“Cinematography & Lighting” – Gregg Toland (Week 1 Lecture Notes)

by Gregg Toland

The camera, when you get right down to cases, is the eyes of the audience. Thus the cameraman is the censor (I dislike the word but it is applicable here) over the most important of the five physical senses of millions of entertainment seekers. Great is his crime, artistically speaking, if he violates this trust by failing to present in the most telling manner the dramatic content of the plot.
The cameraman’s further responsibilities are both artistic and economic, inasmuch as he is a factor in an art-industry.

From the art side of the picture, there are three things he must know:

  1. The mechanics of the camera.
  2. Where to place the camera, and,
  3. How to light the scene to be photographed.

The first is purely routine. The second and third functions involve the creative ingredient. The placement of the camera determines the angle from which the action is to be viewed by audiences. The importance of this angle to dramatic effect cannot be overemphasized. The lighting of the scene is an equally potent factor in the determination of dramatic effect, in addition to its basic function—visibility.

To the eye of an expert cameraman, the manner in which a set is lighted is an infallible key to the mood to be established. He can step onto a lighted set which he has never seen before and predict with astonishing accuracy what kind of scene is about to be photographed.
Toland on Cinematography (BlackBoard Item)//

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