Overview of our MFA in Cinematography
The Academy makes the accelerated two-year schedule possible by creating an extended academic year allowing students to complete three full-length semesters in each calendar year.
New York Film Academy MFA in Cinematography program is offered at our Los Angeles Campus.
Qualified students have the option of completing course work at the New York Film Academy in New York City in a one-year non-degree program and then applying their course work to be accepted for advanced standing in the MFA Cinematography degree program.
The New York Film Academy Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Cinematography is an accelerated, conservatory-based graduate program intended for full-time study over the course of five semesters. Designed to instruct gifted and hardworking prospective Directors of Photography in a hands-on, professional environment, the MFA in Cinematography program provides a unique setting for the development of both the creative vision and technical proficiency necessary for a career as a Cinematographer.
Students will follow a rigorous program of classroom study, self-directed projects, instructor-led workshops, and school- facilitated collaboration with NYFA students across different disciplines. Upon graduation, students will be proficient with many of the state-of-the-art camera systems used by professional cinematographers today, and be able to confidently supervise the creation of sophisticated lighting schemes. Most importantly, they will be able to effectively harness the visual tools of cinema to tell meaningful stories.
In Year One, Cinematography MFA students will be immersed in a concentrated schedule of classroom learning, teacher- supervised workshops and outside projects. This regimen presupposes no prior knowledge of cinematography, but aims to have students confident in the fundamentals of exposure, composition, lighting and set- etiquette by the end of the year. Throughout the program, a combination of classroom experience, practical hands-on workshops, individual and collaborative projects, and instructor-led productions provide a rigorous forum for students to develop their technical skills and artistic identities. In the spirit of fostering collaboration, there will be a screening hosted during each semester to showcase the cinematographers' work to NYFA Filmmaking students.
During the first semester, students learn the fundamentals of the art and craft of cinematography. Topics covered will include optics, light metering techniques using both incident and spot meters, loading and utilizing 16mm film, HD video, and digital cinema cameras, basic lighting, fundamentals of composition, color theory, film chemistry, and camera movement using the dolly.
Cinematography students will be expected to complete five projects during their first semester. Their first project will be a story told through a series of still images photographed on 35mm black and white film.
The second project will be the Mise-En- Scène Film, photographed in black and white on 16mm film with the option to use a basic lighting package. In the Continuity Project, students will focus on shot design and creating a scene that can be cut together elegantly. They will use a high definition camera, and begin using more sophisticated grip and light-shaping techniques. Before undertaking this project, students will study the theory and practice of digital cinematography.
Students will return to the still photo format for the fourth project, telling a story through a series of black and white images. Students will be expected to show a higher level of technical control, and a more sophisticated understanding of visual narrative.
For their fifth and final project, cinematography students will use the Red Scarlet digital cinema camera to shoot the Music Project. Each student will begin by choosing a piece of music, and then creating a project that interprets it. Cinematographers are encouraged to work with filmmaking and producing students on this project, as well as supporting their classmates’ projects by working in key crew positions.
- Photograph two 35mm still photo projects, a short 16mm film, a high-definition Continuity Project, and a Music Project shot on a Red digital cinema camera.
- Crew on colleagues’ films in key creative positions including gaffer, key grip, camera assistant, and camera operator.
The second semester in the Cinematography program is designed to help students move beyond simply capturing an image, and instead begin painting with light. As students' ability increases, so does their tool set. Students learn how to build and operate a professional 35mm camera package, as well advanced the Red digital cinema camera system and 35mm film provide the core platforms around which the second semester is centered. Students will have multiple opportunities during class time to master the extraordinary tools offered by these professional formats. Students will build the camera in different configurations including studio, handheld and Steadicam builds, explore speed-ramping in camera, capture slow motion at high frames rates, and explore the RAW image workflow provided by the Red. Proper use of different tools for controlling exposure including waveform monitors, histograms and light meters will be covered in depth in a practical, hands-on classroom environment.
Students are introduced to new subjects, including the Steadicam & Camera Assistant Seminar, 35mm Cinematography class, the two-week Stage Lighting Workshop which takes place in a professional sound stage environment, and a series of on- location practical shoots. The topic of color correction and image workflow will be introduced in the Post-Production for Cinematographers II course, incorporating lessons in color theory, and hands-on work with different software. These classes allow students to work on their pre-production planning skills and the execution of their creative vision on set under the supervision of experienced professionals.
During the semester, students will photograph three projects outside of class. They will begin with the 35mm Film, photographed on this classic high-resolution format. Students are encouraged to concentrate on a short project that maximizes production value and presents a strong visual design. The student will determine the format of the project, with options including a short narrative, music video, or spec commercial. Cinematographers are encouraged to collaborate with fellow New York Film Academy students on this project.
For their second film, the Sunrise/Sunset Project, students will shoot using only the natural light available at the beginning and end of the day. Working in teams of two, one student will shoot at sunrise, while the other will photograph a project at sunset. Emphasis is placed on the preparation and planning necessary to accomplish the students' goals in this short time frame.
At the end of the first year, Cinematography students will photograph the Semester Two Project using a Red digital cinema camera. Students are again encouraged to collaborate with a director or producer in the production of this film. This project may be up to 10 minutes in length, and should showcase the many skills and techniques that the students have learned throughout the program. Together these three projects will contribute to a professional show reel, as the student begins preparing their portfolio for the professional world.
- Photograph the Sunrise/Sunset Project using only natural light.
- Photograph a showcase project using 35mm motion-picture film.
- Photograph a short project using the Red digital cinema camera.
- Crew in key positions on classmates' projects.
Second Year MFA candidates in Cinematography will continue to strengthen their cinematographic skills, build their reels and develop their creative voice. Each student must complete a series of classes designed to hone the fundamental skills they developed in Year One, broaden their understanding of the craft in specialized areas of knowledge, and create a space to cultivate their visual voice and sensibility. Beginning in the fourth semester, students will prepare and photograph a thesis film. They will begin by developing their visual ideas through an extended pre-production process, which will include shooting photographic tests to define the look of the project, and preparing a logistical approach to the production that supports the film's narrative. Thesis films will go into production in the fifth semester, as the students photograph and edit their projects. There will be an increased emphasis on collaboration with other filmmakers as the MFA candidate prepares to enter the professional world.
Building upon the skills acquired in semesters one and two, the third semester takes existing topics to higher levels and introduces new areas of study, such as documentary, episodic and web-based content, advanced lighting and power distribution systems, and specialized camera movement systems.
Hands-on workshops continue in the third semester, introducing advanced lighting techniques and equipment, as well as a variety of camera movement systems. Workshop courses will incorporate visits to a rental house and production facilities, connecting students to the professional world of cinematography in Los Angeles. Multiple camera systems and advanced lighting instruments will be employed to replicate a host of situations cinematographers will face in the real world, including the combination of different color temperatures, and the mixture of natural and artificial light. The Cinematography Practica continue, allowing students to refine their skills in the field under the mentorship of both directing and cinematography instructors.
Students will be introduced to foundational concepts in the documentary form, as each student shoots and edits a short documentary project. Additionally, new formats in the entertainment industry will be explored in-depth, with a focus on webisodic programming.
In preparation for photographing advanced projects after graduation, students will further their mastery of the latest digital camera systems with the introduction of the Arriflex Alexa camera. They will participate in a master's level workshop that will introduce the camera system and address broad issues in digital cinematography, including organizing workflows, recent shifts in production culture, and the cinematographer's role in post-production.
Following the intensive workshop, each student will photograph a short portfolio project using the Alexa camera. As in previous semesters, the student may bring in an outside collaborator to direct, but the Cinematography student is responsible for developing the form and content of the project.
- Photograph a short documentary project.
- Photograph a short showcase film using the Arriflex Alexa camera.
- Crew in key positions on classmates' projects.
Semester Four focuses on the preparation for the students' thesis films while continuing to expand their ability to prepare for large-scale productions. Students will have two options to fulfill the Thesis requirement. They can either initiate their own thesis production, or collaborate on a thesis project with a student from the MA in Film & Media Production program or a student from the MFA Filmmaking program. In either option, the MFA Cinematography student must serve as the cinematographer and provide supporting materials in order to fulfill their thesis requirement. The Thesis Development class will provide a forum for students to develop their ideas, refine their approach to the work and plan their productions. Additionally, thesis committee meetings will provide detailed feedback and guidance throughout the thesis process.
Students will deepen their understanding of special effects photography through a specialized class on digital effects. This class will provide an overview of the history and techniques used in shooting special effects shots, up through shooting for effects-heavy productions in the digital age. Supervised digital effects shoots provide a forum to put the ideas and concept into practice, carrying the footage through a complete VFX workflow.
A course on Production Design will familiarize students with the vital role played by the production designer and the art department. Topics will include the aesthetics of design as they relate to all aspects of film production (sets, props, etc.), as well as the logistical challenges of executing the plan with the other members of the art department. The course will incorporate a hands-on workshop element to allow students to put their ideas into practice.
Students will continue with the practicum workshops, photographing scenes and short projects under the guidance of New York Film Academy faculty members. They will be expected to produce professional level cinematography while contending with challenging schedules and ambitious production scenarios.
- Photograph a series of tests to determine the visual approach to the thesis film.
Semester Five will concentrate on thesis film production, as the students execute their production plans developed in the previous semester. Thesis Production will provide a forum for discussion as the students enter principal photography. Following the shooting period, the class will examine strategies for networking and targeting film festivals, as students enter post-production and continue to work on materials for their thesis binders.
In the third History of Cinematography course, students will engage with trends and influences in modern cinematography through the study of contemporary international cinema.
A course on optics will address the scientific and mathematical principles at the heart of camera and lens design.
Finally, the students will prepare for the transition to the professional film industry. Classes on navigating the industry will prepare students for the challenges of a professional career, including promotion and networking. An emphasis will be placed on honing the student's reels, personal websites and social media presence.
- Photograph a thesis film and prepare a binder with supporting creative materials.
- Crew in key positions on classmates' thesis productions.