View Full Version : Cinematography and Directing Books and Resources

12 December 2004, 06:05 AM
Just to get the ball rolling here, recommend books, websites, resources dedicated to cinematography and directing that would be beneficial to other members...

Some of mine:

- The Five C's of Cinematography, Joseph V. Mascelli (
This book came in highly recommended as a fundamental textbook on Cinematography. It's great because it deals with the fundamentals of cinematography and filming techniques. Everything from camera angles, to continuity, cutting, close-ups and composition (five C's). Written in 1965 and still valid today.

- American Cinematographer Manual - The ASC (
This book also came highly recommended from film-makers as the 'bible' of cinematography, which covers everything about traditional cinematography in excrutiating detail. Has some good VFX-related chapters on Motion Control, Digital Effects (Dennis Muren), CG and digital imaging. Mostly information for live-action cinematographers but still a very good and relevant resource for anyone interested in the moving picture art.

- The American Society of Cinematographers (The ASC) (
One of the most prestigious cinematography organisations in the world - well known for their publication "American Cinematographer" (awesome magazine btw).

- [digital] Cinematography and Directing, Dan Ablan (
Part of the [digital] series published by New Riders, this book covers fundamental cinematography concepts and techniques but caters specifically to 3D/CG film-making.

I'm sure there are a lot more out there, and I'm keen on building up my own library of resources, so if you have any recommendations, please post them here!



12 December 2004, 06:23 AM
I highly recommend the 5c's of cinematography.

you dont need the american cinematographers manual unless you plan to shoot live action since its chock full of lens types and light temperatures and technical stuff like that.

12 December 2004, 08:03 AM
WOW! cool stuff. I've found it hard to find stuff in this general area. This forum will be very successful!

I've read some books about the pre russian revolutionary film making period. Do You guys think that the methods used then are still studied now? eg: eisenstein, Kulshov etc.

Are history of film and classic methods still taught in film schools? I think they should and I hope they do.

And again, wicked forum!!!

12 December 2004, 09:16 AM

many thanks for providing this forum, folks. :thumbsup:

...and a great way to kick things off with this thread in particular. thanks for the links - though, are the amazon links just going to the amazon homepage for anyone else?

12 December 2004, 11:10 AM
though, are the amazon links just going to the amazon homepage for anyone else?
yep, here too.

thanks for the link (book names) and for this new forum, really great.

12 December 2004, 11:15 AM
Yeah the five c's is incredible. bought it with "painting with light" another highly recommended book.

12 December 2004, 11:29 AM
Film Directing Shot by Shot, Steven Katz (

This is a great book dealing with composing shots and learning about how 3d space converts to the 2d space of the screen. It is primarily for live action but most of the information is relevant to 3d work.

from the Amazon synopsisi "Katz provides in-depth coverage of production design, storyboarding, spatial connections, editing, scene staging, depth of frame, camera angles, point of view, and the various types of stable compositions and moving camera shots."

12 December 2004, 12:38 PM
did you see this ? >

12 December 2004, 01:07 PM
Digital Character Anim 2 - Vol 1 (
George Mastri
New Riders
ISBN: 1562059300

Digital Character Anim 2 - Vol 2 (
George Mastri
New Riders
ISBN: 0735700443

The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas (
Richard Williams
Faber and Faber
ISBN: 0571202284

Acting for Animators: A Complete Guide to Performance Animation (
Ed Hooks
Greenwood Press
ISBN: 0325002290

Animation with character studio 3 (
Michele Bousquet
See (
Note: I have no idea why this book costs $149.99 at, but my teacher recommended it. So I put it here.

Animating Facial Features and Expressions (
Bill Fleming, Darris Dobbs
Charles River Media
ISBN: 1886801819

12 December 2004, 01:23 PM
i've been reading a book lately by Michael Ondaatje that is a collection of conversations between himself and Walter Murch . Walter Murch is a pretty famous film editor (God father, Apocalypse now, english patient) who goes into the many intricacies of visual storytelling.

The book is called

"The Conversations : Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film"

12 December 2004, 02:38 PM
Well I allready posted ma lil thang on the other thread,

But here are the books I recommend, just because they're required reading at my school(ie. haven't read them yet, but heard a lot of good things from people that have)

first year filmschool, we're learning general filmmaking now at school. Here are the relevant books that are required reading for us:
-Hitchcock by François Truffaut, also available in an english version
-The Art Of Dramatic Writing byEgri Lajos, Touchstone books and Simon&Schuster Trade
-Lessons In Directing(not sure of the exact name, translated, sorry) by Sergej Eisenstein

edit: I forgot "In The Blink Of An Eye" by Walter Murch, just read above post again.

12 December 2004, 04:32 PM
Yes, "5 c's of Cinematography" is a must-have book and "Painting with Light" is also and old and good one.

"Film Directing Shot by Shot" by Steven Katz I highly recommend as well.

12 December 2004, 04:40 PM
This is the book I'm currently using for a start to finish reference. More general than the others but it hits every topic.

Timothy Albee's CGI Filmmaking: The Creation of Ghost Warrior

12 December 2004, 10:12 PM
As been mentioned before, Steven Katz, _Cinematic Motion_ . He very recently came out with a second edition (which I didn't see on Amazon, just the first edition). It has a whole new chapter on Digital Film Design... using... Poser! Actually, he does casually mention other software packages, and the particular software used isn't the point of his chapter. I did really like the book.

12 December 2004, 10:27 PM
good old book by ernest pintoff (

01 January 2005, 06:16 AM
General filmaking
Before studying too many "techniques" or "tools" (eg longs lenses, high angles, camera moves etc) I always recommend people study & become aware of the basic building blocks of cinematic communication like Bruce Block's The Visual Story. (

You don't have to use ALL the elements that he covers, but it does supply a super-structure that all specific techniques become subservient to. You decide what you want to communicate & then you know which of the various tools or techniques are appropriate. It tells you "why" certain visual approaches will cause people to respond in certain ways (and it's an easy read).

Once someone is aware of why these techniques work they can choose the appropriate technique(s) for their needs.

Once you want to study specific approaches of camerawork/setups & staging you simply can't go past Per Holmes DVD set, The Master Course In High-End Blocking And Staging . (
It's like all the other books on staging, camera setups etc combined, but with movement, narration, pause, rewind, etc etc. It's brilliant!

I'd love to see reels come in with camera techniques like those in Per's course. can dream....

Your mileage may vary.


01 January 2005, 02:57 PM
"Making Movies" by Sydney Lamet.
It's a book basically recording on of the classes he's teaching. All about what's important while making movies, and what shots make sense.

one of the best books i've ever read!

01 January 2005, 06:40 AM

-On Directing Film. Mamet, David.

Great book!! Its one of the lectures Mamet gave at columbia. Its a must trust me.

-In the Blink of an Eye. Murch, Walter.

Talks about editing..

-Film Form and Film Sense. Eisenstein, Sergei.

Very difficult read but its worth it.

Naisa Evoli
01 January 2005, 01:04 AM
Becuase i think the art of editing when making films (mostly low budget flicks) is really underestimated sometimes, i think these two books are really good.

In The Blink Of an Eye: (already mentioned, but really good one so saying it again^^)

The Techniques of film editing:

01 January 2005, 01:00 AM
I have to make a quick aside in here, because a few books have slipped in that may not be much of a help.

One book in particular -- I won't say what the title is but it has five c's in it -- was a lot of pages and pictures without the guiding logic, at least, when I read it thirty years ago it was.

The Hitchcock book has one genius remark about saving long shots which basically blows the 5 c's out of the water. Unless you don't like the look of Hitchcock's films. The downside of the Hitchcock book is that the conversations seem to imply so much you can miss their meaning.

Which of the many books mentioned answers these questions:

When do I use a crane shot, and why?

Do I shoot comedy differently?

How do I go from a tracking shot to a static shot, and why?

How do I get a more 3D feel?

Actually, I'm at a loss for questions, but good questions are worth a lot when looking at books, especially on things like Cinematography and Directing. A lot of rules are meant to be broken, so I'm implying the great western tradition of movies that look like other movies, but that's what a lot of us are looking for.

01 January 2005, 12:13 AM
Which of the many books mentioned answers these questions:

When do I use a crane shot, and why?

Do I shoot comedy differently?

How do I go from a tracking shot to a static shot, and why?

How do I get a more 3D feel?

Check out the Bruce Block book. I am taking his class at UCLA and it has helped me to understand how story structure can be enhanced with viusal structure.

01 January 2005, 08:28 PM
addressing scott's points...

As I was saying earlier, IMHO books like the 5 Cs are not a good place to *start*.

It's important to understand the form (yes, read Bruce Block) before simply learning techniques & tools.

Any book which purports to answers questions like....

* When do I use a crane shot, and why?

* Do I shoot comedy differently?

* How do I go from a tracking shot to a static shot, and why?

* How do I get a more 3D feel?

...IMHO is dangerous, it leads to people using a cliched, boring, formualic approach to film-making using far more distracting, unmotivated visual devices than neccesary.

(BTW Bruce Block's book doesn't answer any of those specific questions, but after reading it you can answer every one of them yourself based on the fundamentals it covers.)

When discussing specific techniques, the best a course/book could do is say that with a certain audience, of a certain age, with a certain cultural background, with a certain exposure to certain types of films, a certain technique *tends* to have a certain affect....but as soon as you say that someone can point out where the same technique was used to conveyed the opposite....

(Again check out the Per Holmes' blocking/staging master class I mentioned in an earlier post for great demonstrations that explain what affect certain framings, moves etc *tend* to have - and also point out how overlyconvential it may be to use them that way...)

Maybe it's more of a Zen thing, but to me I couldn't tell someone when to use a crane shot - they need to discover the need for a crane shot. The needs of the shot dictates the technique & then the tool. To me it's a bit like a budding symphony composer asking "when do I use a flute?" or a dancer asking "when do I use a kick?". The answer is "when you feel you need to".

It gets back once again to knowing *what* you want to say in each shot & how that shots fits in the flow of the sequence & how that sequence fits in the overall narrative/visual arc of the film. Then work out the techniques & tools required to achieve it.

BTW a book I forgot to mention last time that I think is absolutely wonderful is Film Art: An Introduction (
It's a great introduction (surprise, surprise) to film form, theory etc etc using an amazingly varied array of film reference. (I think there's new version with CD or something...?)

Your mileage may vary...

02 February 2005, 04:18 PM
Thanks Leonard for posting this thread up, as the theory of cinematography is one of the most important aspect of making your project work.

Like some others that have posted in here, I too highly recommend the 5C book, as well as Shot by Shot. These 2 books are really wonderful, and you'll get a great deal of knowledge just by reading them. Some books are great for beginners as they introduce you to the tried and true formulaes of filmmaking, but these 2 books are great because they apply to both beginners an veterans as well. Even if you know the theories behind them, you'll still find yourself going through them as you work on your projects, especially the pre-production part (which I believe is the most important aspect of the whole workflow). Plus, you'll always learn something whenever you pick them up to read, whether it's your 2nd time or your 20th time. However, more importantly than reading them, you should apply them in practice or else they would just fade away very quickly...

I would also recommend another book called 'In the Blink of an Eye' by Walter Murch. Although it's not a cinematography and directing book (it's an editing book), I feel it's an absolutely great asset to turn your work from good to great :)

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