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Deepak Bajracharya

cinematographer or videographer

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Hi all,

 

Would like to get infos regarding whether a cameraperson who never exposes celluloid strips in his/her life and just records image on tape got the right to use the term Cinematographer in the credit title or even the one who works equally exposing celluloid and recording tape, when shoot on video or hd is okey to use this term or be credited under the title Videographer?

 

In National Geography and Discovery Channel, in many documentary programmes, does the title cinematography suggests that the projects principal photography was done in celluloids?

 

with best regards,

deepak

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This is an often asked question. In my opinion in order to be called a cinematographer you must be shooting film. But many disagree, and there is no way to quantify the answer.

 

Many people who shoot video exclusively often get offended when film shooters tell them they are not cinematographers. The question is why? If you're shooting video you're shooting video, there's nothing wrong with that. You are termed as one shooting video just as a doctor who is not a surgeon is not called a surgeon.

 

R,

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As I understand it, "cinema" is the art of making movies, and a "cinematographer" is one who makes moving pictures. I'm not sure if origination of the image is the deciding factor. Can a digital photographer still be called a "photographer"?

 

That said, I mainly shoot video these days (rarely film) and usually refer to myself as a videographer, given, it doesn't sound as cool but to me it seems more accurate. I would rather not falsely represent myself.

 

Interesting though. I've wondered what other people do.

Edited by Chad Stockfleth

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I just posted a similar question.

 

It?s rather subjective, but my interpretation is if you can create a mood/ look/ feel to aid the visual process of a story, whether fiction or not, than you can be considered a cinematographer, regardless of the medium that you have shoot on.

 

Hypothetically, in twenty years when film doesn?t exist any more, will people still wonder whether they are cinematographers? I wonder how many other industries went though a similar revolution with their tools and doubted their own worth afterward.

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Hypothetically, in twenty years when film doesn?t exist any more,

 

I seriously doubt that. While digital is making advancements, the same could be said for film stocks.

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"Hypothetically, in twenty years when film doesn?t exist any more, will people still wonder whether they are cinematographers? I wonder how many other industries went though a similar revolution with their tools and doubted their own worth afterward."

 

Well slight problem with what you're saying, film will be around in twenty years and well beyond that. Obviously you don't use film very much or you'd know that.

 

What will be gone in twenty years is 10-15 more tape formats, and 10-15 different kinds of HD cameras, all becoming obsolete as fast as they are made. I'll still be able to scan my 35mm negs until the day I die.

 

Good grief you can still easily get Super 8 film!! If video can't kill off Super 8, good luck with 35 and 65.

 

So, the term "cinematographer" will still be able to be applied strictly to those that shoot film, long after we are all dead.

 

R,

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Guest Paul Wizikowski

Personally I made it a point to hold off calling myself a cinematographer until I had completed a project on film. But I can see how the term is referenced both as a description of format a project is shot on as well as a description of a type of project (narritive vs. documentary etc). Another term that gets thrown around in this same vein is the word "Film" in reference to shooting something. "Yea, we are gonna film the next scene next week" or "hey, lets film that". Personally I try to use words in their strict sense but as a culture we often apply a word for a form of action as a description for that action itself all the time. We "Xerox" scripts or "FedEx" a package instead of "Copy" or "Ship". It happens, but I feel it leans to the unprofessional side.

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I may have been grammatically incorrect. "Hypothetically, in twenty years?..? maybe should have been replaced with, "Hypothetically, IF in twenty years if film didn't exist?????

 

Starting the sentence with ?hypothetically? should have sufficed though. My intention was not to debate the existence of film in the future but to theorise a thought process.

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If you're shooting video you're shooting video, there's nothing wrong with that.

 

 

True, but "we" are made to feel that those who shoot video are somehow "less" capable camera operators and lighting "artists"(?) than anyone else who acquires images using filmstock. I was taught early in my career that a camera is just a box with a hole in it. Some boxes have more bells and whistles than others, but you still have to learn the parameters of any medium you're shooting in. Poor lighting and operating is still poor lighting and operating no matter what the image is being "saved" on. In fact, one could argue that you'd have to be a better cameraman when shooting video due to the reduced latitude and other limitations. The ability to work within tighter parameters forces one to think ahead and make specific technical decisions to serve the creative goal. Having virtually no limitations when shooting with filmstocks, comparitively speaking, opens up the classification of "cinematographer" to anyone with a camera and a pulse.

 

I think that the general "animosity"(?) toward video and it's users derives from the medium's historical beginnings as a tool of point-and-shoot newsgatherers. Absolutely, that still is a use of the tool today, but so was 16mm for a time. Do we consider the pre-video news photographers to be cinematographers if the definition specifically excludes Videographers? More relevant to today however, is that video technology has improved and the demands of quality have grown along with it. I'd be crucified if I ever "lit" anything by firing up a camera mounted sungun. Just like "cinematographers," I've had to light A-list Actors, green screens, large environments, day and night exteriors, as well as operate in a variety of situations, such as standing talent up and sitting them down, following footballs through the sky, holding dragsters in frame which are moving at 300mph, and almost anything else one can dream up.

 

Do I call myself a "cinematographer"? No. That title has always sounded pretentious to me, but that's just my opinion. I don't call myself a Director of Photography either unless I'm actually "directing" a crew who are helping me set up a shot. When it's just me and a sound guy, I consider myself a Videographer. If I'm a hired gun for B-camera, I put "Operator" on my invoice.

 

In the end, I think that whatever gets you paid more is what matters. :)

 

Another term that gets thrown around in this same vein is the word "Film" in reference to shooting something. "Yea, we are gonna film the next scene next week" or "hey, lets film that". Personally I try to use words in their strict sense but as a culture we often apply a word for a form of action as a description for that action itself all the time. We "Xerox" scripts or "FedEx" a package instead of "Copy" or "Ship". It happens, but I feel it leans to the unprofessional side.

 

I've devoted about two pages in my book to that very topic. "Film" has become the generic verb to describe any kind of image acquisition, which, to a newbie trying to find his way into the industry, could cause problems if he isn't made aware of the A) difference, and B) prejudice against video technology. Someone who doesn't really know the difference could begin on an entirely "wrong" career path by taking work which uses one camera instead of the other.

 

There is of course a technical difference between film and video, but perhaps an even bigger difference is the types of projects which use either. It's an important distinction that I find even those already in the business don't make.

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Hypothetically, in twenty years when film doesn?t exist any more, will people still wonder whether they are cinematographers?

If they're still shooting for cinema, they would still be cinematographers.

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If they're still shooting for cinema, they would still be cinematographers.

 

Well that wouldn't apply to someone like me who does commercials, but shoots mostly on film. While the commercials which I shoot don't end up in the cinema I would still call myself a cinematographer.

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True, but "we" are made to feel that those who shoot video are somehow "less" capable camera operators and lighting "artists"(?) than anyone else who acquires images using filmstock.

 

 

Though I agree that there are too many nonsensical distinctions between those that shoot video and film. I do believe that film gives me more artistic creativity. Not saying that I would never shoot digital but I'd be very selective of the type of project.

 

I'm not saying video can't create art, film is just my preference, like oil paint as opposed to acrylic

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A similar dichotomy exists with the term "music video".

 

If you shoot it on film, is it a "music film"?

Edited by Keneu

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I feel that the use of the word "Cinematographer" should be restricted to projects where the DOP has a significant creative input to the project at hand. I've worked with one ENG camera operator whose sense of framing, camera movement, etc. was exquisite, and I've known of a couple of self described Cinematographers who were camera operators, period.

 

I'm not sure about lighting, most people I would call Cinematographers certainly do realize their own lighting, but I hate that we snub a creative gaffer who can work with the barest of instructions and create a great look. We need a film/video credit equal to the theatrical world's Lighting Designer credit. When I do stage lighting, my credit in the production's program is in the same block on the page as the Director, Set Designer, Choreographer, etc. Stage has recognized since Jean Rosenthal's groundbreaking work that lighting IS a creative art.

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I personally feel that the term Cinematographer implies shooting motion picture film. Over the last 100 years we have built up these terms that were started in the context of film so it's hard to change gears and be accepting of a new format which is arguably inferior to the tried and true method. I was taught from the time I was a kid that "if it aint broke, dont fix it" but I think that's exactly how it is with this whole Film VS. Video debate. Video came in trying to oust film because it's cheaper (sometimes) and appeals to people's impatient nature. I'm sorry but there is no other way for me to look at video other than just being a cheap and easy fix. I see no artistic benefit of using video instead of film. I think that if video users want to be taken seriously, they need to discover their own culture just like film did. Don't copy film and steal all the meaningful terms and culture...create your own culture that makes it unique. First step is using Videographer instead of Cinematographer or perhaps create a new term for what you do.

 

I find it humorous that many video users say film is dying and obsolete but they are trying to imitate film. Why imitate something you claim is inferior? I could be wrong, but I don't think anyone who shoots film tries to imitate video. Film is more than a format, it's a culture...video lacks that fraternal structure.

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I think that if video users want to be taken seriously, they need to discover their own culture just like film did. Don't copy film and steal all the meaningful terms and culture...create your own culture that makes it unique. First step is using Videographer instead of Cinematographer or perhaps create a new term for what you do.

 

I honestly don't understand the first portion of your statement about being "taken seriously," as if anyone who picks up a video camera is just some kind of "hack" who is pretending to be Vittorio Storaro. Granted, there ARE some guys out there like that and even I :rolleyes: at them. But those guys exist in the narrative film world too. Seriously, we're not painting the Sistine Chapel here, but neither is the guy who is shooting a romantic comedy or a teen T&A flick on film.

 

That said, by your definition, guys like Dion Beebe, David Tattersall, Thomas Ackerman, Newton Thomas Sigel, and Bill Pope amongst others should have a Videographer credit on their movies instead of Director of Photography? I'm not suggesting that that would be wrong or right, though I'm sure that they'd have something to say about it. ;) I'm just trying to understand your reasoning.

 

Suffice it to say that there is an inherent "elitism" by those who use film over those who use video, most likely originating from video's first use as a fairly low-quality means of acquiring an "instant" image. Just as film has improved from a very primitive beginning though, electronic acquisition has also made great strides to the point where the general audience really couldn't tell the difference if you paid them to. (plus, most of them seriously don't give a sh**)

 

Anyway, as someone else mentioned above, "video" isn't inherently "inferior" to film. It's just different, like oil is to acrylic. Both have their own idiosyncrasies that one evaluates when choosing a format to create with. Preferring one format over another is one thing. Intentionally insulting the technology and those who use it is another.

 

As far as the "culture" aspect, I'm not sure I understand that either. Are you talking about what is shot with either format (film or video)? Referring back to the above, because we now have feature narratives being acquired with both, where is the line drawn? Music "videos" are shot with film. Sitcoms have been shot with both. News used to be shot with film and is now all video. Commercials are shot with both. Porn has been shot with both. So getting back to your statement about a film "culture," is a movie that is shot with real film allowed to claim ownership of that "culture" while one shot with the Genesis or the F900 not allowed in this club? Both require the same care given to lighting, set design, blocking, performance, camera operating, focus, etc. I'm not arguing with you that there are differences between film and video, I'm just hoping to comprehend the lines you're drawing in the sand. Thanks! :)

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Guest AshG

Here is my definition... a videographer uses a camera to capture an image, a cinematographer uses a camera to CONTROL an image. Anyone can point a camera and catch something, but it takes talent, experience and a natural gift to compose shots, have an eye for angles, lighting, etc.

 

If you think you have to shoot film to have these skills you are sorely mistaken. As mistaken as the guys who say film is dead and that the availabilty of HD cams will somehow swing open the gates of Hollywood.

 

 

 

ash =o)

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I think Cinematographer can only refer to those shooting for cinema (even stricter definition than those who say it applies to all film)

 

Director of Photography in my opinion applies anytime you spend great attention and time to each and every shot (it also means you have no room to say 'I didn't see that' or 'I couldn't control that') I think you also must be shooting from a script (or some concept, no live stuff) If you can turn off the overhead lights, place your own and block action, and call

 

Film I think has greatly expanded in its use (and this will be a persistent change, since I learned the word film before I ever held some stock)

 

Film can be used as a verb to describe any sort of motion picture camera. We're going to film tommorow. Lets film a few cut aways. I used to argue that since tape is actually a metal oxide film on a tape base, you could reasonably call it film (eh, not a great argument, thats why I don't make it these days) but I don't think that you can stand on antiquated jargon when the cultural lexicon has already embraced it as a proper use (that is to say, you can stand on tradition and elitism in your own feild, but those who use it as a verb to describe anything other than film won't listen to the rules)

 

plus, its engrained in my head. You can't change my speach patterns now! I would elaborate, but I gotta go film some breaking news!

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I think Cinematographer can only refer to those shooting for cinema (even stricter definition than those who say it applies to all film)

 

Yeah, I would agree with that. Not sure of all this talk about a fraternal brotherhood of film etc. etc.

 

Regardless of medium, if you are shooting for theater then you are a cinematographer.

 

The rest can call themself DP or Videographer of Photog if they really want too. One thing that kind of bugs me about this industry is everyone getting hung up on the titles. There is an elitism and pretension about it that rubs me the wrong way. Imagine some guitar player saying, "Excuse me, I'm not a guitar player, I'm a 'Fender Artist'." Gimme a break.

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Here is my definition... a videographer uses a camera to capture an image, a cinematographer uses a camera to CONTROL an image. Anyone can point a camera and catch something, but it takes talent, experience and a natural gift to compose shots, have an eye for angles, lighting, etc.

 

If you think you have to shoot film to have these skills you are sorely mistaken. As mistaken as the guys who say film is dead and that the availabilty of HD cams will somehow swing open the gates of Hollywood.

ash =o)

 

Hmm... I think I agree except for the very first statement which implies that anyone who uses a video camera is merely doing what I call "event coverage." Perhaps I'm misunderstanding though.

 

Here is my typical EPK day: "Event coverage" until mid-morning when I have to break off to light an interview. No, I don't use a sungun. I actually break out (generally) an ARRI 650w with Chimera for the key using a 3x solid to keep it off the background, an ARRI 300w for the backlight hung on a C-stand, plus whatever else I need to light and control my background (more 650s, 300s, or 1Ks with Cstands, solids, and nets). If I have to light a greenscreen, I pull out the 4' Kinos and I have to hang a 9' seamless off a specialty backdrop stand. How much of that "videographer" day sounds like I'm just "capturing" an image? And EPK is probably only about 20% of my year. The rest is filled with days of pure lighting and CONTROL over the frame.

 

Here's a consolidated example of some of the material I shot in West Virginia and Atlanta for We Are Marshall. Some of it is obviously uncontrolled event coverage. The interviews were mostly controlled. I qualify it that way because I am sometimes at the mercy of time and location limitations, but I am not merely shoving someone into the sun and "capturing" an image.

We Are Marshall

 

Does this make me a Videographer or a Cinematographer or a DP? As I mentioned, my title changes, often within the length of a single day. My stuff never goes to the cinema (big screen) as far as I know. Actually, come to think of it, that's not necessarily true either. I've shot EPK on a couple of films when I've been asked to shoot something for the movie itself using my lowly HD camera. Now what should I call myself? :blink:

 

I could just as easily pick up an Arri 2C and shoot event coverage. The tool shouldn't be the thing that defines who we are and how we are judged.

 

B)

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As far as the "culture" aspect, I'm not sure I understand that either. Are you talking about what is shot with either format (film or video)? Referring back to the above, because we now have feature narratives being acquired with both, where is the line drawn?

 

What I mean by culture is not what type of shooting you do. It is the fact that, in film, people would often break in and learn extensively from those whom did it before them, doing apprenticeships and such, and respect was given for those with experience and you did whatever you could to work around them and learn the unique film jargon.

 

Now with video (this isnt always the case, but moreso than not as I have seen) people get a camera and go out there and just go wild. They learn the hard way before they step back and ask for help. I haven't seen any apprenticeship type of thing going on and I haven't heard too much specific jargon that is unique to video. I actually heard on guy who said his video was "in the can." I thought it was humorous because there is no such can for video. I think that some stuff is negotible such as calling video movies "films" and such but where do we draw the line? Next do we start pointlessly slating video just to have film tradition? Do we use "in the can" to refer to the finished rough cut? Maybe we should refer to uploading DV footage as processing?

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Inherent beauty of this forum having great thoughts.

 

May be any formal organization ( not necessarily, a person can also do ) that be able to redefining all these terms from the above mentioned thoughts to cover each aspect from indie filmmaking, news coverage up to documentary and big budget narrative features including the tvcs, teledrama, music videos and many more. So one could use the term not mistakenly.

 

Also that due to the evolving digital technology, one should be aware of the new terms like DIT etc.

 

As I believe one must effort to produce beautiful and meaningful images or control images regardless of the format and its even more skillful job to get the good picture quality out of the lower resolution format.

 

Regards,

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Film created its own unique jargon because it was a new technology. Nothing like it had ever come before. For sure video is piggybacking on the traditions of film, but I think we have to accept the fact that some phrases and terms have entered the public lexicon and aren't always going to be used in the strictest sense.

 

For example, sometimes my girlfriend asks me if I took out the trash and I respond, "Baby, it's in the can!"

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What I mean by culture is not what type of shooting you do. It is the fact that, in film, people would often break in and learn extensively from those whom did it before them, doing apprenticeships and such, and respect was given for those with experience and you did whatever you could to work around them and learn the unique film jargon. Now with video (this isnt always the case, but moreso than not as I have seen) people get a camera and go out there and just go wild. They learn the hard way before they step back and ask for help.

 

I guess, but that isn't always the case. There are a few "big time" DPs out there who got there start by simply going out to do it. From the video end, I actually don't know ANY Videographers who just grabbed the camera. Most began as PAs or by doing sound with an established cameraman. I'm not quite sure where your generalization is coming from. I mean, yeah, with video, you can see what you're doing as you're doing it instead of having to wait a day to find out what your mistakes were, but that only serves to accelerate the learning curve. It doesn't mean there isn't one.

 

I haven't seen any apprenticeship type of thing going on and I haven't heard too much specific jargon that is unique to video. I actually heard on guy who said his video was "in the can." I thought it was humorous because there is no such can for video. I think that some stuff is negotible such as calling video movies "films" and such but where do we draw the line? Next do we start pointlessly slating video just to have film tradition? Do we use "in the can" to refer to the finished rough cut? Maybe we should refer to uploading DV footage as processing?

 

A few terms have been "borrowed" I guess, but I don't think it's rampant or anything. Certainly not with the goal of "pretending" that a video shoot is really Gone with the Wind. :D An "in the can" kind of comment (which I have never heard on a video shoot in the last 18 years) is most likely much like saying that "we're filming" which is just a function of being lazy with the language. The message gets across in the quickest way possible regardless of it being technically accurate. Aside from being maybe annoying because it isn't really what's happening, I'm not sure why it's that big of a deal.

 

There is one "term" that I haven't figured out a decent alternative to. When we shoot Time of Day timecode, it is imperative to wait ten seconds before anything happens. The machines in post need that preroll time to get up to proper speed before finding the edit point. Anyway, when I roll, I and others usually use the term "Speed" when we hit that ten second mark. It's not really accurate as the tape has been at speed almost immediately, but Actors and Directors are used to the word "Speed" to indicate that camera and sound are ready to go. I don't like saying it that way, but it gets the message across. I guess that's the point of using known language. If it gets the job done, why fix it?

 

Oh, and as far as slating goes, for the most part, no, we haven't slated video just for the sake of doing it. It has been done on occasion for very good reasons. The major advantage is as a safety if we are rolling multiple cameras and a multitrack sound recorder. The timecode SHOULD be accurate but for a variety of reasons, sometimes it isn't. Add to that the addition of a smaller HDV type camera that doesn't have TC in capability (to match the Freerun on the larger cameras) and the need for a slate of some kind becomes necessary. Other than that, depending upon the nature of the project, having a visual reference for the Editor to see as he's sitting at the AVID helps to speed up the post process.

 

The point is, I feel as if you're suggesting that video shooters just do film things arbitrarily to pretend that they are real filmmakers. In my experience, that hasn't been the case at all. There simply isn't time for that kind of nonsense. Besides, there is very little patience (in my circle at least) for that kind of pretentiousness. Honestly, those kind of people don't get called back. We do what we were hired to do as efficiently and professionally as possible while being genuinely pleasant to work with. That's what matters. :)

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"I could just as easily pick up an Arri 2C and shoot event coverage. The tool shouldn't be the thing that defines who we are and how we are judged. "

 

Really?

 

Are you going to pay for the film stock, processing, and transfer?

 

If not, good luck finding a client that will.

 

Things like event coverage and EPK are the realm of the videographer. Not even the biggest studios will pay to have the EPK for their film actually shot on film. I've seen a bazzilion EPKs and they where all Beta SP.

 

The tool does define us. When I use my underwater video system I can't call myself a cinematographer any more. When I use my BL2, then I'm a cinematographer again.

 

I'm surprised no one has made this argument yet: If a 14 year old uses a Super 8 camera is he a cinematographer? vs a 40 year old using a HD camera on a 100 million dollar movie.

 

I still vote for the 14 year old with his Super 8 camera :D

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