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5.3.3 Director of Photography (Cinematographer)

Perhaps one of the most thorough description you'd ever read, is the one written by Sir Charles G. Clarke, ASC, Dated to May 1967.

The American Society of Cinematography has provided us with the link to the article.

Go to article.

For a brief desciption, the following may be useful to know:

The cinematographer is an indespensible director in the film industry especially, and is responsible for:

  • The ultimate image appearance on film, in the mood that the director calls for
  • Films exposure through the use of light meters and tables
  • Choosing lenses and filters
  • Leading the lighting director accordingly

Today, the introduction of digital cameras and processors, has made it easier in terms of direct visual comparison and manipulation, but the tricks of good lighting and coordination of the grip team remain the same.

He/ She must always take care of the following:

Focus:

A shift in focus is disasters when later seen on the big screen. Always use manual focus.

If the camera is equipped with a zooming lens, it is a good practice to zoom in, focus, then zoom out to the intended focal length.

Exposure:

This is the amount of light recorded inside the camera. It is the combination of Apperture, Shutter, Gain and any filter added to the lens.


Always check the exposure through a viewfinder only, for LCD displays are misleading. They are affected with view angle, and our eyes with ambient light.

In most cases, your target is to get the actors faces correctly exposed.

Some cameras can show zebra patterns for over exposure. Keep the sky and white material slightly over exposed. If under exposed, the whole image becomes dark.

Apperture:

The higher the F-stops, the more becomes the focal depth. This is discussed thoroughly in Section 2.2.

Shutter:

Usually shutter speed must be 50 Hz.

25 Hz is acceptable if really necessary. Going below creates a lagging effect.

Higher shutter speeds for about 100 or above makes the frames sharper and blend less. However, stills become sharper at higher speeds.

Gain:

Gain should be as minimal as possible.

Test your camera gain levels in low light, to experience when the image becomes grainy. Grains show more on regular TV screens than Computer Screens or LCDs.

White Balance:

Don't depend on a camera's built in setups, especially automatic white balance.

Always use a white paper to neutralize upon at the actor's level. If you have doubts, repeat the setting.