Bio of Howard J Smith
I was born and raised in Manchester, UK. My father was a Director of Photography and my mother a set designer for the BBC, therefore I was surrounded by magic and cameras from day one. I first started making films when I was 4, together with my father, little animation films with plastic dinosaurs on Super 8. I started going out with my father on shoots from this age as well.
By the time I was about 12, I was making films on 16mm reversal, using the Eclair NPR camera and using a Moy geared head.
I won the ‘’Screen Test” (UK TV show) young filmmakers award for one of my films.
I left school at 16 and began my apprenticeship with my father working first as a camera assistant on a 2-camera documentary (16mm),then into the edit suite at the BBC to sync up all the footage we had shot.
I learned the importance of boards and good sheets very quickly. I stayed on at the BBC editing for about 6 months, working on Steinbeck’s and Pic-syncs. It amazed me how we could completely change the feel and subject of the program with the edit.
I then spent the next 6 months as a Spark and Grip (with the Tulip crane & Panther dolly), and as a boom swinger and clapper/loader, sometimes all at the same time! I found the training as a spark and grip invaluable once I started shooting my own work.
“Think first, then set the track once – set the lights once.” was the motto, as I had experienced the frustration of spending 3hrs setting tracks on a hillside, only for them to say “can we move it over a bit.” 3 more hours...
At 17, I started shooting documentary's on film, which also became an invaluable experience as there was no take 2, you had to think on your feet, and plan ahead carefully. A skill I still use often today.
I worked with my father on the award wining Fred Dybnah Steeplejack TV series (On 16mm). By the age of 21 I had moved up to focus pulling on 35mm commercials and also began operating SteadicamTM and remote and geared heads. I chose to specialize in these fields, as there was no one outside of London with this skill set at the time. This kept me very busy, mainly on commercials where I learned
the art of lighting and planning = Director of Photography
I became a full time camera/Steadicam operator in 1993 and started lighting in 1996. Over the years I have shot probably thousands of commercials on all formats known to man (still like film best), and I also directed and shot an
IMAX film on 65mm called Rheged the Lost Kingdom in 1999.
From 1996 onward I spent most of my time working on major films as camera operator and Steadicam™ operator, once more learning the art of Director of Photography and then shooting commercials as Director of Photography in the down time. I also shot on most of these films as 2nd unit Director of Photography, which I found to be a wonderful, and educational experience, as all these great cameramen would have to share their secrets and tips so I could match their work. I even had the honor of working for 3 months with Stanley Kubrick, which was an education in itself.
I continued working on major films, like “Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions” and the “Harry Potter” films, and DP-ing many commercials, shorts, and features. And have shot 4 films in 3D.
I also have a strong knowledge of VFX and have worked as the VFX supervisor on numerous projects.
I also have 2 full MoCo Systems and 8K Timelaspe.
I have been working on my own project "Chiaroscuro" in my down time, which is a homage to "Baraka" and "Koyaanisqasti".
I continue to act as a consultant for some of the major feature films and am happy to assist in any way I can.
I also run 1-1 training workshops at a beginner and advance level for all equipment including Steadicam™.
I am based in Manchester, but am able to travel anywhere in the world.
I have also continued my design work, which is essentially to make my job quicker and easier.
see my current work