In Canada, a renown cinematographer is often a member of The Canadian Society of Cinematographers. The purpose of the CSC is to promote the art and craft of cinematography and to provide tangible recognition of the common bonds that link motion imaging professionals, from the aspiring student and camera assistant to the news veteran and senior Canadian cinematographer.
CSC members are involved in the production of feature films, documentaries, television series, specials and commercials. Canadian cinematographers, who represent the nucleus of the membership, have achieved recognition as among the best in the world. They participate as decision makers in virtually every aspect of the picture-making process: cameras, lights, image-capture media, and post-production processing.
Have you ever been speechless upon a shot that was so breathtaking you thought to yourself, “Wow, that was totally awesome!”? Behind that gorgeous angle was a cinematographer. Not necessarily operating the camera but at least “painting” the look. Here’s what the cinematographer does.
The cinematographer, also known as director of photography (DP or DOP) is the person in charge of actually shooting the film. He is the chief conductor over the camera and light crews working on a film, television production or other live action piece and is responsible for making artistic and technical decisions related to the image.
At the head of the camera and lighting departments, he has a big role in the making of any movie. As early as pre-production, the cinematographer has to make some crucial decisions about the look and feel of a movie. Are they shooting in color or black & white? Are they shooting a digital or film, even if it’s becoming rarer and rarer? If color is used, will the colors be vibrant and saturated or faded and “dull”? Is the camera going to be omniscient and be wherever it needs to be, or is it tied to a character, always showing their point of view? Are they going for a more realistic tone, or an expressionistic one?
By selecting the camera, film stock, lenses, filters, etc., the cinematographer realize the scene in accordance with the intentions of the director. Even if the director is the one who has to oversee and approve of any aspect of the production, on a set, ideally, director and cinematographer must be like best friends. One supports the other, and together they should be a well-oiled machine, so efficient that they can, in the best of all worlds, read each other’s mind.
The cinematographer is often called a painter, and his canvas is the screen. His “brush” are the actors, the lights, the location, the set, the props, etc. These are the elements the cinematographer can control to make each and every shot, the best shot.
Let us remember that movies are not plays. The power of cinematography consists of evoking emotions of delight, sadness, humor, and fear through the mastery of a cinematic syntax that has been developed for more than a century. Shot sizes, angles, and movements are the heart of an exceptional camerawork, which, combined with a lighting crafted to enhance emotions, form the essence of cinematography. And this essence reveals all the cinematographer’s talent.
Serge Desrosiers – Canadian Cinematographer