October 30, 2018

Cinematographer: An Artistic Video Explains Their Role In Filmmaking

Watch a video that breaks down what it means to be a cinematographer. 

There are many jobs in the filmmaking process, and a cinematographer is just one of them. It all starts with a script; a story waiting to be told. Then there's the director, the visionary, the person with the plan. But we all know that filmmaking is highly collaborative, so a team begins to emerge, with a group of like-minded artists all striving towards the same goal. That brings us to the cinematographer.

What Does a Cinematographer Do?

Of all the roles on set, the cinematographer's is the one where the art meets technology. One of the reasons we focus heavily on updating our reviews of tech and gear at No Film School is that because without understanding all the tools available it's very hard to use them effectively. 

One of a cinematographer's primary responsibilities is to always stay up to date on all the tools of the trade, as well as be knowledgeable about all the well-established techniques of the past. To go deeper on the job check out our cinematography masterclass post. And before you go any further, it's never a bad time to brush up on cinematography basics

There are a lot of people on set with important roles in the process, of course. 

You've got your art directors and production designers, and new worlds are created. You've got your editors, who lovingly craft the footage into the final piece of art. You've got your makeup artists and VFX artists and loads of other craftspeople who ultimately shape the film in some unique way.

But we return today to the cinematographer, the person behind the lens. What exactly does a cinematographer do, and what does it mean to be a cinematographer? The following short video from the EFTI School of Cinematography in Spain has the answer.

A bit fluffy and overly poetic? Sure. But this video hits the nail on the head in terms of what cinematographers actually do from an artistic perspective. 

We craft images from scratch -- with the help of the art department -- and use the tools at our disposal in order to ensure that the images not only drive the story, but that the images themselves are inherently meaningful in some way or another. It's all about having a unique vision for what you are creating, then using your knowledge of lighting, lenses, composition, etc in order to fulfill that vision.

The video also makes a tremendously pertinent point (especially considering the speed at which technology evolves) about what cinematographers do. We can have cameras better than the human eye, and lights more powerful than the sun, but it's all useless unless the person behind those tools has a distinct vision for what they are creating. Ultimately, the purpose of all of this technology is to provide us with a set of tools to do our jobs effectively. If we don't use our unique vision to make the most of that technology, then we're only as good as our equipment. And nobody wants that.

Cinematography can also be a process of discovery. What works one time on one film may not be as effective in another. This seems obvious, but we put together a resource of 4 mistakes that could be holding you back as you build out your career as a cinematographer. 

Link: EFTI School of Photography -- Vimeo     

Your Comment

135 Comments

HAHAHAAAA !!!!

July 27, 2014 at 2:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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boet

What Does It Mean to Be a Cinematographer? To have a thick beard.

July 28, 2014 at 3:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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H

That could not have been more over the top.

July 28, 2014 at 5:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Prime example of how cinematographers tend to think they are the most important person on set. This is arrogant.

July 28, 2014 at 6:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Myles

Having a Red Cam Helps a lot to.....

July 28, 2014 at 10:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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It would be so awesome if it just ended with him shooting a Tyler Perry TV show.

July 29, 2014 at 10:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nic

Do you love art, literature, have a keen eye for photography and a sense of story? Do you appreciate the aesthetic quality of beautiful things whether it be a person, landscape or architecture? Do you listen to many forms of music, from "vintage" to modern, local to world? Do you like to try new cuisines or even combine delicious foods to create new ones? Are you concerned about how your fashion sense effects the way you are perceived and engaged with in the world and what signals it sends to other people you might want to attract into your social circles and what those people value? Awweee shit son, you're a hipster. I'm a cinematographer that hates all those other things and hates hipsters and somehow still has a mind open enough to be creative and inspired while conforming to the mass culture with such tenacity as to avoid any sort of comparisons to hipsters. That's what makes me unique, because not being a hipster is so important to me that I would rather be ignorant about large swaths of culture and art just so that no one calls me out for what my biggest fear is, being like other people who I have nearly everything in common with. Fuck hipsters!

July 30, 2014 at 1:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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derek

you can make videos like this, monologues with cheap emotion and "epic" music on top, for every single profession. even the really bad ones.

actually now that i think of it, movies are full of scenes like this one...

August 1, 2014 at 10:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ck

Loved this video and what this cinematographer has done here, I love his love of his craft. I'd feel very comfortable chatting with him about a project and listening to his ideas. His heart is in it.

So many people are about the pyrotechnics of filmmaking, and you can really feel it when they talk, comment, or factor in on something. There's just them in the exchange, like a few people on this thread. Quick to criticize without connecting or even acknowledging what is being said.

It signals difficulty (as in difficult personalities to work with).

But the video and statement is great.

August 2, 2014 at 7:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Guest

Only three words.... MORE THAN GREAT You can feel what a cinematographer needs to feel.... However, after that you need to build up a real thing too, you need will and leadership. A film is not a solo flight. Not even a solo person destination... this could be seen inconvenient, but its not. It is actually enriching...

August 3, 2014 at 1:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Carlo Moreno

Could somebody tell me how is this look achieved in terms of colour grading? It looks flat but not exactly?

August 11, 2014 at 7:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joseph

to say the truth - more about the comments, as the video is utter pile of bollocks-ii think everybody can be a cinematographer. as long as you can see the light. and most of DP's were some sort of barman/vet/painter/carpenter/something else before they went into filmmaking. so.. good luck to the dentist!!!

"pretentious" is way better than saying shit about "these little people who are trying to be special but are not", are all the same, who should stay in their place bla bla. i started filmmaking to show everybody's stories, as we all have them, and long live hard work, carrying heavy boxes and looking at the sky shadows darkness and opening your inner eye for other people, doesnt matter if you a fishermen, book editor or a DP.

shame on you guys to detest the 5d generation. they can bring stories we have never seen before. yes maybe 1 or 2 only in 1000 of those mediocre ones, but films are awesome way of saying stuff we have forgotten about as himan beings. and sometimes to be a cinematographer is to open your eyes

August 14, 2014 at 5:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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As the crew laughs this fuckstick right out of the room.

November 13, 2014 at 12:47PM

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tilt rite
Camera Hobbyist
171

Never begin your film with your protagonist waking up in the morning and going to work.

November 13, 2014 at 4:55PM, Edited November 13, 4:55PM

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Ivan Salinas
Filmmaker
212

good work!

February 22, 2015 at 1:57PM, Edited February 22, 1:57PM

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Dmitriy Mulenko
Cinematographer | Filmmaker | Director
74

very good!

February 22, 2015 at 1:58PM

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Dmitriy Mulenko
Cinematographer | Filmmaker | Director
74

A bit too indulgent for me...plus your sound mix overwhelmed the video.

October 30, 2018 at 12:06PM

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Lee Albright
Owner-Albright Films
222

What's with recycling all these old articles?

October 30, 2018 at 12:42PM

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Roan Mayln
Cinematographer / Writer
81

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