVM
2 weeks ago

Thanks for this excellent advice, I often do find myself observing how light falls in my surroundings, taking notice to how the light reflects of it, the patterns created by certain objects. After hearing you mention it I'm inclined to observe the light around me much more often now, thank you very much for the reply 😀

Roger Deakins
2 weeks ago
Roger Deakins 2 weeks ago

I wish I had more definite advice as I might follow it myself. I am getting more than a little nervous about picking up a camera again.

Jacob W.
2 weeks ago

I've heard it's like riding a bike...shouldn't worry too much. I think you'll be okay Sir.

Mike
2 weeks ago

Behind every successful man, there’s a successful woman controlling the events.
I am sure James will be around to provide support. No time to be nervous!

LVM
2 weeks ago
LVM 2 weeks ago

I'm sure you will be more than fine Roger, I imagine that as soon as you pick up that camera your confidence will find it's way back, a master of their craft like you has nothing to worry about! As for the topic, do/did you find that when you watched a film it subconsciously had an influence on you as a cinematographer, to the point where not much active/conscious studying of the film was necessary? Or do you think that to watch films with the purpose of learning from them, you have to actively have a focus on the Cinematography, Production Design etc within the film, and then you let your subconscious do the work? I hope that makes sense Mr Deakins.

Roger Deakins
2 weeks ago
Roger Deakins 2 weeks ago

Your question makes sense but I usually watch a film as a story and not for the cinematography. The other day I watched one of the best shot films ever, probably for the 10th time, but after one or two shots I was engrossed in the story. That is the proof of great cinematography in an equally great film, IMO. The film was 'In Cold Blood'.

LVM
2 weeks ago

Ah I understand, I think I need to start watching more good films haha, ones that can engross me in the way you stated. I've noticed that when I take a long break away from shooting without consistent consumption of films, I get back on set and I sometimes feel a bit lost, I guess it shows how important consumption is, of not just movies but art, photography etc. I'll make sure to watch 'Cold Blood' sometime in the next week, thank you very much for the recommendation and the helpful words Roger!

cujo
2 weeks ago

You could make a miniature set, putting some action figures in it, and practice lighting using small led flashlights. Use your phone as a camera, maybe with some clip on lenses.

Jacob W.
2 weeks ago

Pretty solid idea actually Cujo. Love that. I"ll have to implement it in my pre-production phase.

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