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Cinematographers and Directors of Photography


Motion picture cameras were invented in the late 1800s. In 1903, Edwin Porter made The Great Train Robbery, the first motion picture that used modern filmmaking techniques to tell a story. Porter filmed the scenes out of sequence, then edited and spliced them together to make the film, as is done today.

In the early years of film, the director handled the camera and made the artistic decisions that today are the job of the director of photography (DP). The technical sophistication and artistic choices that are part of today's filming process had not yet emerged; instead, directors merely filmed narratives without moving the camera. Lighting was more for functional purposes of illumination than for artistic effect. Soon, however, directors began to experiment. They moved the camera to shoot from different angles and established a variety of editing techniques.

In the 1950s, the dominance of major studios in film production was curbed by an antitrust court decision, and more independent films were made. Changes in the U.S. tax code made independent producing more profitable. New genres and trends challenged the director and artistic staff of a production. Science fiction, adventure, mystery, and romance films grew in popularity. By the late 1960s, university film schools were established, training students in directing and cinematography as well as in other areas.

New developments in technologies and equipment have continued to influence both how films are made and how they look. The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st saw the production of movies incorporating such elements as computer graphics, digital imaging, and digital color. Films such as Titanic, Gladiator, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and new "prequel" episodes of Star Wars, with the amount and complexity of their special effects, presented new visual challenges to filmmakers. Other films, such asĀ Shrek and its sequels, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and Up are entirely digital, while the cinematography in Avatar stylizes a 3-D world that blends live-action with computer-generated imagery. An increasing number of films are shot in 3-D, and cinematographers have to keep this in mind in their decision-making process. DPs lead the way in understanding and using new technologies to push the art of filmmaking into a new, digital era.

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