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what are good cinematographic movies to see for studying?


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Hi, Carly.


You're probably about to get deluged with lists of movies, which undoubtedly look great for lots of reasons, but just watching a movie isn't necessarily going to "teach" you anything about it.


To really learn from a movie, you'd have to have other information about it available or access to the people who were there making it. You can sit and be "wowed" by pretty movies, or you can find the information (if it exists) so you can learn from them too.


So take those inevitable lists, and before you sit down to start watching any of the films, search through the archives of magazines and websites and books that might have interviews with the DPs and others who were there.


Unfortunately, those in charge of deciding the content on DVDs don't think the public cares about the technical aspects of what it takes to make a movie, particularly the cinematography (unless it is tied to VFX), so DVD "extras" are mostly a waste of time.


Here is a list of resources for you to take a look at as you decide which movies you can learn from:


Local600forum.com A forum by, for and about Motion Picture Professionals


Below the Line Magazine Online Below the Line is a newspaper that strives to be the editorial voice of the crew. A publication that mirrors the attitude of the below-the-line crew community, providing an insider's reverence for the craft of filmmaking with all the humor and intelligence of the craftspeople it celebrates.


Cinematography.com Professional Motion Picture Camera People, News & Resources http://www.cinematography.com 


Cinematography. net A place for professional cinematographers to talk and exchange ideas about cinematography.  


Steadicam Operators Association http://www.steadicam-ops.com 


Steadicamguild.com The Steadicam Guild was formed in September of 2002, is

an organization dedicated to the promotion and education of

the art and craft of the Steadicam http://www.steadicamguild.net 


SteadiShots.org http://www.steadishots.org 



Demystifying Digital Camera Specifications, http://media.panavision.com/ScreeningRoom/...ox_Office.html 


The American WideScreen Museum: In the Cyber Museum we feature extensive coverage of Cinerama, CinemaScope, Technirama, Panavision, Vistavision, Superscope, Todd-AO, Technicolor, Cinecolor, Kinemacolor and other motion picture audio systems.  http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/ 



Below the Line is a newspaper that strives to be the editorial voice of the crew. A publication that mirrors the attitude of the below-the-line crew community, providing an insider's reverence for the craft of filmmaking with all the humor and intelligence of the craftspeople it celebrates. www.btlnews.com


Backstage West www.backstage.com


Filmmaker www.filmmakermagazine.com


American Cinematographer www.theasc.com


ICG: International Cinematographer’s Guild www.cameraguild.com


Indie Slate, www.indieslate.com


P3 Update, www.p3update.com 


IATSE Bulletin, subscribe at bulletin@iatse-intl.org 


MovieMaker, www.moviemaker.com  


British Film Magazine, the British Film World on one site. http://britishfilmmagazine.com 


16:9, The magazine for media pros http://www.16by9.com.au

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Hey Carly,


I'd suggest you watch the first movie that inspired you to become a cinematographer. Watch it over, again and again and get to understand how and why it made that strong emotional bond with you.


On a personal note though I love Conrad L. Halls genius on "Road to Perdition" and Gordon Willis's use of light in the "Godfather" but no doubt this thread will have other masterpieces added as time goes by.

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There are many books that give lighting diagrams with screen grabs and other pertinent technical information about specific films. You can read about the films, then watch them, then go back and re-read the articles. "Reflections" and "Film Lighting" are a couple.


If you're just looking for a list of movies with great Cinematography, that could be huge. I'll throw out a handful of my favorites:

Sophie's Choice

The New World

Road to Perdition

Paris, Texas


Barry Lyndon

Anatomy of Hell






Last Tango in Paris

Solaris (the original by Tarkovsky)

The Mirror

The Sacrifice

The Virgin Spring

The Shining

Morvern Caller

Last Life in the Universe

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If I would have to reduce my list to five titles, I would recommend:


- Apocalypse Now (!!) (Vittorio Storaro)

- Road to Perdition (Conrad Hall)

- The Deer Hunter (Vilmos Zsigmond)

- Schindler's List (Janusz Kaminski)

- The Fabulous Baker Boys (Michael Ballhaus)


But you should also take a look at the work of Roger Deakins (I would recommend "The Asassination of Jesse James..." and "O Brother where art thou?")

Edited by Henry Weidemann
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OK, it isn't a movie BUT the book "Film and Digital Lighting" by Dave and Maria Varia includes many examples of classic film images and also a great section on how to "read" shots and work out how they were done. Also, start flicking through back issues of AC. I picked up the entire lot from 1991 for ten pounds on eBay the other day...

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This might sound a little weird, it being an animated film and all, but the 3-disc edition of WALL*E is a terrific resource for the amount of time its special features spend on cinematography (in both real world and digital universes). They show fairly big chunks of a seminar hosted by Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, almost every Coen Bros film) that he put on for the Pixar crew. Then you can see how his lessons were put into practice on the film itself.


Deakins is probably my favorite cinematographer, and his website has a user forum where you can ask specific questions and get detailed answers. I recommend No Country For Old Men as a great example.


I'm pretty new to the field myself, but I have to concede that you're not going to learn that much from watching movies. Almost everything I've learned so far, I've learned from personal experience.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm surprised no one has said 'Citizen Kane' yet, however cliche that may be haha.


Also, my favorite films for the visual elements are


'O Brother Where Art Thou' - Roger Deakins


'American Beauty' - Conrad Hall


'The Man Who Wasn't There' - Roger Deakins


'The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' - Roger Deakins


'Shawshank Redemption' Roger Deakins


'Children of Men' - Emmanuel Lubezki


'Babel' - Rodrigio Prieto


'Brokeback Mountain' - Rodrigo Prieto


They are all fairly new, and you'll probably enjoy watching those too :)



P.S - I'm a Deakins fanatic, he is my idol.

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