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Sean Elder

Cinematographer Vs DP

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OK, maybe I've watched "Cinematographer Style" far too many times, or I've romanticized over Vittorio Storaro's interview. I've noticed a few things about the Cinematographers/DP's that have come by to assist in the prep for their shoots at my place of employment. I've heard a lot of local guys call themselves DP's; seldom the case for out of town guys/gals. The guys from out of town (ranging from LA to Sweden, and around the world) call themselves Cinematographers; very few local guys give themselves that title. So my question is am I confused in my thought process when I consider a DP-Director of Photography, the person that deals with photographic images rather than a Cinematographer-the person who deals with motion and other elements of photography, but not photography in totality? I understand that these are just terms, but I have yet to come across a union or honorary group with DP anywhere in it's title. I am sure the pay scale would be different as well. I have been a videographer for small projects at times, and have been asked whether I should bill myself as Cinematographer as my job position versus DP: So here are my questions:

 

1.)Is there in fact an EXACT distinction between the title Cinematographer and DP?

 

2.)Is there some sort of artistic difference between the two IE: one shoots episodics and broadcast, while the other shoot movies (like mega budget-med budget films)?

 

I know i have more questions, but they escape me at the moment.

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OK, maybe I've watched "Cinematographer Style" far too many times, or I've romanticized over Vittorio Storaro's interview. I've noticed a few things about the Cinematographers/DP's that have come by to assist in the prep for their shoots at my place of employment. I've heard a lot of local guys call themselves DP's; seldom the case for out of town guys/gals. The guys from out of town (ranging from LA to Sweden, and around the world) call themselves Cinematographers; very few local guys give themselves that title. So my question is am I confused in my thought process when I consider a DP-Director of Photography, the person that deals with photographic images rather than a Cinematographer-the person who deals with motion and other elements of photography, but not photography in totality? I understand that these are just terms, but I have yet to come across a union or honorary group with DP anywhere in it's title. I am sure the pay scale would be different as well. I have been a videographer for small projects at times, and have been asked whether I should bill myself as Cinematographer as my job position versus DP: So here are my questions:

 

1.)Is there in fact an EXACT distinction between the title Cinematographer and DP?

 

2.)Is there some sort of artistic difference between the two IE: one shoots episodics and broadcast, while the other shoot movies (like mega budget-med budget films)?

 

I know i have more questions, but they escape me at the moment.

 

 

The two are interchangeable. No difference at all. The Cinematographer (or Director of Photography) may also be referred to as The Cameraman as well.

 

G

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The two are interchangeable. No difference at all. The Cinematographer (or Director of Photography) may also be referred to as The Cameraman as well.

 

G

 

Another term used to be lighting cameraman.

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The two are interchangeable. No difference at all. The Cinematographer (or Director of Photography) may also be referred to as The Cameraman as well.

 

G

 

I have a feeling someone like Storaro might disagree with you. Especially since his credit is listed as "Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro" on the films he has lensed.

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I'd say they are totally interchangeable and credit is based on personal preference. All respect to Mr Storaro, but I don't see the difference.

However, I will say for myself, I prefer Director of Photography. I don't feel cinematographer is something I can call myself until I've attained a certain level in my career-- probably lensing something which receives a wide theatrical release, and/or ever getting into the ASC. And, while both are unlikely, they are ultimate goals (and/or just to make something people enjoy). @ which point I personally believe I should be called a cinematographer.

That being said, the two terms (and Lighting Cameraman) are interchangeable.

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I'd say they are totally interchangeable and credit is based on personal preference. All respect to Mr Storaro, but I don't see the difference.

However, I will say for myself, I prefer Director of Photography. I don't feel cinematographer is something I can call myself until I've attained a certain level in my career-- probably lensing something which receives a wide theatrical release, and/or ever getting into the ASC. And, while both are unlikely, they are ultimate goals (and/or just to make something people enjoy). @ which point I personally believe I should be called a cinematographer.

That being said, the two terms (and Lighting Cameraman) are interchangeable.

 

Adrian, I happen to agree with you. But I think there is a perception out there that the term "cinematographer" is synonymous with "artist."

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To me Cinematography is shooting content that goes to the cinema. DP is everything. That being said, what it really boils down to is that you call yourself a Cinematographer to impress the ladies and DP to impress the men. They are pretty much interchangeable. It all means the same. I think the DP was a union term.

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Generally the ladies I'd be talking to can't pronounce cinematographer...... And I find "DP" has a few other meanings to the men.... :ph34r:

 

LOL

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Generally the ladies I'd be talking to can't pronounce cinematographer...... And I find "DP" has a few other meanings to the men.... :ph34r:

 

That's what impresses them.

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Adrian, I happen to agree with you. But I think there is a perception out there that the term "cinematographer" is synonymous with "artist."

 

 

We left out that many other countries refer to The Cameraman as "DOP". That's my least favorite. I don't know why but I just don't like calling my employer a dope! :) in the end, all of these titles say artist.

 

G

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Generally the ladies I'd be talking to can't pronounce cinematographer...... And I find "DP" has a few other meanings to the men.... :ph34r:

 

When I was in LA, DP was the principle term with an occasional cameraman.

I found this funny, since where I was raised a DP was a displaced person.

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For me, Cinematographer describes what I do, much like Photographer or Cartographer. Director of Photography is a job title.

 

I like this one the best, although I still feel like a cinematographer is a much more important sounding word and you have to be deserving of it. And I hear too many people calling themselves that who are just pointing a camera at things with no thought behind it.

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^^ 100% agree Travis. I don't think we should call ourselves cinematographers, but rather leave it up to others to give up that title, when we earn it.

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^^ 100% agree Travis. I don't think we should call ourselves cinematographers, but rather leave it up to others to give up that title, when we earn it.

 

haha, right after I posted that, I saw someone else somewhere say "here's something from a great cinematographer" and it just doesn't sound right. Every photographer I know who has a DSLR is now a cinematographer. It's a giant buzzword in the wedding videography business. And I admit, I do weddings on the side too, and I haven't found a word I'm happy using.

 

Especially when you see (i know I know...) wikipedia saying "art and science". Which makes sense.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinematographer

 

I wonder if Mozart, Monet, etc.. called them selves artists (maybe there's documentation that they did, just don't feel like looking it up).

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Here are my impressions

 

Cinematographer is definitely someone that works for a Cinema release. Someone who composes, moves the camera and shoots for a giant screen.

 

Director of Photography is originally an American term. It has now become a catch-all term but generally it is someone who does have a team. So you really need to have a gaffer, focus puller, key grip etc to be a "director" of photography otherwise there is nothing to direct. A cinematographer on the other hand can just have a billingham and an Arri 2C, load his own film and make his own coffee... so long as its intended for the big screen.

 

In the UK it was Lighting-Cameraman until the 80's. Callsheets for some production companies for big commercials still use the term. Personally I like the term "Cameraman" .. pure and simple. Those old Jack Cardiff films it was just Cameraman. I like that.

 

In the end... it doesn't matter how good you are or what you call yourself but who your clients are. The sad truth of life.

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I think it was Storaro himself said that the reason he called himself Cinematographer was that he believed there was only one Director on a shoot.

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I've always suspected it comes from the old American studio system where the director was undermined as much as possible. The producer made the big decisions and split power out as much as possible so anyone could get fired and replaced.

 

I have heard its still the case in the US for TV series?

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This is exactly the reason for my question. I've always thought that the term, title, etc. of Cinematographer was earned though working on jobs that ended with either small or large theatrical release. Also my impression that the term Cameraman was earned through many years of the same, small or large theatrical release. Seeing that most of the Cinematographers and Cameramen/women I break out a pen and pad for are in their 40's 50's and 60's maybe even older (my apologies if I ) that was my impression. Not discrediting anyone who is my age or more mature and reveres themselves as a DP. I often times use the term myself. I am asking for clarification so that when I can trade in my desk job for on-set jobs I can have the correct understanding.

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Well the word Cinematographer is related to the word Photographer, and a Photographer can be anyone who photographs weddings or world famous celebrities for expensive fashion shoots, so lets not get snobbish about the word Cinematographer. A Cinematographer creates moving-images through the control of light and craft - simple.

 

Director of Photography, is very grand by comparison, and to the general public is quite confusing - they tend to always go 'oh a film director...'

 

Then you could always go with abbreviations, DOP, DP, but why would to refer to yourself as an abbreviation, especially one which has a pornographic meaning. Once on a recce at a pub, a director referred to me to the landlord as his 'DP' - I got a bit of a strange look!

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The funny thing, at least to me, is that the one cinematographer who is very verbal in his dislike of the title "director of photography" is Vittorio Storaro. I must say I understand and share his position on the subject (though it doesn't really matter, me being absolutely no one) and if I had to choose, I'd still pick "cinematographer" over "Director of Photography" (just a personal preference, I guess), but ironically in Italian there's no exact translation for "cinematographer". Storaro suggests to use a word that is not even used anymore (Cinematografo), but that literally means "movie theater". So now there's some kind of compromise and someone calls himself "autore della fotografia cinematografica" ("Author of Cinematic Photography"). Even more ironically, in Italy there's a preference in choosing DoP instead of DP. Too bad, since DOP is a EU label for certain kind of very famous local food products (Denominazione di Origine Protetta), some sort of trademark.

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I agree with Rob. Storaro said many times that there is only one Director on the set, so why would there be a "director" of photography? Why not a "director of sound" as well? I think the term DP ( or Director of Photography ) is much widespread, but Cinematographer is the one that really encompasses all the things that he/she as a professional artist does on a film. I don't think it has anything to do with the film itself, be it a feature, a short, a doc, or a music video. The job is the same.

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DoP is an a American term that has spread across the Atlantic . Now a days American cameramen /women prefer the term Cinematographer as i do ,and many others .

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