Cinematographic Evolution: What Can History Tell Us About The Future?

Daniel Maddock, Griffith Film School Part of CW15

Many commentators and proponents of the film industry have called for a review of the cinematographic award asking who is responsible for these images; the cinematographer or the visual effects artists. Theorist Jean Baudrillard said cinema plagiarises itself, remakes its classics, retro-activates its own myths. So, what can the history of filmmaking tell us about the practice of visual effects? Four of the previous five winners for Best Cinematography in a Feature Film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards (2009-2013) have been films which have contained a large component of computer generated imagery (animation and/or visual effects). Some of these films have moved far beyond creating virtual backgrounds for the actors to appear in. Avatar, Life of Pi and Gravity are examples of films creating whole universes and characters for the actor to interact with. This paper analyses the use of visual effects in popular filmmaking prior to the use of computer technology for the art. This historical analysis is then compared and contrasted against today’s discussion/argument of cinematographic authorship. What did it consist of before the use of computers in filmmaking? Are and will cinematographers always be the authors of the image?