November 18, 2013

Takeaways from This Year's THR Cinematographers Roundtable Discussion

The Hollywood Reporter has released another installment of their roundtable discussion series, this time with cinematographers from some of the biggest Hollywood films of the year. Barry Ackroyd, Sean Bobbitt, Bruno Delbonnel, Stuart Dryburgh, and Phedon Papamichael sit down to have a discussion about all things cinematographic, from what's it's like to be a DP, working with directors, and the transition from film to digital. Continue on to hear the discussion.

There is so much to learn in the nearly 50-minute roundtable between the cinematographers of such great films (Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Nebraska,) but I've shared a few quick takeaways that stood out to me below:

Cinematographer's are not expendable

I'm sure a lot of cinematographers reading this title are thinking, "How dare you! Of course we're not!" Most filmmakers know that DPs are artists with their own unique sensibilities and styles, but Delbonnel makes a very beautiful point about this -- how he'd never be able to do what the other cinematographers in the roundtable do. It's not in his brain to do what they do, because cinematography isn't about technique necessarily, it's about executing your signature artistic voice through what inspires you.

Working with directors

Aside from knowing how to produce images with the tools you have, knowing how to work with a director is one of the most important parts of being a cinematographer. Each DP gives some great insight, like giving support rather than demands, and making it clear to the director that you don't want to be the director.

Bobbitt, who worked on 12 Years a Slave, as well as several other Steve McQueen films, says that oftentimes, especially with young and first-time directors, they're in the process of finding themselves as directors. According to Bobbitt, because you're making their movie, being sensitive to and supportive of their journey as a filmmaker will help you find out how best to approach your work.

Film vs. Digital

The group brings up some very intriguing points about the exodus from film to digital. They explain that having lived and worked in a time when the transition occurred, being given the choice between the two was thrilling. But now, there's so much talk about film dying out, and digital completely taking its place, which makes many wonder why that has to happen that way. Bobbitt says, "I don't understand why film has to die for digital to succeed."

Dryburgh points out that Ben Stiller insisted on shooting on film for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -- possibly because he's an actor. He suggests that many actors prefer what they look like on film versus how they look on digital, because digital has an "over-sensitivity" and produce an image that is too sharp and crisp.

What do you think about this year's Cinematographers Roundtable? What's your view on the film vs. digital debate? Let us know in the comments.

[via The Hollywood Reporter]

Your Comment

29 Comments

Sean Bobbitt; his work on Hunger, Shame, The Place Beyond The Pines, 12 Years A Slave; all magnificent. And lets not forget Stuart Dryburgh. In my honest opinion, Walter Mitty was just visual sex. The cinematography was impeccable.

Eff this, all of these lads are effing amazing.

November 18, 2013 at 10:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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darknessdarkness

Plus, there're some young cinematographers that are totally kicking it out of the park. Mihai Malaimare Jr., Bradford Young, Reed Morano, Chayse Irvin plus a few more. Total inspiration.

November 18, 2013 at 10:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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darknessdarkness

I agree with your comment regarding Bobbitt and Dryburgh. The DPs listed in this article are second to none.

Thanks for listing the new DPs, I'm on my quest to research them.

November 18, 2013 at 10:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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gigaBYTE

Thanks for listing the new and upcoming DPs! Dude, you're taste is really good. There are some gems in that list.

November 18, 2013 at 10:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DarjeelingExpress

Bradford Young. A hidden gem. It's only a matter of time for him.

November 20, 2013 at 12:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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John C

Seconded.

November 20, 2013 at 11:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

I've worked with Stuart a few times over the last (gulp) 30 years. He's a DOP who has always been emotive but now has reached levels of true technical mastery (I loved his work on 'Luck' - that was a major step forward). Mitty is gorgeous to look at (I like that you avoided talking about it as a film).
I love that you mention Mihai - he got panned terribly after "Youth" but I've always loved his work.
I'd add Rachel Morrison to that up and comers list.

November 19, 2013 at 3:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

I take all film with whatever flaws it has. Super 8, Black and White, Digital, whatever. I think there is room for it all. I hope we don't always have to get rid of one thing to have another. It is a shame when you talk to people who have not seen a classic film because they don't like to watch black and white movies. We also have to figure out things from a preservation standpoint. How do we make it so that that color film from the 80's doesn't suck when it's watched on a new TV?

November 19, 2013 at 12:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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HollisB

that's the problem with you dinosaur aged people. i thought older folks are supposed to be wise. u guys sound extremely foolish to think that black and white = classic....film is art to us (us being the kind of people on nfs website) just cos its a "classic" to you doesn't mean it should be relate-able to all. the basic of film is the human experience and if your art-form isn't liked by all, it doesn't mean its wack. art is relative. you artists most at times sound like the 9-5 corporate folks in terms of accepting standards! we are artists dammit!

November 19, 2013 at 1:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

He never said black and white = classic, there are however classic films hailed as classic by probably most directors you admire which happen to be black and white thus losing a huge audience in younger generations who cant get passed it.

November 19, 2013 at 2:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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carlos

u just re-iterated what i think he said. Hence, I will repeat my point! we are ARTISTS! Lots of people criticized Q.T. when he said he has outgrown lots of directors he once admired. They didn't understand what he was trying to say, instead, they, like your post, keep cycling the same old rhetoric of watching certain films that are classics because a certain director thinks they are! WE ARE ARTISTS! I cant stress that enough

November 19, 2013 at 3:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

no, you stressed that enough.

November 19, 2013 at 3:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

I'd be cautious to about waiving the "IM AN ARTIST" flag so much, as a filmmaker I'm a craftsman and storyteller first and foremost and if an audience finds what we create "art" then that's a great thing. and I fail to see what one has to do with the other? Because you like to call yourself an artist you're going to ignore over 100 years of film history, and all the filmmakers who defined the language of cinema and paved the way for people like us to be making movies today?

Quentin Tarantino is one director, thats it. Using a distortion of a comment he made once to try and make a sweeping statement that films considered classics dont matter because WE ARE ARTISTS sort of contradicts your whole point. Interesting of you to bring QT into this, him being a huge film buff and all, who has made clear he plans to write books on film history once he retires.

November 19, 2013 at 4:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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carlos

Tarantino's production company name, A Band Apart, comes from a black and white French New Wave film often referred to as a classic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bande_%C3%A0_part_(film)

November 19, 2013 at 5:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Well even some of the film makers within that 100 years of filmmaking history u talked about started different waves cos they were dissatisfied with the state of cinema at that time. Just because a wine bottle is old doesn't mean it will taste same as all other older wine bottles. Within that same 100 years of history u talk about there were loads of prominent film makers that CRITICIZED their colleagues. All that is old ain't gold

November 19, 2013 at 10:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

Very good roundtable, the only question I have is:
Where's "Chivo" Lubezki?!!! D:

November 19, 2013 at 1:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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R

Chivo is on a whole other level. Together with Rodrigo Prieto.

November 20, 2013 at 8:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DarjeelingExpress

This is awesome!

Hilarious that the sound is so shit though. There has to be a joke in there somewhere haha!

November 19, 2013 at 6:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kraig

budget wise film = digital…
keep film around to keep digital honest

November 19, 2013 at 6:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DIO

I would absolutely love to shoot on film, as would most of us (I assume). What is really needed for it to stay alive though is a bunch of good resources for the uninitiated to get started with shooting on film which simply don't exist. I wouldn't have a clue where to begin! What camera to use and why, how to use these cameras, what film stocks to use and why, how these stocks behave under in different environments, how to affect the colours and good tips on having your film processed, what filters and accessories are needed under different conditions and also how much all of this stuff costs etc. I never went to film school. I would love to have done but I'm 31 now so I think that ship has sailed (got to pay them bills) but with the help of the internet and a lot of practice and hard work, I went from buying a 7D a few years back and I am now a paid freelance DP who shoots £100,000 budget commercials on high-end digital cinema cameras (which I hope I somehow deserve) and next year I have been employed to shoot my first feature. I would NEVER have gotten there without the use of all of the amazing resources online from tutorials and forums to great blogs like NFS, but the sad truth is that almost all of these learning resources are applicable to the digital medium only. I think that if film is going to live on then people need empowering with the knowledge to use it without having to shell out a tonne of money just to practice with. I guess things used to be different in that if you went to film school or worked as a trainee camera assistant on set then film you somehow got to work with film at no expense to yourself but as an indi-film maker as most of us are around here, it's just not financially viable to just jump in at the deep without a certain grounding on where to begin. So how about it NFS? Make us a good guide to getting started with film ;)

November 19, 2013 at 6:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kraig

Ugh - made a real mess of that. Please forgive my rogue words that I didn't delete after my inevitable final edit of my post :)

November 19, 2013 at 6:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kraig

You made sense. Keep doing well (congrats by the way) and you'll get jobs with people who will let you shoot film.
As for training with it, once you're at that level there are plenty of rental houses/camera techs that will do their UTMOST to help you. Also, ask around for contact info for some older ACS or dOPs. Once they find out you're shooting film, they'll give you their time.
If you want to find out what its like to be the hottest girl in the club just put your hand up at a rental house and say 'I'm thinking of shooting 35!'.
I agree that there isn't a TON online: its simple market forces. The advertisers on this site aren't exactly making rigs for Arriflexes :-)
Finally - if you're serious about it, and making ok money, try buying an old Arri 2C. There are tons on eBay @ $1-3k. Spend another 3-4k on film and processing and you'll have shot quite a bit of footage. Talk to your post house about getting the grade session free - often there's a junior grader BEGGING to grade some film. I realise its not as easy or cheap as the 3000 free digital cinema sites, but film has NEVER BEEN CHEAPER TO SHOOT.
Good luck!

November 19, 2013 at 3:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

First off: "If you want to find out what its like to be the hottest girl in the club just put your hand up at a rental house and say ‘I’m thinking of shooting 35!" Hahaha! Brilliant!

Second: Dude - thank you so much! That was some good solid advice :) And also refreshing to see some of that old school NFS community spirit come through that we all used to know and love! It's nice to read some encouraging, positive advice that directly relates to someone's problem instead of some know-it-all taking there time to write a big old rant about why "you don't wanna do it like that".

I shall totally take this on board in my epic quest to shoot of film! Thanks again :)

November 20, 2013 at 7:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kraig

I started working on film last year by chance…my friend is in film school…and he ended up with a film camera..for his project..the results were stunning…now I shoot only on film and I find it cheaper than digital for projects that will be broadcast or feature films…(film doesn't need post)
but I would like to see more articles about film on this site…

(I think kodak will give you free film to test…or you can find short ends …)

November 19, 2013 at 12:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DIO

film doesnt need post? Digital intermediate?

November 19, 2013 at 2:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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carlos

"Film doesn't need post."

What's processing and color timing, then?

November 19, 2013 at 3:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dave N.

we've been shooting in LA on film…very low budget and just using the one light…for final broadcast…and everyone thinks we spent a fortune…(post is up to you..but we just used the one light…we just didn't need it)…shoot a roll of 35mm and see what we mean..

November 20, 2013 at 9:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DIO

Or better yet you can show us your film and we'll see what you mean.

November 21, 2013 at 6:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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jime

He was too busy believing his overrated reputation.

December 25, 2013 at 2:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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James