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The Art Of The DP Back to Reports & survey Listing

Adam Suschitzky
Silent Witness, Outcasts, Upstairs Downstairs, The Deep, Hustle



Like all art, cinematography is prone to trends. Historically these trends have been heavily influenced by technology. We’ve been influenced by advancements in cameras, film stock sensitivity, lens technology, lighting tools, and of course the DI suite. When film stocks were 100 ASA or less, not so very long ago, cinematographers tended towards hard light, partly in order to obtain an exposure, I suspect, but then this became the fashion. The cameras were way heavier and larger so handheld was largely avoided in favour of the dolly. Jump cut to today, with the advent of high-speed film stocks and such digital cameras as the Alexa, Red and Sony, we now can work comfortably at 800 ASA with smaller, more powerful lamps, lightweight cameras, fast lenses and extraordinary DI equipment.

Changing Styles
These changes in our tools brought about a style in cinema and television that, more often than not, has become highly naturalistic, with a great deal of handheld camera work and lighting that often appears found. Interestingly enough, I believe 3D films have inspired a return to a more classical camera style because our eyes cannot cope with fast cuts or much handheld in 3D. These films have also discovered that wider focal lengths often give more depth in 3D where, until recently, the trend had been to use longer, shallower depth-of-field lenses in 2D work. When building the look of a piece, I always follow the lead of the script, the director, the designer, the locations and the instincts of the actors, rather than any trend of the day. However, I feel one shouldn’t work in a vacuum, and, as the DP, you are the guardian of taste throughout the shoot as far as the look goes. That can mean many different things at different times, but it’s good to be informed of trends in cinematography so that no matter if you decide to go with the trend or against it, you are doing it for the right reason: to support and enhance your particular story and characters.

Collaborative Partnership
A famous DP once said: “I am a different cinematographer on every film”, which is exactly how I feel. I try to start every project afresh with an open mind about what it will look like as much as about how I will collaborate with the director. Filmmaking is an adventure in relationships as much as it is in story telling – when the key partnerships on set gel there can be extraordinary results that seem to happen quite effortlessly. Each job is different; some directors want to author all the key decisions, choose precisely where the camera goes and the lenses to score the beats of the scene, others prefer a much more collaborative partnership.

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