Cinematography
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  • Underwater Cinematography Classes

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    underwater

    The third semester MFA Cinematography students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus have been busy! Following their two weeks shooting on the Universal Soundstage, the cinematographers jumped right into the Underwater Workshop, learning tricks and techniques for capturing great underwater shots.

    The two-day workshop was taught by instructor Tom Boyd, one of Hollywood’s top underwater camera operators with credits including Little Miss Sunshine, Heroes, and Crimson Tide. Students began with a visit to Hydroflex, the industry leaders in underwater camera support, where they learned the specifics of how to use different underwater housings to keep the camera protected. They talked about the challenges of working below the surface and the optical effect that water has on focus, movement and composition. The students finished the day by learning about the proper safety protocols and prepping the equipment.

    After getting their hands on the gear during the first day, the students were ready for day two: the underwater shoot. The students worked in the pool at Aqua Adventures, shooting takes with a professional stunt diver. They photographed a scene that starts on the deck, but then takes the camera underwater to follow the actress as she falls off the edge and into the pool. With Tom’s guidance, the students learned how to approach this challenging scenario and nail the shot.

    The Underwater Workshop is a truly unique course offered in the MFA Cinematography program at NYFA in Los Angeles. Students have the opportunity to learn about creating images in a different environment while grabbing some great footage for their reels.

    underwater cinematography

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    August 27, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 12768

  • NYFA Cinematography Students in Los Angeles Shoot on Universal Soundstage

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    cinematography workshop

    At New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, the MFA and One-Year Cinematography students have recently completed a two-week workshop on the soundstage at Universal Studios. Taught by instructors, Tommy Maddox-Upshaw (credits include the upcoming Straight Outta Compton, Iron Man 2, When the Levee Broke), Jacek Laskus, ASC (The Devil’s Arithmetic, The Guardian, Parting Glances) and Suki Medencevic, ASC (The Pixar Story, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Jonas), the cine students took this unique opportunity to apply all of the skills they’ve been building and put them to use in a professional stage environment.

    The workshop began with students designing two sets in the Universal sound stage: putting up the flats, painting the set, and getting the props and set decoration in place. With their set built, the students began conducting their lighting exercises and learning the nuances of how to work in a setting where the cinematographer has complete control. They made use of increased available power, firing up bigger lighting units including 5K tungsten fresnels to illuminate the sets. This was also an opportunity for the NYFA cinematographers to focus on camera operating and shot design. Students used advanced dollies to move the camera smoothly and execute intricate moving shots. Scenes were shot using a variety of film and digital formats including Super 16mm, 35mm, and the Red Epic system.

    Throughout the workshop, students learned many new techniques for lighting sets, creating different moods and effects with light, moving the camera, and staging shots. At the end of the two weeks, these cinematographers had completed difficult lighting setups and dynamic moving shots, and each had some great new shots for their reels. The knowledge built during this workshop provides a fundamental set of skills for our students, giving them an edge as they move towards their careers in the film industry.

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    August 26, 2014 • Cinematography, Community Highlights • Views: 5803

  • Making Magic at NYFA

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    virtual stage

    Director of Photography Yan Rymsha composes the shot of Sawicki playing the giant.

    The students in my Cine 810 class in visual effects cinematography outdid themselves recently by shooting a mock Solar Power commercial complete with miniatures and size scaled performers. Originally, the plan was to have the concept take place during the day but director of photography student Yan Rymsha suggested that it take place at night with mysterious film noir lighting.

    I loved the idea and modified the script just before the shoot. The principal photography took place on a green screen stage in Hollywood and is an example of a poor man’s virtual set. The miniature and myself (playing the giant) was set up at one end of the stage and was shot with a Red Epic A camera. Colin Meyer, playing the solar panel owner, was shot in the same room simultaneously with a Red Epic B camera, using the same focal length lens as the A camera. This enabled the performances and camera angles to be synchronized very easily.

    To “pre viz” the shots a Panasonic AS50S switcher was used to do a rough video composite between the two cameras to make sure the critical alignment was spot on. The crew also used an Atomos Ninja recorder to record the output of the switcher for editing purposes. The giant coin prop was created by sticking a blow up photo of a coin on a film can and having Colin pick it up off of a C-stand. Animation of the giant’s hand holding the coin was then executed in After Effects to link up with the prop coin that Colin picked up at just the right frame. The shoot took all of a fun filled eight hour day. Post compositing was executed in After Effects and saved in our database of real world exercises. The students and I had a lot of fun shooting the project and we look forward to developing more virtual stage projects here at NYFA Los Angeles.

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    July 25, 2014 • 3D Animation, Cinematography • Views: 4943

  • NYFA Students Shoot Workshop Scenes at Lincoln Heights Jail

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    lincoln heights

    At New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, we’re always looking to take advantage of the many great locations here in Hollywood. Recently, the Filmmaking and Cinematography programs conducted two of their intensive workshops at Lincoln Heights Jail. During its heyday, the jail famously housed Charles Manson, as well as legendary actor Robert Mitchum following his conviction for the possession of marijuana in 1948. Lincoln Heights closed its door as working jail in the late 60’s, and has since served as the backdrop for such notable films as “L.A. Confidential”, “American History X” and more recently “Iron Man 2”.

    The third semester MFA Cinematography students spent three days at the location for the Advanced Lighting workshop, bringing in a 600 amp generator, heavy duty cable and power distribution. They learned how to properly set up an array of high-powered lights including 10K tungsten fresnels, a 9 Light Maxi-Brute and a 4K HMI PAR. Instructor Jeff Siljenberg presented different challenges and scenarios to the students as the class lit shots in the jail cells, corridors and warden’s office, capturing the scenes on the Red Epic camera. The cinematographers got some great footage for their reels while they learned how to work with big lights in a practical location.

    The second semester MA Filmmaking students joined them at Lincoln Heights, shooting scenes for their 35mm Cinematography workshop. During the week-long workshop, the filmmakers learned how to operate and shoot 35mm film using a Panavision camera and lenses. After their initial hands-on training, instructor Matt Kohnen took the students on location to test their new skills shooting different scenes on 35mm film while incorporating dolly moves into the setups.

    Lincoln Heights proved to be the perfect setting for both workshops, and the students walked away with memorable experiences and great shots!

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    June 30, 2014 • Cinematography, Filmmaking • Views: 7675

  • NYFA LA Cinematography Students Conduct Ultimate Camera Shoot-Out with Arriflex Alexa

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    Cinematography Class NYFA

    By their 4th semester, the MFA Cinematography students at New York Film Academy Los Angeles have worked with a wide variety of film and digital cameras including 35mm, Super 16mm, Red Epic and Scarlet to name only a few. With the Master’s Camera Technique class now underway, they can add the Arriflex Alexa to that list. LA Cinematography Chair Michael Pessah has been teaching them the in’s and out’s of this cutting edge camera, taking a hands-on approach by shooting tests and scenes throughout the class.

    In addition to working with the Alexa, the class is also conducting the “Ultimate Camera Shoot-Out”. Under the guidance of instructors Michael Pessah and Rick Greenwood, the cinematographers will shoot tests to evaluate the best of the best cameras, gaining an understanding of the strengths of each format. The test will examine the following nine cameras:

    • camera testArriflex 535 (35mm)
    • Arriflex SR3 (Super 16mm)
    • Arriflex Alexa
    • Red Epic
    • Red Scarlet
    • Sony F65
    • Canon C300
    • Blackmagic Pocket Cinema
    • Canon 5D mk3

    The class will view the footage in a high-end color correction room at Fotokem in Burbank, allowing the students to see critical differences in a professional screening environment. The students are excited about this unique opportunity to compare the various state-of-the-art formats and look forward to viewing the results. We are confident this will give them the knowledge to pick the right camera for each project as they start their careers the film industry.

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    June 13, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 5928

  • A Retrospective Look at the Works of Gordon Willis

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    gordon willisThis week began on sad note, as we learned of the passing of legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis, ASC. Many consider him the father of modern cinematography, and he is noted for both the precision of his compositions and the boldness of his lighting. Willis set the tone for Hollywood in the early 1970’s, shooting a string of classic films including “The Godfather I and II“, “Klute“, “Manhattan“, “All The President’s Men” and “Annie Hall” to name only a few.

    Michael Pessah, Chair of the LA Cinematography School, has prepared a special lecture class to honor Willis’ contribution to the art form and present selected scenes from his films. Entitled “A Retrospective Look at the Works of Gordon Willis”, this lecture will take place at the LA campus on Thursday, May 22nd at 7pm. Willis’ images have inspired several generations of cinematographers, and New York Film Academy is proud to honor his legacy by presenting his work to our students.

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    May 22, 2014 • Cinematography, Guest Speakers • Views: 4035

  • Remembering Cinematography’s Prince of Darkness

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    Cinematographer Gordon Willis on set preparing a shot

    A cinematographer occupies a unique position in the creation of a film in that he or she must translate a director’s vision into shots that are both in service to the story while injecting his or her own vision into the film. Renowned cinematographer Gordon Willis, who died on Monday at the age of 82, perfectly captured this tension when he said a director of photography’s (DP) duty is to “fit the punishment to the crime,” meaning that a DP should render the material in an aesthetic manner that marries his or her own unique perspective in service of the film. To say that Willis accomplished this goal is an understatement as he was responsible for pioneering a style of 35mm cinematography that became synonymous with the golden era of Hollywood film in the 70s, working closely with three of that decade’s most notable auteurs—Alan J. Pakula, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen.

    Donald Sutherland stares out the window in Klute

    Starting his career as a DP with 1970’s End of the Road, Willis first came to prominence in Pakula’s neo-noir thriller Klute in 1971. Throughout the film, Willis makes use of long shots and unusual zooms and angles to essentially estrange the viewer, creating an unsettling mood through his imagery. In addition, Willis started to flex his more innovative and ambitious muscles. For example, in one scene the film’s protagonist Peter Kable stares outside his window upon the city when the camera effortlessly moves forward and appears to almost drop out of the window to create a dizzying shot that uses the building’s massive height, leaving viewers scratching their head at how such an impressive shot could be made to look so effortless.

    Having served as the cinematographer on Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, The Godfather was a watershed moment not just in Willis’s own career, but for cinematography as a whole. The film’s opening scene is famous for its reserved use of light as the film’s bright wedding scene contrasts with Vito Corleone’s dimly lit office in which Marlon Brando’s eyes are almost completely obscured. It was this film that earned him the nickname of the Prince of Darkness as he parted with many of Hollywood’s conventional lighting techniques in favor of heavy underexposure and an orange palette that would become a hallmark of subsequent period films.

    Library of Congress in All The President's Men

    Willis was never afraid of using inventive and new techniques to create the right tone for the films he worked on. One incredible example of this was his re-teaming with Pakula for All The President’s Men in which he placed a winch he placed in the dome of the Library of Congress, allowing a remote-controlled camera to film a full view of the library in a single shot. Throughout the film, his mastery of light is seen as the above shot, showing the library cast in natural light, with the shadowy world of darkness, as exemplified in the under-lit scene in which Robert Redford meets with Deep Throat in a menacing parking garage.

    Having first hooked up with Allen in 1977’s classic Annie Hall, his camera work in 1979’s Manhattan served as a love letter to his hometown. Filmed in a 2:35:1 anamorphic black and white format, Willis managed to help make a modern tale of romance look positively timeless; just take the film’s opening sequence in which iconic sights of the city are fantastically shot and paired with George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” But if one is to call to mind one particularly memorable shot from the film, it would undoubtedly be the scene in which Allen’s and Diane Keaton’s characters sit on a park bench and gaze at the Queensboro Bridge cast against a foggy dawn. Willis chose to emphasize the gigantic nature of the city, which can often make its inhabitants feel like ants, as the viewer only sees the backs of Allen and Keaton, creating a definitive statement on the beauty of both the city and love.

    Remarkably enough, Willis was never nominated by the Academy for any of his work in the above films—although he did receive an honorary Oscar in 2009—but in the hearts of cinephiles and cinematographers alike, his work will continue to inspire and evoke awe for the foreseeable future.

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    May 20, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 8973

  • Industry Guests Advise NYFA Los Angeles Cinematography Students

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    Mike Williamson

    While the fourth semester MFA Cinematography students prepare to shoot their thesis films, they are also being prepared for life after film school. As part of the “Navigating the Industry” course, instructor Suki Medencevic, ASC reached out to his colleagues to find guests to speak to New York Film Academy Los Angeles students about starting their careers in the film business.

    He got a great response, bringing in major industry players including recent Academy Award nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, ASC (“Nebraska“, “Pursuit of Happyness“, “Walk The Line“), producer and visual effects guru Brian Rogers (“Godzilla“, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“, “Green Lantern“), writer and director Nick Castle (“Major Payne“, “Dennis the Menace“, “Hook“), cinematographer Jacek Laskus, ASC (“The Devil’s Arithmetic“, “The Guardian“, “Parting Glances“), assistant director Alexa Sheehan (“Saw“, “A Love Song for Bobby Long“), and many others.

    Students received valuable advice on getting into the business and asked questions about the current state of the industry. The intimate class format allowed the guests to speak freely, sharing advice and stories from the many films they’ve worked on.  The Cinematography School in Los Angeles is grateful to our guests for sharing their wisdom, we look forward to seeing our students join their ranks soon!

    Mike Williamson
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    April 7, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 4707

  • MFA Cinematography Students Get Hands-On Lecture at Sony Studios

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    Thanks to New York Film Academy Instructor Suki Medencevic, the January 2013 MFA Cinematography students had a rare and amazing opportunity to travel to Sony Studios where they had a seminar on Sony cameras. While at Sony, they went to the Digital Motion Picture Center (D.M.P.C.). The seminar educated students on Sony’s top of the line 4K digital cameras: the F55 and F65.

    sony-lectureAt the DMPC, the two main instructors for the seminar were Curtis Clark, an A.S.C. director of photography, and Kazuo Endo, the F65 engineer who created the camera. The first part of the seminar began with a lecture from Kazuo Endo going over the capabilities and specifications of the cameras. Following Kazuo’s lecture was Curtis Clark, who introduced the students to a universal color space reference tool called the Academy Color Encoding Specification or A.C.E.S. A decade in the making, A.C.E.S. will be the new industry standard for motion pictures and television. A.C.E.S. was created by the combined efforts of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the A.S.C.

    After Curtis taught the students about A.C.E.S., they had the opportunity to shoot two different night and day shots using the F55 and F65 on set in the sound stage of Sony. Before the test shoot, Curtis introduced everyone to an application engineer/D.I.T. by the name of Steve MacMillan, who then presented the digital workflow of the F55 and F65 using A.C.E.S. as a color reference.

    The cinematography students jumped right in to shoot their two shots showing skill, resourcefulness, leadership, and creativity that they learned from their schooling at New York Film Academy, which impressed both Curtis and Kazuo. When they were finished shooting, the footage was handed off to a colorist by the name of David Burnstein. David projected the RAW footage in 4k in the DMPC Theater where they had a color grading session with David.

    When the color grading session was over, Curtis and Kazuo gave closing remarks and thanked everyone for coming to Sony. Curtis and Kazuo also gave the students a parting gift and wished them all luck with their future projects. “The students showed considerable skill and resourcefulness in the way they approached the two scenes they shot on the DMPC set,” said Curtis. “I’m sure it reflects the high quality of instruction and training they receive from NYFA. Kazuo and I very much enjoyed having them take part in our seminar and look forward to continuing working with NYFA cinematography students in 2014.”

    Needless to say, all of the students were thrilled about their wonderful learning experience at Sony.

    If you’re interested in NYFA’s MFA Cinematography program, CLICK HERE for more information.

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    December 19, 2013 • Cinematography • Views: 4814

  • NYFA Grads Film ‘Deep Water’ in Alaska

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    deep waters

    Two New York Film Academy graduates, Daniel Zagaevsky and Xiaolong Liu, teamed up and set out on a mission to film an ambitious project in Alaska. The short, Deep Water, was written and directed by Daniel Zagaevsky with Xiaolong on board as cinematographer. The film juxtaposes two completely different locations, New York City and the vast wilderness of Alaska.

    Deep Water was a big challenge; something that a lot of people thought would never happen,” said Daniel. “I had a chance to do something different for my film and I chose ‘The Last Frontier’ as a set for my story – Alaska”

    Daniel contacted Xiaolong Liu three weeks before the first day of shooting Deep Water. He felt Liu was unafraid to stretch his creativity to make this film happen and that he had the right vision. Given the small crew size, a student budget, and the frigid cold environment, the two were in for quite a challenge.

    “Xiaolong is a very talented Director of Photography – full of resources and ideas – a hard-worker. Through technique and skill, he was capable of capturing the best images for the story.”

    The crew had to shoot in close quarters with an actual grizzly bear, on a fishing boat in the middle of rough seas, and with a crane in the middle of a glacier. Not exactly your typical student film set. Nevertheless, the crew triumphed through adversity to make this film a reality.

    Xiaolong Liu was also nominated for Best Cinematography at the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival and International Fashion Film Awards for his work on Anatomy of Gravity. Check it out!

    THE ANATOMY OF GRAVITY from arthurvalverde on Vimeo.

     

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    November 26, 2013 • Cinematography, Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 8740