Art Adams

Stunning Good Looks | Art Adams rss

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


Things you didn't know about color matching lenses

Written by Art Adams  |  November 3, 2015

Lens color hasn’t been on my radar until recently. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I took a closer look. Sometimes ignorance is bliss...


Day 28 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Breaking into and making a living in the industry

I started at the bottom and showed people that I that I knew nothing but I’d learn quickly. That was all it took
Written by Art Adams  |  September 28, 2015

It feels like it’s tougher than ever to break into and make a living in this industry. Would you say that’s the case?


Day 27 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Buying your own camera

A a camera for personal use, and for practice, makes perfect sense
Written by Art Adams  |  September 27, 2015

Does it makes sense for a cinematographer to have their own affordable camera which they probably wouldn’t use for a job, but would work for personal projects, or could conceivably work as a “B” camera on a job? Something like a 5D or Blackmagic Pocket Camera?


Day 26 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - How do you draw the line between being stylized and overdoing it?

As one gains experience one discovers ways to create cool looks without attracting a lot of attention
Written by Art Adams  |  September 26, 2015

How do you draw the line between being stylized and overdoing it?


Day 25 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Traveling with gear

These are the tricks…
Written by Art Adams  |  September 25, 2015

When traveling with gear, do you pack everything or have someone else do it? How often have you gotten burned by letting someone who end up being unqualified pack the gear?


Day 24 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Do you ever miss the look you were able to achieve with film?

What I miss more is the way of working
Written by Art Adams  |  September 24, 2015

Do you ever miss the look you were able to achieve with film?


Day 23 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Are there any general “lighting rules” that you have or follow?

I go through phases where I focus on different aspects of lighting
Written by Art Adams  |  September 23, 2015

Are there any general “lighting rules” that you have or follow?


Day 22 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Is soft light more pliable than hard light?

Soft light requires a lot less precision
Written by Art Adams  |  September 22, 2015

Is soft light more pliable than hard light?


Day 21 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Experimenting with soft and harsh pools of light

Sometimes the choice is artistic
Written by Art Adams  |  September 21, 2015

Do you experiment with soft pools of light on actors or in a scene, or for the most part will you already have that mapped out in your head?


Day 20 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Changes and alterations in post

I also work as much as possible with standard LUTs in the event that post doesn’t use the right one
Written by Art Adams  |  September 20, 2015

What do you do when you run into a situation where someone in post is looking to radically change the look and style that you’ve created?


Day 19 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Lighting techniques and color details

Something to keep in mind is that light warms up every time you bounce it or diffuse it
Written by Art Adams  |  September 19, 2015

Any tips you can offer around specific lights or techniques to achieve specific colors?


Day 18 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Is silhouetting more about a fit for the story or an opportunity presented by a set/location?

The contrast between silhouette and non-silhouette can be used to great effect
Written by Art Adams  |  September 18, 2015

Is silhouetting more about a fit for the story or an opportunity presented by a set/location?


Day 17 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Choosing and using 4K

Resolution is easier to quantify than color and dynamic range
Written by Art Adams  |  September 17, 2015

Do you think the problem with 4K is that people are thinking of and using it wrong, or that it’s simply unnecessary?

In terms of lighting, we all know that low contrast = happy; high contrast = more serious. Are there any other rules of thumb along these lines? Or is this all an oversimplification?


Day 15 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - DPs with a still photography background

Motion is a completely different beast, with its own terminology and history and working practices
Written by Art Adams  |  September 15, 2015

Do you think DPs who have a still photography background have an advantage or disadvantage over those who don’t?


Day 14 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - What’s the most important light on the set?

Sometimes the difference between a good shot and a great shot is putting the fill light in the right spot
Written by Art Adams  |  September 14, 2015

What’s the most important light on the set?


Day 13 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Moving away from the look established in prepro once you get into production

The thing that changes most often is the coverage, which usually isn’t that big a deal
Written by Art Adams  |  September 13, 2015

Have you ever completely moved away from the look and colors that were established in prepro once you got into production?

How often do you play around with color temperatures? Any insights or takeaways from your experiments?


Day 11 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - When stand-ins aren’t available

We just have to learn to roll with it
Written by Art Adams  |  September 11, 2015

What can you do if the director insists that you have to light a scene before the actors come in, and standins are not available?


Day 10 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Why is it so important to shoot in the order of the lighting set-ups?

It’s more efficient, but it doesn’t happen anymore
Written by Art Adams  |  September 10, 2015

Why is it so important to shoot in the order of the lighting set-ups?


Day 9 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Directors and ADs who haven’t worked their way up the ranks

A bad or inexperienced director kills everything on a shoot
Written by Art Adams  |  September 9, 2015

Are you starting to work with directors and/or ADs who haven’t made their way up through the ranks? How is a production and even the industry as a whole impacted when the people up top don’t have the experience they would have needed to have 5-10 years ago?


Day 8 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Dealing with light that can and does constantly change

Most of it comes down to planning and working with the director and the AD on scheduling
Written by Art Adams  |  September 8, 2015

I know you’re supposed to control every aspect of the look in a shot, but how can you do that when you’re dealing with natural light that can and does constantly change?


Day 7 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Solving problems during production

In my early days I carried a lot of stuff that I bought at either a hardware store or a fabric store
Written by Art Adams  |  September 7, 2015

What percentage of technical problems that you run into onset are solved with solutions from the hardware store?


Day 6 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - When your director wants something you can’t quite pull off

If the look I’m asked for is tough for the budget I’ll try to push the director into scaling down their expectations a bit
Written by Art Adams  |  September 6, 2015

If you don’t have the light to pull off the look your director wants, is it better to say so or get it as close as you can?


Day 5 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - What are some cheap lighting options?

Tungsten is cheap. You can bounce it, use it direct, focus it, and drag it around the world without breaking it
Written by Art Adams  |  September 5, 2015

What are some “cheap” lighting options?


Day 4 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - What makes the Sony F55 so versatile?

The F55 has something for everyone
Written by Art Adams  |  September 4, 2015

Is there anything specific about the F55 that makes it so versatile?


Day 3 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Living and working in Los Angeles

Figure out what your job is, what’s expected of you and how to interact with other departments
Written by Art Adams  |  September 3, 2015

How essential was your production experience as a young professional in LA? With the democratization of so many filmmaking tools, do you think young professionals can learn just as much by living and working on productions in locations that are not so entertainment industry focused?


Day 2 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Learning by doing

I’m constantly learning new tricks or stumbling onto new techniques
Written by Art Adams  |  September 2, 2015

When it comes to lighting, you’ve said that the best way to learn is by doing, because it often comes down to something that “looks right”. But is that sense something that develops or something you have to uncover? Do you think you’d light a given project in a different way today than you would have five or even ten years ago?


Day 1 - 28 Days of Cinematography Insights - Is it better to have complete control over lighting or the camera you want to use?

Talking through the most powerful thing a cinematographer can do
Written by Art Adams  |  September 1, 2015

All other things being equal, what would you rather have…the camera you want to use, or complete control over lighting?


Digital Production Buzz Interview with Art Adams

Written by Art Adams  |  August 14, 2015

Not long ago I was interviewed for the online show Digital Production Buzz. The show is now live, and you can watch it here...


LUTCalc: Trials, errors, and a full-range LC709A LUT

Written by Art Adams  |  August 13, 2015

After much experimentation, and a bit of failed hacking, I've come up with a good full-range Cine-EI LUT for Sony FS7/F5/F55. Read on, and download it and the end of the article...


Hacking Alexa's Rec 709 LUT into a Sony FS7/F5/F55

Written by Art Adams  |  July 28, 2015

A new, free app gives us the power to mix and match LUTs—even between cameras! This is what happened when I crammed an Alexa Rec 709 3D LUT into an F55...


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... — 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...
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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...
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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...
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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.

PHILOSOPHY: What Can a 49-Year-Old Ghost Story Tell Us About Craftsmanship?

Craftsmanship never goes out of style, and the "democratization" of filmmaking is no reason to get sloppy. Here's a quick look at one of my favorite movies, in which NOTHING happens by accident.
Written by Art Adams  |  September 22, 2012

Craftsmanship never goes out of style, and the "democratization" of filmmaking is no reason to get sloppy. Here's a quick look at one of my favorite movies, in which NOTHING happens by accident.


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...
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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 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...
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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...