Online Cinematography Colleges and Schools: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online cinematography school. Keep reading to get an overview of the program options, equipment factors, and common topics offered for the field of study.

When selecting online cinematography schools, students need to consider the program topics, how the program applies current technology in the field and school accreditation. Although these programs are rare, we discuss these considerations and a few of the available programs.

How to Select an Online Cinematography School

While full-fledged online degrees in cinematography are almost impossible to find, there are some opportunities to study the art of filmmaking through online formats. Some on-campus programs include online components or courses, and at least one degree in digital cinematography is available online. These programs may be offered by dedicated film schools and/or 4-year colleges and universities. Students should then weigh program topics with the technology and school accreditation.

Program Topics

In general, a well-rounded program will look at classic films and the elements that make them great, along with the technical facets of this field. Look for training that covers cameras, lighting, equipment and digital and computer breakthroughs, as well as the components of good storytelling, style, color, camera angles, design and other skills related to the artistic side of this profession. Online courses are typically focused on analysis, concepts and techniques rather than hands-on camera work.

Technology in the Field

Aspiring cinematographers should seek out programs that will position them on the front edge of an evolving industry. Courses should cover the cameras, controls, lenses, audio, high-definition formats and any other equipment or technical tools currently in use. In addition, the distance learning should make use of the range of possibilities for an online format, including podcasts, online lectures, access to teachers and fellow students, streamed videos and links to websites and articles.

School Accreditation

There is no accrediting organization specifically for online cinematography programs, but the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (www.nasad.org) accredits schools and programs related to the arts, including for-profit schools and schools with online programs. Check for that specific industry accreditation as well as a broader educational accreditation.

List of Online Cinematography Programs

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Studies

A bachelor's degree will require core courses and electives outside of filmmaking studies. The degree will include classes on a range of other non-visual disciplines that are important to films, such as screenwriting, storytelling, directing and sound. Some of the coursework for the major includes:

  • Digital cinematography
  • Cameras and lenses
  • Camera angles
  • Art history
  • Literature

Standalone Courses

Various classes that address one element of cinematography can be found online. These courses vary in length and level of commitment and can be studied for enjoyment or for professional purposes. Course topics include:

  • Filmmaking techniques
  • Film theory
  • Contemporary film industry overview
  • Film analysis
  • Screenwriting fundamentals

Schools With Online Programs in Cinematography

Arizona State University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies that requires 120 credits and a major GPA of 2.0. Most courses are discussion-based and require extensive writing. Students take courses in film, television, new media and more.

Full Sail University has a 32-month online Bachelor of Science in Digital Cinematography degree program. The program includes Career Modules to help students develop professional strategies for a future career. Students also take project and portfolio courses to build a professional body of work as they earn their degree. Students study the entire filmmaking process from script development to post-production.

Berklee University provides students with a standalone online course titled Introduction to Digital Cinematography. The course is worth 3 credits and is 12 weeks long. At the end of the course students must shoot and edit a short video using the techniques learned throughout the course. It is recommended that students know how to work their own cameras and have access to editing software, as well as the ability to transfer video.

Although relatively rare, there are some online courses and bachelor's programs in the field of cinematography. Students considering these programs should think about the program topics, how the program incorporates current technology, school accreditation and any technical requirements like editing software.

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