Posts Tagged ‘Director’
16
Dec

Photo by and ©Jeff Cable

The holiday season is always a busy time, full of shopping, decorating and making family plans. It’s a good idea to make your picture plans and get your camera ready …

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02
Sep

Rajiv Jain – Cinematographer – Director of Photography – Rajeev Jain

Information for Indian Cinematography Students……

Some of the responses to the questions asked by visitors to the website! Drop me a line today.

QUESTION: HOW DO I BECOME AN INDIAN DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY?

For people with successful careers in this business, the question most often heard is the one that asks how you got where you are. Sure enough, as soon as I began to set up this Web Site and state my willingness to share this information and answer questions about production I began to get inquiries regarding what I call “The Big Question”.

So I have written this generic answer. I hope it is useful to anyone contemplating a career behind or in front of the camera.

If you ask 10 or even a 100 different people as to how they got into this business you’ll get as many as 100 different answers. As for me, I’ve had a natural, lifelong interest in photography, partly due to my Guru, whose hobby was black and white still photography. Learning and training under him gave me loads of exposure to that type of photography which soon graduated from a hobby to a full blown passion. At that particular point of time I was also involved in theatre doing plays for small Theatre Companies in Lucknow, and apart from the character roles I also worked back stage as a carpenter / light operator/ Set construction on these plays. It all tied in together so perfectly.

The experience and training I gained in my adolescent years paid off full returns when i decided to get into a full time job. I began with a job as a light man in a TV station, my back stage experiences in carpentry/ set construction further sharpened and enhanced my skills. i began small time but with time my vision and my dreams grew and I saw for myself the possibility of a career as a cameraman in the television or film industry, to make this dream a reality i went back to Drama school full time  and i majored in theatre (stage craft) & in stage light designing production. Believe me completing my education was the best thing I could have done. In addition to a thorough education in many different phases of the business, it allowed me to focus and hone my natural abilities (which are strongly visual) to the point that I was sure I wanted to be a cinematographer.

In a way, because of my prior experience of working in a television station where I was allowed to do lighting, cameras, and build sets, etc., I was already way ahead of many of my peers when I started Drama school. Even so, I continued to hunt for part time work, projects, whatever would allow me to work with cameras, lights etc. A couple of summers before graduating I worked as a temporary technician in a TV station and right after graduation I was offered a full time apprentice position with Binod Pradhan to work behind the movie camera in Mumbai. While doing that job I continued to make little films on the side, by volunteering to shoot on VHS format, direct and edit anything for anybody as long as they would pay for the equipment, film, etc. Soon, after working for an 8 year time span where i covered and worked at different levels of cinematography i.e., as a spark, grip, key grip, loader, focus puller, camera operator, gaffer and through constant lobbying and showing my work, I was offered a cameraman s position at a TV production house. 

From there, after a couple of years of effort and with several long-form TV commercials, industrial, corporate, documentaries & serials under my belt, my work was noticed by a very successful independent producer of network Film / TV / Commercials specials. He made me an offer I could not refuse; i.e. to spend a few years shooting many of the shows he produced for the network. That stroke of luck put me on the map as a DOP and my career has gone well ever since. 

Nurturing the desire to become a DOP is a lot like saying you want to become a movie star. There are no set routes to such goals. Many try but few succeed. But the fundamentals of the craft can be learnt, and learnt well in a film school. So, incase of the special privileges that are bestowed on a selected few (like being born of a great cameraman, director or studio executive), film school is probably the best place to start. It will also expose you to a lot of information about many other aspects of the business. 

What You Need To Know

There are obvious things one should study to become a DOP, i.e., photography, including composition, lighting, movement, and fine arts in general, including music, painting, even sculpture. It also helps if a DOP has good eye-hand coordination and is good with his or her hands, with tools. After all, a camera is just a big, complicated, delicate tool, with lots of interrelated parts which must be mastered by the DOP. It is also highly important for a DOP to be a good leader, a good communicator and have good people management skills. But one of the most important things a DOP should know well is often overlooked. It is the study of the theory of “montage” or editing. Montage theory is at the heart of what makes “movies” work, whether for television or the big screen. It also encompasses and necessitates the study and understanding of the psychology of human perception – the things that go on between “seeing” and subjectively “perceiving”. 

Some of the most important dynamics of the moving images that we see on television or in a theater are the dynamics of “cutting” one scene, or shot or frame against another, then another, then another, etc. This dialectic process, this joining of two things to create a third, then joining that with yet another and so on, endlessly; this is the basic grammar of film as we know it and it works at many levels. It works in the juxtaposition of scenes, of shots within a scene and of the elements of sound and picture and movement. In what direction are the composition, lighting and physical movement leading the viewer s eye and what effects are the juxtapositions of these elements having on the viewers emotions and perceptions? Wide shot, medium shot, close-up, screen direction; these progressions are as basic to the language of film as subject and verb are to the spoken language. These concepts and more are fundamentals of the visual language of the moving image and should be well understood by anyone wanting to be a Cameraman. 

On being a Director of Photography…

Q: Could you define the Cinematographers job? How does one find themselves in the lighting/electric department?

A: The Director of Photography/Cinematographer (yes one and the same person) is like the photographer of a movie. All the technical related dept (camera, lighting/electric, and grip) work qualifies as work for the DP. One in thirty-four (1/34) makes it as a DP. It takes years of professional experience to gain your I.C.S. AND W.I.C.A. accreditation.
Ask yourself this question… 

So the bottom line is that there is no real set way of becoming a cinematographer. Ask yourself this question – “What is your life about?” What are your hopes and dreams and find a path that best fits your needs. Do you want to work in the industry, learn from the pros and then start shooting? 

…be prepared for the big drop in pay

A lot of camera assistants will work for a minimum of five to seven years and then start shooting. Camera Assistants make the most money in the entire techie dept. Money can be an evil sometimes, in the sense that you lose sight of your goals because you’re being offered so much of it. All of a sudden years go by and all you’ve done is made money.

Be prepared for the big drop in pay because you are not gonna lands a $2000 – 3500/day commercial gig in your first year much less your first three. Some people start shooting as soon as they get out of film school and five years later they might be a professional DP (in my opinion, a pro is someone who makes a living with their craft).

You will need an incident light meter (I recommend the Sekonic L398 for the beginner) and a spot meter (Minolta F or M). Also handy, working knowledge of various cameras, which means understanding depth of field, circle of confusion, camera operating and learn a feel and understanding of lighting which means an understanding of color temperature, gels, diffusions, bounces etc, etc.. 
Advice on volunteers…

People volunteer on shoots for three reasons:

1. To gain experience or upgrade.

2. To make contacts.

3. as a favor to someone whom they work with a lot.

Getting volunteers on a feature is very difficult because no one can really afford to work for free for eighteen weeks. My crews are loyal to me because I gave them a chance when no one else would. One of my camera assistants just got his letter from F.T.I.I. He was one of the lucky few who were accepted this year for the cinematography course. When a crew member cannot work with you because they have to make money you have to respect that. 

Your key personnel have to have experience there is no doubt about that. Everyone else can be a volunteer. I worked on a lot of volunteer shoots when I was making the transition from corporate videos to film. The keys were always experienced and were always usually paid (usually below scale). You can do this on shorter format films but not on a feature.

Film is not only an art. It is also a business. 

Executive Producers tend to not invest on inexperienced people such as the director or producer. I have seen ads where people are claiming that they could make a feature for $100,000.00 It can be done if you are an industry veteran who could get a lot of great deals from people and pull favors from other industry people. For every one of him there are hundreds whose film does not get finish for one reason or another. I humbly urge you, DO NOT approach the money man until you have done your job as a producer and everything is in place.

Find that gem of a script that is character driven, simple and has very few locations. Actors – you won t have any problems. Find an actor who has done a lot of work but is not quite on Bollywood s A List and give them a part that they cannot refuse. If you can attach names to your film then people will take interest and even give you money.

…filmmaker at heart!

I am one of the few people that actually worked in all three departments. Most people work in only one dept. But I think this is what made me a unique shooter. It also attracted a lot of directors towards me because I can do all three depts. I was a technician for hire but I am a filmmaker at heart. My theatre and filmmaking knowledge has helped me immensely in working with directors and understanding where they are coming from. 

The Bottom Line………………

Final tip: If you really want to be successful as a DOP (or anything else in life) – be tenacious! Never give up! But be ready to spend many long, even frustrating years finding the road and climbing the ladder. Since there is no set route to becoming a Director of Photography or Director or Actor the way is often unclear and that can be very frustrating. But if you look at the careers of those who have become successful in this business you will see three things they all have in common: Tenacity, Tenacity, and Tenacity! Of course, talent is important, but more than that it is just lots of hard work and desire and sticking to it. Becoming a Doctor, Lawyer or Engineer is easy by comparison because the road is quite clear. If you just do the work, you get the title. It is very cut and dried. Making your own way in this business is far more challenging and that is really what separates the wheat from the chaff. 
And do not forget luck & destiny. You will need lots of that. Not the kind you need when you are rolling the dice, but the kind that exists “where opportunity and preparation meet”! That kind of luck you can make for yourself. By becoming prepared, you are fully ready to seize the opportunity when it arises. And by diligent preparation you will also be exposing yourself to many opportunities as well as seeing ways to create your own. 

Remember – visions are worth striving for.

What the mind can conceive, you can achieve if you believe.

THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY / CINEMATOGRAPHER

The cinematographers’ responsibilities as outlined below are an attempt to describe the duties a cinematographer is likely to encounter during his/her career. No two jobs are the same and the duties will contract or expand depending on the scale and complexity of the job. As can be seen, there is a vast amount that a cinematographer is required to know and do and this can only be learnt over a number of years of filming. Our thanks to John Hora ASC who drew up this list for publication in the? American Cinematographer? Magazine. It has been slightly adapted for this website to reflect Indian technical terminology.

I Preproduction

A. Conceptual research and Design
* Discuss all aspects of script and directors’ approach to picture in preliminary talks with director
* Analyze script as whole
* Analyze story structure
* Analyze characters
* Research period, events, general subject and appropriate design elements
* Devise style, visualize approach
* Continue talks with director on new ideas
* Come to agreement with director
* Discuss and come to agreement with production designer
* Discuss and come to agreement with technical adviser.

B. Practical Research and Design.
* Ascertain or find out budget requirements
* Scout and approve locations
* Plot sun position for locations
* Check local weather
* Check tide tables near ocean
* Review, discuss and approve set plans
* Review, discuss and approve spotting plans for stages
* Review and approve props, picture cars, airplanes, boats, horse-drawn vehicles, mock-ups and miniatures

C. Technical Research and Design.
* Visit laboratory to calibrate, customize and evaluate exposure system for any combination of electronic or chemical image capture, and establish developing, printing, set timing and transfer protocols
* Visit equipment vendors
* Explore new equipment
* Learn how new equipment works
* Invent (or cause to be invented) special equipment or techniques for show
* Standardize and create effects bible for show
* Help create and approve any storyboards
* Design (or cause to be designed) and approve any built-in or practical lighting fixture
* Design lighting-plot plan and rigging for stages and locations with gaffer and key grip

D. Quality Control
* Choose and approve crew, film stock, lab, equipment, second-unit and visual-effects crews
* Supervise manufacture and testing of new modified equipment
* Visit sets under construction
* Approve wild walls, ceiling pieces and any moving set pieces
* Check lighting-fixture crew
* Walk locations and stages with all departments to discuss requirements
* Approve set colors and textures
* Approve costume colors and textures
* Approve makeup and hair
* Generate (or cause to be generated) and approve equipment lists for camera, electric and grip
* Check dailies screening rooms for correct standards

E. Implementation
* Cast stand-ins
* Train crew to use any new equipment
* Walk locations and stages with director and device shooting plan
* Make list of special equipment for production manager and indicate number of days required
* Work with assistant director on shooting schedule (order and days required for each scene)
* Estimate and order film stock (type, size and quantity)
* Generate (or cause to be generated) and approve rigging and shooting manpower and man-days
* Assist other departments in getting required equipment, manpower and tests
* Drop by all departments and visit department heads at least twice a day to answer any questions
* Mediate any problems between departments
* Check loading of production trucks or cargo containers for location or international shipping
* Visit cast run-throughs and rehearsals
* Advise and back up director on any problems
* Help production problems

F. Testing
* Shoot tests for style
* Shoot tests for lab
* Shoot test for lighting of principal actors
* Shoot tests for camera and lenses
* Shoot tests for wardrobe and makeup
* Shoot tests for any special effects processes, unusual rigs props or methods

II Shooting

A. Planning
* Check and approve all call sheets and shooting order of the day?s work

B. Blocking
* Watch rehearsal of scene to be shot
* Device shot list with director (coverage)
* Choose lens and composition; show to director for approval
* Make sure composition and movement fulfill scene task
* Work out mechanical problems with camera, dolly and crane grips
* Set any camera-movement cues
* Place stand-ins and rehearse, fine-tune
* Ensure proper coverage of scene for editor
* Work with assistant director on background action

C. Lighting
* Design lighting to show set/location to best advantage relative to story, style and dramatic content
* Light each actor to reinforce and reveal character
* Make sure mood and tone of light help to tell story
* Design light for minimum reset time between setups
* Utilize painter for control of highlights, shadows, aging, dusting-down of sets and props
* Set and match light value, volume, color and contrast of each setup (exposure)
* Set any lights cues (dimmers, spot lights, color changes and any preprogramming)

D. Preparation
* Work out any sound problems
* Work out any problems with other departments
* Check, set and approve all stunts with stunt coordinator
* Set any additional cameras required for stunts
* Double-check safety with all concerned
* Show shot to director to make any final changes
* Get actors in for final mechanical rehearsal; solve any outstanding problems

E. Photography
* Photograph scene
* Approve or correct take
* Check parameters and reset for next take
* Shoot any plates
* Shoot any video playback material
* Move to next step

F. Administrative 
* Define first setup in morning and after lunch
* Make sure that stills are taken of scene
* See that ?making of? and/or EPK crews get needed footage
* Make sure script supervisor has any special camera or lighting notes
* Check film raw stock inventory
* Try to shoot up short ends
* Check that camera logbook is being kept up to date
* Complete day’s work
* Discuss first setup for the next day
* Ensure that camera, electrical and grip crews get all copies of equipment rental or purchase invoices and approve before accountants pay vendors
* Take care of any future or ongoing production at end of day
* Check for return of all unused equipment

G. Quality Control
* Call in for lab report
* View previous day’s work in projected dailies with director, producer, editor and camera crew
* Discuss and approve dailies
* Consult with makeup, wardrobe, production designer and assistant director about dailies
* View, discuss, correct or approve second-unit or effects dailies
* Order reprints if necessary

H. Training
* Teach beginning actors movie technique (hitting marks, size of frame, lenses, etc.)
* Train camera crew for next job up the ladder

I. Contingency
* If director is disabled, finish day’s shooting for him or her

 

III. Postproduction

A. Additional Photography
* Discuss and be aware of delivery dates for all postproduction
* Photograph or approve any additional scenes, inserts, special effect or second-unit footage

B. Timing (Color and Density)
* Time and approve trailer for theaters and TV
* Approve all optical and digital effects compositions
* Time the picture
* Retime until correct

C. Quality Control
* Approve final answer print
* Show to director for OK
* Approve interpositive (IP)
* Approve internegatives (IN)
* Approve release prints
* Approve show prints from original negative
* Approve all blowups or reductions

D. Telecine/Color Correction
* Supervise and approve film or digital original transfer to electronic or film media (Hi-Def, NTSC, PAL, Scam masters, digital intermediates, archival masters, etc.)
* Supervise and approve all transfers to and from digital intermediates
* Supervise and approve all letterbox, pan and scan or reformatting of film
* Supervise and approve tape-to-tape color correction and VHS, DVD, digital projection media, etc.
* Show electronic transfers to director for OK

E. Publicity
* Do any publicity (newspaper, magazine, Internet, radio, TV, DVD commentary etc.)

F. Restoration/Archival
* be available for any future reissue, archival reprint or electronic transfer of film.

This list of duties of the cinematographer was published in http://www.rajeevjain.com/

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19
Aug

Light Keeps Me Company – A Poet of Light and Shadow – Rajiv Jain (Indian Cinematographer / Director of Photography / DOP)

Shooting Stars: Interview with the India’s Greatest Living Cinematographer Rajiv Jain

The Complete Interviews, Vol. II

 

Success story of a genius fascinated by light • Rajiv Jain • Award winning Indian Director of Photography • Cinematographer • DOP

Exceptionally gifted in overcoming technical hurdles and shady atmospheres, in twenty five years Indian Rajiv Jain has become one of the most sought-after DoPs, after having had a quite unconventional career. Rajiv hasn’t let the fame go to his head though and remains modest. Following his studies in drama at the Indian drama school Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts (Bhartendu Natya Academy), Rajiv Jain did some stints as a camera assistant. Very quickly boredom got the better of him and he started to work on television sets where in twenty five years he would experiment with everything and develop his working style: quick, efficient, conscientious. His curiosity led him to make clips, advertisements and short films, for example A Wonderful Love by Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi which was a great success. Now Rajiv is best known for his work on Satish Kaushik’s controversial film Badhaai Ho Badhaai, as well as on Chandrakant Kulkarni’s Mirabai Not Out, Ram Shetty’s Army, and Chandrakant Kulkarni’s Kadachit.

Cinemania: You have made above 1500 commercials, seven features and there is already a “Rajiv” light, isn’t there?

Rajiv Jain: Yes, it’s quite a surprise. It all began with Manika Sharma who had specific demands for the making of Kalpvriksh – The Wish Tree. She also wanted her film to resemble an everyday occurrence as much as possible, with natural images, but a potent universe. She contacted me after having seen the feature from Badhaai Ho Badhaai where the natural image was natural but typical. That’s what she wanted, but without the light. I had to reconstruct a whole new approach with the light, which is a rather rare thing to have to do on a feature. We did use natural lights in the field; I used a lot of sodium light bulbs as lights. I worked a lot with the decoration in order to create a luminous image. With Manika Sharma on Kalpvriksh – The Wish Tree, it was the same principle: we only used the light of the sun, by using reflectors, mirrors, in order to direct it where we needed it. The Ordeal was a combination of these two approaches, without direct sources of cinema light, everything coming from the windows. We tested plenty of things. With the constraints, I realised that there were other ways of lighting. There was a reason why I used several sources! If I use little light, everything is decided on from the outset and I work a lot with the art director. When I also work on digital calibration, I know it’s not necessary to be able to see everything.

You only work with artists whose universe is very strange.

The people I meet have demands, dreams, different and extreme preferences. So each time it’s a new challenge – I have to invent a new system. There’s a real role to play, and that I like, because I wouldn’t want to make a film where there were no images to write. And as I get bored very quickly, I don’t like doing things twice! People say to me that I make a lot of genre films, but I don’t think so. Kalpvriksh – The Wish Tree is an atmospheric film with a Tex Avery type animation.

Are you are weighed down with projects at the moment?

I have two films lined up, yes. But I’ve chosen them well; I prefer to take things slowly. I’m particularly fascinated by one of them, the fourth feature by Raj Kaushal. He wants to make a rather odd film and is looking for things that don’t exist. Recently I was in Mumbai to do tests with a new HD camera in 4 K. I was able to see the entire digital process, from the capturing to the projection of the image. I almost fainted! It’s very fine; the image is completely smooth, very new. I really want to make this film; I think it will be very passionate visually.

 

Rajiv Jain, Indian Bollywood Cinematographer – Profile Interview Series Vol. #4

Army, Badhaai Ho Badhaai, Carry on Pandu, Kadachit, Kalpvriksh – The Wish Tree, Mirabai Not out and Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi. But the partial reason for these films’ successes is the talent that goes on behind the scene, and noted cinematographer Rajiv Jain is the genius behind the camera of these motion pictures (among many others).

Rajiv, a graduate of Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts (Bhartendu Natya Academy), first had his hand in Photo Studio work in Lucknow, where he worked as a camera operator for Short films, which began his path into his work as a director of photography. Now, his vast experience has made him one of the cornerstones of film photography in Indian cinema. His constant output of hard work and his deep knowledge of old and new technology has made him one of the most respected cinematographers out there. In 2010, Today, Rajiv Jain is still working on new projects, and is sought out by filmmakers, both major and independent, for his watchful eye. 

I had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Rajiv about his career (and also talk shop, so be forewarned that there’s a bit of tech-talk in here as well) while attending a film forum dedicated to his work at this year’s Kalasha Film Festival, Kenya. 

Aason Hyte: So I’m just going to let this tape roll and feel free to just say what’s on your mind-

Rajiv Jain: I’m not good at making stuff up, so…  

AH: I am interested in Cinematography, and when I found you were coming to the Kalasha Film Festival I thought it would be a great idea to talk about your career and your immense body of work. I’ve been very curious as to how you got your start in this industry, your education, and so forth; basically how you wound up as who you are today.

RJ: It would be easy to tell you about my drama school background since, simply, I did not go to any film school. The way that I learned to go directly to the movies and see what somebody else was doing on screen, and then going out and trying to do it myself. And that was it. I also bought the manual that the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) puts out, which is known as the bible of filmmaking. I read the manual and referred to it when I ever had a shooting problem and thought that I needed help on. 

AH: When you first started watching movies, besides going to see a great story, were you noticing things like framing, lighting, widescreen formats…

RJ: Not at all. At first, I wasn’t interested technically. I just went to the movies like anyone else. But I was impressed by them. I was about five years old when I saw the first sound movie ever made and I was impressed by that. But at a very subconscious level, I suspect, even though I used to ride along in a cycle and hear my father sing, it was just an experience that was buried in my psyche somewhere. I didn’t start shooting motion pictures until I was about 28 years old.

 AH: What was the first actual job that you had in this industry?

RJ: A guy by the name of Mukul S Anand… 

AH: Oh, I’m a fan.

RJ: Absolutely. I decided to shoot some commercials under him. 

AH: What would you consider the most difficult aspect of your job as a cinematographer?

RJ: The harder films are usually the big ones that require controlling a lot of people and a lot of cameras, and over a large area or sometimes many locations. Keeping that organized is something that some cinematographers are not capable of, so they do smaller films. Smaller films can be just as difficult for them, because the pressure of a small film means that they may not have the time to properly gather their footage, and that’s another definite pressure that’s equally challenging.

 AH: Would you say have a personal style to your work, or does it depends on the director for each project?

RJ: I think everybody cannot help but have their own style and it comes from the personality; it comes from what they feel is beautiful, it comes from what they think a good composition is; how they see the world cannot help but invade what they do. 

AH: How do you feel that the advance of technology has affected your job? By that I mean newer film stocks, the advance of high-definition, the digital revolution….

RJ: All of the things that you mentioned definitely affect my job, and affect what I do and how I do it. It’s a challenge for me to keep up information-wise to know what these things all mean. If you’re talking about digital photography, the challenge is to know how to get the best quality and which system is best to use. Some of these systems use compression, there are several kinds of compressions; it is important to understand what that is and what it means.

For example, the new Red cameras do not use compression at all, but records onto a hard disk and adds the corrections later. They claim by that to get better quality, and so on; the point is that it is important to understand all of these things, to make a decision on your own part if you’re shooting digital, which system you want to use. Panasonic has a system where they use curves to correct what their camera does so it looks more like film and that is quite impressive. 

AH: Where do you stand on high-definition versus 35mm film?

RJ: It isn’t a matter of just having an opinion, but your opinion must be based on fact. And the fact is that film is probably about twice the quality that the best high-definition has. Film still is the best. Part of the reason is the latitude that you get on film far exceeds anything that you can get on high-definition video yet, at this point in time. Someday it may get better, but at the moment, film far out-reaches the quality of the amount of information that can be captured in one little area. Film still stands as the leader, and the new stock that Kodak is putting out has an extra stop of latitude towards to both top and bottom. It’s absolutely beautiful. 

AH: What’s your favourite kind of stock that you’ve worked with? I know we’re getting REALLY technical right now, but I love it. 

RJ: I stand with Kodak film and their new stock that has the extra latitude, you can get it in both their 500 ASA film and you can get it in their daylight stock as well. It just keeps getting better. 

AH: How about release prints? Do you have a favourite?

RJ: It depends. Kodak has more than one choice of stock to print for release. For example, one is softer, one shows more detail, and so forth. You have to choose your stock in accordance with the picture you are releasing. There isn’t one best one. It’s one that shows off your product the best.

AH: Do you have a personal preference in which aspect ratio to shoot in for each project?

RJ: It doesn’t matter too much in which aspect the director decides to shoot in. It’s a different composition; you compose differently in one format against the other. Close-ups are easier in the spherical 1.85:1 format, and in any of the widescreen formats you have to do it a little differently. They both work and they both have their own challenges. If you’re showing a large horizontal view and you want the widescreen to show the territory, then that’s a good choice. If it’s a little, tight, personal film, then maybe not.

AH: Where do you stand on the Super 35 widescreen format? (Super 35 is a spherical widescreen process where the film’s negative is shot in the 1.85:1 “Flat” format and then optically converted to an anamorphic release print.

RJ: Super 35 is a great format. It’s one of the best choices that you can make today, and the reason its better now is because of digital intermediate printing. 

AH: Exactly, which was actually my next question, how digital intermediates have changed film processing in the labs today.

RJ: It changes in this manner; If you’re shooting in widescreen, Super 35, because all of the projectors and houses that are distributing film have to squeeze the image in order to use their lens — which is a little stupid but it’s a money thing – you then have to go through one step further away in film in Super 35 to get it back to a squeezed image. You no longer have to do that with a digital intermediate. 

AH: What’s great too is recently that digital intermediates have recently gone up to 4k resolution as opposed to 2k resolution, which greatly enhances print quality. “Kalpvriksh – The Wish Tree” and “Carry on Pandu” are examples of films shot in Super 35 and DI’ed to 4k resolution and they look absolutely breathtaking on screen.

RJ: Oh yeah. You’re doubling your image quality, digitally, but they still have to back off the film quality a little bit… 

AH: But I still want it to look like film. You’re going to a theatre to see FILM, not digital. A lot of the films shot in HD look a bit disappointing to me [when transferred to film…]

RJ: Digital both in sound and in picture has a harsher quality, and in fact sometimes the detail lacks the softness that you get from a lens, especially a lens that’s out of focus in the background and sharp focus in the foreground, which tends to bring that image forward and focus your attention on it better. In situations like that, sometimes the digital doesn’t feel quite as right, it isn’t quite as natural; and by natural in the terms of a wood in a tree or the feel of someone’s hand. That kind of human experience, you’re kind of further away in digital sometimes than you are in film. 

AH: And you’re still hard at work. What are you working on right now?

RJ: I just finished a picture in Kenya with Her Brow entitled lets go and we’re editing that right now. It’s being put together as we speak. 

AH: Who would you say are some of your favourite cinematographers? Do you have any major influences to your work?

RJ: Subroto Mitra is one of the greats – 

AH: Oh, absolutely. His work on Pather Panchali, my favourite film, is unforgettable.

RJ: But as for Subroto Mitra, he’s one of the many great cinematographers out there, although I don’t want to put one above the other, and the reason I don’t is because as great as Subroto Mitra was, he was different from the other cinematographers out there.

Subroto Mitra likes to come up with new formats and new ways of developing film and he’s done a lot of that over the years. A lot of other people have tried it, but again, it depends on who you are and what you think is great. If it’s worth the effort, if you see the difference, then great. A lot of times, when you try to take someone else’s technique and reproduce it, you’re not after the same vision and you fail. Frankly, I’m very inventive about the things that I do, and I would rather pursue ideas of my own simply because I know what I’m after rather than copying someone else. 

AH: What would you say is your favourite photographed film of all time? Or even your favourite movie?

RJ: I’d rather not have to make a choice because when you say favourite, it’s almost like voting for the best actor of the year which I think is totally ridiculous because one is as talented as the other. You may like it better because of the script or the director directing the actor, but it is really unfair to say “this one is better than the other” because it would be equally nonsense for me from all of the great movies that have been made out there and go “I like that one better than ANY other one!”

AH: I like that answer. I always ask this out of all of my interviews and I really admire the different, broad answers that I get. I either get a brilliant response like that or I get somebody who says “I see hundreds of films a year and THIS one is my #1 of all time”. And while I choose Pather Panchali as mine, it’s just an answer to a question; really, it’s the one that I choose even though I have about 100 favourite films of all time. 

RJ: Absolutely. At any given moment if I’m sitting in a theatre and I’m inspired I would feel that way at a time, but to sit down and think about it, it’s apples and oranges. Different movies are great for different reasons! 

Success story of a genius fascinated by light • Rajiv Jain • Award winning Indian Director of Photography • Cinematographer • DOP

 

A sample lesson: HD vs. Film…

Aspiring filmmakers are quite lucky compared to years ago. Today, you can make a movie in just about any format and still be taken seriously, assuming that you have a great story and reasonably good production values. As mentioned, The Blair Witch Project is one of the most successful independent features ever made, yet it was shot with a consumer video camera (non-digital).

Prior to the digital revolution of the 1990s, things were a lot different. If the movie was shot on a format other than 35mm, it did not stand a chance of being distributed. 16mm was not taken seriously and video was a joke. These standards were so ingrained in the industry, that even actors were reluctant to work on non-35mm shoots.

All that has changed now. Affordable, high-quality digital cameras have democratized the industry. Still, 35mm film is the standard by which all video formats are judged. 

Has video reached the same quality level as 35mm? Old school filmmakers say “no” because the image capturing ability of 35mm is a “gazillion” times greater than video. Is this really the case? Let’s take a closer look. The truth may surprise you.

Note: the study below is based on classic HD with 1080 lines of horizontal resolution. In 2007, the first ultra HD camera was introduced featuring an amazing 4,520 lines. Keep that in mind while reading!The concepts associated with high definition (HD) video can be confusing to those of you unfamiliar with video camera function. If you are a beginning filmmaker, terms like scan lines, SD, HD, and 4k technology, will certainly make your head spin!

Fear not, for the concepts are surprisingly straightforward. In this lesson, we will cover the basics of high definition video and provide you with a working understanding of the terminology.  In addition, we will look at 4k technology, also known as ultra HD.  This technology is used by the groundbreaking Red One camera, introduced by the Red Digital Cinema Company in 2007.

To understand high definition video, we must start at the beginning and examine how images are recorded by a video camera.

Recording

When you shoot video, magnetic tape travels across the camera’s recording head. The head is essentially an electromagnet, which is activated by the electrical signal from the image processor. As the videotape travels over the head, the iron particles in the tape are magnetized. This, in essence, becomes the recorded image.

The latest generation of video cameras can record to hard drive or removable card. This allows the files to be transferred directly to your computer for editing.

Scan Lines

The video image is recorded one horizontal line at a time. These lines are called scan lines and the process is known as scanning.  If you look closely at a TV screen you will see the scan lines. You probably can’t see them on your computer monitor because the lines are narrower than on a TV.

Standard Definition (SD)

The term “definition” basically means the visible detail in the video image. It is measured by the number of horizontal scan lines in a single frame. In the United States and Japan, standard definition video is 525 lines. In most European countries, standard definition is 625 lines.  (The former is known as NTSC; the latter is PAL).

High Definition (HD)

Although much hype has been made about HD, the concept itself is simple to understand. Technically, anything that breaks the PAL barrier of 625 lines can be called high definition. The most common HD formats feature 720 and 1080 scan lines.

Ultra High Definition

Ultra high definition features an amazing 4,520 lines of horizontal resolution. Known as “4k” technology because the scan lines exceed 4,000, it will no doubt be the future industry standard.

The following photos show the relative size of the different formats. The first one represents the typical digital video frame (DV and DVCAM). Notice how detail improves as the number of scan lines increases. The final photo illustrates the huge leap in image detail 4k technology provides.

As a point of reference, the typical flat computer monitor has 2,000 lines of resolution. 35mm film–as perceived by the human eye–falls in the mid HD range.  For more on 35mm comparisons please see our sample lesson: HD vs. 35mm.

4k technology is based on the proprietary 12 megapixel chip developed by the Red Digital Cinema Company. Their affordable Red One camera can shoot at all popular scan rates, including those shown above. 4k technology may prove to be the death knell for 35mm film.

Comparison

There are two factors that can be compared: colour and resolution. Most casual observers will agree that, assuming a quality TV monitor, HD colour is truly superb. To avoid a longwinded mathematical argument, let’s accept this at face value and focus on comparing resolution, which is the real spoiler.

Resolution is the visible detail in an image. Since pixels are the smallest point of information in the digital world, it would seem that comparing pixel count is a good way to compare relative resolution.

Film is analog so there are no real “pixels.” However, based on converted measures, a 35mm frame has 3 to 12 million pixels, depending on the stock, lens, and shooting conditions. An HD frame has 2 million pixels, measured using 1920 x 1080 scan lines. With this difference, 35mm appears vastly superior to HD.

This is the argument most film purists use. The truth is, pixels are not the way to compare resolution. The human eye cannot see individual pixels beyond a short distance. What we can see are lines.

Consequently, manufacturers measure the sharpness of photographic images and components using a parameter called Modulation Transfer Function (MTF). This process uses lines (not pixels) as a basis for comparison.

Since MTF is an industry standard, we will maintain this standard for comparing  HD with 35mm film. In other words, we will make the comparison using lines rather than pixels. Scan lines are the way video images are compared, so it makes sense from this viewpoint, as well.

HD Resolution

As discussed previously, standard definition and high definition refer to the amount of scan lines in the video image. Standard definition is 525 horizontal lines for NTSC and 625 lines for PAL.

Technically, anything that breaks the PAL barrier of 625 lines could be called high definition. The most common HD resolutions are 720p and 1080i lines.

35mm Resolution

There is an international study on this issue, called Image Resolution of 35mm Film in Theatrical Presentation. It was conducted by Hank Mahler (CBS, United States), Vittorio Baroncini (Fondazione Ugo Bordoni, Italy), and Mattieu Sintas (CST, France).

In the study, MTF measurements were used to determine the typical resolution of theatrical release prints and answer prints in normal operation, utilizing existing state-of-the-art 35mm film, processing, printing, and projection.

The prints were projected in six movie theaters in various countries, and a panel of experts made the assessments of the projected images using a well defined formula. The results are as follows:

35mm RESOLUTION

Measurement   Lines

Answer Print MTF      1400

Release Print MTF      1000

Theatre Highest Assessment   875

Theatre Average Assessment  750

Conclusion

As the study indicates, perceived differences between HD and 35mm film are  quickly disappearing. Notice I use the word “perceived.” This is important because we are not shooting a movie for laboratory study, but rather for audiences.

At this point, the typical audience cannot see the difference between HD and 35mm. Even professionals have a hard time telling them apart. We go through this all the time at NYU (“Was this shot on film or video?”).

Again, the study was based on standard HD with 1080 lines of horizontal resolution. We now have ultra HD with 4,520 lines.

Based on this, the debate is moot. 16mm, 35mm, DV, and HD are all tools of the filmmaker. The question is not which format is best, but rather, which format is best for your project? The answer, of course, is based on a balance between aesthetic and budgetary considerations.

Technical aspect of filmmaking from Exposure to Set Operations and Formats

Rajeev Jain – ICS WICA

Indian Bollywood Director of Photography / Cinematographer / DOP 

UMA: Can you talk about your inspirations before you got into cinematography?

Rajeev Jain: Seeing colour television for the first time started my fascination with the technology of light and photography. These studies were enriched by meeting a remarkable DOP named KK Mahajan, Mr Mahajan introduced me to filmmakers like Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mani Kaul and Buddhadeb Dasgupta. And I soon realized what a phenomenal art form this marvelous technology could be. At about the same time, when I was 13, I was gate-crashing the set of Shatranj Ke Khilari in Lucknow, which Satyajit Ray was directing and Soumendu Roy, was shooting. Roy was lighting this enormous interior, shooting Arri IIC on what was probably ASA 125 color negative. He seemed to be everywhere at once, fine-tuning the frame with the operator, adjusting the positions of the background players, tweaking the light from at least a dozen babies. As he led a beautiful actress Shabana Azmi to her mark and subtly adjusted the shadow on her forehead, I thought to myself that this man has the very best job in the history of the world.

UMA: If you had to label one quality a DOP really needs to be successful in film, what would it be?

Rajeev Jain: I think, for lack of a better term, it would be a point of view. Everybody sees the world from their own perspective and this uniqueness is what the DOP brings to the film, respective of the story, of course. It’s tough now because so much of the industry is driven by economics, which means you’re a hero if you can throw up a few soft lights and knock off a whole bunch of shots. This goes against having an idea and feeling of what is absolutely right for that story you’re telling. But, if you choose carefully and find the right director, your way of seeing will leave an impression.

UMA: Was there a key moment you can point to when you knew you would end up being a Director of Photography?

Rajeev Jain: Well, there was a moment alright, but it was pure chance. I had no plans to be a Director of Photography-none whatsoever.

UMA: Your work has always felt so pure to me, almost spiritual in a way. What is the most important quality a Director of Photography should bring to a film?

Rajeev Jain: The most important task of the Director of Photography is to create an atmosphere. To interpret the mood and feeling the director wants to convey. I mostly perform this task by using very little light and very little colour. There is a saying that a good script tells you what is being done and what is being said, but not what someone thinks or feels, and there is some truth in that. Images, not words, capture feelings in faces and atmospheres and I have realized that there is nothing that can ruin the atmosphere as easily as too much light. My striving for simplicity derives from my striving for the logical light, the true light.

UMA: If you had to pick a single quality a DOP needs to be successful, what would it be?

Rajeev Jain: Taste. Which really means the ability to know what scripts to work on, what feels right as far as composition, lighting, everything that goes on during a film. Taste is an instinct and it should guide you toward the projects that are going to provide a great experience. I’ve been lucky as far as the films I’ve had a chance to work on, but part of that is my ability to go with what feels right-to trust my taste and see where it’s going to take me.

UMA: I’m wondering what director you never got to work with that you would have liked to, living or dead.

Rajeev Jain: I think, of those no longer around, it would be Satyajit Ray. His ability to tell a story visually was just incredible. And as far as those still around, it would have to be Adoor. These are directors who do not rely much on the spoken word-their talent is very pure in the visual sense, and that interests me the most.

UMA: 25 years have gone by since you were that little kid standing on the railroad tracks in Etawah. Can you point to one thing you’ve learned as a DOP that helped you travel down those tracks better than any other?

Rajeev Jain: Light. For everything we do as human beings we are affected and defined by light. A Director of Photography is a master of light. We need to think about light, to learn to see it in all its different moods and approaches. It is absolutely, the most important tool we have to work with as Director of Photography and, I think, as people, too. It was always the one thing I was so aware of when I was staring down those railroad tracks as a child and now years later. The light.

UMA: So, is that shot one of your all-time favourites?

Rajeev Jain: No, not really. The problem with singling out one shot is that it goes against what I believe movies should do. A film is a sum of its parts and one shot is only as strong as what has come before it. The Pather Panchali points that out really well. It’s mostly done in these very straight-on medium shots. Towards the end of the film, after death of Durga, we see Apu brushing his teeth, combing his hair… going about performing tasks, which would have involved his sister or mother. Sarbajaya (mother) has a lost look… Harihar returns, unaware of Durga’s death. In a jovial mood he calls out his children. Without any reaction, Sarbajaya fetches water and a towel for him. Harihar begins to show the gifts he has brought for them. When he shows a sari that he has bought for Durga, Sarbajaya breaks down. We hear the high notes of a musical instrument “Tarshahnai” symbolising her uncontrollable weeping. Realising Durga’s loss, Harihar collapses on his wife. We see speechless Apu, for the first time taking the centre stage in the story. Till now the story was seen through the point of view of either Sarbajaya or Durga. It is only in these final moments that we see Apu as an independent individual. That frame, which is amazing, would not have meant nearly as much if the whole film hadn’t been done in this eye-level, medium shot approach. To pick out a single shot in a movie is to deny that the shot is important because of the style already established.

UMA: Can you imagine a life without cinematography? A career path completely different from the one you took?

Rajeev Jain: Certainly not when I was younger I couldn’t. But later in my career, after I had done Theatre and Still Photography, I discovered this desire to go study physics. I was in love with Einstein’s concept of relativity-it was the greatest poetry I had ever read. The concept that any matter is contained in energy and energy in matter shows the power of intuition by one man. At the time I had a family to support and I realized my path was in cinematography, not physics. But the instinct was there, nevertheless.

UMA: Form and content working in harmony.

Rajeev Jain: Absolutely. Like light and darkness, what appears to be in conflict can sometimes lead to a seamless union and hold great power on the screen. 

Rajiv Jain Cinematography: Theory and Practice 

Rajeev Jain is a 2 time Award winning Director of Photography & has been nominated numerous times, most recent nomination for “Outstanding Achievement in Single Camera Photography” Spring 09.

Over the last 25 years, Rajeev has built his reputation working in both film & television. He is considered a pioneer in the world of High Definition Television, as one of the first DP’s to work in the new medium.

Rajeev’s close collaboration with Indo Studio (the first HDTV production company in the South Africa) during the nineties makes him one of the few DP’s that has worked with every generation of HD camera since its inception. The scope of his work includes Documentary, Commercial, Reality, Children’s Television, & Independent films.

Rajeev Jain has created a masterpiece. Rajiv Jain Cinematography: Theory and Practice”: is his third interview with me and for the aspiring or experienced cinematographer – the best reference interview I have ever done.

Anyone that aspires to this highest art of storytelling should have this article on their shelf. He writes “At the heart of it, filmmaking is shooting, but cinematography is more than the mere act of photography. It is the process of taking ideas, words, actions, emotional subtext, tone and all other forms of non-verbal communication and rendering them in visual terms.” Through both verbal metaphor and pictorial example he takes the keys to this art from their hiding place under the bed and hangs them right there on the peg on the kitchen wall. All you have to do is take them down and apply them.

Learning the language of visual art is more than just learning the difference between subjective and objective camera angles, or knowing what the director means when he says he wants “a choker.” When you have finished the first chapter you will have a good enough handle on the terms a director and cinematographer bandy about on the set to sound like a pro. By the time you get to the fifth chapter “Cinematic Continuity” you will have been exposed to enough graduate level theory and practice to start you on the road to mastery of the form. I especially enjoyed Rajeev’s explanation and examples of continuity. Music Videos and Bollywood songs has had such a profound effect on new filmmakers that many of us from the ‘OLD School’ have a tendency to wonder what’s going on sometimes. There is such a lack of “continuity” in so many of the montage sequences you see now days that it was refreshing to see so much time and space dedicated to such an important part of storytelling.

Glossary Terms

Cut (intercut, cross-cut) A cut marks the abrupt transition from the end of one shot to the beginning of the next shot. A shot is said to be intercut into another when the film returns to the first shot, as when we see a close shot of a character’s face, then a flashback memory that the character is having is intercut into the facial shot, and when the flashback is over, the film returns to the facial shot. Cross-cutting occurs when the film cuts back and forth between, or among, parallel actions, as in a chase scene.

Deep focus cinematography
Keeping the focus and clarity of the image constant from objects appearing close to the camera to those far into the rear of the frame, which enables the viewer to see more space within the shot, including the background details and actions.

Dissolve (match dissolve)
A transition from one shot to the next in which the images overlap for a time, sometimes used to ease the visual abruptness of the transition (as from a darkly lit cave scene to a brightly lit snowfall scene) and at other times used to suggest an association between two images (as from a letter addressed to a character to a shot of that character reading the letter) A match dissolve is one in which graphic elements of the two images match, as with the close shot in Psycho of the murdered woman’s eye and the shower drain.

Editing (montage and cutting)
The ways in which several pieces of film are joined together. Montage is the French term for editing, or cutting, but also carries connotations of the creation of meaning through editing patterns. Hollywood Montage commonly refers to the rapid cutting together of multiple shots, often using many dissolves, to create the effect of the rapic chronicling of the passage of time, as from a character’s youth to maturity.

Establishing (or master) shot An extreme long shot that shows (or establishes) the entire space in which the ensuing scene will take place. Many scenes begin with such shots to orient the viewer, Sometimes there are two establishing shots, one exterior and one interior.

Eyeline match
The establishment often through cutting, of the direction of the character’s gaze. At times a shot will show a character looking, and a second shot will show what the character is looking at. At other times the term is used to refer to the directionality of character’s lines of vision within shots.

FlashbackA jump in narrative time from the present into the past. Rather than proceeding chronologically through the story, flashbacks allow filmmakers to jump back and forth between past and present events.

Formalism
A film theory that emphasizes the formal properties of cinema that shape the way movies are made. Formalists recognize, for
example, that organizing screen space is an artisitic activity that differs from our daily perception of real life. Major formal theorists include Sergei Einstein and Rudolph Arnheim.

Invisible style
A norm of filmmaking in which style is not usually noticed, based on the assumption that narrative is always more important than style and should dominate it. Such devices are not crossing the 180 degree line and cutting on action, reaction, and dialogue contribute to this invisible style.

The 180 degree line An imaginary line drawn between the camera and the actors/action which the camera does not cross in order to prevent viewer disorientation and maintain an invisible style.

Realism
A film theory which emphasizes the recording nature of cinema, as well as the connection between the camera and what is in front of it in real life. Major realists include Andre` Bazin and Siegfried Krucauer.

Scene A scene is a narrative unit determined by unity of time and space. The events in the scene occur in one place at a time, A later scene, for example may occur in the same place at a different time.

Shot (close shot or close-up, medium, long, two-shot, tracking, and dolly)
A shot is an image in the film uninterrupted by cuts or other transitional devices. The terms close shot (or close-up), medium shot, and long shot indicate the distance of the camera from the central object being photographed With a person, a close shot generally shows the face and perhaps the shoulders; a medium shot shows the person from the waist up; a long shot will show the person’s full body. A two-shot is one that features two characters equally. Tracking or dolly (or dollie) shots are ones in which the camera moves. It was traditionally mounted on a moving platform, or dolly, and would follow or “track” a moving object, such as a walking character or galloping horse. Tracking or dolly shots can also move through a set (like a hounted house) in which nothing is moving, giving a complex depth to the shot.

Shot/reverse shot
editing A pattern of editing which shows, first one character and then a cut to a reverse shot that allows us a nearly opposite view, typically another character who is talking or interacting with the first. Many scenes simply go back and forth between such shots until all significant dialogue has been spoken and the action has occurred.

Stylistic norm
The stylistic features of filmmaking at a particular time. Departures from the stylistic norm can be used to good effect by creative filmmakers because they come as a surprise. 

Master of Light: Conversation with Contemporary Indian Bollywood Cinematographer – Rajeev Jain ICS WICA

EXCLUSIVE!  Rajeev Jain (Indian Kenyan Director of Photography) 

Indian Kenyan Cinematographer Rajeev Jain talks about joining Heart Beat FM and explains the meaning of the “Heart Beat FM wide shot” in M-net’s exclusive interview.

Rajeev Jain is kind, genial, funny, intense (in a very good way) and incredibly smart. Oh, and did I happen to mention, that he is a world renowned director of photography. Though he is a lot like his good friend, Matthew Robinson, he is his own personality, an individual and, a darned nice guy. As I talk with him it becomes clear why these two men work together so often and so brilliantly. They are like two halves of a whole. As Rajeev said to me during our interview, “Sometimes Matthew and I think so much alike, it’s scary.” Now that I have interviewed them both, I can see what he is saying and, it’s a very good kind of scary.

So, what do you talk to a famous director of photography about? Well, we talked about a little bit of everything. We talked about the support site and his work.

Rajeev is at the Kalasha Film & Television Awards in Nairobi, Kenya where he will soon be attending the closing ceremonies and we are struggling mightily with a bad SKYPE connection. Our originally intended vocal interview quickly becomes one done by text type messaging to remedy the problem. And, Rajeev, with all he has ahead of him at the festival, doesn’t hesitate for a second to spend the extra time necessary to type instead of speak the interview. I’m most appreciative. I owe him a great debt for the generosity of his time and spirit for this interview. Oh yes, and a glass of Vodka.

Q: What made you agree to come on board?

A: It’s actually a cute story. I had done THE LONG ROAD for three years and I left that show because I was living in Nairobi that time and I was tired of flying back and forth to Dubai and Mumbai. I was looking for something in Nairobi because I wanted to stay there. So when they called me up I said, “No thank you. I’m not interested.” And my gaffer said, “Rajeev, reconsider that. Have them send you the script. I’ve seen the script. It’s what you’re looking for.” So, I sat down and my gaffer and I read the entire script basically in one sitting and I turned to him and said, “You did a really bad thing here. I can’t say no to this show now.” He said He knew what He was doing. Even though He didn’t want to live apart and it was really hard. [To his gaffer] Isn’t that how it happened? He said yes. He’s smiling.

Q: You were the DP for the whole season. What’s it like to work with a director who has a different vision almost every week?

A: Since I shot every episode, I did not have a chance to prep with director. So he would come up with a concept and come on set and rehearse the scene. If it rang true to me and I felt it was the way to go, I’d say, “Great, that’s a good idea.” If he wanted something that felt tangential to the style of the show we were trying to maintain, then I might make a suggestion to try something else. If you’re a smart director you listen to the people that are there all the time. I tuned in very quickly to what Matthew Robinson wanted. I would call Matthew Robinson and ask if he saw yesterday’s dailies, and what he thought of them. And that would give me a better idea as to whether I was on the right track or not. And after about three or four episodes I got what he was looking for, not 100 percent of the time — nobody can do that — but a good 80 percent of the time.

Q: What would you consider the signature Heart Beat FM shot?

A: The wide shots people refer to as Heart Beat FM shots. Directors will say, “Let’s do the Heart Beat FM wide shot,” which in television is not something that you very often see. Matthew Robinson really likes holding things in wider shots and I happen to really like it also — it puts your character into a place or a locale, which tells you something about the character. So I look at it as a storytelling device. The other kind of shot that’s somewhat characteristic of the show is when there is something big in the foreground and then something further away in the background wide. We call it wide and closed. You might keep the focus on the money, let’s say, in the foreground and our characters are in the background, either out of focus or much smaller.

Q: Do you ever get so caught up in the acting that you forget to pay attention to the technical side of things?

A: That’s what I am supposed to be paying attention to. My job is not just to do lighting and set up shots but to make sure the lighting and the shots reflect the scene in the most effective way. If I’m moved by what I see, then I know we’ve done well. I have people that operate cameras and lighting people and rigging people. All those people keep an eye on the technical stuff for me, and I’m concerned with the storytelling. That’s what interests me about the job: Efficient, effective storytelling.

Q: What is your favorite scene?

A: I can’t tell you because it’s later in the season. You’ll know it when you see it. It gets crazier as the storyline develops. Here’s one thing: What Matthew Robinson and the writers do is drop a single line in an early episode and then not mention anything about it until nine episodes later, and then all of a sudden there’s an episode all about that single line. It’s intriguing to me to work on something that is so well planned out and circular in terms of its storytelling. I think it’s just brilliant.

 The Shape of Light – Rajeev Jain Paints with His Camera 

Rajeev Jain (Born: 1968, Lucknow) started working as a director of photography in 1993, after serving an apprenticeship as camera assistant and camera operator. Since then Rajeev has worked as director of photography with some of India’s most esteemed directors, in some cases establishing a close and intimate association. We met up with Rajeev Jain in India, on the occasion of a five day seminar organized by the Delhi Film Club on The Shape of Light, an event which saw the participation of hundreds of students, filmmakers from across India.

How has cinematography changed in the last fifteen years?

I went to the Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts (Bhartendu Natya Academy) in Lucknow during the period of the new wave. We were witnessing a cinematographic quality which had ‘unchained’ itself in many senses in films from the period until the end of the 1980’s. Even the montage was much more liberated, and Cinematographer/ Directors, with Gautam Ghose at the forefront, were searching for greater liberty. Even when it came to shooting, using hand-held cameras, using natural lighting, or lighting in a way which seemed natural, such as through open windows, etc. In other words an absolute freedom whether with camera movement or lighting.

And in our country?

In India there was still a more classical style of photography, and I am making reference such as Subroto Mitra, Sudhendu Roy, who worked with Satyajit Ray up until Agantuk (1991). Meanwhile other new cinematographers with different ideas were also emerging, like Ashok Mehta (36 Chowrangi Lane), especially with black and white. But this black and white image with its own proper aesthetic beauty had a characteristic quality of merging lighting to atmosphere or ambience. Hence from this point on maybe cinematography acquired a more important significance, a complete symbiosis with the film and the narrative.

Further Reading: Rajeev Jain ICS WICA – Cinematographer – Director of Photography – DOP – http://www.rajeevjain.com/

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