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Cinematography. Cinematography. cinematography: "writing in movement” Digital Cinematography and Computer-Generated Imagery have brought changes in Cinematography, which was traditionally based on chemical/photographic images and effects.

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  • cinematography: "writing in movement”

  • Digital Cinematography and Computer-Generated Imagery have brought changes in Cinematography, which was traditionally based on chemical/photographic images and effects.

  • However: many terms and concepts in digital/computer-aided cinematography are based on, and often replicate, those of film-based cinematography.

  • Learning about film-based cinematography is very helpful to understanding digital/video cinematography.

  • Commonly, Cinematography = Everything that has to do with cameras and lenses, with film/film stock (and its digital equivalents), exposure and processing of film/digital images.

Cinematography vs mise en scene
Cinematography vs. Mise-en-Scene

  • Thus, cinematography can be contrasted to “mise-en-scene” (staging), which refers to “what is filmed”; while cinematography refers to “how it is filmed.” (see Bordwell & Thompson)

  • Question areas?

    • Visual Special Effects? Often done in post-production (esp. digital effects). So, is that Cinematography?

    • Lighting? Effects exposure, lens setting, focus, etc., Usually under control of Cinematographer (Director of Photography). But Lighting, since it is part of “what is filmed,” could also be seen as part of a film’s “mise-en-scene.”

  • For simplicity’s sake, follow Bordwell & Thompson’s distinction between what is filmed (mise-en-scene) and how it is filmed (cinematography). I.e.: special effects: part of cinematography; lighting: part of mise-en-scene.

Elements of cinematography
Elements of Cinematography

  • (1) Composition or Framing and Mobile Framing

  • Frame shape (aspect ratios), camera distance (types of shots: e.g., CU, Medium Shot), angle, level, height, & mobile framing (camera movements and zooms), perspective, pov.

  • (2) Camera, Lens, & Exposure Choices & Techniques (what used to be called “photographic elements”)

  • Camera Choices (speed of motion, shutter speed), Lens Types (e.g., telephoto, wide angle), Lens Settings (focus, aperture, depth of field, etc.), Exposure issues.

Framing aspect ratios ratio of width to height
Framing: Aspect Ratiosratio of width to height

Rules of the Game, Jean Renoir, 1939

1.33:1 (4 to 3) actually 1.37:1

Aliens, James Cameron, 1986


Rebel Without A Cause, Nicholas Ray, 1955

2.35:1 (Cinemascope)

Framing aspect ratios
Framing: aspect ratios

  • Academy ratio = 1.37:1, but often said to be 1.33:1

  • Note how framing affects balance, visual information,

  • & relationship of on- & off-screen space

2.2 to 1

Pan & Scan; 1.33 to 1

Video transfers
Video Transfers

  • When Widescreen Films transferred to “full-screen” 4:3 frame (video or television) see pp. 87-95 A&P on aspects ratios & transfers.

  • The “controller”

    • The person responsible for transferring a film to 4:3 video format

    • Becomes ‘default editor’

    • What stays within the frame, and what is cut

  • Letterboxing

    • blacked-out bands at the top and the bottom of a screen

    • approximate the wider cinematic screen

  • Can limit cinematographic possibilities when filmmaker has to “shoot for the box” (See also: TV Cutoff, p. 331 A&P)

  • Fortunately, newer 16:9 Monitors are much closer to widescreen aspect ratios. 16:9 = 1.78 to 1.

Widescreen vs. Pan and scan in

Blade Runner, Ridley Scott, 1982

Aspect ratios when shooting digital
Aspect Ratios (when shooting digital)

  • A. 4:3 - composition well suited for a close-up

  • B. 16:9 - loss of focus - i.e., frame includes “extraneous” information

  • C. 16:9 - letter boxed - face is smaller

  • D. 16:9 - to command attention - i.e., fill-up the frame - face is cropped

fig. 2-16 (A&P, 96)

Framing camera angles high angle touch of evil orson welles 1958
framingCamera Angleshigh angleTouch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

Framing camera angles straight angle straight on rebecca alfred hitchcock 1940
framingCamera Anglesstraight angle; straight onRebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

Framing camera angles low angle bride of frankenstein james whale 1935
framingCamera Angleslow angleBride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)

Height of framing note low framing position but not low angle
Height of Framingnote low framing/position, but not low angle

Tokyo Story (1953) Yasujiro Ozu

Framing level of framing canted framing a k a dutch angle bride of frankenstein james whale 1935
framinglevel of framing: canted framing (a.k.a. Dutch angle)Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)

Canted framing
Canted Framing

  • Canted framing

    • Camera not level / not horizontal

    • Often suggests tension, trouble, distress, etc.

Natural Born Killers,

Oliver Stone, 1994

Framing camera shot distance or type of shot
framingCamera/Shot Distance or “Type of Shot”

Bordwell & Thompson

  • extreme long (ELS)

  • long (LS)

  • medium long shot (MLS)

  • medium (MS)

  • medium close-up (MCU)

  • close-up (CU)

  • extreme close-up (ECU)

Ascher & Pincus

  • long shot

  • medium shot = medium long

  • close-up = med close-up

  • big close-up = CU

  • extreme close-up

Extreme long shot els the conversation
extreme long shot (ELS)The Conversation

Long shot ls bride of frankenstein
long shot (LS) Bride of Frankenstein

Medium long shot(knees or shins to head; a.k.a. American shot or knee shot) Ascher & Pincus call Medium Shot

Medium shot ms the big heat fritz lang 1953
medium shot (MS)The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953)

Medium close up mcu touch of evil a p call this a cu
medium close-up (MCU)Touch of EvilA & P call this a CU?

Close up cu touch of evil a p big close up
close-up (CU)Touch of Evil(A & P: big close-up)

Extreme close up ecu dracula tod browning 1931
extreme close-up (ECU)Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931)

Other shots that aren t named for their shot distance
Other "shots" that aren’t named for their shot distance:

  • establishing shot

  • master shot

  • two shot

  • reverse shot or reverse-angle shot

  • point-of-view (POV) shot (a.k.a. subjective shot)

Mobile framing
Mobile Framing

  • Actual Movements of Camera

  • Zooms, where Camera doesn’t move, but the frame changes as the lens focal length is changed: Zoom In or Zoom Out. (Magnifies)

  • Laboratory and animated mobile framing.

  • Computer-generated shots: for ex: “fly-bys,” “rotations.” Computers, like traditional animation, can potentially generate any movement.

Mobile framing camera movements
Mobile Framing:Camera Movements

  • pans = rotates horizontally, side to side (B & T confusing: “camera rotates on vertical axis”)

  • tilts = vertical pivot/rotation, up and down

  • in pans & tilts, camera doesn’t change position, it pivots or rotates. Usually tripod mounted.

  • dolly/tracking/traveling shots

  • crane (and “boom” or jib) shots

  • hand-held and steadicam shots

Camera movement
Camera Movement

  • Tilt up

    • Movement up or down - vertical scan

  • Pan right

Dial M for Murder,

Alfred Hitchcock, 1954

Mobile framing camera movements1
Mobile Framing:Camera Movements

  • Dolly, Tracking, Traveling shots: all basically the same.

  • Sometimes people use “tracking shot” to mean a “following shot” (one that follows an actor or action), wh/ may be taken from a dolly, crane, handheld, or steadicam.

  • But name “tracking shot” came from the “tracks” that dollies moved on (see next slide).

  • So, dolly and tracking interchangeable terms.

  • Traveling shot is generally reserved for more expansive movements, taken from a vehicle.

Mobile framing camera movements2
Mobile Framing:Camera Movements

  • Crane and Boom/Jib shots:

  • Boom/jib shots: Camera mounted on counterweighted boom (similar to booms for microphones); some booms can also telescope in or out. Can use for combinations of pans & tilts, horizontal (tracking), vertical or diagonal moves.

  • Crane shots: Shots look the same as boom shot, but often motorized or with hydraulics for movement. Usually cranes have seat for operator, wheels. Some can be driven.

  • Motion-control techniques: computer programs to direct elaborate camera movements.

Mobile framing crane shot
Mobile Framing: Crane Shot

  • Crane Shot

    • Note: Difference from a tracking shot

    • Movement through 3-dimensional space

Carrie, Brian De Palma, 1976

Opening welles touch of evil 1958
Opening: Welles' Touch of Evil 1958

Mobile framing camera movements3
Mobile Framing:Camera Movements

  • Hand-held and Steadicam Shots:

  • Hand-held & Steadicam shots can pan or tilt or track.

  • Hand-held movement is obviously “unsteady”--which is how we know it’s a hand-held shot.

  • Steadicam: a patented device wh/ dampens unsteadiness, producing a relatively smooth movement, even when walking or running. Operators must be trained to use.

  • Steadicam first used in Rocky (1976). Early prominent use in Kubrick’s The Shining (1980).

Mobile framing1
Mobile Framing

  • When viewing a film, mobile framing can be hard to spot, because we often follow what is being photographed, rather than how.

  • And often, multiple combinations of camera movements:

  • Ex: Tracking shots often include some panning.

  • And combinations of camera movements can become quite complicated, as in some Crane Shots.

  • Also, can combine camera movements with zooms.

Mobile framing2
Mobile Framing

Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock, 1958

Mobile framing3

Famous shot from Jaws (1975), which uses both forward tracking and a zoom out.

Reverse of Hitchcock’s Vertigo shot, which zoomed in while tracking out. Both forms are often called “dolly zoom” shots.

Mobile Framing

Another track and zoom
Another Track and Zoom

Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese, 1990

Perspective tracking vs zooming
Perspective: Tracking vs. Zooming

  • Fig. 4.3

    • Left:

      • move the camera (track in)

      • short focal length lens

      • Note: Relation of back/foreground, changed angles

      • distortion at edges

    • Right:

      • Camera stationary

      • Change of focal length (i.e., zoom in)

      • Relation of back/foreground closer (telephoto effect of flattening)

      • No distortion at edges

fig. 4.3 (A&P, 144)

Subjective shot or point of view shot
subjective shot(or point-of-view shot)

  • Subjective Shot/Camera: from the position/point of view of a character--as if seeing through character eyes. Also called POV shot. Cinema equivalent of “First Person” in writing.

  • Some people make distinction between subjective shots & POV shots: use “POV shots” to include “over-the-shoulder” shots--which give a sense of POV without actually being from the position of the character.

  • But easier & better: treat POV and Subjective as the same; over-the-shoulder as different.

Subjective shot or point of view shot1
subjective shot(or point-of-view shot)

  • Subjectivity/POV is crucial to Classical Hollywood style: shot/reverse shots & eyeline matching are based on the idea of seeing from character’s POV.

  • But, shot/reverse shot shows both "subjective" and "objective" views: Hwd (most cinema) mixes both together.

  • What happens if subjectivity is taken to extreme? If we see only subjective shots?

Ex 1947 detective film the lady in the lake shot entirely from main character s point of view
Ex: 1947 Detective film The Lady in the Lakeshot entirely from main character's point of view

Ex 1947 detective film the lady in the lake shot entirely from main character s point of view1
Ex: 1947 Detective film The Lady in the Lakeshot entirely from main character's point of view

Note that moving camera often suggests someone's subjectivity or POV. Consider use of slow track in scene from Antonioni's L'avventura: