AMA! Justin Morrison - Cinematographer


(Ollie R) #22

How much do you tend to rely on a storyboard versus a text shot list?


(Justin Morrison) #23

Hehe, biggest pet peeves…
Well as a DP, I love it when I can have complete control over the shot. IE, the actor stands here, he looks left and the light catches his eye just so… Stuff like that. But sometimes directors really hate blocking out the scene since they feel that if the actor does the scene too much, the performance won’t feel real. So as a DP, you end up having “blanket light” the scene so that the actor is lit no matter when they end up. Though that ends up with the look not quite being as precise as you want it to be.

So yeah, that can be frustrating at time, but you also need to remember that each director as a different approach to fimmaking and its up to the DP to figure out the best strategy to get them what they want.


(Justin Morrison) #24

Oooh, good question!

Here’s a short list.

Get your actors away from walls. Put some depth behind them! If a couch is against the wall, find a way to pull it away from the wall a bit.

Shadow is just as important as light. Many time, filmmakers just starting out shoot a lot of projects where they live. This means, apartments with big white walls. Control your light and keep it from bouncing all over those walls. Either use solid flags of tape a scrap of cardboard to a light stand.

Not sure if this is in the right catagory, but a lot of people get hung up on getting the best and latest camera. They think that if they have it, their footage will look amazing. A movie shot on an iPhone 6 with good lighting and acting will look a thousand times more professional then a movie shot on an Arri Alexa with poor lighting and bad acting.


8 Simple Tricks to Make Your Web Series More Cinematic
(Ollie R) #25

My DP hates it when I direct actors after a take without calling cut. He’d rather me not do multiple takes in the same file and wants me to cut after every take, but that seems like it’d make things more complicated in post. Thoughts?


(Justin Morrison) #26

Oh definitely. I feel a good DP should know EVERYTHING when it comes to the overall image. This includes camera placement AND lighting.

As for what I do, it completely depends on the size of the production. On smaller sets, I’ll be the one setting the angle of the slider with the camera as well placing lights. And then on bigger sets, I’ll spend most of the day at video village watching the image on the monitors while giving notes to my gaffer and grip over the radio.


(sam lockie-waring) #27

any tips on really simple but effective lighting, then? i feel like i can’t tell the difference when there’s bastard amber gels or led or incandescent or whatever


(Justin Morrison) #28

Hey there Meg!
The AC (Assistant Camera) primarily works with the camera operators. Usually when the budget has enough money for an AC, it usually means there’s a camera operator hired as well. When that’s the case, I’m usually at the monitor looking at the image and giving notes.

The AC helps the camera operator when moving the camera and a lot of times pulling focus. Either on the camera lens itself or using a wireless follow focus.


(Justin Morrison) #29

Lighting, lighting, lighting. Oh and camera placement. Oh and blocking!!

With vlog style shots, the talent is usually staying in one place. Make the image please. Give the shot depth. Don’t place them in front of a wall.

Camera placement. Yeah it’s standard vlog style, but since it’s found footage, we should be able to see stuff that the “vlogger” did not intend. The camera falls but keeps rolling. Or they go to turn it off, but it stays on by accident.

Blocking: Since the camera is staying still, have the talent move. Be decisive about when the talent is in a medium shot and when they lean in close creating a close up.


(Justin Morrison) #30

Hehe awesome! Yeah, even though we didn’t win, it did get us to get our butts and make something. So I still owe a great deal to that silly MySpace contest.


(Yuri Baranovsky) #31

Is Yuri the most handsome director you’ve worked with, or the most handsome human being you’ve ever seen?


(Meg Carroway) #32

Do you like actually handling the camera (like on smaller sets) or do you prefer video village/monitor process?


(Justin Morrison) #33

I guess being apart of an official production company instead of freelance has given us the ability to work together. The members of HLG have been working together for 12 years and people love being on set with us. It doesn’t feel like work, but instead a group of friends having fun making movies. It also gives you more control over the overall product when all aspects of the production have to go through us.


(sam lockie-waring) #34

how much do you tend to work with production designers when coming up with your shots? do you have a lot of say in that area?


(Justin Morrison) #35

We actually don’t have anyone that focuses mainly on that aspect of the business. We all come from an artistic background. So most of our brand partnerships happen from word of mouth or from our previous work. We definitely are constantly networking, but if we were to have someone that just focused on the business aspect and brand partnering, that would probably be great!


(Bri Castellini) #36

Alright folks, that’s our hour! HUGE big thanks to @JustinMMorrison for being here today! Justin, you’re free to stick around to answer the remaining questions, but you’re a busy guy and we’re lucky to have had you at all :slight_smile:

Check out Justin’s work at HLG Studios here:


(Anna Bateman) #37

Thanks Justin! This was really helpful!


(Meg Carroway) #38

Thank you @JustinMMorrison!!


(sam lockie-waring) #39

this was dope. thanks a lot for taking the time!


(Justin Morrison) #40

Honestly, I learned most of the tricks by just coming up with a shot and then racking my brain on how I can accomplish it. It might have helped that I spend my youth spending hours playing with legos and building things. Also Home Depot is to me now, what Toys R Us was when I was 8 years old. If you want to get a shot and just don’t have the equipment to do it, chances are you can build something from Home Depot to do it. Granted, the thing you make might look like a pile of junk and duct tape, but if it helps you get the shot, then who cares!


(Justin Morrison) #41

Thanks so much for having me Bri! I’ll for sure hit up the other questions here today. You guys and gals have been awesome and I’ve really enjoyed the questions so far!