A cinematographer or director of photography (sometimes shortened to DP or DOP) is the chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, television production or other live action piece and is responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The study and practice of this field is referred to as cinematography.
British and American systems
There are differences between the British and the American traditions as regards the role of the director of photography.
In the British system, the director of photography ("DOP"), sometimes credited as the lighting cameraman, is responsible for lighting the set and the visual look of the film, but has no final say over more purely camera operating-based visual elements such as framing. This system means that the director consults the lighting cameraperson for lighting and filtration, and the operator for framing and lens choices. "DOP" is the British and Canadian acronym for "director of photography".
In the American system, the technical crew is subordinate to the DP. Who, along with and next to the director, has the final word on all decisions related to both lighting and framing, color and tone.
The cinematographer selects the film stock, lens, filters, etc., to realize the scene in accordance with the intentions of the director. Relations between the cinematographer and director vary; in some instances the director will allow the cinematographer complete independence; in others, the director allows little to none, even going so far as to specify exact camera placement and lens selection. Such a level of involvement is not common once the director and cinematographer have become comfortable with each other, the director will typically convey to the cinematographer what is wanted from a scene visually, and allow the cinematographer latitude in achieving that effect.
Several American cinematographers have become directors, including Barry Sonnenfeld, originally the Coen brothers' DP; Jan de Bont, cinematographer on films as Die Hard and Basic Instinct, directed Speed and Twister.
In the infancy of motion pictures, the cinematographer was usually also the director and the person physically handling the camera. As the art form and technology evolved, a separation between director and camera operator emerged. With the advent of artificial lighting and faster (more light sensitive) film stocks, in addition to technological advancements in optics, the technical aspects of cinematography necessitated a specialist in that area.
In 1919, in Hollywood, the new motion picture capital of the world, one of the first (and still existing) trade societies was formed: the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), which stood to recognize the cinematographer's contribution to the art and science of motion picture making. Similar trade associations have been established in other countries, too.
Societies and trade organizations
There are a number of national associations of cinematographers which represent members (irrespective of their official titles) and which are dedicated to the advancement of cinematography. These include:
- the American Society of Cinematographers (A.S.C.), with membership by invitation only
- the Canadian Society of Cinematographers (C.S.C.)
- the British Society of Cinematographers (B.S.C.), with membership by invitation only
- the Australian Cinematographers Society (A.C.S.) and
- the Italian Cinematographers Society (A.I.C.), with membership by invitation only
- the Indian Cinematographers Society (I.C.S), with membership by invitation only
The ASC defines cinematography as:
- a creative and interpretive process that culminates in the authorship of an original work of art rather than the simple recording of a physical event. Cinematography is not a subcategory of photography. Rather, photography is but one craft that the cinematographer uses in addition to other physical, organizational, managerial, interpretive and image-manipulating techniques to effect one coherent process.
- Indian cinematographers
- List of film director and cinematographer collaborations
- List of film formats
- List of motion picture-related topics
- Start in TV: Lighting Cameraman, Director of Photography Retrieved 2012-11-28
- Hora, John. "Anamorphic Cinematography". In Burum, Stephen H. The American Cinematographer Manual (9 ed.). ISBN 978-0935578317.
- Cinematography Mailing List (CML)
- International Cinematographers Guild
- Burns, Paul The History of the Discovery of Cinematography
- Indian Society of Cinematographers
- American Society of Cinematographers
- The Guild of British Camera Technicians
- British Society of Cinematographers
- European Federation of Cinematographers
- Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS)