Magazine article American Cinematographer

Opening Notes

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Opening Notes

Article excerpt

This second installment of our Authoring Images series focuses on the principal photography phase of production and continues our exploration of how the creative collaboration between director, cinematographer and production designer is being impacted by new digital imaging technologies. Following the previz planning in preproduction that was the focus of our first installment, we turn our focus to how the creative process functions during the shooting phase. The ongoing dialogue between the ASC and ADG technology committees continues to inspire our joint effort and reinforce our resolve to address the key issues impacting the filmmaking process.

The ASC Technology Committee is seeing tangible results from the concerted effort it has made over the last four years. The ASC-CDL (color decision list) is about to be published in its first-version official release. It has won the endorsement of all major vendors that manufacture editorial systems and color-corrector products and applications. And most digital camera manufacturers consider it the best way to exchange primary RGB color-grading decisions between different color-grading systems, editorial platforms and other digital post finishing processes. The success of our initiative is gaining industry recognition for its integration of cross-platform photographic look-management control into all phases of the production workflow.

One fascinating aspect of the roundtable discussion in this issue explores the importance of maintaining a balance between planning shots using previz while accommodating the organic process of discovery that allows for those "happy accidents." Of course, the director's balancing of these two contradictory approaches will depend on the subject matter of the film, and the narrative and visual styles used to tell the story. The inclusion of CGI - increasingly the norm - necessitates the use of previz planning to efficiently manage the filmmaking process to better achieve the desired results while controlling the production and postproduction costs.

With the increasing use of CG set extensions and complete CG sets, along with motion capture for adding partial CG "extensions" to actors portraying (human) characters or for the creation of completely animated characters, actors and directors are being required to learn new skills and techniques that enable them to achieve and maintain consistency in their performances. The integration of these increasingly complex technologies into the filmmaking process poses new challenges for the cinematographer, requiring a more sophisticated collaboration with both the production designer and visual-effects supervisor in creating a film's look.

In the upcoming third installment of this series, we will consider the way CGI and visual-effects are transforming the production workflow. The traditional "creative triangle" consisting of director, cinematographer and production designer will be expanded to include the visual effects supervisor. Although our focus will be on the post phases of the workflow, where live-action images are combined with CGI and other VFX images, we will also take a look at the way preproduction planning affects the execution of post finishing, which, after all, must work with the results it inherits from principal photography.

Lastly, I'd like to reiterate that the intent of this series is to provide insight into new workflow practices that are being incorporated into production and post, with, we hope, the result of fostering robust creative collaboration between cinematographers, production designers and directors. …

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