Jump to content


Photo

visual style


  • Please log in to reply
25 replies to this topic

#1 Ram Shani

Ram Shani
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 735 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • isreal

Posted 24 January 2008 - 03:38 AM

i was thinking about this a lot and want to ask you.

do you think cinematographer can be categorized in certain style like painter( naturalist, realist, expressionist, impressionist, pop, hyper-realist ,modernist etc...)

or because he is there for the director vision he should be jack of all trades?

i for my self think that i am somewhere between realist to hyper-realist

cause although i try to explore and push my limit when i look at my work it has the same line

but if i work with director how like things different i have to give him what he need for his story

Edited by Ram Shani, 24 January 2008 - 03:39 AM.

  • 0

#2 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 24 January 2008 - 08:56 AM

http://www.bluesky-w...hiaroscuro.html
  • 0

#3 SpikeUM

SpikeUM
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 56 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • NYC

Posted 24 January 2008 - 10:14 AM

I think everyone has a style but I don't know if you can name it in a category. I don't see my style but people say I have one whatever that is.
  • 0

#4 Hal Smith

Hal Smith
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2280 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • OKC area

Posted 24 January 2008 - 10:59 AM

do you think cinematographer can be categorized in certain style like painter( naturalist, realist, expressionist, impressionist, pop, hyper-realist ,modernist etc...)

There's a chapter in Sidney Lumet's book "Making Movies" where he talks about style with respect to the some of the Cinematographers he's worked with. His basic point is that some Cinematographers are good at working in a given style while others are generalists. He also is very emphatic in stating his opinion that style is best when it fits the form of the movie but it's not noticed by the audience. He says his most deliberately styled movie was "Prince of the City" but without calling attention to its style.

My slant on this is that an overt style in a movie can call attention to itself which isn't good. You don't want an audience member paying attention to anything other than the story itself. Which becomes a discussion on my favorite subject: Aesthetic Distance, AKA "Breaking the Fourth Wall".
  • 0

#5 Mike Lary

Mike Lary
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 472 posts
  • Other

Posted 24 January 2008 - 11:25 AM

Personal style has no place in cinematography. The cinematographer's job is to interpret the director's vision. The visual structure, shot selection, visual aesthetic, and all elements relating to cinematography must be driven by the story. Imposing personal style will weaken the film.
  • 0

#6 Chad Stockfleth

Chad Stockfleth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 622 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Louisville, KY

Posted 24 January 2008 - 11:39 AM

I agree with Mike on this, however, in some situations I can appreciate personal flourishes. I suppose that would originate in how you choose to interpret the scene and what would serve the story. I might find a hard toplight the natural, story serving light, while someone else may find it to be inappropriate. I guess this is why movies look different.
  • 0

#7 Ram Shani

Ram Shani
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 735 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • isreal

Posted 24 January 2008 - 12:12 PM

"Personal style has no place in cinematography. The cinematographer's job is to interpret the director's vision. The visual structure, shot selection, visual aesthetic, and all elements relating to cinematography must be driven by the story. Imposing personal style will weaken the film."

so storaro is out?

Edited by Ram Shani, 24 January 2008 - 12:13 PM.

  • 0

#8 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 January 2008 - 12:14 PM

But we are also hired for our aesthetic judgement (and speed) and asked to employ it, so we often use similar solutions to similar problems over and over again.

Also, as we become more successful, we get asked to repeat ourselves more often, so even if we pride ourselves on not having a personal signature style, we get hired because someone liked the way some earlier film we shot looks. So we get "rewarded" for repeating ourselves if we have a popular style.

--

Even Storaro bases his decisions on the script -- if anything, he probably spends more time breaking down a script into its essential themes more than any other DP. And though another cinematographer can spot the similarities in technique, the average viewer is not going to think that "Reds" looks like "Dune" or "Dick Tracy".

Personal style, to some extent, is unavoidable -- we are who we are, and we are hired to think like artists, not robots. But it's the fact that we base decisions on the story, modified by the director's vision for telling it, that keeps it from becoming an easily repeatable style (unless we keep getting hired to shoot similar stories by directors who want a similar look.)

But denying our own aesthetics is not really why we are being hired, nor do directors really want a cinematographer who doesn't take his work personally.
  • 0

#9 Felipe Perez-Burchard

Felipe Perez-Burchard
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 130 posts
  • Other
  • Los Angeles, CA USA / Mexico D.F., Mexico

Posted 24 January 2008 - 02:06 PM

While I agree that a cinematographer is there to serve the story, and that dictates the "style" ; and so as a DP you might one day be totally expressionistic while another day pure realist BUT, going along with what David said, you bring your personal TASTE.

I think that is a better word to use than style.

And your taste is your preference for story-lines, for lighting styles, for lensing etc.

Say if Ford Coppola would have had Storaro shoot the "Godfather" and Gordon Willis shoot "Apocalypse Now". (two of the three I consider the best modern cinematographers). The films would each have looked totally different, yet they would have each been done in a way that serves the story, but its the cinematographers taste (and the directors too -- he chose the DP) that guided them to their solutions.
Maybe both Storaro and Willis would have arrived to a toplit rendering of Brando for the Godfather; Willis, as he has mentioned because of the makeup situation, not reading his eyes to disguise what he is thinking, and keeping light of the walls. Storaro might have arrived through a more philosophical standpoint, but they would probably have handled the contrast very differently because of their taste. Storaro might have arrived to using more color compared to the monochromatic solution of Willis.
Of course we'll never know and I think the choice of DP that Coppola made are absolutely right for those films.

Just my thoughts.

Edited by Felipe Perez-Burchard, 24 January 2008 - 02:08 PM.

  • 0

#10 Leo Anthony Vale

Leo Anthony Vale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2010 posts
  • Other
  • Pittsburgh PA

Posted 24 January 2008 - 04:10 PM

Personal style has no place in cinematography. The cinematographer's job is to interpret the director's vision. The visual structure, shot selection, visual aesthetic, and all elements relating to cinematography must be driven by the story. Imposing personal style will weaken the film.


What if the director has no vision? Maybe all he knows is multicamera sitcom before an audience.

Will no style, other than total blandness, help the movie?
  • 0

#11 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 24 January 2008 - 04:27 PM

I think this discussion is trying desperately to make opinion into fact. There is no right or wrong here. It's about relationships. There are different relationships of the director and photographer depending on the people, the story, the experience, etc. I've worked with folks that held the pan handle with me throughout and those that want to know what I can do for them, and rely more on my vision and our theme as a team is the story to work from. We add our own values and perceptions and come up with a result. Some seem to have this universal belief that it's about the directors vision. That sounds good in a textbook but if you've ever been in a working relationship with people who all have their own view of the world and their own way of interacting, you'll find that statement is nowhere near fact. In fact not even plausible. Your style and how folks perceive you comes from your body of work over time. As David points out, when you get older, folks pick you because of something you often did that they like and want to go for. So yes you as a DoP are a person who has a style. And as much as folks say they vary their style, I think in the end we really have a view of the world and as much as we try to change it, we always come back to what we know, hence we end up with a predominant style after we are established. I can often tell a young DoPs reel because it does not have the glue that I see with a seasoned pro. I can't explain my perception of what that glue is. I just know it. I know I personally can't think of an established DP that doesn't have a common thread to the larger body of his work in some form or another. Perhaps you can. That is not wrong or right. Just your opinion. That's why there are over 600 movies released every year.
  • 0

#12 Chad Stockfleth

Chad Stockfleth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 622 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Louisville, KY

Posted 24 January 2008 - 04:50 PM

And that's a fact! :lol:
  • 0

#13 Dominic Case

Dominic Case
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1357 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 24 January 2008 - 05:16 PM

Personal style has no place in cinematography. The cinematographer's job is to interpret the director's vision. The visual structure, shot selection, visual aesthetic, and all elements relating to cinematography must be driven by the story.

Sorry, this misses the point.

Yes, the cinematographer's job is indeed to interpret the director's vision. Just how (s)he does that is called style. All those things that Mike mentions (visual structure etc) are what the cinematographer brings to the production - who else does that? If it's all down to the director, then there is no need for a DoP, you may as well just have a camera operator.

Do you get to be accredited by ASC or the other organisations, or win Oscars, purely on technical competence?
  • 0

#14 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 January 2008 - 06:44 PM

Personal style has no place in cinematography. The cinematographer's job is to interpret the director's vision. The visual structure, shot selection, visual aesthetic, and all elements relating to cinematography must be driven by the story. Imposing personal style will weaken the film.


This is absolutely absurd. A person's style doesn't men they ignore the director and the script and make pictures whatever way they want. Style is really just a set of tendencies and preferences. Those things can fit into any scheme, even if they are not strongly represented.

This doesn't even touch the common occurrence, in any art form, of an artist having various stylistic "periods" throughout his life that may not even resemble one another even though it is the same person.
  • 0

#15 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 January 2008 - 06:56 PM

We tend to look at the most famous cinematographers for examples of personal style, but as I said, often these people are asked to repeat something they've done before, perhaps even in genres they have done before or for directors they have worked with before, making it hard to shoot something in a wildly different style. If you have a big-budget and want a highly colorful, cartoonish style, ala "Speed Racer", well, you don't generally send the script to a Roger Deakins, or before that, a Gordon Willis.

For most of us working cinematographers who are not famous, we go out for a wide variety of work, selling ourselves as being able to deliver something in whatever look that the director and producers want. We would like to be pickier about what we shoot, certainly, and thus gravitate towards projects where we can implement more personal visual ideas that we are carrying around. Even I've tended to minimize the number of talky comedies that I have to shoot because it's not my favorite genre.

But recently I've gotten scripts for a dark violent horror film and a family movie -- obviously I couldn't shoot both in exactly the same style.
  • 0

#16 Mike Lary

Mike Lary
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 472 posts
  • Other

Posted 24 January 2008 - 07:00 PM

I think we have different definitions of style. When I hear people talking about a certain cinematographer's style , they're usually talking about identifiable visual aesthetics, camera movements, etc, that quickly identify the work as belonging to that cinematographer. Style is a dominant identifier.

I agree that a cinematographer's technical proficiency, artistic sensibility, and personal experience (in life and work) will directly impact the decisions he/she makes when photographically interpreting the director's vision, but I don't consider that style unless it becomes a standard, in which case it no longer serves the story as well as it could. Reading interviews with the cinematographers whom I most respect, I keep finding the same thing repeated, that they either refuse work that requires redundancy (in regards to the visual aesthetic) or they refuse to repeat an aesthetic after they accept a job.
  • 0

#17 Mike Lary

Mike Lary
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 472 posts
  • Other

Posted 24 January 2008 - 07:30 PM

This doesn't even touch the common occurrence, in any art form, of an artist having various stylistic "periods" throughout his life that may not even resemble one another even though it is the same person.


But wouldn't you agree that cinematographers are not like traditional artists? They are subservient to someone else's creation. A traditional artist, unless commissioned for their work, chooses their subject matter and decides how to interpret it.
  • 0

#18 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 January 2008 - 07:42 PM

But wouldn't you agree that cinematographers are not like traditional artists? They are subservient to someone else's creation. A traditional artist, unless commissioned for their work, chooses their subject matter and decides how to interpret it.


I think they are much like traditional artists. Remember it is only in the last century or so that artists worked for art sake alone. Before that, commissioned work was standard. Also remember that a person is (ideally, anyway) chosen to shoot a movie based on how he or she would do it, and not just as a vessel for the director to fill with directions to get filtered out to the various departments.

I'm thinking of a cinematographer's style as a collection of things more subtle than you are, I think. Choice of lens diffusion, lenses, focal lengths. Whether he likes a little orange on the key or to leave it bare. How the camera tends to move, when it moves. All of them can change from film to film but very often, these things can transcend subject.

I think of it as how you might tell a Renoir from a Degas. Both impressionist painters, they painted very much alike but have their own tiny flair that does transcend subject.
  • 0

#19 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 January 2008 - 08:32 PM

It's clearly a grey area -- even project to project, a cinematographer may feel more involved personally with the creation of the look than on other projects. It's just the nature of commercial art practiced in collaboration with other artists (i.e. the director, but also the production designer, the editor, etc.) and controlled financially by others. You're never going to be able to make definitive statements one way or the other.

Obviously a lot of the most famous cinematographers we often discuss here have certain recognizable visual aspects to their work which one could call a personal style, but it tends not to be Style with a capital S, just stylistic tendencies, like Gordon Willis' use of top light or Robert Richardson's use of overexposed spots or Geoffrey Unsworth's fog filters. If none of these cinematographers had a personal style, then how is it that it is possible to emulate their work? Yet many of us have been on a film set and thought to ourselves "what would Gordon Willis / Vittorio Storaro / Conrad Hall, etc. do if he were shooting this scene?"

I don't see the point, Mike, in having a very narrow definition of style and then telling everyone that they are defining it incorrectly. It seems to me that you've set up a definition to serve a predetermined answer. Language is more fluid than that -- if a lot of people here define cinematographic style more broadly than you, then perhaps they are right.

I don't know if you are a young person or not, but you will spend the rest of your life wondering about personal style and whether you have one, whether you should develop one, etc. and you'll never find an answer. It's just something that goes on in the back of your head while you work. Ultimately it will be for others to decide if you have a style or not. I've had someone look at several of my movies and say that they looked like a different cinematographer shot each one of them -- now is that a good thing or not? I have no idea.
  • 0

#20 Mike Williamson

Mike Williamson
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 534 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 January 2008 - 11:50 PM

A traditional artist, unless commissioned for their work, chooses their subject matter and decides how to interpret it.


I think you should realize that most traditional art has been commissioned. The vast majority of Caravaggio's work was commissioned, as was Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel, Dorethea Lange's photography of migrants in the Dust Bowl, and so on and so on. The attitude that the only "real" or "true" works of art are done outside of a commercial context is extremely naive.
  • 0


Aerial Filmworks

Visual Products

Opal

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Metropolis Post

Paralinx LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

The Slider

Technodolly

Tai Audio

Glidecam

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

CineLab

CineTape

Willys Widgets

FJS International, LLC

rebotnix Technologies

Willys Widgets

CineTape

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

FJS International, LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Metropolis Post

Tai Audio

CineLab

Wooden Camera

Aerial Filmworks

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

Visual Products

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

Technodolly

The Slider

Glidecam