DP Interview Series: Nancy Schreiber
Most of the film world, and almost every
DVXuser.com member now knows who Nancy Schreiber is. Armed
with the DVX100, she shot the feature "November"
which recently won the Cinematography award at this years
Nancy was born and raised in Detroit City, and began her
career after moving to New York shortly after attending
the University of Michigan. Her early begginging was being
a Gaffer for a full decade (Nancy urges aspiring DPs to
get a solid foundation before becoming dps, whether as acs
or electricians, then operating and gaffing). Soon she evolved
to cinematographer and DP, shooting More than 50 productions
in the last 15 years alone, including Features such as "Book
of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)", "Nevada (1997)",
"Your Friends and Neighbors" and one of our
favorite reference titles "Visions of Light (1992)"
Jarred: First of all,
Congratulations on winning the Cinematography Award at this
Nancy: Thanks. Quite
a shock, since it was on mini-dv and we were up against films
shot on film.
your career as a Cinematographer, was November the first time
you shoot a feature on the SD Digital Format?
Nancy: Until Fall
Of 2002, I Had Always Shot Movies In Celluloid. Then, I Photographed
A "The Failers" In Hi Def, For Director Tim Hunter,
Whose Work I Had Admired In “Rivers Edge”. Then
In The Winter Of 2003, I Photographed Another HD Film Entitled
“Red Roses And Petrol”, For Director Tamar Simon
Hoffs. I Had Known Her Daughter, Susanna Hoffs, Years Ago
When I Shot The Bangles Video “Walk Like An Egyptian”.
Then Finally, Last May, I Shot November in the Mini-Dv Format,
My First Time.
what point in Pre-Production was it decided to shoot with
Nancy: Pretty much the
minute I signed on, it was decided to shoot with the DVX100.
Both director Greg Harrison and I thought the camera was much
more sophisticated than similarly priced cameras. Being able
to shoot in 24p sealed the decision.
has it that the film NOVEMBER was shot using default settings
(Scene File 6) 24pa.
Did you use Cine-gamma?
Nancy: I used the cinelike
file and did alter both master ped and detail settings…..this
was done after extensive testing, including a film out test.
Today, with the 100a, I might have gone with factory settings
since ped and detail are controllable later. However, if one
wants to control color as I did, I would definitely do that
in camera, not in post. It’s too artificial to try to
change colors later.
extensive of POST correction was done to the images?
Nancy: We found that we
needed to add contrast across the board. The blacks are a
bit milky with those cameras. This is an easy fix. Again,
I’m glad we had a controlled palette during production.
In post, Greg decided to move a couple of scenes around which
screwed with our "planned" color choreography,’
so we had to ‘fix it in post, and I can really see how
forced it feels.
in your opinion benefits the DVX100 the most in terms of lighting?
Is there a certain type of light that you see really makes
the DVX100 shine? (I.e. Kino's, Natural, HMI's?)
Nancy: Although I‘ve
only shot features in celluloid, I have been shooting video
for years. I think it’s important to keep up with all
the technology and learn whatever comes my way. As far back
as ten years ago, I shot visions of light in early hi def,
when cameras had tubes not chips. Basically, lighting for
all video is similar. There is less latitude in video……less
contrast ratio; hard light generally looks harsh in any video
Less is more, in terms of exposure, if you’re going
for that filmic quality. Shooting almost wide open, on the
long end of the lens with very little depth of field helps
the illusion that it is film and not a news story, where everything
is in focus. It directs your audience to focus on parts of
I used all kinds of lights with
the DVX100….kinos, HMISs and small tungsten units. We
basically had to plug into the wall, and never had a generator
except for a couple of locations which didn’t have any
For those two days, we got a ‘"putt putt"
when I say that less is more, I still ‘gripped ‘all
the lights just like I would do on any film, using nets and
flags, diffusion and gels. It’s just that the units
Were smaller and my crew was small, one gaffer (rich paisley)
one key grip (Erik Messerschmidt) a swing most of the time
(Jeff Chin) and an intern named Hema from USC film school.
My camera crew was actually large, Jamie Maxtone-Graham operating
A camera and Marie Chao operating B camera. Kelly Richards
was our first ac and we bumped our intern Tatiana Krakar up
to second A.C. I tried not to operate much since in video,
what you see is what you get in the monitor, not the cameras.
is the single important (settings, exposure, WB, etc.) technical
element in using the DVX100 and is the most important you
Nancy: I liked to
control my white balance.
often did you WB (every time the light source changed?) or
did you use the presets throughout?
Nancy: We white
As you might have heard, there is a blue section, a gold section
and a white light section, plus a recurring location was green.
These colors were achieved through WB and various gels. I
judged what was appropriate by using a well set up monitor.
We were small and didn’t have a vector scope or any
diagnostic equipment, just bars and tone like everyone else,
and as you may know, we had to go out of 24p and into 30 to
even find bars, fortunately, this situation has been rectified
with the 100a.
the Award at Sundance speaks volumes about your talent as
a DP but speaks massively about the DVX100. Would you use
the DVX100 again for a feature outside of INDIGENTS DV Projects?
Nancy: It’s hard
to see one’s work with not a lot of resolution when
it’s projected on a 50 foot screen, as was the case
at Sundance. If I were asked to shoot a Mini-DV film that
called for a specific ‘look’ and I could stretch
as a DP or push the medium to it’s fullest, and if the
director was as cool as Greg Harrison , then I’d consider
are the Pros of using the DVX100? The Cons?
Nancy: The pros of using
the DVX100 are that it’s small. We were able to do many
many setups each day…….we shot the film in 15
days. There was no back focus issues which are common in hi
def. The cameras are cheap so we could have two the whole
time, including in prep.
The large screen was nice and I could focus easier than on
some other similar cameras.
Also I like the colors the Panasonic
is capable of generating, very soft and pastel, even sensual,
and very textural. Plus I feel the camera handles burnout
in interesting ways.
The cons? Sharpness, resolution.
But come on, it’s a $3,000 camera, so I forgive it.
Greg and I always told ourselves to “embrace the technology,
embrace its idiosyncrasies."
More cons? Like all video including
hi def, the wide shots are softest. I try to do my wide shots
on as long a lens as the location will allow. When I needed
to shoot wide shots, I added detail in the settings.
Other cons….no native 16x9.
Also, some people shooting docs don’t like where some
of the controls are but I had no problems,
UK has reported that you used 25 cameras for November. How
many cameras did you actually use?
Nancy: That is hysterical……..I
love the press.
We used two cameras when it didn’t compromise the lighting.
We used a third when we had a blood squib and didn’t
have time or money to load the squib again.
can we see the film?
Nancy: The deal for the
film is almost complete, so I hear, so there will be a theatrical
Greg and I are just beginning ‘film out tests from a
small portion of the film. We will go to film once the deal
is in place.
When I did my hi def films, we printed on VISION PREMIERE
stock, again getting back those blacks that are lacking. That’s
what we’re testing now in hopes that the extra cost
for the premiere stock will be ‘allowed’ by the
November was produced by Indigent
here to discuss this in the forum :