Responsibilities of a Cinematographer

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Paramvir Singh
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Responsibilities of a Cinematographer

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I Preproduction

A. Conceptual research and Design
* Discuss all aspects of script and director's approach to picture in preliminary talks with director
* Analyze script as whole
* Analyze story structure
* Analyze characters
* Research period, events, general subject and appropriate design elements
* Devise style, visualize approach
* Continue talks with director on new ideas
* Come to agreement with director
* Discuss and come to agreement with production designer
* Discuss and come to agreement with technical adviser.

B. Practical Research and Design.
* Ascertain or find out budget requirements
* Scout and approve locations
* Plot sun position for locations
* Check local weather
* Check tide tables near ocean
* Review, discuss and approve set plans
* Review, discuss and approve spotting plans for stages
* Review and approve props, picture cars, airplanes, boats, horse-drawn vehicles, mock-ups and miniatures

C. Technical Research and Design.
* Visit laboratory to calibrate, customize and evaluate exposure system for any combination of electronic or chemical image capture, and establish developing, printing, set timing and transfer protocols
* Visit equipment vendors
* Explore new equipment
* Learn how new equipment works
* Invent (or cause to be invented) special equipment or techniques for show
* Standardize and create effects bible for show
* Help create and approve any storyboards
* Design (or cause to be designed) and approve any built-in or practical lighting fixture
* Design lighting-plot plan and rigging for stages and locations with gaffer and key grip

D. Quality Control
* Choose and approve crew, film stock, lab, equipment, second-unit and visual-effects crews
* Supervise manufacture and testing of new modified equipment
* Visit sets under construction
* Approve wild walls, ceiling pieces and any moving set pieces
* Check lighting-fixture crew
* Walk locations and stages with all departments to discuss requirements
* Approve set colors and textures
* Approve costume colors and textures
* Approve makeup and hair
* Generate (or cause to be generated) and approve equipment lists for camera, electric and grip
* Check dailies screening rooms for correct standards

E. Implementation
* Cast stand-ins
* Train crew to use any new equipment
* Walk locations and stages with director and device shooting plan
* Make list of special equipment for production manager and indicate number of days required
* Work with assistant director on shooting schedule (order and days required for each scene)
* Estimate and order film stock (type, size and quantity)
* Generate (or cause to be generated) and approve rigging and shooting manpower and man-days
* Assist other departments in getting required equipment, manpower and tests
* Drop by all departments and visit department heads at least twice a day to answer any questions
* Mediate any problems between departments
* Check loading of production trucks or cargo containers for location or international shipping
* Visit cast run-throughs and rehearsals
* Advise and back up director on any problems
* Help production problems

F. Testing
* Shoot tests for style
* Shoot tests for lab
* Shoot test for lighting of principal actors
* Shoot tests for camera and lenses
* Shoot tests for wardrobe and makeup
* Shoot tests for any special effects processes, unusual rigs props or methods

II Shooting

A. Planning
* Check and approve all call sheets and shooting order of the day's work

B. Blocking
* Watch rehearsal of scene to be shot
* Device shot list with director (coverage)
* Choose lens and composition; show to director for approval
* Make sure composition and movement fulfill scene task
* Work out mechanical problems with camera, dolly and crane grips
* Set any camera-movement cues
* Place stand-ins and rehearse, fine-tune
* Ensure proper coverage of scene for editor
* Work with assistant director on background action

C. Lighting
* Design lighting to show set/location to best advantage relative to story, style and dramatic content
* Light each actor to reinforce and reveal character
* Make sure mood and tone of light help to tell story
* Design light for minimum reset time between setups
* Utilize painter for control of highlights, shadows, aging, dusting-down of sets and props
* Set and match light value, volume, color and contrast of each setup (exposure)
* Set any lights cues (dimmers, spot lights, color changes and any preprogramming)

D. Preparation
* Work out any sound problems
* Work out any problems with other departments
* Check, set and approve all stunts with stunt coordinator
* Set any additional cameras required for stunts
* Double-check safety with all concerned
* Show shot to director to make any final changes
* Get actors in for final mechanical rehearsal; solve any outstanding problems

E. Photography
* Photograph scene
* Approve or correct take
* Check parameters and reset for next take
* Shoot any plates
* Shoot any video playback material
* Move to next step

F. Administrative
* Define first setup in morning and after lunch
* Make sure that stills are taken of scene
* See that "making of" and/or EPK crews get needed footage
* Make sure script supervisor has any special camera or lighting notes
* Check film raw stock inventory
* Try to shoot up short ends
* Check that camera logbook is being kept up to date
* Complete day's work
* Discuss first setup for the next day
* Ensure that camera, electrical and grip crews get all copies of equipment rental or purchase invoices and approve before accountants pay vendors
* Take care of any future or ongoing production at end of day
* Check for return of all unused equipment

G. Quality Control
* Call in for lab report
* View previous day's work in projected dailies with director, producer, editor and camera crew
* Discuss and approve dailies
* Consult with makeup, wardrobe, production designer and assistant director about dailies
* View, discuss, correct or approve second-unit or effects dailies
* Order reprints if necessary

H. Training
* Teach beginning actors movie technique (hitting marks, size of frame, lenses, etc.)
* Train camera crew for next job up the ladder

I. Contingency
* If director is disabled, finish day's shooting for him or her

III. Postproduction

A. Additional Photography
* Discuss and be aware of delivery dates for all postproduction
* Photograph or approve any additional scenes, inserts, special effect or second-unit footage

B. Timing (Color and Density)
* Time and approve trailer for theaters and TV
* Approve all optical and digital effects compositions
* Time the picture
* Retime until correct

C. Quality Control
* Approve final answer print
* Show to director for OK
* Approve interpositive (IP)
* Approve internegatives (IN)
* Approve release prints
* Approve show prints from original negative
* Approve all blowups or reductions

D. Telecine/Color Correction
* Supervise and approve film or digital original transfer to electronic or film media (Hi-Def, NTSC, PAL, Scam masters, digital intermediates, archival masters, etc.)
* Supervise and approve all transfers to and from digital intermediates
* Supervise and approve all letterbox, pan and scan or reformatting of film
* Supervise and approve tape-to-tape color correction and VHS, DVD, digital projection media, etc.
* Show electronic transfers to director for OK

E. Publicity
* Do any publicity (newspaper, magazine, Internet, radio, TV, DVD commentary etc.)

F. Restoration/Archival
* Be available for any future reissue, archival reprint or electronic transfer of film.

This list of duties of the cinematographer was published in January 2003 by the American Cinematographer magazine.
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