The Cinematographer on Cinematography
As cinematographer, I am the director's confidente and collaborator in the creative process. I am
also responsible to the producer to work quickly and in a fiscally responsible manner. I must lead
the crew in the execution of my vision. And, through it all I must ply my craft to find the symbiosis
between sheer mechanics and the subconscious emotional rhythms of the imagery I create.
Cinematography is writing with light in motion and the cinematographer is the principle author of
this literature. When making a film, the cinematographer translates the vision he or she shares with
the director and the production designer onto film. It has been truthfully said that the
cinematographer is the co-author of any film.
Cinematography is an evolving language – it speaks to audiences across language and cultural
divides in ways that mere words cannot.
As a language, cinematography has syntax and grammer.
Remember, however, that it is evolving, and in many ways it evolves more quickly and with fewer
restrictions than conventional language.
Over the years "rules" or conventions have developed which are frequently followed; and yet, rules
were meant to be broken. By understanding the conventions and making informed and instinctive
decisions, we have in our arsenal unlimited possibilities for cinematic expression.
Cinematograpy requires the consideration of countless details and yet it can be distilled into a few
simple principles. In essence, cinematography is about communicating on both conscious and
subconscious levels to the audience.
The Six Components to Cinematography
There are six (6) components to cinematography.
As you become more informed, more practiced,
more experienced in shooting films, you will learn that there are only six components, but the more
you learn, the more you learn that you do not know.
There may be only six components, but
knowledge and understanding of their depth and totality is without limits, and so cinematography is
a lifetime pursuit.
The six components are: Camera Placement, Lens Selection, Movement, Composition, Lighting
Before I continue, I will elaborate.
These are all inter-related and each decision along the way in
one component, affects the decisions regarding the other components.
The possibilities are
Also – there are directorial components, which are not actually within the province of the
cinematographer, but which often involve the cinematographer.
Namely, “blocking actors” which is
the responsibility of the director, often involves the cinematographer, as blocking choices will also
affect the cinematography and the choices the cinematographer makes.
Finally, let me include post processes and lab procedures with Exposure.