Tag Archives: lighting

The skills of a cinematographer


☞ Cinematic narrative is not merely the concern of the director and script writer. All persons involved in making the film are involved in it, in varying degrees. The role of the cinematographer in the creation if narrative in cinema is still under-recognised. In the following article, the Indian cinematographer, Rajiv Menon, discusses the art and craft of cinematography. He argues that an important aspect of cinematography is the cinematographer’s sensitivity to the film’s narrative. In this regard, the chinematographer’s art is quite different from that of the still photographer, where awareness of narrative, quite naturally, is not a prime consideration.

Ace cinematographer and filmmaker Rajiv Menon shares some tips on what makes for good cinematography and screenwriting.

❝The technical aspects related to lens, lighting and composition are similar to what a still photographer would require, but the skill of a cinematographer lies in using all the available tools for a narrative format and he contributes to the story-telling process. So one of the most important things you must have is the passion for the story you are telling. Lighting, lens and taking pictures won’t necessarily help in becoming a successful cinematographer because beyond these things one has to realise he/she is part of a team that is telling a story.

A basic knowledge of the still camera is very important and the person must like seeing things through the lens. Another requisite skill for a cinematographer is communication as the story has to reach a large number of people who have varying capacities of understanding. It’s very important he/she convey things with clarity. A cinematographer has to keep his thirst for learning alive and keep learning about the latest trends in the business. There is so much to learn in terms of light and composition. One must try to develop ‘new skills for new opportunities’ to keep up with changing trends and be fearless to succeed.❞

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Animated and life-action character interactions: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


☞ While the discussion on the influence of an animated character on life-action characters is still fresh (see the discussion below on the television character Daria), let us go on to a film in which the interactions between animated and life action characters occur within the film itself: Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The animated characters in this film, or what are called toons, are not mere dispensable decorations, as in Mary Poppins, but form an essential part of the narrative. There is also a social structure in the film where the toons are discriminated against. As the article notes, the film represents a significant advance on earlier use of animation — or more specifically, animated characters — in life action movies.

✼ “The story’s ingenious conceit is that human-created cartoons, including some of the most recognizable characters in the animated species, coexist with Homo sapiens — off-screen and three-dimensionally, that is. These “toons,” as they’re called, make up a kind of movie-industry underclass that is exploited for profit-making laughs. That’s a pretty audacious motif in a work ostensibly for children, and when you add the superimposition onto the crowded thematic canvas of a top-notch spoof on film noir, you’ve got a movie working overtime in the ideas department.”

✼ “Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Vertigo, and especially Chinatown — Roger Rabbit borrows from them all. There’s even a great bit of economical storytelling lifted from Rear Window, in which we’re brought up to speed on Eddie’s entire history solely through photographs and newspaper clips.

The technical virtuosity is even more impressive. As director Zemeckis recently explained on Fresh Air, the animators devised a process that endowed each cel with the same lighting as in the corresponding live-action scene. The film also breaks a longstanding rule of hybrid human-cartoon projects by allowing the camera to roam. In films like Mary Poppins, Zemeckis said, the recording device was always static “because it would be so difficult to draw different changes of perspective as the camera moves.” But he shot the film “like I would any live action movie. And the animators actually found that it worked better by having the camera moving. That they were able to actually give more life to the cartoon characters and have them feel like they’re more integrated into the actual two-dimensional set.””

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This is not Hitchcock

From its opening shot of a dimming light bulb, the film defies expectations. According to 1930’s film grammar, a dimming light bulb signified only one thing: an execution. In the case of Sabotage, however, the bulb announces a widespread London blackout caused by the introduction of sand into a power station generator.

John Seal on Hitchcock’s Sabotage

BTW, Don’t ask me what film “grammar” is. But from the quotation above, I think I can figure out what is being said here: some convention that existed during that time. Anyway (just in case you’ve been away with John Carter on Mars for the past few months), the light bulb does not reveal that the guy on the left is not Hitchcock (just someone pretending to be him; see also, below).


From its opening shot of a dimming light bulb…