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Birth of Photography – Beginning of Film & Video Production As a DOP and Cameraman

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Birth of Photography – Beginning of Film & Video Production As a DOP and Cameraman

Cinematographer, lighting cameraman or DOP – Director of Photography, they all are under the umbrella term – CINEMATOGRAPHY.

What does DOP – Director of Photography stand for? What does it mean to be a Cinematographer? The beginning of Film & Video Production was the birth of Photography and the foundation of every Film, TV and Video Cameraman and DOP (Director of Photography).

The Camera Obscura was the first invented camera but an exact age of it can not be set. Its principle is so simple that even Mother Nature creates it every day: A dark cave with a small hole in the outer rock face is all it needs for a Camera Obscura. A caveman could have a picture upside down on his wall, opposite the hole. It would show him a very blurred image of what is happening in front of the cave. Even Aristoteles mentioned the projection through a hole in 4th century B.C. Later on some painters used this principle to create more creative pictures and because the projection was too much out of focus and the exposure to low, they started to implement a lens. To this time there was no substance to capture these pictures, such as film, tapes or hard drives. In 1727, Johann H. Schulze, a German physicist, discovers that silver salts turn dark when exposed to light. But it took another century until the French inventor, Joseph Nicephore Niepce, produced a permanent image by coating a tin plate with asphalt emulsion and exposing the plate to light for about eight hours.

This invention is what we could call the birth of the first picture taken by a camera. In 1878, after many other inventions such as the “dry-plate” process using an emulsion of gelatin, the British photographer Eadweard Muybridge takes the first successful photographs of motion, showing how people and animals move. Let us call him the first DOP – Director of Photography (or cameraman?), which is in today’s film and television industry far more then just a photographer of 10-20 single pictures to get some motion. In Film, TV or Video production a DOP is not just using a camera; instead he has to adjust the lighting for the scene and is in charge of all other cinematographers and visual aspects on the set. In his career usual he starts as a lighting cameraman or cinematographer and later he gets accredited to a DOP – Director of Photography. Some say a cinematographer is the same as a DOP but I cannot agree with that, even most cameramen who call themselves cinematographers are indeed Directors of Photography. But not necessarily you have to be a DOP to call yourself a cinematographer.

The general concept for a cinematographer we think is a cameraman who works only for the film and movie industry – wrong, instead a cinematographer is an experienced lighting cameraman for all kind of professional film, television and video production. A cinematographer can get accredited as such from an association like the ACS- Australian Cinematographers Society or the ASC American Society of Cinematographers and some others. If you are fully accredited of above societies then you can name yourself, for example Stephan C. ACS or ASC. This accreditation can only be achieved by filming for at least 8 years (ACS) for professional broadcast or movie productions on a continually basis. The creativity and style of the cameraman (lighting, camera movement and framing etc.) will be judged by professionals form the appropriate society and only with their approvals a cinematographer can be named ACS or ASC.

A DOP is also involved choosing the type of format to use, the type of camera equipment and the lighting style, to complement and enhance the way the Director and Set Designer wish the production to look. He is in charge of most visual components if it comes to motion picture. He is also involved in post production, especially color grading because initially it is his picture he shot and it cannot be changed without his approval. (kind of COPY RIGHT). A Director of Photography does crew hire, he helps to select the right cameramen when it comes to hiring a team for the production.

Author Stephan Czepanik, DOP – Director of Photography, Lighting Cameraman, Cinematographer.

Stephan is an accredited (full member) cinematographer with the ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) and is based in Sydney. Stephan has over 10 years technical lighting and digital cinematographer experience and was trained in Germany. His technical expertise manipulates light to transfer visual information by the use of a camera into sophistical and aesthetic moving pictures – cinematography. Stephan can shoot pretty much anything and can work with any camera format, lighting or audio gear. As a head cinematographer he was credited DOP for video productions such as TELSTRA NextG, KMS california, Alex Perry Queen Mary2 and others.

Author: Stephan Czepanik
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