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  • 3 Cinematic Lighting Setups in 1 Room – Aputure 300D First Look

    I learned these lighting techniques when I was a camera intern on a feature film in NYC.  I spent 10 years experimenting and refining them during my career and now I use them on almost every shoot.

    There were three main goals of this shoot:

    1. Demonstrate several fundamental lighting techniques that are used for narrative shooting.
    2. Light 3 interior scenes: Day, Sunset, and Night
    3. Test the preproduction model of the Aputure 300D LED light.

    We shot at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, that is located on the Steiner Studios lot in Brooklyn, NY. The school is only a few years old and the facility is brand new and gorgeous! We shot with their Red Dragon Weapon in 6K and used their Zeiss Compact Zoom 28-80mm f2.9 lens. I’ve used this lens quite a bit and it’s still one of the only cinema lenses that covers the Red Dragon sensor.

    The bedroom set for this scene was constructed with 3 simple stage flats that were left over from the show “Vinyl,” that was shot across the street at Steiner Studios. The left wall had a door, the back wall had two windows, and the right wall had one window. The stage had a proper pipe grid and a man-lift, but for speed I decided to keep everything on the floor.

    After framing up the wide shot, I also noticed that the left wall’s color didn’t match and that there wasn’t any floor boards. In situations like this, it’s best to keep the “UGLY OUT of the FRAME.” I stuck to the longer end of the Zeiss Compact Zoom 28-80mm and never showed the floor to wall transition or the left flat with the door.


    I love lighting day interiors and I always pretend I’m shooting an episode of “Law & Order” or the feature film “Drive.” Those are my main jumping off references points for some reason. I started by framing the two back wall windows with two 4′ rolls of Quarter Grid Cloth diffusion. We didn’t need to cut the gels, we just unrolled what we needed and hung them from C-Stands with arms. This is a quick way of “frosting” the windows and hiding what is behind them. And in this case there was an ugly black sound stage wall about 10′ behind the windows, not a translite or another set.

    For the wide shot I wanted to “blow out” or overexpose the picture window (the window that the camera see’s in shot) and I pushed an Aputure Tri8 LED set at 5600K and 100% output through it. That lighting unit has a relatively punchy focused light beam, so I aimed it at the lower part of the window. This brought the window/diffusion up to a nice light level and edge lit the male actor nicely.

    Next, I added an Aputure 120D with a Fresnel Lens and pushed it through the right window of the back wall. We let some of the direct or hard light shine through the diffusion and slashed it across the lap of the actors. Real sunlight would have been MUCH brighter but we wanted to control it for this scene. The hard quality of the light made a convincing sunlight slash.

    To add a soft keylight to the entire scene we bounced the new Aputure 300D into an 8×8 Muslin frame.

    Muslin is basically a canvas fabric that is used to diffuse or bounce light in the film industry. It’s one of my favorite bounces and diffusion materials but it does “eat” a lot of light.

    The muslin bounce made a great key and using the Aputure RF remote, I was able to dial in the amount of light I wanted to taste by looking at the monitor.


    Aputure 300D LED – TBD
    Aputure 120D –
    Aputure Light Dome –
    Aputure Tri8 –
    Bounce/Diffusion –


    I wanted to setup a Marvel / Neo Film Noir “desk with a typewriter” scene, so I brought a desk down stage and left the bed in the background. I center framed the whole set and started lighting from scratch.

    The first thing I started with was the key light! We placed a very small desk lamp (PRACTICAL!) camera right of the talent. To make it feel like that lamp was illuminating the actor we pushed an Aputure 120T with the Fresnel attachment through the 8×8 Bleached Muslin.

    Muslin comes in two types, bleached and unbleached. The unbleached is a more orange color and the bleached is closer to white.

    In this case, it would have been nice to get the extra warmth from an unbleached muslin but we had the unbleached muslin already setup.

    To separate the main actor at the desk from the background, I bounced the Aputure 300D + Fresnel off of a 4×8′ beadboard (whiteside) that was positioned as a back top ambient bounce. This spilled all over the room a bit too much for my taste, but I used the RF remote to dial it to a reasonable light level.

    To finish the scene, I used an Aputure 120D to hit the two windows and flagged it off of the stage background. This added a bit of extra detail to the scene and made the “unmotivated backlight” a bit more believable. RE: unmotivated source: moonlight doesn’t typically backlight anyone unless you have large cathedral style windows or skylights.


    Aputure 300D LED – TBD
    Aputure 120D –
    Aputure 120T –
    Aputure Light Dome –
    Bounce/Diffusion –


    Sunset is always fun because you get to work with hard light from the SUN and color contrast. The general concept with magic hour is that the ambient light from the sky is 10,000 Kelvin or higher aka BLUE AF. And the direct sunlight, depending on the distance from the horizon is 1900-3200 Kelvin aka ORANGE AF.

    To key the actor, I used an Aputure 120T (T FOR TUNGSTEN!) coming through the right wall window. We didn’t use any diffusion but the Aputure Fresnel attachement gave the beam a nicer shape than the basic reflector. This LED is natively 3000K and the camera was set to about 4300K, which made it render pretty orange on camera.

    We used the same Aputure 300D and beadboard back ambient bounce for some well… blue back ambient lighting.

    And the real moment of genius here (Matt pats himself on the back) was using a 4×8 showcard as a low budget translite. I hit the top of the showcard with a 120D (blue) and the bottom of the showcard with an Aputure TRI8 dialed to 2300K (orange). This created a gradient that graphically recreated the look of the sky at sunset. DP FTW!


    Aputure 300D LED – TBD
    Aputure 120T –
    Aputure Tri8 –


    I had a great time shooting this project and it brought me back to my film student / indie filmmaking days. While this may appear to be a “large” production if you are a student or a filmmaker who is early in their career, this shoot is the size of a VERY SMALL indie feature film or commercial. Given that, I was very happy with what we were able to create in a few hours with a small crew!

    I recommend watching the video for some extra insight and if you are interested in picking up some of the equipment we used during this shoot, there are plenty of BHPhoto affiliate links casually dropped through out the post!




    On Camera DP: Matt Workman
    Producer: Ted Sim
    Producer / BTS: Nerris Nassiri
    AC: Silvia Lara
    Gaffer: Kristen Meloche
    Grip: David Light
    Grip: Minu Park
    Grip: Mikey D’Amico

    Actors: Nick Rapp, Yasmeen Jawhar

  • Is Your Top Light… Tops?

    This mini article is a from my new White Cyc Lighting Course that comes out August 2017!

    Top lighting can be both dark and “Godfather-esque” or it can be soft and heavenly. In this mini article we’ll study 3 different lighting setups that were visualized using Cinema 4D and Cine Designer.

    Small Light Sources = Hard Shadows

    White Cyc Lighting

    If you use a small light source (relative to the size of the subject being lit) it will create sharper shadows. This is illustrated in the figure above where the talent is being lit by an Arri 2K Open Face light.

    The open face light is a “spotlight” and the 2K double ended tungsten globe inside of it emits light that is gathered by a reflector and projected from the lighting unit in a cone shaped light beam. The beam is narrow as it is emitted from the lighting unit but widens the further it gets. This beam creates a circular lighting pattern when it hits the floor.

    The shadow that it creates on the floor is “sharp” and well defined. The shadows on the talent are also sharp and defined. Because of the dark shadows it creates under the talents’ eyes, this creates an ominous and scary vibe. Even if you put diffusion the barn doors of this unit, it wouldn’t change the shadow quality very much. BUT if you put FOUR of these units through a 20×20 Bleached Muslin, then we would get a much different look.

    Large Light Sources = Soft Shadows

    White Cyc Lighting

    When you use a light source that much larger than the subject the light beam is much broader and creates softer shadows. You can think of every point on the 20×20 diffusion frame (illustrated in figure 2) as a discreet spot light, like the 2K Open face. Every point of light on the diffusion frame is emitting it’s own beam of light. Because the sources are so close together they blend together.

    But if you consider two different points of light on opposite sides of the diffusion frame, their shadows are essentially “cancelling” each other out. This effect is why the shadows from the large light source appear to be so “softer” and much “brighter” than the shadows from a smaller light source. Relative to the subject, lighting is coming from more directions which is softening the shadows and adding more fill from below.

    EPIC Conclusion!!11

    Try this concept out for yourself on your next shoot and pay attention to the shadows and the emotional effect it has on you. AND if you liked this WIP lesson and you want to see more, SIGN UP for my latest online course: Commercial Cinematography I: White Cyc Lighting” and stay up to date on when the course goes live and any special promotions before the launch!




  • DaVinci Resolve ACES SLOG2 How to Grade Sony SLOG2 using ACES

    When it comes to color grading, I suck balls. My EXCUSE: My generation of cinematographers was not expected to be able to operate a DaVinci Resolve system.

    I started shooting on s16mm and 35mm and the Sony Cine-Alta. At that time a DaVinci 2K system with hardware was over $250,000. So very few people got hands on time with the system. As I progressed as a DP, I was invited to supervise quite a few color grading sessions at Company 3, Technicolor, and Kodak. However, there was no expectation for a DP to understand the entire technical workflow of a professional colorist.

    But times have changed! Black Magic Davinci Resolve is now free (for HD exports) and Adobe Premiere ships with Lumetri, which is basically Lightroom for video. On top of that, high resolution footage (4k, 6k, 8k) from Red cameras can be edited on modest professional computer systems. The production pipeline has evolved and now modern cinematographers need to understand the technical color grading workflows.

    The production pipeline has evolved and now modern cinematographers need to understand the technical color grading workflows.

    I’ve personally found it very difficult to wrap my head around the new color workflows. There are so many companies selling LUTs that I can’t tell what is legit and what is snake oil. Luckily I have some very smart friends like Allister Chapman, Tim Kang, Rob Bessette, Graeham Nattress, Michał Matwij and the Cinematography Database community.

    As I learn this new world I’ll be sharing my results on YouTube and all of our channels. I might get it wrong for a while and I’m admittedly a terrible colorist. But hopefully this journey will be helpful for someone other than me.


    DaVinci Resolve Color Managed Workflow + ACES

    It took about 5 people to explain to me why this was the “best” workflow and then how to actually execute it. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to set up a Color Managed workflow in DaVinci Resolve and how to color grade in the ACES Color Space and export to Rec 709. We’ll be using Sony A7S MKI footage shot to an Atomos Shogun Recorder @ 4K ProRes 4:2:2 8bit. But this workflow should work for almost every camera.

    Sony A7S Atomos Shogun Slog2

    Camera Equipment:
    Sony A7S –
    Sigma 24-105 f4 –
    Atomos Shogun –
    Sandisk SSD Extreme –

    Step 1: Change “Color Space” to “DaVinci ACES”

    Open File -> Project Settings and select the “Master Project Settings” on the left tab.
    DaVinci Resolve ACES SLOG2

    Change the “Color Science” to “DaVinci ACES”
    DaVinci Resolve ACES SLOG2

    Step 2: Change the ACES Output Transform to Rec.709

    Using the tabs on the left of the window pane, navigate to the “Color Management” tab. Change the “ACES Output Transform” to Rec.709. This is assuming you want to export to a Rec709 display, not a projector or HDR monitor. Most people are going to be exporting to Rec.709.

    DaVinci Resolve ACES SLOG2

    Step 3: Change Data Levels to “Full”

    Find your SLOG2 footage in the Media Panel and right click it and select “Clip Attributes…” and a window will open.
    DaVinci Resolve ACES SLOG2

    In the “Video” tab of the “Clip Attributes” window, under the “Data Levels” section, select “Full.” Apparently Resolve automatically tries to normalize your SLOG2 footage but we want to work directly with the raw data. Something like that.

    Step 4: Change ACES Input Transform to SLOG2

    Right click the SLOG2 clip and navigate to “ACES Input Transform.” This will only be available if you are in the ACES color space. Select Sony Slog2. You’ll notice that the footage is much brighter and essentially transformed from Slog2 to Rec709.

    DaVinci Resolve ACES SLOG2

    Step 5: Color Grade Like Normal and Export Like Normal

    The ACES color space requires a large amount of RAM and GPU power. You system should have 32GB of RAM or more and power GPU like an Nvidia Titan or 1080. I was grading on an Apple Macbook Pro with an Nvidia GT750M, and it was pretty slow grading 1080p ProRes footage in ACES.

    DaVinci Resolve ACES SLOG2


    Next Steps to Not Sucking at Color Grading

    I’m going to continue to use this Resolve Color Managed ACES workflow and I’ve heard from others that it’s currently the best way to work. The only issue is that my computer can’t handle it very well.

    I’ll be testing a workflow in Adobe Premiere + Lumetri + LUTs that apparently works in a similar fashion.

    At the same time I’m going to try to get better at color grading and understanding the latest and greatest in color grading workflows. On the list is: Film Convert,, and several other LUTS and plugins.

    In 2017, I will likely attempt to build a custom PC with an Nvidia Titan/1080 with a lot of RAM so I can actually work with 1080/4K footage in ACES.



    YouTube Version

    Check out our much more detailed breakdown of this shooting and color grading workflow on our YouTube channel


  • LaCie Rugged G-Technology G-Drive Portable Hard Drives LaCie Rugged vs G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC Portable Hard Drives

    If you drop a LaCie or G-Technology hard drive, you are an idiot.

    That being said, most of us have mishandled a hard drive or two in the past and some of us may or may not have lost an entire days worth of footage due to “butter fingers.” From a manufacturer perspective, it makes perfect sense for both LaCie and G-Technology to create hard drives that are unbreakable, rugged, or filmmaker-friendly.

    Reasons That LaCie and G-Tech Make “Rugged” Hard Drives

    1. To stop filmmakers from writing salty reviews of their products on Amazon
    2. To stop filmmakers from filming salty video reviews of their products on YouTube
    3. To stop filmmakers from trying to sue them, or threatening to sue them on Facebook and Twitter

    Despite the incredible robustness of this new breed of “rugged” hard drives, filmmakers still manage to find ways to break, corrupt, explode, and or submerge their valuble data boxes.

    “Scientist believe that when the average filmmaker sees the word “Rugged,” they are more likely to drop or manhandle the hardware.”

    At Cinematography Database, we have experienced this curious effect first hand. One creative intern challenged the entire company to a hard drive juggling challenge via Instagram Stories. When asked for comment, the intern pointed to the amount of new followers he had gained, and exclaimed “worth it.”

    What is the most Filmmaker-Friendly hard drive?

    LaCie G-Technology Rugged Portable Hard Drives

    Cinematography Database is a company comprised of filmmakers. What we require from a hard drive is simple:

    1. 7200 RPM to enable read and write speeds high enough to enable 1080p and 4K editing
    2. Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connectivity
    3. Water Proof enough to be dropped into the company fish tank
    4. Rugged enough to survive a hard drive juggling challenge video

    We conducted a company wide rugged portable hard drive test and we’ve summarized our findings in one elequont paragraph.

    “LaCie was first to the whole Rugged thing. They put rubber around their hard drives, but we put their hard drives in water, GG. G-Technology put their hard drives in an air tight / drop proof case. G-Technology FTW.”

    If you work with “filmmakers” we recommend trying the new G-Technology G-Drive ATC EV Portable Hard Drives.

    LaCie Rugged 1TB
    G-Technology Rugged 1TB



    Watch Our Video Review on our YouTube channel too.

  • Cinebait: Premium Cinematography News aka Clickbait

    Just in time to stop the world from literally killing itself, Matt Workman has returned to blogging for the acclaimed and fully legit website, Cinematography Database. His new blog is called CINEBAIT

    When the former cinematographer’s YouTube channel received a “Strike” (a convoluted way for YouTube to escape legal responsibility of content creators being sued) he was forced to also take down his once lovely cinematography blog.

    No one noticed but his wife who had helped laboriously spell check every post, but Matt felt compelled to start the blog up again.

    “I feel like I’m already EASILY the biggest spammer and troll on YouTube and Instagram, so it’s time to bring that special sauce to the blog and Facebook world.”

    Matt apologizes for the low quality of his first 5 blog posts, Facebook requires him to have 5 posts to allow him to post Facebook Instant Articles. Once the algorithm allows him to spread his cinematography click bait onto your mobile Facebook feeds, he promises to make posts and thumbnails that even Sir Roger Deakins would consider clicking or tapping.

  • If You Missed Masters In Motion 2016, You Fucked Up

    A few weeks after the Austin, TX filmmaking conference/workshop, the overwhelming consensus of the participants was that: anyone who didn’t come, had completely “fucked themselves” and their hopes at having a filmmaking career.

    This year’s Masters in Motion workshop included guest speakers: DANIELS (directors of Swiss Army Man), Michael Slovis ASC (DP Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones), and Joe Simon (The Wonder List).

    Also in attendance were filmmaking Instagram celebrities Ryan Booth and Matt Workman. Together the two almost have a 1/100 of the followers of a legit professional Instagramer.

    “Watching Matt Workman take a selfie with Ryan Booth was easily worth the price of admission. I can die happy now.”

    If you missed the conference and want to see one of the most compelling vlogs of 2016, Matt Workman covered the event (poorly) on his YouTube channel.

    To be notified of the Masters in Motion 2017 conference, you can sign up @ We have confirmed that this isn’t an internet scam, they just didn’t buy in time.



  • YouTubers Using Red Cameras: John Olsson

    In breaking news, several of the top YouTubers in the Tech and Lifestyle vlogging scene have been spotted using Red Epic-W 8K Helium cameras to film their YouTube shows. For the internet!

    The first offender, John Olson, was spotted on Instagram showing off his new Epic-W with a custom black and white camo wrap. At the time of reporting, this shit looked damn sexy and we totally liked and commented on that photo.

    John’s YouTube channel later revealed that the YouTubers were indeed using the 8K RAW camera to film a “YouTuber episode.”

    Other evidence of the of 8K RAW footage was later shown on John’s Instagram channel.

    This is just the first YouTuber we’ve uncovered to wielding a professional film industry level camera to film for the internet. We will report back soon, as we have leads for other YouTubers following suit.



  • Film Riot Ryan Connolly 1 Million Subscriber Podcast Film Riot Hits 1 Million Subscribers! And We Interview Ryan!

    At around December 17t, 2016, the popular filmmaking YouTube channel “Film Riot” hit 1 million subscribers!

    Ryan Connelly Film Riot 1 Million Subscribers Instagram

    Ryan Posted on his personal Instagram an enthusiastic graphic celebrating the channel and his team on the new accomplishment. Over 100 comments of congratulations were left by old school and new subscribers.

    A week after the 1 Million Subscriber landmark, Cinematography Database released an interview with Ryan Connolly about the beginning of Film Riot and it’s current direction. This interview podcast is available on iTunes under “Modern Cinematographer” and on the Cinematography Database YouTube channel.

    Film Riot is the biggest filmmaking and education YouTube channel there is and we can’t wait to see what Ryan and the team have planned for 2017.



  • Phillip Bloom Memes Unmotivateme Phillip Bloom is a Filmmaking Meme Genius

    After the inception and viral explosion of the Facebook group “Movie Set Memes,” I had sworn off ever reading or taking part in filmmaking meme-dom. But Phillip Bloom, in his spare time, has brought me back and I’ve missed it.



    #whoneedsmagichour (I do) #EnglishWinter #uninspired

    A post shared by Unmotivateme (@unmotivateme) on


    Filmmaker Phillip Bloom recently started a new Instagram account and start posting funny memes that only filmmakers would understand. In under a day the account has over 3500 followers and his Facebook memes are trending hard. I shared one on the Cinematography Database page and it got close to 1000 likes in one day.

    My favorite Meme suggests that if your camera doesn’t shoot log, which is known for it’s high dynamic range and flat grey rendering of color, that you only need to come to London where everything is always flat and grey all the time. Explaining the comedy of memes is probably the fastest way to make them not funny. For this, I apologize.

    If you are looking for some levity in your filmmaking grind and are tired of the gear porn (that I post), then check out Unmotivateme for a laugh.