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Stunning Good Looks

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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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


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

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...

By Art Adams | June 08, 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" when shooting 240fps on city streets… Read More


CAMERAS: 240fps Promo Goes Live Thanks to Sony FS700

CAMERAS: 240fps Promo Goes Live Thanks to Sony FS700

Get a sneak peak before the big screen premiere at CineGear 2012!

By Art Adams | May 29, 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. Read More


LIGHTING: Advanced Cucoloris Use Illustrated by a Solar Eclipse

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...

By Art Adams | May 24, 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... Read More


CAMERAS: Food Fights with the FS700

CAMERAS: Food Fights with the FS700

You want 240fps 1920x1080? I've got your high-speed HD right here... for less than $10K.

By Art Adams | May 15, 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 company that involved high speed "veggie baseball." Guess what: they sent us an FS700 again. Edible baseball never looked so good. Read More


CAMERA MATH: The Importance of Ratios

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.

By Art Adams | May 03, 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. Read More


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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...

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... Read More


Lighting Fire and Liquids: Playtime with the Sony FS700

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?

By Art Adams | April 13, 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 did. Read More


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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!

By Art Adams | April 09, 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. Read More


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

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.

By Art Adams | April 06, 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 quickly. It was the perfect camera for a small, fast-moving project. Read More


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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.

By Art Adams | April 02, 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. Read More


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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...

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 factor or if it's something more. My initial conclusion: it's more. A lot more. In my next few articles I'm going to take a peek inside the machinery and see what I can find. With the help of charts from DSC Labs I hope to shed some light on the inner workings of the C300 and try to figure out what its niche is. Read More


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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.

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 science. Now... it is. Read More


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Lights, Camera, Kids: Shooting a Childish Spot for T-Mobile on the Canon 5D

"Just for the web" is no reason to skimp on a project's look. A few simple tricks made this web spot shine.

By Art Adams | March 26, 2012

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.) Read More


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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.

By Art Adams | March 06, 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 on... Read More


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LIGHTING STRATEGIES: Rough Guide to Illuminating a Bounce Card

Lighting a bounce card is easy, right? Right... IF you know the basics. Here they are.

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. Read More


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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.

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. Read More


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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.

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.) Read More


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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!

By Art Adams | January 17, 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. Fill light is often derided as the light that simply opens up the shadows, but it can do much more than that. It can have a shape and beauty all its own, and it can save you when your key light placement is not optimal. Read More


hard light light lighting perspective shadow soft light

LIGHTING STRATEGIES: What Makes Soft Lights Cast Soft Shadows?

When it comes to soft light, size matters.

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. Read More