GEORGE WILLIAM BITZER
Born in Boston (United States), 1872Decease on 1944 in Hollywood
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Shortname of Gottfried Wilhelm Bitzer, American motion-picture cameraman and cinematographer. In association with the pioneer director D.Griffith, he developed camera techniques and cinematic innovations that set the standard for all future motion pictures and stimulated important experimentations.
Bitzer achieved success in 1896 when his film of William McKinley being notified of the presidential nomination of his party was exhibited on the Biograph Company's first program. He filmed the Spanish American War for the William Randolph Hearst organization, becoming the first motion-picture cameraman to cover a war. When Griffith joined Biograph, Bitzer became his cameraman. During the ensuing years, Bitzer successfully translated the director's creative visual concepts to the screen, especially in composition and the use of lighting to create mood. He photographed hundreds of Griffith's motion pictures.
Bitzer had been using lighting effects, such as firelight, candlelight, or the morning sun, as early as 1909; he was the first cameraman to film completely under artificial lights, an innovation that eventually freed Hollywood technicians from dependence on natural light. Working with Griffith, he developed camera techniques that had a permanent influence on the industry e.g., soft-focus photography, using a light-diffusion screen in front of the camera lens; the fade-out, used to close a scene; and the iris shot, in which the frame either is gradually blacked out in a shrinking circle, thereby ending a scene, or gradually opened in a widening circle, beginning a scene. He refined methods of taking close-ups and long shots and was one of the first cinematographers to make effective use of perspective.
Bitzer left Griffith in 1924 but briefly rejoined him in 1928. He later was a cameraman for the Works Progress Administration and repaired old films for the New York Museum of Modern Art's film archive.
For all his innovation, Bitzer did not survive the industry's transition to sound, and in 1944 he suffered a heart attack and died in relative obscurity.
His autobiography, Billy Bitzer: His Story was published posthumously in 1973.
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