Emmanuel Lubezki ASC, the cinematographer on "Gravity", has expounded at some length on the hybridization of the role of the cinematographer, for example in this article from the ASC blog, and his opinion is that the responsibilities of the cinematographer extend into the virtual realm where the realization of the film depends upon virtual techniques. "If a movie has a strong CG element, that doesn’t mean the cinematographer didn’t light it or frame it,” he says in the ASC article. "...that is another skill, another talent for the cinematographer....Who is going to decide how these actors are lit at the end? It’s still an extension of cinematography".
Earlier this year Sharon Calahan, Director of Photography on Pixar's "Toy Story", "Toy Story 2", "Finding Nemo", "Ratatouille" and "Cars 2" was accepted as an active member of the ASC, the first time the organization has extended such recognition to a cinematographer working solely within the CG animation field. The acceptance of Ms. Calahan into the ranks of the ASC implies an acknowledgement that the art of cinematography exists independently of the medium in which it is exercised. It is the oversight of the visual component of a production that matters, whether that oversight is through the traditional techniques of cameras and lenses, through computer graphics applications or a combination of these.
The term "virtual cinematography" has long been used to describe computer graphic cinematography, but I personally have found resonance with the term "expanded cinematography" as proposed by Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC and Yuri Neyman, ASC, the co-founders of the Global Cinematography Institute in Los Angeles since it explicitly decouples the definition from the technology in use, or rather expands the definition to embrace all possible (and future) technologies.
They define Expanded Cinematography as follows:
“Expanded Cinematography” is a state of mind that is recasting the production process around creative choice, rather than developing and working around barriers created by gaps in the ever-evolving technical knowledge. This way of thinking creates a new unity of art and technology, the conversion of existing crafts and the activities of cinematography, design, art direction, visual effects, virtual lighting, previsualization, as well as emerging visual practices, into a newly crafted discipline which in turn develops the cinematographer’s profession into a Cinematographer-Artist-Designer-Technologist that is able to comprehend and solve any tasks which modern production can put in front of him or her."
from "The Evolving Role of the Cinematographer" by George Leon in Filmcast Live!
This blog, which is now launching with this post, will focus initially on fully CG cinematography, simply because that is what I do. However, in thinking about the future of the blog in the context of what I have written above, I decided not to artificially limit its scope. I'm not sure where that will take the blog, but that's part of the fun - we'll see where we go. I hope that it will fill a currently vacant niche in the ongoing discussion about cinematography, and will complement the many excellent blogs out there on the internet that explore the subject of cinematography in so many varied and engaging ways.