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In making a film, the actual director is actually only in charge of overseeing the work of many people to make sure that everything goes with his or her vision of the project. In a big film project, there are several other personnel involved and all of them perform a specific task in relation to the movie.
One of these personnel, and definitely the most important one, is the cinematographer . The cinematographer is also known in film-making circles as the director of photography, on account of the role that the cinematographer plays in the actual production of the film.
So, moving on, what is the job description of a cinematographer?
He is Responsible for the Overall Look of the Film
The reason why the cinematographer is also formally addressed as director of photography is because he is in charge of coming up with the imagery of the film. The Director simply gives the DoP the vision on which the film is based on, as well as some information that could tell the cinematographer how the film, or even specific scenes of a film, will look like. Using that information, the DoP then gets to work translating that into an actual image for the Director.
This means then being a cinematographer is a very technical job. The DoP sometimes provides a contrast to the Director’s job: while the latter is responsible for coaching the actors in order to get the performance that’s needed for the film, the DoP’s job is to tweak the settings in various equipment to bring out the look that’s needed for the project.
The Areas the Cinematographer Is Responsible For
The scope of the DoP’s job is massive, and is second only to the size of the responsibility of the Director. He is responsible for the following areas in filming:
Contrary to what most people think, the DoP’s job does not end with setting up the lights and positioning the cameras. The DoP’s work also extends into what goes on behind the scenes. Because he or she is responsible for setting up the visual style of the film, the DoP works in close cooperation with the production design unit.
In some cases, he or she may even collaborate with the hairdressers and wardrobe departments as well to ascertain whether or not their visual contributions to the film are in line with the director’s visions.
It is the cinematographer’s job to select and set up the appropriate lighting scheme to bring out the director’s vision. There are lights that bring out specific moods in a scene: warm lighting is usually utilized for nostalgic or romantic scenes, while cool lighting is used for night scenes, so on and so forth. The cinematographer takes the vision of the director and selects the lighting appropriate for it.
• Camera setups
Finally, the DoP sets up the camera angles and instructs the camera crew on the appropriate settings to be used in filming a specific scene. This is the role that directors of photography are most visible in, although it is obvious that the DoP also works actively behind the scenes.
The DoP, because of its technical nature, is an attractive option for those filmmakers who find it difficult to deal with actors and their quirks.
Photo credit : Tatjana Aleksandrovna Veselova