Whenever somebody equates “shallow depth of field” and “cinematic look,” it’s good to remember that the opposite is sometimes true. Gregg Toland, ASC was the first master of extreme depth of field, and movies like Citizen Kane and The Grapes of Wrath forever changed what it is possible for humans to do with cameras. Here’s a look at what that means for YOUR shooting.

There are the three people in the foreground, with young Charles Foster Kane playing outside the window, but there’s much more to this than just foreground and background. Look at the extra layers provided by the sheet of paper, the doorway, each the beams of the ceiling, and the chair – before we even get to young Kane in the window!

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I don’t necessarily think that you have to go to the extreme deep depth that movies like Citizen Cane did, but I certainly think that alot of modern cinematographers are way too into shallow depth.

Sixty percent of the movies I work on the DP throws as much ND as possible to get the stop to between F2 and F2.8….even on exteriors. That, to me, is ludicrous. There is nothing wrong with stopping down a bit and getting some depth, especially when the art department has done a good job with the set.


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