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Updated: September 28, 2012 19:15 IST

Light and Craft

Subha J Rao
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Macro Photographer K. Jayaram spoke about cinematography
Macro Photographer K. Jayaram spoke about cinematography

Art of Cinema threw the spotlight on cinematography and editing techniques

It all began with cavemen painting on the walls of their dwellings, said macro-photographer K. Jayaram. Later, when modern man found it necessary to document everyday life, he invented the camera, a box as big as a bullock cart. And he used it to take photographs — by recording light.

Tracing the growth of cinematography in the film industry, Jayaram called the early cinematographers masters of lighting.

He said they used to look at the sun and decide exposure. Those in the Western world were experts in artificial lighting and filters too, for it was usually either raining, cloudy or snowing there, he said.

The session on Cinematography was part of a two-day UGC-funded workshop called the Art of Cinema, organised by the Department of Communication, PSG College of Arts and Science, in association with Konangal Film Society.


As part of the workshop, portions of Visions of Light, a 1992 documentary was screened. It traces the craft of cinematography through the ages and has eminent cinematographers speaking of the craft. Nestor Almendros, cinematographer of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, said how the story was narrated through images. Most of the film was shot in the 20-25 minutes between dusk and night, when the light is very soft, and according to Nestor, “It gave some kind of magic look, a beauty and romanticism”.

Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro spoke of his work with Bernardo Bertolucci in The Last Emperor. He pointed out the dominance of one colour during every phase of the child-emperor’s life. Vittorio explained: “Red was the colour of birth, yellow of childhood, green of knowledge…”

In Eraserhead, shot in black and white, Frederick Elmes spoke about how they wanted it to be “not just dark, but very, very dark. How dark is dark?” he asked.


The session concluded with some shots of the achingly beautiful cinematography of Andrey Tarkovskiy’s The Mirror. Jayaram spoke to the students about light and shade and how they lent a frame three-dimensional qualities.

On the first day of the workshop, clippings from the movies of masters such as Jean Renoir, Tarkovsky and Carlos Sorin were screened. So was the film Dog Day Afternoon and a documentary The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing. It was followed by an interaction between the students and Pon Chandran and S. Anand from Konangal.

The films that were screened on the second day were the Oscar winning Iranian film A Separation and the Belgian Kid With The Bike.

Eighty-three students from seven institutions took part in the event.

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