I have dedicated this post to make my readers understand exactly, what are the essential principles that expert cinematographers follow to deliver state of the art moving imagery? How these elements evoke audience emotions? What are the core elements of cinematography that every newbie and veteran should have on their finger tips? Below I have mentioned these secret ingredients for you to understand & master yourselves, in the simplest form, so let’s get started :-
Subject is described as, object or person of principle interest in a photograph or a video clip, for which the photograph or video is captured for. It is the subject, a cinematographer (or photographer) intends to captures in first place.
Foreground in a given frame is described as object or person closer to camera then the subject or the object or person between the camera and the Subject.
Background is that element of a frame, which lies behind the Subject. It is farthest from the camera.
Let us have a look at few examples:
There will be frames where foreground and even background is missing; your foremost concern should be to identify your subject and SEPARATE IT from Foreground and Background elements. More SEPARATION more visual cue for the audiences to force their point of interest on the Subject.
It is the light reflecting from objects which allows human eye or a camera to form an image. Imagine yourself sitting in a dark room with no trace of lighting, would you be able to see anything?
Light not only equips us with the power of vision but its direction intensity and color EVOKES sense of Emotion.
HARD LIGHT (light which forms sharp edged shadows) is used for INTENSIFYING emotions of DARK nature like anger, depression, anxiousness, fear and horror etc.
Whereas SOFT LIGHTING (light which forms more diffused shadows) is used for portraying beauty, love, affection, happiness and other such positive emotions.
Frontal lighting – If the light source is directed to front of the subject, it is called frontal lighting or flat lighting. It is basically used for magazine covers and home videos. Frontal light puts the emphasis on central feature of face (if subject is a person). Moreover frontal light is EMOTIONALLY more NEUTRAL lighting method.
Side lighting – if light source is directed to sides of the subject it produces some dramatic emotions, that are great for portraits They also help in escalating the intensity of the emotions. It reveals form and features of subject.
Lighting from above and below the subject cause shadows, which are mostly used to accentuate emotions and to demarcate the features of subject. Light from below also produces hard shadows utilized by horror film cinematographers.
A backlight is light coming from a source placed behind the subject it gives for surreal feeling or larger than life feeling.
Direction of lighting and its emotional perspective is essential to learn topic.
3 Point lighting system: It is the most classic lighting setup used, consisting of- a key light (main light), a fill light (secondary to main light) and a backlight or hair light (placed behind subject to demarcate edge of hair and or whole body –silhouette).
KEYLIGHT and Fill lights are generally placed at sides of the subject, a lighting director can alter the angles or height of lights but more or less the direction of lighting is sideways. The ratio between intensities of Key light to Fill light is called the LIGHTING RATIO. If the lighting ratio is high, the lighting system is called HIGH KEY LIGHTING (of course it suggests higher intensity of key light). If the lighting ratio is low it is termed as LOW KEY LIGHTING (suggesting lower intensity of key light).
It is the zone or range of distance in full focus (sharp). If field of vision spans from fore ground to background Depth of field is the range of distance where objects appear clear and sharp. Telephoto Camera lenses have shallow depth of field blurring foreground and background and concentrating entirely on Subject (increases the sense of separation). Whereas, the wide angle lenses provide deeper depth of field allowing foreground and background also to be IN FOCUS along with the subject.
Exposure means amount of light entering camera, which in turn constitutes luminescence value of the corresponding photograph or video clip. Higher exposure results in higher luminescence of photography but it may (depending upon the lighting condition) result in clipping details of image or video, this phenomenon is called Overexposure. It must be avoided in all conditions. Similarly Underexposure (lower exposure valve) can drastically reduce lighting in the scene or image.
RULE OF THIRDS
It is the classical PRINCIPLE for COMPOSING a frame for photograph or film. It consists of 2 straight lines vertical (equidistance to each other) and 2 straight lines horizontal (equidistance to each other) dividing the frame into 9 equal parts. Much better COMPOSITION can be attained simply by placing FOREGROUND, SUBJECT, and BACKGROUND on or around the intersecting points (between horizontal and vertical lines).
How to use lines: GOOD COMPOSITION PRACTICES
Good compositions require use of Straight lines. Horizontal & Vertical lines are used for generating sense of stability and peace. Where as diagonal lines direct viewer eyes towards there convergence. Diagonal CONVERGING LINES produce tension and agitation.
MUST-KNOW CAMERA ANGLE AND EMOTIONS
EYE LEVEL- Camera positioned at eye level or level of subject- audience feel absence of camera making them part of scene or shot.
LOW ANGLE- Camera positioned below eye level of subject- audience get the feeling of subject being larger, bigger, and powerful.
HIGH ANGLE- Camera positioned above eye level of subject- audience take a much higher position giving them the feeling of a vulnerable more smaller subject they might feel pity for the subject.
Bird’s Eye View- Camera positioned perpendicular to subject – used for aerial cinematography and for landscapes and city lines.
Point OF view- Camera positioned acting as the eye of the subject CAMERA moves as the subject moves to explore the world of character (subject). Audience sees the world with subject’s eyes.
Moving camera can create emotions. When a camera moves it has to move in relation to someone or something to communicate the emotion of the story. Let us have a look at core camera movement and the emotions they evoke:
PAN AND SWISH PANS
A camera Pan movement is nothing but camera placed on a tripod is rotated right or rotated left in a horizontal pan. This type of camera movement is used for establishing the scene or revealing something. Rapid movement from one side to another is termed as Swish Pans used for transition from one shot to another & for producing sense of rapid motion, tension.
Dolly moves are of three types –
Tracking in (towards the subject)- Creates a bit of tension and a sense of intimacy with the subject .
Tracking out (from the subject)- Moving away from a subject feels like the character is abandoned or lonely. Sense of empathy generates inside audience mind for the character.
Tracking right to left (from one subject to another)-Can be used to UNDERLINE change of emotions between the characters.
Round dolly (around the subject) – Can be used for exploring the environment surrounding the subject it also makes audience feel the silence before the storm situation.
ZOOM IN –OUT – to elevate expressions of actor with a touch of suspense and something is coming to catch you up feeling.
Hand Held Camera movement feels a bit shaky and unsattleling, but makes environment feel more strange and dangerous.
HITCHCOCK EFFECT – This effect was often used by Hitchcock in his age of cinema and one still feels its brilliance. It is combination of dolly movement and zoom,Tracking in with zooming out of subject, Tracking out with zoom in to the subject. This way the subject remains the same sized, while the background increases or decreases in size resulting into overwhelming emotion of world crashing on them.
This post is quiet verbose in nature, but I wanted it to be like this. Me and my team had to go through several books to bring this post to life. I hope, my readers would have enjoyed and learned from it. Let me know your suggestions and discussions in the comment window below.