FILM BASICS part 2
Cinematography involves the choice and manipulation of film stock or video, lighting, and cameras. Some of the main issues in cinematography are film grain, color, lenses, camera distance and angle from the subject, and camera movement. As with other aspects of filmmaking, the choices made in filming affect how viewers respond to the film.
■ Film stock, which is unexposed and unprocessed motion-picture film, influences the film’s finished look, including its sharpness of detail, range of light and shadow, and quality of color. Often professional cinematographers use different film stocks or videotape in different parts of the same film to support certain effects.
■ Generally, the wider the film gauge is, the larger are the film frames and the sharper the projected images.
■ Slow film stock, which requires more light during filming than fast film stock, can produce a detailed, nuanced image. In older films, fast film stock usually produces more graininess than slow film stock.
■ Color associations vary from culture to culture, and a color’s impact depends on context—where and how the color is used.
■ In most Western societies, warm colors (reds, oranges, and yellows) tend to be thought of as hot, dangerous, lively, and assertive. Greens, blues, and violets are generally characterized as cool colors. In Europe and the Americas, cool colors tend to be associated with safety, reason, control, relaxation, and sometimes sadness or melancholy.
■ Color may be saturated (intense, vivid) or desaturated (muted, dull, pale), and saturated and desaturated colors can be used to create or intensify countless possible effects.
■ Hard lighting comes directly from a light source, such as the sun or a clear incandescent electric bulb. Soft light comes from an indirect source. Hard lighting is bright and harsh and creates unflattering images. Soft lighting is flattering because it tends to fill in imperfections in the subject’s surface and obliterate or lessen sharp lines and shadows.
■ Low-key lighting involves little illumination on the subject and often reinforces a dramatic or mysterious effect. High-key lighting entails bright illumination of the subject and may create or enhance a cheerful mood.
■ The direction of light reaching the subject—for example, from below or from only one side—can change an image’s moods and meanings.
■ Like light, shadows can be used expressively in countless ways—for example, to create a mysterious or threatening environment.
■ During filming, one of three types of lenses is used: wide-angle, normal, or telephoto. Often all three are used at different times within the same film. Each type of lens has different properties and creates different images.
■ Choice of lens, aperture (or opening), and film stock largely determine the depth of field, or distance in front of the camera in which all objects are in focus.
■ Diffusers may be placed in front of a light source or in front of a camera lens to soften lines in the subject, to glamorize, or to lend a more spiritual or ethereal look.
■ Camera distance helps determine how large the subject will appear within the frame, what details will be noticeable, and what will be excluded from the frame.
■ By changing the camera lens and the camera distance between shots or during a shot, filmmakers can change perspective: the relative size and apparent depth of subjects and setting in the photographic image.
■ The angle from which the subject is filmed influences the expressiveness of the images. There are four basic camera angles—bird’s-eye view, high angle, eye-level angle, and low angle—and countless other angles in between.
■ In point-of-view (p.o.v.) shots, the camera films a subject from the approximate position of someone, or occasionally something, in the film. Such camera placements may contribute to the viewer’s identification with one of the subjects and sense of participation in the action.
■ A motion-picture camera may remain in one place during filming. While filming with a camera fixed in one place, the camera may be pivoted up or down (tilting) or rotated sideways (panning).
■ Panning too quickly causes blurred footage. Such a result is called a swish pan.
■ Ways to move the camera around during filming include dollying, tracking, using a crane, and employing a Steadicam. Like other aspects of cinematography, camera movement can be used in countless expressive ways.
■ Film and video images can be scanned or transferred into a computer, changed there, and transferred back to film. Computers can be used to modify colors and contrast (digital intermediate), correct errors, and change the images in ways impossible or more troublesome and costly to do with film alone.
■ Mainly for reasons of economy and convenience, more and more movies are being filmed in high-definition video and transferred to film for theatrical showings, though the results do not yet match the detail and nuance of the best film stocks.