Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The Cinematography of Bruno Delbonnel

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of those films that I have a bi-polar appreciation for. Because of the decisions made by the studio to build momentum up to the last two films of the franchise, the sixth installment ended abruptly and anticlimactically. Along with that is a number of other criticisms I have with it, almost all of them relating to differences between it and its book counterpart, and I’m pretty sure they make the Half-Blood Prince my least favorite film in the Harry Potter series. But where this film polarizes me is in its cinematography, which is arguably the best ever done by the series altogether.

Out of all the films in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the only one that was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography; that fact isn’t a surprise at all, either. The cinematographer behind this film was Bruno Delbonnel, who’s also known for his work on Amelie, as well as the recent Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis. He may arguably be the most well-recognized cinematographer the Harry Potter series ever had.

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An Introduction to the Basics of Cinematography

There’s resources available online that can teach you almost anything you want to know. It’s funny how at this point in time, we can learn almost everything college has to offer; unfortunately, the only thing we can’t get is an actual degree. But either way, for those of us who are always hungry to acquire a new skill, there’s always a way to do so. For those of you that are filmmakers and videographers, here’s a video that introduces you to the basics of cinematography within the span of about forty minutes.

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Godzilla: The Cinematography of Seamus McGarvey

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“I think people just see cinematography as being about photography and innovative shots and beautiful lighting. We all want our movies to look great visually, to be beguiling and enticing, but I think that what really defines a great cinematographer is one who loves story.” – Seamus McGarvey, IFTN

Seamus McGarvey was contacted by an executive producer he had recently worked with on The Avengers; she told him about a project she had been involved with, being directed by a guy named Gareth Edwards. Seamus took the time to watch the only other film Gareth had done at that point: an small-budget indie film called Monsters. He was not just impressed by how well the director executed the making of the film while also being in charge of the visual effects and cinematography; he was impressed by the storytelling of the film, as well. For Seamus, it was refreshing to see a monster movie that approached monsters in such a suspenseful manner, like the classics it was so heavily inspired by. The cinematographer signed up and got on board to work with Gareth Edwards on his second project: Godzilla.

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We Built Our Own World: Wally Pfister and the Cinematography of Inception

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In 2010, Christopher Nolan released a film he’d been working on for over half a decade, and the premise of it was something not too long ago thought un-filmable. Titled Inception, the story was held off as a complete secret, and when teaser trailers did release, nobody really understood what they just saw. Wally Pfister, the cinematographer behind the movie, arranged an immediate meeting with Chris after reading the script he was sent, to try and figure out “what the f*ck was going on.”

Wally Pfister has been a collaborator with Christopher Nolan for a long time now, working as a cinematographer for every film of his since 2000′s Memento. Both him and Chris share two significant things in common: their love for naturalism, and their love for shooting in film. And if there’s anyone keeping the medium of film alive in the digitally dominated industry of Hollywood today, it’s these two guys. Their last venture together with The Dark Knight Rises grossed over $1 Billion, and that was accomplished without the film ever being released in 3D; when I say they love naturalism, I mean they love naturalism.

By now, most of us are familiar with the film; it became one of the biggest original stories to top box offices worldwide within the past few years, and it was something new. And with how practical both Chris and Wally are with the way they want things shot, Inception was cinematography at its finest.

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Realism: The Role Photography Plays in CGI on the Big Screen

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A reader brought up an interesting question last Saturday on my weekly cinematography post, this one over Eduardo Serra and his work in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; he asked how much credit a cinematographer can really claim for a shot done in CGI. Another reader answered him correctly in saying that the shots done in CGI are still directed in planning by the cinematographer himself. Basically, the work the animators do depends on the input of the director of photography.

That exchange made me want to write this post today; I’ve been obsessed with science-fiction and fantasy films since I was a kid, and CGI is something that’s impacted the films I grew up with as much as it has for many of us since twenty years ago. But there’s the films that do it well, and then there’s the films that we look back at and cringe in retrospect; remember those atrocious-looking monkeys in Jumanji?

So what sets apart the good CGI from the bad? How do they get it done right? If you’re going to make something look like it could have been right in front of the camera during filming, like it was real, then it would have to follow the same basic rules of photography that everything else in real life would. And what’s possibly the most important part of good photography in the first place? Good lighting.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Cinematography of Eduardo Serra

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It’s not easy to tell a story spanning seven years of adolescence, and a trial like that was almost unprecedented until these films came into fruition. One of the things that made the Harry Potter films so successful both commercially and critically is how different each film really was from one another; every entry in the series had its own distinct look and feel. The fact that each movie had a different pairing of director and cinematographer makes it easy to see why that is.

Eduardo Serra was the cinematographer behind the last two movies: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 & 2.

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Breaking Bad: The Cinematography of Michael Slovis

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When AMC called filmmaker Michael Slovis offering him a job as a cinematographer for a show being filmed in New Mexico, he was quick to dismiss it. He’d been traveling too much, and there was no way New Mexico was going to be his first option for leaving town. Then his wife told him to call them back, and he listened. A writer named Vince Gilligan sent Mr. Slovis the pilot episode of a new project he started called Breaking Bad. It didn’t even take until the end of the first scene for Michael to forget about any complaints he had over traveling.

He said to his wife, “Oh my god, this is filmmaking.”

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The Cinematography of Harris Savides

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“He was a complete rule-breaker. He’d light anything to make a scene work, never paid attention to conventional wisdom and did not know from self-doubt.” – Scott Rudin, New York Times

“He liked the blacks to be not fully black, to have a milky, filmy quality, and he liked the light part of an image not to be fully blown out, not just gone complete white, so if someone was wearing a white dress in a window, there would still be details in the dress. He would say the word ‘creamy.’ He liked a creamy image. Otherwise there was no way to tell whether it was Harris.” – Van Sant, New York Times

Harris Savides was only 55 years old when he passed away from brain cancer. Above are a few quotes from the people he’s worked with over the years. Along with the tragedy of leaving at such a young age, he time sadly came when he was at arguably the highest point of his career.

I’ve kept a habit of starting off every one of these posts stating that you might not know this cinematographer, but that you know the films they made. But Harris Savides was someone who never even got nominated for an Academy Award. Admittedly, the Oscars aren’t something that determines the quality of a film (…Crash.), but the resume Harris had on him will make make you wonder why not either way.

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DIYP Reviews The Lomokino Analog Movie Maker

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What da!?

Here is the short answer (AKA straight to the point)

The LomoKino is a 35mm truly analogue movie camera. Using a normal 35mm roll of film (36 exp.), the LomoKino can shoot around 144 frames or 25 sec. of beautifully analogue cinematic masterpieces (well, the masterpiece part is kinda up to you and your creativity). [Read more...]

Blade Runner: The Cinematography of Jordan Cronenweth

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Last Friday, I did my second entry in a weekly feature I started on the work of cinematographers. That entry covered Jeff Cronenweth, who is known for his work with David Fincher in films like The Social Network, Fight Club, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I wanted to write a follow-up to that today, because I think it’s called for in this case. Jeff Cronenweth is the son of the late Jordan Cronenweth, and he learned quite a bit from his father. This article will go over one film by him that ultimately, along with his son, became one of his life’s most impactful legacies: Blade Runner.

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