The Art of Cinematography

What does a cinematographer do? He tries to translate ideas into images. He figures how to express a particular story in the given space. He is like a visual psychiatrist, making the audience think what he wants them to think.

Image

When you are making a movie, you have control over every single thing that audience sees or hears for the next 2-3 hours. So what do you do with that kind of freedom and most importantly what do you not do?

Everything a cinematographer does with the camera translates into some kind of understanding in the viewers mind. For instance, every time you go for a close up, the audience knows subconsciously that you have made an editorial decision, you are saying look at this, this is important. The audience knows you are going in for a reason, it is an underlining of sorts.

Hence a cinematographer has to do three key things to make a shot work.

Image

Lighting

It is one of the most crucial steps in the filmmaking process for without light we cannot have an image. Hence there are certain basic things to consider before lighting a set, like the quality of light being used, the objects/elements in the set you want to expose, underexpose, and overexpose and most importantly the source/sources of light. All these things should be selected and aligned in accordance to the look the scene demands. And like all other aspects of the scene, lighting also needs to follow the rule of continuity in terms of quality and quantity.

Composition

There are two very simple things that you need to look out for when composing a shot. First is the background, the environment by itself tells a part of your story and where you set your scene is an important choice in the process. The location tells a lot about the character and it adds credibility to the messenger and the message.

Second is the person you are filming. Where the camera is placed in relation to the subject greatly affects the way your viewer perceives the subject. For example, an extreme wide shot is generally used for setting a scene. A wide shot shows the entire person you are establishing, it is intended to place them in relation to the surrounding. A medium shot balances the subject and the environment. The closer you place the subject, the less importance you place on the environment. There is also a psychology to camera height and it gives specific cues to the audience. For example, a low angle shot makes the subject look powerful and shooting down on a subject not so much.

Movement

Though the way in which camera will move in the scene depends on the director, the cinematographer is his collaborator in this process. He helps him answer questions like whether camera movement should be motivated by the action of the scene or the subtext, should it be restricted to tilting and panning or should it be hosted on a dolly and so on.

Image

What a cinematographer does with the camera movements is kind of a dance between the actors and the camera, the dance is what engages people and how well the dance goes is what camera movement is all about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: