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What is Cinematography and What Does a Cinematographer Do?

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What is Cinematography and What Does a Cinematographer Do?

Storytelling in a film is not just about recording the action. It’s also about HOW the images/shots are captured too. In the film and television world, this is known as cinematography.

What Is Cinematography?

Cinematography is the art of photography and visual storytelling in a motion picture or television show. Cinematography comprises all on-screen visual elements, including lighting, framing, composition, camera motion, camera angles, film selection, lens choices/selection, depth of field, zoom, focus, color, exposure, and filtration.

Why Is Cinematography Important to Filmmaking?

Cinematography sets and supports the overall look and mood of a film’s visual narrative. Each visual element that appears on screen, a.k.a. the mise-en-scène of a film, can serve and enhance the story, so it is the cinematographer’s responsibility to ensure that every element is cohesive and support the story. Filmmakers often choose to spend the majority of their budget on high-quality cinematography to guarantee that the film will look incredible on the big screen.

What Does a Cinematographer Do?

A cinematographer, also known as a Director of Photography, is in charge of the camera and the lighting crew. They’re the person responsible for creating the look, color, lighting, and framing of every single shot in a film. The film’s director and cinematographer work closely together, as the main job of a cinematographer is to ensure that their choices support the director’s overall vision for the film. The cinematographer may also act as the camera operator on more low-budget productions.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Cinematographer

  • Chooses a visual style for the film. A cinematographer determines the visual style and approach of the film. For example, a cinematographer on a documentary film determines whether to use re-enactments or to rely heavily on photographs and found footage.
  • Establishes the camera setup for every shot. A cinematographer decides which types of cameras, camera lenses, camera angles, and camera techniques best bring the scene to life. Additionally, a cinematographer works with the script supervisor and, if necessary, the locations manager to scope out each scene and design what the most effective vantage points for the camera will be. This helps preserve the intention and scale of the film.
  • Determines the lighting for every scene. A cinematographer uses lighting to create the right visual mood the director aspires to achieve. They must know how to enhance an image’s depth, contrast, and contour to support the story’s atmosphere.
  • Explores the potential of every location. A good cinematographer understands what visuals excite the director and can make recommendations about what shots to capture.
  • Attends rehearsals. A cinematographer attends rehearsals with the actors since the blocking for a scene will likely change and evolve. During rehearsals, cinematographers adjust the camera in response to a particular gesture or action, and as actors adjust their body positions and blocking, to better fit the framing of the shot.
  • Elevates the vision of the director. A good cinematographer will introduce ideas and concepts the director may not have considered while shooting a Scene.

Source: MasterClass

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