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The Right Tool For The Right Job
A DP's Tale of Two Movies, One Shot 35mm, the Other HD

By James Mathers

The Tools

A carpenter needs to select the right grade of sand paper to finish a fine cabinet, a painter needs to use the correct brush to add detail to a portrait, and a Director of Photography needs to make sure to have the most appropriate camera package available to shoot a movie. This is the story of two movies I recently photographed. In addition to having the same DP, they had many other similarities, including having their first run on the PAX network, sharing the same lead actor, Jack Wagner, and both having very slim budgets. It was their differences, however, that led me to choose two very different production techniques and camera packages, one 35mm film and the other, HD.

I should say here that even though these two projects will never see the light of a domestic theatrical screen and their first run is on broadcast TV, I consider them "movies" with the same, if not greater, challenges as working on higher budgeted theatrical releases. Over the years, and not exactly by choice, I've developed a specialty for getting a good look even while working with tight budgets. For better or worse, much like actors, DP's tend to get type cast in our business and my background has landed me squarely into low budgets, always trying to make dimes look like dollars on the screen.

James Mathers and 1st Assistant Conrad Hunziker III take a minute from the whirlwind production "Ghost Dog"

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Reprinted by permission from Digital Cinema Magazine