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A picture of Afonso Salcedo

Afonso Salcedo

Filmmaker, photographer (Sutro Studios)

in film, mac, photographer

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Afonso Salcedo, and I'm a filmmaker and photographer. I have worn many hats throughout my life, but the main thread and spine of my story is being a visual artist in film and photography. As far as I can remember, always had a camera near me somehow, through either my Dad who always did photography and taught me a lot of what I know today, or later on when I worked for big film studios like Pixar in post-production, lighting and compositing, and where I trained my eye to a degree that I never thought it would be possible.

These days, I have created my own business Sutro Studios here in San Francisco, a media and photography production company. I like saying that first and foremost we are passionate storytellers, and that everything we do revolves around crafting great stories that engage and inspire viewers. No matter if we're capturing one photograph, filming a video, or simply editing something out. Story is always the most important thing.

What hardware do you use?

Being in film and photography, the amount of gear needed for successful shoots, and respective post-production is pretty astounding. I also end up renting even more gear based on each project needs, and their budget. I do own several cameras, that would cover some of the majority of work I do, but I tend to rent higher end cameras like the RED and F55 only for projects and clients that have the need and budget to cover those items. I love my Sony FS700 camera. Not only does it do incredible slow-motion, it has a pretty versatile and high-quality image that allows me to use it in 95% of my work. I've even taken it to Haiti last year, as a documentary camera, and it was great for that. The two GoPros I have are always fun, since I can attach them anywhere I want to get unique perspectives where a normal camera would never fit.

One of the newer cameras I have is the BlackMagic Pocket Camera. This is a beast of a camera. Super small, it still works with cinema rigs and lenses, and the image codec is one of the best I've ever seen. Huge dynamic range for the image, shoots ProRes and RAW, which allows me to edit much faster and get full flexibility of image in color grading. I've been using it more and more lately.

For photography, I recently started using a Sony A7r, which with 36MP is kind of like having a medium format camera in a much smaller package. I'm constantly amazed at the quality of images I've been producing with it.

One of the best investments I could ever make is in lenses. I have a bunch of lenses I use all the time, and typically leave the higher end cinema lenses for rental decisions depending on a client's budget. I love that each lens has a certain look to it, the bokeh is different, the way the light is captured varies, and the general tone of the image becomes pretty unique to that lens. I love that kind of detail and it always takes a while to get a grasp of what lens to use for each project.

And what software?

In terms of software, since everything I do now is shot digitally, I couldn't be more enamored by the new Mac Pro I recently got. That computer is a beast of a machine, and anything I throw at it flies. I edit in Final Cut X, which is actually pretty incredible these days, color grade in Resolve, and use Adobe Creative Cloud constantly.

All my photography goes through Lightroom 5, and other image manipulation software and plugins, Photoshop, Nik Software, and others. It's great having a digital lab... the only limit is really my imagination.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would be to be able to invest in a higher end professional camera, instead of renting it as I currently do. Something like a RED package, or a Sony F55. I would also be able to own my own lighting rig, including some LED panels, and more, enough to cover the basics. Of course a set of great cinema lenses would just be icing on the cake.

When you work in film and photography, the gear and equipment needs are pretty intense, and it can easily be a never ending list so it's important to be wise about the investments and choose accordingly.