What does Cinematography Mean?

What is Cinematography?

Cinematography means the art of capturing, recording and projecting moving images onto a screen, in an orderly and coherent manner. The word comes from the Greek kínēma, which means ‘movement’ and gráphein, which means ‘to record or write’.

Cinematography was developed thanks to the invention of the cinematograph, an artifact patented by brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière, capable of recording a sequence of frames on 35mm film and quickly projecting them onto a screen to produce the illusion of movement.

The cinematographer was presented by the Lumière brothers at the first public screening of a film record, on December 28, 1895. On that occasion, the Lumière brothers exhibited a scene documenting the departure of the workers from a factory.

Although cinematography was initially used for documentary purposes, its possibilities to reproduce fictional discourses were very soon explored, which eventually gave rise to cinema as we know it today.

In its broadest sense, cinematography strictly refers to the recording of moving images by means of a cinematograph. However, the term is widely used to refer to the seventh art.

Indeed, in the 1920s, film critic Ricciotto Canudo coined the term “seventh art” to fiction cinematography, which was then undergoing a fascinating development. Hence, Canudo considered it as a “painting in motion”.

Features of cinematography

  • The creation process requires specialized technology, which makes it an industrial invoice product;
  • Its production, therefore, requires teamwork;
  • It is closely linked with photography, heir, in turn, to the plastic values ​​of Western painting (composition of the plane, use of perspective, study of lighting, etc.);
  • Motion recording and audio integration allows you to develop the likelihood principle to its ultimate consequences;
  • It also integrates elements from other arts, such as literature (types of narration), theater (costumes, set design, stage performance), sound and music;
  • It has developed its own language that distinguishes it from other visual arts, based on the montage

Elements of cinematographic language

Among the elements that characterize the specificity of cinematographic language we can mention the following:

  • Frame: refers to the delimitation of the box. The frame determines what should be inside or outside the “frame”. Each frame starts from an angle.
  • Angle: An angle of a frame can be:
    • Normal: The camera is placed in front of the object.
    • Chopped: The camera is positioned above the object.
    • Low angle shot: the camera is placed at the feet of the object.
    • Aerial: the camera, totally perpendicular to the ground, offers an aerial shot of the object.
  • Plane: it is the basic unit of cinematographic language. It can be of several types. Namely:
    • Wide shot (GPG)
    • General plan (PG)
    • Long median plane (PML)
    • Short Medium Plane (PMC)
    • American Plane (PA)
    • Close-up (PP)
    • Extreme close-up (PPP)
    • Detail plane (PD)
  • Camera shake: Refers to the types of camera shake during filming. They may be:
    • Physical movements:
      • Panoramic: the camera rotates on the horizontal or vertical axis.
      • Tracking: the camera moves off its axis.
      • Rotation: the camera rotates a few degrees on its axis, to the right or left.
    • Optical movements:
      • Zoom: Using the camera lens, objects in the plane are zoomed in or out without moving.
      • Focus: the camera lens allows you to alternate the focus of the same plane.
    • Editing: montage means the combination of the different shots taken in a film, the concatenation of which (always in the editing process) allows the construction of a scene and the formation of a point of view and a discourse. This is the most characteristic element of cinematographic language.
    • Lighting.
    • Tone and color.

Types of cinematography

When we talk about types of cinematography, we refer to film genres. This can be classified according to different criteria, such as theme, style, recipient, or format. However, as a speech, cinematography can be classified into the following basic types:

  • Documentary film:
    • Biographical
    • Historical
  • Fiction:
    • Comedy
    • Drama
    • Musical
    • Melodrama
    • Terror
    • Suspense or thriller.
    • Science fiction
    • Animation
    • Adventure

What is Cinematography