teaching & curriculum development

Cinematography

lighting & camera

"In cinematography, technical and artistic considerations fuel each other. That’s an exciting thing, in my opinion."

Lighting, camera, lenses and coverage. All the aspects of cinematography have the potential to serve and elevate storytelling. That is a the heart of my approach to teaching.

My way of understanding cinematography comes from three areas of my personal experience. First, I learned the basics of photography at a young age – going out with a medium format camera and light meter from the time I was in sixth grade (a very long time ago!). That gave me technical grounding before I had a driver’s license. Second, my undergrad degree is with a concentration in sculpture and the fine arts, and I continued in that field for over a decade. That gave me a certain freedom from constraint, and connectedness with a deeply human artistic endeavor, go back into pre-history. Third, I have worked in advertising and graphic arts. That gave me a sense of professionalism and of professional standards.

I find both filmmaking and the teaching of cinematography to be gratifying, exciting and demanding. None of us are born knowing how to do any of the arts, never mind ones with a high level of technical skill required, but all of us understand the drive to communicate and reach out to each other. Motion pictures are an artform of the modern world, and a way that we all share in contemporary storytelling.

I am pleased to say that my venture into writing, and getting an MFA degree in Writing for Film and Television from Emerson College, has both enlivened and informed my ideas of cinematography and visual storytelling.

I am currently teaching as Affiliated Faculty at Emerson College in Boston, teaching cinematography and production to undergrads.

Prelighting and waveform analysis.

Prelighting and waveform analysis.

Discrete luminaire functions in motivated lighting setups. The two images with red arrows show the final scene. Click to enlarge.

To help students grasp use of waveform monitors, I made my own test chart to show a "stairstep" of luminance, and RGB/CMY grads that show as curved lines. Click image to enlarge. Click here for hi-rez, printable version. TEACHING AID ONLY - NOT FOR CALIBRATION PURPOSES. I recommend charts from DSC Labs for professional use.


Leading formal Projects

Commonwealth shakespeare company

 

The video shown here was a Practicum for the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, (Artistic Director, Steve Maler). This was to promote the series and its significance in the metro-Boston area, not any specific performance. 

We shot on large chip Sony FS100, in addition to EX1's and a student's 7D. There were some fun shots from a snorkel lift, and the students learned about staying in a bucket until intermission! Great people, great group to support.

For daytime interviews, I rigged an overhead diffusion of light grid cloth, and used HMI's kindly donated by High Output to bring some directionality while keeping exposure and color temperature balanced for the background stage. 


CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, BOSTON

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I led a series of Practicums at Children's Hospital, Boston in 2006 and 2007. The videos were used as orientation and education for the parents of kids entering the oncology floors at 6 West and 6 North. Please see the Hospital Representative's recommendation on pdf.

In addition to 5 minute pieces introducing the floor, services and personnel, we included more than a half hour of extended interview segments with key medical and social staff. I structured the pieces, supervised research, and directed all shooting. 

These were difficult but rewarding projects. Patient confidentiality prevents showing clips.


commercial projects

The series of short film clips is indicative of student work under my direction. The two shown here are from a commercial project cycle, and represent the interests of the clients. I helped them structure the writing and shooting plans, supervised the shoots, advising on lighting and camera, as well as client coordination. 

In respect for commercial interests, these video clips require you load the same password as you did for this site. I apologize for the inconvenience. 

For a series of classroom exercise and project segments under my direction, please go to vimeo.com/robotham, show All, sort Alphabetical. Out of respect for students and volunteer actors, many of these are password protected. Please use the same password as for this site. 


consulting director of filmmaking Program, BU-CDIA (now defunct)

From 2010 to 2014 I was responsible for the total filmmaking program, revising the structure from atomized elements into a series of progressive project-based cycles. This provided a context for all modules, in keeping with professional norms.

Prior to that, I developed a signature curriculum module (Smith&Jones) for new students. This plunges new students into the world of filmmaking through a guided, immersive and fun project. 

See the Smith & Jones project pdf. See the Instructor Guide to the Smith and Jones project. (please download pdf's if they are not displaying fully within browser)

"Tom Robotham has been the Consulting Director of our Filmmaking Program since 2010. In that time he has revitalized the program through a new structure based on project cycles, filmmaking vocabulary, and periodic proficiency assessments. Tom has been one of the best program directors and instructors we've ever had at our school."

Bob Daniels, Executive Director, CDIA, Boston University


Consulting Director of Filmmaking 2010-2014, revising total program to project-based model, responsible for all curriculum and final evaluations. Lead instructor and curriculum developer in cinematography and lighting 2005-2010. 

Camera instructor 2005, 2009, 2010.

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Continuing Ed. Camera & Filmmaking 2006-2008


"Tom ranks among the very best teachers I've ever had in any school."

What students say, verbatim quotes


Please contact for access to Work in development relating to the filmmaking process