Perhaps we should have known when Avatar won the Best Cinematography Academy Award that things were shifting.

No longer is this role just a person with a camera, but a lot of times it's a team dropping in digital effects and messing with the lighting in post. When more and more effects are brought in, like inserting backgrounds, performers wearing mo-cap, and other things, cinematography begins to lose shape. 

Two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is worried about where the job is going—and how little cinematographers are in control. On Monday at the NAB Show in Vegas, Kaminski said, “Cinematography is the art of light and shadows, visual metaphors and nuance. That is disappearing. It will evolve and come back. But right now [there are not enough young DPs] using cinematography to express themselves.”

So where did these comments come from?

Kaminski admits that it's from his own experience he's come to these conclusions. His work on Ready Player One involved heavy collaboration with an effects team, mo-cap team, and more. 

“There are too many cooks in the kitchen,” said Kaminski. So far the results are good, if you have a good chef, like Steven [Spielberg]. But the moment the director is not involved, [the cinematographer loses] control of the image.”

That control is crucial to artistic expression and one he sees disappearing from the landscape. While lauding Ready Player One, Kaminski said although he is proud of the movie, “My contribution was 40 percent.”

The rest of the stuff that happens inside the Oasis video game was mostly done by ILM and another team of artists

This is a landscape that's changing, and cinematographers need to learn how to adapt, but also continue to have ownership over the images. Some of that might mean learning new techniques or just finding a role as a supervisor in the CGI scenes. Directors need to pay close attention to this, as well. Everyone should be finding new ways to collaborate and work together.  

What do you think about the modern-day role of the DP? Tell us in the comments.