This special mount allows the operator to crank the camera in ways to give a motion of ocean/sea movement. Interesting.


Nothing learned.

The day I let my camera choose my aperture for me, is the day the machines have won. If you use automatic aperture, get a grip and be a real photographer. Exposure is vital to the outcome of the image, and a safe 'proper exposure' isn't always the right exposure. In fact, I find myself under-exposing all the time. I feel the art of photography collapsing all around me; I wish I lived 40 years ago.



Daniel Fapp: Incident Light Metering, Reflectors & Snow

From Filming "All the Young Men" by Herb A. Lightman, American Cinematographer September 1960.

In photographing the snow scenes for "All The Young Men", Director of Photography Fapp violated a theory of exposure long held by most photographers and even some film manufacturers: namely, that when shooting in snow you should always decrease exposure at least one stop from the normal incident light meter reading in order that the reflected glare from the snow will not burn up the scene. Fapp did exactly the opposite.

"The greatest danger in shooting snow scenes in under-exposure," he explains. "It is hard to get an accurate reading in snow because o the reflected light, even when you are using an incident light meter. One must rely on a great deal on his general knowledge and experience. In such cases I use my Norwood meter and then open up one stop above the indicated exposure. Where there are people in the scene and you expose exactly according to the meter reading, you run the risk of losing the detail in faces completely. You can't possibly read an overall snow composition with a reflected light meter and get any sort of accuracy. Here is the best bet is to use a gray-scale card a couple of feet square, having a tonal value similar to average flesh tone, and take a reflected light reading very close to the card. Some cameramen prefer to take a reading from the sky, disregarding the scene itself."

Whatever Fapp's theory of exposure determination, the result speaks for itself. The snow as he photographed it, has texture and form and a gravure quality that is almost third-dimensional. This is due mainly to the infinite care given the lighting. He avoided shooting any sow scenes with front light, because this would have flattened the character of the snow, making it look like a sheet of white paper. instead, he endeavored to shoot from an angle in which the sun functioned as a cross-light or back-light, and used arc booster lights as the key source. In this way Fapp also had firmer control of the lighting, since it was not always possible to count on the sun being where he wanted it.

... He disdains use of sunlight reflectors. "I'm not a reflector man," Fapp maintains. "I don't like the 'shiny boards.' It takes about three of them to light a full figure, and if an actor moves a foot off his mark he's out of the light. Following him with a reflector is cumbersome and often looks unnatural. In a wind they are always flopping around. If the sun goes behind a cloud you're left with nothing to reflect. Many cameramen do use them, but I prefer booster lights."

Polarizers and Polaroid

A polarizer filter, or pola screen, is a special filter used to eliminate glare, unwanted reflections from glass, water, or likewise reflective surfaces. Everyone knows this, but do you know what material the polarizer is made of?

Polaroid... Sound familiar?

Edwin H. Land, an American scientist and inventor, created the first low-cost material that successfully polarized light and went commercial with the technology in 1932. Five years later, he officially restructured his company and renamed it Polaroid Corp.

The term Polaroid, was the name of Land's trademarked polarizing material in which he manufactured. This film material was applied to sunglasses, photography filters, and many other useful applications.

It wasn't until 1947, a decade later, Edwin Land would debut the 'Land Camera', which was the first instant photography camera. For the next 35 years, many different Polaroid Land Cameras would be produced and sold. During the 1980's the name would simplify and become known as Polaroid Instant cameras.

Thus the term 'polaroid' is in fact a reference to the polarizing material that was pioneered for commercial photography filters and sunglasses among many other scientific purposes and was the original product of the Polaroid Corp. It is only in today's world, the term Polaroid is associated with the instant camera and not the polarizing film it originated from.


Jack Cardiff: Fake Snow

From the article, Jack Cardiff's VistaVision Venture by Derek Hill, American Cinematographer, December 1956

"My experience in shooting 'Scott of the Antarctic' proved highly valuable when it came to shooting many of the scenes staged in the snow and snow storms," said Cardiff. "I'd become familiar enough with various snow scenes to be able to recreate the effects I wanted. But sometimes I was just lucky with the location. When we shot on the banks of the Arno river, for instance, there was a slight fog which offered wonderful pictorial possibilities. But we also had to create snow and winter aspects for some of the scenes. Actually, a large proportion of the film was shot during the height of the Italian summer, when almost every Roman desserts the capital to escape the relentless heat. To photograph an important winter scene at this time, it became necessary to scatter powdered plaster over a square-mile location site to give it the appearance of frost."

"In August," Cardiff continued, "we couldn't get the Cine Cita stage space we wanted, as Metro-Goldwyn Mayer had booked it for its production of 'Ben Hur,' which had not yet even been started. So we were obliged to take space in a tiny studio across the road. It was so small that our one set came to within a foot of the walls on every side. Luckily, fire restrictions in Rome are less severe than in Britain."

"By this time we'd lit this set, the temperature was practically bursting the thermometer. And on top of this, the interiors we were shooting were supposed to be mid-winter scenes in which members of the cast had to wear fur coats and appear to shiver in the cold! The floor was literally soaked with perspiration before we began rehearsals."

In all the 'exterior' snow scenes which were actually shot in the studio, Cardiff used a panel of glass, sprayed white, plus a pale green filter before the lens in order to impart a slight mist effect to the scenes. One sequence in the picture, which has attracted much praise for its photographic excellence, is the action of the duel in the snow. Many expert photographers have unqualifiedly declared these scenes actual exteriors. The fact is however that they were shot on Stage 5 at Rome's Cine Citta studio. To achieve the very real effect of dusk on a wintry night, Cardiff used a glass before the camera with sky painted on the upper portion, as the wide-angle lens used in covering the great sweep of the set took in too much vertically.

Though this is a technique which Cardiff has used before, it was new to the Italian technicians, who were rather dubious about the outcome. For a sun effect in the same sequence, Cardiff employed an original trick of directing a lamp onto the sky area of the painted glass mounted before the camera lens. A combination of colored filters plus a fog filter gave Cardiff the effect he sought, and resulted in one of the most talked about scenes in the film.

Boris Kaufman: Challenge of the Cinematographer

The ever-present challenge for the director of photography is how to give each new picture a new and different camera treatment-- a fresh viewpoint, camera-wise. Lest he repeat himself and fall back on old techniques, the cinematographer is continually challenged to dig deep into his bag of tricks so that his photographic technique does not become stagnant.

- Boris Kaufman, ASC
From American Cinematographer article "Filming "12 Angry Men" On A Single Set, December 1956.

A Whale of a Camera!

When a camera looks big next to Jackie Gleason. It must be HUGE.


For those who want more than a joke, this camera is a modified Mitchell 35mm film camera to incorporate a Du Mont Video system. According to the text, "The Honeymooners" is the first major TV Film production to use a video-film system. From what I can gather, the camera's output a video signal via the video camera, while still capturing the action on the film within the Mitchell camera.


Before IMAX: Cinerama Camera Corp.

From American Cinematographer, June 1963
SPECIAL CINERAMA CAMERA, shown above, equipped with 0.9-inch, f/2.2 inverted telephoto lens and using 70mm film was employed in photographing "Journey To The Stars," much of it in single-frame exposures. CINERAMA CAMERA CORPORATION'S super-wide angle 70mm camera with "bug-eye" lens features frame counters, forward and reverse operation, single frame photography, dissolving mechanism and special shuttering affording long exposure times per frame.

Space-age movie in hemispherical format required novel wide-angle photography and vertical projection on dome-shaped screen.

When THE SEATTLE WORLD FAIR opened last summer the "hit of the show" was the Spacearium featuring a new space motion picture system created and constructed by Cinerama for the Boeing Co. and the United States Science Exhibit. Inside the U.S. Pavilion a 15-minute color film, "Journey to the Stars", was projected on a hemispherical 360-degree, 75-foot screen, filling the 6,000 square foot surface with all the excitement of an actual trip to the outer galaxies. During the run of the Fair, standing audiences of 1,000 at a time viewed the spectacle. It played more than 6,000 performances before an audience totalling 4½ million people and springboarded the formation of a vital new company serving the motion picture and missiles industries, the Cinerama Camera Corporation.

...Curtis Optical, assigned the task of designing the lenses, delivered the first one—a 0.9-inch focal length, f/2.2 inverted telephoto—which could be used for both photography and projection. Its resolving characteristics were of a very high order —500-600 lines per millimetre visually on axis and 70-80 on film, with virtually no vignetting at the edges. Its angular field of slightly more than 162 degrees assured sharp projection coverage of the vast hemispherical dome.

A .9" lens is roughly the equivalent of a 23mm lens. Nothing super wide in motion picture terms, but this isn't your typical motion picture format. 70mm vertical motion picture film is approximately four times the surface area of 35mm motion picture film!

That's some lens!


Versa Tripod System circa 1964

Interesting enough, an ad from 1964 has a very fantastic idea for a tripod. The spreader acts as a multifunctional accessory. At the center of the spreader is a mounting base for the head... thus the tripod legs can be removed and the spreader can either be used as a hi-hat, or have it's legs folded, to create a small tripod with spiked feet for field work.

This works great for remote situations, such as remote exterior shooting such as hill tops or places where one must carry film equipment. Carrying one set of sticks can yield a decent set of standards, babies and hi-hat. I like it!

Very clever thinking.

Bud Thackery: LowLight Work on "Once Upon A Savage Night"

If you keep your ear to the ground regarding today's technological advances in digital camera sensors and lenses, you will surely be familiar with the constant and never-ending rhetoric of shooters demanding faster lenses and faster camera sensitivities. The seemingly unquenchable desire for greater sensitivity despite it's well satisfactory performance still puzzles me. You'll see Indie-cinematographers constantly renting super-speeds in fear of night exterior exposure, and everybody clamors to boast which camera has the best low-light performance. Where does this fear come from? It seems silly, how cinematographers have shot for over 100 years, yet nobody is yet satisfied with 100 years of tremendous technological advancement. Way back in 2008, (remember those ancient days?!) common cameras in the market place included the Panasonic HVX200, the original RedOne, the Panavision Genesis, among many others. They all had ISO's rated in the 320-400 neighborhood. Fast forward less than four years later, and we have Red Epic, Arri Alexa, Phantom Flex, Sony F3, Panasonic AF100, and many other cameras which all boast a typical user ISO settings of 800-1280! Yet still, we have a vocal population of shooters who insist T/2 or T/2.8 lenses are too slow for night work... despite doing so just years previous on slower cameras.

If I may summarize... there exists a population of shooters who possess camera technology that allows for two additional stops of exposure over the cameras just previously available, yet these people have somehow already forgotten the days of yesteryear and find the ability to shoot night exteriors doubting.

I fear we shall never hear the end of it, but for the sake of memory lane, let's see what Bud Thackery (future ASC member at time of article) had to say in an American Cinematographer article in April, 1964 after directing legend Robert Altman gave him an assignment to use a brand new color film stock to shoot a picture, mainly at night and with available light.

I had just finished shooting a show for "The Virginian" series and was asked by the studio if I could be ready to leave the city the following afternoon. My destination: the Midwest. The objective: to photograph an on location production in color for producer-director Bob Altman- "Once Upon A Savage Night"-- which required 90% of the scenes to be shot at night... "Our Problem,"Robert Altman said, in briefing me on the photography, "is that we'll be shooting most of the picture at night in color, often only with available light."
"With Eastman's 35mm Ektachrome ER high-speed color film," I told him, "we should encounter no problems, providing, of course, that we can get the film." As far as I knew, no studio had yet used this film in production. Happily, however Revue had no trouble in obtaining what it needed for this show. Almost before I had realized it, I was on a plane heading for Chicago. It probably should have been a covered wagon because our mission was that of pioneers-- experimenting with a relatively new color film for a dramatic television show. Because of the short notice given me, I had no opportunity to shoot tests of the film at the studio before I left. All I knew about it, really, was that it was rated ASA 125 and ideal for color photography under different difficult lighting conditions, where acceptable exposures could not be obtained with slower color films.

As William Wade, Head of the Camera Department at Revue Studios, explained: "The producer's idea of using background lights for dramatic effect created a new type of dimension that could be captured in no other way." There were two reasons for this: First, shooting at night usually requires that the cinematographer use a wide lens aperture. This cuts down the depth of field. However, with the Eastman ER film, depth of field was not as great of a problem. Background illumination could be picked up because we could shoot with an aperture of f/4.5. And since this fast color film is balanced for tungsten illumination, it lends itself easily to forced development. By increasing the developing time, we were able to cut down on the color density. The result, of course, was better color density. All exterior nigh scenes were forced developed on the basis of an ASA rating of 500. All interior scenes in which we used natural light, ranging around one hundred foot-candles, were forced developed on the basis of ASA 250.

From the cameraman's viewpoint, the results achieved with this new film was almost unbelievable. Since I had no previous experience with it, I actually gauged my first scenes as when shooting with Double-X film. Even then, when viewing the work print, we couldn't believe it. In fact, it actually startled us because there was more to see on the screen than we actually saw with our eyes during production!

... One of the most interesting sequences I was directly involved in was a chase scene through the streets of Chicago. Since we were on location, there was no way we could set up this scene in advance. So, we borrowed a wheel-chair to use as a dolly. I was pushed down the street in it, holding the camera, to film the chase. The only illumination we had here was from a single portable quartz light held by a man running behind the wheelchair. The scene was shot at f/5.6 and the film was forced processed on the basis of ASA 500.

... From a personal viewpoint, the most challenging scene to film took place in a moving car and involved dialogue between two actors. The only illumination used was from a single, bare 200-watt bulb. The camera was hand-held and the scene was shot at f/4.5. In addition, intriguing dramatic effects were captured by pouring water on the windshield. Since it was 14 degrees below zero, the water froze almost instantly and created unusual patterns of light when oncoming car headlights reflected off the windshield.

There you have it. All the newbies out there can take a lesson from Robert Altman and Bud Thackery, ASC. They shot a television movie in 1964 on 160 asa/iso color film pushed to 500 and at a f/4.5 or f/5.6 in night exteriors with available light supplemented at times with one quartz light or a 200-watt bulb.

So next time you are complaining that your modern cinema zoom or primes only open to a T/2 or T/2.8 (over two stops more light) and your camera is only iso 800, 1,000 or 1,600, just stop. Stop what you are doing and have a moment of silence... and perhaps, just perhaps, on a quiet evening, you will be able to hear Bud Thackery's voice echo forward from days long ago, calling you a spoiled little sissy.

James Wong Howe: Happy Accident

From "The Outrage"-Off-beat Photography Is One Of Its Virtues by Herb A. Lightman, American Cinematographer, April 1964:

A happy accident occurring on the set led to an effect which turned out to be valuable in conveying this feeling of excessive desert heat. Because it was impossible to mount the required filters on the camera for one scene, Howe's assistant held three of them in front of the lens. After a while his hand became tired and he could no longer hold them steady, and the quivering of his hand resulted in a shimmering refraction that produced an illusion of pulsating heat waves-- an effect that was readily incorporated into the style of the photography.
Sadly this effect is not seen in the trailer:
^ If the story seems familiar, look no further than the classic film Rashomon directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa.

Classic Golden Era Hollywood Glamor Makeup

These make-up charts date from 1937, and show the precision and dedication taken by makeup artists to create the smooth and even texture upon the face, in tandem with the special lighting techniques utilized by the cinematographer. This practice surely continues today under similar circumstances despite the traditional golden-era glamor close-up being no longer used in the traditional form... But likely with less charts.