May 7, 2015

3 Keys of Cinematography from DP Ryan Booth

Ryan Booth, who recently worked as the DP for director (and fearless leader of Film Riot) Ryan Connolly's film U.F.Oh Yeah, answered a bunch of questions from fans on Twitter about what being a DP is like -- everything from what kinds of lights he uses to how to work with directors. 

Keep scrolling for our three takeaways:

How to make things look cinematic

This is probably one of the most common questions among young filmmakers. "How do I make my movie look like a real movie?" It's not just one thing -- and it's certainly not just the kind of camera you're using. It's a combination of camera, lenses, costuming, set design, and more, but Booth hit the nail right on the head when he said it mostly boils down to lighting. You can have a crappy camera with subpar lenses, but if your lighting looks amazing, chances are your images will come out looking pretty damn good.

"It's the director's party."

Cinematographers are artists and they're brilliant and valuable and important. But always remember, you're there on set to serve the director. Booth gives some great advice on how to make suggestions without overstepping, like asking the director what emotion or effect he/she is going for, and then explaining how different camera setups/moves/etc. can achieve what they're looking for (just in a different way).

The 2 most essential pieces of lighting gear

Your eye and the sun -- that's it. As Booth explains, it's always good to see where you're at in terms of lighting when it's just you, your eyeballs, and the sun, because you can always build upon that. If the sun is all you need, great! If you need to add a few lights or bounce cards or whatever, you won't know that until you turn everything off and see where the light falls naturally.

Check out U.F.Oh Yeah below:

Your Comment

19 Comments

Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom, Ryan!

May 7, 2015 at 2:38PM

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Mike Ozmun
Filmmaker
74

I kind of disagree that "it is the directors party and the cinematographer is there to serve him". I think each director works differently and each film is a different film. I think the cinematographer should have as much voice as the director aesthetically and work TOGETHER to achieve something pleasing, otherwise what's the point of cinematography if you are ought to be limited by others. But again, each film is a film,I just hate to read "you shall serve your master director and the almighty producer". This kind of speech is for the industrial way of making films, not the artistic way.

May 7, 2015 at 2:49PM

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That sounds good for an art school class but in the real world, things have to be decided by someone and the Director is that guy. He's the one tasked with combining the artistic talents of not just the DoP, but the writers, hair/makeup, wardrobe, & producers, to create a cohesive film. Using your reasoning, we should give the writers, MUAH, wardrobe as much voice as the DoP -- they're artists too. That level of communistic filmmaking only works in blog comments.

May 7, 2015 at 5:24PM, Edited May 7, 5:24PM

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William Stewart
Director of Photography
569

It is not "communistic" it is a collaboration. A wardrobe is important and should have as much voice as a DP, but inside the art department. In order to a director combine talents and extract everything from everyone he must listen from others to reach his goal. I'm not saying I'm against set hierarchy, I'm saying that everyone should be encouraged to be part of the film, not limit themselves and "serve" a director or a producer. And please, there are tons of films made with full collaboration of a team of filmmakers. Cinema is not only huge box office earnings.

May 7, 2015 at 8:20PM

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The point stands. In the end, if the director doesn't like working with you, you will be replaced.

May 8, 2015 at 7:03PM

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Taylor Russ
Director of Photography
654

everyone works together differently - but it is the director's party and vision. you can be a collaborator - and suggest ideas - check out what gordan willis has to say - basically you can see how far you can go on set with your director and see what they want. Some directors depend on the DP for help with the creative since it is a creative medium - some not as much.

May 7, 2015 at 6:51PM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1718

Like Ryan said later in the video, every director is different. Some directors plan out every shot and camera movement, and have specific lighting that they want. Other directors are just focused on the acting and story, and give the DP freedom to do whatever he or she wants. Every DP/director relationship is unique, so there is no right or wrong answer to what a DP/director relationship looks like. That being said, the end of the day, it IS the director's party. So get to know your director so you understand how much creative freedom you are going to have as a DP, and respect the fact that the film is ultimately the director's creative vision. Understanding this ahead of time will avoid tons of unnecessary conflict on set.

May 8, 2015 at 11:24AM

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The diva attitude is why I much prefer the noble term Cinematographer or the old Lighting Cameraman and hate the term DP. The fastest way to have a poisonous set (apart from a nightmare actress) is when a cinematographer (invariably with a lot more ego than talent) hears "director" next to his or her name and takes it WAY too literally--in a way that the Art Director or Costume Director never does. There have been some fine directors like James Brooks who haven't had a very strong visual stamp and in those cases an LC can step in and make the visuals their own party but nine times out of ten the best movies result from a brilliant cinematographer applying all their technical and artistic skills toward the director's specific visual sense.

May 8, 2015 at 3:46PM

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J Robbins
603

Agreed, I think Tarkovsky and Rerberg are a good example of this

May 9, 2015 at 7:02AM

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Alex Belinski
Director/DP/Writer
91

I kind of disagree that "it is the directors party and the cinematographer is there to serve him". I think each director works differently and each film is a different film. I think the cinematographer should have as much voice as the director aesthetically and work TOGETHER to achieve something pleasing, otherwise what's the point of cinematography if you are ought to be limited by others. But again, each film is a film, I just hate to read "you shall serve your master director and the almighty producer". This kind of speech is for the industrial way of making films, not the artistic way, so not "always" I'm just an employee

May 7, 2015 at 2:56PM

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This is gold.

May 7, 2015 at 4:50PM

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Brandon
DP/Editor/Director
88

Not just the Sun... But that's a nice begining :-)
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And now... let's go out and make a master piece...

May 7, 2015 at 5:43PM, Edited May 7, 5:46PM

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João Marco
Independent Director/Writer
168

As 'Lighting Director', and having just done a two-day/two-night shoot for "Playground", in the Australian bush with no power available, I feel much better about my lighting after listening to Ryan. I had envisaged my lighting plot for weeks in my head, but had to be satisfied with a compromise. Being a low (read zero) budget film company, we were unable to use a generator and big lights, so settled for a bunch of cheap LED battery-powered lights. Fortunately they gave me enough light to prevent digital noise in the image, the theory being to over-light, then pull it down in post. But I could not place the lights where I really wanted them ... however, looking at the monitor I was satisfied that it will look great when edited. As this is a horror film, the spooky lighting that I had in mind was not always possible. The Director and Producer looked at the rushes on the editing computer that was set up in the accomodation, and were extremely happy with how the shots looked. I certainly know what it is like to work through the night, we finished at 3am on a high as things went so well! Thanks so much Ryan for your insights...

May 7, 2015 at 8:05PM

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Jeffrey C Cox
Cinematographer/Editor
98

What a great short! Really well directed and shot. Glad I clicked on this to watch. As for Alex's comment that he disagrees with it being the directors party, well, as others stated, in the real world it is the directors party. Yes, we as DoP's get to collaborate, offer suggestions and shots, but ultimately its the director's decision. If every artist on the set had a say then nothing would get done, and a film day is long enough as it is. And to address your comment "This kind of speech is for the industrial way of making films, not the artistic way" I have to say its called "the film business" for a reason. It is indeed a business, an artist in the film business has to balance the art and the business, which is actually part of the skill and art. One cannot exist without the other. We cannot always just ask for whatever we want and get it, we have to often make due or try something different because of the budget or other extenuating circumstances. I will however agree with Alex that some directors are more collaborative then others, it really depends on the DoP/Director relationship and how well and how long they've worked together, but still, all final decisions are the directors!

May 7, 2015 at 9:37PM, Edited May 7, 9:37PM

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Brad Lipson
Director of Photography
81

Are we talking about paid projects? Then the director is the captain -- the producer put the director in command, and for the sake of teamwork, collaboration, and healthy-set-attitude the director has to be obeyed. Director wants to jump off the cliff? Follow the director there and film him jump.

If this is an unpaid project and DP contributes his equipment then the director better agree to everything the DP says as a reciprocity for all the nice camera, glass, lights, and skills the DP contributes. Otherwise the director should get a t2i and solve this problem from the get go.

May 8, 2015 at 5:46PM, Edited May 8, 5:47PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
4032

Agree with Alex Z. It's the directors' party only if he/she or someone is ponying up. If I'm hired as a DP and paid decent rate, I'll do everything I can to give the director what he/she wants. If it's a no pay gig and I bring my camera, glass, lights, sticks, dolly or jib, I shoot it the way I sees it.

May 9, 2015 at 12:42AM, Edited May 9, 12:42AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1492

I dont remember it was Gordon Willis or somebody else,once Director said it you wanna direct a movie go make your own im the director here.
%100 true.If you wanna direct why not making a movie?

May 9, 2015 at 5:46AM

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I'm reading this and all I see is a commercial for this DoP in particular. I think everything he says it's true, but he has forgotten to work along with the make-up artist in this UFO shortfilm. Please dont promote your friends over the internet, if the advice comes from Deakins, lubezki, etc, its better than any friend of yours. you are losing credibility.

May 10, 2015 at 4:32AM, Edited May 10, 4:32AM

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What a crap. It's all about composition. Those"cinematographers" who has nothing to do with the cinematography, always ready to give you an "advice".

May 11, 2015 at 9:44AM

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