On Cinematographers and Their Importance

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When watching a movie, the majority of the population tends to not to think about the complexities of creating a movie. Either the movie is good or bad, most of the time is the film director that is taken into account, forgetting about the other people participating in the creation process, an important one being the cinematographer. The director and cinematographer have a strong relationship with one another that helps to give the movie its look and style. A cinematographer is often called the director of photography and is the main person that is responsible for actually shooting the film. Depending on the directors that cinematographers work with, they sometimes maintain full independence in the decision making of the shot. This includes lightning, contrast, colors and also deciding on what camera should be used.

The Relationship Between a Director and a Cinematographer

The relationship between the two is an essential part of the creation process, the cinematographer being the person responsible for conveying a feeling and mood to the viewers through visual storytelling. A lot can be said about a scene, from the color palette used to the camera movement, and of course lightning. All of these elements present in a scene should be relevant to the story being told and each shot has to remain cohesive with one another thought the length of the film. Besides the details mention, another major detail that cinematographers have to take into account is the framing of a scene and capturing moments in a film the way the director intended to. Many times, the relationship between the director and the cinematographer is maintained over the years. An example would be Christopher Nolan, one of the greatest directors of our time and Wally Pfister, known for receiving and Academy Award for Best Cinematography for the movie Inception. Nolan has been working with Pfizer since his very first cinematic debut, Momento, later working together on Insomnia and resurrecting the Batman franchise with Batman Begins, the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight and concluding the story with The Dark Knight Rises.

Another duo would be Martin Scorsese and Rodrigo Prieto. While Scorsese is known to leave his mark on almost every shot of a movie, Prieto, one of the most talented cinematographers of our time manages to add his flavor. The two managed to meticulously craft each detail of every shot when working together. This can be seen in some of their collaborations such as Vinyl, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence and The Irishman. Another director of photography that Scorsese has worked with is Robert Richardson. Their collaboration delivered some iconic movies to the big screen such as Casino, The Aviator, Shutter Island, and Hugo. Among these, Casino is the major one that stands out. Many view the epic drama film Casino as being the best film Scorsese has ever made. In this movie, the gambling capital of America, Las Vegas, is Scorsese’s main subject and the movie puts great emphasis on both history and character development. Casino was one of the first movies to use rendering technology to integrate a 1970 Las Vegas into live-action footage. Casino is somewhat inspired by Scorsese’s other gangster movie, Goodfellas which, just like it, Casino uses voiceover narration to tell its story. The movie does an excellent job of portraying the dynamic between the 2 main characters Sam, played by Robert De Niro and Nicky, played by Joe Pesci.

Besides working with Scorsese, Robert Richardson has also worked with various other great directors such as Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino. His debut in cinematography was with Stone’s 1986 movie, Salvador, and a few years later, they worked together again for Platoon, leading him to earn his first Oscar Nomination for Best Photography. His cinematography was awarded a second time for Born on the Fourth of July. Inglorious Basterds is a stylistic masterpiece. Here, Robert Richardson teamed up with Quentin Tarantino to create one of the most visually impressive pieces of cinematography. Each scene in the movie is carefully detailed and the shots themselves are perfectly framed and lit up in such a way to grant depth to the picture. The scenes can individually stand on their own and adds great flair to the characters, who themselves had a certain savoir-faire to their mannerisms and speech.

Besides being a director, many people know Tarantino also for his roles in many movies such as the cult classic From Dusk Till Dawn, where he, alongside George Clooney’s character has to survive until morning in a bar surrounded by vampires. The movie is entertaining for most people because it never takes itself too seriously. The movie managed to inspired a few gaming experiences, many of them in the form of gambling such as the one found on many online casino websites, but there is also a PC release that continues the story from where it left off in the movie, however, the casino game seems to have been received better. From Dusk Till Dawn had Guillermo Navarro as its cinematographer, who is also known for working on the critically acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 1 and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, all of the movies by Guillermo del Toro. The 2 are another great example of recurring collaborations between director and cinematographer.

The Changing Aspects of Cinematography

During the production and pre-production of the movie, things tend to get a bit hectic on sets and a cinematographer has the most important role for preparing. He has to be in continuous communication with the director, making sure everything is set up the way it’s supposed to. As a cinematographer, multiple factors must be taken into account, details relating to the film’s visual. The American Society of Cinematographers was established in Hollywood in 1919. The main purpose of this establishment is to advance the art and science of cinematography and has also formalized and distinguished the role of cinematographers from camera operators.

The cinematographer helps the director along the production process to tell a story using the right lighting and framing. It was during 1920 that much emphasis was put on making the stars look beautiful and the cinematographer had a major role to play here. They were expected to compose the shots in such a way to make the characters stand out by using different light sources. During this time the 3 -point lighting system was conceived. It was composed of a key source of light, a filler, and a soft backlight to add a sort of glamour to their faces. Other responsibilities of a cinematographer or director of photography are the ability to manage and coordinate a large team. Camera operators, camera assistants, lightning crew, all of them have to be put into motion and create the environment necessary for the filming of a scene.

The movie industry has changed a lot and so did some aspects of cinematography, especially since a scene’s enhancement with the use of special effects. For a time, special effects were added during post-production, however, there is now a way to make the scenes directly in a virtual environment, as seen with James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009. The challenges that face directors and cinematographers today are leaning to tame the man options of what digital cinematography brings to the table and making sure to keep everybody fully engaged in the essentials of filmmaking.