What is a Cinematographer, and What is their Position on set?
A cinematographer visually communicates the script with the audience by filming in a way that helps the Director to realize his creative vision through adequate composition, framing, lighting and essential camera movements. Cinematographers shoot the film, television production or series with special attention to the lighting and surroundings to ensure that the audience connects visually with the scene.
During pre-production, cinematographers begins making crucial decisions as to how the camera will pull off shots that portray the appropriate look and feel of the film. They are faced with questions such as whether to shoot digitally or to film (although filming is rather rare these days.).
They consider the appropriate camera choice and any other elements such as color, black and white, faded, or saturated features that could be used to bring the Director’s creative vision to life.
Before shooting, the Cinematographer will work closely with the director to ensure they fully understand the creative tone of the film. Then, during production they work closely with all members of the film crew and set to ensure all elements come together and are appropriately caught on camera.
The responsibilities of the cinematographer can vary with each film production as creative visions change from one Director to the next. Sometimes, the cinematographer is referred to as the Director of Photography.
This role has several core job duties including:
- Sourcing material to ensure the film looks and feels the part.
- Conducting research to ensure all technical recess of locations are carried out.
- Testing lenses, filters, film stocks and other essential equipment that can be used to visually create the film.
- Overseeing the light department actions to ensure the set lighting is correct for the visual capture by camera.
- Working closely with the Gaffer, production designer, costume designer and others to ensure the creative vision comes to life.
The Cinematographer is responsible for acting as head of the light and camera departments to ensure that the film shooting captures the essence of the Director’s vision.
They make crucial decisions during pre-production to define how the film is to be shot. During production, they remain present to ensure all working parts are coming together for the creative vision to come to life.
Cinematographers study the script to determine how lighting, camera, focus, and special effects can be used to provoke the emotions and desired feel from the film.
They work closely with the actors, and lighting crew, and location crew as well as the set crew to ensure that props, elements, set construction, and various other needs are in place for the perfect shot.
Cinematographers work with each shot to ensure primary principals are recorded for the audience to see. This is a demanding role that requires long work hours in an intense physical environment, therefore good health is a must.
The cinematographer will have strong technical skills and a working knowledge of lighting, digital processes, and camera equipment. They must work closely with various members of the film crew, therefore strong communication skills are a must.
Additional skills necessary to a cinematographer include:
- Strong creative vision.
- Quality communication.
- Ability to work well with cast and crew.
- Strong verbal communication skills.
- Precise attention to detail.
- Ability to grasp changes in color and visual design.
- Safety and health hazard standards knowledge.