AFC Image Charter

The cinematic opus is at the center of our concerns.

La Lettre AFC n°149

[English] [français]

1 - Definition of the term Director of Photography
2 - Study of the project with the director and production
3 - Defining the technical workflow
4 - Putting together the camera team
5 - Tests and production
6 - Editing and post-production
Charte de l’image
Charte de l’image

Preamble

The cinematic opus is at
the center of our concerns.

The principal goals of the present Charter are :

  • To support the director in his or her creative task and to give us the means to defend the integrity of the work in all its visual aspects, as much as a mark of respect for the audience, as for its authors.
  • To enable, in conjunction with the producer, the research and implementation of the necessary means, compatible with the project’s budget.

In this perspective, and because cinema production, post-production and distribution technologies are always evolving, it is necessary to redefine the obligations and responsibilities of the director of photography.

1 - Definition of the term Director of Photography

He has been called Cinégraphiste ; he or she is called Cinematographer, Director of Photography or Lighting Cameraman in English-speaking countries, Autore della fotografia in Italy ; in France, he is designated as Directeur de la Photographie on the professional identity card delivered by the CNC (National Cinema Center).

According to the CNC job definition, he is responsible for the artistic and technical quality of the film’s image.

He or she is responsible for everything that is related to making the film image that will be seen by the audience, given that this image is the result of the collaboration of many people and disciplines (first and foremost the director’s work, but also the set, wardrobe, editing, color timing, etc.)

He is chosen in principle by the director, though sometimes by the producer, for his competence and know-how, his artistic sense and his aptitude to conceive and create images that suit the script and direction, as well as for his people skills and team leadership.

He is also responsible, with the production manager, for the suitability of the means used in production to accomplish the images, in the context of the project’s budget.

During preparation and production, the director of photography is a creative
collaborator and participates in the shot breakdown and in the choice of frame
compositions. His creative role is especially evident in the choice and
implementation of the film’s lighting, and in the recording of the image - no matter what the capture or distribution medium. These two important responsibilities require that, before production, the director of photography supervise a number of choices that will have an impact on the image quality, and, after shooting, that he have control during post-production, printing and transfer so that the image seen by the spectator, whatever its medium, be faithful to the creative choices made.

All these decisions are communicated to the film’s director and producer.

2 - Study of the project with the director and production

- After reading the script, discussion with the director on the stylistic approach of the film.
- Refine the stylistic options and research the best means to implement them.
- Plan artistic and technical tests.
- Continue discussions with the main department heads (art, wardrobe, make-up, special effects, sound).
- Take the financial aspects into consideration.
- Estimate the time needed for preparation, location scouting, putting together the scouting team (operator, key grip, gaffer...)
- Study of the shooting schedule.

3 - Defining the technical workflow

This involves establishing a consistency between the creative project,
the technical and financial means of production and post-production,
and the different distribution media.

This work is done in collaboration with the director, the production manager,
and various technical managers (service companies, rental houses, suppliers, other department heads, etc.). Depending on the complexity of the project,
this step will be done in collaboration with one or more consultants
(special effects, stunts, models, etc...) and/or a post-production manager.

Key choices :
- Image capture medium (film, digital, formats)
- Camera type(s)
- Service companies and suppliers
- Rental houses
- Special effects and opticals
- Lab(s) and post houses
- Dailies, dailies medium (film, HD, Digital Beta, Beta SP, DVD, other), viewing conditions.

4 - Putting together the image team

The director of photography chooses (or approves) his or her team :
- Camera operator
- Camera assistants (first and second), and video assistants
- Camera and video interns
- Second unit director of photography
- Additional camera operators (B camera, Steadicam, aerial photography, etc.)
- Electrical crew
- Grip crew
- Digital Image Technician
- Film and digital color timers
- Special effects supervisor
- Make-up department head

As department head, the director of photography insures that the members of his team respect the rules of professional conduct and security.

5 - Tests and production

- The director of photography defines and implements the creative choices under consideration with technical tests. These concern the image in all its aspects : directorial choices, sets, wardrobe, make-up, custom lab processes, special effects, etc.
- During technical tests, he or she supervises the implementation of a framing chart that will serve as a reference during production, editing, post-production, etc., and, if need be, reference images for any special film or digital processing.
- During production, he is obviously responsible for the conception and implementation of the image, he works with the other departments to resolve any problems that may arise, and participates in the daily work organization (call sheets, work hours, estimation of time and means needed).
- He collaborates with the script-person to resolve any continuity problems.
- Given that the quality of the dailies determines part of the decisions made during production and editing, and that the dailies - in the form of Avid or other outputs - can also be used for various screenings (buyers, previews, press, festivals, co-producers, etc.), the management of the quality of the dailies is paramount, and under the responsibility of the director of photography. He approves the dailies before their use by editing, and arranges for any timing corrections that he deems essential.

6 - Editing and post-production

The director of photography is available to help the editors do any image corrections on analog or digital systems (Avid, Lightworks or other).
He checks the quality of reprints, notably those done for special effects, and any special image processing called for by the editing process ; he also vets prints of the edited 35 mm.

The director of photography must be regularly informed of any change of timetable in the post-production, editing and lab work.

He supervises the following post-production steps :
- Optical effects : check of scans, shoots and intermediate elements
- Check of any change in distribution format
- Additional tests relating to the final texture of the image
- Film or digital color timing
- Inter-positives and inter-negatives and any elements for foreign delivery
- The reference release print
- Theatrical prints
- Masters for digital distribution
- Trailer film

The AFC emphasizes that the distributors, broadcasters and laboratories involved must consult the director of photography in order to verify that copies (film, digital masters, DVD and others) conform to the reference release print.

In case of schedule conflict, the director of photography delegates part or all of this task to a person of his choice, in agreement with the producers and the director.

The following people contributed to drafting the Charter

Directors of Photography :
Robert Alazraki, Diane Baratier, Gérard de Battista, Jean-Jacques Bouhon, Dominique Bouilleret, François Catonné, Rémy Chevrin, Bruno Delbonnel, Jean-Marie Dreujou, Etienne Fauduet, Jean-Noël Ferragut, Eric Gautier, Dominique Gentil, Jimmy Glasberg, Gilles Henry, Willy Kurant, Pierre Lhomme, Jacques Loiseleux, Armand Marco, Jean-François Robin, Charlie Van Damme.

Consultants :
Luc Barnier, editor
Luc Béraud, director
Edith Colnel, production manager
Yvon Crenn, production manager
Didier Dekeyser, Eclair Laboratories
Tommaso Vergallo, Digimage.

English Translator : Benjamin B.