Characteristics and Contexts of Cinematography




Characteristics: The different features or qualities particular to a certain person/object/place that make it up and can be used as identifiers for it.

Context: The background and bigger picture of the person/object/place


Cinematography is essentially the visual side of film. The cinematographer has control over the composition, making artistic and technical decisions that will affect the look of film, and there’s many elements of cinematography that can be changed which all work together to create the final look. Shot size, lighting, colour palettes, set design and camera movement are all factors that the DoP would have to consider, as all of these are important visual components of a shot.

Cinematography is a way to communicate the story line over to the audience without any dialogue. What the audience sees in the shot (and sometimes what they what they can’t see) can tell them a lot.

This video that was shown to me by a director/cinematographer can explain it better than I can.



“Those checkboxes that need to be ticked when arranging the visual elements of a shot. Is there enough lighting? Does the staging block any important visual information? Case in point as to why composition is a necessary technical skill when constructing any image. Without it films would be a sensory overload of information without structure, but with it you gain focus.”  – quoted from the video essay.

That video also gives some context to cinematography, where it came from and how it’s progressed. Film is in some ways a progression from theatre, it has the same basic concept of telling a story, it’s just presented in a different medium. Becuase of this, when films first started being made, cinematography wasn’t something that was especially thought about. All shots were set up in similar ways and actors moved about in the frame the same way they would move about the stage. The camera wasn’t there too add anything to the film, it was just there to capture it and so shots were very ‘2D’ and meaningless.

For example A Trip to the Moon is one of the earliest recorded films that involves some kind of editing. As you can see, the shots aren’t carefully thought out angles, they’re more like acts in a theatre performance. There’s no variation in shots and they’re all very long.

Cinematography has come a long way since then, once filmmakers realised that the camera could be used

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