What Is Cinematography?

Filmmaking Cinematography Cinematography (from Greek: κίνημα, kinema “movements” and γράφειν, graphein “to record”) is the science or art of motion-picture photography by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as film stock.

Typically, a lens is used to repeatedly focus the light reflected or emitted from objects into real images on the light-sensitive surface inside a camera during a timed exposure creating multiple images. With an electronic image sensor, this produces an electrical charge at each pixel, which is electronically processed and stored in a video file for subsequent display or processing. The result with photographic emulsion is series of invisible latent images on the film stock, which are later chemically “developed” into a visible image. The images on the film stock are played back at a rapid speed and projected on a screen creating the illusion of a movie. Cinematography is employed in many fields of science and business as well as its more direct uses for recreational purposes and mass communication.

Film Cinematography The experimental film, Roundhay Garden Scene, filmed by Louis Le Prince on October 14, 1888 in Roundhay, Leeds, England, is the earliest surviving motion picture. This movie was shot on paper film.

The first though to design a successful apparatus was W. K. L. Dickson, working under the direction of Thomas Alva Edison, called the Kinetograph, and patented in 1891. This camera took a series of instantaneous photographs on standard Eastman Kodak photographic emulsion coated onto a transparent celluloid strip 35 mm wide. The results of this work were first shown in public in 1893, using the viewing apparatus also designed by Dickson, and called the Kinetoscope. Contained within a large box, only one person at a time looking into it through a peephole could view the movie.

In the following year, Charles Francis Jenkins and his projector, the Phantoscope, made a successful audience viewing while Louis and Auguste Lumière perfected the Cinématographe, an apparatus that took, printed, and projected film in Paris in December 1895. Lumiere brothers were the first to present projected, moving, photographic, pictures to a paying audience of more that one person.

In 1896, Edison showed his improved Vitascope projector and it was the first commercially, successful, projector in the U.S. Cooper Hewitt invented mercury lamps which made it practical to shoot films indoors without sunlight in 1905. The first animated cartoon is produced in 1906. Credits begin to appear at the beginning of motion pictures in 1911. The Bell & Howell 2709 movie camera invented in 1915 allows directors to make close-ups without physically moving the camera. By late 1920’s most of the movies produced were sound films.

Widescreen formats first experimented in the 1950’s. By the 1970’s, most of the movies produced were colour films. In 1970’s, IMAX and other 70mm formats gained popularity. The wide distribution of films became commonplace setting the ground for so-called blockbusters. Film cinematography dominated the motion picture industry from its inception till 2010’s when digital cinematography became dominant. Film cinematography is still used by some directors especially in specific applications or out of fondness of the format.

Digital Cinematography

In digital cinematography, the movie is shot on a digital medium such as flash storage as well as distributed through a digital medium such as a hard drive. Beginning in the late 1980s, Sony began marketing the concept of “electronic cinematography,” utilizing its analogue Sony HDVS professional video cameras. The effort met with very little success. However, this led to one of the earliest digitally shot feature movies, Julia and Julia, to be produced in 1987. In 1998, with the introduction of HDCAM recorders and 1920 × 1080 pixel digital professional video cameras based on CCD technology, the idea, now re-branded as “digital cinematography,” began to gain traction in the market. Shot and released in 1998, The Last Broadcast is believed by some to be the first feature-length video shot and edited entirely on consumer-level digital equipment. In May 1999 George Lucas challenged the supremacy of the movie-making medium of film for the first time by including footage filmed with high-definition digital cameras in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. In late 2013, Paramount became the first major studio to distribute movies to theatres in digital format eliminating 35mm film entirely. As digital technology improved, movie studios began increasingly shifting towards digital cinematography. Since 2010’s , digital cinematography has become the dominant form of cinematography after largely superseding film cinematography.

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