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The Art Of The DP Back to Reports & survey Listing

Ed Moore
Doctor Who 2nd unit DP, Atlantis 2nd unit DP, Common Ground

One of the many reasons I think this is the best job in the world is how varied it is, and how many skills (creative, technical, social) you need to learn to be good at it. I spend a lot of time digesting all the technical stuff between projects so that once pre-production starts I can keep my creative goals first and foremost without getting obsessed with the technology.

There are tonnes of people on set looking after all the technical aspects but you’re the only one looking after the overall cinematographic aesthetics of the project. I’m there first and foremost to serve the director and deliver their (or hopefully, our shared) vision of the film. Many times on set it can be a resounding chorus of nos – no to extra time, expense and so on. Often it is solely the director who wants to push for better results. I make sure I’m the first voice in support of them.

Lighting Tricks
People outside the industry often see the DP as essentially working with the camera. The reality is the majority of my job is lighting-orientated and there’s no light source in a scene that wasn’t placed or adjusted to my intent. I’ve been learning for 10 years and every day light surprises me. It’s an extraordinary medium to work with, capable of saying a huge amount with no words and creating an environment for drama to take place. There are tonnes of rules of thumb and tricks I’ve learned but I would say the crucial ones are: always be bold with the look – one big light 50-feet away almost always trumps a bunch of little lights in the set; don’t shy away from the classics – back and side light beats front almost all the time. And finally – the worst thing you can do is get trapped trying to slavishly maintain ‘lighting continuity’ – cuts can hide almost anything, so make sure each shot looks great before connecting it to the previous one. Obviously the true greats manage to break all these rules!

Camera Choices
I like the Sony F65 at the moment – the images are staggeringly high quality; the mechanical shutter helps a lot and personally I usually prefer working with a slightly bigger camera as it lends itself to more considered filmmaking. The camera choice obviously has an effect on post production workflows, but I’ve found there’s often a lot of hearsay in place of experience. Testing a proposed camera and workflow is crucial for a happy shoot and edit. The Red Epic, for example, has a lot going for it on paper but in practise my camera team and I have found it fiddly and relatively unreliable on set. Others love it to bits. We’re spoilt for choice, fortunately.

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