Let’s Talk About Cinematography! (Technique Tuesday Ep. 3)
What is cinematography? Don’t bother looking up the definition, why you ask? Well the actual definition of cinematography could just as well be the definition for any number of the working parts of what goes into a film. I think this art, the art of visual storytelling, and perhaps the most important part of making a film needs a little clarification. So, let’s discuss what cinematography is and its components…
Cinematographer…Director of Photography (or DP for short), these are the men and women whom often don’t get the credit they deserve for creating the masterpieces we all throw money at on a daily basis. you know those masterpieces that move us even though we just can’t figure out why, the answer to why is that there was some very devoted artist behind the camera working hand in hand with the names (you know the directors) we know and tout as genius’. The cinematographer can make or break a film just as much as the wrong actor…bad VFX…bad sound or an over zealous director and in my opinion the cinematographer might just be more important than the director or even the writer in some cases. A cinematographer is the right hand of the director (and sometimes even the left hand), they are responsible for the visual elements of the film. This includes shot composition, lighting, camera movement and creating the mood through color.
Cinematographers treat film as a language as all filmmakers do and learn the rules just to turn around to break them to further the films visual story. Now that we kind of know what the cinematographer does lets talk about the main components of cinematography….
1. Selection of image sensor/film stock…Now most filmmakers film in digital but when film was still done on film this decision was amazingly important. Nowadays it’s about the image sensor (still super important) and picking one that will lend itself to creating the look of the film desired by the director and the story itself.
2.Selection of the lens’…. The selection of lenses is massively important for the creation of depth of field and focus. This of course helps define what our eyes should be focused on as well as can be used to create and enrich the visual story within the film.
3. Lighting composition and filter selection… Both of these choices are key for the cinematographer to create the desired mood and emotional response that the director and story wish to elicit from the audience. The color temperature and use of dark and light often time serve as almost a tertiary character within many of the classics in cinema…i.e Apocalypse Now.
4.Shot composition, framing and camera movement…. A shot
within a film can in and of itself tell a mini story within the over arching story. Within that shot composition the camera movement and framing of a scene is intended to create an emotion, focus our attention on what the director wants us to be focused on or even give us little clues to mysteries within the story. The angle and movement can sometimes even pull an emotion from the audience that they feel viscerally and unknowingly.
5.Aspect ratio… The ration of the width to the height of the film can be used effectively to silently convey the scope and emotion of the film.
These are just some of the components of cinematography and some brief ideas of what each does for the overall film.
So, what film do you love for its cinematography? I would love to know why or if you feel the cinematographer is as important to film as I do? Leave me a comment and let’s discuss…
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