Cinematography is “the art or technique of motion-picture photography,” according to our friends at Dictionary.com.
Today’s cinematographers, or directors of photography, are harnessing technology like never before to master this art form. They are responsible for every technical aspect of a film’s images, including: composition, lighting, lens choice, exposure, filtration, and film selection. Advancements in digital photography, computer technology, and photo-editing software in recent years are dramatically changing the way films are made.
As viewers, we readily see much of this technology at work in the greatly enhanced image quality of today’s motion-pictures – whether on a high-definition screen at the theater or in your own home. Yet, we are not privy to technological changes that are taking place behind the scenes, which are resulting in not just a better product, but a more timely and cost-effective one.
When you combine these new technology tools, with bright, young cinematographic professionals who know how to leverage these tools, you find a motion-picture industry that is literally reinventing itself one image at a time.
Take for example, Jessica Clarke-Nash, from Sydney, Australia – a Preview Stills Assistant, who represents the next generation of cinematographers. At the ripe old age of 24, Jessica already has over 70 feature films, television shows, commercials and videos under her camera belt.
As a preview assistant, Jessica is responsible for taking thousands of high-quality digital still photos during the course of making a full-length feature film alongside the motion-picture camera. Throughout the day of a shoot, Jessica downloads her stills into sophisticated photo-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, makes needed adjustments, and readies them for the cinematographer’s review within minutes.
The cinematographer in turn, based on this immediate feedback, can adjust the technical elements of his or her motion-picture photography in real-time. Jessica’s photos provide instant input on light, exposure, coloration, and texture that the video playback in the field cannot provide. Equally important, these daily adjustments made by the cinematographer serve to cut the traditional two months of lab time needed at the end of a film’s shoot to merely a few days.
I met up with Jessica yesterday, who was traveling through Washington DC. She described her work on the set of the Hugh Jackman blockbuster, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was released earlier this year. Jessica answered my most important question: Yes, Hugh Jackman is amazingly handsome right down to his smallest pixel. She should know given she spent several months working only a lens-length away from Jackman during the filming of Wolverine.
Creativity and innovative thinking not only lead to better products, they can also lead to smarter and more cost-effective processes, which can pay valuable dividends for your company. Take a long, hard look at how you do business – frame-by-frame. Make sure your company is leveraging the latest technologies, and incentivize your employees to help you in this cause.
It may give rise to results that are truly worthy of an Academy Award.