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T436 - Fall 2012 - Week 1

Welcome to T436 Digital Video Cinematography!

Goals this semester:

  • Learn digital video cinematography
  • Create high quality short stories
  • Produce 2 half-hour episodes of Small Screen Cinema for WTIU (7th year!)

T436 is an advanced production class with lectures, demonstrations, exercises, quizzes, etc., but we’re also a production team tasked with producing 2 TV shows for WTIU.

I’m going to function as executive producer for the show and oversee the entire process. You will function as producer/directors, directors of photography (DP), camera operators, assistant camera operators (focus pullers), audio engineers, gaffers, production assistants, and sometimes even talent. If all goes well, you will all get a chance to either produce or direct and function in all of the other production roles.

While this is a class on cinematography - the heart of it all is storytelling. Our goal is to tell compelling stories and keep our viewers glued to the screen wondering "what's going to happen next?"

To functionwell in a key role (producer, director, director of photography or edito)- you really have to understand how to tell a story.

Audience - You also have to understand who your audience is. Our audience are primarily adults in the WTIU viewing area. While kids and college students might certainly watch the show- our typical target audience viewer is someone older than yourself.

One goal (of many): a viewer watching the show will have no idea it was made by college students.

Expectations - I expect professionalism, dedication and commitment. Always show up and be on time. You must be highly communicative (especially producers and directors).

Review syllabus

Pretest/Class expected outcome (My chance to see what you know as we begin and your chance to mold the class.)

Class Outline/Timetable

The first 4-5 weeks will be spent covering techniques, looking at examples, and finding and selecting stories to shoot. In addition we'll also need to hold a a virtual actor's callout session by mid-late September.

The next 6 weeks will be spent producing short stories

During Weeks 11 and 12 we’ll pick the best stories and write the introduction and segues.

During Week 13, we’ll shoot the introduction, segues, and wrap-up.

Week 14 will be the final program assembly

During Week 15 we’ll showcase the finished program(s)

During Week 16, we’ll celebrate with a wrap party and screening somewhere (Buskirk Chumley, IU Cinema, The Bishop, etc.).

Immediate need is to get at least 12-15 high quality stories to produce.

Skill Sets

You will be taught and evaluated on the following:

  • Understanding of video technology & cinematography techniques
  • Rating ASA/ISO of Video Cameras
  • Proper use of a cine light meter
  • Lighting skills and technology
  • Key production team personnel- roles, duties & procedures


You learn to use:

  • Director’s finder
  • Spot light meter
  • 18% gray card
  • ASC Handbook
  • Grayscale chart
  • lighting and grip equipment
  • camera and related support gear

Class content----------------------------------------------------

Blain Brown book. I'd like to get through the book in the first 5-6 weeks. Readings for this week:

B Brown Introduction and Chapters 1, 2 & 3
Next week: Chapters 3, 4 & 5

In T351 and T356 if you were successful (or lucky) you shot some well-composed pictures that were decently lit.

We’re going to go a step beyond that and learn and apply cinematography techniques.

What is cinematography? The term cinematography has Greek roots (kinesis or kinema meaning movement or motion and grapho meaning writing). You can think of it as writing with motion. According to John Hora, of the ASC (American Association of Cinematographers) “Cinematography is a creative and interpretive process that culminates in the authorship of an original work of art rather than the simple recording of a physical event.”

Cinematography is an art form.

Cinematographers are not satisfied with simply capturing images that are framed well and in focus. To practice cinematography is to craft and manipulate all of the elements that contribute to a scene and shaping the viewer’s experience. We want to make all of the elements in a frame and all of the shots in a scene as meaningful as possible.

You've likely heard "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". This applies to cinematography. There are a multitude of subtle elements that contribute to a scene and how it is interpreted by a viewer. The trick is to use these elements to enhance the storytelling experience, without drawing attention to the mechanics involved in it.

Cinematography encompasses and builds upon all of the skills required by photography. You need to master lighting, exposure, depth of field, filters, image control and much more.

You will need to learn to critically assess aspects of a production related to cinematography and practice taking apart and analyzing scenes. You will learn to identify and quantify the various aspects and layers of a production. Reading and understanding the text is a great way to get started. In addition, it’s important to view examples and engage in discussion and critical analysis.

We’ll look at a number of examples in class, but you will need to go further and pursue your interest with passion outside of the classroom. (Fortunately, since you are enrolled in the class, you are probably already engaged in such activities.)

Review terms:

  • Cinematography
  • filmspace (separating 3D reality into pieces and showing them 1 at a time.)
  • Building expectation (this is what storytelling hinges on)
  • Proscenium shooting (appears flat)
  • Subjective vs Objective POV (1st person or “I”= subjective. 3rd person=objective. 2nd in the middle somewhere.) POV shots are almost always handheld.
  • Building blocks (shots)
  • Master Scene (and related elements)
  • Coverage
  • Plan scene (intentionally using a single shot as in A Touch of Evil or the Player)
  • Hitchcock’s Rule (the size of the object in the frame should equal its importance)
  • Composition (from chapter 2 “lens language” It has many great examples): Must be able to identify/discuss techniques or elements of cinematic visual design (other than the rule of thirds)
    • Unity, balance, visual tension, rhythm, proportion, contrast, texture, etc.


Lab Outline:

  • Review agenda
  • Introductions (What are you interested in creating/producing?)
  • Review pretest
  • Finish content from lecture
  • Talk about overall class, its structure, and timeline
  • Gear covered/used (Z7Us, Arri kits, Kino light kits, light meters, slates, etc.)
  • Discuss if there is a need for call outs for story submissions and talent.
  • Talent Pool webpage & Listserv: Actors can send in headshots and resumes.
  • Facebook page (hopefully this will take the place of the talent web page)
  • Cover crew positions: Producer, Director, DP, AC, Gaffer, Sound, PAs. Some posiitons require a considerable amount of advance planning, thought, and communication.
  • Discuss process for pairing directors and ideas.
  • Draw straws for Cinema Analysis Report schedule. We'll have two 10-minute reports every week starting during week 3 (not week 2).
  • Review homework assignment and readings
  • Brief discussion of what makes film look like film. WHat can you do to give video more of a "film look"?
  • Carry out Week 1 Scene Fragment rotation exercise

Week 1 "Film look" Scene Fragment exercise (10 points):

You will shoot a scene that looks as much like film as possible (given the limited shooting conditions). In the scene one person will be waiting for another. The second person shows up, and they leave together.


  • Shoot in HDV 1080i
  • Try to make it look as much like film as possible (Think carefully about this. There are multiple techniques to employ with regard to both shooting and blocking.)
  • Use no more than 4 shots.
  • Output an HDV Quicktime file. Place a copy (saved as your username) in the T436 dropbox before the start of the week 2 lab. (You can use the T354 drive in the lab computers.)
  • Write a critique (to turn in with your tape) that explains what is going on in your scene and critiques your work.


Bring in at least 2 treatments for projects that could be reasonably produced in T436. (Due at the start of Week 2's lab.)

Carry out the T436 Cinema Analysis assignment. (Due the lecture of your scheduled presentation time.)



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