Cinematography: Introduction

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The first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16, 1929, just after the advent of "talkies." By 1930, enthusiasm was so great that a Los Angeles radio station did a live, one-hour broadcast, and the Awards have enjoyed broadcast coverage ever since.

The number and types of awards have grown and changed over the years to keep up with the development of the motion picture industry. Since 1981, Awards of Merit—Oscars®—have been presented in each (or in sub-divisions) of the following categories: acting, art direction, cinematography, costume design, directing, feature and short documentary film, film editing, foreign-language film, make-up, music, best picture, best animated and best live-action short film, sound, sound-effects editing, visual effects and writing. In an age when awards shows seem as common as nightly news programs, the Academy Awards are unique because the judges—Academy members—are the top filmmakers from around the world. The question, "Who gets the Oscar?," is decided by a true jury of peers.

With the exception of the best picture, which is decided by the entire Academy, and the documentary, foreign-language film and short-film categories, which are selected by special viewing committees, nominations are determined by a secret ballot of Academy members representing each craft. All Academy members vote to select the final winners.

The awards nomination and selection process provides a wonderful opportunity to teach your students about the many craft areas—and the many communications techniques—that play a part in creating a motion picture. Filmmaking is by nature a collaborative process, with each craft area supporting and being supported by the others. Because our space is limited, this kit focuses on just one of those areas-cinematography.

Selecting Films for Student Viewing

Students may select the films they wish to view during the following activities, or you may wish to suggest films that you believe are appropriate.

The following films have won Academy Awards for cinematography and may be appropriate for your students: Titanic (1997), Schindler's List (1993), A River Runs Through It (1992), Dances With Wolves (1990), Mississippi Burning (1988), The Last Emperor (1987) and Out of Africa (1985).

The following films were nominated for Academy Awards for cinematography and may be appropriate for your students: Shakespeare in Love (1998), Amistad (1997), Evita (1996), Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Howards End (1992). For younger students, A Little Princess (1995) and Fly Away Home (1996) may be good choices.


Animation: Creating Movement Frame by Frame

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Complete Cinematography Activities Guide (PDF)

Activity 1: Angling the Camera

Activity 2: Lighting the Scene

Activity 3: Framing the Shot

Activity 4: Learning from the Best

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