November 17, 2016 at 5:49AM, Edited November 17, 5:50AM


How to choose and communicate with DPs?

Hi everyone,

So I am planning to direct a short film and the rent house I use provides the full crew (for additional pay ofc). I think the main creative crew member (after director) for a short film is a DP, because so many shorts lack respectable visuals. The DP they provide comes mainly from wedding videography and commercials and kinda lacks any creativity in his previous works. The question is, if I do have the precise understanding of every shot (storyboard), can I be sure I can communicate it to the DP? Or should I hire somebody whose work I like? And since I do have somebody on my mind, how do I approach and bring an idea to the DP to make him interested?
Of course I understand that's basic human communication but I just wanted to hear if anybody had experience or from DP's point of view.


I think shorts lack decent story and audio more often than visuals.

That said, I would take a DP that communicates well and gets along with people over a really creative but difficult one. As a director, you can discuss the look of the movie in pre-production to make sure you're on the same page. Maybe that wedding/commercial DP just hasn't had an opportunity to shine. I've done enough of those to know they're usually about working quickly and cheaply. That said, it's imperative you meet with potential "above the line" personnel before a production and see which one gives you the best vibe. When spending 10 hours a day with somebody for a week, personality alone can make the difference between a great project and a terrible one.

November 17, 2016 at 7:20AM, Edited November 17, 7:21AM


Agree with lack of story and overlooking audio. I had bad experience with freelance sound crew so I extended the budget this time to hire real working professionals.
Thanks for advice. Do you think an "ok" dp with big experience with pro cameras would be better than a dp i really like but who had really little experience with pro cameras? I think the risk of him getting something wrong could hurt the production. Or maybe just choose the dp I like and downgrade to a lesser camera?(from Red to A7s since he mostly really shoots on Sony)

Mark Miller

November 17, 2016 at 10:55AM

Let me put it this way; the main job of the DP is lighting and coordinating the camera position/movement, which hasn't changed much since the mid 60s or so. Equipment has gotten lighter and cheaper but the techniques are the same. In the film days, I really didn't care what camera was being used because I picked the film stock, and I only used three types. Every video camera is different though. While I prefer to handle an unfamiliar camera ahead of time, I've had instances where I didn't get that opportunity, such as the most recent set I lit.

There's really two things I need to know: native ISO and exposure latitude. Beyond that, I want to make sure I have a good set of lenses for framing choices. Almost all cameras these days have rolling shutters, so I assume I can't allow any fast movement. I can figure out most of the rest of what I need by looking at the manual. I've even done multi-cam shoots by just telling the ops what basic settings I want and letting them handle the rest.

I guess what I'm saying is; I myself would rather have a good DP that knows all the principles but little camera-specific experience than a mediocre one that knows a camera well. A great DP can make iPhone video look professional, no joke, I've seen it!

November 17, 2016 at 3:05PM


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