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April 01


Spring 2017


Robert Primes, ASC

Robert Primes, ASC


Paul Cameron, ASC

Paul Cameron, ASC


“It’s insane the number of people that may work on one particular VFX shot.”

—Paul Cameron, ASC

Dr. Strange (Photo credit: Copyright © 2016 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.)

Dr. Strange (Photo credit: Copyright © 2016 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.)


With all of the collaborative work being done on films these days, who precisely is the author of the image now?

According to acclaimed cinematographer Robert Primes, ASC (Quantum Leap, Money Talks, Bird on a Wire) he would determine the authorship of a completed composite image this way: “Who had the initial vision, who designed the image and who supervised the execution. Authorship by multiple people is possible.”

When the bulk of the story is told in live images, “the cinematographer should lead the collaboration,” says Primes. The VFX supervisor should lead the collaboration when the “bulk of the story is told in VFX created images.” The director should lead the collaboration “when the director chooses to, barring a serious lack of confidence from the cinematographer or VFX supervisor.”

According to cinematographer Paul Cameron, ASC (Westworld, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Men Tell No Tales, Collateral, Total Recall): It’s a fine line when it comes to simple VFX like sky replacement, etc. The level of post manipulation and number of people by nature make it a collective image. It’s insane the number of people that may work on one particular VFX shot. Does that make everyone who has an effect on the final image an AUTEUR? As cinematographer I want the final image to show the highest level of authorship I can accomplish from my physical photography.”

In Cameron’s view, “The director should always lead the collaboration. Then the production designers. Collectively they are the ones who are conceptualizing and designing initial visual components on the movie whether it involves heavy visual effects or not. The cinematographer should come in after initial concept and design at the visualization phase. That’s the time when discussions of what the world of the movie will look like and feel take place. This is the time when all possible creative ideas should be explored. This includes practically how to accomplish the ideas within schedule and budget constraints.

“The VFX supervisor traditionally is brought in way before the cinematographer. Unfortunately, sometimes before the production designer.

“The VFX supervisor’s primary role is to achieve the creative aim of the director through the use of visual effects. The production designer is still responsible for the design of those images.

“Ideally,” he adds, “the director, production designer, cinematographer, VFX supervisor and producer all meet together and approach the film as one collaborative effort. I just know from experience that films are all very different in these initial phases and unfortunately, as a cinematographer, I am almost never brought in early enough in the process. Methodology is extremely vital to the success of production and to the integrity of the final image. Where the film is being shot and how much of it is practical or not is often determined by the time I get on board.”

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