Q'n'A with John Brawley
After Blackmagic Design announced the Cinema Camera, one name has quickly become synonymous with it. John Brawley.
An award winning Director of Photography, John has worked all over the world with various broadcasting companies (BBC, HBO, Discovery to name some), has developed a TV commercial portfolio with some of the world’s largest brands and has created various music videos and documentaries. This New York born Antipodean has established himself as one of the leading talents in the industry, who has a hands-on dynamic and creative style.
His first feature ‘Lake Mungo’, utilised over 40 different cameras. The 2010 black comedy ‘The Perfect Host’ had a unique way to control the light on what was an external residential location where they had to wrap each day early because of a 10pm curfew, resulting in night-time scenes being shot in the daytime.
John's work is now regularly featured on the Australian TV circuit. His recent work can be found on the Network Ten drama ‘Puberty Blues’ which along with Foxtel drama series ‘Tangle’ were both recently 2 of the four shows nominated for an AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) award for best TV drama.
John was involved in the development of the Cinema Camera as an independent advisor, bringing his experience as a film maker to the project. He also gave the world the first real images from the Cinema Camera itself. When he released the DNG frames from Afterglow, we all quickly realised we were looking at something special.
DNG's for Afterglow are still available for download (on the original story)
You can still find John testing the camera online via his blog or posting the latest video via Social networks.
John has also agreed to answer some questions for us here at BlackmagicUser.net
BU: What made you want to get into film making?
JB: I've always been fascinated by image making. I took my first photo when I was about 5 with my mum’s camera. I managed to cut her in half perfectly and I've been trying to improve ever since. In high school I wanted to be a photographer. At lunchtime I wasn't in the yard, I was in the darkroom processing film or printing images. I started an undergraduate media degree at Uni where I was introduced to 16mm film. One exercise was to shoot a film from the perspective of a child in a playground. I'd gotten on the swings and gone down the slide with my Arri 16ST. When we screened the film in the cinema I fell in love with not only seeing the images I'd shot on the screen, but with how I could affect an audience. I could actually position the audience subjectively as if they were a child. I loved that I could feel and sway with the audiences reaction as the scenes played out. It was tangible. I loved that connection and from then on I was hooked. I left the degree without finishing it and started working in the lighting department on a TV series called Funky Squad. It was my first paid job. That was in about 1993.
BU: In terms of Cinematography, if there was any one film you would have loved to have been involved in, which would it be and why?
BU: You are probably the most experienced person using the camera in regular shoots. How has it been holding up?
JB: The camera is great. I'm now on my third TV drama series using the camera regularly. I first started using it on Puberty Blues alongside the Alexa. I just recently wrapped a new series called ‘Underbelly Squizzy’ and I had an EF and m4/3 BMCC sitting alongside three EPIC cameras. There were several scenes where we had all 5 cameras going and we used the BMCC a lot during Underbelly.
Right now I'm back on the 4th series of a show I started called ‘Offspring’. We have 4 EPIC bodies and the EF and m4/3 camera and it's tending to get used for more specialised rig shots and in car shooting at the moment. In between I also did a short for a feature film anthology of Tim Winton shorts called Defender. Even though I could have shot with EPIC or Alexa, for the first time I chose the BMCC as my primary camera (though we did have an EPIC for some of the high-speed work). Defender is a cinema finish too so I'm looking forward to seeing how the camera stacks up on the big screen when it premieres in June at MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival).
I've been on the beach, in the Sun, the surf, the rain and in hot cars. The camera so far has taken a beating and hasn't let me down. I have three cameras at the moment and they all have a few battle scars. The only thing I've managed to break so far is the rubber cover for the HDSDI connector. I think the Blackmagic guys were disappointed recently when they visited me on set to see even that little breakage but I think they've done very well making a robust little camera. I like the battle scars myself.
BU: How are you finding the skin tones and colours of the Blackmagic?
JB: The more I use this camera the more I love the skin tones and colour reproduction of the camera. It's BMDs secret weapon. I still get amazed at the kinds of looks I can get from the camera and it hasn't really let me down yet. I really think that this is the BMCC secret weapon. Whilst RAW and uncompressed is impressive, all that really matters is how the pictures LOOK. And I am loving the look and small size of the camera. It's the main reason I, along with the director, chose to use it for Defender, even when I had the option of more expensive cameras.
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(cover photo credit: snap from the interview)