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Old 12-22-2008, 06:34 AM   #1
Peter Majtan
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Red face Definition of Cinematography & Responsibilities

A truly wonderful definition of Cinematography and excellent break-down for the Responsibilities of Cinematographer...

Definition of Cinematography

"Cinematography is a creative and interpretive process that culminates in the authorship of an original work of art rather than the simple recording of a physical event.
Cinematography is not a subcategory of photography. Rather, photography is but one craft that the cinematographer uses in addition to other physical, organizational, managerial, interpretive and image-manipulating techniques to effect one coherent process.
These visual images from the cinema, extending from conception and preproduction through postproduction to the ultimate presentation and all processes that may affect these images, are the direct responsibility and interest of the cinematographer.
The image that the cinematographer brings to the screen come from the artistic vision, imagination and skill of the cinematographer as he or she works within a collaborative relationship with fellow artists."

John Hora, ASC

Responsibilities of the Cinematographer

I. PreProduction

Conceptual Research and Design
- Discuss all aspects of script and director’s approach to picture in preliminary talks with director
- Analyze script as whole
- Analyze story structure
- Analyze characters
- Research period, events, general subject and appropriate design elements
- Devise style, visualize approach
- Continue talks with director on new ideas
- Come to agreement with director
- Discuss and come to agreement with production designer
- Discuss and research with technical advisor

Practical Research and Design
- Ascertain or find out budget requirements
- Scout and approve locations
- Plot sun position for location
- Check local weather
- Check tide tables near ocean
- Review, discuss and approve set plans
- Review, discuss and approve spotting plans for stages
- Review and approve props, picture cars, airplanes, boats, horse-drawn vehicles, mock-ups and miniatures

Technical Research and Design
- Visit laboratory to calibrate, customize and evaluate exposure system for any combination of electronic or chemical image capture; establish developing, printing, set timing and transfer protocols
- Visit equipment vendors
- Explore new equipment
- Learn how new equipment works
- Invent (or cause to be invented) special equipment or technique for show
- Standardize and create effects bible for show
- Help create and approve any storyboards
- Design (or cause to be designed) and approve any built-in or practical lighting fixture
- Design lighting-plot plan and rigging for stages and locations with gaffer and key grip

Quality Control
- Choose and approve crew, film stock, lab, equipment, second-unit and visual-effects crews
- Supervise manufacture and testing of new or modified equipment
- Visit sets under construction
- Approve wild walls, ceiling pieces and any moving set pieces
- Check lighting-fixtures crew
- Walk locations and stages with all departments to discuss requirements
- Approve set colors and textures
- Approve costume colors and textures
- Approve make-up and hair
- Generate (or cause to be generated) and approve equipment list for camera, electric and grip
- Check dailies screening rooms for correct standards

- Cast stand-ins
- Train crew to use any new equipment
- Walk locations and stages with director and devise shooting plan
- Make list of special equipment for production manager and indicate number of days required
- Work with assistant director on shooting schedule (order of and days required for each scene)
- Estimate and order film stock (type, size, quantity)
- Generate (or cause to be generated) and approve rigging and shooting manpower and man-days
- Assist other departments in getting required equipment, manpower and tests
- Drop by all departments and visit department heads at least twice a day to answer any questions
- Mediate any problems between departments
- Check loading of production trucks or cargo containers for location or international shipping
- Visit cast run-through and rehearsals
- Advise and back up director on any problems
- Help producer or studio solve any production problems

- Shoot tests for style
- Shoot tests for lab
- Shoot tests for lighting of principal actors
- Shoot tests for camera and lenses
- Shoot tests for wardrobe and makeup
- Shoot tests for any special effects processes, unusual rigs, props or methods

II. Shooting (Production)

- Check and approve all call sheets and shooting order of the day’s work

- Watch rehearsal of scene to be shot
- Devise shot list with director (coverage)
- Choose lens and composition, show to director for approval
- Make sure composition and movement fulfill scene task
- Work out mechanical problems with camera operator, assistant camera, dolly and crane grips
- Set any camera-movement cues
- Place stand-ins and rehearse, fine-tune
- Ensure proper coverage of scene for editor
- Work with assistant director on background action

- Design lighting to show set/location to best advantage relative to story, style and dramatic content
- Light each actor to reinforce and reveal character
- Make sure mood and tone of light help tell story
- Design light for minimum reset between set-ups
- Utilize stand-by painter for control of highlights, shadows, aging, dusting down of sets and props
- Set and match light value, volume, color and contrast of each setup (exposure)
- Set any lighting cues (dimmers, spot lights, color changes and any pre-programming)

- Work out any sound problems
- Work out any problems with other departments
- Check, set and approve all stunts with stunt coordinator
- Set any additional cameras required for stunts
- Double-check safety with all concerned
- Show shot to director to make any final changes
- Get actors in for final mechanical rehearsal; solve any outstanding problems

- Photograph scene
- Approve or correct take
- Check parameters and reset for next take
- Shoot any plates
- Shoot any video playback material
- Move to next setup

- Define first setup in morning and after lunch
- Make sure stills are taken of scene
- See that “making off” and/or EPK crews get needed footage
- Make sure script supervisor has any special camera or lighting notes
- Check film raw stock inventory
- Try to shoot up short ends
- Check that camera log book is being kept up to date
- Complete day’s work
- Discuss first setup for the next day
- Ensure camera, electrical and grip crews get all copies of equipment rental or purchase invoices and approve before accountants pay vendors
- Take care of any future or ongoing production issues
- Answer any questions about future problems
- Visit production manager and producer at end of day
- Check for return of all unused equipment

Quality Control
- Call in for lab report
- View previous day’s work in projected dailies with director, producer, editor, camera crew
- Discuss and approve dailies
- Consult with makeup, wardrobe, production designer and assistant director about dailies
- View, discuss, correct or approve second-unit or effects dailies
- Order reprints if necessary

- Teach beginning actors movie technique (hitting marks, size of frame, lenses, etc.)
- Train camera crew for next job up the ladder

- If director is disabled, finish day’s shooting for him or her

III. PostProduction

Additional Photography
- Discuss and be aware of delivery dates for all postproduction
- Photograph and approve any additional scenes, inserts, special effects or second-unit footage
- Timing (Color and Density)
- Time and approve trailer for theaters and TV
- Approve all optical and digital effects composites
- Time the picture
- Retime until correct

Quality Control
- Approve final answer print
- Show to director for OK
- Approve interpositive (IP)
- Approve internegatives (IN)
- Approve release prints
- Approve show prints from original negative
- Approve all blowups or reductions

Telecine / Color Correction
- Supervise and approve film or digital transfer to electronic or film media (Hi-Def, NTSC, PAL, Secam masters, digital intermediates, archival masters, etc.)
- Supervise and approve all transfers to and from digital intermediates (DI)
- Supervise and approve all letterbox, pan and scan, or reformatting of film
- Supervise and approve tape-to-tape color correction and VHS, DVD, digital projection media, etc.
- Show electronic transfers to director for OK

- Do any publicity (newspaper, magazine, Internet, radio, TV, DVD commentary, etc.)

Restoration / Archival
- Be available for any future reissue, archival reprint or electronic transfer of film

Merry Christmas to everyone & Happy New Year - the Year of DSMC!

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Old 12-22-2008, 07:26 AM   #2
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What are wild walls?

EDIT: nm, I just found it. For the benefit of anyone else who wasn't familiar with the term, they're basically walls on a set that can be removed to make room for the camera crew...

Last edited by fde101; 12-22-2008 at 07:35 AM.
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Old 12-22-2008, 08:00 AM   #3
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Wow, peter. Thanks for this! STICKY!!!!
Check out my work on
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Old 12-22-2008, 08:02 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by kyle.presley View Post
Wow, peter. Thanks for this! STICKY!!!!
Agreed 100%
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Old 12-22-2008, 07:07 PM   #5
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Us out there in indie no budget land, do digi to film transfers and get to swim through that, it's some serious stuff. And then theres distribution.
Great coverage Peter.
"Our battle our struggle is to create art. Our weapon is the moving picture. Our poetry will be shadows that lengthen and conceal, our light will play across faces that laugh and agonize. And our music will linger and finally overwhelm because it will have a context as certain as the grave" - F.W. Murnau
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Old 12-22-2008, 07:33 PM   #6
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Great post Peter. Thanks.

Merry Christmas

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Old 12-22-2008, 08:10 PM   #7
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No wonder I always feel I there is always so much more to do, or its never finnished, looking at the list it's amazing how anything ever gets done, so many things to do, so little time. Its enough to make you feel like being a million miles away from where you want to be.

Last edited by johnvid; 12-22-2008 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 12-22-2008, 11:09 PM   #8
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=] How did you know I wanted this for Christmas Peter?

It isn't the cinematographer who owns the film, but rather the film and its story that owns the cinematographer." -- Anthony Dod Mantle, ASC
"Lose the ego. Do great work and take pride in it, but donít be arrogant about how great you think you are." - Chuck Russom

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Old 11-20-2009, 03:33 PM   #9
Rob Rock
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I know this thread is almost a year old, but the whole forum is kinda

All I have to say is OMG....WTH...

I knew the definition, but the breakdown is immense. I should have had this a couple years ago when I was 2nd Unit Dir./DP for a feature. This will seriously help me out in my next endeavor. It will prevent the "I need to know / No you don't" conversations I had with the Producer/Director.
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Old 12-15-2010, 11:21 AM   #10
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Great thread!

Acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet
There's no use arguing over that which is inconceivable

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checklist, definition

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