Aha. This is the job everyone wants to know about. After all, you can have the best actors and makeup artists in the world, the most sophisticated location and outstanding special effects, but if the video footage isn’t top quality those factors won’t save the final product.
Cinematographers come from a variety of backgrounds. It’s not always necessary to study the field in school, but it’s certainly helpful. Ultimately real-world experience is the best teacher. Many shooters have worked (and in some cases are still working) in television and do production work on the side. They could have been shooters for local newsrooms or production staff for televisions shows. Others move straight from school into video production companies, usually in the role of an associate whose job is to help the lead cinematographer. This allows them to get some hands-on experience with extensive supervision, with gradual increases in responsibility.
Know The People Behind the Camera
If you’re on location during the shoot, it pays to get to know the camera operators when possible. Not only do they have incredible stories (many have travelled the world for their jobs, going everywhere from deep-sea expeditions to battlefields) but they also have unique perspectives on the best way to shoot your video. You’ll frequently see the camera operators meeting with the field producer and director and most of the time their opinions are highly regarded.
The director of photography and anyone working under them has to be skilled in using a wide range of equipment. Different kinds of shoots require different types of cameras, and it’s not unheard of for a DP to use several cameras to meet the special needs of the project. But that’s just the beginning. Skilled camera operators also knows how to use jibs and dollies, and many are now trained in special techniques such as time lapses, aerial videography using drones, and underwater videography. They must also have a good eye for lighting and framing the shot (the director and field producer help with this as well, but the more sets of eyes you have on a shot, the more likely you are to get exactly what you want—and in the best case scenario, something that even exceeds your expectations).
Along with the director and field producer, the DP will often review various scenes just after they’re shot, so that they can be sure everything went well.
Do Shooters Just Have One Job?
Many DPs also take on the role of editor for the project. While this can be cost-effective, the biggest payoff is that the lead shooter is already familiar with all of the material, and will know where every shot is in the raw footage. In the role of editors, they also know how to use advanced software that allows sleek transitions between shots, special effects, and even creating graphics.
A Quick Note About Quality
You really do get what you pay for. It’s certainly possible for you to make your own video using your own camera, maybe even your cell phone. Video channels like YouTube are full of examples of DIY work. But remember, if you want to use your video for business purposes, people will judge you by its quality. If it looks cheap or slapdash, they’ll probably think you’re cutting corners in other areas too. What you save in video expenses could easily be outweighed by how much you lose in the long run. Paying for a professional is one of the best business investments you can make.
View our other production services:
- Field producer
- Location sound recording
- Aerial videography
- Craft services
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