“The Director of Photography and Camera Operator definitely are exceptional at reading a scene since their reaction to an emotion from the actors creates additional meaning in an image” Ferid Hasbun
Mastery of lenses is not the only required skills to become a film or TV cameraman, there are a lot of more skills necessary to make it or to keep up with this profession which is often thought to be fun and glamorous, so to get all the insights we decided to interview a leading specialist in this area, who’s style and artistic work immediately captured our attention.
I came across Ferid’s work after watching a PETA commercial, who’s picture and message just drew me to find out the creators behind this artwork, so that’s how I found Ferid first on IMDB and then proceeded to check his work on Instagram. On IMDB I notice he had worked filming “He Matado Mi Marido” a movie Maria Conchita Alonso, the main protagonist has spoken very highly of, so I can’t wait to watch it knowing Ferid was part of this fantastic production.
I was convinced Ferid is a unique artist when looking at his pictures on his Instagram profile, the images are truly raw, unique, and emotional. Now, if you aspire to become a videographer you have to keep on reading because Ferid Hasbun is about to give you the how’s and what’s on becoming a camera specialist, I’m sure he can become a good role model to learn from if you want to start your career in the film industry.
“I define myself as Camera Specialist, because all the crew positions require totally different and very specific skills and your responsibilities are also very specific and not to be compared” Ferid Hasbun.
Ferid Hasbun (34) was born in San Gil, Colombia, but lived in Zurich, Switzerland, since turning 13. His love for this profession has taken him around the world. Ferid, always felt fascinated by cameras and images. “We could say, that I’m in love with images” as he describes. So, one day he decided to buy his first digital camera, he started taking pictures and discovered a whole new world. He read articles, watched tutorials, and practiced many things in order to improve his camera skills.
He then bought he’s first professional digital camera and started working as videographer for the television channel JOIZ TV in Switzerland, which focused on new media. He covered several live shows, events, interviews and concerts. Then, he came to the United States, first New York and then his dream ventured him to Los Angeles, where he finished film college. From the beginning, he knew exactly what he wanted to achieve and continued his work in the camera department to become an exceptional Camera Specialist due to his knowledge in both fields, Film and TV.
After graduating from the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, Ferid has worked ever since as 1st/2nd Camera Assistant, as a Camera Operator, Photographer, and Videographer.
“It all involved a lot of extraordinary determination and self-studies to get to where I am today.”
Ferid, better defines himself as a Camera Specialist:
“all the crew positions require totally different and very specific skills and your responsibilities are also very specific and not to be compared. Not to mention the differences between TV and Film”.
Now, this is getting very technical so we decided to learn more on the differences in the duties of a camera man. So, we asked the following:
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE JOBS THAT YOU DO, FOR INSTANCE 1ST ASSISTANT CAMERA AND 2ND ASSISTANT CAMERA?
“Each department on a film production consist of various people with unique jobs. In the camera department, it would be the Director of Photography, Camera Operator, 1st Assistant Camera, 2nd Assistant Camera, and Media Manager/DIT. Each position is key and does a very specific job so the department runs smoothly.
The 1st Assistant Camera keeps everything in focus. Keeping a moving subject in focus requires extraordinary skills. A good 1st Assistant Camera can tell you by eye with extreme accuracy the distance between object A and object B. Then, on the markings on the lens, he will set the respective distance so the subject is sharp. He also feels the scene and “pulls” focus accordingly anticipating the movements and reactions of the actors. He also considers other factors, for instance if the lens is old and therefore less sharp on the edges, if we’re shooting anamorphic which equals a distorting of the image and therefore distorts your focus to the subject.
Have you seen sometimes a movie, where the eyes of an actor looks slightly out of focus? Maybe his ears are more in focus than his pupils? Well, that is because sometimes you only get one or two inches of error margin to set your focus distance. And that’s if the subject is static. Imagine if the camera or the subject is moving. Sometimes, there is also no time to rehearse and you have to make sure all is sharp. You can imagine, that you have to have an exceptional talent to do this job and only very few people can do this.
Additionally, the 1st Assistant Camera is responsible for the camera itself. He knows what specialized equipment and accessories to request to make a shot possible. He can fix technical issues with the equipment itself and is present during the checkout of the equipment making sure the requested equipment is present and runs smoothly.
The 2nd Assistant Camera is the right hand of the 1st since the 1st Assistant Camera rarely leaves the side of his camera when on set. The 2nd Assistant Camera knows all accessories and the camera as well as his 1st Assistant Camera and is also present at equipment checkout. He administrates the camera and video equipment so the camera is always ready to roll, which means keeping track of memory/film, batteries, lenses, and so on.
He “slates” every scene, which are the wooden sticks that you see somebody smashing together before the actors start acting. This is a process, that requires coordination with the Script Supervisor on set and the Assistant Director, since we shoot out of order. What the slate does, is capturing the right information of each scene on audio and on camera, so later in post-production the editor can synchronize audio to video and find the right footage to edit. Is this done wrongly, you might create a big mix up and people will invest a lot of time trying to find the footage belonging to the scene, which costs a lot of money.
Further and connected to the slate are the camera reports. The 2nd Assistant Camera keeps reports of every shot done in the movie. This allows to track changes in lenses and camera settings, which can be used to replicate a scene, to track the productivity of the production by the producers, or for Special Effects later in post-production. The 2nd Assistant Camera also hands over the footage to the Media Manager/DIT and keeps track of the media cards without causing a mess, since a lack of attention could mean losing an entire morning of work from a whole team (crew and actors included) by a negligence of the 2nd Assistant Camera.
The Director of Photography constructs the look of the movie, from camera movement, light contrast, to shot size. Like a painter, he paints the image you see with ratios and lines. He can operate his own camera or has a Camera Operator.
The Camera Operator – as the name says – operates the camera. This however involves many other details and preparation. During the setup of each shot you analyze and understand the best configuration and capabilities of this extremely specialized and delicate camera equipment in detail to execute and meet the demands of every specific shot. You pretty much construct the image like an artist thinking about several composition guidelines, like Rule of Thirds or Golden Ratio (to name a few) and “read” the moment to balance the image in a way that conveys the feelings of the scene. These guidelines have been used by painters and photographers since the beginnings and they consist of guiding the eye with lines and proportions towards a point of interest. Really, it’s not just pointing the camera at a subject and pressing record. It requires unique talent to make an image look cinematic.
A Videographer is slightly different. He operates the camera with the same skills as the Camera Operator described earlier, has a good knowledge of light, and paints the image like the Director of Photography. However, the videographer works mainly in digital media such as TV, events, Behind the Scenes, interviews, and other digital content. Additionally, a Videographer has good knowledge of sound equipment since this is mostly a one-man job and records audio accordingly, plus he edits his own footage, which requires a different talent additionally”
So you must be asking yourself, what skills are required to be successful in each of those jobs? Ferid, describes this career as a very passionate one:
“you have to love what you do” and makes a strong remark when saying “persistence and determination are good key words. But, besides the obvious technical skills, good social skills are a must since you’re interacting for at least 12 hours a day with different people, that you might just have met”.
He then continues on describing the different camera man jobs, which I was amazed to learn different and specific skills are required depending on the cameraman’s role.
“The Director of Photography and Camera Operator definitely are exceptional at reading a scene since their reaction to an emotion from the actors creates additional meaning in an image. The Director of Photography understands the interaction between lights and his camera. He knows how to emphasize a scene either through movement, light contrast, or camera movement.
The 1st Assistant Camera, besides knowing all the accessories available for his camera (like wireless focus, different lenses) is extremely accurate estimating distances by eye and adjusting the focus on the lens according to the movement of the actors. Experiences 1st Assistants Camera can tell you by eye how many feet you are away from the sensor on the inch.
As a 2nd Assistant Camera you know all accessories and are very organized. But you also have to create and provide trust. By that I mean, that the 1st Assistant Camera trusts you blindly with all the equipment and duties running in the background so he can focus on his job; keeping the movie sharp. If you can’t trust your crew, you won’t be able to deliver your best performance.
As Photographer your eye recognizes patterns, lines, and shapes. You also read a moment and understand light and lenses so you can freeze a “moment”. But you also know how to retouch your pictures digitally.
A Videographer requires similar skills as the Camera Operator or Director of Photography, but additionally you know how to record audio and edit your own footage.
As a multi journalist one must possess the tenacity to work 24 hour days, the initiative to drop everything and be ready to cross the world on the prompt of a phone call, and the stamina to think, keep yourself updated with everything going on in the world, be ready to ask interesting questions and shoot at the same time, and guess what its almost exactly the same for the camera man or videographer, since they have to also work on extreme conditions, on a short time notice and make sure everything is technically perfect and did I mention YOU MUST KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGY? Well, I mentioned the multi-journalist word, just as the journalistic profession has evolved with technology, it’s always changing the picture behind the lens in front of your eyes. So, let’s talk about how technology has changed thru time and how you must keep up with technology or you will stay behind”
WITH THE FAST EVOLUTION OF TECHNOLOGY AND NEW CAMERAS COMING OUT ALMOST MONTHLY, HOW DO YOU ADAPT TO THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT?
“You definitely to do your research online, follow different cinematography magazines and blogs, but you also talk with other Camera Specialists on and off set. You also learn a lot during checkouts at rental houses where you can ask questions about a new piece of equipment or equipment you rarely work with”
DO YOU PREFER DIGITAL OR ANALOG?
“Personally, I’m pro digital. This because I love technology and computers and love the evolution of it. Digital cameras are getting pretty close to mimicking analog and you can achieve a lot with filtration. It is also more accessible to consumers, which means now more people make their dream of working in the industry reality”
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CAMERA?
“This is a tough question. Generally, I would say every camera that allows you to shoot something is a good camera. Now, there are many things that you have to consider and make the difference such as latitude of the sensor, noise, interpretation of colors, your budget, and many other things. Also, you have to consider where the final project is going to be seen, smart phones, web, or theaters. But in general, what you do is to choose your equipment according to your story and what emotions you want to convey to your audience. I would say, that’s how you choose your camera equipment”
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A SHOOT? HOW MUCH PLANNING GOES INTO THE SHOT?
“Personally, I like to read the script to memorize the character names, understand the story and what it requires from me, and also to analyze what equipment is necessary after consultation with the Director of Photography. Then you will have production meetings, where all key positions from each department come together and discuss the shoot. We then ask questions and interchange information between departments so we are on the same page and, for instance, whatever the camera department needs from the Grip department is available during the shoot. Finally, the camera team goes to the checkout and inspects all camera equipment assuring that everything works and is in proper condition for the shoot”
IN TERMS OF CINEMATOGRAPHERS, WHO DO YOU LIKE?
“I definitely love the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki, but there are so many fantastic cinematographers out there that impress me. One would be Rachel Morrison”
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON RECENTLY?
“Besides all my regular projects; the comedy “He Matado A Mi Marido” that I worked on as 1st Assistant Camera with an all Latin-American cast is heading to cinemas by the end of the year. Also, an exciting documentary where I was Camera Operator for an established TV franchise, plus the great reaction we got earlier this year for “Purse First”, a music video I worked as 1st Assistant Camera for Bob The Drag Queen. I also have been focusing more on fashion videography and architectural photography”.
CAN YOU MENTION HOLLYWOOD STARS YOU’VE WORKED WITH IN THE PAST?
“Through my work in film and TV, I’ve had the pleasure and honor to work along Malcolm McDowell, Steven Bauer, Eric Roberts, Maria Conchita Alonso, Eduardo Yañez, Slash, Kimbra, the cast of American Pie, Rita Ora, and Ed Sheeran, to name a few.”
WHAT WORKS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
“Definitely projects where there has been a specific emotion or memory attached to it. Like my work for the movie “He Matado a mi Marido” with talent, that I’ve known since little. Or working on a commercial for PETA or Bob The Drag Queen, where there is a movement and/or a cause behind it. But also seeing my pictures published on a national magazine back home, that was an indescribable moment”.
I also wanted to clarify a misconception many people have, they think that because you work around celebrities you get to hang out with them. Not, necessarily, but yes, on some occasions if you are the interviewer, however, as a camera man, this rarely happens since you have to stay very professional and focused at all times. The chance to be around the rich and famous is not always easy, because they can be very particular, and the more famous they are the less time they have with you, so you don’t really get to establish the same working relationship. So, whether you are interviewing stars or filming them, and think this is fun and glamorous, just remember what truly matters before you get to this point, as you can learn from Ferid’s interview, becoming a leading camera specialist requires a lot of education and preparation, unique talent, exceptional skills and most important of all, you have to be passionate about it, always be ready for new challenges, be driven to explore more and endure with changes in technology and the film industry.
To learn more about Ferid Hasbun, please visit: feridhasbun.com