Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

A Second Chance For Final Cut Pro X?


Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile already know that back in August I wrote that FCP X was dead. Those were not easy words for me to write, as I used the program since version 1. At the time, when I gave it another spin, I still found it to be a tightly closed system that didn't fit my needs, so I continued to use Premiere.

In the last several months, Apple has updated the app to version 10.1.1, so I decided to give it another chance. After three weeks of solid use, I still have some frustrations with it- but overall I'm liking what I am experiencing.  So here is the low down on FCP X.
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Two Crucial Tips To Drive Your Stock Footage Sales (Stock Video Part 04)


Alright, it is time to dive back in to my eight-part guide to getting your start in stock video. If you missed the first 3 parts, I highly recommend that you go back and give them a read. In Part 01 I cover common misconceptions. Part 02 tackles whether or not you should be exclusive. And Part 03 addresses who you should be selling to.

Here, in Part 04 of the guide, I'll share with you the two most crucial tips you should follow if you want to drive sales of your stock footage.
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Three Reasons Why It Is Bad Business To Be A Cinematographer

Photo By: Levi Moroshan
As someone who is committed to lifelong learning and continual self-reflection, this last year has brought with it an evaluation of where I'm at and where I am headed. I've come to the conclusion, after a lot of soul searching, that it is bad business to be a cinematographer. That is not to say that I do not love what I do. I feel very blessed to be paid to do what I love. I still can't believe that people give me money to do this! But that doesn't mean it makes for good business. Here are three reasons why it's bad business, and what I wish I knew 5-10 years ago.
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Who Are The Best Stock Sites To Sell To? (Stock Video Part 03)

Still From Ryan's Library
With the myths of stock footage dispelled, and the important issue of exclusivity addressed, it is time to take a look at the major stock footage houses and decide who you should be selling too. Not all stock footage houses are created equal. Some treat their contributors better than others, and some generate more sales than others. And, unfortunately for us, they don't always line up. The recommendations that follow come from my years of firsthand experience...
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To Be Exclusive Or Not To Be? (Stock Video Part 02)


With the myths of stock footage clearly dispelled, it is time to answer the age old question of exclusivity. In the stock footage world, this is a topic that is hotly debated with strong proponents on both sides of the issue. As someone who has experienced both sides of stock footage, I want to share with you my experience so that you can make a more informed decision with your career.
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How To Get Your Start In Stock Video: Part 1


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had partnered with Zacuto to bring you a series on how to get your start in stock video. Well, the eight-part series is now going live! So, if you are looking for a way to add extra revenue to your bottom line, and to have content that generates money while you sleep, then this series is for you. :)

You'll be able to find every post here on my blog, as well as on the Zacuto site. In part one, I'll be covering common misconceptions.
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The Dysfunctional Life Of A Cinematographer


I've often said to friends of mine who are not in the film industry that being a cinematographer is one of the most glamorous blue collar jobs out there. And while those looking from the outside in may see my career path as full of adventure and the opportunity to work with interesting people all over the world, that is only a small percentage of what this career path holds.

While I absolutely love what I do, and you couldn't pay me to switch fields...admittedly there is a lot of dysfunction, and many sacrifices have to be made in the life of a cinematographer. So, if you are considering this career path, or if you are just interested in peaking behind the curtain, here is the less glamorous and sometimes dysfunctional side of my profession.
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Consultation, Stock Footage & More...

This post will be short and sweet. I wanted to let you all know about a new service & training series I'm offering, as well as update you on The Cinematographer Series. So here is the 411...Consultation Service:If you would like one-on-one feedback on one of your projects, or you want guidance on how to approach an upcoming shoot, or you are looking for consultation on anything cinematography related-
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The Unintended Brilliance Of Catching Fire


Recently my wife and I got into a heated debate over something that raised questions about filmmaking and storytelling for me. As a warning, this post is a bit of a deviation from the norm. The primary focus of my blog has always been on the technical and aesthetic side of cinematography and filmmaking. However, I think it is also important to take a step back and reflect on some bigger issues that impact us as storytellers and artists. Namely, should we worry about explicitly communicating our messages so that everyone gets it, or is it okay to communicate with more ambiguity, allowing room for interpretation, even if some people miss the point, and others co-opt our message into something else?

The recent marketing campaign for Catching Fire, the next series in the Hunger Games Trilogy, raises just those questions for me...
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The Importance Of Choosing Who You Work With

Still Frame From "The Kid" (Look Created Completely In Camera)

Last week I had the opportunity to shoot a short film with Jeff Winograd- a director that I highly enjoy working with. Over the years, Jeff and I have worked the gamut of projects, ranging from big brands like Adidas, down to small local companies you've never heard of. And, as we joined forces last week to shoot his short, The Kid, on the 5D MKIII using the Magic Lantern RAW Hack, the experience reminded me about the importance of choosing who you work with.

While this is a business, and it is important to make a living, there are a number of intangible things that will directly affect your success and your sanity over the long haul. In what follows, I share what matters to me, and what values you should consider as you develop working relationships with others in the filmmaking profession.
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Final Cut Pro Is Dead (Or Why I'm Stuck With Premiere)


When iMove Pro, Final Cut X was launched, I saw the writing on the wall- my beloved editing and grading programs (FCP 7 & Color) were on the way out... to be replaced by this fancy, simple, new, wiz-bang, all-in-one program. Granted, I loved the idea and concepts they were touting with their "revolutionary" new product (technology should be simple). It would ideally empower me to create quickly and effortlessly, like paint on paper. However, at the time, it failed in its execution. At its release, FCX was really a 1.0 program, not a 10.0 program. I was too hamstrung by it to work effectively, so I had to jump ship to Premiere. And now, two years later, I find myself re-evaluating the landscape, coming to the same conclusion. For me, Final Cut Pro is dead, and I'm stuck with Premiere.
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An Untraditional Approach To Getting Your Start In The Film Industry


Since writing my blog posts on Film School and Breaking Into The Industry, I have received a number of emails asking for specific advice about getting one's start in the film industry. As I have responded to these emails it has helped me to formalize my thoughts into the following bits of advice. I believe that if you follow what I've outlined here, you will be setting yourself up for success in the film industry. It is not a traditional approach, but then again, this is not a traditional industry...
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Cinematography Apps You Should Be Using


Over the last several months as I have shared various behind the scenes photos on twitter and facebook I have routinely been asked "what app is that?" So I thought it was time to detail out what apps I regularly use as a cinematographer. I have broken them down into three categories: Must Haves, Nice To Have, and Don't Need, But Fun To Use.
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2+ Hours Of Exclusive Interviews


Over the last couple of months I have been honored to be the guest on several podcasts, as well as a videocast. I encourage you to not only listen as I stumble my way through the interview process (There is a reason I am behind the camera, not infront of it.), but to subscribe to them as I have. There is a wealth of knowledge and expertise from many people more talented and experienced then myself.
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The DSLR Killed The Specialist


When the video DSLR was introduced, it was heralded by many as a truly revolutionary piece of filmmaking technology. No longer were the filmmaking gates closed to those without large pocketbooks and budgets. They were now open to anyone with a spare $1,000 - $3,000, or an available balance on their credit card. While this affordable, and "cinematic" technology has opened the doors for new talent, it has brought with it some unintended consequences. Like it or not, the market is shifting, and has been shifting for several years now. The importance of the specialist is diminishing, and the age of the generalist is rising. If the TV killed the radio star, then the DSLR has killed the specialist...
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The Most Boring Blog Post Ever! (Or Getting Organized)


Many years ago, I began building this site using the tools I had access to, iWeb and iPhoto. As it grew, I migrated to RapidWeaver and Blogger. (This was long before I knew about the power of WordPress).

As a cinematographer, I have little experience and time to devote to the craft of web design & coding, which has resulted in a site filled with great content, but perhaps not ease of navigation. With the readership of my blog exploding over the last 6 months, I felt it was time to take one step towards making this site easier to navigate. At least until I can find a significant amount of time to do a complete website overhaul and move to WordPress ...

What you will find below is an organized listing of every blog post I have made. (Which I will continue to update). If you are new to my site, I highly recommend checking out what you may have missed. To make navigation even more accessible, this blog post will always be accessible via the side bar to the right. --->>>
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How Personal Work Can Further Your Career


My bread and butter comes from the commercial world. And I love what I do! I get the opportunity to travel, meet new people, and learn about a myriad of industries. However, as lucky as I am to be doing what I love for my profession, there have been times in my career where I have felt uninspired, or under-challenged by the work that I am doing. To get through these dry spells, I turn to personal work. And each time I do personal work, I find it pushes me and opens up new opportunities for my career. Here is how you can use personal work to further what you do.
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The Top 3 NON-Game Changers Of NAB 2013

If I had to describe NAB in one word, it would be HYPE. Nothing like a bunch of manufacturers gathering together to outdo each other, making big promises and not meeting projected deadlines. If I've learned anything from previous NAB's it's that a product doesn't exist until it is shipping and available for immediate purchase. I'm going to push past the hype and share my thoughts on three pieces of kit that caught my eye amidst the sounds of the hype machine called NAB 2013.
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The 2 Things You Need To Know To Break Into The Film Industry

(Filming A WWII Spec Piece)
After publishing my articles on How To Succeed As A Freelancer and How To Determine Your Day Rate I have received emails asking me how I broke into the film industry. As I have been reflecting on how I got my start, I realized it can be boiled down to two simple principles. By applying these principles to your career, you will be able to break into the film industry and grow your career.
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Why Tax Incentives For Film Are Not The Answer

© Ryan E. Walters: Stock Footage
At a time when personal, local, state, and federal budgets are stretched thin and when people have been out of work for more than a year, it would seem like a great idea to attract new business to drive economic growth. After all, more work equals more income which means more revenue for everyone. Why not attract film productions to our states through tax incentives? Unfortunately, this is not proving to be the case. Instead it is developing into a race to the bottom where the only winners are the studios and producers.
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How To Succeed As A Freelancer

© 2009 Ryan E. Walters - Stock Footage
So you have decided to quit your day job and venture into the exciting world of freelance work, where you get every day off, you set your own hours, and life is always enjoyable. At least that is how it feels as you sit behind your desk finishing out the remainder of your two week notice. It is true, there are many perks of living life in the freelance world. However, it is not for the faint of heart, as it brings with it a whole new set of struggles. In what follows, I'm going to to give you seven tips on how to succeed in the world of freelance, so that those struggles will be fewer and easier to bear.
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The Training You Need To Get Ahead


As a visual artist, the most important asset you have is your vision. It is what sets you apart in this challenging marketplace. However, that vision is of no value if you do not have the skills to implement it. To stay on top of your game, you need to invest in yourself through education. Last week I talked about benefits and drawbacks of film school; this week I am sharing my extensive list of training resources (both paid & free) that will enable you to develop the skills you need to implement your vision.
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Should I Go To Film School?


With the rise of popularity and accessibility of film schools since the 1960's & 1970's, aspiring film professionals have has the difficult task of choosing where to begin their career path. Is it best to go to school to get formal training, or jump right in and start working? Today with the plethora of free online resources, it makes the the choice of formal schooling less appealing. But what is the right choice, and best way to prepare yourself for a career in the film industry? Let's take a look at what you have to gain, and what you have to loose by following either path...
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Dear Camera Manufacturers (An Open Letter For The New Year)


Over the last several years I have noticed a disturbing trend among camera manufacturers that seems to be influencing more companies, and setting a standard for how cameras are designed and released to the market. And it is not in a positive direction. As we begin this year with a clean slate, I want to see this trend reversed. So camera manufacturers, here is my letter to you, from an avid user of your products, and constant contributor to your bottom line...
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An Intro To Lighting, Green Screen, & Copyright


When I began in this field, there were far fewer resources available that I could learn from and that gave me the knowledge I needed to have in a way that I could understand it. Today with the proliferation of high speed internet connections, that issue has disappeared as there are thousands of resources online. Now the problem is trying to figure out where to begin as the quality and information can be stellar, or downright appalling. And that is where Reel Classroom has stepped in by publishing three quality introductory training lessons. Here is what you can expect to get out of each lesson, and how you can save 10% on your order...
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How To Determine Your Day Rate

© Ryan E. Walters (Stock Footage)
One of the most challenging aspects with any creative endeavor is trying to figure out how to price and charge for your services. This is especially true when you are first starting out. Price yourself too low and you will not have a sustainable business model, and price yourself too high and people may laugh at the rate you are charging in comparison to your experience level and skill. The good news is that as you progress in your experience, you will get a more accurate sense of what it takes to render your services, and how to charge for them. But where and how do you begin? That's what I want to help you figure out...
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The Digital Dilemma. (Or How To Make A Camera Purchase In Todays Market)

At NAB 2012 Blackmagic surprised everyone with the release of their "3k" camera for $3k. And Canon showed off their Canon's 4k DSLR. In less than a year, the market has completely changed yet again with several big announcements from RedSony, and GoPro. It seems like every other week a new camera is coming out which leaves many people wondering what they should buy and what they should be shooting their projects on. Moore's Law is not making this an easy time for equipment purchases. And I want to share some principles with you will help you navigate this minefield ...
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How To Build A Camera Cart For Under $250


I love working with a camera cart on set. It is the easiest and quickest way to keep all of the camera equipment organized, provide a working space, as well as move the gear around at a location. My regular 1st AC, Jerry Turner, has one of the better camera carts out there. (And he even has a place to put my coffee cup. Although I'm sure that is more for self-preservation and sanity than it is for me :) ). Nothing can replace the well built cart he has. However, there are times when I'm working on a smaller production, and I have to work solo. It is exactly for these situations that I came up with my $250 solution. Here is how you can do the same ...
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Putting The Induro Hi-Hat To The Test

Hi-hats and low-hats have long been a staple support accessory allowing cinematographers to get the camera as close as possible to the ground. You wouldn't think that much could be done to change or improve upon their age old design. It is precisely this thinking that Induro is challenging with their first entry into the accessory market for filmmakers - the Induro Hi-Hat. Continue reading for my experiences with this accessory, and for where I see it fitting into production life.
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Repurposing A Photographers Tool For Cinema Use

Since the DSLR revolution began, we in the filmmaking community have been repurposing photography equipment to create motion pictures. I recently stumbled across another tool used by photographers that can be repurposed for our needs: the Pocket Wizard. Continue reading to see how to use this tool on your sets.
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How To Turn Your Garage Into A Studio For Under $500


I'll be the first to admit nothing replaces a professionally built sound stage or studio. I've had the opportunity to shoot on a wide variety of stages and I appreciate what they bring to a production. However, I have also needed a space where I could shoot some of my stock footage, as well as record my training videos. And I need that space to be affordable and accessible to me at any time. So I converted my garage into a mini "studio." To learn how I got this done for under $500, continue reading ...
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My New Favorite Meter: The 478 (A Review)


As you can tell from the title of this post I am very impressed with Sekonic's latest meter- the 478. Over the last couple of years I have been able to offer my insights into how I, as a cinematographer, use their light meter (The 758) and where it could be improved upon. And, in my opinion, the 478 addresses just about all of my critiques. Read on for a detailed listing of the new features as well as what to be aware of when using this new meter.
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How To Custom Score & Grade Your 48hr Film Fest: Or Why Preproduction Matters

I recently participated as the cinematographer for the team 'Bad A 5K' in the 2012 Portland 48hr Film Festival. Not only did we take 1st Place (Best Film) and Best Cinematography, in a competition against 55 other teams, but we did a full color grade, had our film scored, fully sound designed, and built a fully functioning custom prop / ray gun! On top of that, we managed to show up to early to turn our film in - we had to wait an HOUR until they would allow us to submit it. Here is the secret to our success ...
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Two Small Accessories With A Big Impact


Okay, I admit I must be a little OCD when I am getting excited about camera accessories that reduce camera clutter. But with the shrinking size of all cameras (especially with DSLR's) it seems that cameras have gotten more convoluted and cumbersome than ever. The new battery plate and top handle from Letus seek to alleviate the mess that comes from these ergonomically challenged cameras. Read on for details on how they will benefit your camera rig ...
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Blog Redesign: What you should be aware of ...


Welcome to Ryan E. Walters blog 2.0! It has taken me longer than I wanted, but I have finally redesigned and simplified my blog. It is my goal to make it easier and quicker for you to use and reference content going forward. Here is what you need to know to get the most out of the redesign:
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4k's Impact On Story Telling: Format Matters


This weekend marked the official release of The Dark Knight Rises, the last in the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman films.  My wife and I joined several of our friends for a road trip up to Seattle to watch the film on the largest IMAX screen still projecting film in the Northwest. By the end of the day we had covered almost 400 miles, seen the film on two screens, projected in two different formats on a journey that lasted almost 18 hours, and reinforced this storytelling truth to me: Format Matters.
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Perspective On Part 02 of Zacuto's Revenge Of the Great Camera Shootout 2012


On the 15th of this month Zacuto released part two of their Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout 2012. In this second episode of their three part series they reveal the answers to the blind test that was conducted in part one. This test has raised a lot of discussion, debates, and heated arguments on the internet. As I participated in the event by running Red Epic - a camera with a very passionate following by its users, I thought I'd offer a little perspective on the test.
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Resources For Filmmakers & Cinematographers


The internet has become a treasure trove of great resources available to everyone on just about any kind of topic. (Anyone up for Underwater Basket Weaving?) But part of the problem of this large body of information is trying to sort through it all to find the truly helpful and useful information. This is especially true with filmmaking and topics related around cinematography. This is why, over the years, I have been slowly gathering and organizing that information and I want to offer it to you.
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Film Class 2012: Introduction To The Camera World


Over the past couple of months I have had several great conversations on twitter with fellow director of photography Corey Steib on a number of topics related to filmmaking. Having a conversation in 144 character bursts can be quite challenging as it doesn't allow for complex answers to many nuanced issues. We both felt limited by these constraints and we wanted to open it up ...
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What You May Have Overlooked At NAB 2012

While we were all getting excited about the latest camera offerings at NAB there were a lot of other items that did not get the same hype or exposure but still caught my eye and are worth taking a look at. Some of these offerings are completely new, while others are not as new, but I had not heard about them until this NAB. So take a look at what you may have missed while walking the floor at NAB ...

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The Camera Conundrum: What "K" is the Right "K" at NAB 2012


WOW! What a time to be alive! I can't think of a more exciting time to be alive and involved in the filmmaking world than now (Except maybe when it all began). It feels like everywhere you turn a new camera is popping up. It seemed like yesterday the Digital Bolex was announced, and now at NAB Canon has launched two new cameras and Blackmagic Design has surprised everyone and released a camera. It's hard to keep up with it all ... so I wanted to provide some perspective and help you to evaluate where things are at so that you can make the best choice for your situation as you ponder your next camera purchase. For those of you who just want to cut to the chase, here are the results: Canon is not the best, Sony is not the best, Red is not the best, Blackmagic Design is not the best...in fact no one camera meets everyones needs all the time. Different tools for different projects- but some of these cameras still leave me asking some significant questions if they are going to survive in the market place. For a more detailed analysis continue reading ...

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Zacuto Shoot Out 2012: A Master Cinematographer's Experience


Back in February of this year Zacuto & Kessler asked me to join them for their Revenge 2012 camera shootout as the Red Epic Master Cinematographer. While I was honored to be a part of an event where I would be working alongside such greats as Bruce Logan, ASC, Rodney Charters, ASC, Nancy Schreiber, ASC, Michael Negrin, ASC & Curtis Clark, ASC, I accepted the offer with a bit of trepidation. After years of running various tests, and making those results public, I have become acutely aware that no matter how stringent a test is run, inevitably people are going to find fault, and there is no way to make everyone happy. Add to that the fact that critique from the Reduser community is even more stringent, and it is a recipe for some harsh criticism and open flaming of one's character. Even though I knew I was walking into dangerous ground by being the Red Epic Master Cinematographer, this was an opportunity I could not pass up.
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Act Of Valor


Last night I had the opportunity to watch a prescreening of Act Of Valor, a feature film shot by Shane Hurlbut, ASC on the 5D and 7D, with some Arri 235 & 435. And I've got to say that this movie has heart. It tells the real story of what life is like for our men and women in the service, showing the struggles they encounter both during their missions and in having to leave their families. While it follows the storyline of the Navy Seals, it does a great job at honoring the sacrifices that are made every day by each one of our military personnel.
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RedCine-X to 50" Plasma WITHOUT a Redrocket


I recently stumbled upon away to get the video out from RedCine-X to my 50" Plasma without having to buy a Redrocket card & the breakout box - a savings of almost $6,000! My original intent was to get my second display (Asus ProArt) out to the Plasma so that I can watch Hulu on my big screen when I'm not working. (Lofty goal I know. ;) ). Anyway, this turned out to be more difficult then I had originally thought as not all of the equipment I bought played nicely with each other the first time around ...
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Asking The Right Questions


Over the last month or so I have been asked at least once a week the following question: "If money wasn't an issue, what camera would you shoot with?". While I get that the people asking this question are trying to determine what I think the best camera is on the market currently, I think that this question is fundamentally the wrong question to be asking. What is the "right" question after the jump ...
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How To Get Better At Negotiation


Cinematographers are great at what we do because we care about our craft- we put in a LOT of time learning, experimenting, and preparing for what our job requires of us - and we LOVE IT. :) However, we are usually horrible business people. The creative side of our brain is massive and strong, while the business side is anemic - as is often the case with people in the creative world. This translates in to our inability to negotiate appropriately when landing a job. I know I've made a lot of mistakes over the years in this area. Unfortunately, I haven't put in as much time as I should have learning the business end of it as I have put in learning the creative and technical side of cinematography. Fortunately, however, it is never too late.

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And The Next Superstar Is ...


November 3rd was a highly anticipated day by many. Months ago Canon announced that it would be making an HISTORIC GLOBAL ANNOUNCEMENT. Not a company that usually makes these kind of claims, many people projected that they were going to announce and release their next camera, the update to the Canon 5D MKII - the MKIII, and it would be 4k. Days later, and never to be one who is out done my hyperbole, Red Digital Cinema announced that they too would be making an announcement of their completely updated Scarlet camera. Jim Jannard himself said this battle was going to be the next "Ali VS Frasier". Now that the "fight" is "over" and the dust has settled - who one? And who is going to be the next superstar?
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Master Cinema Series Lunch Party Wrap Up


The digital revolution is just now starting to come into its' own. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you must have been living under a rock somewhere. Welcome back to civilization! This is the next erra of filmmaking - one which is being shaped by digital cinematography. Like it or not, digital capture devices are changing the way stories are told, and even shaping what stories can be told.


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