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Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro Warns of "Major Problem" in the Field
  • He stated that a trend that has emerged with the use of digital cameras is that “people want to work faster or show that they can use less light, but they don’t look for the proper light the scenes needs. That isn’t cinematography, that’s recording an image. ... I was never happy in any set to just see available light,” said Storaro, who has won Oscars for Apocalypse Now, Reds and The Last Emperor. "Even in very important films that take Academy Awards, you can record an image without location lighting. But that's not necessarily the right light for the character. We have to always move a story forward, not step back."

  • 4 Replies sorted by
  • I think we already have this link in @shian topic

  • Who am I to argue with Storaro...


    Certainly - we can't treat narrative storytelling like a reality show. However , the use of only natural light is not always "unlit" - every time I shoot without artificial lighting I do what could be called "compositional lighting." It's more than picking up a camera and pressing record, it's about knowing the position of the sun and all other elements around and composing for a beautiful and beautifully lit image by dancing with nature. It could be stated this was the approach taken by Chivo for "Revenant" for instance

  • Good point @banndindv. Using natural light beautifully and "just recording an image" are two very different things - related, but different.

    If what you are able to achieve with an expressionistic, appropriate use of natural light (for example, the films of Terrence Malick) works for what you're aiming to achieve cinematically, then there is no conflict and the results can be stunning.

    If, on the other hand, you are simply looking for a base level of light in order to achieve a sufficient exposure, then it's no longer good filmmaking. It might be good for documentary, or news gathering, but it's not an expressive use of light, it's just an exposure.

    Unfortunately the subtlety of this distinction is likely to be lost on some that think they can shoot anywhere at any time with no setup and no real thought going into how to tell a story with light.

  • Styles have been created out of necessity. For example, Film Noir was not an art form at first. It was a cheap way to shoot a B picture to fill out a double bill. Those parallel shadows supposedly thrown by venetian blinds were added to break up big blank walls. The cinematographers went for lighting and angles that broke the existing rules, which were quite rigid and rigorously applied to more expensive films.

    The writer is a pretentious snob. Digital technology has made it possible for those who cannot afford to shoot on film and hire a lighting and grip truck to produce good films. Part of the appeal of a good independent film is that it lacks that polished Hollywood look. That doesn't mean that the cinematographer always just takes what is there. It does mean that if available light is in line with the overall thread of the picture, go with it.

    Consider El Mariachi, which was shot hand-held in 16mm, and was, by Hollywood standards, simply inferior. But it is much better than Rodriguez' Hollywood work, partly because its depiction of Ciudad Acuña is so authentic. A Hollywood cinematographer would have made Acuña look like Santa Barbara. But if Rodriguez had been able to shoot on a GH4, he would certainly have done so.