Since the 2000s, the instruments of cinematography have evolved significantly.
Back then, cinematographers primarily worked with film stock and had only a few seminars on digital video production.
Nowadays, the situation is the polar opposite. We’ve become so accustomed to autofocus and Instagram effects that we may not even recognise what we’re doing as “cinematography.”
But, in reality, cinematography hasn’t changed much in all this time. Many of the same elements that made movies great in the past apply to movies now, whether we’re viewing them on Netflix or on the big screen.
With that in mind, these are the five most important aspects of cinematography to include in all of your projects.
When designing a shot, one of the first things to think about is the exposure. We’ll look at this separately from lighting because, while they’re both important, exposure is controlled by the camera while lighting is controlled by the environment.
If your camera is set to auto, it will try to manage the exposure for you. When you move your camera, you may notice that the image darkens or becomes washed out.
If this happens while you’re filming, the captured video may appear jarring. Set the exposure yourself to have more control over the look of your footage.
The ISO controls how sensitive the camera’s software is. A higher ISO produces a brighter image, but it also produces a grainier image.
This is what happens when you take a photo with your smartphone at night. The built-in software raises the ISO automatically, making the image visible but grainier.
You can get a clearer image by using a lower ISO during the day. Although some cameras may go even higher, the normal range is between 100 and 2,000.
However, just because you can photograph in low-light settings does not mean you should. For your photograph, you’ll need to find the ideal combination of brightness and graininess.
The aperture is the size of the opening in the iris, which determines how much light enters the camera. The aperture is measured in f-stops, with a lower number (f/3.5) indicating a wider opening and a higher number (f/22) indicating a narrower opening.
This has an effect on your image’s depth-of-field. A bigger aperture will blur your background, whilst a narrower aperture will produce a sharper, crisper image from foreground to background.
The ideal f-stop for a scene will depend on whether you’re shooting indoors or outdoors, and how far away your subject is, just like the ISO.
The composition of the shot is the second most powerful element of cinematography. How are the image’s many components arranged? Are your subjects in the foreground or background of your image? Is it better to be in the background or in the foreground?
On the huge screen, the composition is really noticeable. It’s easy to overlook the sides or backdrop of a shot when using a smartphone. You’re more likely to spot extras in the distance or actors on the edge of the frame on a huge screen.
A skilled cinematographer observes the movement of the characters throughout the scene and adjusts the camera position accordingly.
5. The Movement of Camera
During a scenario, your characters may not be the only ones moving. You’ll have to determine whether you want a moving or static camera for each shot.
Cameras had less freedom of movement in the early days of cinema than they do now. Setting up a long dolly track for a tracking shot is possible.
With a 360-degree shot, crew and camera equipment have to be properly hidden.
Anyone can now make a tracking shot without breaking the fourth wall or relying on an intricate camera setup, thanks to the rise of steadicams and even drones.
Don’t be scared to play around with these elements and attempt new things.
Cinematography is always changing, and in five or ten years, we’ll undoubtedly have even more tools to work with than we do now.
These fundamental concepts, however, will not change.
Regardless of the equipment you have at your disposal, mastering these 5 components will give you an advantage over other cinematographers.