3 Camerawork Tips from Gustavo Mercado


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3 Camerawork Tips from Gustavo Mercado

First, train yourself exhaustively on the operation of the camera, not only on the basics, but also in terms of setting up all the peripherals/attachments that will be used during production. Basically build your rig exactly as it will be used so you can work out ahead of time where everything needs to go (external monitor placement, cable management, weight distribution, etc.) at this time and not while the entire production crew is waiting on set. You should also try and replicate the conditions under which you will have to operate. It does little good to build the perfect handheld rig you tested for 2 minutes while in an air-conditioned room if you will have to use it for a long take in humid conditions on location. Overprepare, always!

Learn everything there is to learn about your camera. Of course, devour the user guide, but beyond this, I always conduct extra research by looking up articles from people who used the same camera, and even forum postings in cinematography blogs. The user guide can only give you basic operation guidelines and not field-tested information. I want to know about the idiosyncrasies of how my camera behaves when used in unconventional situations, with a variety of equipment/lenses, in extreme cold/heat/humidity etc., before the first day of production. I normally do this as part of my workflow/lighting and lens tests.

I always make sure my camera crew carries extras of all my camera connectors, and even spare parts to conduct field surgery if necessary. Remember the $3 rubber shock absorbers I mentioned in my anecdote? And how do I know which parts are more likely to be needed? Because of the research I conducted before production from people’s experiences using the camera out in the real world. If I can save myself and my production crew time, money, and aggravation by making sure we are carrying a little bag with some extra adaptors and connectors, why not do it? Even if they end up not being needed, the peace of mind you get by overpreparing frees you to be more creative on set to concentrate on what really matters: sharing your vision with the world.

Book Spotlight:

The Filmmaker’s Eye – The Language of the Lens
The Power of Lenses and the Expressive Cinematic Image
By Gustavo Mercado

“The Language of the Lens is a truly illuminating book, inspiring for emerging filmmakers as well as veteran directors and cinematographers. Mr. Mercado elevates our understanding of the expressive power of artistic lensing and the incredible force of creative filmmaking.”
– John Inwood, Emmy nominated cinematographer of Scrubs and
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
The Language of the Lens explores the expressive power of the camera lens and the storytelling contributions that this critical tool can make to a film project. This book offers a unique approach to learning how lenses can produce aesthetically and narratively compelling images in movies, through a close examination of the various ways lens techniques control the look of space, movement, focus, flares, distortion, and the “optical personality” of your story’s visual landscape.

Loaded with vivid examples from commercial, independent, and world cinema, The Language of the Lens presents dozens of insightful case studies examining their conceptual, narrative, and technical approaches to reveal how master filmmakers have harnessed the power of lenses to express the entire range of emotions, themes, tone, atmosphere, subtexts, moods, and abstract concepts.

The Language of the Lens provides filmmakers, at any level or experience, with a wealth of knowledge to unleash the full expressive power of any lens at their disposal, whether they are shooting with state-of-the-art cinema lenses or a smartphone, and everything in between.

Order your copy of the book, The Filmmaker’s Eye – The Language of the Lens: The Power of Lenses and the Expressive Cinematic Image, at the StudentFilmmakers Online Store today.