Sculpting with Light and Shadows: The Art of Cinematography

Cinematography is the art of recording film or video.  It involves camera choices, lens choice, blocking shot type, angle, and lighting.  Most notable, it’s the act of taking and manipulating light to reflect the tone and look the cinematography is aiming for.

Anyone can turn a light on and point it at the subject, but it takes a true master to light a scene that moves people.  


Importance of the Art

When watching The Godfather, master cinematographer Gordon Willis took several chances that turned the story of a gangster drama into a thrilling feat.  Starting from the beginning scene, the contrast of a sunny wedding transitioned into a dark and ominous scene, reminiscent of the romance and grit of the early New York forties.

At that time, Marlon Brando wore prosthetics for his scene to make him look much older. So to emphasize Brando’s dark elegance and power, Willis shot the segment by keeping an overhead soft light. Without accentuating the character’s eyes, Willis was able to create a scene which played with your head. Because you couldn’t see their eyes, you couldn’t figure what was going on in the character’s head.

This touch of a dark look worked metaphorically around the subject, in this case Brando’s character. It emphasized his darkness and makes him more intimidating, while compelling you to respect him. This small act brought the character’s development to another level.

That is what true understanding of lighting and shadows in cinematography can achieve.


The Effect of Cinematography

Often, the art of cinematic beauty is taken for granted. Some no longer value the beauty of artistic imagery, rather they focus on the fast-paced theme of the story the film entails (think superhero movies). Nevertheless, we are still able to absorb the atmosphere without even realizing it.

You see, it is through cinematography that we are able to get a feel of the scene, which direction it is heading and how we should feel about the impending development. It is why we are able to experience an otherworldly feel when watching a Wes Anderson film. It is why we feel involved in any film that is directed with a Jane Austen story to lead it. The cinematography is detailed in such a manner that we are forced to mold our opinion according to what the surroundings tell us, even in a metaphorical sense.

For example, in the finale scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly is a socialite, who dreams of moving amongst the rich and famous, but is not able to value her life above much else. In the climax scene, her character shares a kiss with Paul Varjak. But despite the romanticism of the scene, she is surrounded by trash and was before seen searching for her cat that was named Cat.


Sculpting the Art

Even though we’ve been using feature films as examples of cinematography, corporate video also uses the craft, and commercial cinematographers think about scenes for promotional video in the same way movie DP’s do.

With the help of a professional video production company, you can add such professional touches to all styles of sales videos, from case study videos to event videos.

All you need is your own creativity and a resourceful team of professionals working to turn your inspiration into art! 336 Productions in Orange County specializes in a comprehensive range of videos, from pre to post-production. If you want their help, check out their work with these clients and contact them for an ultimate video making experience!

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