Mathias (Electronic Cinematography, 1985) offers perennial strategies for digital filmmaking in this guide.
The author, a veteran cinematographer, is alarmed by a transformation in the film industry. It isn’t the migration from film to digital recording—Mathias was actually a pioneer in what was once termed “electronic cinematography.” Rather, he says, it’s the fact that many people in the film industry have abandoned time-honored aesthetics in visual storytelling. Mathias claims that the disposability of digital technology has led to the production of disposable cinema; filmmakers, he says, lack the patience and experience to carefully craft compelling shots. With this book, he seeks to create a guideline for digital-age film artists, including older filmmakers who may be intimidated by digital technology and younger ones who are less schooled in what he sees as the increasingly lost art of cinematography. Mathias covers essential aspects of the process, including image design, exposure, color timing, lens selection, lighting, and postproduction planning. He doesn’t include references to specific models of digital cameras, which become obsolete at the pace of technological innovation; rather, his goal was to create a work that would remain relevant for all future models of camera, as the fundamentals of cinematography will remain intact. As Mathias writes in the preface, this is not a how-to book—it’s a “ ‘how NOT to’ book. How not to turn a hundred year old visual art form comprised of beautifully lit and emotionally compelling images into an efficient and uncreative digital imaging factory.” He’s a patient, practical instructor, and his prose is clear and conversational. That said, the book is clearly aimed at readers with some background knowledge of filmmaking, and it dives quickly into industry specifics and jargon. The author’s experience and deep love of film is apparent from the beginning, though, and despite all the changes that continue to occur in the world of film production, readers will come away feeling optimistic. The old arts, it turns out, have not yet been lost; they’re simply waiting to be rediscovered by a willing generation of artists.
A comprehensive, detail-oriented guide to digital cinematography.