Category Archives: General

Major upgrade at CML – Cinematography Mailing List

Well, its been a challenge.

The last few weeks have been spent totally rebuilding CML and moving it from a sub-domain of based  in the UK to it’s own server based in the US.

We have also added SSL and are now a secure site.

The addition of our own mail servers has meant that we can make major changes there as well.

Best of all we are no longer struggling up against both bandwidth and disk space problems

Lyris or is still based at in the UK and the guys there have done a great job fixing the stuff I screwed up relating to Lyris as I moved us to the US 🙂

There are a lot of new opportunities now and over the next few months they’ll start to appear.

CML’s birthday

It was 20 years ago today that I started CML with 60 members, people I’d been talking to about cinematography on Compuserve, AOL and Usenet and who I made members of CML because I thought that there should be a simple single system dedicated to professional cinematographers.

It was never set up to make money, purely to exchange information between fellow professionals.

We now have 11,976 members spread over 20 generally available lists. There are a number of other lists that have closed memberships as they are for manufacturers beta testers and various educational courses.

When we started there was a serious lack of information about new digital technologies and cameras and we tried to help share what knowledge there was. Now there is a plethora of place to get information about equipment.

Our system is still aimed at working cinematographers and that is why we are primarily still email based, around 80% of CML traffic is via email.

I have tried, with the help of the listmums to keep CML focused on clear professional facts rather than the usual internet miasma of gossip and rumour and ill-informed comment.

This is why we have always been a closed system, it has been necessary to join or register to be able to use the discussion facilities of CML although the web pages of edited discussions have always been openly available.

To celebrate our 20th birthday we are opening up the discussion lists to anyone to read, read, not write.

Anyone wanting to post will have to join but the collected knowledge will now be openly available to all.

This does not mean that members details will be available, they won’t. Lyris conceals these.

I hope we will get more people contributing to the shared knowledge and that we keep growing.

Thank you all for making CML what it is.

Stupid thief

We’ve been having a few problems with noise and vandalism so we installed a video entry camera and it was stolen.

We then had all our flowers and decorations in the common entry area vandalised so we installed 2 camera systems.

One on the door to CML HQ and one on out apartment entrance.

They were both stolen, by an idiot who is clearly visible in the recording below. If you recognise him please let us know…

Is it possible to use autofocus for an entire movie?

In my pre-occupation with other things in my life at the moment I’ve forgotten to publish the results here of trying to shoot an entire movie with autofocus.

Another movie with Dominic Brunt and he agreed to me using the Canon C300-2 with stills lenses for the entire film.

Although I had an AC he spent a lot of his time watching me try to focus pull using a Samsung Tablet!

I wanted to do it myself just to see how difficult it was and what the najor pitfalls were.

It was a hell of a learning experience but I’d do it again, maybe with a few small changes like taking my own router just for the camera WiFi, using frequency scanners more often and killing anyone who decided to use any form of wireless transmission without clearing it with the camera crew first!

The main lesson is that the newer a lens is the better it copes, well that’s a shock!

Seriously, in a lot of situations the lens just couldn’t focus fast enough, actors running at camera in very low light was a serious issue.

Anyway, lots more here…


Some days are Diamonds, some days are stone

The words of Tom Petty strike a chord with me again.

“Rhino Skin” and “I won’t back down” have been my soundtrack.

I think I’m going to need this…

“Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down”

I got the results of a few weeks of tests yesterday, Ultrasound, X-rays, colonoscopy, MRI & CT scan.

The simple thing is that I have rectal cancer and start Chemo on Monday and Radiotherapy on Tuesday. That will be followed by a colostomy.

I’m not going to let it bring me down, I’m going to function as normally as I can.

I won’t be able to go to IBC on the weekdays because of my daily treatments but I will be able to go at the weekend and intend to try.

I’m also hoping that CineFest will agree to me doing my ACES presentation via a narrated PowerPoint and a video intro followed hopefully by a Q&A via Skype.

I’m going to blog my progress and hopefully this will help someone else.

If you’re worried about anything, get it checked and face up to it.

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