Elements of Cinematography
All lighting in the film falls under the category of natural or artificial. Natural lighting could come from the sun, moon, fire or anything else occurring in nature. Artificial lighting is things like streetlights, flashlights, LED lights and even the massive spotlights used in big production films. Ambient lighting is a crucial way to use lighting. It refers to any light the crew didn’t bring. This could refer to car headlights, or the most potent ambient light – the sun.
Another form of lighting is practical lighting, which appears in the frame of the shot – this could also be ambient lighting depending on the light used. Practical lighting, however, doesn’t have to be ambient and could be purposefully placed there by the head electrician.
Framing is an instrumental part of cinematography and one of the most important factors of great cinematography. Using techniques such as symmetry, balance, and a frame within a frame.
This is where you have both sides of the frame matching. It can be used to highlight certain subjects that are out of symmetry or to create a beautiful shot such as an epic wide shot.
This is the act of making sure that a frame is appropriately filled to make the viewer feel relaxed and calm. This can be ignored to give an unnatural feeling.
A Frame Within A Frame
A creative way to highlight a subject is by using a frame within a frame. This could use a window or a natural clearing. This particular technique is good at conveying messages.
Like the other elements in this article, this element can either be played into or ignored. Both can produce an exciting film by conforming or running against the grain. Knowing how to arrange specific shots for specific reasons is an indispensable skill in filmmaking – allowing you to retain the audience’s attention. Composition is especially important when showing unlikeable characters, and good composition helps make the audience stick around, which is especially needed when the film portrays a complicated protagonist.
Camera movement can add a lot of meaning to your footage and help shape a viewer’s perspective on a scene for better or for worse. Some of the most basic camera movements are the zoom, pan, and tracking shot.
Zoom is possibly the most popular camera movement. It allows you to get close to the subject ad quickly change the composition of the scene. A satisfying and immersive zoom is smooth and natural.
This is simply moving the camera from one side to another. This can help reveal a larger scene or reveal something that was otherwise off-screen. A faster version of the pan is called the whip pan, which is useful for showing the dramatic travelling of a distance or the passing of time.
This shot is as simple as it sounds. The camera tracks what it is recording. Tracking shots will usually follow the subject along a horizontal axis, this is commonly shown in “walking and talking” scenes.
Depth of Field
The best cinematographers use depth of field to control their images and govern what the viewer sees. Depth of field refers to the size of the field in your image where an object appears acceptably sharp. This is decided by the angle that the light rays enter the lens. Due to the depth of field’s ability to help set the emotional mood, it should be planned out ahead of shooting.
Choosing the correct lens is an instrumental part of cinematography. The right lens for the right mood amplifies the scene. There are many different specialised lenses to choose from, a few are the wide angle, standard, portrait, telephoto, and ultrawide.
The wide-angle lens allows the viewer to see more than they usually would, creating a slightly more complex shot due to the increased complexity.
This is the lens that is equal to the human eye, giving viewers a familiar experience.
The portrait lens places the focus on the subject and blurs out the background, isolating the character and drawing the viewer’s attention.
Compressing the foreground and the background, the telephoto lens focuses on a subject in an otherwise busy environment, this isolates the subject whilst getting the width and depth not provided in a portrait lens.
The ultrawide lens gives us more field of view than a human can normally see, expanding the viewer’s point of view and allowing them a better grasp of the distance between objects.
Written by Mark Murphy Director