Mr. Stapleton,

First off, thank you for making yourself available to answer questions.  It
is very much appreciated.  My question is about pre-production film testing:

* What do your lens tests consist of and what are you looking for?

In the days when I did lens tests (I now own my own so don't have to do
them!), I was looking for: 1. Sharpness (via test chart) 2. Flare
characteristics (via Sky and light bulbs hanging in shot) 3. Contrast and
colour characteristics (via grey scale, and set-up light
graduated "sets".) 4. Breathing - how much the image size changes when
focussing. 5. Close focus amount. 6. General "feel" of the lens based on

* If time is limited, what does your emulsion test consist of and if you
have plenty of time, what other tests do you perform?

With limited time I would: 1. Take the emulsion(s) I am interested in and do
at least one lit, interior test with costume and set colours from the film,
and a variety of lighting, approximating conditions I expect to encounter in
the film. 2. Do an exterior relating to the film, with a stand-in in
appropriate costume.  With more time I would: 1. As above, but use different
exposures, some filters and a wider variety of stock. 2. Repeat the above
after looking at initial results with the Director, Production and Costume
designer. 3. Introduce lab processes into the equation.

* How do you go about doing make-up, scenic and wardrobe tests and what are
you looking for when you conduct those tests?

I "request firmly" from production a large studio or space, put some set
pieces (might be painted bits of wood) in it (with appropriate colours),
some furniture and then make a "day" area and a "night" area.  Before the
actor arrives, I make a shot (usually tracking) that moves the actor from
full length to close up in both the day and night situations.  I use a zoom
(probably for the first and last time!), to be able to vary the shot size
more than the track and space allow.  Costumes often aren't finished, but
you can get the materials and hang them around the place and light them in
different ways. Actors usually feel uncomfortable in this "scriptless"
situation so the best thing is to take over from the director who is usually
baffled by the whole thing, and just tell the actor where to go.  Humour is
a good idea in this situation, though I think we once shot 28,000 ft of an
actor walking about in various raincoats which got a bit tiring.

* Do your test go through the whole process including IP, IN and release

You don't need to do this unless you are comparing Super 35 to Anamorphic.
It's a long and expensive process so I have only done it twice - both times
indicating that Anamorphic rules when it comes to "landscape" and Super 35mm
rules when it comes to Night Ext and intimate small rooms.

I hope I'm not asking too much. I've only done films that have finished on
video. I been offered two scripts which will finishing on film and I want to
be as prepared as I can.  Thank you in advance for you time.

Very best regards, Eric Petersen

You obviously know what you are doing, but I would urge you to go to the lab
and spend time with the timer as this process is quite different from
telecine without the controls you are used to.  Understanding printer lights
is key to your relationship with the lab, as these numbers are going to tell
you each day what you are doing with the exposure.

To what degree is the job of the selection for the site location ...part of
the reason things work out so well for cinematographers?   The talent lies
with the cinematographer obviously, but is there an appreciation in
movie-making for those who find the right angle and place for scenes (career

Location, location, location....

Thanks for listening..

Jeff Helm
Naples, Florida

Any Cinematographer who doesn't acknowledge and appreciate the role of the Production Designer should be re-trained! David Watkin receiving his Oscar for Out of Africa pointed out that the clip they showed was shot by second unit! Film making is all about collaboration, and no cinematographer can shoot magical images if the Designer leads him into inappropriate locations, or builds sets you can't light.
The time to discussion is in pre-production, during the scouting process.

What do you do in preparation for a movie?

I take the opportunity to see a lot of films. I try to persuade the Director to suggest films that they think might be related to the film we are about to make. This doesn't usually work, so I will see whatever is currently on and then look at previous movies on the same subject if they exist. If there is something in these movies that raises a question, I would take the sequence to the Director which will prompt a discussion out of which some idea might develop.

I listen to related music by searching around the subject to see what music is relevant. I will look at Photographs and Art related to the movie, which is usually in association with the Production Designer.

I walk for 40 minutes every day, usually in the morning, and use the time to run through both artistic and technical thoughts in my head. Too much talking (actually too much of anything) is not good for you, so I always try to make sure I get enough "down time" for the ideas to bubble to the surface.

My aim is to have the script and the overall feel of the movie firmly in my head by Day 1. Sometime it takes until the end of the first 10 days - after that I start getting worried! Once we are shooting I never look at another movie until we have finished because I find it too disturbing - TV is OK but not a visit to the Cinema. I also only look at the script for continuity purposes: I find asking the Director about things I might have forgotten is a useful way on continuing the dialogue that is so essential to good film-making.

I take all the film stocks available and try and test them in locations and with colours that pertain to the movie. I use a stand-in and get some costumes. I apply some of the processes that I think will suit the movie and once I have narrowed things down, I will go into the theatre (!) and show the Director and the Production Designer my tests: this will usually stimulate a worth while discussion. It is important to be extreme in the differences on the screen: otherwise the assembled interested parties will wonder what you are talking about when you wax lyrical about the differences between the tests!

Animation Techniques
Bleach By-Pass
Blue Screen/Back Projection
Books to Read
Budget Considerations
Car Photography
Cider House Rules
Clubs etc
Digital - Scanning
Director/DP Relationship
Dp's - where to get them
Exposure Techniques
Exterior Shooting
Film versus Digi
Filming Monitors
Frame Rates and Digi
Framing Techniques

Future Outlook
Jobs in the Industry
Learning Film Technique
Lighting Issues
Multiple Cameras
Panic Room
Picture Quality
Pre-Production Testing
Production Designers
Slow Motion
Special Shot Techniques
Student / Career
Super 35 versus Anamorphic
The ;Look;
Timing/Grading Issues
Women's Issues