One of my favourite webpages is HitRecord. It is officially described as an online production company which was found by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2004. I’m not entirely sure whether Morgan M. Morgansen’s Date with Destiny was the first video they published, but it was the first one I watched and I think that must have been when I really started to realise that films aren’t just entertainment.
Cinematography is the art of capturing and playing motion pictures. It is dependent on a number of procedures which include, but are not limited to, manipulation of the camera lens, lighting, and composition. These principles are used to focus the audience’s attention to the message, story, and emotion the film tries to convey.
No Film School posted a video which explains the basics of composition. To summarise the 14-min video, composition is the arrangement of elements and dependent on multiple factors like the shape of the screen, balance, perspective, colour, geometry, and symmetry.
The first motion pictures were shot in monochrome because the production of coloured films was too expensive. It wasn’t until the 70s that colour films in cinemas became standard. Nowadays, recording in black-and-white is mainly used as an artistic choice. However, besides giving the pictures an artistic feeling, they also create a more elegant and classic aesthetic, and a certain timeless quality. Capturing in monochrome is often seen as more challenging because contrast and lighting play an even bigger role than they do in coloured shoots.
The other day, I watched 12 Angry Men for about the 300th time and I realised that I tend to focus more on the story when there is no colour in the film. Also, I noticed how the natural contrast between the colour is used for symbolism. In the end, when Davis leaves the building there is a shot of him walking down the stairs in front of the building and his white suit is in a stark contrast to his dark grey surrounding. Of course, he is the hero of the story, even if (read: because) it is unsure whether or not the boy did actually commit the murder.
About a year ago, Plot Point Productions cut together a montage of the most iconic black-and-white films, like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Psycho and Schindler’s List. (Sadly, The Artist and 12 Angry Men aren’t included.)
Most black-and-white films are more dramatic and have a stronger aesthetic than they would have in colour. For me, this is because I tend to focus on the expression on a person’s face rather than the colour of their eyes, skin, or hair. For example in 2:35, when the camera zooms into Cate Blanchlett’s face. Additionally, it also shows the highlighted effect of lighting which focuses the view on the subject and how it is lit rather than the colour.
Line | Shape | Value | Colour
Texture | Volume | Space | Time | Motion