‘The Works of the Motion Picture Cameraman’

The Work of the Motion Picture Cameraman

‘The Works of the Motion Picture Cameraman’ by Freddie Young & Paul Petzold, published by Focal Press, ISBN: 0 240 50766 5.

I found this book in a Charity bookshop.

This book was published in 1972 and although some of the book is out of date regarding modern film-making methods there is still a lot that won’t go out of date.  For example:

  • lighting techniques and objectives.
  • How light can help create a mood or help to produce depth of focus or reduce depth.
  • How light can help in composition by directing the audience’s attention to a certain part of the screen whilst keeping other elements connected to the scene in shot, or temporarily putting elements into shadow as part of a affect.
  • How to best arrange static lights for movement of the actors and camera around a set.
  • The typical location for a three light arrangement (key, fill and backlight) as illustrated with easy to understand diagrams.
  • What flags and gobos are and how they are used.
  • Examples of different lighting challenges, such as light a corridor, balancing daylight with interior lights, lighting fog, candle light, etc, etc.  This book covers most if not all different lighting conditions and how they are typically solved.
  • Camera and actors movements.
  • Rehearsals for both acting and technical aspects.
  • Some of the special affects and film equipment used is still relevant.

However, as this book was written in 1972 the book is naturally written in context to film cameras and pre computerised digital special affects; so refers to use of models and high speed cameras, with a chapter explaining how back and front projection is used and how it is done.  This obviously is no longer relevant to the modern industry; but is still interesting reading if you are a film-maker interested in old movies and how they were made.

To sum up, I would say that although this is now dated, I beleive there is still enough information in this book for a student in film-making to learn from.  I don’t believe that you can read too many books of lighting and camera techniques.


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