Film Cinematography

Film Cinematography & Composition

Now that you have learned about basic film composition, we're going to focus on more technical and advanced details of how these theories relate to film. First of all, it should be noted that although you are learning all of these "rules of filmmaking" you should keep an open mind to developing your own personal style. While it is important that you know these rules, there is also the old saying that "rules were meant to be broken". Our intention is to teach you the rules before your break them.

We believe you will be much more comfortable knowing these rules of filmmaking, and will feel more at ease when it comes time to break them.

In this lecture we're going to discuss different framing heights such as close ups, extreme close ups, mid shots, full shots and when to use each one. We're also going to touch upon shot sequences and fitting each individual shot together to create a seamless scene, however we will only introduce the concepts to you in this lecture as we go into full detail on these techniques in the lecture on staging.

Next, we'll discuss camera movement and how to fit different camera movements together to create harmonious and professional scenes.

It should also be noted that this lecture was written for independent filmmakers, not multi-million dollar production studios. While we could dedicate an entire lecture on crane movements, we don't. This is because cranes are extremely expensive to rent (or buy) and expensive to transport and operate.

Our belief at Lights Film School is that there are certain things you can do during production and post production that help add real production value to your film without spending millions of dollars. It is our intention to show you affordable ways to make your films look like million dollar productions without actually spending a million dollars. We look for creative solutions and ways of adding production value to your film without spending a lot of money.

The main difference between our film school and other film schools is this:

They focus on the process of adding production value through expensive assets ("A" list actors, "A" list directors, sweeping crane shots, exotic locations, large specialized crews).

We focus on trying to mimic the look of a film with a large specialized crew but with more than one person creatively doing more than one role. We focus on using more affordable hardware, passionate and brilliant actors (but not necessarily well known), locations which are accessible and camera shots and composition which look like high production value shots but were in fact obtained for a fraction of the cost big production studios would pay for similar shots.

Independent filmmaking is about being creative and imaginative. I was at a Spike Lee lecture a while ago and at the end of his speech there were numerous film students waiting eagerly to ask Spike a few questions. The most common questions revolved around the inability for people to "find work" or "get funding" which would allow them to work in the film industry. These people had an obvious passion for making films but were not able to move forward because of various barriers (i.e. nobody would accept their script, they couldn't find a job etc).

Spike Lee, arguably one of the world's most famous independent filmmakers, responded in a way that embodies the entire ideology of this course. He stared at the students with confusion. He wasn't able to get his head around the notion that people couldn't get into the film industry. He talked about hardware and software now being readily available to the public at very affordable prices and that all you need after you have the equipment is a small group of people to get started as well as the motivation to see a project through. He believed that as filmmakers you can't rely on other people to "hire" you or buy your script. If you want it badly enough, you should be going out and making it yourself. At Lights Film School, we couldn't agree more.

This is why in this section on cinematography, I'm going to teach you about creating films on a small budget that look like they were created with a bigger budget. Part of this big budget illusion is made during the capturing of the footage (i.e. aim for the best sound possible, compose each shot properly and direct the actors well). The second part of the illusion is created in post production. Editing, color manipulation and other effects help add greatly to your film's production value. The last lecture in our course will deal with marketing and packaging your film. We will show you not only how to market and distribute your independent films, but how to do so with the look and feel of a bigger budget production.

With that, let's continue this lecture on cinematography.


Cinematography is the practice of recording light and moving images onto your film or CCD chip. Many things can alter the look of your cinematography, from lenses, film stock, camera type and available colors to available light. Each of these elements has been, or will be discussed throughout the rest of these lecture notes. However, in this lecture we're going to focus on cinematography as it relates to camera movements and composition. We will begin first by talking about framing heights.

Continue Below...

Filmmaking Cinematography

Framing Heights: Filmmaking Lesson

Filmmaking Tip: Close-up Framing

Filmmaking: Cutting on the look / Cutting on the action

Extreme Close-up Framing




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