Functionality versus Beauty
What we have to remember is that the video we produce ultimately serves a purpose. More often than not that purpose is to deliver a message, a point of view, or an education. Sometimes the cinematography can actually get in the way of that message and be a distraction. Sometimes our cinematography needs to be functional rather than beautiful, and making the best decision about this canbe incredibly important.
A couple of years back I did some work for a large production company who had accounts with a number of well known high street names. Each year one company in particular would hold a major event. The production company told me how in the year previous they had filmed a major promo video as part of the event involving cars and explosions as well as extensive lighting.
It went down a treat, but in the following year the recession had hit. The client wanted another promo. They could afford to pay for a similar video to the previous year but they didn’t want to. They specifically told the production company that they did not want to appear to be spending money on high end expensive video in a time of recession. In other words not only did they want to spend less money, they also requested that the video didn’t look as expensive either.
The production company could have taken the lower budget and stretched it as far as they could to make things look as polished and as high end as possible. In the end due to the clients request they made a rather more modest affair. Still professional, but fulfilling the clients request not to make it look lavish.
Caught up in Technology
We can all too easily get caught up with using our latest gadget or toy, LUTs and SLOG, but cinematography, along with everything else in the production, should be driven by story and content motivations. By over stylising shots, using a dolly or a slider at every opportunity, or even using highly stylised grading and lighting when it doesn’t suit, the production can end up looking pretentious and distract from the message. If that happens then the production will have failed in its mission.
I can see a few people out there seething, possibly mis-interpreting what I am saying. I am not for a moment saying that highly polished cinematography shouldn’t be done, but what I am saying is that you should be asking yourself “What sort of cinematography is needed to best serve the production and deliver the message?”
As cinematographers we shouldn’t be too precious about about what we do!