Cinematographer: A person with technical expertise who with light and camera, transfer visual information into moving images on motion picture film or electronic recording systems. The responsibilities of the DP (cinematographer) on set are to bring forth the directors vision thru the lens, with reference to framing, composition, lighting and motion, the over all look of the film. Responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The cinematographer should be a technical expert with the tools of his trade. Cinematographer duties to create images that tell the stories of our times.
Sitting down with the director and getting an idea of their vision of this movie, is a good place to start. Find out budget requirements. The budget can give you a lot of information about what road you'll be able to take when telling any story. Is it 16mm, 35mm, HD, 2K 4K or something newer? The cinematographer and director should have a shared vision of the project. Going over the screenplay with the director figuring out what kind of cameras and other equipment, like cranes, dolly's, lens, filter and jibs that will be necessary to achieve and keep the integrity of the film. Looking at other films that come close to the look or vision of the director is another tool for this decision making process. The cinematographer and directors relationship vary, some directors give control over the look of the image to the cinematographer, still others like to have a lot of control over the look. This is where the relationship can vary widely.
Going to locations and looking at the difficulties that could make the film-making process harder to achieve. Is the terrain capable of supporting a jib or other camera support platforms? The time of day that you'll be at a specific location, will the sun be hitting the front of the buildings? Will you be shooting into the sun at sunrise or sunset? Is there a building reflecting sun onto the set? Cinematographer should check local weather, sunny days over cast days, rain or snow. Review, discuss and approve set plans and approve props, action vehicles, airplanes, boats, horse-drawn vehicles, mock-ups and miniatures. Approve any storyboards, set colors and textures, costume colors and textures, makeup and hair, equipment lists for camera, electric and grip. Work with assistant director on shooting schedule. Visit cast run-through's and rehearsals meeting them and getting comfortable with each other. The DP can select the film stocks, or (HD 2K, 4K and 8K?), etc. Shoot tests with all the types of film you'll be using for the shoot, shooting tests for style, tests for lab, lighting of principal actors, for camera and lenses, wardrobe and makeup, shoot tests for any special effects processes, unusual rigs, props or methods. Design lighting plans for stages and locations with gaffer, electrician and key grip. The cinematographer should meet with all department heads and discus any problems that they may foresee. Mediate any disagreements between department heads.
Movement: Movement is as important as any other of the duties of the cinematographer. Moving the camera around the subject and or actors is the best way to take your viewers down that road of a visual feast of information of story. The cinematographer duties should be to have everything in that frame help tell the story, lighting, framing and movement all are tools of this process. Long moving shoots say something different to the viewer then short shoots of the same kind of setup.
Composition: When you have a good idea of what the director is looking for after spending some time with them or you already have some history with this director. You and the director can have a discussion about what you think this movie should look like, how and what should be in frame and what if anything should be different. Not different just to be different but what is it that can lend itself to the story that hopefully no one has done before. It's all about the story, everything and anything that helps the story in the most efficient way is what you're going to want in the frame. Everything in frame should move the story to its final climax.
Cameras: Not only is it 16mm, 35mm or HD., but how many cameras will you need. If it is 35mm, what kind of 35mm do you need sink sound or MOS; do you need more then one camera on multiple days? Are their special effects cameras: i.e.: high speed, under water or aerial. Go to the rental house and meet with the personal, take a look at the equipment, does it look well maintained? Can they meet you equipment needs?
Lenses: A lens can be another tool for the cinematographer. Depth of field: moving the viewer from one point to another point with in the frame. Wide-angle or telephoto: Depth of field is going to be a big factor when considering a lens for a certain shot.
Depth of field: When an object or subject is in focus, everything from a certain distance in front of the object and everything to a certain distance behind the object will also be in realistically sharp focus, to the human eye. This distance from front to back that will be in reasonably sharp focus is depth of field.
Depth of field is controlled by: Aperture (Iris) Higher number or smaller opening = more depth of field Further from subject (or wider lens) = more depth of field
Do research: If your going to go into a place you haven't been before, or a procedure: i.e.: special effect you haven't done, a new piece of equipment, do some research on it and or talk to someone who has.
Cinematography translates from Greek to kinema "movements" and graphein "to record.