cinematography production techniques 1 1. cinematography includes photographic elements (e.g. camera...

Cinematography Production Techniques 1 1

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Production Techniques 1



• Includes photographic elements (e.g. camera position, colour, lens, depth of focus), lighting, framing and composition and special effects.



1. Colour Film

2. Black & White

3. Using colour to create meaning

4. Lighting

5. Camerawork



Colour• This may be used in highly artificial ways for particular

expressive purposes: the cold blue tint and contrasting red lipstick employed for the scene with the changed Jude in the The Crying Game. Jordan. UK. 1992. (where one thing suggested is the danger femme fatale) or the cold, lifeless, washed-out greys achieved in the interview scene Seven. Fincher. US. 1995.

• Film often spoken about in terms of the flamboyant, colourful performance of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Verbinski. US. 2006. is actually a very dark film with continual use of murky greens and cold blues and greys. - Fantasy

• A film like Little Miss Sunshine. Dayton and Faris. US. 2006. employs an entirely different, more naturalistic, use of colour and lighting. – stronger relationship to the ‘real’ world.


The Crying Game. Jordan. UK. 1992.Seven. Fincher. US. 1995.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Verbinski. US. 2006.

Little Miss Sunshine. Dayton and Faris. US. 2006. 5

Black & White

• More often driven by economics• Sometimes – creative use:

– Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980): flashbacks– Schindlers List (Speilberg, 1993): depict holocaust,

history event, echoes newsreels and documentaries– Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006): harking back to the

cold war period where most countries, behind iron curtain, used b&w footage

• NOIR (or dark) look associate with early bond movies– Seven (Fincher, 1995): some scenes – grey and

‘washed out’: creating a bleak, murky urban landscape.


Schindlers List. Speilberg. US. 1993

Raging Bull. Scorsese. US. 1980

Seven. Fincher. US. 1995)


Colour• Most obviously colour as with bright lighting simply gives

pleasure to the audience - literally brings light and colour into our lives

• Particular colours/tints can be used to suggest warmth/coldness or particular seasons or types of emotion. – Associated with colours in natural world

• Colours can be used symbolically– RED: blood and danger, or passion and lust.

• Colours can be made to standout– Saturated: vivid– Desaturated: dull and muted as possible

• NOTE: colours have different associations and significations from culture to culture


Colour - Activity

• Choose a film you know that seems to use colour in an interesting way and pick an extract that seems to demonstrate an especially good example of the way in which colour works in this film. Think about how you feel colour is contributing to creating meaning and generating audience response in your film extract.


Lighting• Fundamental choice: natural

(supplemented with artificial lighting or not)• High key: relatively bright lighting used in

romantic comedies• Low key: used in film noir and neo noir

Seven• Hard: narrow, intense beam and gives

sharp-edged objects and harsh shadows• Soft: broad, more diffused beam that gives

soft-edged objects and shadows • Lighting



• Possible sources of light– Front, back and side – Overhead lighting: heavy shadows, conceal eyes and create an

image of a face that is mysterious, sinister, perhaps conveying danger or darker/lighter aspects or confused character e.g. The Searchers. Ford. US. 1956 & My Beautiful Laundrette. Frears. UK. 1985.

– Lighting form below: challenges the viewer by reversing all our usual experience - the sun overhead

• We are confronted to be strange and otherworldly

• Lighting can be used in highly contrived, artificial ways to achieve particular purposes or in naturalistic ways in order to achieve in some sense replication of the real world


Lighting• Conventional lighting norms• Most often a combination of lighting positions will

be used around the subject.– THREE POINT LIGHTING

• Key: usually 45 degrees either side of camera• Fill: usually opposite to key light• Back light: making subject stand out from the background

– These are only general positions• more light could be added or taken away • Angle of lights could be changed• Choice of hard and soft lighting

• This is why the job of the cinematographer/Director of Photography often referred to as ‘painting with light’


Colour & Lighting - Activity

• Give reading into the use of colour and lighting for the extract shown.

• Draw up lighting plan for the shot given.


Camerawork• Filmmaker also has control of the manipulation of our

physical point of view.• They can put us in a position that makes us feel comfortable

or uncomfortable, dominant or vulnerable, simply by deciding on the positioning and movement of the camera.

• Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino. US. 1991. Scene showing cutting of ear ‘looks away’ almost as of the whole thing is too uncomfortable or painful to watch.

• La Haine static shot used to show police interrogation scene denying us the potential relief of looking away.

• The point is that choices that are made about the use of the camera are often made in order to create particular effects on the audience.


Camerawork• Lenses: used to give appearance of movement towards or

away from subject. Make things sharper of more indistinct or even alter the appearance – distort.

• Camerawork more fluid and mobile: 50s it became easier to do location shooting. Does not mean good films are when filmmakers utilise this – some stick with ‘static shooting’.

• Often the creativity with which available technology is used that is of most interest – how filmmakers of their time used available camera kits.

• Distance and angle of shot (see frame sizes & camera terms handout)– RANGE: extreme long shot (ELS) to extreme close up (ECU)– Position spectator by varying the angle – high, low and eye level


Camerawork• Choices within the camera set-up

– Decisions depend on the following factors:• Lens• size of aperture: the opening on the camera that allows light in• Type of film: or film stock

– Varying these factors, gives filmmaker choices over:• Depth of field• How far into the distance objects within the shot will remain in

focus• How much of the space behind or to the sides of subject is

shown• How deep the shot will seem to be• How much sense of ‘going on into the distance’ the shot will



Camerawork• FILM STOCK

– Can be more or less sensitive to light.– Slow film stock requires more light than fast film stock

• Used in studios mainly and allows for more intense light set-up giving a more finely details final image.

– Fast film stock requires less light• Often used where it not easy to enhance the natural lighting ‘documentary


• LENS– Essentially choices are wide-angle, normal or telephoto

• If we move closer to the subject and employ a wide-angle lens then there is something approximating to the original shot but with the areas to either side of the character and in particular the depth of space behind the character is taken in, perhaps giving an enhanced sense of vulnerability or isolation.

• Moving away from the subject and using telephoto lens would make the background appear much closer to the subject. More immediate threat with background seeming to encompass or engulf the subject.


Camerawork• LENS

– Telephoto lens would give an intense, essentially ‘close-up’, image of the subject with everything around the subject cropped away, whereas the wide-angle lens would reduce the relative size of the subject within the frame and take in much more of the space to the sides, behind the subject and in front of the camera.

– Best way to see this for yourself is try it out !!!– Extreme wide angle lenses: fish eye produces distortion



– Gives the setting in which the scene is to take place and enables the viewer to establish the spatial relationships between characters involved in the scene.

– Not all follow this ‘subvert’• Giving the sense of disorientation• This will be part of what the filmmakers are attempting to achieve; as well as

perhaps defying the expected filmic norm and thereby challenging any presumption that there are certain correct ways of making films

• CAMERA MOVEMENT– Panning, tilting, tracking and crane shot

• Tracking on tracks• Dolly on wheels

– Hand held: shaky, used for POVs Point of view shots, involving the audience

• Tend to associate with ‘low budget look’: Blair With Project. Myrick/Sanchez. US. 1999.



1. Why has the opening camera movement been chosen, and how does it work to introduce the film and the central character?

2. In what ways is it appropriate for the film and the character?

3. How does it contribute towards ensuring that the opening engages our attention?


SUMMARY• The question we must ask ourselves is why might

these elements have been chosen. • How might these elements been considered

appropriate or ‘correct’ for the film?• There will be a range of possible answers but the key

point is that we must ask ourselves the question.• Film Studies is in a sense only asking you to take

what you already know and to think about it in a slightly more analytical fashion.

• Ask yourself the recurring vital question of why the filmmakers have chosen to use these particular creative aspects of their trade in this way.


SUMMARY• You need to be become more aware of what is

going on within the frame as it has been composed by the filmmaker.

• It is not just a question of what the subject, or character, is doing within the shot that is important BUT how he or she has been placed within the frame.– Is the space behind/front or on the sides being

emphasized and if so, why?– Are objects in/out focus – why?

• The key point is that the approach used by filmmakers suggest certain meanings or generate certain responses