by Basil Yeo (@basilyeo)
What's the difference between a videographer and cinematographer?
This is one of more popular questions we've had to answer about our craft to folks who are non-industry. While it is easy to avoid all the jargon and just say that it's the same thing, it might just do you a massive favour to be able to explain the differences between the two without having your inquirer whip out his/her mobile phone and find out you're wrong/you don't really know/you don't want to tell.
The real truth is, it's really one of those trick questions that even most professionals would find hard to answer. They work similarly, essentially operating a film or video camera for motion picture capture. However, the difference lies primarily in the type of content produced, and the approach taken in completing the task.
A videographer's job is concerned with an accurate recording of an event that occurred at a specific point in space and time, and while a cinematographer's job may sound somewhat similar, it is instead focused on creating a fictitious impression of reality, a topic studied extensively by film theoretician Christian Metz.
Also, more often than not, a videographer would expect to work, often with little planning and on the fly, within the limitations of the working environment, while a cinematographer would use the tools available to him/her to craft a beautiful, cinematic image that is very much like a painting. To put things into perspective, would you call Oscar-winning cinematographers Chivo Lubezki (Gravity) or Deakins (Skyfall, Sicario) videographers?
That's not to say that any of these roles are any less important than one another. They simply exist to service different needs in different aspects of the video production industry. As we mentioned earlier, both job scopes overlap so much that confusion occurs.
In recent years, the lines have blurred even further as a different mould of videographers emerged with the popularity of DSLR video, applying cinematic framing and camera movement to increase the production value of their work.
In an era where multiple titles and definitions exist for the sake of promotional puff, titles matter much less than the quality of work produced. After all, what's the use of having a term when you don't live up to it?
Video production updates and thoughts