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by Art Adams

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 Cinematogra...

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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...

By Art Adams | November 26, 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. Read More

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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.

By Art Adams | November 13, 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. Read More

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

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...

By Art Adams | October 28, 2012

Accurate color and pretty color are not always the same. Let's compare two Canon C300 color matrices and see for ourselves... Read More

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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.

By Art Adams | October 27, 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. Read More

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CAMERAS: Thoughts on the Canon C300’s Color Science

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...

By Art Adams | October 25, 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 found something I like. I don't have pictures to show you (I did my tweaking on set for a project that is a little bit secret, at least until next week when it'll be released) but I can describe what I saw reasonably well and you can reproduce my results yourself on any C300. Read More

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CAMERAS: Reloading a 90-Year-Old Film Camera

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...

By Art Adams | October 03, 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... Read More

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Why I’m Going to Miss Film

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.

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. Read More

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

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.

By Art Adams | September 21, 2012

"The Haunting" (the original 1963 version, not the appalling 1999 version) is one of my favorite movies of all time. Every time I see it I notice something new. I watched it most recently on the plane returning from IBC and decided it's time to draw a little attention to it--particularly to a couple of scenes that, in a nutshell, show the kind of planning that went into this film. Read More

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

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.

By Art Adams | September 18, 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 anything about accurate color. That's why I designed the DSC Labs OneShot dailies reference chart. Read More

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

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

The days where we could set printer lights using a simple gray card are gone. This is a chart for the new digital "raw" and "log" age.

By Art Adams | September 04, 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. Read More

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

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.

By Art Adams | August 19, 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. Read More

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CAMERAS: The Zacuto Fallout Continues

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.

By Art Adams | August 18, 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. Read More

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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!

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. Read More

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

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...

By Art Adams | July 31, 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... Read More

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CAMERAS: The Canon C300 and IR

CAMERAS: The Canon C300 and IR

Bad news: The C300 is sensitive to far red. Good news: All of your existing IRND filters work!

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... Read More

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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.

By Art Adams | July 30, 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. Read More

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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.

By Art Adams | July 30, 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 the years so I have much less to complain about than I used to--but there's something about handling a precision-made mechanical camera that's just magical.It's also terrifying. Read More

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CAMERAS: Sony FS700 Dynamic Range Presentation

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...

By Art Adams | June 30, 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... Read More

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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...

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… Read More

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Why Color Meters Don’t Work with LEDs

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...

By Art Adams | June 15, 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. Read More

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