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comment by crafty

Yes, my concluding simile was weak. Plenty of people can drive on the road like they would on a track and tires make do make a real difference just the same on road or track. Touché, good sir.

The whole video just smacked of low-brow idiocy; "Who needs focus charts!? They don't mean anything [to me]!" It's like, yeah, no shit, it shows. I just thought it was kinda funny to think of someone sitting there watching the youtube video and pondering to themselves, "Wow! I really can't see a difference between those fancy-pants lenses and that cheap kit lens!" At least for those people, it probably is good advice, they shouldn't waste their money on something more than they'll use.

Edit: Also I just can't help but chortle at his scowling face on the title screen of that video. Did he really charge his client after not showing up?

kleinbl00  ·  3024 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Whole thing makes me crabby. Sorry. First part is the fuckin' Youtubers are going to ruin video. You like how this choad didn't even put on a lav mic? How the whole room was captured on an on-camera stereo R0de? Yeah, that's my industry dying. After all, even Izotope will tell you that if you have one of these:

Why the fuck would you need someone with one of these?

And let's be honest: I'm getting what work I'm getting because nobody could afford these guys, and now they're gone:

And it's just such bullshit. Yes, people will watch your shot-on-iPhone crap. That's because it's all they have. That's because we've splintered shit so much that we're now regarding "things I watch in the palm of my hand while waiting for the bus" as viable models for entertainment.

I got a friend. She's an ADR editor. She doesn't know much about cinematography. But she had the opportunity to shoot her short film, on 35, in northern Italy, on the Cooke anamorphics Vitorio Storaro used to shoot Apocalypse Now. This isn't Vitorio Storaro. This is a semi-talented DP, trying not to use too much film (at $1/second), shooting in the middle of the goddamn day. Who wore it better, my friend the ADR editor or Freddie Wong and his bazillion views?

We're talkin' 30-year-old glass that doesn't work much, somewhere out in bumblefuck nowhere Italy. But we don't make that shit anymore. Why? Because Freddie Wong.

My friends and I used to send each other preposterously glowing reviews of Lego follow focuses.

Problem is, all of /r/filmmakers thinks Lego follow focuses are AWESOME. Why? Because they've never been in a position where the difference between a $4k follow focus and a $12k follow focus is the difference between you getting the shot or not.

And thanks to Freddie Wong, they never will.

crafty  ·  3024 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The times, they are a changin'. I think that was a song or a movie or something.

Historically speaking, I look back at the birth of photography and what that did to painting. You had a handful western masters every generation who spent a life-time perfecting what they perceived to be "realism" and what it meant to create and preserve an image, then along comes photography which meant that any rich schmuck with money to burn on some equipment and chemicals could preserve an image even more "realistic" than those masters, and that forced painting to go through a massive identity crisis starting with the impressionists, and of course all of modern art tumbled out after that.

Then, if you focus on the course of photography itself, it starts off as this kind of expensive and (comparatively) difficult esoteric mix of science and art that is striving for, but always falling short of, a paragon of "realism." There were many creative people really thinking about the mechanical simulacra and the caliber and creativity of common photography was very high. Then Kodak came along and put a brownie in everyone's hands and chemistry caught up to the point where "realism" was a foregone conclusion; hyper-realism blinded everyone to the difference between image and subject. When everyone could just snap a photo, the concept of artistic photography had to change and so we went from Lange's Migrant Mother to Serrano's Piss Christ.

We've been living in this hyper-real world for a while now; look at Game of Thrones, it's more real than reality could ever hope to be, as a kind of professional gold standard. However, technology has been changing and it's making things accessible on a new and different level. I'm still not sure what effect it will have on art/film/photography in twenty or thirty years; there is a lot of pressure on the "old masters" so-to-speak. Looking at GoT and comparing it with something from the seventies or eighties, it's easy to see they've been able to up production values thanks to technological advancements, and that's always the challenge, how to maintain one's position as the creative avant-garde. I share your disdain for dredged-up youtube shite, but we cannot deny that the mediums and modes of artistic audiovisual production are inexorably changing. C'est la vie.

I firmly believe that as long as what you make is fresh and creative there will always be a place for it. Sometimes you need those difficult technical skills at the envelope of your equipment to stay on that edge, sometimes technology is an earthquake that brings a whole new set of people, skills and equipment onto that edge.

kleinbl00  ·  3024 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Again, I disagree with your basic conclusion - which I interpret broadly as "downmarket changes art." The propagation of Brownies didn't denigrate the work of Ansel Adams. Serrano only became a name because Jesse Helms had a hard-on against the NEA; Mapplethorpe, by way of contrast, was technically exquisite and artistic as hell. he also shot large format.

It's interesting to me that two different people have mentioned GoT in this thread without recognizing that GoT is a much cheaper, much more conservative show than Rome:

HBO wouldn't greenlight the series, in fact, if it couldn't be brought in at about the same money as Showtime's Pillars of the Earth:

...which cost less per episode than Star Trek: The Next Generation before you adjust for inflation.

Netflix hasn't published how much they spent on Arrested Development. Got a friend who worked it, though. He got 1/4 his union rate.

Yes - it can be argued that production has gotten substantially cheaper without breaking much of a sweat. At the same time, why do movies cost so much more? Cleopatra was a legendary budget buster in 1963 at $31m. Adjusting for inflation, that's $243m. How many movies in the past ten years have cost that much or more? Wikipedia tells me nine. if you look at their inflation figures, Cleopatra is barely in the top 20, the oldest movie on the list by 30 years or more.

So it's not that broader availability has destroyed technique. It's just destroyed it on Youtube. The Youtube culture is exactly that presented above: fukkit, it's only Youtube. At the same time, every single shitheel on Youtube dreams of the day they break into "mainstream" media where they will be surrounded by the very professionals they're slagging.

Worked with another group that shall remain nameless. They're big on Youtube. They had to do a commercial for a real company. Think Fortune 50. They were held to real standards. And they tried getting by on their 7Ds and their Lego follow focuses and all the rest of the bullshit but by the time they were ready to re-up for another campaign, they were a full union pop shop with a pair of C300s, Fisher dollies, a 10-ton G&L package and legit honest-to-god Teamsters to drive it all around.

My main complaint against the Youtubers is they're mostly what the kids watch, and they're producing shit. They're creating a culture where shit is A-okay because shit is what they know. And they watch Freddie Wong and he tells them that your lenses don't matter and then they see something like this

And it's not talent, it's not skill, it's not technique, it's FUCKING MAGIC because the collective culture of all these talented young kids and their hopes and dreams is being smothered under the "soft tyranny of lowered expectations."

Steve McQueen was a photographer before he was a director and he's pretty goddamn good.

And we're now in a universe where our good directors come from photography because the youtubers have given up.

crafty  ·  3023 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  

Well, I think I still stand by my premise that downmarket does change art. It's true, brownies didn't denigrate Adams, but that's because Adams (and the rest of group f/64) managed to stay ahead of the advancing technical curve. Everyone knows his name today since his images are so accessible to most people, but most modernist photographers were making much more creative and interesting work, in my opinion.

Karl Blossfeldt, Adiantum Pedatum, ca. 1920s; Photogravure. 10 x 8 in.

El Lissitzky, Runner in the City, ca. 1926; Gelatin Silver Print. 5 1/4 x 5 in.

Edward Weston, Shell, 1927; Gelatin Silver Print. 9 3/8 x 7 3/8 in.

Man Ray, Anatomies, 1929; Gelatin Silver Print. 8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in.

Iwata Nakayama, Eve, 1940; Gelatin Silver Print. 18 1/8 x 13 3/8 in.

Barbara Morgan, Pure Energy and Neurotic Man, 1940; Gelatin Silver Print Mounted on Board, 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

Without getting into each of these artist's work individually, I think it's fair to say they were reacting to the growing commonplace of image making through abstraction, just like painting did. They had the freedom to experiment with new ideas in an age long before photoshop and the digital darkroom made unconventional photographs commonplace.

I think a contemporary version of Adams would struggle to survive in today's image culture that's saturated with "Earth Porn". If you look at someone like Peter Lik, which is probably the closest contemporary analogue of Adams I can think of, he's managed to make a name for himself through marketing mostly. He's got a book publishing company, and a TV series that ran for a season on The Weather Channel, buzzfeed articles about him, etc., but his actual pictures, while certainly technically adept in every sense, look like only marginally better versions of the everyday clichéd smut people submit all the time to the SFW Porn subs, with the biggest difference being that he shoots with film and makes big C-prints instead of shooting digital and uploading to imgur or flickr or whatever the cool kids/"pros" use these days.

Peter Lik or SFW Earth Porn?

Peter Lik or SFW Earth Porn?

Peter Lik or SFW Earth Porn?

Were those shot with a ten thousand dollar prime lens or a kit lens? Who knows, it's anyone's guess. Lik's wasn't though, and it'd be apparent by the time we enlarge them to 30x40. If I wanted to spend a few minutes in Photoshop, I'm sure I could make imitation Ansel Adams pictures from a few cherry picked earth porn submissions that would fool most people. We're so saturated with pretty pictures, 99% are blind to the minor technical details that separate a "good" photograph from a "great" print, meanwhile the cool and interesting ("artistic") photographs are the ones which manage to stake out unique creative territory or have interesting conceptual ideas behind them.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, White Rhinoceros, 1980; Gelatin Silver Print, 13 7/16 x 23 1/16 in.

Jeff Wall, A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai), 1993; Transparency in Lightbox, 90 x 148.5 in.

Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent II Diptychon, 2001; C-Print mounted to Acrylic Glass, 207 c 307 c. each

Roland Fischer, Birmingham (Day), 2007; C-Print face-mounted to Plexiglas, 71 x 49 in.

You mention Mapplethorpe, but come on, you know he rode the same 80s outrage train that brought Serrano into the limelight, and a big part of his notoriety in particular came from a premature death at the height of his popularity. I'd be willing to bet everything that if all he ever made were those (yes, technically amazing) black and white shots of lilies (Imogen Cunningham was doing that just as well fifty years prior), nobody would have paid him a second glance. His polaroids sit in a museum alongside the large format canvas prints just the same. Sure, now that the whole transgressive art movement is passé, everyone loves to buy his flower pictures as an awesome coffee table book to show off how artsy they are, but those images are certainly not what made him who he was in the art scene. Now I don't want to come off as lecturing you (I remember last time!) about art because I know you're as artistically literate as I am, but you must admit artists have always had to respond to (and push forward) the culture that they make work within.

I think we're lamenting the same things here, a low bar to entry (particularly in a place like youtube) means flooding the culture with low quality work which is a shame. Idiots like this Wong fellow can't tell the difference, and neither can most people, but simultaneously, people's consumption of media is changing; it's not just young kids that are watching youtube, I can count on one hand how many TV series I watch and one more hand for how many new movies I watch. I look at Lynch's take on watching movies on your phone and I agree with his point, but at the same time more and more content will be tailored for this new kind of casual consumption, and the forward thinking content makers will be making work in that direction. The true cinematic masters will still have their place in both the past and present, but like the portrait painters of yore, I wonder if their most popular heyday has passed. It's not the 1940s and we don't all trundle down to the local nickelodeon to watch a movie every weekend. Maybe Lynch should make some VR cinema?

Now if I were to address the the economics behind modern Hollywood TV and film, I must admit, I'd be over my head and I know you have a much better grasp of that. You mention Rome, and I watched it when it came out; I thought it was good, I was sad when they cancelled it, although it never really captivated me the way GoT did. I think with the birth of Jesus, they could have done a lot with the series, but like you say, it ran into a financial wall. It's hard to capture lighting in a bottle like that when there are so many great shows out there, not to mention all the new types of (lower-quality) entertainment. Anyone in their basement with a great idea can go out and make compelling content, content that even looks halfway decent (to most people) as Wong's video demonstrates. That means to the average consumer of media, the person paying a buck per second of film is competing on the same level as a person with a flipcam, and if the viewers can't tell the difference, on a commercial level, one is going to suffer disproportionately compared with the other.

Like you point out, costs for "professional quality" content haven't gone down all that much, and I guess it's because the best quality content is pouring money into diminishing returns to eek out that little bit of extra wow factor, and big casts, shooting on location, hyper-realistic vfx, despite all the tech, is still time consuming and expensive. In spite of that, just because the market for that specific kind of content is tightening, I don't think it will ever go away. People are enchanted by new things, fresh stories, new ways of seeing, new ways of communicating, such is life. No matter how popular low-brow youtube becomes, I think detailed and immersive audio visual experiences will always be compelling to people.

kleinbl00  ·  3021 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Right. been trying to figure out how to come at this for a few days now (I've been busy). I'll start out by saying that we agree on the bulk of it, it's the marginalia in the corners that's aggravating. Beyond that, since there are a few points we differ on, I think it's most useful to call them out.

1) "Downmarket changes art." You win this one. You're right - Man Ray et al. were definitely doing creative work that has exactly nothing to do with team f/64. In a way, though, I'm not sure that refutes my point. For one thing, the craft that goes into creating one good image is different than the craft that goes into creating a good moving image. The craft exercised by the fine art photographers is in no way lacking (the contemporary art world's fascination with Cindy Sherman being yet another example of why they're all gits). HOWEVER, the exploration of art as posed by the photographers you mention is very different from the "exploration" of art as posed by Freddie Wong, which is "you don't need technique." What's the photo of the dude going down the stairs that someone posted on Flickr and was immediately annihilated? The famous French one whose name I can't remember? It takes a fair amount of technique to capture that image, and the Youtube Crew ain't tryin' for that.

2) SFWPorn Network vs. Peter Lik et. al. Ancillary to the discussion of technique and still v. motion photography, you're right: I can wander out into a corn field, point a Digital Rebel at the sky, Photoshop the results for a day and a half and post the results on Imgur to end up with "fine art grade" landscape photography. It's a royal bitch to do that with a moving image, though. For one thing, your shutter speed is a maximum of 1/24 or so. For another, any image processing must be executed 24 or 30 times for every second of footage. For still another, if you aren't doing abstract photography you're capturing something that exists. Cinematography, on the other hand, is the synthesis of a fantasy environment through the judicial application of lighting and technique. Simply put, you get to "frame fuck" it a lot less, especially if you're attempting to produce it in quantity. Technique and decent tools actually count a lot more in the motion regime because your assets are that much bulkier and your collection thereof is more dependent on x-factors (environment, actors, props, direction, sound, etc). The argument that a $79 prime will get you 90% of the way to a $799 prime is a lot easier to make when your product is an image, rather than six thousand images (a 4-minute 24-frame video).

3) Mapplethorpe vs. Wong. And you're right - Mapplethorpe got the buzz he did because of his homoerotic shit, not his lilies and orchids. And you're right - tastes respond to and push forward the culture they work within. But this is a dangerous comparison to make with Youtube - their advertising rates are going down, their CPM is losing value and what stars they have are attempting to break out of the mold. Meanwhile, all of the big online video deals of late are pointing towards pro content, not amateur content. There's an artifice of approachability that simply doesn't hold up: I shot a campaign for Flip back when Flip still existed and we had a pair of $5k Sachtlers, one with a Flip and the other with an Alexa (for backup, you see). So yeah - technically, Ryan Seacrest did a stand-up in front of a Flip. But practically speaking, a real cinematographer pointed a real camera at a real celebrity and posted a real asset into a real online editing system for finishing in a real color timing system while Flip watched. Even Freddie Wong, bless his black heart, went to Lakeside (same private high school as Bill Gates) and graduated USC - pretty much the bluest blue blood high-dollar film program there is. There's about $250k worth of education (and all the elitist nepotism associated with it) behind his flippancy. Netflix today announced they were breaking off with Epix and focusing more on their own content - and while Orange is the New Black is a shitshow technically, Marco Polo sure wasn't a Freddie Wong production. Which leads to

4) The (non) simplification of narrative. Sure. Red vs. Blue. Yeah, My Drunk Kitchen. Amazon just agreed to pay Jeremy Clarkson $15m a year to appear in "online videos" and this is a guy who helped launch a Reliant Robin on the end of a rocket. House of Cards is $4m per episode. True Detective is all anyone is talking about and it's one mystery per season. See also: every other breakout show of the past 5 years. Narratives are getting increasingly complicated and the real production that's happening belies every fucking thing Freddie Wong says.

Which I recognize erodes my earlier point, namely that the Youtubers are ruining video. The problem is they're eroding the middle: the guys who aspire to be good and don't want to suck. The Freddie Wong approach isn't even "you'll never be great" it's "there is no great" and people who think Lego follow focuses are a great idea (one of my cinematographer buddies calls them "3 chip DV losers") eat it up. Those of us who exist squarely in the middle - where people who can make a competent Youtube video try for long-form - are finding our markets dry up.

'cuz you know what? I'm never going to mix Game of Thrones. And Freddie Wong?

he doesn't think you need a mixer.

crafty  ·  3020 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Great points all around, thanks for the response. There is quite a bit more complexity when it comes to quality cinematography, compared with still images. It's a case where the barrier to entry is pretty low; still photography has been fairly low for a while now, and video, while perhaps not quite to the same level yet, has seen a pretty big sea change over the last decade or so, however, the skill cap at the top end of video production is certainly higher than that of still photography. Technique is one of those things where some people regard it as worthless and it's everything to others, but the true masters know when and how to employ exactly the tools and techniques that their art requires. Wong is clearly in that first camp, and I've often found that position to be rather contemptible, as you do too, which is what prompted my whole rantski. I can't say I know the Flickr photo you're talking about; I'm not much of a Flickr user, but I get what you're saying.

kleinbl00  ·  3020 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yeah, I wasn't clear about the photo. You've got to know it; it's a postwar French(?) shot of either someone descending down a staircase or riding a bicycle through an alley as visible down a staircase. It's black and white, and has an extreme overhead sort of look. It's a famous photo, hanging in the Tate Modern or something.

Anyway, someone posted it on Flickr in one of the photo critique groups without identifying it. Not only did nobody know what it was, but to a man they lambasted its technique, composition, etc. It was actually pretty hilarious.

crafty  ·  3020 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Oh, you're talking about Henri Cartier-Bresson, yeah, it's the decisive moment. When all you've got is one shot, make sure the shot is at the right moment! Everything has to come together to make a great photo. People are so funny sometimes, especially when they love talking out their butt!

kleinbl00  ·  3020 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yeah, exactly. Mario's Bike. Thanks for finding it!

    This looks contrived, which is not a bad thing. If this is a planned shot, it just didn't come out right. If you can round up Mario, I would do it again. This time put the camera on a tripod and use the smallest aperture possible to get the best DoF. What I would hope for is that the railings are sharp and that mario on the bike shows a blur. Must have the foreground sharp, though. Without that, the image will never fly.
user-inactivated  ·  3021 days ago  ·  link  ·  

How is processing a thousand images different in kind from processing one? As long as you want to perform the same operation on every frame, it's a trivially parallelizable task. The gimp is happy to run headless with a script, and IIRC After Effects has built-in support for running a render farm. Building a little DIY cluster isn't building camera equipment out of legos, but if you're trying to make a living off YouTube videos it's not out of reach either.

kleinbl00  ·  3021 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Because the tuning and tweaks for one image aren't necessarily the tuning and tweaks for all images. Yes - you can say "do this to all of these" but if you have a series of still images, "do this to all of these" will get you close, not perfect.

You're effectively arguing that the log average is good enough, and it's not.

Isherwood  ·  3024 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't really follow any of this, but it seems like there's a counter culture to youtube quality stuff in the TV world that's pumping out Game of Thrones and Breaking BAd quality television.

Does that not have an effect?

kleinbl00  ·  3024 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You mean professionals doing professional work?

What does it tell you that you're referring to the baseline as the counterculture?