Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers, Directors, and Videographers 1st Edition

116 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0240805009
ISBN-10: 0240805003
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Editorial Reviews


"A gorgeous piece of work that bids to become a classic text on cinematography....Few books on cinematography meld aesthetics and pragmatics as deftly as this one."
American Cinematographer

"The gorgeous illustrations bring movies to life, and the modern approach that incorporates digital as well as film means that this book can be used for years to come."
Judy Irola, ASC
Head of Cinematography
USC School of Cinematic Arts

"The book is a wonderful, well-organized and knowledgable collection of all information a cinematographer may need. I recommend it highly."
Andrew Laszlo, ASC

"This book shows that there is more to the DP than holding the light meter--he needs to understand so much more about using photography to tell a story, create a mood, evoke an emotion. No other text I know of stresses this to this extent."
Douglas C. Hart, First Camera Assistant, Instructor, and Author of The Camera Assistant

"Blain Brown has created a masterpiece. Cinematography is the best reference book I have ever seen..the theories and practices revealed here will never go out of date. This is a "must have” book for anyone claiming to be a cinematographer that hasn't got at least two Academy Awards sitting on their mantle." - Rick Gerard, Creative Cow

From the Publisher

Cinematography presents the basics and beyond, employing clear explanations of standard practice together with substantial illustrations and diagrams to reveal the real world of film production. Recognizing that professionals know when to break the rules and when to abide by them, this book discusses many examples of fresh ideas and experiments in cinematography. Covering the most up-to-date information on the film/digital interface, new formats, the latest cranes and camera support and other equipment, it also illustrates the older tried and true methods.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (October 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240805003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240805009
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #437,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Blain Brown is a cinematographer, director, writer and teacher. He currently runs the cinematography program at Los Angeles Film School.

As a Director of Photography specializing in features and commercials, he is now based in LA. His books include A Sense of Place; Motion Picture and Video Lighting, Cinematography: Theory and Practice and The Filmmaker's Pocket Reference. His work can be seen at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because of the glowing review it received in American Cinematographer and then soon after it was the requred book for my cinematography course at USC Film School. I have dozens of books about cinematography, and this is the only one I've ever seen that covers every aspect of cinematography.
Most books are either sort of airy, light-weight musings about aesthetics and philosophy and the other kind is strictly technical: lenses, exposure, etc. This is the one book that covers just about everything you need to know in order to be a professional cinematographer (or an amateur who knows as much as a pro).
It covers everthing from the basics to very advanced stuff and the one thing that most of my camera assistant and camera apprentice friends really like is that it covers "professional practice": the way things are done on real sets, including things like what are the responsibilties of each person: the AC, the gaffer, the grip, etc.
It has a chapter on lighting and one on creating the "look" of a film, but the one thing it doesn't go into heavily is set lighting. That is, I guess, because this author has another book about lighting (which was also a textbook in a film school course I took.) He (or she?) also says in introduction that lighting is a vast subject and there is no way to fit it into one or two chapters - it has to have it's own book.
Anyway, this book is so good, I bought some to give as Christmas presents to friends. Even the ones who are already working professional DP's enjoyed it and said they loved it. I think it is also used in some of the directing courses here at USC. The first half of the book is about the kinds of things a director needs to know as well as the DP: coverage, editorial, crossing the line, that kind of stuff.
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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful By D. Rahmel on March 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
When I first read this book, I already knew quite a bit about cinematography. This book filled in a large number of gaps in my knowledge. It did a rare thing for a cinematography book - it provided information on the actual lights that are used to create cinematic magic (HMIs, Fresnel lenses, PARs, etc.).

The author makes extensive use of computer design (Poser) to show actors, their positioning to the camera, and various lighting scenarios. Using these graphics, the book shows blocking from various angles - all very helpful to the beginning filmmaker.

The book also includes up-to-date information relating to problems faced by current filmmakers (video-to-film transfer, aspects of HD photography, processes such as ENR, etc.). While only described in overview, the explanations were clear and provide a good foundation for these moving targets.

The only topic I thought should have been covered in more detail was blue screen/green screen photography. As anyone who has done compositing with some sort of chroma key knows, the technical aspects alone are difficult. However, that's nothing compared to the problems of achieving artistic cinematography around/with these chroma key shots. It would have been great if some sense of the challenges and solutions of the cinematography of chroma keying would have been included.

Great book, though.

Dan Rahmel

Author: "Nuts and Bolts Filmmaking"
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120 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 9, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
...despite the hype, this book is NOT a "great reference book" of cinematography. Instead of a thorough explanation of the craft & art of cinematography, it is instead a slim text which cursorily navigates the dual topics of technical/hardware requirements, and then briefly gestures at some of the aesthetic decisions required of good cinematography.

If you want technicals, books which cover similar territory are "Matters of Light & Depth" (Lowell), "Cinematography" & "Film Lighting" (Malkiewicz), "Placing Shadows" (Gloman/Letourneau), or even "Bare-Bones Guide" (Schroeppel -- which includes a very practical description of the 'Rule of Thirds', ie. the "Golden Mean").

If you're on a 'classical' kick, you could do a whole lot worse than "5 C's" (Mascelli), "Painting with Light" (Alton), or even "The Visual Story" (Block), which explores new media thru the lens[sic] of Eisenstein. Actually, you probably should buy "5 C's" & "Painting" anyway; they're very old, & just-recently returned to print... & in this age of accelerated obsolescence, these books might vanish again, forever.

But if you are interested in the aesthetics of cinematography, you'd do *much* better with texts such as "Cinematography: Screencraft" (Ettedgui), or with the classic "Film Art: An Introduction" (Bordwell/Thompson). In fact, after all the great reviews for "Cinematography: Image Making", I was expecting some sort of full-color/high-quality updated version of "Film Art". Nope... not even close.

IMHO, the book which best combines both worlds (technical + aesthetic) is Viera's "Lighting for Film & Electronic Cinematography".
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65 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Brian M on December 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was working on a camera crew with a recent AFI grad and she told me this book is "the bible" at AFI, then a fellow I know at USC grad school had it as a required book in his cinematography class so I checked it out.

I see why these schools use it. It's comprehensive, thorough and most important, it takes a really professional view of how cinematography is done. I must have a dozen books on cinematography. Some of them are sort of student/amateur and some of them are just reminiscences of old studio DPs. Interesting reading, but doesn't tell me what I need to know to shoot a scene.

This book covers technical issues like exposure, optics, color, special EFX, etc but it also covers aesthetics. The chapter on "Lighting As Storytelling" is the best article on the aesthetics of image making and visual storytelling I've ever read anywhere (and I have a degree in cinematography). I have found this chapter on the web. You can download it at several websites that feature this book.

For best results, you need to buy this book in conjunction with the author's book on lighting, which really goes into standard techniques and equipment in much greater depth, as you would expect -- he can cover it better in a whole book than he can in a single chapter (which is how some cinematography books try to do it.) Although this book does have a couple of chapters on lighting that serve as a pretty good introduction.

Worth the price alone is the chapter on Set Operations, which goes into great detail on the job assignments on a set, how things are done and procedures like proper slating technique, etc. The chapter Visual Language is like a mini-course on composition, visual techniques and creating powerful images.
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