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Difference between DP and Director


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#1 Ahlan Yshamyl

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 08:13 PM

Another question for the newbiest of all newbs.

Whats the difference between DP and Director? A simple question.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 09:11 PM

Another question for the newbiest of all newbs.

Whats the difference between DP and Director? A simple question.


There is some overlap in functions, although the DP works under the Director to support him or her, as does everyone else.

DP's are responsible for the photography of a motion picture, both technically in terms of cameras, lenses, film stocks, lighting, etc. but also in terms of how these elements are used to tell a story VISUALLY (this is where the overlap with the director comes in, which is why it is a collaboration, but not of equals -- the director supervises the work of the DP as well as every other key artistic collaborator: editor, production designer, etc.)

A DP has three departments on a film set under their control to achieve their photographic work: Camera, Electric, and Grip. Each of those departments has a chief supervisor, chief assistants, etc.

A director's job is also to tell a story visually, but they provide an overall leadership of everyone working on the film trying to tell this story, just like a conductor leading an orchestra. During a shoot, a director's primary job concern will be directing the actors; even though he supervises these other creative crew people and tries to maintain an overall visual tone to the movie by getting everyone in sync, on the same path, hopefully by the time the film starts shooting, after a proper prep period, the director can concentrate more on the performances because he's communicated his intentions to all the other departments. However, the director will be bombarded every day with a thousand little questions needing a thousand little decisions, from every department.

The director, DP, script supervisor, AD, and to some extent, even the sound recordist, will also be thinking of the later editing stage of the movie, making sure the elements being shot and the sound being recorded fits into a plan of editing, with enough options to allow creative flexibility in post, within limits.

Now every person on a shoot is different in terms of personality and ability, so some directors, DP's, script supervisors, AD's, etc. are more accomplished in some aspects of cinematic storytelling than others. Some DP's don't think much about the editing (which I think is a mistake, but for some, it's not a strong point). And some directors aren't experienced enough to understand editing and rely on those around him to help him out.

Truth is that a director's MOST important job, other than being hooked up with a good script, is hiring well, whether casting the right actor or hiring the right key collaborators. If they do that well, it makes the shoot go much more smoothly. Remember, the word is "director" -- i.e. they direct others. Just like a conductor doesn't have to have composed the score, the director doesn't have to come up with every creative idea or story element, but they do have to direct all of these different elements to represent a single vision for that particular story.

Edited by David Mullen, 02 January 2006 - 09:12 PM.

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#3 Ahlan Yshamyl

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 09:41 PM

Thanks for that David Mullen!

I can see with your movie record you are very experienced and I am glad I am getting information from such a well experienced DP.
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