21 user 29 critic

Visions of Light (1992)

Cameramen and women discuss the craft and art of cinematography, illustrating their points with clips from 100 films, from Birth of a Nation to Do the Right Thing.


Todd McCarthy
3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ernest R. Dickerson ... Self (as Ernest Dickerson)
Michael Chapman ... Self
Allen Daviau ... Self
Caleb Deschanel ... Self
Lisa Rinzler Lisa Rinzler ... Self
Conrad L. Hall ... Self (as Conrad Hall)
William A. Fraker ... Self
John Bailey ... Self
Néstor Almendros ... Self (as Nestor Almendros)
Charles Rosher Jr. Charles Rosher Jr. ... Self (as Charles D. Rosher)
Vilmos Zsigmond ... Self
Stephen H. Burum Stephen H. Burum ... Self
Harry L. Wolf Harry L. Wolf ... Self (as Harry Wolf)
Charles Lang ... Self (as Charles B. Lang)
Sven Nykvist ... Self


Cameramen and women discuss the craft and art of cinematography and of the "DP" (the director of photography), illustrating their points with clips from 100 films, from Birth of a Nation to Do the Right Thing. Themes: the DP tells people where to look; changes in movies (the arrival of sound, color, and wide screens) required creative responses from DPs; and, these artisans constantly invent new equipment and try new things, with wonderful results. The narration takes us through the identifiable studio styles of the 30s, the emergence of noir, the New York look, and the impact of Europeans. Citizen Kane, The Conformist, and Gordon Willis get special attention. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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The Art of Cinematography


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Did You Know?


Director Todd McCarthy had hoped to include an interview with the legendary cinematographer, John Alton, whose work is highlighted in the film, but could not locate him. Alton had quit the movie business after working on Elmer Gantry (1960), and for many years, even close friends didn't know his whereabouts, or if he was still alive. In 1992, McCarthy was shocked to receive a phone call from the now 91-year-old Alton, who had heard about Visions of Light (1992), and wanted to attend the premiere. Alton insisted that there was nothing mysterious in his disappearance, that he and his wife had simply decided to give up the movie business and travel a bit. They had lived in France, Germany, and Argentina, and had a great time. Alton died in 1996 at the age of 95. See more »


Vittorio Storaro: I understood at that moment that cinema really has no nationality.
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Features Picnic (1955) See more »


Shadow Waltz
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin
Played and sung during a clip from Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
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User Reviews

You'll never look at a film the same way after seeing this!!!
22 October 1999 | by twltzoneSee all my reviews

This is a great, I repeat great, documentary on the history of cinematography. No film student should be without it!! It covers all the changes in technology and techniques and its impact on film.

It brilliantly shows the freedom of camera movement during the silent period and how things became more restricted when sound was added later and the transition from B/W to Color. But most importantly, clearly depicts how Directors of Photography over came these limitations and created new techniques which changed film history forever. Brilliant!!!! You'll never look at a film the same way after seeing this.

Covers many different aspects of "the Hollywood look" and the different "Studio looks" throughout time. Also uncovers the secrets of many DP's and how they made their "Stars" look so incredible!!

I especially like the section on Film Noir and the plethora of absolutely breath taking film clips!!! Included in this gem of a documentary are great clips from classics like the 1947 version of "Oliver Twist" and examples from some of the greatest DP's of all time!!! Arthur Miller...etc...

Very entertaining!! Even for non-film buffs!!! I've showed this documentary to friends and relatives and they all seem to watch with amazement!!!

I liked it so much I just had to buy it!

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Japan | USA



Release Date:

24 February 1993 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Visions of Light See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$27,761, 28 February 1993

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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