American Cinematographer Video Manual, 3rd edition
Edited by Michael Grotticelli $39.95 The American Society of Cinematographers
Reviewed by Kim Fatica
Nearly 20 years ago, while serving as a photojournalist intern at WTOL in Toledo, Ohio, I had this ever-present and embarrassing feeling of being lost in the woods. After using the college's Panasonic VHS camera to shoot my on-campus projects, I was now forced to attempt to shoot real-world assignments with a Thompson 613A. It was like trying to navigate my way through Yellowstone with a needle in a bowl of water when I really needed a GPS.
What the heck was 100 IRE? The difference between 3.2k and 5.6k is...2.4k? Ferric oxide tape vs. metal evaporated? Vectorscope? Waveform monitor? If not for my two years in the Electronics program at Willoughby-Eastlake Technical Center and another couple years putting myself through college repairing televisions, I would have been totally unable to figure much of this stuff out myself.
The American Cinematographer Video Manual should be a required purchase for every student and professional of electronic journalism. Few schools properly prepare their motion journalists for the cruel world of technicality that awaits them. What took me years to learn by trial and error, asking questions and from getting chewed out for exhibiting sheer stupidity can be learned from this reference manual.
Chock full o' nuts and bolts of the trade, this book transcends neophyte appeal by being able to bring even the oldest CP-16 operator into the Digital Age with ease. Editor Michael Grotticelli has kept this treasure current with crystal-clear photos, diagrams and charts, several chapters covering digital formats, digital cameras and new battery technologies.
The book isn't all tech, either. It's full of the practical and everyday. While I constantly push for the use of lavalier microphones, my opponents complain about contact and ambient noise and use what I call the ol' "arm and hammer"-a reporter with a stick mike. Hmm...page 395..."Hiding Lavalier Microphones".
Want to get the most out of your lighting schemes when you run and gun? On page 240, Ross Lowel, founder of Lowel-Light Manufacturing, gives plenty of advice (with diagrams) on how to maximize one, two and multiple-light configurations.
Lithium ion vs. Nickel Metal Hydride? Page 269. Want to dissect SMPTE time code? Pages 340-350. JPEG vs. MPEG? Page 68. What was that 100 IRE again? Page 32. Which filter? You get 43 pages of Ira Tiffen to handle that one. Oh, yes, there's also 38 pages of glossary terms if you're really feeling desperate for a quick fix.
At four by seven inches and 458 pages, this field bible should be sitting in your run bag or tucked in the glove box of your news vehicle. It's a real-world compass in the forest of confusing, intimidating, and divergent information we call Television News.
back to reviews