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Quick Chat: DP John Pingry

For this Quick Chat, we reached out to DP John “Ping” Pingry, who recently signed with Santa Monica’s Colleen for exclusive commercial representation. Pingry, who has experience in films as well as spots, was attracted to the agency’s intimate feel and hit it off pretty quickly with founder Colleen Dolan Vinetz. “I wanted a manager who not only represents quality people, but who also really loves what they do,” he says. “Colleen hit all the marks. She was the ideal choice to help me further expand my blossoming DP career.”

Over the past three years, this Chicago native worked with commercial directors such as Tom Dey (Centrum) Chace Strickland (Dutch Boy, California Tourism) Morgan Lawley (American Girl Dolls) Sam Jones (McDonald’s) Lance Anderson (Salt Sunglasses) and Jim Krantz (Ralph Lauren Fashion Week Video).

He also served as AC on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for David Fincher; Nightmare on Elm Street for Sam Bayer; The Mechanic, When a Stranger Calls and The Cape for Simon West; and Stone for John Curran. He was also called on as timelapse DP for Todd Phillips The Hangover. So he brings a diverse body of work to the commercial world.

So let’s dig in a bit about how he likes to work.

So, film or digital?
I started with film and love film! I work with it as often as I can in these changing times, but it’s mostly digital now.

When you do work with digital cameras, do you have a preference? 
Arri Alexa is my go-to camera. It looks amazing right from the start and the closest to film. Red Dragon is next for those jobs that require 4K and higher resolution.

I know you would prefer to work in film, but what do you see as benefits of the digital process?
Digital liberated the process of shooting. We can shoot longer takes and really see the final image as you are shooting.

Is that decision all about budget? 
Budget is everything, and there are compromises to be made. That being said, there are a ton of amazing camera choices now. You can always meet a budget.

Has there ever been a time where you put your foot down on a project in terms of shooting on film?
It’s a delicate relationship between DP and production. In a perfect world I think certain jobs would benefit from film but again there are budgets and great cameras and amazing colorists. You have to be a realist these days and know what the job can afford.

When are the times that film is the right choice?
The look of film is perfect for period pieces, anamorphic sci-fi, horror and I can go on and on. It’s really up to the vision of the director and the look they want to achieve.

When are the times that digital is? 
Same as above (smiles).

Can you talk about setting looks on set?
I always work with the director and the DIT to set a look. We make image grabs that are included with the raw footage. I will then have a phone discussion with the colorist to confirm. I have a DIT on every job now. It’s very important. The first color is done by them and they also transcode to different formats for the editor and agency.

Do you have a favorite colorist?
I like to work with Jonny MacPheeters. There is an unspoken understanding of my likes and dislikes. The colorist’s position is so important and there must be mutual respect. I feel it’s important to have a great relationship with the colorist if I want my vision to make to the screen the way I want it.

Do you approve remotely, or do you go to the suite? 
If color is happening in the city I am in, I will always go to that session. But many times it’s done remotely.

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