Recommended Books for

Film and Video Production

Many of these books are difficult to find in bookstores, so I have provided links to them on

Lighting for Film and Video

Cover of Matters of Light and Depth, by Ross LowellMatters of Light and Depth, — by Ross Lowell

This is an excellent book with a grip truck full of real world advice and experience, written by the inventor of the Lowell light. You might expect it to be specific to his company's lights, but it hardly refers to them at all. Very useful for the low budget and location shooter.
Painting With Light, by John Alton

Cover of Painting with Light, by John AltonIn the forties, many Hollywood cinematographers, approached their trade as a skilled craft, not as an art. Not so John Alton. He really means "Painting With Light". THE classic on both technique and philosophy. Written 50 years ago, it primarily refers to the lighting instruments of the time, but the advice is timeless.


Placing Shadows: Lighting Techniques for Video Production, Third Edition , — by Chuck B. Gloman, Tom Letourneau

Cover of Placing Shadows third edition The title expresses a different conceptual approach from Alton's classic. I often feel this is exactly what I am doing, more than painting with light, that I'm placing shadows. Very good, and also useful as a text in an introductory lighting for video courses.


Set Lighting Technician's Handbook: Film Lighting Equipment, Practice, and Electrical Distribution , — by Harry C. Box

Cover of Set Lighting Technician's Handbook This comprehensive guide covers not just lights, but electrical distribution, rigging, standard practices and more. A bit large to be "pocketable" like the handbooks below, it's more of a guide you might read up on -- and have available back in the truck.


These are books meant to be used for quick reference on the set or in the field.
The Professional Cameraman's Handbook, By Verne and Sylvia Carlson

Cover of Professional Cameraman's HandbookTHE handbook for camera operators. Extensive detail on all available cameras, including ones that haven't been made in decades, such as the Eclair Cameflex or NPR, but that you are still likely to run into. Shows how to load the magazine, attach the accessories, etc.Also details the camera assistants responsibilities, and along with Loading room procedures, Slates, Camera Reports and so on.

Professional Lighting Handbook,by Verne and Sylvia Carlson

Like the camera handbook, this volume details equipment and practices, of lights and power on the set.
American Cinematographer Manual-Ninth Edition-Vol.1by Stephen Burum, ASC
Cover of ASC manual 9th editionWhen Hollywood cameramen walk on the set, they always have two things with them-- their light meter, and this manual. Covers camera specs, and pages of tables for Depth of Field, shutter angles, everything! Vol.1 Covers theory and techique, written by the leaders in the field. Vol. 2 contains the famous tables, charts and camera diagrams.

  American Cinematographer Video Manual- Third Edition,by Michael Groticelli

ASC Video Manual 3rd edition CoverUseful guide to video from lighting to scopes to TBCs. Fits in your hip pocket, but more comfortable in your ditty bag.

  Translation of Film and VideoTerms — by Verne Carlson
Cover of Translation of Film and Video Terms into JapaneseShooting internationally?
These little industry specific dictionaries will help  get your message across to your crew or the customs officer.
Available in Japanese  /  French   / German  / Spanish  / Italian


My favorite Films and DVDs for learning about film production.

Visons of Light — Produced by NHK and the ASC

Visions of Light DVD CoverSimply beautiful overview of 20th century cinematography, narrated by masters of light. Essential viewing.

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Editing — Warner Video

The Cutting Edge DVD CoverThe invisible, and neglected art. While I'm sure most of the audience is at least aware that there is a camera operator, and someone setting up lights; most have no idea of what exactly the editor does. This excellent documentary explains it clearly, with sample clips spanning the history of cinema and interviews with many editors, directors and actors: Walter Murch, Martin Scorcese and Jodi Foster among them. I've linked to the individual DVD, but the better buy is the Special Edition DVD of Bullitt.

A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies — By Marin Scorcese

Personal Journey with Martin Scorcese DVD CoverImagine sitting down with Martin Scorcese and getting a guided tour of the history of cinema, from his perspective as a director. That's exactly what viewing this multi-volume set is like.

Movies about Movie Making

Day For Night — Francois Truffaut

Day for Night DVD CoverTruffaut's classic beautifully captures the romance of movie making from the POV of the folks behind the camera-- not the glamour, but the romance. Not just for the actors but for the entire crew. I first became aware of this film when I saw a short television documentary about its production on american television in 1973. I was immediately captivated by the process of film making, even if I wasn't finally able to see the film till several years later, when I was in film school. Perhaps the best, and in its way, most realistic film about moviemaking.


The Stunt Man — Richard Rush

The Stunt Man DVD CoverAnother classic, and possibly the best American film ever to depict the film making process. Much more showy and flashy then Day for Night, in many ways it is a great companion to The Cutting Edge. Because more than anything it depicts the magic of editing, the sleight of hand that is at the core of every film. But if you blink, you'll miss it, because it's easy to get caught up in the story of young man hiding out on a film set, pursued by a suspicious sheriff. To me, director Richard Rush, along with editors Caroline Biggerstaff and Jack Hofstra, accomplish something similar to a Penn and Teller act. They lift the skirts to "show" you how it's done-- and then they do the trick and they've still pulled a fast one. As Peter O'Toole in character as the in film Director/Megalomaniac Eli Cross says "If God could do the tricks that we can do he'd be a happy man! "

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