Camera Department Grades (6 replies and 12 comments)
Hi Everbody! I read an article recently that confused me and hope you can help me clarify. The article said that the terms Lighting Cameraman, Cinematographer and Director of Photography are 3 different skill levels, with LC being less skilled than Cinematographer who is in turn less skilled than Director of Photography. Is this true?
I thought they were different titles for the same position and skillset which we mostly refer to as Director of Photography.
Also, isn't Lighting Cameraman an obsolete British term for DOP or is it still in use with a different meaning than before?
And if I may.. Is the Script Supervisor part of the camera department or some other department?
Thank you for your time.
This is an interesting one.
Years ago it was Cinematographer, DoP, Lighting cameraman and cameraman in that order. If you look at the old 'Crewfinder' publications the various skills were listed in the above pecking order and each person advertised their skills under different headings. The BBC actually encouraged through their unions that individual titles are to be maintained so that various skills do not cross over, if they did then it would be 'pain of death' if you persued the route that the job descriptions were one of the same or could be adaptabled within each other. No union ticket, means no job.
Today, job description has a whole new meaning and film production company's have reinvented jargon to please the accountants!
Thanks for your comment Mike.
When I read the article I thought it couldn't possibly be true that these different titles referred to different grades. For instance, when John Alcott BSC won the Oscar in 1975 for Barry Lyndon he was credited as Lighting Cameraman, which I believed to be the old British term for Director of Photography.
It struck me as odd that he would be considered two grades below Cinematographer as you explain it.
I'll do a search for the 'Crewfinder' publications you mention and see what I can find out. You learn something new every day, eh?
It does seem like a moot point these days with Cinematographer and DoP being synonymous and Lighting Cameraman, as a job title seems to have become obsolete.
Thanks again for your considered response!
Director of Photography = Job Title
Cinematographer = Profession
Depending on the cinematographer, in certain movies you might see him listed in the credits as Director of Photography; however, if he's a significantly famous cinematographer, then you might see him in the beginning credits listed as "Cinematography by ______."
I'd say that usually the cinematographer is also the director of photography as he may want to be more hands on with the running of his crew. But in the old Hollywood system, you almost always had a Director of Photography who worked under the cinematographer. He functions much like the Assistant Director does for the Director, helping run the crew so that the director can focus on his main issues such as the actors, cinematographer, producer, script, etc. The DoP does the same. He helps the cinematographer run the crew so as the cinematographer can focus on the director, the shot, script, etc.
Never heard of a Lighting Cameraman. Yes it does sound like perhaps a European version of a Gaffer. Maybe?
Thank you for your reply. I appreciate your time.
It seems to me that there are no longer any hard and fast rules about these terms, and that even in the past there was some confusion about it. For instance, I don't think I've ever seen both a Cinematographer and Director of Photography on the same film credits. I have seen older British films (not TV shows) with Lighting Cameraman credited in the same place the Director of Photography would be on an American film. The late, great John Alcott BSC was credited as Lighting Cameraman on Clockwork Orange but there's no sign of a Cinematographer or Director of Photography on that film.
And how could a Lighting Cameraman win the Oscar for Best Cinematography?
It's all very confusing!
Wait! Sorry, I got DoP mixed up with Camera Operator. That's my bad. Yeah, unlike the Director, the Cinematography does not have an "assistant" so to speak, and is essentially the go to guy for all departments within the range of Camera and Lighting. Though surely there is someone who helps the cinematographer run the other crew members? I can see why many cinematographers choose to keep their crews a small as possible.
Here's what I found by just googling "Gaffer":
I know what a gaffer is. Thanks.
I got confused for a minute when I saw Chief Lighting Technician, for some reason I read it as Lighting Cameraman. Don't ask me why. lol But then I saw the comment below about the Lighting Cameraman television etc. My mistake. Obviously, I wasn't suggesting you didn't know what a gaffer was. I was just trying to see if there was a correlation between Gaffer and Linghting Cameraman.
So it appears that the Lighting Cameraman is specifically a television term used to describe the DoP.
I'm not familiar with television terms so, I'm not sure if this is a term they still use.
The term Lighting Cameraman was used several times by Kubrick on his films. I don't believe he made TV shows! I thought is was on old British term and because Kubrick was working in England that he used it for that reason. I might well be wrong about that but I don't think it's a TV term.
Perhaps. You can't exactly trust Wikipedia.
Yes, Lighting Cameraman is an old British term. I would say Cinematographer is a preferred title in Britain and the rest of Europe but it seems frowned upon in the US as not reflecting the scope and responsibility of the position.
Thank you so much for replying! Would you say all three terms describe the same job?
I believe you said Roger that you prefer Cinematographer over DP as DP implies there is more than one director. Is that right?
I think 'Director of Photography' implies someone who oversees the work but doesn't actually get their hands dirty, whilst 'Lighting Cameraman' implies someone who only lights. 'Cinematographer' is less ostentatious and seems to imply more of a hands on approach, which is the way I work. Does it really matter? Probably not.