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Change into a Tv DP – Interview with Alicia Robbins


How to Become a Television DP - Interview with Alicia Robbins

This interview is a part of our CineD collection celebrating ladies within the movie and tv trade. Learn our final piece, the place we caught up with author, director, and DP Emily Skye right here. Immediately, we speak to DP Alicia Robbins about her work on Gray’s Anatomy, her experiences at AFI, and far more.

Can in the future’s work actually change the course of your whole cinematography profession? DP Alicia Robbins is the last word proof that it completely can.

Again in 2018, she was the recipient of a prestigious Cinematographer’s Guild award for her work on Web Gangsters: a brief she’d lensed in only one night.

Now, she’s been the lead DP for seasons 16 and 17 of ABC’s Gray’s Anatomy, has served because the Extra DP for an additional Shonda Rhimes present, For the Folks, and has additionally captured a number of function movies together with Babysplitters and The Marriage ceremony Invitation.

She’s additionally been the lead DP for Driving Plates, an organization that focuses on 360-degree content material for driving scenes in tv and films.

Learn on beneath to learn the way Robbins tailored going from indie to community tv tasks, constructed her profession after AFI, and extra.

How did you land your function as full-time lead tv DP for Gray’s Anatomy?

A.R.: I labored on a brief movie referred to as Web Gangsters, which was shot over only one night and lit principally with LED items. It was a collaboration with a colleague, Sam Friedlander, from my undergraduate faculty, Vanderbilt College. Web Gangsters landed me an ECA, Rising Cinematographer Award, from the Worldwide Cinematographers Guild in 2018.

Television DP Alicia Robbins
Robbins on set.

This award opens many doorways. For me, one in all these doorways was when For The Folks, an ABC present, reached out to Steven Poster on the union on the lookout for a brand new up-and-coming DP who might want the extra cinematographer place on the present. He advisable me.

Christian Sebaldt, who was the primary DP on the present, had beforehand labored with me (simply in the future!) on a Disney present and remembered that he was very happy with the work I did. So, an ideal storm of occasions, I used to be employed to work on For The Folks, a Shondaland present. After that season ended, I used to be referred to Gray’s Anatomy.

It’s superb how a string of occasions can decide your pathway to success. It’s only a reminder to do the very best you possibly can on ANY mission. Regardless of the job, or the finances.

What’s it like being a DP on community tv exhibits?

A.R.: Coming from decrease finances work, it was an enormous change going onto community TV. There’s simply extra of the whole lot. And larger. However the ideas of storytelling are the identical. Even the ideas of digital camera motion and lighting are the identical, you simply have extra crew and extra gear to drag it off.

In unbiased work, you get used to having to let go of a number of concepts, as a result of it both isn’t achievable within the time or it’s too costly. In larger TV, you continue to need to let issues go for a similar causes, nevertheless it’s larger stuff you might be letting go of.

So for instance, on a small finances, you might have to forego that M18 HMI gentle due to the finances. On TV tasks, you may be foregoing your 2nd condor with the 18K. The challenges are nonetheless the identical, however larger. It’s actually nice since you may be a lot extra inventive within the visible model.

On set on Gray’s Anatomy Episode 1716. Credit: ABC/Richard Cartwright.

What present equipment do you utilize?

A.R.: I do know folks have heard me say that I’m “digital camera agnostic.” That normally will get fun. However it is extremely true. I imagine within the digital camera system that greatest serves the job. I discover myself switching digital camera methods and lenses on a regular basis relying on what the mission is. So, it’s laborious for me to say that I “choose” a system over one other.

However, I’ll let you realize that the digital camera I run round with every day is my Panasonic S1H with the Lumix line of zoom lenses. I do love this digital camera as a result of not solely do I take advantage of it for private pictures and filming, however it’s a nice B-roll digital camera that may really work alongside larger studio cameras like Arri Alexa and Varicam.

What’s your favourite gentle gear and why?

A.R.: I take advantage of so many sorts of lighting. I’m an enormous fan of LED know-how although. It has actually made issues a lot simpler and faster on set for me. Having the ability to change colour temperature and depth on the fly by means of DMX management is fairly superb.

With Covid, LEDs actually turned a should on Gray’s Anatomy as a result of it was not possible to have a crew member go in with a ladder to drop a scrim or put gel on a lightweight AFTER the actors have been on set. So, with LED we might modify at a second’s discover. Plenty of the sources I used this 12 months have been Rotolights, Arris, Cineo, Velvets, and Asteras. However there are such a lot of extra! And the standard simply retains getting higher and higher.

"It’s amazing how a string of events can determine your pathway to success," says Robbins.
“It’s superb how a string of occasions can decide your pathway to success,” says Robbins.

Do you utilize drones or gimbals?

(A.R.): I take advantage of each drones and gimbals. They’re two very completely different instruments although. Drones I usually use after I want large sweeping strikes that might be past what a crane can get me. Or within the case of Gray’s Anatomy, the drone might go locations on the seaside that we couldn’t get gear to. So generally we’d use a drone as a “cellular digital camera platform” to get the angles in locations (like over the water trying again on the seaside) that bodily we couldn’t get one other method.

I usually discover myself working with gimbals if there’s a handoff of the digital camera. In any other case, I’m usually utilizing Steadicam or stabilized heads on a crane. When I’m referring to a hand-off, I imply that the digital camera has to go from one state of affairs to a different {that a} human can’t cross by means of. Like an operator needing to cross the digital camera by means of an open window after which persevering with the transfer. Gimbals, just like the Ronin, are additionally actually useful in case you want an unmanned digital camera. Having the ability to place the Ronin on a tripod head after which remotely function it for stunts and even automotive sequences can be a good way to make use of a gimbal.

On set on Gray’s Anatomy Episode 1716. Credit: ABC/Richard Cartwright.

Does this transformation when engaged on a extra restricted finances?

A.R.: On a smaller scale movie, it’s actually about looking for angles that present depth and fascinating composition. Additionally, making an attempt to schedule your day so that you aren’t capturing in harsh daylight.

For each Babysplitters and The Marriage ceremony Invitation, I approached these films as being lean and imply. In different phrases, I most well-liked to have a crew of three to 4 folks to deal with each digital camera and lighting. I discovered that it was higher to rent just a few skilled folks at an honest charge than to get many newbie crew members at a decrease charge. And so long as everybody hustled, we actually pulled off quite a bit.

We shot each films out of a Chevy cargo van! That is very completely different from community TV, the place you have got a ten ton for every division! I additionally tried to not compromise on the digital camera motion. Despite the fact that a full-sized dolly was not possible with this crew measurement, I nonetheless managed to have motion both by means of a Dana dolly, Ronin gimbal, or handheld. Simply because you have got a restricted crew and finances doesn’t imply you could’t attempt to get the motion of larger finances work.

On set on Gray’s Anatomy Episode 1716. Credit: ABC/Richard Cartwright.

Are you able to inform us extra about your work on Driving Plates?

A.R.: Driving Plates is an organization that focuses on 360-degree content material for driving scenes for tv and films. It’s a fairly cool rig that shoots the plates. It’s a nine-camera array at the moment utilizing Panasonic GH5S cameras that may be traveled with and rigged to any rental automotive or manufacturing car.

These plates are then dropped into both the inexperienced display comps for the driving scenes or LED partitions which might be stay on the automotive course of stage day. I actually liked the work that I did with Driving Plates as a result of it bought me on some fairly cool tasks (Creed II, Irishman, The Put up) and it helped me dive much more into understanding VFX work. A strong understanding of how these plates have been going to work within the remaining scene was essential. Understanding this side of filmmaking has helped me tremendously as I proceed to maneuver up in my cinematography profession.

Be taught extra about Alicia Robbins’s work by clicking right here.

Full disclosure: This interview has been financially supported and promoted by Panasonic. CineD nevertheless retained full editorial management on the content material of the interview.


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