Category Archives: General

Lens Testing

The results of my lens testing have been fascinating.

I originally published them without identifying the individual lenses and received a number of emails from people saying how were they expected to evaluate them if they didn’t know what was what.

Err look at the pictures??

Interestingly there were a number of surprises here, the accepted “fact” that primes are always better than zooms was shown to be wrong when people didn’t know what they were looking at, the zooms did pretty well.

I don’t think that we’ve found a “best” lens, that was never the intention.

We have however managed to show which lenses shine in particular situations. As always choose what is appropriate for the job.


First reviews of The Taking are in…

Bait (AKA. The Taking) (2015) Review.

“The bleak cinematography captures a chilling tone with lingering shots that create extreme dread in the more distressing moments.”

That’s cool 🙂


I’ll not mention the one that compared the cinematography with Lars Von Triers work, why does that guy keep following me around? I used his studio for Lego commercials and the director of Wallander was a friend of his.

I can’t stand his films!

Improvements in Grading

It was fascinating looking at the differences between material shot in 1985 and 2014 and all points in between while I was making the 30 years reel.

The variations, particularly in black level  are huge.

The Pepsi commercial was shot on ’94 & ’95 and cut and printed in a very conventional film way, once we were happy with the film print we had a low contrast print made and telecined from that, it must have been a Cintel Mk3. There are huge variations in both the level and the colour of the blacks and the whites don’t match too well scene to scene either!

The Sega was once again printed before we telecined off the print but in this case it was done to get a kind of contrast and saturation that it just wasn’t possible to get directly off the neg at the time. I remember we tested different print stocks and then used a Fuji print stock to get maximum punch.

For the Cussons job we again printed, on the recce I shot stills on every motion picture stock I could get my hands on, at that time Kodak and Fuji wanted to help, Fuji said who? We contact printed onto every print stock and just looked at the results on a light box. The result was a hell of a surprise, we got the best result with Agfa 400 ISO stock heavily filtered down and then printed on Kodak.

The baby milk commercials was shot on ’94 and scanned directly from the neg, probably a good thing as it was the thinnest neg I had ever produced! I had to light done to the night lights, we couldn’t but brighter bulbs in them, we tried and they melted.

Everything else is directly from the neg, there was a huge change in image quality when the Spirit scanner arrived.

Finally the Ford job was 4 * Alexa and 1 * C500 all digital and a great grade from Seamus.

It was only after Pepsi and Sega that I started to get heavily involved in the post, up until then I’d pretty much left it to the film grader with a bit of guidance. Like the time I wanted a commercial to have a blue tint, I asked for it to have the feel of a faded denim shirt, ‘WTF is that” was the reply from the grader. I clipped off the corner of my shirt and stapled it to the neg report. It came back looking right 🙂


30 Years of high end Commercials

I decided to celebrate my birthday by making a reel of my favourite 10 commercials from the last 30 years, of course once I got down to 11 I couldn’t decide which to cull so my favourite 10 are actually 11!

I’d like to thank all the crew involved in these and all the commercials that I shot, some before 1985, most after.


Mick Vincent – Seamus O’Kane – Fergus MaCall – Adrain Seery – Max Horton –  Jean-Clement Soret – Gary Szabo – Giles Livesey – Corinne Bogdanovich


John Hammond – Andy Hebden – John Higgins –  Keith Osborne – Gary Varney – Rikki Butland – Otto Stenov – Viggo Grumme – Ossie Jung – Lenny Hoffman – Dan Lowe – Matt Giblin


Andrew Raysnley – Tony Jackson – Peter Turner – Martin Shepherd – Jason Bulley – Dan Lightening – Howard Smith – Chris McGuire – Picha Srisansanee – Gregg Smith


Tony Jackson – Martin Shepherd – John Baillie – Jason Bulley – Matt Wesson – Phil Forbes – Justin Pentecost – Steve Grainger – Dan Lightnening – Gregg Smith – Kenny Groom


The first batch of test files are up!

12 cameras in tungsten and daylight, different skintones and my new test chart.

16 bit EXR and RAW files will be available later.

CML and image quality – chickenshit’s

CML was set up for high end pro’s and those who aspire to be in that class.
I’ve never worried about offending anyone else.

There are lots of places on the net for cinematographers who don’t care
about or maybe just don’t recognise a high quality image.
I never wanted CML to be one of those places.

My recent experiences of working with post people whose whole approach to life was “that’ll do” “good enough” “nobody”ll notice” has caused me to stop and take stock.

I feel that CML has been drifting in that direction.

I realise the political and economic pressures that are on us, believe me!

That doesn’t remove from the fact that if we don’t stand up for image
quality nobody will we are “the guardians of the image” and painful though it might be at times we have to fight that fight.

Answer for yourself a few simple questions, in a world where data size
didn’t matter, where RAW recorders were tiny and cheap, where transfer times were zero, where processing power was vast WOULD YOU EVER SHOOT ANYTHING OTHER THAN RAW?

Of course you wouldn’t because deep down inside you know that compression damages your images.

Next question, bearing in mind the conditions listed above, given a choice
of a system that recorded equal amounts of RGB and one that recorded 50%G and 25%R&B and then guessed what was in the holes that that approach left behind would you ever use anything other than the full RGB system?

Of course you wouldn’t because you know that resolution and colour are
compromised by CFA systems.

Now, given that you would go the quality route every time, why are you being such chickenshits and compromising your images all the time?

Devastated 3

So, I’ve finally got a version of The Taking that I’m happy with, I certainly didn’t think that this was going to be possible after the C&C showing in Leeds on the 5th November!

It’s taken a lot of work to clean up the mess and in the process I’ve learned a huge amount.

I’ve also had a lot of help and I’d particularly like to than  Nick Shaw and Gavin Greenwalt for the LUT’s that they created to fix some of the initial errors. These errors were introduced when 4K TIFF’s were created for the VFX guys from the original R3D files, why the match graded log DPX files I had created weren’t used is a mystery. Anyway, the TIFF’s were created with the contrast, saturation and FLUT settings burned in that we had used for monitoring only on location and that were never meant to be used anywhere else.

This created a wonderful set of problems as there was more than one look used on location…

These files had been used by the post house in the final finish for the C&C showing, it should have been clear to a blind man that the files were not “normal” log files but whatever…

I’ve spent 4 weeks going through the edited DPX files matching black levels and contrast, replacing shots that had been clipped form data to TV levels and generally patching things up.

Finally on New Years Eve I had a version of the film that looked as it should.

A version that didn’t have to apologise for being low budget but that looks good regardless of budget.

It looks the way that Dom and I agreed it should back in July when we graded it at UWE.



Devasted 2

Well that’s got to be the fastest and biggest response I’ve had to a post.
So let me clarify…
People don’t walk out of a showing saying that post screwed up the skin-tones, they say what a useless DP.
People don’t walk out of a showing saying that the editor zoomed too far into an image, they say that the AC couldn’t get it sharp.
People don’t walk out of a showing saying what a dreadful DCP, they say that the colourist screwed up.
People don’t walk out of a showing… I think you get the point now.
It’s not the people responsible that get blamed, it’s the image originators.
Well I’m not taking that.
Is my last post abusive and offensive? I hope so!
If we, the cinematographers, don’t stand up and scream when our images are messed up them nobody will and the rush into mediocrity will accelerate.
We are “The Guardians of the Image” and if in general we’re too chickenshit to shout when our work is damaged then we deserve what we get.
To all camera crew out there, stand up and be counted!!


I’ve delayed writing this since I was at the cast and crew showing of The Taking.

I needed time to calm down and stop screaming.

The incredibly hard work of all the camera, lighting and grip crew has been devastated by incompetent uncaring post.

The DCP had obviously been made by a blind man who had left both his white stick and seeing eye dog behind.

Over saturated, weird gamma, blacks crushed, skin looking dreadful, thanks guys you just made our work look crap.

I’ve seen better looking grannies TV’s!!!

I graded the film and delivered 10 bit 2K DPX files, 2 versions, one log without film convert applied and one finished totally. I’d wanted to deliver higher res files but that was vetoed by the post supervisor.

During the conform and grade I’d reduced some of the extreme reframes that the editor had done, trying to keep the directors intentions intact but also trying to preserve image quality.

I didn’t agree with the reframes but ultimately that’s not down to me, I felt they reeked of low budget TV soaps.

The files I delivered had been graded on a system that was calibrated with Lightspace CMS, ÂŁ3,000 of calibration kit.

Apart from the ridiculous looking images in the DCP there were also all kinds of reframes, zooms in and out and it looked like they had been made from the DPX’s not from the R3D’s so the image quality was horribly degraded.

I have no idea of the route that the images followed once they left me, they should have had the VFX added to DPX files at 2K and the DCP rendered from them.

I strongly suspect that they went through a compressed intermediate format and that was probably HD!

I had added a degree of mid-tone sharpness in resolve and was nervous that I’d overdone it, I needn’t have worried, the post guys managed to soften off the pictures wonderfully.

It was 6 months under 40 years ago that I first worked directly for a TV station, I thought that people weren’t attentive enough to what they were doing but didn’t know beter.

It was about 30 years ago that I moved into high budget commercials and met a lot of resistance from camera crews because I came from docco’s and TV. At the time I thought that this was unfair, looking back I realise what they were worried about.

TV is an area of work where “good enough” and “that’ll do” reign, almost nobody cares about getting things RIGHT!

The old line of “why is TV called a medium? because it’s never well done” was reinforced by your approach.

I was asked during the Q&A before the showing by a show organiser who had seen a video copy of the film, why did it look so different from a TV series that had been shot at roughly the same time in roughly the same locations? why did ours look cinematic and theirs look…

I pointed to the 60′ screen behind me and said “because I shot for that not for a tiny TV” I had repeatedly during the shoot reminded people that we were shooting a movie not a TV show.

I’ve offered to spend my own time and money making a decent DCP and deliverables if they’ll send me the final DPX’s and audio files.