Pi Is 3: Painless Cinematography and More

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PiPieI once made a personal pact to each year learn an additional decimal place of Pi. I stalled out at the 7th decimal place. Why? why not; resolution at seven places far exceeds any granularity I might need. My electronics professor once stated that Pi, for all intents and purposes, is 3. What he really said is don’t beat yourself up, the tenets of good engineering avoid hinging success on critical specificity.

In essence good engineering involves relatively loose parameters that are compensated with equally loose yet effective safeguards, or regulators.  Devices that rely on high tolerance components are doomed to fail.  Systems, likewise, are risky that require overly restrictive performance variables.

Apply this theory to cinematography by using broader strokes with image acquisition tools: shoot flat, finish in color later; light beyond the edge of frame; extend the depth of field; slap on another piece of track just in case; hire proficiency.

7d Live View

Many motion picture cameras have viewfinders with a “warning track”, a bit of extra non-recorded, grayed-out image to show what’s lurking just outside the frame. Even my lowly 7D has a top and bottom warning track, handy for finessing boom mic placement. Push back the boundaries so you can play safely within the field.

You could try to get your look “in camera” and with many of the DSLR 8-bit rigs that may be the only approach but it takes time to fine tune your parameters to achieve this.  If time is indeed money, then how much less expensive is that DSLR from a professional cine camera?  With the slew of available 12 bit, 14 stop dynamic range cameras you have plenty of breathing room to light, compose and create without fear of hitting hard stops…and do it efficiently.

Alexa DetailProfessional tools expand parameters, not necessarily so you can pin your cinematography (your hopes…your dreams…) at the extremes, but so you can quickly and safely do an excellent job without fear of going over the cliff.  Ultimately, “industrial” grade tools are motivated by economics; sturdy, efficient and reliable tools with limits and efficiencies far beyond our needs.

Back to Pi, here’s a tip.  Got a coil of rope, video cable or extension cord but don’t know how long it is and really don’t feel like unwrapping the whole lot?  Multiply the diameter of the coil by the number of loops, times Pi…or 3.  You got a pretty good answer as to how long it all is.

Mind those units.

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