- Check The Gate – What does that mean?
- DP – Can you work as a DP (Director Of Photography) and an LD (Concert Lighting Director) at the same time?
- Green screen – Green screen and blue screen. What’s the difference?
- Jobs – What does a Producer / D.P. / Art Director / Grip / Gaffer etc. do?
- Telecine – What is it?
Check The Gate – What does that mean?
The gate is the opening in the camera which allows light to pass onto the film after it has gone through the lens. Obviously you want this space to be clean and clear.
When a set-up is complete and the director feels he has got the shot he’ll say “Check the gate.” If there is a ‘hair’ in the gate you will see it wiggling in the top or bottom of your screen when the film is developed and it’s very distracting – the director wants to make sure that the shot is clean before he moves on.
Incidentally if there is a hair in the gate it’s probably come from the little hairs that grow on top of one of the camera loader’s fingers when he was loading the film.
DP – Can you work as a DP (Director Of Photography) and an LD (Concert Lighting Director) at the same time?
Interestingly Vance Burberry, a DP who I’ve worked with about a hundred times (almost literally – see dickfilms section), has done both jobs in his time. His first major gig was as an LD for AC/DC and then went on to light tours for the Go-Gos, Duran Duran, Diana Ross and Tom Petty. I first met him when he’d come off the road and was working as a gaffer and, when he decided he wanted to become a DP, I was able to give him his first DP gig. Visit his website (www.vanceburberry.com) and you’ll see he has become one of the pre-eminent dp’s in his field.
So, to answer your question, yes you can do both. However, and I think Vance would agree with me on this, you’d be best to stick with one discipline and become really good at it. The good news is that both jobs pay very well. The bad news is that both involve lots of travel and crazy hours. If you want to have a settled home life with predictable hours and holidays you can plan in advance like real people do then you’re in the wrong game. (This applies for most directors too by the way). Vance says you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more questions – tell him Nigel sent you. Be nice to him and make the questions short as he’s probably playing with his slot cars or about to go diving!
Green screen – Green screen and blue screen. What’s the difference?
Well, obviously, one is green and the other is blue! But let’s first explain what a green / blue screen does.
If I want to make a video with Britney on Mars (“Oops I Did It Again”) I can’t go to Mars so I have to create it in post. So we shoot Britney against a huge green screen. When the computer sees the green it will replace the green with the picture of Mars we have created in another part of the computer.
A blue screen does exactly the same thing except the computer tries to fill in the blue instead of the green.
Now what happens if, for example, Britney is wearing green pants in front of a green screen? The computer will not only fill in the screen but also fill in her pants with Mars too and obviously that’s something we want to avoid. In “Oops I Did It Again” Britney wanted to wear a red jumpsuit, so we chose a green screen for her because red is the opposite side of the colour spectrum from green and therefore there was no chance that the computer would try and fill in her outfit with Mars.
However if Britney had wanted to wear green pants we would have shot her against a blue screen so that the computer would not be confused. If she had wanted to wear blue jeans we would have gone back to a green screen.
So, basically there is no difference between a blue or a green screen, your foreground will help you decide. When I shot “She’s All I Ever Had” for Ricky Martin there was loads of grass in foreground so we used a blue screen…
Jobs – What does a Producer / D.P. / Art Director / Grip / Gaffer etc. do?
The Producer is in charge of finance and logistics. Broadly speaking producers are responsible for organizing everything that the Director needs in order to execute his work. This means everything from working out the budget down to making sure that everyone gets a meal at the right time. The difference between a good producer and a bad one on a job is enormous. In feature films a producer often hires the director. In commercials and videos its the other way round.
The D.P. or Director Of Photography is the person who is responsible for the way the film is shot, exposed, developed etc. In Britain this person is also called the Lighting Cameraman. The D.P. is often someone who started out as a camera assistant / focus puller and has moved up to shooting. On a big job the D.P. doesn’t even sit behind the camera, he has an operator do that, he just paints with light.
The focus puller is the senior camera assistant responsible for making sure that the image is in focus and that the right stop (aperture) is on the lens. He will also re-load the camera and be responsible for filters etc. He/she sits beside the camera at all times.
The Art Director (on a movie Production Designer) is responsible for designing / building / painting the sets and then dressing them with props. He/she will help you choose cars you may need, look at locations etc. On a feature the Production Designer may also be in charge of the wardrobe / styling department.
The Gaffer (Head of the Electrical Dept.) is responsible for all the lights and the electricity that makes them run. He works hand in hand with the D.P. and the Key Grip. Good gaffers often become D.P.’s in their own right. Vance Burberry, who has shot a lot of videos for me, started out this way.
The Grip is responsible for all the equipment that moves the camera (dolly, crane etc.) and also the flags that shield the camera from flares and the silks, mirror and bounce boards that the D.P. may require. Interestingly in the U.K. the silks, flags, bounce boards etc. are all handled by the Electrical (Sparks) Department. Any special rigs in the U.K. are not handled by the Grip Department but by a rigger. Why is it different? Don’t know.
Key Grip, Dolly Grip, Best Boy Grip? A ‘Key’ is the #1 in their department and though Keys (pl.) can describe the top guys in Grip or Electrical Department the key Electric is always called The Gaffer! Best-Boy Grip / Electrical is the #2 in that department. The Dolly Grip is the guy who pushes the dolly. The Swing Man is not a guy on a trapeze but a guy who works for both Grip and Electrical Departments depending on who needs him most.
Telecine – What is it?
Telecine is the process by which film is transferred to video tape. Simply speaking film negative (or print) is fed through an intricate series of rollers past a gun or camera which looks at every frame as it passes by and then sends a signal to a video tape recorder which records the image on tape.
Usually in the process we employ a colorist who sits in front of a desk confronted by a mystifying array of knobs and buttons who then enhances the look of the film as it goes to tape. In the modern telecine bay a dizzying array of effects are at your disposal. You can make the picture lighter or darker with less or more contrast. You can make the reds brighter, the sky bluer or the grass greener; add grain or take it away – the list goes on. The extraordinary advances in technology in the telecine bay are one of the main reasons videos look so much more spectacular and vivid than they did 15 years ago.
For me the day in telecine after a shoot is a mixture of intense pleasure and pain. Usually I’m exhausted and as I sit in the dark and watch the film come to life I rave about some scene which I love the look of and then flinch like a patient in the dentist’s chair when I see something I don’t like.