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March 10, 2014

A Cinematography Masterclass from 'Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown' DP Zach Zamboni

Zach ZamboniFor many of us, traveling around the world with our cameras, meeting tons of interesting people, and getting to eat some of the best cuisine in the world sounds like a dream job. If you're curious about what that's like, just ask award-winning DP Zach Zamboni, who heads up the cinematography on CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. In fact, why don't you just check out his masterclass on cinematography, presented by AbelCine, in association with Sony, in which he discusses working with the Sony F5, using S-Log, basic documentary film theory, and many other cinematographic tricks of the trade.

First of all, if you're not familiar with Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, here's a quick trailer for the episode that highlighted Myanmar.

Since this is a documentary-style TV show, a lot of what Zamboni discusses directly relates to documentarians, but most, if not all of it translates to narrative filmmakers as well. He explains several theories that form the foundation of documentary filmmaking, one of the most important to cinematography being how to record life. When a cinematographer first looks at his/her project, several non-technical areas have to be considered, like what genre of documentary is being shot (docudrama, nature, reality) and what style best fits with the director's vision.

(A quick side note -- much of the information I received in about 6 months of documentary courses in college is provided by Zamboni in less than a half an hour -- just to put it into perspective.)

In the first 27 minutes or so of Zamboni's talk, he shares the major tenets of documentary filmmaking. One thing that most know but don't really know until they're in the thick of production is just how unpredictable shooting documentary material really is. Zamboni shares the different techniques he utilizes to counteract these variables while still managing to engaging your subject and, in turn, your audience. He describes blocking for light, using different lenses, and finally, the segue into his next topic, using the Sony F5.

Check out Zach Zamboni's cinematography masterclass below. (It's over 2 hours long, but definitely worth the time commitment.)

What stood out to you from Zamboni's masterclass? What lessons on documentary filmmaking have you learned that you'd like to share? Zamboni uses the F5 -- what cameras do you swear by for filming documentaries? Let us know in the comments below.

[via AbelCine]

Your Comment

30 Comments

Wow. I am 40 minutes in and can't wait to keep watching when I get a chance. This is an awesome find.

Favorite stuff so far: his discussion of "real" truth vs "story" truth, and how decisions about safe vs unsafe coverage, lens selections, etc. all affect that in one way or the other.

March 10, 2014

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If you love shooting, watch this interview. Anthony's show is beautiful and well-thought out. He cruises the world with two amazing cameramen, and this interview will give you an inside peak into how they craft a fresh-and-new episode each time they work together.

March 10, 2014

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Zzzzzzzzz

Overrated. Show up, passport ready (just you) with your gear and go...then we'll talk. #partsknown

March 10, 2014

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NEWSSHTR

March 10, 2014

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Right. You have your examples to show us or does your passport not let you leave the couch?

March 11, 2014

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That was aimed at NEWSSHTR

March 11, 2014

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@Simon

I've got a mantle of hardware depicting winged women holding up swirling orbs of electrons.
He does good work, but lets call it like it is. I know dudes given that kind of support that would turn out Oscar docs blind folded. Guy is solid, but extreme lucky too...

March 11, 2014

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NEWSSHTR

Bullshit. Show us your web site. Anyone with any actual experience would never talk that way about another professional.

Your a kid scratching his nuts in his mums basement. You've probably never left your state let alone the country.

This is the part where you send us a link to someone else's website.

March 11, 2014

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You have no idea what you are talking about. Zach grew up in Southern Piscataquis County, Maine in the poorest area east of the Mississippi River. His talent has been combined with an incredible work ethic and an understanding of recording people that is currently unrivaled. You seem jealous and trite in a way that suggest stalled adolescence. Comments like yours are thinly veiled attention getters.

March 12, 2014

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KatieVail123

Oh boy the fanboys are upset.

What does Zach being poor have to do with anything?
Yeah I could show you my site, but I won't. I have nothing to prove to you or anyone. I know where I've been, what Ive accomplished and I use my Emmy's as paper weights. WTF cares!

Why does having an opinion make me a adolescent? I didn't slam the guy, I actually did say some nice things if you tools bothered to look up from your cinematic circle jerk to notice.

You don't think that guy has his work critiqued by others? My point was that with that kind of support crew its not as hard (by industry standards) to pull off.

Now, go back to sipping frappe out of your Parts Unknown coffee mugs you got from Able...

March 13, 2014

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NEWSSHTR

Like we thought..

March 14, 2014

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Hard work and a good attitude always pays off... but let's not forget how easy these local Emmy's are to get. ;)

April 2, 2014

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Progo

This gets 5 comments, a budget Panasonic camera gets 116.
*sighs*

/still thinks the 1st series of Parts Unknown was better. It was more raw. They've almost gotten too slick at it.

March 11, 2014

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marklondon

+1

March 11, 2014

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@MarkLondon. I was going to make the same comment (your first sentence) on the Eric Kress Lighting Pt. 2 post a few days ago. It's up to 12 now. You really get a true perspective on who most of the readers of NFS are. At least, those that post comments, anyway.

March 11, 2014

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If it was titled "half drunk presenter" it would have more people in here :)

March 11, 2014

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to be fair. NFS is late to posting that. If you are interested in lighting , you would have subscribed to that lighting youtube channel and seen the video long before the posting. So you are late! there are some learners who are avidly researching youtube for those type of content, so a show like this which most cinema peeps might not watch would have more views. Its not the peeps but you my friend

March 11, 2014

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t. cal

I think really good posts sometimes don't get a lot of comments because it shuts people up. Either that or the post is crap.

March 13, 2014

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JPS

I have to say, it's really odd for camera experts like AbleCine to get such poor audio from shooting a static presentation. it just got very distracting after a while...

March 11, 2014

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They hand him another microphone at some point. His lav's signal was cutting in and out.

March 11, 2014

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Is there more than one Gene because sometimes posts under the names Gene are sensible and sometimes like this just not. It makes me think someone else writes them sometimes to make him/her look like a dick.

NFS isn't it time we had a login user system to weed out the dicks and trolls??

March 11, 2014

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I think there's 3 Gene's on this forum and I personally do not believe that the GH2, 3 or 4 has or ever will take over the film world. I have the 7Q + FS700 combo and I'm very happy with it.

So basically there is Gene (above) who is the ultimately GH fanboy / fanatic, then there is Gene Sung who is me and I think there is another Gene as well, but I'm not sure what his take on GH cameras are. Maybe he can round things out and be the BMC Gene.

March 11, 2014

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Gene Sung

Thanks Gene Sung. To the other Genes wouldn't it make sense to add something to the end of your name so people know who's speaking? Like GH4ene ;)

March 11, 2014

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Possibly funniest NFS forum post ever,
.

March 13, 2014

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Thanks for the gene-ology lesson!

March 12, 2014

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Gavin

Narf, narf.

March 13, 2014

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JPS

Awesome! :)

March 13, 2014

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Roger H

Yeah, nfs needs logins. On steadicam forum, reduser, cinematography.com...etc...it's real name only. That would get rid of a lot of both the trolling and the spam. And you could block users, not just a user with a certain computer (or IP address or whatever...)

I post with my real name b/c I'm not hiding anything. Unless someone was a movie star or something there would be no reason to hide amongst professionals or aspiring professionals, so all the couch based braggarts can't overinflated themselves so much and be so argumentative. It would drastically cut down on some of the bs...anonymity is the worst for some people's behavior.

March 16, 2014

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Daniel Mimura

Cinematography is a real insider forum for folks who don't really care about traffic or ad placement. DVInfo is also real name and rather bereft of debates, heated or otherwise. Of course, there's middle ground such as DVX User, which has folks posting under real or assumed/screen names. And it has decent traffic for something that has a pretty narrow target audience. This site often deals with broader issues still and I would not want to be Googled here under my real name. But it just may be me.
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OFF-TOPIC - as to GH4 - to use a musical analogy, it just may be a Strat of the 21st Century. For those who may not be aware, Gibson Les Paul was the premium guitar model of the 1950's but its production ceased in 1960 because a far more affordable Fender Stratocaster hit the sweet spot of quality and sound and Gibson's had enough inventory to satisfy the demand. It wasn't until 1966 when Eric Clapton used one (and he used it because Freddy King played it) on the so-called "Beano" album by John Mayall and the Blues Breakers that LP long sustain began to be appreciated. Clapton plugged it into a distorted Marshall Amp and the guitar god era was thus born.

March 16, 2014

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DLD

25 years exp. would like to shoot for Anthony's show should the occasion arise. Simply check out my credits - free to travel - familiar with all formats- like Anthony's style
Just a thought on a long shot.

July 3, 2014

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