For 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.