Four Great Sites to Learn Cinematography

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A grew up in NYC so I had some opportunities to get on some low to mid-budget film sets and work in the camera department after college. I was the Steadicam operator on an indie film called Blissful Thinking and from there started to DP films for my friends (all ultra-low budget stuff).

By the way, this is at a time well before DSLR's and way before every Tom, Dick, Harry (and Jane) wanted to be a filmmaker or a Youtube star and certainly before good cameras were affordable. If you remember the camera in this photo below you are on the right track. This is when indie films were truly indie.

The Canon XL-1 in all its glory. 

The Canon XL-1 in all its glory. 

Now that I've moved to upstate NY, chances to get on a working set are far fewer. If you find yourself in a big city, the best place to learn is on a set, working your way up the ranks of the camera department. If that's not a possibility, here are some cool websites to start learning how to shape light and shadow (but it's up to you to go and get some practice):

1. Shane's Inner Circle

(https://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/shanesinnercircle)

Shane Hurlbut is a Hollywood DP whose work includes We Are Marshall, Terminator Salvation, Need for Speed and most recently, AMC's Into the Badlands. He's the guy you heard Christian Bale freak out on! 

The Inner Circle is a subscription fee site that gets you access to a ton of very insightful weekly lightly tutorials and podcasts where Shane shows you how to light different scenes and different setups. He also talks about lighting theory, does in depth tests on cameras and lenses, and brings you on set to show how he lights Hollywood level productions.

There's a ton of useful info here for beginners and pros and new content is put out weekly. If I had one complaint to make, it's that old content that was released before you became a member is not part of your subscription and needs to be purchased. 

One of my favorite parts of Shane's Inner Circle is the private Facebook group which leads me to number two:

2. Shane's Inner Circle Facebook Group

Part of your membership includes access to a "secret" Facebook group where other members of the Inner Circle share their work, ask and answer questions, share light setups, and converse about gear. It's not just a bunch of noobs asking what camera they should buy with the $2000 they scrounged up (looking at you NoFilmSchool forums). 

It's insightful to see what other DP's and aspiring DP's are up to and get feedback on your work, but you can only access this group by joining the Inner Circle.

3. Matthew Scott Cinematography Blog

(http://mattscottvisuals.com/)

This guy is fantastic. I believe he's Australian, he curses a lot, and creates really nice video tutorials as well as very detailed blog posts with awesome lighting diagrams from his work. If you're looking for free content and lighting schematics to try, check out his blog. 

He goes into a great amount of detail about what particular light he used, it's color temperature, and his motivation for why he used it in the way he did. He also has some great tutorials on color grading.

He's not a Hollywood DP - just a guy struggling to break into the upper ranks - but he does the aspiring DP community a great service with his work.

4. Cinematography Database

(http://www.cinematographydb.com/)

Cinematography Database is run by Matt Workman who I first saw at the CineSummit a year or so ago. He's a working DP who puts together some podcasts with other industry pros.

Cinematography Database also includes a Youtube channel were Matt makes videos about general cinematography (usually in response to questions people have asked him) and he has also created a C4D plugin called Cine Designer which can be used by cinematographers who want to create highly detailed previz samples for upcoming shoots. 

Cine Designer lets you visualize your camerawork and lighting in 3D. You can build out a model of the set you'll be shooting on, then use Cine Designer to set up a virtual camera and lighting (all based on real lights, cameras, and grip equipment) You can test the setup on 3D models you import and then crank the render settings up or down for a basic previz example or a highly detailed one.

I am a C4D user, but I'm back on R14 and Cine Designer only works with R16 and R17. To get up and running you would need to purchase Cine Designer ($525) as well as Cinema 4D - it's a bit cost prohibitive though it's one of the easiest 3D software packages to learn.

CONCLUSION

These are the places I go to learn more about cinematography. There are also a couple of Youtube channels, Film Riot and Kinetek being amongst them, where you can also find some interesting information about lighting.

So what did I miss? If you know a good place to learn cinematography let me know (and pls don't suggest Tom Antos - he's the Nicolas Cage of Youtube IMO).