Most helpful critical review
98 of 122 people found the following review helpful
Good. But not exactly all "Advanced", nor practical for Beginners.
on January 22, 2009
I'm a film student (not the rich, fortunate, private school kind) and I was REALLY excited to receive a copy of this book. I realize this book is not about certain shots being limited to a particular example, but also giving you ideas to expand on. However, I was slightly disappointed. Don't get me wrong, this book is still helpful, but I'm having a hard time understanding who this book is MAINLY targeted towards to.
First of all, even if you follow the "techniques", your low budget film will still look low budget if you don't have the proper equipments (and believable actors, lighting, script, and the list goes on....) That's reality. This book alone is not going to give you that "expensive look on your low-budget movie". That's just a marketing tool. Just be aware of that. (This is not the reason I'm giving it a 3 stars!) If you do have a dolly track, Steadicam, or crane, THAT will give you an "EXPENSIVE" *LOOK* -- however, if you're trying to convey a STORY using those tools, then there has to be a meaning to it or feel natural; or else the audience will feel disconnected. That's what this book is here to help you with. It's all about the e-MOTION. (Get it? The motion has to convey the emotion.)
The author mentions about using long/short lens, focus pull, dolly. etc, so you better really have that ability down first or know the basics. If you try to go hand held on a consumer camera, unless you're going for the Blair Witch/Cloverfield style, it's still going to look BAD.
As far as camera techniques go, it just uses the same, common, existing shots several times (it could just be a simple motionless long shot, or tracking/panning and coming to a halt; but just used in different examples). If you're looking for mindblowing innovation, this is not it. I guess when I heard the term "camera techniques", I had the wrong expectation of thinking it would be several camera tricks; for example, like "The Vertigo effect" (dolly zoom). However, the techniques in this book rely heavily on directing the actor's movements (and sometimes post editing and using props/location/lighting shadows; I thought this book was supposed to teach CAMERA techniques? I mean sure, all those things are crucial to a cinematographer, but it doesn't necessarily pertain all to the camera itself). It will keep using things like dolly, long/short lens, low/high angle, close up, etc, but what this book goes over briefly is basically the motivation of when to use them. There's a lot of recycled shots, but the only difference is the situation.
The shots are broken down for these categories:
Ch. 01: Fight Scenes (8 shots total)
Ch. 02: Chase Scenes (10 shots)
Ch. 03: Entrances & Exits (8 shots)
Ch. 04: Suspense, Searching & Creeping (9 shots)
Ch. 05: Dramatic Shift (9 shots)
Ch. 06: Revelations & Discoveries (9 shots)
Ch. 07: Shock Horror (9 shots)
Ch. 08: Directing Attention (7 shots)
Ch. 09: Car Scenes (7 shots)
Ch. 10: Dialogue Scenes (8 shots)
Ch. 11: Arguments & Conflict (8 shots)
Ch. 12: Love & Sex Scenes (8 shots)
If you don't know how to shoot a person in a car scene (have the camera in front of the car, backseat, or passenger side...) and need "advanced" help from this book, then you really shouldn't be a DP. I mean, there's some really useful examples and subtle tips in this book, don't get me wrong, but I just find some shots to be a little redundant or so basic that it's not even worth mentioning (or cause it to receive an applause from the viewer to say, "Wow, that looked advanced.")
The 3D model (made with Poser 7) picture, with only arrows pointing, and only two or three screen STILLS at most, from the actual movie, wasn't really helping me to fully understand, especially when I'm not familiar with the movie. I thought it was kind of strange, and somewhat humorous, for the sex scene shots, they would actually make female 3D model fully nude and detailed (hide this away from your kids! Will somebody please think of the children?!? Sorry.), while the male 3D rendering has his pants on (not that I'm complaining or anything about the latter). I almost think the 3D renderings were just something the makers enjoyed doing for themselves. Even some movies I were familiar with, the author explains it differently or there were discrepancies with the 3D diagram (Romeo + Juliet, the camera was panning around, so shouldn't it be showing arrows instead of three different camera set-ups and cutting between them?). The book contains brief short paragraphs of the explanation than being in-depth. For some shots, the author doesn't even mention what the movie is from. It would have been better if he had the movie title (and possibly the timecode for the scene) next to the screen stills, just for better organization, instead of sometimes being mentioned in the paragraphs.
Sure, if this was a drawing art book then stills are fine, but for movies... not quite. Some were quite obvious and a 3D model was totally unnecessary. I mean, camera placement is pretty evident just by looking at the still picture; however, if you haven't seen the movie before, it's a little difficult to understand what the movement exactly is. It would have been nice if this book came with a DVD-Rom with sample clips of the movie or clips of the 3D models! I'm sure costs would be a problem, but I wouldn't mind paying extra for it.
The author obviously knows his stuff. I don't hate this book. However, I think it could be a lot clearer in some examples, especially the 3D models and stills, and be more consistent on the order of explaining and which movie it is from. Moreover, focus on a certain target audience (maybe add a "level of difficulty" rating of what the author thinks on each example) than try to be too broad with obvious basic/repetitive examples or too complex to pull off without having the right setup. Overall, I think this book is targeted more towards people who already understand the basics of filmmaking and willing to invest on the essential tools to truly fulfill these shots (do not rely on hand held shots), but just can't come up with anything besides keeping the camera still on a tripod and cutting between them. For professional cinematographers, this will just be a nice reference, a "reminder".
After further review, I guess I wouldn't mind giving this book a 4 stars. The author at least doesn't ramble, doesn't use too much jargon, and gets to the point. The book doesn't feel outdated and uses mostly contemporary movies such as Children of Men, Minority Report, Fight Club, Terminator 3 (Not sure why he used the worst one out of the series), Amelie, Crouching Tiger, etc.
I find it pretty amusing that other reviews/"authors" (mentioning in their review that they're a successful instructor in this type of field) seem to praise each other's book, but at the same time, they self-promote their own.