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  • A Guide to Basic Cinematography

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    Final Year Project – Film Production Technology Bsc Hons.

    The portfolio piece, ultimately took a different direction from the original concept; however research into adaptations and cinematographers were implemented in the end product. The focuses of research lead to the portfolio piece exploring technical elements of shot setups and analysis of basic cinematography techniques.

    Cinematography is the art of lighting and shot composition in film. New advances in digital technology create extensive uses for modern cameras and can be applied as a professional alternative for any level of production. This project investigates traditional lighting techniques and the capabilities of modern digital cameras with focus to framing and shot set up.

    The portfolio project also uses the techniques researched in this report, for a short film that demonstrates them at a basic level. The target market for the portfolio project is new filmmakers, for example, university students. The quote below, demonstrates how modern day technology has had a significant effect on the way we produce films.

    “Digital cinematography allows the capturing of motion pictures as digital data without the use of film, which mainly but not solely improves the workflow for applications of special effects to filmed material. Over the last decade, the bandwidth of possibilities for creating visual worlds released from the forces of gravity and the traditional practices of on-set pyrotechnics, stop-motion tricks, miniatures, matte paintings, projection effects, etc. has rapidly increased.” — Author, Claudia Udenta (2010) (

    As Claudia Udenta infers, the developments in digital photography have allowed for entry level filmmakers to produce work of a similar standard to professional work.

    “I shot “Estes Avenue” in a day with a couple of friends and a borrowed camera. He also got it accepted into Sundance. Digital cameras make it really cheap. The thing about Mini-DV is that you can shoot it and it goes straight to your computer, and everyone has a computer now. You take out so much expense. I shot this film for $122. If I shot it on film it would have cost me a minimum of $1,100.” – Amateur Director, Paul Cotter (2005) (

    However, although developments in equipment have allowed new filmmakers to shoot images at the same level as professionals, the overall quality of the piece could not be as professional without consideration of cinematic techniques developed from the inception of filmmaking. This project therefore develops the skills in cinematography that entry level filmmakers will need, to ensure the images they capture are reproduced to a professional standard. This research has therefore focussed on a variety of areas relating to cinematography including: equipment, lighting, movement, composition, remade films and cinematographer’s work.
    Cinematography is usually defined by the cameraman or director of photography. Generally there are two ways of looking at creating cinematography:

    An artistic view, like that of Terrence Malick whose work is often said to resemble paintings, that heavily focus on composition to create an image that is visually appealing, as discussed on The full text can be found in Appendix G.1.

    Alternatively, a more technical approach may be preferred; for example Kazuo Miyagawa, whose experimental techniques with equipment draws on technical research into film as discussed on, full text can be found in Appendix G.2.

    Technical approaches to cinematography should not be viewed as undermining the artistic integrity of the film; and it is important to note that technical and artistic cinematography do not form a hierarchy, but are two equal approaches.

    Often these approaches are now combined, as overtime the developments of technical approaches have become ingrained in cinematography rather than experimental. Filmmakers with artistic backgrounds usually focus on framing and colour, whereas a more technical background allows the filmmaker to consider which equipment would be suitable for a certain shot.

    Throughout the years, cinematography techniques have evolved with equipment advances and with the technological advantages of using digital film. The speed of the filmmaking process has rapidly increased due to these changes. Early films cemented the basic techniques and ideals still used in films today in terms of lighting, composition, movement, and colour.

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