Senior Project Essay


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Senior Project Essay

  1. 1. Mercure 1Drayton MercureMrs. MaxwellBritish LiteratureOctober 20, 2011 A Closer Look: Cinematography and Film “Lights, camera, action!” announces the director, as the crew prepares to take the nextshot. Nearly anyone who knows anything about motion pictures is familiar with those threewords. Throughout the span of its lifetime, cinematography and film have increasinglyintegrated themselves into society and have become a part of everyday life in America andseveral other nations in the world. However, there is more than meets the eye when it comes tocreating a film. Moreover, the history of cinematography is underappreciated and neglected,when in fact, events in the past developed film into the global phenomenon it is to this very day. In order to understand the inner workings of the film industry, one must understand thebeginnings of film. Video media didn’t just start with YouTube or the FOX network. In fact,cinematography didn’t even start with a camera. The first glimmer of film revealed itself inRome, approximately 1640, with Athanasius Kircher’s invention, the magic lantern, an earlyform of a projector which involved a candle and a lens to project an image. The next notableevent was the creation of the kinetoscope, an early predecessor to modern day projectors, and thevisual equivalent of a phonograph. The kinetoscope was developed by Thomas Edison’sassistant, William Kennedy Dickson. It had a single screen for one occupant and created a visualillusion of movement by passing a strip of film past the screen in rapid succession. Often, thesefilms were a mere couple of seconds long and only appealed as a simple novelty (Lewis).George Melies, a magician and theater director, would fix the problem.
  2. 2. Mercure 2 Being involved in theater as a director, Melies began to film Theater acts. He is oftencredited for inventing the fundamentals of film editing that are used today, including fade in andfade out transitions, changing artificial sets, and changing scenes. George Melies’ A Trip to theMoon became an international hit in 1902 and the first science fiction film (Lewis). There have been several obstacles, as well as breakthroughs, that the film industry hasencountered in the past. For instance, in film’s premature stages, synchronizing audio with videowas nearly impossible with the equipment of that era. In 1927, Warner Bros’ successfullyproduced the first film with sound, The Jazz Singer, going to extreme measures and spendingincredible amounts of money. With the introduction of audio, Warner Bros’ forced itscompetitors to follow in its wake and synchronize sound. Eventually, in the 1940’s, this processwas made easier through the use of the tape recorder (Lewis). Another endeavor was to add color to videos. Before the 1930s, film had to be coloredby hand, proving itself to be impractical and time consuming. Then, in the mid thirties,Technicolor was created and developed a technique in which three colored layers of film areused to create a visual spectrum. Technicolor was expensive and would be replaced in the fifties(Lewis). After World War Two, the United States and Soviet Union were involved in an armsrace, known as the Cold War. This Cold War was the cause of the Red Scare, the nationalfeeling of anxiety of the supposed Communist takeover, which led to the inquisition andblacklisting of several actors, producers, and motion picture-based companies, includingTechnicolor. Blacklisting is a term used to describe the formulation of a list of names of people,with the intent to ostracize them or inhibiting them from doing something. The peopleresponsible for this blacklisting were known as the House Un-American Activities Committee,
  3. 3. Mercure 3or HUAC. HUAC believed that several works such as plays and motion pictures contained anti-American propaganda. HUAC coerced and interrogated several playwrights, directors, actors,entertainers, and others to establish this list. Several people listed were proven innocent andwrongly accused. Technicolor was deemed a monopoly which gave an opportunity to Eastmancolor, a cheaper, single film strip format, to take Technicolor’s place. With the rise of theinvention, the television, color became the standard for the industry. This was largely due to thefact that after a film was shown in theaters, they would be sold for television broadcasting.Color films were easier to sell than black and white films (Lewis). There are three classes of film studios: majors, mini-majors, and independents. Majorsare large corporations in which they control both the production and distribution aspects of thebusiness. The industry is headed by six industry leaders, all of them majors: Fox, Disney,Warner, Sony, Universal, and Paramount. Mini-minors have less power to distribute and focusmainly on specific genres of film, for instance, action adventure movies or horror films. As anexample, Touchstone Pictures is a sub-level of Disney and creates more mature films thanDisney’s more cliché family oriented content. The independents or “indies” completely rely onanother company for distribution. For example, DreamWorks (the people who created Shrek) isan independent studio whose films are distributed by Touchstone ("SIC 7812…” 1258) There are a variety of jobs when it comes to making a film. Nearly an army is required tocreate a final product. Making a film requires occupations involving business and finance,administration, sales, maintenance and services, and most importantly professional productionoccupations. Professional occupations include writers, editors, technicians, directors, producersand much more. The list continues to grow as film advances in technology, which is constantly.
  4. 4. Mercure 4For instance, the percent change in number of Multi-media artists and animators employed ispredicted to increase by 29 percent by 2018 ("Motion Picture and Video Industries"). In order for this army to work together in the most efficient way, most films follow amethod of production. The steps are followed in this order: Pre production, production, and postproduction. Pre-production is the point in time when all of the ideas and concepts of the film cometogether, sort of like “blue-prints.” Along with budget planning, the screenplay is formulated,including actor’s dialogues, settings, and the actors themselves. At that point, the productionmanager creates a production board, a visual abstract that reflects the most productive andefficient way to produce the film. From there, the director becomes familiar with the main themeor story intended to be communicated through the film, and begins to visualize each scene andwork with the actors to make them more believable (Boruszhowski, 333). The director anddirector of photography collaborate with one another to start storyboarding, a process in whichillustrations are created in sequence of the story in order to communicate the way the film isintended to be shot. The director of photography is also in charge of hiring camera operators,crew, and assistants. The director also works with the production designer so that the designercan collect the correct materials, such as props and wardrobes. When it comes to filming, scenescan be shot in two places: a sound stage or an actual location. If they are filming in an actuallocation, the directors and designer must find the perfect spot to film and acquire the appropriatepaperwork and permits to work there (Boruszhowski, 334). Once pre-production is finished, actual production commences. Production is the literalshooting of the film. Before the cameras start rolling, everyone rehearses their part. Then, at thebeginning of each shot, a slate is filmed so that specific shot can be identified. Once a take is
  5. 5. Mercure 5made that seems sufficient, the crew goes on to the next shot needing filming. There can beseveral takes of just one shot, as well as many thousands of shots in a film. At the end of the day,a “daily” is made. “Dailies” are work prints made for screenings shot daily (Boruszhowski, 334). The entire process of filming shots can easily take up to eight weeks. After production isfinished, the team begins post-production. During the entire span of filming, an editorial team isat work compiling footage and organizing shots. Once the team makes their cut of the film, amusic editor inserts pre-recorded music to complete the cut for it to be viewed by previewaudiences. The cut can be tested by audiences several times and several changes can be made tocorrect imperfections found. Automated dialogue editors scrutinize for imperfect dialogue. Ifthere is a mistake or just bad quality in the first recording, an actor can re-record lines. Thesenew lines are then edited back into the scene and can be synchronized to the actor’s mouth.Sound designers can optionally be employed to insert sound effects, like gunfire and othersounds. A music editor then plans sections of music throughout the film. A composer attemptsto capture the theme of each part in his pieces. More often than not, an orchestra is selected toplay and record the pieces. Next, the film is sent to a mixing studio; where engineers mixmeticulously mix the audio with the video. The negatives are then cut to match the final cut bythe negative matcher and the final cut is sent to a film lab for adjustment of brightness and colorand a master cut is created. A finished film has been made (Boruszhowski, 335). Not only is video media a source of entertainment. It has been embedded and engrainedinto today’s business, education, politics, and global communication. Film production hasbecome an ancient tradition and a true artisan craft as well as a capstone of current technology.Its processes of creation are as nearly astounding as the entertainment it provides and theinformation it distributes.
  6. 6. Mercure 6 Works CitedLewis, Scott M. "Motion Pictures." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. 3rd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 2649-2654. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 15 Sep. 2011."Motion Picture and Video Industries." Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition. BLS Publishing, 17 Dec. 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2011. <>."SIC 7812 Motion Picture and Videotape Production." Encyclopedia of American Industries. Ed. Lynn M. Pearce. 4th ed. Vol. 2: Service & Non-Manufacturing Industries. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 1256-1265. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 16 Sep. 2011BORUSZKOWSKI, LILLY ANN. "Film Industry, Production Process of." Encyclopedia of Communication and Information. Ed. Jorge Reina Schement. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2002. 332-337. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 26 Sep. 2011.