September 21, 2014 at 8:23AM


Do we need Cinematographers anymore?

With technology like this:

Do you think there will come a time when we will not need a full film crew anymore? If so, how many years away are we from that happening?

This technology is available for less than a couple thousand dollars.

Amazin but scary, isn't it? What do you think?


I think there will always be a place for cinematographers.
they do a lot more than hold the camera, even if this technology somehow becomes the way all films are made (which i doubt) i could see a lot of cinematographers just switching to camera editors (camera animators??)
also if this technology replaced cinematographers, it would also replace:
Lighting technicians
actors (other than voice actors)
acting coaches
focus pullers
steadicam operators
colorists (in a sense)
and the list goes on and on.

So no, i don't think this technology will take over... maybe for video game cut scenes.
but not for film

September 21, 2014 at 2:22PM

Connor Norvell
Cinematographer, Writer, Director

I could see something like this becoming the norm in 10-15 years. Lighting, they already have that covered. Did you see the other videos on Youtube? Amazing. Perfect lighting, shadows, any time of day and season. It's incredible.

Once they render the face, anyone no matter what they look like can be the real actor and that scan can be the skin for that person. They already have the camera movements already, steady cam, dolly shots, aerials, they already have all that too. Colorist, finished.

I don't think cinematographers will ever go away completely but like you said, if something like this ever became the norm, they would need to morph into camera animator/editors.

September 21, 2014 at 6:45PM

Jeff Rivera
Writer | Producer

Cinematographers are still needed for 3D CGI work, as they often required to do realistic camera and lighting within the 3D world.

September 22, 2014 at 7:53AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Someone has to tell them how to design the lighting and how to frame the shot CG actor or not.

Deakins lit WallE and Rango. They stood out head and shoulders above the look of all other animated films in the last few years.

September 22, 2014 at 8:12AM

Timur Civan
Director of Photography

Agreed - fantastic films.

Jake the film guy Keenum

September 25, 2014 at 7:55AM

Jeff, the presentation above leaves off the guys that sits there and operates that mouse pointer that gives emotions to the 3-d model.

That operator is still a part of the film crew.

The only way we are getting rid of the film crews is we invent the AI which based on the tweets you read, purchases you made on amazon, your ZIP, and the weather that day will be making perfectly custom movies just for you ^_^

Know what I mean?

September 22, 2014 at 5:34PM


That technology that you described is a good 30 years away probably :)

Jeff Rivera

September 23, 2014 at 6:25AM

Cinematographers will never become obsolete...

September 23, 2014 at 8:12AM, Edited September 23, 8:12AM

Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op

I believe that audiences, on at least a subconscious level, instinctively know that CGI is not real and need a human connection through storytelling with motion images. You can't have that without a good cinematographer.

September 23, 2014 at 1:13PM

Alex Fuerst
Director of Photography + Cinematographer

There will always be someone to make the creative decisions on where to position the camera, what angles to use, and what lighting to use to achieve the director's vision. Even if that camera and those lights happen to be virtual one. The name may change, but the job will remain the same. Also, I don't feel that we will be replacing actors anything soon. One reason is that currently it's much cheaper to use real actors than hiring actors for voices and animating the character.

September 23, 2014 at 8:46PM

Beau Wright

like the DP of "Metegol" (last movie of Campanella) said when i asked em how was to do DPs work on digital: It was the same, just easy`r, i was on a room with a lot of kids on there computers and i said "more light here, less here, softher here, etc", my job its to create a painting, no to move a light bulb.

September 25, 2014 at 6:50AM

Baltazar Nadalino
Director de Fotografia

I've often grappled with that question, and while a lot of processes may become automated, the artistic vision of a good DP and a good director can never be replaced, as both are storytellers, and storytelling is timeless.

September 25, 2014 at 7:57AM


I'm going to steal something I read the other day. The job of the director of photography is not to setup the camera and setup the lighting. Rather, the position is there to visually push the story. The Coen brothers obviously have the budget to hire INCREDIBLE lighting and camera technicians along with whatever equipment they want, but they obviously still work with Deakins. Do I even need to explain why?

New directors have gotten into the mindset that directors of photography are becoming less and less necessary with the advent of major post manipulation and... They have a point. Its very well known that video has killed the need for a specialist. Instead of a director needing to trust a DP on his/her technical ability due to the film being shot on celluloid, its now more about everyone crowding around a monitor. But thats where I come in. Sure, you might know what you want it to look like and maybe you know how, but I'm there to make sure it fits the rest of the project. Its my job to step back and look at how this plays with that scene we shot a day earlier where we had almost not highlights. Video has removed a lot of my power, but I still think a DP is relevant.

In the words of Oliver Stapleton, BSC:
" our little specialist world of Making Pictures, creativity will be the one single quality that future DoP's can continue to offer."

And its true. I'm not a technician. I know how it all works and I could be a technician, but I'm not. I'm a creative team member.

Personally, I think the bigger problem is directors (just like the rest of the film world) feel the need to immerse themselves in technical specs and camera platforms and buzzwords rather than focusing on a story. I have producers asking me what camera package we should shoot on without even giving me a script. One of my biggest horror stories is a TV pilot I ACed on in January. We had the C300, a nice set of high-end Canon glass, beautiful O'Connor sticks setup, and brand new Arri L-series lights. However, the director was managing the camera's ISO and exposure when the DP and I are standing there looking at the waveform telling him its fine. Eventually the DP gave in and I shut up, but the project ended up sucking because the performances were unguided, shots were mis-exposed, and the director was focused on things he had crew members to focus on. My plea to the film world is don't be this guy. Don't make your crew do the project for the money. Don't make your DP be a "Yes" man and don't get mad when he's debating you on a creative decision; thats our job.

September 25, 2014 at 10:28AM, Edited September 25, 10:28AM

Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer

if you feel you do not need a cinematographer or a dp, then your production and footage is not as good as it can potentially be.
If it's great without a real one, it can be even better. It can be magnificent!
if you have not worked with a great dp before, you should try assisting or something to get on a quality set and see the difference.

September 25, 2014 at 9:41PM

Kazu Okuda

I believe we will always need a cinematographer in some form. You will always need a creative person to make art. Technology cannot solve for everything. You can have a computer paint a Rembrandt but you still need that artist to establish the painting to copy.

September 26, 2014 at 10:21AM, Edited September 26, 10:21AM

Chad Fortenberry
Director of Media Content

3D rendered animation and actual film are (and will remain) different art forms. I see film being appreciated long after we are out of the uncanny valley of 3D modeling. Painting and drawing still soldier on in spite of 3D graphics and photoshopped composites.

Alexandru Panait

September 26, 2014 at 4:52PM

I also think we may be underestimating how far we really are from the point where 3D generated animation is completely indistinguishable from actual film.

September 26, 2014 at 5:19PM

Alexandru Panait

I think the question could be would we need actors anymore?
There is a popular video floating arpund in which 3 big DPs discuss 4K and they talk about how they serve as advisers for post. They also talk about Roger Deakins "DP-ing" an animation film (the Croods I think). I guess no substitute for real world experience.

September 28, 2014 at 1:26AM


We need more stories. Stories are counting by people... :D

September 28, 2014 at 11:40PM

Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director

Gosh! I could NEVER do without my DOPs. They bring so much more clarity to the mix and when you find one that has a style that surprises you, that changes the dynamics. I guess in this DSLR age where one guy can literally make a film with their 60Ds and 5Ds, I still think cinematography is not just getting a nicely framed shot with blurred backgrounds and amazing depth of field. It's about telling a story. Creating a painting and working with other creative minds who can give you something you probably never thought of.

January 4, 2015 at 6:40AM, Edited January 4, 6:40AM

Persis Shanker
Writer/Producer and Director & Digital Project Manager

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