Narrative Filmmaker Finds Creative Expression with Tiffen Dfx
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Saro Varjabedian grew up in one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse counties in the United States. As a result, his perspective on multiculturalism and the meaning of cultural identity is quite unique, playing a key role in his career as a cinematographer and director. Forging his filmmaking career in New York, after graduating with high honors from Queens College, Saro’s film work explores cultures and lifestlyes from around the world, from Mexico, to India, Lebanon, and his current project in Armenia. To take his work to the next level of visual brilliance and depth, Saro turns to Tiffen’s Dfx digital filter suite technology. For him, its all about the process of creation – working with tools that have the ability to alter a shot to his liking and evoke emotion – and coming to the realization that you’ve finally got that perfect shot.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Well, I was born and raised, and currently reside, in Queens, NY. I like to think of myself as an upcoming Director and Cinematographer. As a Director of Photography, I’ve worked on countless shorts, industrials and music videos. I have photographed two feature films, Erza (2007) and Eliot Loves (2010).
As a director, my first short entitled “Le Chambre De Motel” played in both the 2008 New York Latino Film Festival and the WildSound Film Festival. My second short, “Kosu,” won honorable mention at the 2010 Pravasi Film Festival and is currently playing the festival circuit. In my “spare time,” I am working toward my MFA requirements at Columbia University’s Film Program.
What I love most about cinematography is the process. I enjoy being under the gun and having to dig deep and come up with an innovative way to light something. I find that a lot of what cinematography is, is actually problem solving. And then, every now and then, you get this really rewarding feeling when every element you have been crafting comes together and you get the shot you've been after. That’s truly exciting.
When did you start using Tiffen Dfx technology? How did you come to hear about it?
I first began using the Tiffen Dfx software about a year ago. I came to hear about the software at a workshop that I ran. The workshop was on using DSLR's. Tiffen sponsored the workshop and at the end of it gave a demonstration on their Tiffen Dfx software. After the demonstration I knew that I had to start using the Tiffen filters on my own stuff.
What types of projects have you used Tiffen Dfx filters on before?
I've used the Tiffen Dfx software on music videos and narratives. I always use the standalone product to test out filter looks and demonstrate possible directions for the image to directors and clients I am working with.
How did you use the Tiffen filters to enhance your images? Can you take me through your workflow?
WelI, I usually start by doing filter tests. I take some test shots and then apply filters in the Tiffen Standalone Dfx software so I can decide on what optical filters I will use. Then after the picture is locked I usually apply a little grain or some more diffusion filters from the Tiffen Dfx software.
How do Tiffen Dfx filters compare to others on the market? What makes you choose Tiffen Dfx over other optical filter packs? Can you explain the differences in capabilities/cost/time?
In terms of comparison certainly the Tiffen Dfx software gives you greater control on how much of the filter you actually want to apply. And if you choose to not use an optical filter or are forced to not use one then it makes avoiding glares caused by filters easier. That being said I'm a strong proponent for getting as much of the image in camera as possible and use the Tiffen Dfx software as a compliment to my optical filters.
How is your testing of the new Tiffen Dfx v3? How does this new version compare? How does it give you more options in terms of filters/effects?
What I like about the new version is how the filters have been better organized into their respective categories. For example in v2 when you went into the HFX Diffusion category there would be too many categories of filters to choose from. It was time consuming to look through the filters because each was grouped separately into three groups, for instance, Pro-Mist®, Black Pro-Mist®, Warm Black Pro-Mist® and Cool Pro-Mist®. Now in V3 the whole Pro-Mist® family is in one category. I find it much easier to search through the categories.
What do you find are the biggest differences between v2 and v3? What capabilities does the new version bring you that were not present before?
In terms of having more options I have seen a couple of cool new filters added to the software. In the Film Lab category they added Film Stocks, which offers a huge selection of different film stock looks to apply to your image. They also added a new texture filter that creates a really customized look and feel and is great for the more raw and gritty scenes I shoot. Overall, the user interface in v3 is much cleaner and filters are easier to find… I really enjoy working with it.
Do you have a favorite filter?
My favorite filter for sure is Bleach Bypass. Also, I'm almost always using some grain, Black Diffusion/FX® and Glimmer Glass® in my work. Those are all definitely key filters for me.
Do you currently have any projects in the works that you are using Tiffen Dfx filters on or plan to use them on?
Yes, I'm really excited about this upcoming project. I am filming a short film entitled “After Water There Is Sand,” in Armenia. The film will serve as my thesis to fulfill my MFA requirements at Columbia University's Film Program. What excites me about the project is I will be using all new technology and I can't wait to see the results. I'll be filming on the Nex-FS100u, using Master Primes, and, of course, Tiffen’s Dfx optical filters. Images will be recorded onto the Atomos Ninja as Proress 422 HQ’s. After finale picture lock I'll be applying the Tiffen Dfx V3 filters to get the final master. I am really looking forward to perfecting my shots and imagery with the new filters – I am relying on them to achieve the final look and feel of the film.
If you had to sum up the Tiffen Dfx digital filter suite technology in a couple sentences, how would you do it?
Tiffen Dfx technology is an exciting tool to add to the cinematographer's tool kit. You can use the Tiffen Dfx software for pre-visualizing the end product by using it to help select optical filters. Or the Tiffen Dfx software can be used to color correct/finish the end product by applying the built in filters directly onto your master. To sum it up, the Tiffen Dfx gives me unparalleled creative control in my work – you can truly simulate virtually any look, feel or environment you want or need to achieve.
Saro Varjabedian’s work can be seen at: http://www.sarodp.com/bio.html.