Explore the Poetic Realism of DP (And Zoom Lens Lover) Vilmos Zsigmond
What can we learn from a DP who has worked with so many of history's greatest directors?
Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who passed away early this year, once described his cinematic style as "poetic realism", making things look real "but with a little bit of poetry." And clearly this style played a big role in his ability to collaborate with the likes of Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg, Michael Cimino, Woody Allen, and Brian de Palma, all of whom hired the Hungary-born DP for very different projects, but received his beautiful poetically realistic look.
Sareesh Sudhakaran of wolfcrow explores the career and work of Zsigmond in the video below, explain his approach on a creative level, as well as a technical level. (You get to learn what his favorite lights to shoot with were!)
Sudhakaran mentions a lot of important aspects of Zsigmond's work, like his "pre-flashing" technique, using double fog filters on period films, and his affinity for zoom lenses. The interesting thing about his use of zooms, though, is that he, more often than not, tried to hide the effect in order to make the shot looks as though a dolly was used, which started as a practical choice, but evolved into one of his signature looks.
Zsigmond certainly had a very interesting style, but like all great DPs, he created images that worked with a director's vision. We say it time and time again here: if you're a DP, it's important to have your own style and to continue to push yourself further in your craft. However, at the end of the day, you're hired to produce images for a director, so make sure that you're knowledgable enough to shoot what the director wants—and articulate to make your case when you think something else would look better!