Art Adams

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Cinematographer Art Adams has worked in the film industry for 25 years. He shoots spots as well as corporate marketing, visual effects, web and interactive/mobile projects. He also consults for a variety of motion picture equipment vendors in the areas of usability and interface design, equipment training, and scientific comparative testing of products. Art likes to write articles that explore the hidden side of the tools and techniques many take for granted. He's been published in HD Video Pro, American Cinematographer, Australian Cinematographer and Camera Operator Magazine He is a current member of the International Cinematographers Guild and SMPTE, a past member of the Society of Camera Operators (SOC), and an industry consultant and educator. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His showreel is atwww.artadamsdp.com.

LUT Tricks for the Sony FS7/F5/F55


Written by Art Adams  |  June 15, 2015

Sony’s Cine-EI mode is both a blessing and a curse. Here's how to work to its strengths and around its issues using two free software packages…

The days of setting exposure with zebras set at white clip are most likely over. Here's a new technique I'm trying out that works very well, particularly when viewing a log image...

TLCI's developer says prism cameras and single sensor cameras respond to color in the same way. Thanks to Panasonic, I can show that's not the case...

In a Parallel Universe, AJA's Cion is Amazing


Written by Art Adams  |  April 1, 2015

RedShark News lives in a world where the AJA Cion is the best thing since sliced bread. In this world, however, sliced bread is still king. Read on...

CRI is meaningless when it comes to measuring LED or fluorescent lights. TLCI hopes to replace CRI in the film industry, but I have my doubts...

Here are My Rules of Thumb When Choosing a Codec

I know just enough to be dangerous and keep myself out of trouble
Written by Art Adams  |  August 10, 2014
Olympic codec rankings. AVCHD is the most accurate... pic.twitter.com/ncRykgBznq — Shane Ross (@comebackshane) July 16, 2014   Everything I know...

Come See Adam Wilt and I at CineGear


Written by Art Adams  |  June 5, 2014
Mark your calendar: Saturday, June 7th, at 2:45pm, in the Sherry Lansing Theater at Paramount. Adam Wilt and I will spend an hour discussing "The Sony F55: Swiss Army Knife of Cameras." We've got videos to show and slides to play. We're on right after the ASC, so show up early for the star power and stay...

Who Wants to Take ANOTHER Lighting Class?


Written by Art Adams  |  May 15, 2014
  Due to the success of last year’s lighting class Abel Cine has asked me to come back and do it again. So I am: “How to Light Faces: Hard Light, Soft Light and Damage Control” It will be...

The Art Adams Zone System for HD

Want to use a light meter to nail perfect exposures in HD? Think the Ansel Adams Zone System is too complicated? Try my method!
Written by Art Adams  |  March 3, 2014
I used to be frustrated by my inability to use light meters in HD the way I used to in film. A while back I figured it all out, and now I'm going to tell you how to do it too. In particular I'm going to tell you how to use the Zone System with an incident meter. That's right, not a spot meter, but an incident meter. Read...

AMA on Reddit Today, Wednesday 9/11/13

Ask me anything in the Filmmakers subReddit today...
Written by Art Adams  |  September 11, 2013
I'm doing an AMA ("Ask me anything") in the Filmmakers subReddit today. Stop on by...

When a Camera Manufacturer Hates Me...

Being called out by Jim Jannard in his final post to Reduser got me thinking: do I really have a problem with RED?
Written by Art Adams  |  August 29, 2013
It's a dubious distinction that I was called out by Jim Jannard in his final post to Reduser. It's true that I've been critical of RED over the years; while they've made my life easier in some ways they've made it harder in others, and I've been rather outspoken in...

See Adam Wilt and I at CineGear

Four words: Sony FS700, 4K raw.
Written by Art Adams  |  May 31, 2013
Come see Adam Wilt and I present a talk on the 4K-enabled Sony FS700 at CineGear: Saturday, June 1 at 2:15pm in the Sherry Lansing Theater.

The New 4K: Different from the Old 4K

4K TV is on its way, and it has the potential to change the way we shoot--especially when it comes to composition.
Written by Art Adams  |  February 15, 2013
On a recent visit to Sony Studios I saw a 4K monitor for the first time. For the first time ever I thought to myself, "I hope they hold this shot long enough for me to see everything in it!" I've seen 4K demos projected on 25' screens, and the footage comes across just as a movie would: there's nothing inherent in the...

Who Wants to Take a Lighting Class?

I'm teaching a lighting class in Southern California on March 2nd. Here's why you should come...
Written by Art Adams  |  February 14, 2013
Lighting is both emotional and technical: we use tools to create a feeling. Most DPs can talk about the emotional reasons behind a lighting approach, but very few can state clearly and plainly exactly what problems they were trying to solve with each light. Apparently this is something I'm good at, and I'm going to give you a chance...

Log vs. Raw: The Simple Version

Raw is all the rage, but should it be? Log gives us 99% of the benefit of a raw file in a grade but with much smaller files.
Written by Art Adams  |  February 7, 2013
Years ago I wrote an article describing how log encoding works using Sony's S-Log as an example. Sony's S-Log2 is coming down the pike in a big way in their F5 and F55, so it seems like an appropriate time for an...

Back to the Drawing Board

In which I field complaints about my C300 matrices, and commit to fight anew...
Written by Art Adams  |  February 5, 2013
I've been getting sporadic complaints on Twitter about one of my C300 matrices turning reds a bit blue on some cameras. Time to take another look… In this article I wrote about how I endeavored to match the...

Move the Camera, Not the Actor

It's rarely a good idea to remind an actor to hit their marks. It's much easier to move the camera to adjust. Here's why...
Written by Art Adams  |  January 30, 2013
On a recent shoot a discussion arose as to whether it was better to move an actor or to move the camera to maintain a composition. The actor kept settling into a position that obscured an over-the-shoulder angle, and there are some who would simply ask the actor to not do that. That never works. Every time...

How to Be Kind to a Camera Assistant

It's a thankless but crucial job. Be kind, and they'll come through for you when you really need them to.
Written by Art Adams  |  January 29, 2013
A lot of people are starting out at the top these days--just buying a camera and starting a career shooting. That's cool, but cinematography is a collaborative craft. You have to know how to work with others, especially those that work for you. Let's talk about camera assistants for a moment... Back in...

Color Matching a Canon C300 to an Arri Alexa

They said it couldn't be done. Maybe, but I got close. How close? You judge...
Written by Art Adams  |  January 26, 2013
I'm shooting more projects with the Canon C300 but none of the built-in looks greatly appeal to me. While trying to build my own custom C300 look at a local rental house I spied an Arri Alexa in the next stall over... and asked, "Can I put that next to this C300 for a while?" The results are really interesting...

Low Light Levels and Wide-Open Lenses: the 80s/90s Look

Faster cameras means extreme low level lighting here to stay. Here are some examples from the days of (gasp) 400 ASA film!
Written by Art Adams  |  January 17, 2013
There's something amazing about shooting low light images with a wide open lens. Now that the average camera is rated at 800 or faster, we can take advantage of using smaller and smaller lights and even shoot scenes that look brighter on the monitor than they do by eye... An example of low...

A Tale of Two iPads

Bigger is not always better, but smaller isn't quite ready for primetime... yet.
Written by Art Adams  |  December 31, 2012
In 2011 I bought an iPad 2, and in 2012 I traded it up for an iPad 3. For 2013 I've opted to experiment with the first generation iPad Mini, and while this generation won't replace my iPad 3 I suspect--and hope--that the next one will. I love toys, and I love them more when they qualify as a...

Hitting the Exposure Sweet Spot

Make the most of any camera's dynamic range by placing your mid-tones in the right spot...
Written by Art Adams  |  December 24, 2012
After years of looking at dynamic range charts I noticed that almost all camera gamma curves emphasize mid-tones within a consistent IRE range. What does this mean to you? Find out by clicking through...   As a consultant to DSC Labs I get to play with a lot of toys, and one of the best is the DSC...

Does the Zone System Apply to HD Cameras?

In theory a DP should be able to light a set without a camera, using only a meter. But does that really work in video?
Written by Art Adams  |  December 20, 2012
My latest obsession is trying to match reflectance values with IRE values to create a "Zone System for video." This is both easy to do and impossible, so click through if you'd like to see how far I've gotten… First, if you don't know what the Zone System is,

What Good is a Macbeth/Colorchecker Chart?

I see X-Rite Colorcheckers in every expendable supply store, which is strange as they really have nothing to do with HD.
Written by Art Adams  |  December 19, 2012
Most camera rental houses have an in-house expendables store, and during a recent visit to one such store I ran across a stack of X-Rite "Macbeth" ColorChecker charts sitting on a shelf. I'm firmly convinced that the only reason people buy these is because they think there is a reason to use them for film-style production... but if there...

The Canon C300 Comes Through for Kendall-Jackson Winery


Written by Art Adams  |  November 30, 2012
These days it's all about getting the most bang for your budget, and this promo for a new Kendall-Jackson wine pairing iPhone app had to look spectacular for not a lot of money. Fortunately the Canon C300, a sunny day and a great grip crew made this possible... First, watch the spot as it appears on Youtube:

Reflected Light Meters: What Are They Really Saying?

Every day I learn something that I had no idea I didn’t know.
Written by Art Adams  |  November 30, 2012
It has long been whispered, in dark corners of the industry, that our reflected light meters aren’t telling us what we think they’re telling us. I’ve recently stumbled upon some evidence that states that this is, indeed, true. I don’t have a definitive answer yet, but you might be interested in knowing what the...

A Light Meter Party Trick

There's one case where an incident light meter can tell you just as much about a lit surface as a reflected meter can...
Written by Art Adams  |  November 27, 2012
Incident meters can only tell you how much light is striking them, and nothing about how bright things are in the real world... except in this one situation. This handy trick for measuring the brightness of diffuse backlit surfaces may be the one way you can surprise your gaffer.Years ago, when I was working as a camera...

LIGHT METERS: What are Incident Meters Good For, Anyway?

Incident meters don't tell you how bright things in your shot are, but it's surprising how handy they can be if you know a few simple facts about light and reflectivity.
Written by Art Adams  |  November 14, 2012
Way back when I shot film I was a serious devotee of The Zone System. I lived and died by my spot meter. I have a much harder time doing this in HD, however, so I'm rediscovering the joys of using an incident light meter. I've picked up a few new tips and tricks, and now I'm going to share them with you.A DP once...

CAMERAS: More Thoughts on Canon's Color Science, This Time with Pictures

It's hard to see the differences between color matrices until you look at them side by side. That's when the real education begins...
Written by Art Adams  |  October 29, 2012
Accurate color and pretty color are not always the same. Let's compare two Canon C300 color matrices and see for ourselves...Every camera, and every manufacturer, has its own "look." Part of this is how the sensor is constructed, in particular what specific filter colors are used on the red, green and blue photo sites;...

CAMERAS: Focusing and Setting Parallax on a 90-year-old Camera

Working with 90-year-old technology is eye opening: you start to wonder how anyone managed to get quality images on film at all, let alone create dozens of silent film classics. Dealing with dozens of internal camera menus starts to look really simple.
Written by Art Adams  |  October 28, 2012
When working with 90-year-old motion picture technology it's not unusual to wonder how anything got made at all. Here's what it took to make sure the shot was in focus and to ensure the operator could actually see what was in the frame.Adam Wilt did a great job of showing what it's like working on a modern silent film...

CAMERAS: Thoughts on the Canon C300's Color Science

There's pretty color and there's accurate color, and they are not the same thing. Read why...
Written by Art Adams  |  October 26, 2012
In theory I like the Canon C300. It's small, it's well designed, and it can make pretty pictures. The Canon "look," though, is very different from what I'm used to, and it's taken me a while to figure out how to bend the camera's look into something that I really like. After spending an hour tweaking profiles the other day I think I...

CAMERAS: Reloading a 90-Year-Old Film Camera

I forgot how much fun it is to touch film and thread it through a camera movement and I'm glad I had a chance to do it one last time, before film is gone for good...
Written by Art Adams  |  October 4, 2012
There's something special about threading film through a camera and watching it run through perfectly. There's also a lot that can go wrong on the way. Read on to see what's involved in loading a 90-year-old film camera...In

Why I'm Going to Miss Film

It's so much easier to shoot than HD, and it's so much more artistically freeing... but if it's still around in five years I'll be surprised.
Written by Art Adams  |  September 30, 2012
For the first time in probably four years, I actually worked with--and handled--film today. It hit me that this project may be my last chance ever to work with this medium, and that makes me a bit sad.
"The Haunting" (the original 1963 version, not the appalling 1999 version) is one of my favorite...

CAMERAS: Rough Guide to Color Grading with the new DSC Labs OneShot

The best way to reproduce color accurately is to have a color reference in the shot with known colors on it. This chart does just that.
Written by Art Adams  |  September 19, 2012
In the old days we shot an 18% gray card to tell a film dailies timer where we wanted our exposure placed and what color we wanted dailies to be. Now that film is being replaced by HD a simple gray card is no longer enough, because while film colors are fixed by emulsion video colors are not. A gray card in video doesn't communicate...

CAMERAS: A New Chart for Film-Style Production--The DSC OneShot


Written by Art Adams  |  September 4, 2012
In the old days of video, what we saw was what we got. Now, with log and raw, the possibilities are infinite. Only one of those possibilities, though, is what YOU want. Here's how to make sure your vision is the one everyone else sees.I'll be showing off this chart at IBC, Sept. 7-11. Look for booth...

CAMERAS: Some More Thoughts on the Zacuto Shootout, as Posted to DVXuser

It seems that every time I write something on this subject my thoughts become clearer and clearer. I think that this post, left in a forum on DVXuser, makes my opinion very clear--as well as making it clear that this is only my opinion.
Written by Art Adams  |  August 20, 2012
I learned recently that there was a thread discussing the Zacuto tests on DVXuser and my articles were mentioned. I like what I wrote as I think it sums up my thoughts nicely, so I'm posting it here as well.Here's my post to DVXuser, in the "Zacuto Revenge Part 3" forum thread:Hi gang-I...

CAMERAS: The Zacuto Fallout Continues

Tests themselves are less important than how the results are presented. In this case, one innocent quote from a non-DP has spread like wildfire.
Written by Art Adams  |  August 19, 2012
What's more important than technical accuracy? Making sure your test speaks for itself. When others speak for you--especially if they are non-experts--the messaging can quickly spin out of control.I believe Zacuto, and all the people who participated in their 2012 camera shootout, had only the best of intentions....

LIGHTING: One Exposure Formula to Rule Them All

Need to figure out how much light you need for a specific stop, frame rate or ISO? This basic formula will help you figure out the answer... in your head!
Written by Art Adams  |  August 17, 2012
This industry is full of little tricks that, when properly employed, can make us all look like inhumanly fast calculating machines. This formula is one of those tricks. I learned this formula in my junior year of film school, and it's one of those things I've never forgotten because it's been so damned useful....

LIGHTING: The Most Common Light Leaks, and How to Stop Them

If there's one thing I hate on my sets it's the wrong quality of light in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here are the three most common causes, and what I do about them...
Written by Art Adams  |  August 1, 2012
I prefer contrasty soft light for most of my work, and while I'm not averse to hard light accents there's one thing I absolutely detest: unintended hard light flooding randomly across the set. Here are the three most common causes I've experienced, and how I fix them...Black wrap exists for a reason: it is the single best...

CAMERAS: The Canon C300 and IR

Bad news: The C300 is sensitive to far red. Good news: All of your existing IRND filters work!
Written by Art Adams  |  July 31, 2012
Single-sensor cameras fall into two camps: those that are sensitive to far red, and those that are sensitive to infrared. The Canon C300 is sensitive to far red, which means that IRND filters will work--and hot mirrors won't. Come see the difference...RED cameras are the only cameras that are truly sensitive to a form of...

PHILOSOPHY: On the Subject of Freebies

Everyone starts out working for free. That's the only way those in the industry can find out whether you're any good. At some point, though, it's important to stop--or at least be more selective.
Written by Art Adams  |  July 31, 2012
Everyone starts out working for free. That's the only way those in the industry can find out whether you're any good. At some point, though, it's important to stop--or at least be more selective. Over the years I've shot a number of freebies. Early in my career I did this for experience: film school was great...

CAMERAS: Hands-on with the RED ONE of 1922

This camera shocked the world when it came out 90 years ago. And... it still works like a charm.
Written by Art Adams  |  July 31, 2012
The Bell & Howell 2709 is a very old camera. In this case, the one I'm looking through turned 90 last May. It still works perfectly, something that I don't think I'll be able to say of many modern cameras in 10 or 20 years time. I don't have anything against modern cameras--I like most of them, and they've become much more filmic over...

CAMERAS: Sony FS700 Dynamic Range Presentation

The DSC Labs Xyla chart is the fastest and clearest way to see EXACTLY what your camera's gamma curves are doing...
Written by Art Adams  |  July 1, 2012
Sony recently asked Adam Wilt and I to speak about the new FS700 camera at CineGear. My portion of the presentation examined how to profile dynamic range and determine how the various gamma curves changed the camera's response. Read on to see what I discovered...I've worked as a consultant, both paid and unpaid, to DSC...

LIGHTING: Reinventing the Cooking Show for Driscoll's Berries

I'm not a huge fan of how most cooking shows are lit. This was my chance to try it my way...
Written by Art Adams  |  June 20, 2012
I don't watch a lot of cooking shows, but the ones I see are not lit the way I would light them. An idea for a lighting setup has been kicking around in my head for a while and I finally had a chance to try it out on a shoot for Driscoll's Berries. It worked! Here's why…Years ago I operated a camera on a cooking...

Why Color Meters Don't Work with LEDs

There's a very simple reason that color meters lie about any source that has a discontinuous spectrum: It makes assumptions. This is something that you should not do. Here's why...
Written by Art Adams  |  June 16, 2012
Color meters view the world through three narrow colored filters: one red, one green, and one blue. Those tiny little windows work fine for sunlight, tungsten light and HMI light... but all bets are off when it comes to LEDs.The life of a color meter is pretty easy: measure three points in the spectrum, calculate...

CAMERAS: Avoiding the Big Gotcha When Shooting High Speed at Night

I never thought I'd have to worry about the technicalities of shooting high speed at night, but the FS700 has changed all that. There's one very, very important trick to know before you take your new camera into the streets...
Written by Art Adams  |  June 9, 2012
Adam Wilt and I presented a talk about the new Sony FS700 camera to an audience at CineGear 2012. As part of our preparation we ran around and shot a bunch of slow motion night footage… which is certainly something I've never been able to do before.That was a VERY informative experience because we found a very interesting "gotcha"...

CAMERAS: 240fps Promo Goes Live Thanks to Sony FS700

Get a sneak peak before the big screen premiere at CineGear 2012!
Written by Art Adams  |  May 30, 2012
Adam Wilt and I will host a presentation on the new Sony FS700 at CineGear 2012. This video, a promo for clothing brand Betabrand, is the centerpiece. Get a sneak peek now, and get all the juicy camera details on Saturday, June 2nd, on the Paramount lot in Hollywood.A version of this promo went live earlier this...

LIGHTING: Advanced Cucoloris Use Illustrated by a Solar Eclipse

Q: What happens when you stack several pattern-making devices in front of a light? A: Extreme lighting goodness. Learn why here...
Written by Art Adams  |  May 25, 2012
I love stacking cucolorii (plural of "cucoloris") and I thought it was time to write an article about how this technique works and why I like it so much. I was a bit stretched for ideas that would illustrate this concept... and then an eclipse happened. Why that made a difference is a very interesting story... First of...

CAMERAS: Food Fights with the FS700

You want 240fps 1920x1080? I've got your high-speed HD right here... for less than $10K.
Written by Art Adams  |  May 16, 2012
When Adam Wilt and I shot "Fire and Ice" together on a prototype FS700 we had no idea that it would be shown at NAB... and that it would be hit. We wanted to do more, so we pitched Sony a commercial concept for a local...

CAMERA MATH: The Importance of Ratios

I'm better with words than equations, but once in a while a math technique is so useful that I can't help but use it. Here's one that I find invaluable.
Written by Art Adams  |  May 4, 2012
I remember very little math from my high school days, but what I do remember are the tricks that I was able to apply to my daily life. One formula, determining ratios, has served me better than any other. Here's how I'm using this formula to create custom frame lines for an upcoming web banner shoot.I've been shooting a...

GEEK-OUT: The Matrix, Reloaded

What the heck is a matrix, anyway? It's only one of the most important aspects of what makes your camera look the way it does. Take a look inside if you dare...
Written by Art Adams  |  April 15, 2012
After years of wondering what exactly the user matrix does I think I've figured it out. I'm not sure I can explain it, but I'm going to try. Put on your propellor hat and rub your brain with soothing salves, 'cause it's gonna hurt...I've known for a while that matrices add and subtract color channels from each other, but...

Lighting Fire and Liquids: Playtime with the Sony FS700

Water, ice, fire and a prototype Sony FS700 slow motion camera. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
Written by Art Adams  |  April 14, 2012
Adam Wilt gets to play with the best toys, in this case a prototype Sony FS700 slow motion camera. He invited me over to play, and the results were really, really interesting. Adam's article talks about some of the technical issues he ran across, so in this article I'm going to focus on the lighting side of what we...

LED Light Tests: Flesh Tone and Color Comparison Shootout

There's one color that will always bother us if it's wrong: flesh tone. We tested ten common LED lights against a tungsten Inkie and a Kino Flo... come see the results!
Written by Art Adams  |  April 9, 2012
Color comparison tests are hard. Color science is witchcraft, and objective color is exceedingly difficult to quantify. Comparison is really the only way to judge color, so we tested ten LED lights against two tungsten Tweenies and a 3200K 2'x4 Kino Flo. The results are... interesting.While shooting

BEHIND THE SCENES: Smoke in the Woods with the Canon 5D

Where there's smoke there's fire... or a production company shooting a PSA for a non-profit. This is how you create a high-end look on a budget.
Written by Art Adams  |  April 7, 2012
When production companies ask me to shoot spots on the Canon 5D MkII I don't flinch anymore. Sure, it's not the most user friendly camera in the world, but I can't complain about the images I can make with it. And no one else does, either.In this case, half the battle was putting the camera in the right place at the right time--and...

LED Light Tests: PRG Sponsors an LED Light Shootout

A dozen lights, an Arri Alexa, an intrepid crew... what could go wrong? Lots, which is why we had to work extra hard. Tests are never easy, and comparison tests are among the hardest of all.
Written by Art Adams  |  April 3, 2012
"LED Light Shootout" sounds so dramatic, as if a collection of motley illuminants met in a dusty western town to settle their differences with bullets instead of marketing. It's actually tedious, mind numbing work… and a real eyeopener.Before I go into detail as to how we pulled this off, you should probably...

CANON C300: Trimming White Balance, Plus a Look at Daylight vs. Tungsten Color

Cameras used to be SOOOO boring. Now every new camera is a mystery to be unfolded: What does it do well? What tweaks can make it better? Here is my first C300 article that addresses these questions...
Written by Art Adams  |  March 30, 2012
I've shot a lot of web and broadcast spots on the Canon 5D and while it makes pretty pictures the controls are very limited. It's also not a camera that can be used quickly. At the moment the Canon C300 is a bit of a mystery to me: before my recent tests I didn't know whether it's a 5D with more controls and a cinematographer-friendly form...

CAMERAS: Now It's Rocket Science

It used to be so simple: pick a film stock, pick a lens, shoot images, process and print, repeat. It wasn't rocket science. Now, though... it's rocket science.
Written by Art Adams  |  March 28, 2012
Not so long ago the toughest choice we had to make was which film stock to use. It was possible to learn one or two stocks really, really well and use them predictably over the course of many years. Now a game-changing camera comes out every year, introducing us to new strengths and weakness. Not so long ago cinematography wasn't rocket...
A web spot may be seen by more people than a broadcast spot, so making it pretty is more important than ever. In this case, simple but elegant lighting and custom gamma curves made this spot shine. (And when shooting kids, "simple" becomes very important.)The idea is this: dad shoots baby video on his phone and...

GEEK OUT: The Non-Technical Technical Guide to Sony OLED Monitors

OLED monitors are about to change the way we view images, both at work and at home. Prepare to look better than you ever have before.
Written by Art Adams  |  March 7, 2012
The first time I laid eyes on a professional Sony OLED monitor I knew my professional life had changed. In a few years I'm sure we'll take this technology for granted, but right now it looks AMAZING compared to any other monitoring system I use on a regular basis. For a slightly-technical-but-mostly-educational look at why, read...

LIGHTING STRATEGIES: Rough Guide to Illuminating a Bounce Card


Written by Art Adams  |  January 29, 2012
Is bounce light really just about aiming a light at a white card and walking away? No. There are a couple of tricks to getting the most out of your bounce source, and I can show them to you fairly quickly using a 4'x4' bounce card as an example. First thing to consider: material. Foam core...

LIGHTING STRATEGIES: Exploiting a Single Light Source

Sometimes all it takes to make a beautiful picture is placing one light--as long as it's the proper light source. This still photo shows an example of one style of soft lighting that's been in use for centuries, and for good reason: it works.
Written by Art Adams  |  January 28, 2012
There are few things more elegant than lighting a shot with a single light source. It doesn't always work, but when it does--it's magical. The most natural and common source of interior lighting is window light. A number of famous European painters fashioned their studios so that the room was lit by a single window...

BOOK REVIEW: "How to Shoot Movies Without Shooting Yourself in the Foot"

The best books about cinematography aren't necessarily about the art of cinematography. They're about getting all the other stuff out of the way so you can practice cinematography. This is the book that tells you what you didn't know--but need to know--about becoming a cinematographer.
Written by Art Adams  |  January 20, 2012
This book is not for everyone. If you don't eat, breathe and live cinematography... maybe you should read something else. Seriously. This book may not be for you. (But if it is... you'd better not miss it.)A review of this book on Amazon.com says:"If you're going into a career in the film...

LIGHTING STRATEGIES: Placing the Fill Light for Faces

Placing a fill light properly is possibly more important than placing a key light... and I can prove it!
Written by Art Adams  |  January 18, 2012
In this article I wrote about classical key light placement and classical portraiture to illustrate how artists and cinematographers have traditionally gone about lighting faces....

LIGHTING STRATEGIES: What Makes Soft Lights Cast Soft Shadows?

When it comes to soft light, size matters.
Written by Art Adams  |  December 27, 2011
It's one thing to understand that soft sources make soft shadows. It's another thing to understand why. Fortunately a friend from the insect world can help us if we will look at soft light through his eyes.Let's look at an example environment that I built in Poser 9: That small dot at the right of...

For You, a Panel Discussion

Take a break from reading and listen to us for a change: PVC writers speak at the 2011 Entertainment Technology Expo in Burbank.
Written by Art Adams  |  December 24, 2011
A rabble of PVC writers (yes, that's the collective term) spoke at this year's Entertainment Technology Expo in Burbank. If you want to see some of the people behind the ProVideo Coalition content curtain, including myself, this is a "must see."Pop some popcorn, grab a drink, and sit comfortably before

LIGHTING STRATEGIES: Soft Light vs. Hard Light

Hard lights are great for textures, but soft lights are great for defining spaces.
Written by Art Adams  |  December 22, 2011
In a previous article I described how to place a hard key light. In this article I'll look at why soft sources are a bit more realistic in color cinematography, require less precise placement, and can...

Pulse Width Modulation is NOT Your Friend

What you don't know about PWM may ruin your next shot--particularly if you're using a camera with a rolling shutter!
Written by Art Adams  |  December 16, 2011
Here's the deal: there's this thing called "pulse width modulation," and under certain conditions it doesn't play well with rolling shutter cameras. Most of the time it's no problem, but we don't get phone calls from post when there's no problem. Here's how to avoid that phone call.I recently shot a quick project for a...

LIGHTING STRATEGIES: Placing a Hard Key Light

Hard light and faces... do they go together? The short answer is yes... but be careful!
Written by Art Adams  |  December 14, 2011
The most important thing you will ever learn about lighting is this: LIGHTING IS NOT A FORMULA. Learning about lighting, though, is a process of becoming aware, and in this first of many articles I'm going I'm going to try to increase your awareness of one specific thing per article. The more awareness you have the more easily you'll be...

The Simplest, Fastest Interview Lighting Setup--Ever.

Years in the making, this technique works in almost every situation and makes almost everyone look great. That's about the best you can hope for when shooting talking heads on a tight schedule.
Written by Art Adams  |  November 18, 2011
For a long time my primary source of employment was shooting corporate marketing communications videos. As these consist primarily of "talking head" interviews, I tried every lighting setup I could think of to make people look their best quickly, as many of these shoots have tight schedules and not much turnaround time between interviews. This...

The Future of Technology is You


Written by Art Adams  |  November 1, 2011
Technology is always advancing, and we're at the point in this industry where we'll always have new toys on the near horizon. My question is: how much do these toys matter when it's the people who use them who provide all the creativity?On Wednesday I'll be speaking at Creatasphere's

Fill Light: The Underdog of Lighting

Fill light isn't just for controlling contrast; its quality and placement can make or break your shot.
Written by Art Adams  |  September 27, 2011
The day I stop learning about lighting will be the day my EKG goes flatline. There's an extraordinary amount to learn and absorb, and I doubt I'll ever learn all of it. That's okay, because it means I'll never run out of new things to learn. My most recent fixation is on the one light many think about the least: the fill...

Blue Nile Shines Thanks to the Canon 5D and Apple Color


Written by Art Adams  |  September 20, 2011
One of the best things about this business is that greatness lurks around every corner. If you are resourceful and creative you'll find it well enough.I've shot several viral projects for production company Seedwell and I was honored to be invited to shoot their...

You've read my writing, now hear my talking

Yup, I got interviewed. If you have an hour to spare, here's where to find it.
Written by Art Adams  |  July 13, 2011
Izzy Hyman, of the website Izzy Video, interviewed me yesterday for his "Meet the Shooter" series.We spoke for about an hour about my career and related issues. You can listen to the interview here.

Anatomy of a Spot: T-Mobile

What's the best camera to use when shooting in an elevator? A small one. Hellooooo Canon 5D...
Written by Art Adams  |  June 20, 2011
Over time I've come to respect the Canon 5D. It's not the most user friendly of cameras, and it has some fairly serious faults, but if you can avoid the pitfalls it can make very pretty images.Film industry lesson #1: You never know where future jobs will come from. I had no idea that shooting

DSC Labs Hawk Chart: The Simplest Color Chart That You Can't Live Without

Wouldn't it be great if someone designed an easy-to-use color chart that could be quickly and easily used in the field? Well, someone did. And they call it The Hawk.
Written by Art Adams  |  June 17, 2011
It wasn't until I worked at the DSC Labs booth at NAB that I discovered The Hawk... and it blew me away. It's a very simple chart, but it offers a colorist (professional or amateur) the most critical information necessary to accurately neutralize your raw, log, or even WYSIWYG images.At NAB I was approached by a DP who...

Arri Alexa and Rosco LitePads Come Through for OnLive's First National Spot

The project started out as a web-only teaser. When the client saw it they added another shoot day and turned it into a national spot. Here's why, and how.
Written by Art Adams  |  June 12, 2011
Originally slated to be a web-only spot, the first shoot day went so well that when the client saw the results they ordered a second shoot day, added an actor and made a $1m+ national ad buy.I've been holding off writing this article as I'd hoped to see a :60 version of the spot that contained all of the really...

The Secrets of the Chroma Du Monde, Explained Live (on tape) at NAB!

If you've always wanted to find out if I present on video as well as I write... click here to find out!
Written by Art Adams  |  April 20, 2011
I spent a lot of time in the DSC Labs booth at NAB, giving Chroma Du Monde demonstrations and teaching basic waveform/vectorscope tricks. PVC's Scott Gentry stopped by and asked me to say a few words on video, and this is the result. Enjoy!

A Mix of Film and HD Doesn't Scare Arri's Alexa


Written by Art Adams  |  April 19, 2011
The client wanted contrasty toplight against seamless white, and then they wanted to intercut that with stock footage shot on film. Thanks to Arri's Alexa, what the client wants--the client gets. In spades.I've done a number of different styles of lighting against white limbo backgrounds: flat frontal, rear 3/4, big soft...

Where I'll Be at NAB


Written by Art Adams  |  April 9, 2011
I'm constantly amazed at how many readers I have, and if you'd like to amaze me more by stopping by and saying hi I'll be in the DSC Labs booth (C10215, near Band Pro, Tiffen and Abel Cine) on Monday and Tuesday, with shorter appearances Wednesday and Thursday as I'll be wandering around a bit more. I'm also on a DP Track panel with...

The Secret Art of Slating: 25 Tips to Help You Slate Like a Pro

Take these to heart and become the editor's best friend.
Written by Art Adams  |  March 1, 2011
Slate training was my introduction to one of the most important tenets of filmmaking: always think of the next person down the production line. In the case of slating, this means taking care of the poor assistant editor who has to sync and track dailies based on your notes and your slating technique.Just the way...

iPhone Apps: The Short List for the Average Cinematographer

Of all the apps I've found, these are the most helpful.
Written by Art Adams  |  February 19, 2011
It seems everyone and their sister's friend's cousin has made a list of indispensable cinematography iPhone apps. Now it's my turn. Let's see how original I am.One week ago today I received my new Verizon iPhone, and life hasn't felt quite the same since. I feel as if I'm a little behind as everyone else in the industry...

Panasonic AF-100: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Director Ian McCamey, Adam Wilt and myself take the AF-100 out for a spin in real world conditions.
Written by Art Adams  |  February 9, 2011
The Panasonic AF-100 is getting a lot of buzz as a possible HDSLR killer. We used it in the real world in place of an HDSLR, and now we know. And soon, so will you. Read on...The two cameras that get the most buzz at the moment are the Panasonic AF-100 and the Sony F3. In particular, the AF-100 seems to be...

Career Advice for the Young DP

The true barrier to cinematography success isn't youth-it's experience. Here's what a budding DP needs to know about building a career.
Written by Art Adams  |  January 10, 2011
This is my response to a question posted to the Cinematography Mailing List by a young film student who is chafing at the bit to be a director of photography as soon as possible.----------------------(To read this thread go to

Phantom Adventures: 1000fps on a Budget

A $250,000 camera, 60,000w of tungsten lighting, 1000fps, kids, animals… what could go wrong? Not much, as it turns out.

Written by Art Adams  |  December 15, 2010
A while back I wrote this article about some high speed tests I did in preparation for an upcoming regional spot. The results convinced the client, Rambus, that the extra expense of shooting their...

Alexa ISO Settings: The Least You Need to Know

Changing an HD camera's ISO has a greater impact on an image than simply affecting exposure. Learn what's really happening... and take advantage of it!
Written by Art Adams  |  October 8, 2010
My previous Arri Alexa article showed you how the camera's dynamic range responds to different ISO settings. In this shorter article I'll show you why that's useful and practical information.All the world loves graphic examples, so let's start off with one: This graph shows how tones are...

Arri Alexa's Dynamic Range: It's All in How You Use It

Always push exposure to the limits. But learn where the limits are first!
Written by Art Adams  |  September 29, 2010
Knowing that the Arri Alexa has 15 or so stops of dynamic range is nice, but it's hardly useful information unless you know how those stops are arranged at different ISO settings. Fortunately I've done the hard work for you.Or rather I should say that

The Best of Stunning Good Looks

A directory of my best articles, sorted by topic.
Written by Art Adams  |  August 31, 2010
This entry is a guide to my best articles, sorted by topic. Enjoy!BEHIND-THE-SCENES/PRODUCTION/LIGHTINGMy Love Affair with Alexa (Alexa)

Canon 5D: How much dynamic range does it have, really?

The DSC 102db chart doesn't lie: This is what it tells us about how the 5D sees the world.
Written by Art Adams  |  August 31, 2010
The Canon 5D does a remarkable job of making HD images, considering that it was originally never intended to do so. So how much dynamic range can it really capture? Thanks to the DSC 102db (17-stop) latitude chart, we now have an objective answer.If you've read

My Love Affair with Alexa

When the camera sees more than my light meter does, it's time to acknowledge that the game has truly changed.
Written by Art Adams  |  August 21, 2010
My dream HD camera records footage with log-encoded gamma to ProRes for a fast, easy and accessible post workflow and cost-effective color grading. It has the simplest control interface ever. It sees in the dark. And it's built by a company whose gear I learned to trust early in my career when I started out as a camera assistant. The...

Next Stop: The Last Stop! RED MX Latitude Tests

An 18-stop test chart, a tunnel made of showcard and a dozen yards of black plastic ground cover later, we have a pretty good idea of the RED MX's exposure latitude.
Written by Art Adams  |  July 31, 2010
When DSC Labs offered to send me a 102db (translation: 18-stop) exposure latitude chart, I just couldn't bring myself to say no. And, naturally, the first camera I wanted to test was the RED ONE MX. How much better is the new sensor? Let's take a look...The

IR Cheat Sheet, Updated to Version 2

Get the right filter for the right camera!
Written by Art Adams  |  July 29, 2010
At long last, an update to my fabled IR Filter Cheat Sheet. Not every camera responds the same way to IR; make sure you have the right filter for the right job.Here it is, version 2 of the Art Adams IR Filter Cheat Sheet: Click here to download a...

Arri Alexa and Far Red: A Problem That's Already Been Solved

Most cameras have issues with far red or infrared. There are lots of filters to fix that, but you have to use the right one for the right camera. Read on to see what works with Alexa.
Written by Art Adams  |  July 29, 2010
Last night I had the chance to--finally!--touch an Arri Alexa at Chater Camera's Alexa preview party. And, being a curious sort of fellow, I decided to run some impromptu tests. IR tests are the easiest to do so I quickly did some--and in the process learned some interesting...

RED MX IR Tests: The New Sensor is Similar to the Old Sensor

Don't throw your IR filters away yet. You're gonna need them.
Written by Art Adams  |  July 23, 2010
RED says that their new sensor is more resistant to IR contamination than their original sensor. This test shows that, while there may be an improvement, IR is still an issue. Fortunately all the usual IR filter solutions work just fine.As every filter manufacturer profiled here has, at one time or another, given...

Step into the Matrix: What I Learned from Examining RED's Build 30 Color Science

RED says the MX sensor uses the same colorimetry as their old M sensor. Others say the improvements are so dramatic that this can't be. A search for the truth led me deep into the heart of The Matrix...
Written by Art Adams  |  July 22, 2010
Comparing the RED ONE "M" and the RED ONE "MX" in Adam Wilt's office.The RED ONE MX is finally here, and it looks great--better than it should, considering that RED says that it hasn't changed the colorimetry of its sensors, only its sensitivity...

Lighting Against The Wind: The Making of a Mime Music Video

If your first response to a low-budget music video contest is to cast one actress in three different parts, all of whom appear onscreen at the same time and interact with each other, then this article is for you.
Written by Art Adams  |  June 19, 2010
In the last two years I've often described myself as a "reel-building whore." If I'm asked to do a low-budget and "reel worthy" freebie by a trusted director/collaborator I jump at the challenge. When director Ian McCamey asked me to shoot a freebie music video with three interactive mimes who were all played by the same actress, I couldn't say...

A Cine Gear Find: TechScout Touch


Written by Art Adams  |  June 10, 2010
It was in the LightGear booth at Cine Gear that I first saw TechScout Touch. "You can create your lighting order using this one iPhone app," said the sales rep, "and send the order straight to the rental house.""That's great," I said, "but I don't live in LA, and the odds are pretty slim that I'm going to use your rental...

GearNex: The Next Generation of Gear Head

A small start-up makes another smooth move by improving an already excellent product
Written by Art Adams  |  June 9, 2010
GearNex co-owner Bret Allen, S.O.C. shows off the latest generation of his award-winning gear head at Cine Gear 2010.Sacramento start-up GearNex surprised the industry last year by bringing a small, affordable and very functional gear head to market. It was mostly worth the asking price at the time. Now the price has gone...

VFX Tell the Story in California State Fair Spots

A RED ONE, a barn, seven kids, a guy in a yellow bear costume, the setting sun, an animated dinosaur and dozens of visual effects elements combine to create dazzling imagery on a moderate budget.
Written by Art Adams  |  June 2, 2010
A bit of prior planning, some clever visual effects and a new RED software build help a talented production team get maximum bang for minimum bucks.Not long ago I wrote about some PSAs that I shot for an...

Everyone Looks Sexy at 1000fps

I recently shot high speed tests on the RED and Phantom cameras. Come see which one makes me look most like a bionic dancer.
Written by Art Adams  |  April 2, 2010
One of my favorite clients recently pitched a project that requires shooting high-speed footage at 1000fps. To help them sell the concept I shot some tests comparing the RED ONE at 120 and 100fps to the Phantom HD Gold at...