The Specific Choices That Make Hoyte Van Hoytema Great

How can a cinematographer's style influence the story? Learn from Hoyte Van Hoytema

The visuals in a movie or TV show are there to service the story. But how can visuals reflect a certain cinematographer's style? And how can that style deepen our understanding of the person behind the camera? 

One of the best cinematographers working is the famed blockbuster cinematographer and Christopher Nolan collaborator, Hoyte van Hoytema.

His philosophy on his visual style and the gear he uses both contribute to creating epic and engaging images that transcend the screen and become embedded in our souls. 

Check out this video from In-Depth Cine and let's talk after the jump. 

What are the Cinematography Styles, Cameras, and Lenses of Hoyte Van Hoytema?

Though he's known for blockbusters, Hoytema is able to toe the line between humungous VFX shots and deep, intimate portraits of life. His career has allowed him to progress from working on smaller films to working with some of the most famous directors around. 

At his core, Hoytema is all about naturalism and dynamic reality

He prefers capturing things in-camera and without overdoing VFX... even when it's a car chase scene on the moon. 

He combined an infrared Arris Alexa and a 35mm camera on the famed sequence to keep the most real feeling version of the angles. 

When it comes to intimacy, he works with traditional camera movements that are familiar to the audience and draw them closer. The goal here is immersion; drawing the eye and viewer into the story. 

He has a preference for film over digital, especially when it comes to shooting large format film.

When it comes to IMAX, he composes most of the frame in the center, because he's shooting square and not in a wider aspect ratio.

His camera choices depend on the story and director he's working with, and that can change with every project. It'll be different with Nolan than it is with David O. Russell.  

But also, cameras are not everything. 

Hoytema also focuses on a diverse set of lenses that help him capture portraits and intimate moments within the story. This refocuses the narrative on the characters and stakes, as well as the spectacles. 

These tools, combined with grip rigs such as the hard mount rig, give a distinct style in every story he shoots. He likes to elevate lightboxes overhead for outdoor scenes, diffusing them so soft light casts downward on the actors. He utilizes light through windows to supplement natural light. 

Hoyetma never shies away from color, but always makes sure any choice is motivated by other colored light in the scene. 

These choices are all made not to emphasize his style and make it stand out, but to visually represent the story. So when you start shooting the next endeavor, think about Hoytema. Think about what the story needs. 

Up Next: Four Camera Techniques Everyone Should Know 

If you're new to filmmaking, here are some basic camera techniques that you'll want to work on.     

Your Comment

4 Comments

Jesus, how do you cram so many fanboyish superlatives into one single "article"? Hoyte, with all respect, may be a good cinematographer but is far from being an artist along the lines of Deakins, Lubezki, Khondji, Cronenweth, Mitra or others.

June 23, 2020 at 1:48AM

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DingDong
2231

I bet you are.....LOL

June 23, 2020 at 4:41AM

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John Dureuil
Director
108

Cool topic.

June 23, 2020 at 11:13AM

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Hoyte van Hoytema (Dutch: Hoyte van Hoytema; born October 4, 1971, Horgen, Switzerland) is a Dutch-Swedish cameraman who studied at the Polish Film School in Lodz. He primarily works in Sweden, but also in Germany, Norway, the USA and Great Britain.

June 23, 2020 at 11:22AM

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