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TV Awards Season-Cinematography Categories

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According the Ken Zunder, a director of cinematography and one of thegovernors of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences’cinematography peer group for this year’s Emmy awards, thecinematography awards are divided into two groups representing fivecategories of image-making. “The cinematography peer group judges threeof the categories,” Zunder says. “These are single-camera dramas,multicamera dramas, movies of the week and miniseries. The other twocategories are part of the nonfiction and reality peer group.”
Zunderexplains that any show which qualifies can submit an entry for awardconsideration. The judgment process begins with a paper ballot sent outto all the members of the cinematography peer group, which currentlyhas 131 members. The paper ballot narrows the entries to the top ten,from which a list of five nominees is culled by a blue-ribbon panel ofacademy members who attend screenings of excerpts from the top tenshows. The winners, announced on the Emmy broadcast, are determinedafter DVDs of the final five are sent to every member of the TV academyin the cinematography peer group for final voting.
“Evaluating theten is actually very simple,” Zunder says of the blue-ribbon paneljudging process. “If the work is done well, people don’t necessarilysay, ‘Wow, what a great shaft of light in the corner.’ Maybe you helpreveal something about the character by what lens you choose or yourlighting. It’s about work that helps the audience better understand thecharacters and also furthers the story.”
Multicamera shows —mainly sitcoms — represent a different skill set than what’s requiredfor single-camera work. “You want people to believe you’re insomebody’s living room as opposed to a stage where something is beingperformed. If you can make the lighting realistic, and the people lookbelievable from four angles at the same time, that’s a majoraccomplishment.” Zunder adds that on multicamera there is less emphasison staging, but a strong emphasis on lighting.
Documentary filmmakerand producer Dan Birman, a governor for the nonfiction peer group, isinvolved in judging the finalists from the nonfiction and realitycategories. Birman is quick to point out that aesthetic criteria ishighly subjective, but in nonfiction a new element is added: that ofconstant improvisation.
“Both in nonfiction and in reality we haveelements that differ from the dramatic. Sometimes we can control thelighting or the pace at which things happen, but in most cases we’reworking with unscripted events. That’s what makes our job so tough,because we still have to entertain people.”
Production values areimportant, such as composition, the use of light and camera motion.”But the real drama comes from the spontaneous choices. The nonfictioncinematographer’s job is to capture the drama of humanity or naturethrough pictures, and that’s what we judge.”

Written by Henry Turner

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