Vittorio Storaro: On Visual Effects Artists

From American Cinematographer, Storaro Advises Digital Artists by Jay Holben (May 1999)

"On the whole, visual effects artists can do a little more to bring cinematographers into the fold. It's rare to find a visual effects artist that actually has an appreciation for cinematography-- that's another reason why I wanted to bring in Vittorio. I often hear visual effects artists say, 'Well, why can't we just have them lock down the camera?' When you hear Vittorio speak, you understand why. It's not just a technical matter-- it's about the emotion, pacing and life of the film. It's very important for effects artists to hear the passion and motivation that everyone else on a film has for their area of responsibility. Vittorio really exudes a passion and love for cinema that, frankly, some digital technicians lack. Educating visual effects artists is a great step toward keeping our doors open to cinematographers by saying, "We're not here to supplant you, we're only here to help create the same vision. We're no different that any other creative department."

- SPI Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Scott E. Anderson

"In cinema, you are selecting the piece of reality to show the audience. Through the camera angle, lens choices and framing, you are using one very important tool: composition. I don't know how conscious you are of composition in your work, but it is one of the most important elements. Without composition, it is difficult to put one element in relation to another. As they took me around the facility this morning, I saw a lot of you studying your screens on how to animate a creature. If you moved that creature from the center of the screen-- perhaps off to the side and slightly higher-- the [resulting] difference in perspective would totally change the character. Composition is a form of writing. You use the composition to say 'Look over here!' or 'Look this way and you are going to have this reaction, and afterwards you will have this information.' Color is also incredibly important to composition. Once you start to know the meaning of color, then you start to know who to write and compose with color. Using either a warm or cold color can completely change the perspective. Take one creature in the foreground and put the other in the background. By putting a red light on the front creature, and a green or a cyan light on the creature in the background, and you can force the perspective: the one in the foreground comes closer, and the one in the background moves further away. Now try the opposite-- put the green or cyan light in the foreground and the red light in the background-- and you will become confused. The distance between the them will become compressed as the warm color 'moves' forward and the cool color 'moves' backward. You can use this type of information to tell the story. The more you know about these tools, the more you can create meaningful compositions. The more concerned you are with composition, the better you can express yourself to an audience."

- Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC

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