Cinematography is perhaps the most complex of the moviemaking crafts since it draws on a vast body of aesthetic and technical knowledge. Despite this, it is probably the least appreciated by the nonprofessional. To be successful, cinematography must transcend mere recording of images and achieve the following:
1· convey the underlying emotion and mood of the scene
2· direct the audience's attention around the frame
3· establish key scene variables, such as location, time period and time of day
This must be done unobtrusively and while maintaining strict continuity from shot to shot! (Cinematography also involves composition, but this is primarily the director's responsibility in designing the shots.) The lessons in this section of the course
The cinematographer is the person charged with this responsibility. He is more commonly know as the director of photography or "DP," for short. The DP reports to the director, and accordingly, translating the director's visual requirements to the screen. Some directors give the DP free reign in this process, while others maintain strict control. It depends on the director's style and his working relationship with the DP.
The DP plays a vital role on the set. In addition to supervising his own crew of camera and lighting technicians, he works closely with all craft heads to assure quality and continuity in the making of the movie. The DP is second in importance only to the director, and his approach can determine whether the production stays on schedule and within budget.
While a film director may have a general idea of how a scene should look, it is the responsibility of a cinematographer to make it happen. A cinematographer is an expert in both the technical and artistic capabilities of a movie camera. He or she works closely with the director during principal shooting in order to properly frame each shot according to the script and/or the director's personal vision. The head cinematographer may also be credited as director of photography or DP, although the two titles are not as interchangeable as one might think.
A cinematographer may also be considered a camera operator, especially if his or her decision-making power is minimal. A working cinematographer actually looks through the lens of a camera while filming a scene, much like a still photographer snaps individual photographs. The lighting director and crew will often work with the cinematographer to make sure the amount of light reflecting off the actors and scenery is acceptable. If a special lens or filter is required for an artistic effect, it is the cinematographer's job to make the changes.
If a film has a large budget, several cinematographers may be hired to work different camera set-ups. Smaller film companies may only be able to hire one cinematographer, who must be present for every shot. Occasionally a director may take over the cinematographer's duties if the set needs to be closed for privacy. An experienced cinematographer may also act as a second-unit director, responsible for shooting general background or establishing shots without the principal actors. A sweeping view of a city at the beginning of a film may be the work of a cinematographer alone.
It is not unusual for a film director to hire the same cinematographer for most of his or her productions. The working relationship between a director and a 'cinema photographer' requires a shared vision with regards to the overall look of a film. Many of the greatest films in Hollywood history achieved their status through the unsung work of the cinematographer. Orson Welle's masterpiece "Citizen Kane" benefited greatly from the contributions of cinematographer Gregg Toland, for example. Toland created camera movements that had never been used before in major films.
Becoming a cinematographer requires years of technical training in the use of professional camera and video equipment. A period of apprenticeship under an experienced cinematographer may follow, leading to camera work for independent films or low budget Hollywood productions. After building up a solid resume, a budding cinematographer may join an organization such as the ASC, the American Society of Cinematographers.
THE CINEMATOGRAPHER'S TEAM
Film crew structure evolved over many years, with input from many different craft unions. Each position is clearly defined in terms of job duties and scope. Video crews developed much differently, responding to ongoing and sometimes rapid changes in technology and production needs. As a result, video location crews tend to be smaller and somewhat less structured (there are exceptions, of course, as with major sports and music events).
Technicians on both sides of the fence have adapted to the recent explosion in digital technology and media convergence by learning how to work in all the major formats. Consequently, the lines between crew types are quickly disappearing as people move back and forth between film and digital video projects. Generally, you will find that the cinematographer's team is made up of:
The camera operator is responsible to the DP for maintaining proper composition, focus and camera movement. He relies on one or more assistant camera operators, called ACs for short:
1st Assistant Camera Operator
- The 1st AC is responsible for setting and threading the camera, setting the lens T stop and focus, performing follow focus during a take and maintaining camera reports. The 1st AC reports to the DP.
2nd Assistant Camera Operator
- The 2nd AC is responsible for procuring raw film stock, maintaining the film stock inventory, loading magazines, slating scenes and moving the camera to another setup. The 2nd AC reports to the 1st AC.
The video engineer, as the name indicates, is unique to video production. The job entails setting up the camera and controlling image processing. He uses various specialized equipment that may include a camera control unit (CCU), waveform monitor and vectorscope (discussed later in the course).
The video engineer reports to the DP. The job may seem similar to that of the 1st AC in that both set up the camera, however, the video engineer carries significantly more responsibility because he is responsible for quality control of the recorded image. Consequently, he works on equal footing with the camera operator, and in some arrangements, may actually supervise the operator.Despite the importance of this position, many low budget productions avoid it by assigning associated duties to the camera operator and his assistants. The quality and reliability of today's video equipment makes this choice possible.
The gaffer is the head electrician on the set. He is responsible for setting up the lights in each shot, as stipulated by the DP. This includes choosing the appropriate light fixtures and routing electrical power as needed. His 1st assistant is called the best boy.
The key grip is responsible for setting-up heavy equipment on the set, including: lighting control (C stands, gobos, reflectors, butterflies, etc.), camera movement (dollies, booms cranes), scenery, backdrops and scaffolding. The key grip reports to the DP and gaffer.
Second Unit Cameraman
On larger productions, a second unit is used to shoot scenes that don't involve principal actors. It is a time saving technique used when the budget permits. The second unit cameraman supervises the second unit crew and reports to the DP.
From: Merriam Webster (m-w.com). Britanica Ensclopedia Online and Kodak