Based in New York, but no stranger to LA, Boston, and even London, cinematographer Matt Workman is revolutionizing how cinematographers visualize camerawork and lighting. Matt, who has shot commercials for brands like BMW, Kodak, and General Mills, is currently developing and productizing Cine Designer, a game-changing 3D animation plug-in. Matt is also all over social media, an active vlogger, runs CinematographyDB (one of our favorite filmmaking-focused resources) and still finds time to pick up some freelance projects as a DP.!
KitSplit: Tell us a little about your work and background.
Matt: I got into the industry by shooting low budget music videos in Boston and Rochester, NY. I was always good at sharing my work online and my reel got me opportunities to shoot bigger and bigger music videos. My senior year of college, I got flown out to LA to shoot a $40K music video for KRS-ONE. From there I moved to NYC and grinded on Craigslist and Mandy until I was shooting for industry level directors.
A few years in I transitioned to commercials and content 100% and I’ve been happily shooting the beautiful content that you skip before YouTube videos and between your favorite TV show.
K: Tell us a little more about Cinematography Database? How did it start?
M: It started as a blog and an idea to create content for high end industry DPs and up-and-comers. So I wrote about directors, lighting, etc. and I sold PDF guides.
When I fully committed to productizing Cine Designer, I started a podcast and YouTube channel. A year later the podcast has over 50 episodes and the YouTube channel has over 60K subscribers. At the same time my Instagram and Facebook channel has over 40K each.
I’m now working with almost every camera, lighting, and software manufacturer in the film industry to add integrate their products into Cine Designer and into my Cinematography media channels.
K: So…what is Cine Designer?
M: Cine Designer is a tool that allows cinematographers to visualize camera work and lighting in 3D, before they get on set. It’s essentially scale 3d models of camera, dollies, lights, that all work very closely to the real world versions.
It’s a plug-in for the 3d animation program Maxon Cinema 4D, so you need to bite the bullet and buy that first. Then buy Cine Designer. I have an entire other YouTube channel called “Cine Designer Training” where I’ve taught hundreds of filmmaker with no 3D background how to use Cinema 4D and Cine Designer.
K: What have you been working on lately?
M: Right now I’m bringing Cine Designer into the mainstream high end market. More and more commercial, TV, and feature DPs are starting to use it and I’m working closer with the actual film manufacturers.
2017, I’m teaching at Red NYC and likely many more events in the future. Possibly speaking at NAB etc. Vlogging everything and trying to have some fun and build a community online.
Whenever I’m in NYC, LA, London etc. I try to tell people and have a meet up and vlog or do something cool. Naturally sponsors are attracted to this as well, so we get some fun toys to play with or food to eat.
K: We love your CinematographyDB YouTube channel…and you just passed 60k subscribers! How did you build such an awesome audience so quickly?
M: YouTube is hard. Really hard. You make a video and put it online and people either like it or hate it. In the beginning it’s hard not to take that personally, but I’ve grown a lot as a content creator.
I started making breakdowns of movies. I would take the BTS videos and photos and present them with the movies stills. These videos would be over an hour long and for some reason the internet loved them. NoFilmSchool shared them, Fstoppers shared them and I had 20K subs pretty quickly.
That all ended when I got a copyright strike against some of the videos and a threatened lawsuit if I didn’t remove the videos.
I pivoted the channel into more tech reviews of cameras, short tutorials on filmmaking, and the most popular the vlog film industry advice series that I still do. I tried to take the advice I had been given and turn that into 8 minute videos on YouTube.
K: How would you describe your style as a vlogger?
M: The first time I recorded myself talking to camera, I scripted it and it took me over 20 takes to get even 10 minutes recorded. Now I can Facebook live stream for an hour, take questions, and promote a product at a moment’s notice. I’ve also started to do more public speaking and workshops.
I try to be humble that I don’t know everything, but I am passionate about learning and about keeping things relatable. I have some strong opinions that I’ll internet fight over, but if I’m proven wrong, then I’ll admit to it and evolve.
I don’t know if I’m funny, but I try to keep my videos/vlogs/IG stories snappy and light. Camera and lighting can be really boring otherwise.
K: What vloggers do you follow? Who inspires you?
K: Can you give us a general overview of the gear you typically use?
M: I shoot my YouTube show with a Canon C300 MKI and a Canon 16-35mm. I vlog with a Sony RX-100 MKIV. I also review a lot of cameras so I’ve shot with the Red Epic-W Helium 8K, Canon C700, and soon to be the Panavision DXL. All for the YouTube channel lol.
K: What gear are you excited about in 2017?
M: I’m going to review the Panavision DXL VistaVision camera with the 70mm anamorphic lenses. I’ll also be testing the C700 and shooting with the Epic-W a lot.
The new Cooke Anamorphics (flare version) is on the list and basically any of the new higher end gear, I’m all over it. We just shot our first video with the Movi Pro and we are moving into lighting content with the Arri LEDs, Fiilex, and Aputure lights.
K: What’s the best piece of advice you got when starting out?
M: Keep your overhead low and shoot as much as possible. Free and Paid. Don’t buy too much gear, it can sink you early on. Shoot and network, 24/7 until the wheels fall off. I talk a lot about this on my YouTube channel, hah.
K: What advice would you offer to other folks just getting into the film production world?
Two. Rent your gear on KitSplit, it’s a great way to meet other filmmakers like you and make some money.
Three. What worked in the past almost 100% will NOT work for you. The world has changed and you need to keep your eyes open and be honest about what is valued in the marketplace and what WILL be valued in this quickly evolving media landscape. People used to put Microsoft Word on their resume and people used to make DVD reels. Those are the skills that got me my first internship… 10 years ago.
Young people need to leverage the tools that they have that the previous generations didn’t have. Specifically I’m talking about social media, mobile production, mobile live production, and virtual reality.
It’s also a very good time to creative and entrepreneur. You can freelance while you build up your own personal brand and they can both feed each other.
You can check out Matt’s blog, Cinematography Database to learn more about Matt, Cine Design or anything else he talked about in this piece!