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cinematography and lenses, the basics...


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#1 Richard Andrews

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 01:23 AM

I have read almost every thread on this forum, lapping up the advice and knowledge as I want to move into short film making as I come from a pure photography background.

My heart tells me that there aren't no hard and fixed rules when it comes to cinematography and that I should just do what I think is right...however, my head tells me there must be industry cinematography rules regarding correct use of lens for a particular scene as well as the correct amount of depth of field when shooting a particular scene etc. I guess I don't want to spend time shooting scenes to then get flamed for using the 'wrong' lens for 'that' scene or having to much or to little DOF for a particular scene when really I 'should have known better'. For example when shooting two people in a scene and the focus is on one person, how much out of focus should the other person, or scenery be? Are there any rules or guides to this?

Hope all that makes sense.
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#2 Simon Wyss

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 03:54 AM

Richard, I think you can rely on two basic rules. First one says that everything may be sharp, second one says: the older the star the longer the focal length.
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#3 Dominic Case

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 08:08 PM

For example when shooting two people in a scene and the focus is on one person, how much out of focus should the other person, or scenery be? Are there any rules or guides to this?

It's entirely a matter of stylistics and storytelling. The basic question is "how much do you want to darw the audience's attention to the character in focus?" How much do you want to isloate them from the other person and the background? Sometimes the speaking character is in focus, sometimes you are more interested in the other character's reaction - or even the fact that they aren't listeining, they are thinking of something else.

If the background is distracting you would use a shallower depth of field to throw it nmore out of focus. You can also use a different focal length lens to make the background smaller or larger in relation to the foreground character. Up to you and the director and the story.
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 09:17 PM

There are no rules. If you have, say, a comedy, you might find yourself using wider lenses and lighting "brighter" and keeping more of the shot in focus. If you're shooting a heavy dramatic piece, your lighting may be moodier, shot with mid to long lenses and shallow depth of field.

Take a look at a movie like "Searching for Bobby Fisher" compared to a movie like "Happy Gilmore." Both clearly have different goals to impart and the various aspects of Cinematography are used to help tell those respective stories.

Some movies are shot fairly straightforward, with little to no "style" to the photography, instead letting action more or less play out in front of the lens. Something like Star Wars comes to mind. As spectacular as the movie is for a lot of reasons, for the most part, there aren't a lot of dramatic uses of light or lenses or focus in any of those movies.

But look at almost any Michael Bay or Spielberg movie and you'll see heavy use of the camera and lighting to help create mood and tell the story.

Given that, it's the job of the Cinematographer/Cameraman/Director of Photography/Videographer/etc. to know the tools available to him so that when collaborating with the Director on "look" and "style," that he can offer advice and know how best to achieve a goal, whatever that may be.
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#5 Ryan Thomas

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 12:12 PM

Some movies are shot fairly straightforward, with little to no "style" to the photography, instead letting action more or less play out in front of the lens. Something like Star Wars comes to mind. As spectacular as the movie is for a lot of reasons, for the most part, there aren't a lot of dramatic uses of light or lenses or focus in any of those movies.


I don't know...when they're in cloud city and the red lights from below the floor is everywhere and it's all heavily fogged from the carbon freezing chamber. There is quite a bit of style there.

Ha...sorry, Happy Gilmore might be a better example of something with less style.
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