What Does a Digital Cinematographer Do?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2020
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A digital cinematographer operates digital video equipment and thus helps create videos and films in a digital format. These individuals typically find employment in the motion picture industry. Specific duties include determining scene lighting and camera operations. Digital cinematographers may also be proficient in editing, computer imaging, and directing assistance.

Filmmaking is a team effort that includes various personnel and crew, among which are the director and the cinematographer. A director serves as a conductor of sorts, instructing crew as to positioning, prop and camera movement, and similar issues. In a sense, the cinematographer is the director’s paintbrush, bringing his or her vision into a physical reality. As such, individuals in this discipline construct and arrange individual film shots and scenes to the director’s satisfaction.

Camera operators work closely with a digital cinematographer as well. Just as the cinematographer realizes the director’s vision, camera personnel help fulfill the cinematographer’s vision. The camera people actually shoot settings and scenes, but the cinematographer must first study a script and plan out the details of the scene. Ideas for this layout may derive from a written script or from production notes.


On some television or film sets, the digital cinematographer may be asked to assume different roles. For example, he or she could work with editors and technical staff to compile a final product. In some cases, individuals employed in this career field may aid in directing or even in writing scripts. The cinematographer may also serve as the chief camera operator.

The main difference between a digital cinematographer’s work and a traditional cinematographer’s work is that the former does not create films in the traditional sense. Rather, images are created and preserved with a more advanced electronic process that may include computerized disks and flash memory. Video shot in this format is generally considered a higher and clearer quality because it uses a discrete signal that is less prone to interference from outside environmental factors.

Digital cinematography may also require more post-production work. Factors such as lighting, color adjustment, and zooming are important considerations in cinematography, and many of the smaller details are addressed in the editing phase after a film is completed. Digitally filmed works are more readily placed into computer software programs that can manipulate images in a number of ways. In many digital films, computer-generated digital images are added to physically filmed shots during this process. The digital cinematographer may play a role in these areas.

Individuals must possess a number of skill sets to succeed in cinematography, particularly digital cinematography. For one, familiarity with various styles of digital video cameras is a definite plus. A working knowledge of filmmaking factors like lighting and audio quality are also beneficial. Since a great many digital productions are reliant on digitized special effects, a prospective cinematographer should likely possess a keen understanding of computer design software and computer usage as a whole.

Cinematography instruction is offered via specialized training courses or through related degrees obtained from a technical school. Degrees may be available in cinematography or under an associated name such as Film or Video Production. Increasing numbers of schools are also offering concentrated degrees in Digital Cinematography. Once employed in the video industry, a digital cinematographer may seek a number of career paths. A prospect may focus on editing, distribution, or preserving material. Some individuals may work their way up to director or even producer.


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