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Blog Assignment > Visions of Light

Screen the documentary Visions of Light (1992).

Short Blog Reflection on Visions of Light
In your blog reflection, note the art of cinematography and the role of the "DP" (the director of photography) in crafting a film. Note three films (title of film, director, director of photography) from three different eras in cinema history. What are some of the distinct visual qualities of lighting and camerawork in these films? Note a specific lighting technique or aesthetic choice you would like to try in your own video work.

POST TO BLOG by THURSDAY FEB 7. (~ 150 words)


Siskel & Ebert review of Visions of Light documentary about the art of cinematography

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Visions of Light
In cinematography, the role of the DP (director of photography) in crafting a film is to tell people where to look and to add to the material that already exists and helps to elaborate on the character created by the director.

Film One:
Title: Wizard of Oz (1939)
Director: Victor Fleming
Director of Photography: Harold Rosson
Light and Camera Work: Filmed at a time when color was being introduced. Filmed in Technicolor.

Film Two:
Title: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Director: Roman Polanski
Director of Photography: William A. Fraker
Light and Camera Work: Soft colors and lighting, somewhat bright lighting. Long shots.

Film Three:
Title: Taxi Driver (1976)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Director of Photography: Michael Chapman
Light and Camera Work: Panning shots. Moving shots.

One filming technique I may try in my work is to do some hand held shooting. Also, maybe film in black and white with faces having more light on them like they used to do in old films.

Visions of Light.

The role of the dp is to tell people where to look, to tell story, determine lighting and to add to the material that already exists.

First film:
Title: The Crowd (1928)
Director: King Vidor
Director of Photography: Henry Sharp
light and camera work: The camera was free and fast, shot in black and white.

Second film:
Title: Gone with the Wind (1939)
Director: Victor Fleming
Director of Photography: Ernest Haller
light and camera work: They used a crane to get all of the bodies laying on the ground for one scene, very fast camera as well.

Third film:
Title:The Godfather (1972)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Director of photography: Gordon Willis
light and camera work: Overhead lighting to darken the eyes, creating a mysterious character.

One technique I would like to try is different lighting, like overhead or very little lighting to create dramatic effects. I also want to experiment with different different camera angles and panning.

The role of the Director of photography (aka cinematographer) is to lead the lighting and camera crews and make important decisions regarding artistic aspects of a film.

Title: Desire (1936)
Director: Frank Borzage
Director of Photography: Charles Lang, Victor Milner
Some of the distinct visual qualities of lighting and camerawork are purposeful overexposed lighting to emphasize day over night.

Title: The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Director: Orson Welles
Director of Photography: Stanley Cortez
Some of the distinct visual qualities of lighting and camerawork are Handheld camerawork.

Title: Chinatown (1974)
Director: Roman Polanski
Director of Photography: John A. Alonzo
Some of the distinct visual qualities of lighting and camerawork are close up shots and hand held camerawork.

Some specific lighting techniques or aesthetic choices I would like to try in my video work would be things like using really deliberate lighting, and using hand held and/or motion shots moving the camera on a boom or tripod.

The role of the Director of Photography, or the DP is to set up aesthetically pleasing shots that add to the creativity and mood of the film.

Film One:
Title: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Director of Photography: Sol Polito
Light and Camera Work: romanticized soft lighting that is pleasing to the eye.

Film Two:
Title: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Director: Roman Polanski
Director of Photography: William A. Fraker
Light and Camera Work: not giving us all the information: not showing us the lady talking on the phone, another scene the mother looked at the baby and screamed, and we only see the mother’s reaction from a low camera angle.

Film Three:
Title: Taxi Driver (1976)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Director of Photography: Michael Chapman
Light and Camera Work: Using bird’s eye view, and panning with an arm and a gun in hand.

As for a lighting technique that I would like to try in my own video work, it would be film noir. The slashing of bright lights, and dark darks is something that would be very fun to try.

Title: Sunrise (1927)
Director: F. W. Marnau
Director of Photography: Karl Struss and Charles Rosher
They spoke about how the cinemaphotgraphy was so well done that it could have been played without a script

The role of the director of photography is to determine the best overall artistic quality of each shot used in the film, whether is be a certain lighting, reflection of lighting, absence of lighting, and construction of each individual shot at certain times of day they take on the job of turning raw film into artistic work.

Title: Camille (1936)
Director: George Cukor
Director of Photography: John Daniels
Significant lighting effects done with natural lights and black and white color

Title: How Green Was My Valley (1939)
Director: John Ford
Director of Photography: Arthur Miller
Received rewards for best black and white cinematography, Would like to use some of the techniques Miller uses because he was said to be the best in the industry

Cinematography is the art of motion picture photography. The job of the director of photography is to work with the distinct visual qualities of lighting and camera work. The film As You Desire Me, directed by George Fitzmaurice, was made in 1932. William H. Daniels was the director of photography for the film. This film used natural lighting such as candles as a prominent force in setting the mood. The movie used a lot of close up shots. Orson Welles directed Citizen Kane, 1941, and director of photography for the film was Gregg Toland. In the film, Toland used natural light pouring in from a tall window in one of the scenes. He is known for his depth of fields and shadows he captures in his shots. In this film, there is a scene where he zooms out from the window showing a boy playing in the snow. As the zooming out continues, you noticed the people inside the house, all the while as you see the boy outside. Sidney Lumet directed Dog Day Afternoon, 1975, and director of photography for the film was Victor J. Kemper. This film captivated viewers by the documentary-style filming. It made it seem like it was happening right then and had the point of view from everyone. There are quick shots to show the chaotic nature of the storyline. It would be interesting to try and use candlelight as a prominent lighting source for a film. I would also like to try and use a window as a framing device like in Citizen Kane.

Visions of Light
Director of Photography: Has the role of lighting, framing, selecting film stock, along with decisions of where to move the camera.

Title: Possessed (1931)
Director: Clarence Brown
Cinematographer: Oliver T. Marsh
Light and Camera Work: Scene where train passes by and viewer is able to look into each cart

Title: Red Dust (1932)
Director: Victor Fleming
Cinematographer: Harold Rosson, Arthur Edeson
Light and Camera Work: Did not care what type of rain or shine the actor/actress was going through, they needed to look beautiful at all times. Over lighting from above would make a woman glow beautifully with wispy hair and sparkling eyes.

Title: The Long Voyage Home (1940)
Director: John Ford
Cinematographer: Gregg Toland
Light and Camera Work: Worked with depth of field and high contrast light with large shadows.

I loved the colors in Mystery of the Wax Museum. The two color process gives a very subtle and beautiful look using just red and green. I would love to experiment shooting in this way if ever the chance.

The Cinematographer's role is to look and understand stories they are trying to tell. Cinematography is a language more complex than words. During the black and white era, cinematographers had to know photography. They used shadows to create different moods in a scene. Silhouettes. No matter what the cinematographer does he or she should always be conscious about the fact that the actors should always look good. In the movie desire the main girl was lit extra bright so that she could stand out in the scenes especially when she was in a dark room. Also what ever the character is a the situation is the cinematographer should fit the mood. In Mildred Pierce when she catches a man with her daughter she is first in the shadows than she comes out of the shadow as she walks closer than back in the shadow. Than the camera cuts to the man and woman kissing in a silhouette. When they realize they get caught they come out of the darkness and the audience sees who it is. The Godfather he was purposely shot with a light right over his head so that his eyes were not seen. To show how the Godfather is unpredictable and is always scheming. Deceptive.

Visions of Light
In cinematography, the role of the DP (director of photography) guide the viewer through the space and story and provide all of the information necessary to understand the story.
Film One:
Title: In Cold Blood (1967)
Director: Richard Brooks
Director of Photography: Conrad Hall
Light and Camera Work: Light is high contrast and only present where absolutely necessary.
Film Two:
Title: The Graduate (1967)
Director: Mike Nichols
Director of Photography: Robert Surtees
Light and Camera Work: Camera work includes many interesting angles. Light looks to be natural environment light.
Film Three:
Title: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Director of Photography: Karl Struss
Light and Camera Work: Panning, very consistent, with switches in focus. Lighting is very purposeful, seems to follow the main character.
One filming technique I would like to try is a high contrast edgy style like film noir. I think this would be fun to work with and that it would challenge me to think more about lighting and what is necessary to be included in each shot.

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