HD Camera Tips from Paul Wheeler, BSC


Senior Member
Staff member
HD Camera Tips from Paul Wheeler, BSC

Tip # 1.
Get rid of your DIT. Switch off your waveform monitor. Learn the correct way to set up a monitor, and then, trust it. If you light by eye to a properly set up monitor, I can almost guarantee that your images will become more original, much more like you visualised them and much more artistic.

Wheeler’s first law states that if it looks right, it is right. Trust me, it works.

Tip # 2. Crewing. Get the best camera operator and focus puller you possibly can, they are your right arm. I know it’s unfashionable to use camera operators, and producers see them as an unnecessary expense, but if you have a lot of lighting to do, having a camera operator will improve your lighting immensely as it frees you for your main job. And, don’t keep telling your operator what to do. If you have chosen the right one, all you should need to do is brief them at the beginning of each scene, and let them get on with it, you hired them, after all. I know in America, the DP tends to rule over the camera operator all the time, but this is not how I like to work, and I think it inefficient and rather insulting to the operator.

When I was at the BBC, we used to get 14 days to shoot half-an-hours Drama, and we were very busy. The power that be decided that 12 days should be enough. I was the first cameraman this was put to, I said I would happily try it if my assistant could operate the camera and we got an extra junior camera assistant. In those days, the BBC were very anti using operators. In the end, I prevailed, and we brought the show in half a day under the permitted 12. Point proven!

Tip # 3. Protect your data. It’s very easy, particularly on a multi-camera shoot to overwrite a memory card. Often the camera cards are taken to a download station, transcribed to two hard drives, wiped and sent back to the camera crews. Daft idea, I know! If the producers insist on this way of working in conjunction with the download technician, I insist on a longish table with a box on one end clearly labelled IN, and another at the extreme other end labelled OUT. With any kind of luck, you will now avoid an overwrite.

Never, ever put a card with data on it back in the camera. If the director insists on playback, I always refused to continue to record on that tape and put a new one in. It still worries me when playing back from a solid state card, but it seems to be safe enough.

Book Spotlight

High Definition Cinematography, 3rd Edition
Written by Paul Wheeler, BSC, FBKS GBCT

High-definition is now ubiquitous in video production and High Definition Cinematography, Third Edition provides the explanations, definitions, and workflows that today’s cinematographers and camera operators need to make the transition. Paul Wheeler will explain the high-definition process, suggest the best methods for filming, and help you choose the right camera and equipment for your crew with this comprehensive book. You’ll also learn the different formats and when best to use them, how to create specific looks for different venues, and learn how to operate a wide variety of popular cameras.

Order your copy of “High Definition Cinematography, 3rd Edition” today at the StudentFilmmakers Online Store.