Creatives Unplugged | Paul Ream | DOP

This week we’ve got another helping of creative inspiration to throw your way in the form of the latest piece from our Creatives Unplugged series. We sat down with Paul Ream to talk about his craft as a Cameraman/Director of Photography. Paul is most certainly a top talent in this world not least in terms of experience and flair. We consider it a joy and privilege each time we get to work with Paul.

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So who the heck are you? (Kidding, but for real, what’s your story?)

I’ve worked in TV/film since leaving school at 16, (quite some years ago now!). In fact, I knew I wanted to be a TV cameraman from the age of eight when I was given a tour of a TV Studio.

From that moment on, I was determined to make sure this would be my career. Being able to express yourself artistically, while telling stories and simultaneously playing with all the latest gadgets, seemed like a great way to earn a living.

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Top three words associated with your craft and why?

1) Vision – being able to imagine a picture or sequence of images that will best convey the visual style and message you are trying to achieve on screen.

2) Listen – learn how to understand other people’s visions and work out how to incorporate those into your own.

3) Compromise – everything we do is a compromise, either because of budget, available time or physical restraints. Learn how to make the best of every compromise.

How do you keep your camerawork fresh when jumping across industry mediums? [Ie, corporate, broadcast, television etc..]

Actually, jumping across different mediums helps to keep things fresh. You can pick up new trends and techniques and apply those ideas to alternative projects. For instance, Broadcast TV is currently learning so much from young creators in the online community.

The old rules are being broken and that’s exciting. In many ways, corporate productions are leading the way in being able to experiment with the latest production techniques and cross-media campaigns. It’s currently a great time for fresh ideas.

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Is there a specific film shoot you remember fondly? What did it teach you?

I’ve been doing this job for many years, so there are quite a few jobs I remember fondly. However, one of the most educational was the time I spent with a commercial stills photographer as he was shooting a poster campaign for a major car company. We were in a large studio in the Midlands and he spent the time explaining to me exactly what he was doing and why… it was like a masterclass.

He must have had more than 25 large lights to illuminate just one vehicle and the amazing thing was… not one of them was pointing at the car! I learned so much about using reflected light. It was a revelation and I still use some of those techniques every day. Next time you see a billboard for a new car… take a close look at the reflections on the surface and you can see some of the tricks!

Are you excited about any trends you are seeing in the camera world of today?

The trend towards ever-larger image sensors is very exciting. In the last few years, we’ve gone from gathering a video picture on something about 8 millimetres wide to full-frame sensors of 36 millimetres. This doesn’t just give you those blurry backgrounds enjoyed by cinema productions, it also provides improved light sensitivity and a larger dynamic range. This means the amount of detail we can capture across all levels of brightness is improving rapidly.

With sales of HDR screens (high dynamic range) increasing, we’re seeing people at home receiving the sort of picture quality that exceeds that of the major studios of just a few years ago.

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Any tips and tricks for burgeoning camera operators?

Three main tips…

1) Learn everything you can about light… what it is, how to control it, and how lenses use it. Everything we do comes down to light and a good understanding of how it works is key.

2) When you’ve chosen your shot, be decisive and go with it. Sometimes any decision (even a bad one) is better than no decision when shooting pictures. Indecision is often visible on screen.

3) Try not to play it safe too often. Always going for the easy lens can lead to boring repetitive days. Try to push yourself creatively to capture the difficult shots.

Quick fire last question – you’re stranded on an island, but never fear, you have three pieces of gear to pass the time with. What’s with you and what’s your first shot?

The first two bits of kit would be a solar-powered battery charger and a very bright LED light… that covers power, light, heat, and signalling to passing ships or aircraft! But seriously, if I could only have one camera, in that situation it would probably be a GoPro. You’d be able to record all that happens while being pretty much indestructible in a desert island situation.

Ultimately, the best camera in the world is the one you’ve got with you!

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