Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

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.

This list represents all of the material that I currently use or have used over the years. I have only listed the material that I have found to be the most useful in my education and training. This list is in no particular order.

Podcasts
The RC
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
The RC covers all of the latest news & technology in filmmaking and digital cinema. The hosts, Mike Seymour & Jason Wingrove, are highly experienced, talented, and respected members of the filmmaking community. In their podcast they do a great job of diving into the tech that makes our craft possible. This podcast will be helpful in keeping you up-to-date on the latest tech and what it takes to implement it.

American Cinematographer Podcast
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
This podcast includes interviews with the top ASC members as they discuss their latest projects. Being able to hear directly from these ASC members as they share their perspectives on their work has been a very valuable resource over the years. If you are just starting out in the field, you may find some of the discussion confusing, as they assume a basic understanding of terms and concepts. However, it is well worth your time, as you'll get to hear why people made the choices they did on set.

The Digital Convergence
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
This podcast is great for those just getting into the field. The three hosts (Carl, Chris, & Mitch) offer their perspectives on a wide range of topics from technology and storytelling, to the business of filmmaking. Carl and Mitch freely acknowledge that they are new to the craft, while Chris comes to the table with years of experience as a professional editor. This dynamic makes the show informative and accessible to a those who are just getting started, or have been working for a while. The tech they cover is generally geared towards the lower budget level (DSLR) productions, but I have found their discussions of the business side of things to be invaluable.

Crossing the 180
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Host Ron Dawson interviews a wide range of filmmakers as he explores who they are, what drives them, and how they do what they do. This show is less about the technology, and more about the filmmakers and their process. This has been a great resource in understanding the thoughts, decisions, & personalities of a wide range of visual artists.

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Videos
Intro to Lighting, Green Screen, & Copyright [10% off with code: REW10]
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
These three videos are a great introduction to lighting, green screen, and copyright. Meant for the beginner or intermediate level, they provide real world lighting examples that use tools that will be accessible to people just starting out. You can read my full review here.

Kodak Cinematography Master Class
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
If you want to dive deep into lighting and see how the top cinematographers approach their craft, then this series is for you. A basic understanding of the craft is assumed as technical terms are not defined or explained. These videos have also made their way onto YouTube, and I have organized them into a playlist on my YouTube channel.


Hollywood Camera Work Master Class
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
This 6 DVD set does a great job at walking you though a wide range of blocking and camera moves. It takes you step by step from the most basic setups through to complex dolly, and jib moves with multiple subjects. What I appreciate about it the most is that it not only shows you the resulting camera move, but it shows the over head diagrams along with camera and talent placement. If you are new to blocking, or you are looking for new ways to enhance what you are already doing, then I recommend checking out this series.


Online Training
FXPHD [Referring Member: Ryan E. Walters]
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
In my opinion, this is one of the best online training resources out there. They have specific classes on software like After Effects, as well as general topics like color grading, directing, and cinematography. The ability to watch the class on your own time and then interact with other class members and the instructor via their forum is a great way to get hands on learning that fits your schedule.

Color Grading Central
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Denver Riddle does an excellent job at getting you up to speed with DaVinci Resolve. I think he strikes the right balance of specific tool training as well as introducing principles and theory that will translate well over to other grading applications. He also offers tutorials for grading in FCP X.

Friends Of The ASC
Skill Level: Intermediate
By signing up for the Friends of the ASC you get access to lighting videos, interviews with top ASC members, as well as the chance to ask members questions. As with the other ASC resources, this service assumes a basic understanding of concepts and terms.

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC Forum
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Roger Deakins gives back to the filmmaking community by running his own forum. You can interact with him directly, and get some great insight and tips from one of the leading cinematographers today. I have found countless pearls of wisdom and practical advice on this forum.

Ron Dexter, ASC
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Ron Dexter's site really does offer what it promises- answers to frequent and seldom asked film and video questions. I haven't found a resource like this anywhere else on the web, or in books. I have found Ron's tips, tricks, tutorials, and explanations helpful for just about every size of production that I have worked on.

Cinematography Mailing List
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
It you have ever wished that you could be a fly on the wall, or hang around the water cooler and listen to some of the most experienced people in our craft talk, then this is the resource for you. (And it is one of my favorites.) On the main site, you will find all kinds of tests, which are helpful, but the real jewels are to be found in the discussion lists. BE SURE to read and follow the guidelines. And if you are a beginner, or new to the list in general, I HIGHLY recommend just reading and following the conversations for at least 3 months to get a good feel of how to properly conduct yourself. This is NOT your typical online forum, and it should be kept that way. :)

No Film School
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Ryan Koo and his staff of writers do a great job at combing the internet finding a wide range of filmmaking news, tutorials, as well as offering their own insight and experience. This is the site I visit to keep tabs on the latest tech news, and in the process I usually stumble across some very helpful tutorials.

Ask David Mullen Anything
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
David Mullen, ASC gives back to the filmmaking community by offering his wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom, answering all manner of questions directly on this thread on Reduser. Surprisingly enough, this thread is one of the few on Reduser that is actually useful. It isn't full of a thousand platitudes, or brand hype. It is direct question and answer time with David Mullen. If you have a question, he'll answer it. (But I recommend reading through the thread first, as there are hundreds of gems in there).

Books
The Grammar of The Film Language
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Daniel Arijon offers the most in-depth resource on just about every nuance of the language of film. This book focuses on all of the individual building blocks that make up good visual storytelling. It is not a technical how to book; it is a grammar book for film. At over 600 pages, it is not for the faint of heart. However, after reading it, you'll be better prepared to know what shots you need to tell your story, and what you should be thinking about as you edit them together.

Elements Of Cinema
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
This is one of my favorite books. It introduces and covers how to use the elements of cinema to effectively tell a story. Focusing on the theory behind many of the master storytellers like Hitchcock, Lang, & Renior, this book will help you to plan, structure, and use language of cinema to its fullest potential. The Grammar of The Film Language talks about the details of every period and comma, while Elements Of Cinema shows you how to structure sentences and paragraphs.

The Lean Forward Moment
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Norman Hollyn does an excellent job at not getting lost in technical details and instead explores the theory behind how to create a compelling visual story. Beginning with the writing process, and continuing through production and post production, Norman shows how each stage of the process can be used to create a more compelling story. This book is a great follow up to The Grammar of The Film Language and Elements Of Cinema as it focus more on story, rather than structure.

Master Shots Volume 01 & Volume 02
Skill Level: Beginner
These books are a great introduction to the various camera angles, movement, and shot types. Filled with examples and diagrams, this will get you quickly up-to-speed if you are unfamiliar with the building blocks of shooting a scene. These books do not focus on the why, or the how. They are, however, a good complement to The Grammar of The Film Language or Elements Of Cinema

The American Cinematographer Manual
Skill Level: Beginner To Advanced
Currently in its ninth edition, this is the definitive resource for just about any technical question you could have. It is full of charts, diagrams, and instructions on everything from how to thread film through a Panavision camera to off speed camera work. While many of the charts in this book can now be found in a number of iPhone apps, each chapter of this book is filled with additional insights from ASC cinematographers.  This insight is worth the price of admission, even if you do not need the charts. (I've heard rumors that the 10th edition will electronic. Hopefully, that is the case and it will be out sooner rather than later...).

Perception & Imaging
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
While this book is geared towards photographers, I find that it still applies to the craft of filmmaking. This book dives into all of the elements that go into creating compelling images that communicate effectively. It challenges you to see the world through a new perspective. At the end of each chapter there are exercises that will help you to grow your skills. This book is definitely written as a text book, so it is dry at times, but the information and training are invaluable.

Reflections: Twenty-One Cinematographers At Work
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
21 renowned cinematographers share not only their insights into their craft, but they also walk you through the lighting choices that they made for particular scenes. Filled with full color examples, lighting diagrams, and exposure levels, this book is as close to being on set as you can get with these cinematographers.

Image Control: Motion Picture & Video Camera Filters & Lab Techniques
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
If you have ever wanted to learn more about camera filtration, lab techniques, and testing your camera system, this is the book for you. (If you can find the second edition, get that version). In addition to the many filtration examples given in the book, many ASC cinematographers offer their tips and thoughts on image control. I have found the wide range of examples, and different perspectives, to be helpful to me as I approach the lighting of the projects that I work on.

So you Want To Be A Cinematographer?
Skill Level: Beginner
Austin Schmidt shares his experiences on his journey of being a cinematographer. While you will not get any specific tips or tricks on lighting or cameras, he does offer valuable insight into the life of a cinematographer and what it takes to get started. If you are considering this as a career path, this book will be a quick and easy read that will help you to better evaluate if it is a good fit for you.

Rebel Without A Crew
Skill Level: Beginner
This is purely a motivational book documenting one man's journey on making his dreams a reality. It is an easy read, and while it may not give you any practical tips on furthering your skills, I think it is a great treatise on doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Robert Rodriguez shares his personal journal entries as he makes his first feature film. It will give you a good insight into some of the struggles and challenges you will face as you pursue your career.

Charles Clarke's Professional Cinematography
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Originally written in 1964, ASC member Charles Clarke covers the basics about cameras and composition, as well as walks you through lighting a scene. This book was written when film was THE choice for feature work, however, the principles still apply in todays digital age. While specific tips like working with Black and White film may not directly apply to your work, it is still worth the read as Charles reveals his own thinking and philosophy. In my opinion, any resource that allows you to learn from an experienced ASC member is a valuable tool.

Writer Of Light
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
This book is a collection of American Cinematographer magazine articles and other archived material about the cinematography of Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC. This book is an easy, quick read that explores Vittorio's thinking and approach to several of his films. It is more about his ideas and concepts than specific technique. It is a quick and easy read, and if you want to know more about Vittorio's thinking, it is worth picking up.

Every Frame A Rembrandt
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Andrew Laslo, ASC recounts the adventures and challenges he faced on five of the feature films he shot. While there are some technical details shared, this book is more about the process, and the experience of being a cinematographer on a feature film. This book will be better appreciated if you have recently watched the five films he talks about.

Shooting Movies Without Shooting Yourself In The Foot
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
A step-by-step guide, written by a veteran cinematographer on what it takes to shoot a movie. Covering all of the steps from pre-production through post production, Jack Anderson explores all of the issues that come up during a production, from the perspective of a cinematographer. Even more importantly, he will help you to avoid many of the common pitfalls. I also appreciate the exercises he has at the end of each chapter. By completing and practicing each exercise, you will be well on your way to improving your skills, in addition to your knowledge base.

Cinematography Theory & Practice
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Blain Brown shares his knowledge of both the technical side and the theory behind good cinematography. He shares his thought processes and approaches that will help you to shoot more professionally. Filled with full color photos, illustrations, and diagrams, the information is easily accessible and applicable to a wide range of budget levels. If you are just getting started in this field and don't know where to begin, start with this book. For those who have some experience, it is a great refresher, as well as an opportunity glean from someone else's experiences.

Film Lighting
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
This is a great introduction into different lighting instruments and how to light a scene. It is also peppered with interviews and thoughts from many of the top cinematographers and gaffers. It strikes a nice balance in-between theory and technique for those just getting into the field. If you don't know where to begin with the topic of lighting, this book is a good place to start.

Placing Shadows
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Chuck Gloman & Tom Letourneau cover a wide range of lighting setups and production sizes as they demonstrate their lighting techniques. This book focuses mainly on techniques for corporate and commercial work. And it also shows how to solve common problems you will run into when lighting a scene. It is filled with behind the scenes photos and diagrams detailing their setups. Throughout the book you will find exercises that will help you grow in your lighting skills.

The Grip Book
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
This book covers it all. From how to read a call sheet and setting a C-Stand, to working with a Technocrane, nothing is left out in this book. Michael Uva explains all of the tools and how they work, as well as offers valuable insight and tips that can only come from years of experience. This is a valuable read for everyone working in the camera, grip, and lighting departments.

Set Lighting Technician's Handbook
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
This is the definitive book on all things lighting related. From power distribution to proper light placement and modification, Harry C. Box has it covered. This is a reference manual that focuses on the technical issues of lighting and is informative for any budget level production.

The Film Director
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Written by the award winning Hollywood director, Richard L. Bare, this book dives into some of the theory behind directing, working with actors, as well as how to get a job as a director. It is a valuable guide for those who are interested in what it takes to direct. It is practical real world input from a successful director.

Film Directing Shot By Shot
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
This book covers the process of directing a film step-by-step. It is the nuts and bolts of all of the technical aspects of taking the script from the written word and putting it on screen. While it does a great job at making sure you will be technically up to speed, I recommend reading it alongside The Film Director as it doesn't cover the theory behind directing.

In The Blink Of An Eye
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Walter Murch, one of the great editors of our day, offers his insight and perspective on this craft. He explains his own approach and the theory behind what he considers to be a good edit and how that affects the audience. The more you know about all areas of the filmmaking craft, the better equipped you'll be on set, and the better prepared you'll be to make informed choices when it comes time to cut shots, reschedule, or change the scene.

Color Correction Handbook: Professional Techniques For Video & Cinema
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Alexis Van Hurkman covers everything from how to properly setup your grading suite, to using advanced techniques to create stylized looks. I think Alexis strikes the right balance in-between theory and step-by-step instruction. Throughout the book he covers the "why" behind color grading and demonstrates proper technique on a number of systems. That means you'll be able to put this knowledge to use regardless of the grading system you are using now, or will use in the future.

The Art & Technique of Digital Color Correction
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Steve Hullfish walks you through the color grading process from beginning to final delivery. While he doesn't cover how to setup a grading suite like Alexis does, his book does offer a lot of insight, opinions, and tips from many of the top colorists. (Which you will not find in Alexis' book). These unique perspectives give you the opportunity to get inside a professional colorist's head to see how they approach their craft. While the training in this book can be applied to any grading system, the majority of step-by-step examples are based around Apple Color.

So that is my list of resources. Do you have any that you recommend?

Until Next Time - Get Out There And Shoot!
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