One subject that I find fascinating is cinematography, also known as film making, and the elements used to create an award-winning movie. As an actor, I can confirm that it’s not all about perfect acting; you can produce a bad film with wonderful actors. This idea is also true with the storyline or plot; it needs to be supported by other strong elements, such as camera placement, sound, or lighting. I’ve learned many details and tricks about how the elements all work, and I’d like to share them with you.
The first element I’d like to talk about is music. We all know the songs in musicals, and frequently download the soundtracks to listen and sing along. Although I am a musician and a big fan of the musicals, the type of music that I’m referring to is a little different, and it often goes unnoticed. While some movies have instrumental theme songs that are easily recognized, all movies have background music used to convey emotion and support the scene. Think of the wordless intro scene of Up (Disney-Pixar, 2009).
The music helps set the mood, or it can be used to foreshadow something that is about to happen. Just remember, music doesn’t make a scene hilarious or sad, but it helps it become funnier or sadder. Simply changing a song from a major to a minor key can make an event feel totally different to a viewer. For example, if you were to watch a horror movie and cut out all the music, it would not be nearly as frightening. This happens because the music wouldn’t be causing you to constantly feel suspenseful and fearful. It is amazing to see the difference that a film score can make.
The second element that I’d like to emphasize on is camera placement. It may sound a bit ridiculous, but I can assure you that it is very important. When you watch a movie, a lot of times you feel like you are part of the story, watching everything that is happening to the characters. Sometimes, the camera acts as your eyes; what the camera can see is what you see, and it influences your perspective. Other times, the camera bounces back and forth between each of the characters and their views.
The camera helps you focus on the action that is happening, and it also can be used to communicate how you should sympathize with the character. It’s hard to make a conversation between two people look professional without using more than one camera. It’s better to use the height differences in where the cameras are placed to show that one person is more dominant than the other.
This trick is found often in the Harry Potter movies (Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.). You could use limited views and darkness in order to make an intense scene seem more suspenseful by not allowing the viewer to see what the character is running from.It is stunning how filmmakers can manage to use all of these techniques, as well as never showing the camera and crew.
These are only two of the many elements that are needed, but as I said before, all elements need to be strong. When they are all strong, they work off of each other to create the next golden globe winning movie. When I first became interested in film, I started noticing patterns and trends on my own. You can see all of these techniques if you are only looking for them. I love cinematography because there are so many aspects and details to consider; it would be impossible for one person to master and know everything about it.
Sometimes I talk to people who are also interested, and they can share their knowledge with me. Most of the time, I rewatch scenes or films to focus on one aspect, and it allows me to see how the filmakers maniplated the aspect. I have read different articles about them to learn more, and played around with creating my own films as well. I hope that I get to share more information with others, and that I’ll continue to learn as much as I can about it.