RS: DSLRs also lack tools for exposure. How
do you avoid overexposing while juggling
shutter speed and depth-of-field?
AJ: That is an area I hope does get addressed
in upcoming DSLR models. Zebras and live
histograms would be incredibly welcomed.
Currently I use visual judgment to correctly
expose. It should be noted that it’s important
to set your LCD brightness to manual and
center the level (that way it won’t change
due to lighting conditions). I also find that
viewfinders can give the impression that
things are brighter than they should be, so
that also needs to be taken into consideration
when shooting. Always review your work on a
RS: Which camera accessory do you regard
as the most useful in your work?
AJ: A good quality viewfinder attachment (like
the Zacuto Z finder) as well as great quality
ND/Polarizer filters (my preference being
Tiffen). The control those additions give you in
exposure are the biggest “must haves” for me
on a shoot. Of course, there are many other
important tools, like all the stabilization options
(monopods, glidecams, sliders) that enable a
DSLR to be used effectively.
RS: How often do you use zoom lenses
versus primes? What would you
recommend for someone starting out?
AJ: Until recently, the only zoom lens I was
happy with using with DSLRs for video was the
70-200mm f/2.8L USM (which is a stunning,
must-have lens in any kit).
However, the new standard focal length
zooms from Canon are just fantastic. The
24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM is just a brilliantly
sharp “prime-like” zoom that has brought
real flexibility back to general shooting. The
L series primes have some big advantages
including speed and the ability to shoot in
incredibly low-light scenarios.
The quality and sharpness in a dedicated
L series prime has always given our look
an edge over inferior glass. Another, often
forgotten, advantage to shooting with primes
is that it really forces you to compose your shot
and move your camera. Using a zoom lens can
lead to a lazier shooting style as the shooter
isn’t forced to work to the strengths of the
RS: How can filmmakers take advantage of
available light in dark interiors?
AJ: I am, at the core, an “available light”
shooter, but will often use scrims, cutters and
bounce to work with the light. More often that
not, great lighting is the art of subtraction,
rather than addition of, light sources.
RS: What sort of sound recorders do you
use to get such clear voice recordings?
AJ: My rule is to always use on-camera
microphones, but in the heat of production,
sometimes we fail to attach them! I would
always suggest a top mic to improve the
atmosphere that is captured while shooting.
The RØDE VideoPro and the Sennheiser MKE
400 are both great choices.
For interviews, my first choice is to use a
RS: Do you score your own films or does
boom mic (RØDE NTG3 or NTG5 are both
great options, and the NTG3 is great for
run-and-gun audio). Both require a separate
recorder, and my current preference (for
quality and portability) is the Roland R- 26. It’s
lightweight, but with decent pre-amps. The
most important advice I give new shooters
when approaching sound is: listen. Wear
headphones and make considerations for
sound. I have always been a “visual first”
shooter, but have made real efforts to improve
the sound in my productions. We have also
begun shooting a lot more atmospheric
sounds while on location. All of this adds great
impact to the final production.
the client have a say in music choice?
AJ: For many projects, we source music from
licensed libraries like the Music Bed and
Audio Network. But when budget allows,
[like it did with the six-part TV series Tales By
Light my team and I recently produced for
National Geographic Channel Australia, airing
this month], we have it originally scored. We
are fortunate enough to have Blair Joscelyne
(AKA Moog) from Mighty Car Mods You Tube
fame scoring the current series. There is
nothing like sitting with a composer and
being involved with this other ultra-creative
side of filmmaking. [Shot in over 15 countries
and six continents, Tales By Light is a behind-the-scenes look into five top photographers
working in the field; bit.ly/1c945fK.]
RS: How easily can traditional
photographers transition into video?
AJ: There was a fundamental shift back
in 2009 when the DSLR video revolution
began. As more and more producers
began experimenting with DSLRs, it was our
cinematic storytelling skills that became the
differentiating factor. Now in 2015, there
are lots of producers creating story-driven
productions with DSLRs and it’s what the
market expects of everyone. It just means we
have to work harder to find an edge.
In film, there are a lot of moving parts—a
modern wedding filmmaker is also using a
plethora of tools to move the camera and
create a cinematic experience, plus they have
to record good sound. That being said, the
big advantage photographers have is their
eye; having a good eye is a huge plus.
Australian wedding photographer Ryan
Schembri, owner of X-Sight Studio, is a WPPI
Triple Master, an Honorary Life Member of AIPP
and a five-time WPPI Grand Award winner.
IN CONVERSATION WITH FILMMAKER ABRAHAM JOFFE
BELOW: Joffe advocates shooting “pre-scenes” of couples in their everyday life before the wedding
day to weave into their film.