Library Introduction: Books and Book Reviews for Film and Video

The movie business can be learned from "just doing it", but that takes years and the opportunity. Books can shorten that process. Studio training is dead. Film schools require a rich daddy and may take longer than "just doing it" if one can break into the system.

I feel that understanding the basics makes all the rest easier. I also feel that entering the movie or video world is like entering a foreign country without knowledge of the language or customs and no map. Not knowing the language is a great handicap. For film I highly recommend Ira Konigsberg's "Complete Dictionary of Film" for any beginner or intermediate film person.

I am upset by authors who offer long lists of long out-of-print, impossible-to-find books. Authors who create or repeat terms that are specific only to their own region or personal taste also upset me. This is a disservice to people in other areas and adds to the huge load of terms that a technician has to learn.

I feel that buying books too advanced for a reader is not wise. Material that is not really understood is of little value other than to impress people on the set, which can back-fire. Unfortunately in the motion picture business there aren't enough basic books. Fortunately there are many on still photography that are excellent and available. After all, motion picture photography is photography.

Regular bookstores often have the worst collection of film coffee table books and catchy titles full of bogus information. In LA we have some good book sources, Op Amp Books, Birns and Sawyer, Gordon Enterprises and a few others. Only Op Amp also has still photo books which I feel are very useful for motion picture photography and video. If the books are all sealed and you can't look inside, go elsewhere.
There are often great used out-of-print titles in the used stores at bargain prices. I highly recommend taking a lot of time when looking at books. Look for material that you need to know now and not what would be nice to know someday.

In motion picture lighting if feel that mastery of existing lighting is better than starting with "key, fill and kicker" stage lighting. Most beginners don't start on a stage anyway and learning what existing light looks like will help you make more believable light on a stage when you finally get there. Few movie books talk about existing light, but the still writers fortunately do.

Almost all the information about still photography is useful if the limitation of camera/shutter speed is factored in. The aspiring camera-person can learn a lot from shooting stills at much less cost. Movie cameras today are much more sophisticated, but the film is still exposed frame by frame. Many of the problems are photographic problems that can be solved by basic knowledge.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.