Cinematography vs. Videography (The Primary Differences)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 23 January 2023

Published 4 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The filmmaking industry can involve an abundance of professionals with varying qualifications and skills. Two popular roles within the industry are a cinematographer and a videographer. Understanding the difference between cinematography and videography can help you determine which filmmaking style might fit your project. In this article, we discuss cinematography vs. videography and share some tips for choosing which film style is right for your project.

Cinematography vs. videography

When reviewing cinematography vs. videography, the primary difference is that cinematography focuses more on artistic principles. Both professions involve filming content, but a videographer focuses on recording live events. There are also many other differences, such as the equipment they use, their work environment and their typical clients. Below, you can find a definition of each profession, along with their responsibilities, equipment and typical employment environments:

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Cinematography

Cinematography is an art form that involves recording visual content to alter an audience's perception and feeling towards a scene. Cinematography involves a wide range of artistic principles, such as lighting, camera angles, filters, exposures, background colours, zoom levels and camera movement. Below, you can find more details on the responsibilities, equipment and employment opportunities of a cinematographer:

Typical employment

Differences between cinematography and videography are usually the clients and the working environment. A cinematographer may work for large film production companies that produce cinema films, music videos and large-scale production series. They often work alongside large production crews, including directors, actors, lighting specialists, prop managers and fellow cinematographers. A cinematographer often films in large indoor studios or outdoors on specially created sets, depending on the project's requirements.

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Pre-production responsibilities

The responsibilities of a cinematographer involve varying duties regarding the pre-production of visual content. Pre-production refers to the planning phase before the project's filming begins. The pre-production tasks can include liaising with film directors to understand the artistic approach of the content and experimenting with camera techniques on drawn storyboards. The pre-production phase of a film can often last for an extensive duration. A storyboard artist and cinematographer typically work together to create two dimensional (2D) stills of planned film scenes. This helps the production crew identify the scope and direction of the project.

Production responsibilities

The production phase of large-scale films and series usually refers to the actual filming of visual content. A cinematographer works with many other professionals in studios or outdoor sets during the production phase. They may monitor camera settings, such as exposure limits, angles, zoom levels and camera stability. The content they film can vary depending on the purpose of the project and the director's artistic vision. For film productions, cinematographers typically film scripted scenes involving props, sets and acting professionals.

Post-production responsibilities

The post-production phase of cinematic filming involves editing procedures to compile recorded content and apply artistic concepts. A cinematographer edits their recordings before giving them to a post-production editor, who's primarily responsible for the post-production editing process. The edits a cinematographer conducts usually relate to the recording's colour grading and palette.

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Equipment

A cinematographer often uses the same equipment as a videographer, though a cinematographer may utilise more advanced technology. Depending on the production value of the film, a cinematographer may have access to specialist equipment. They often use custom-engineered camera swivels and movement mechanics to capture scenes in a unique method. The cameras a cinematographer uses may also provide more artistic functions than a videographer's camera. Cinematography generally incorporates more technology and equipment because cinematic productions involve many professionals.

Videography

Videography usually involves small scale productions with minimal planning compared to cinematography. A videographer's responsibilities typically vary depending on their client and the visual content. They may work independently and operate equipment alone or they may have colleagues or assistants to help. Videography teams are usually small and might only include two or three people. Below, you can find information on a videographer's employment opportunities, responsibilities and typical equipment:

Typical employment

Videographers can usually gain employment or contracts with any client or organisation that requires content filmed. They may film news reporters, weddings, activities, sports events and business conferences. Videographers typically work contractually or for a videography company that provides film services. Because videography involves a broad range of industries and is a relatively quick process, there may be more employment opportunities compared to cinematography roles.

Pre-production responsibilities

Relative to a cinematographer, a videographer's pre-production responsibilities are typically minimal. Their tasks before the filming phase often involve equipment checks and general maintenance. If a videographer is filming for a news outlet, they may liaise with news reporters to develop a quick strategy for the production phase. They may review the reporter's script to understand when certain camera techniques are appropriate. For example, if a news reporter discusses a topic, such as a landmark, the videographer may identify an appropriate time to zoom in on the landmark.

Production responsibilities

During the production phase, a videographer operates a camera to film visual content. They implement several filming techniques, such as camera angles and zoom levels. A videographer may review filming locations and determine which areas provide the best lighting for the content. If they're filming events, such as weddings, they may provide simple instructions to attendees to capture lightly scripted content. For example, they may identify an area with ideal lighting and instruct attendees to walk in a specific direction. This is usually the extent of the scripted content they film.

Post-production responsibilities

A videographer typically conducts the responsibilities that a post-production editor would conduct in cinematography. A videographer reviews their recordings, identifies appropriate scenes and compiles footage into a streamlined video. They often utilise video editing software that allows them to edit footage easily, including the audio, lighting and colour filters. Once they conclude the editing requirements, they provide the final copy to their client who may either approve or request additional edits.

Equipment

A videographer usually has fewer resources than a cinematographer because of the difference in production budgets. A videographer utilises tripod stabilisers, high-quality cameras, audio equipment, lighting stands and a variety of lenses. They also have an abundance of filming accessories, such as batteries, memory cards and camera harnesses.

Related: Cinematographer vs Director of Photography: Definitive Guide

Tips for choosing a filmmaking style

If you require filmmaking services for a project, you can review the following tips on how to choose the right film style to fit your creative requirements:

Establish the project deliverables

When determining which film style is right for the project, it can be a good idea to understand what the project is. If you're part of a public relations (PR) department, the project might involve creating an abundance of short video content. If you're in a sales department, your project might involve creating a televised advert for a new product.

Cinematography is usually ideal for artistic direction, while videography focuses on capturing live events. The deliverables of your project can typically outline which of these you require. For example, if you're producing an advert for a luxury car, a cinematographer is likely the right choice. If you're developing training resources for colleagues, videography may be the appropriate choice.

Related: How to Be a Successful Project Manager: Skills and Qualifications

Identify the purpose of the content

Identifying the purpose of the visual content can be another important tip because it can determine the artistic direction that the project requires. After you establish the project deliverables, you can identify the purpose of those deliverables. For example, if you're creating a promotional advert for a government department, the deliverable may be the creation of the advert and its purpose is to influence the public.

If you identify both the deliverables and purpose of the content, you can determine which style of filming is best for you. For example, if you're creating an advert for a new off-road vehicle, the purpose of the advert might be to inform the audience of the vehicle's resilience and toughness. A cinematographer may be appropriate because they can implement filming techniques that influence the audience to react in a specific manner. A videographer might not be a good choice in this instance because they might not have the specialist equipment required for filming a high production advert.

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Determine the project's budget

The budget for your project may be a deciding factor in choosing a film style. Cinematography typically involves more professionals, equipment and post-production duties. This typically incurs a substantial cost when compared with videography.

If you have a high budget, cinematography may be the appropriate choice because it generally produces more quality content. This can depend on the project's deliverables and purpose. You may have a high enough budget to implement cinematography services, but a videographer may also be appropriate if the project is small.

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