I'm not much of a blog post writer, I'd rather post my finished products for you to see. But lately, I have encountered questions about how to choose a cinematographer for your project. I've seen friends who have decided to go with one cinematographer based only on the price only to end up with a lesser quality finished product. As with many things, you get what you pay for. So here are a couple of things to address that question: The best cinematographers stage everything through their eyepiece. Choosing a cinematographer is probably one of the most crucial things for your project, whether you want to film a commercial or a music video. I'll be honest here... there are really bad cinematographers out there, and there are really great ones. Filmmaking is about visualizing the world through the lens. A camera sees an object differently than how the human eye will. The best cinematographers stage everything through their eyepiece, judging angles and distances through the medium of the camera. So, be on alert if you meet someone that just arranges a shoot only with their eyes.
Having more cameras does not replace accurate staging of a shoot. More cameras does not replace accurate and careful planning and staging of a shoot, or translate into a better finished product. I've seen other cinematographers who fail to carefully stage and plan camera positions ahead of time only to film an event with more cameras than needed. Let me put it this way: if a cinematographer films a one hour event with 8 cameras, he/she will have to sort, render, and edit all 8 hours of footage. Thus complicating the process of filming and editing. I try to film events not with the intent of having more cameras, but of having the most cameras in the best positions, thus allowing me to capture, create and edit the best possible film. This is why I propose carefully planned layouts to a perspective client because I know what will work.
Often times clients forget about the power of editing. More cameras does not mean a better product, but careful editing allows a film to achieve a client's hopes. There are a lot of tricks that an editor can do to have the look of multiple camera angles. In my case I am both the primary cinematographer and editor, so I am always doing my best to faithfully carry your ideas from the staging, through the lens, and into the editing studio. So it's important to trust your cinematographer/editor because they've done it before, and they'll help you stick to your vision.
You get what you pay for. Making a film is expensive. I own most of my own equipment, which means I can be flexible with pricing your project. But, for larger projects that require a crew, I choose very carefully who will be my additional camera operators. Each camera operator has his/her own style, no two are alike. Each camera operator also comes with their own day rate (usually between $300-500), that's why prices can dramatically increase for larger projects.
Last but not least, work out a script! This is the most important step in any video production! It tells your cinematographer how he/she should plan out an event and allows he/she to visualize the project the same way you are thinking about it. If you haven't given your cinematographer a direct guideline on how you want things to look, it will never turn out the way you want it to be. I always tell my clients that they should work on a script first before we start with production. After I see their first draft, I help the client think more about looking through the camera. Script writing helps keep costs down too. The more organized, the less hours a camera operator and editor has to work. That may mean more work on your end in the very beginning, but you will be very pleased when you have the finished product in your hands.
So here's a quick recap of what to watch out for:
1. Choose a cinematographer who stages everything through the eyepiece of the camera. 2. More cameras does not replace accurate and careful staging of a shoot. 3. Careful editing is important for a film to achieve a client's hopes. 4. You get what you pay for. 5. Work out a detailed script ahead of time.
With all that said I'll leave you with my cinematography/directing reel: