Cinematography (from Greek: κίνημα, kinema "movements" and γράφειν, graphein "to record") is the art or science of motion picture photography. It is the technique of movie photography, including both the shooting and development of the film. The cinematographer could also be referred to as the film director's main visual collaborator.
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.
Cinematography is an art form in the field of filmmaking. Although the exposing of images on light-sensitive elements dates to the early 19th century, motion pictures demanded a new form of photography and a new aesthetic.
On June 19, 1873, Eadweard Muybridge successfully photographed a horse named "Sallie Gardner" in fast motion using a series of 24 stereoscopic cameras. The cameras were arranged along a track parallel to the horse's, and each camera shutter was controlled by a trip wire triggered by the horse's hooves. They were 21 inches apart to cover the 20 feet taken by the horse stride, taking pictures at one thousandth of a second.
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.
Evolution of technology: new definitions
Traditionally the term "cinematography" referred to working with motion-picture film emulsion, but it is now largely synonymous with videography and digital video due to the popularity of digital cinematography.
Modern digital image processing has also made it possible to radically modify pictures from how they were originally captured. This has allowed new disciplines to encroach on some of the choices that were once the cinematographer's exclusive domain.
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