Introduction to Cinematography

What is Cinematography

Cinematography is defined as the technique of creating motion pictures through a camera. These motion pictures are still images that are exposed at a rate of 24 frames per second or more and are projected with rapid succession, giving the illusion of continuous motion. To make this illusion smooth, some other factors such as motion blur, shutter speed, lighting, etc. also contribute significantly. Cinematography is not just an art of visual storytelling through motion. It also requires technical skills in lighting, camera mechanics, practice, and knowledge. In simple words, cinematography focuses on the visual aspect of filmmaking captured through the camera to visually convey a story and emotions. 

What does a Cinematographer do?

A cinematographer is often known as the Director of Photography, is the head of camera and lighting crew. They work on the aesthetic of the film; their job is to ensure that the visual architecture of the film aligns with the director’s vision. From adding special effects to managing lighting, colors, and the overall look of each shot, it is all their responsibility. There are different types of cinematographers, such as narrative, documentary, commercial, etc.

Some of the key responsibilities of cinematographers are listed below:

Implement the Director’s Vision: 

A skilled cinematographer may feel the need to add new concepts and perspectives to the shots that the director might not envision. 

Examine the Lighting:

Cinematographers examine the lighting of each shot carefully to achieve the desired results set by the director. They know how to enhance the lighting, colors, and contrast of the shots to improve the shooting environment.

Camera Setup for Every Shot:

Cinematographers are responsible for setting up the camera for each shot, such as identifying the camera angles, lenses, techniques, and types of cameras that can capture the best shots.

Identify the Visual Style

Cinematographers are also responsible for identifying the visual style and approach of the film. For example, while filming a documentary, the director of photography would determine if they should use actual footage of the real events or recreate staged scenes.

Attend Rehearsals

One of the most important responsibilities of a cinematographer is to be present at the rehearsals for the shots. Adjusting the camera according to each shot as per the actor’s positions and blockings to capture the best shot possible.

Equipment

Along with the producer and director, choosing the right equipment for the right shot is the responsibility of the cinematographer. Equipment includes a camera, lenses, stabilizers, tripods, matte box, filters, etc. 

Setting Up the Crew

The cinematographer is mainly responsible for setting up the best camera and lighting crew to achieve the best shots possible. The crew is the foundation of a strong cinematographer; therefore, they are highly selective in choosing their crew.

Evaluation of Locations

When a shot location is finalized, the cinematographer is responsible for the evaluation and inspection of the location to practically assess the factors that can affect the shot’s quality, such as lighting, camera positions, etc. 

Review Shots After Filming

Once the shooting is done, the cinematographer reviews the footage with the director and ensures the smooth and continuous motion of the scenes.

Different Types of Shots

There are different types of shots and angles used to achieve the desired results of the shots.

different types of video shots

Closeup Shot

A closeup shot is a shot that closely focuses on the face of the actor or an object.

Extreme Closeup

An extreme close-up shot is a tightly framed close-up shot to add intensity to the shot.

Medium Shot

Medium shots capture an actor or character from waist up, adding sight details about the surroundings.

Low-Angle Shot

Low-angle shots are captured by placing the camera below the character or an object, enhancing the presence of the character or screen.

High-Angle Shot

Highangle shots are captured by placing the camera above the character or an object.

Establishing Shot

As the name suggests, this type of shot is used to establish the context of the scene and location.

Wide Shot

Wide shots capture the actor or character with its surroundings, giving a wider perspective of location and surroundings.

Long Shot 

A long shot is the same as a wider shot. It covers a wider angle to give perspective about the environment and surrounding

Single Shot 

A single shot refers to the shots or even films that are captured in a single shot without any interruption or cuts. 

Extreme Long Shot

In extreme long shots, a character is shot from such a really long distance that they either completely merge into their surroundings or become a small part of them.

POV Shot

Point-of-view shots are captured from the perspective of a specific character or actor, creating a fascinating view for the audience.

Crane Shot

Crane shots are overhead shots that are captured from the air or a moving crane. They are used to create the aerial view.

Drone Shot

Similar to crane shots, drones are also overhead shots used to capture aerial views. They are captured through drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

Top 5 Cinematographers Who Have Worked in Canada

Here is the list of the top 5 cinematographers who worked extensively in canada.

  1. Roger Deakins
  2. Greg Middleton 
  3. Steve Cosens 
  4. Guy Godfree 
  5. Catherine Lutes

Conclusion

Cinematography is a skill that cannot be developed overnight; it requires years and years of hard work, consistency, and patience. Cinematography plays a significant role in filmmaking; it adds emotions to the story through the lens of the camera. A cinematographer commonly known as the Director of Photography (DP) ensures the film achieves its intended concept using different techniques such as focusing on lighting, selecting the best crew, choosing the best equipment, evaluating shot locations, and being part of rehearsals. You can find the 5 best cinematographers for more inspiration here.

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