How to bridge the gap between Amateur and Professional film making
by Dave Mobbs – May 10th, 2016
X-Rite Coloratti Adrian Weinbrecht is a commercial photographer and video director based in London. Originally from Australia, Adrian was born to a German Father and Australian mother. This fortunate mix makes him highly professional and efficient, but also laid back. He loves dogs, but the responsibility makes him nervous. So instead he has 3x children. He takes the craft of visual content creation very seriously, but doesn’t take himself too seriously. To sum up his approach he quotes Ansell Adams ‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it’
Adrian directed and shot the new ColorChecker Video for X-Rite.
Afterwards, we caught up with him to talk about how he creates great video and the key things that will allow amateurs to make the step from good to great.
X-Rite: If you had to define one key difference between professionals and amateurs in one word, what would it be?
X-Rite: How does that consistency manifest itself in the final product?
AW: If you’re shooting across different days, with varied environments and mixed lighting conditions, then an amateur may get lucky with some of the setups , a professional will ensure that the clips fit together seamlessly. This comes down to controlling light, composition and color, and you can tell the difference when they haven’t been fully considered.
X-Rite: What are the fundamentals of achieving that consistency?
AW: Firstly, experience. The key thing here is to shoot. You have to get exposure to doing different things, creating different shots, and learning.
Secondly, you need a clear technical understanding of what you’re doing. Knowledge bears no weight, so you need to learn veraciously. I spend time at the cinema, I’m looking at how it was shot, how the color palette affects the scene and a host of other things.
Thirdly, you need the tools to fulfil that technical understanding.
X-Rite: So, you can have the knowledge, but you need the kit bag as well. Is it all about having the best and most expensive gear?
AW: Absolutely not. It is much more about understanding the tools you do have and maximising the potential of those tools. To illustrate this, if we are shooting on a DSLR, instead of high end cinema camera like a Red Dragon, there is a difference in the dynamic range and we need to be aware of that. We need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the camera and maximise those strengths, whilst avoiding the weaknesses. No single camera or lens is perfect for everything.
Very often you can do this by doing pre-shoot testing. With a DSLR, experiment in Log, use an X-Rite ColorChecker to get a sense of performance and signal processing. A pre-shoot test can really help you understand the chosen tools and how you’re going to get the best results.
X-Rite: You talk about preparation there. Do you know exactly what you’re going to shoot before you start?
AW: Not completely, I suppose sometimes yes. When we’re in a studio environment we have a very strong outline of what we’re going to do, but very often we won’t know exactly how a day will pan out and we need to adjust based on what’s happening and what we want to achieve.
That being said, preparation, particularly when there are moving parts involved is crucial, and if budget allows we try and incorporate a technical scout day before we shoot, so we can asses lighting conditions and various other elements which may affect the shoot. At the same time, we don’t live in a perfect world. External factors can change plans and we need to adapt and make the best of the situation. The technical understanding of light as well as the knowledge of your equipment we talked about earlier, means you can respond.
X-Rite: Adrian, you come from a stills background and are now doing more and more video work. There are many photographers making the same journey what are the key differences that people need to be aware of?
AW: The first thing for photographers moving to video, is to get their head around ‘narrative’. You really need to understand how a sequence of images link together to create a story.
Secondly, you need to give plenty of thought on how best to tell that story. Do you want the camera to be steady or shaky, still or moving, wide angle or close up? All of these will influence how the piece comes together.
If I was distilling the difference, I’d say that as a still photographer, you have one moment to capture an image that is an expression of the brand or idea. When shooting video, you’re constructing a series of images which will determine the viewers’ response.
X-Rite: If you had one tip for amateurs looking to progress and improve their video work, what would it be?
AW: Do some assisting. You need to get exposure to good videographers, and directors. It’s not just their technical knowledge but also their mind set and philosophy. I’d also add that you shouldn’t rush in without the basics – treat it as a profession, and also, if you want to become a professional, take a business course, because you need to understand the key elements of running a business. I’ve met excellent visual practitioners, who have fallen down on things like insurance!
X-Rite: Coming back to the ColorChecker Video product range, which is most important?
AW: Both. In still photography, you might get away with the ColorChecker Passport Photo because of a DSLR’s resolution, but in video you don’t have that luxury so you need the Passport Video for close up shots and you need the ColorChecker Video for wide angle shots.
X-Rite: Many videographers have been using X-Rite’s standard ColorChecker for some time. Why switch to the Colorchecker Video specifically?
AW: In short, because it’s designed for video from the ground up. Someone editing or grading with vector scopes or waveform monitors is going to see significant benefits. In addition, the growing number of plugins with tools like Color Finale or 3D LUT Creator make using the chart very effective and most importantly simple.
You wouldn’t drive a road car round a race track and you wouldn’t drive a Formula 1 car on the streets. Using ColorChecker Video Targets is about having the right tools for the job.
One final tip to budding videographers – don’t work for free. Spend time learning so that when you are client facing you earn something for that. Not charging sets a bad precedent. Also, if you’re shooting and you haven’t charged, you’re still liable for things that can go wrong!
X-Rite: Final question – what are the key things that always go in your kit bag?
AW: The list is long, but in basic terms:
- Spare batteries
- More than enough media, NOT just enough media
- A backup of everything you need
- ColorChecker Video
- ColorChecker Passport Video
- A range of lenses
- A tripod