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Broken Flowers


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#1 peter orland

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 02:52 AM

I watched Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmush dir) (Frederick Elmes dop) last night, and I noticed that a lot of the shots had quite a deep depth of field.

I was taught that a shallow depth of focus helps to direct the audience to more specific things within the frame.

My questions are, what do you think the audience gets out of watching something with a deeper range of in focus images? Why would someone choose to shoot this way? Is there a different emotional experience when you watch something with a greater choice of in focus images to select from within the frame? Is there a specific type of film or genre that benefits from this style of cinematography?

I'd really like to here what some of you think about this subject.
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#2 Alex Wuijts

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 04:33 AM

I watched Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmush dir) (Frederick Elmes dop) last night, and I noticed that a lot of the shots had quite a deep depth of field.

I was taught that a shallow depth of focus helps to direct the audience to more specific things within the frame.

My questions are, what do you think the audience gets out of watching something with a deeper range of in focus images? Why would someone choose to shoot this way? Is there a different emotional experience when you watch something with a greater choice of in focus images to select from within the frame? Is there a specific type of film or genre that benefits from this style of cinematography?

I'd really like to here what some of you think about this subject.


For one, using deep-focus lenses was advocated by neo-realist theorist and nouvelle vague godfather Andre Bazin, because it allowed the actors more space to perform, especially compared to a master-coverage style of shooting, where the performance would be cut up in different shots. Using deepfocus lenses you would be able to 'edit' within the shot, using character movement to change framing. With deepfocus lenses, the frame, i think, becomes more of a 'window to reality', because you're not changing perspective that often and you see everything happen before your eyes. This reality effect was ofcourse very important for neo-realist filmmakers. The fact that it was very different from the way mainstream films were shot, also made it a strong political choice.

When contemporary filmmakers use deepfocus lenses, they could be doing this because they also want to focus on the characters and their movement within the frame, and they don't want their film to look mainstream. For them, emotions should be communicated through character performance, not through editing and for example, a heavy musical score. One particular, recent and extreme example is Michael Hanekes Cache, where the deepfocus images of the digital cameras really assists in giving it an 'authentic' and 'reality' feel, and at the same time make a strong statement about how our reliance on mass-media has actually made us really narrowminded.

i want to add, that through 'editing within one shot', you are able to change character relations and change the emotional value of a scene.

Edited by Alex Wuijts, 18 May 2006 - 04:28 AM.

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#3 Alex Wuijts

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 04:42 AM

i want to add, that through 'editing within one shot', you are able to change character relations and change the emotional value of a scene.
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#4 Alex Wuijts

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 04:42 AM

triple :(

Edited by Alex Wuijts, 18 May 2006 - 04:46 AM.

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#5 Dan Goulder

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 09:36 AM

Lens choice isn't necessarily motivated by "depth of field". If one wants to capture a scene with a wide angle lens, then the increased depth of field that comes with it may be more of a 'byproduct', rather than the primary motivator.
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#6 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 09:57 AM

Having more depth of field also conveys a sense that the character is engaged in (and sometimes at the will of) their environment. This as opposed to a shallow focus shot in which the character is graphically seperated from their environment and may lend itself toward introspection.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 11:05 AM

Frederick Elmes often shoots his movies at one f-stop throughout, often around a f/2.8 or f/2.8-4 split. So I don't think he lit scenes for a deeper stop in this movie, so the deeper focus is more due to the use of wider-angle lenses and playing scenes more in wide and medium shots. If you look at the close-ups in the movie, they are not particularly deep focus.
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#8 Max Jacoby

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 12:58 PM

The fact that he shot on Cooke S4s will also have added to the impression that there is more depth-of-field.
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#9 Keith Mottram

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 02:48 PM

The fact that he shot on Cooke S4s will also have added to the impression that there is more depth-of-field.


Why is that Max? because of tone and softness compared to other equivelent lenses?
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#10 Max Jacoby

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 06:13 PM

Unlike Zeiss lenses for instance the Cookes do not have one clear point that's obvioulsy in focus. The difference between in focus and out of focus is not so pronounced, which is why they seem to have more depth of field.

To be honest that has always bothered me about Cooke S4s, which have lovely contrast, but on the big screen I find it annoying that your eye is always looking for that one spot that's sharp and it just isn't there. A lot of it depends on the lighting as well, if you have a bright and low contrast image this becomes more of an issue than if you have a dark and contrasty one.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 06:19 PM

I find the Cooke S4's look the best in low-key dramatic lighting, like in a period movie such as "Cinderella Man". Then you can have contrasty lighting that doesn't look too harsh on someone's face. Or on a movie using a contrast-increasing process like skip-bleach, such as "Munich".
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#12 Max Jacoby

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 03:10 AM

I too thought that 'Munich' looked pretty crisp. Another film that I thought looked quite sharp was 'Jarhead'. That was mostly day exteriors, so Deakind could afford a good stop, plus the 4K DI didn't soften the image up like 2K DIs usually do.
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#13 peter orland

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 07:52 PM

the increased depth of field that comes with it may be more of a 'byproduct', rather than the primary motivator.



Frederick Elmes often shoots his movies at one f-stop throughout, often around a f/2.8 or f/2.8-4 split...so the deeper focus is more due to the use of wider-angle lenses and playing scenes more in wide and medium shots.


So are you guys saying that it is more by accident than choice?

If you forget this particular film and apply the questions as a general question regarding the use of deeper focus within the frame?


IWhy would someone choose to shoot this way? Is there a different emotional experience when you watch something with a greater choice of in focus images to select from within the frame? Is there a specific type of film or genre that benefits from this style of cinematography?


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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 12:15 AM

So are you guys saying that it is more by accident than choice?


No, I'm saying that BY DESIGN the movie was shot probably at the same f-stop for the most part, for a consistent look.

Now whether that approach occasionally produces an image with apparent deep-focus is more a matter of shot size and focal length, because I don't think the movie was lit to a high f-stop number. However, I'm sure BY DESIGN the shots were carefully chosen, but I don't think they were chosen to create a deep-focus effect.

I don't think the movie had a deep-focus look -- however, like a lot of Jarmusch's films, scenes are often played out in medium and wide shots, which is by design, and which tend to not look shallow-focus. And he stages in depth.

But true "deep focus" means everything from extreme near to far looks reasonably in focus. I don't recall any shots particularly like that in the movie, with some big CU in the foreground and something happening in the far background also in focus. There's a difference between staging in depth in a medium or wide shot, versus a "deep focus" shot.
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#15 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 11:48 AM

I don't think the movie had a deep-focus look -- however, like a lot of Jarmusch's films, scenes are often played out in medium and wide shots, which is by design, and which tend to not look shallow-focus. And he stages in depth.

But true "deep focus" means everything from extreme near to far looks reasonably in focus. I don't recall any shots particularly like that in the movie, with some big CU in the foreground and something happening in the far background also in focus. There's a difference between staging in depth in a medium or wide shot, versus a "deep focus" shot.


---I finally saw the movie last night. You are right, the film does not have an over all deep-focus look. Nor were there any deep focus shots.

One of the extras with the Criterion 'Ikiru' DVD is a feature length documentary about Kurosawa's technique.
Deep focus is refered to as 'pan-focus'.

---LV
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#16 peter orland

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 08:29 PM

[quote name='David Mullen ASC' date='May 19 2006, 09:15 PM' post='106343']
I'm sure BY DESIGN the shots were carefully chosen, but I don't think they were chosen to create a deep-focus effect...however, like a lot of Jarmusch's films, scenes are often played out in medium and wide shots, which is by design, and which tend to not look shallow-focus.
[/quote]

I here what your saying, but I'm not sure whether I get it.

In the two shot in the cafe when Bill Murray is listining to the other guy tell him about his plan, you can clearly see out of the window and across the street, at least fifteen times the distance from the framing at the table.
I was watching Deep Impact for the umpteenth time and there are many similarly framed shots in regard to size of the actors and their placement in the frame to the one I describe above, but in these shots you can barely focus on anything past the edge of the table.

[/quote]There's a difference between staging in depth in a medium or wide shot, versus a "deep focus" shot.[/quote]

In the two examples I describe we have a two shot of people sitting at a table, same framing, possibly even the same or similar f-stop, but both with a huge difference in depth of field. So clearly either the placement of the camera or the choice of focal length or both
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#17 peter orland

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 08:52 PM

[quote name='David Mullen ASC' date='May 19 2006, 09:15 PM' post='106343']
I'm sure BY DESIGN the shots were carefully chosen, but I don't think they were chosen to create a deep-focus effect...however, like a lot of Jarmusch's films, scenes are often played out in medium and wide shots, which is by design, and which tend to not look shallow-focus.
[/quote]

I here what your saying, but I'm not sure whether I get it.

In the two shot in the cafe when Bill Murray is listining to the other guy tell him about his plan, you can clearly see out of the window and across the street, at least fifteen times the distance from the framing at the table. I would have thought that would qualify as a shot with deep focus, no?

I was watching Deep Impact for the umpteenth time and there are many similarly framed shots in regard to size of the actors and their placement in the frame to the one I describe above, but in these shots you can barely focus on anything past the edge of the table.

[/quote]There's a difference between staging in depth in a medium or wide shot, versus a "deep focus" shot.[/quote]

So when is rose not a rose?

In the two examples I describe we have a two shot of people sitting at a table, same framing, possibly even the same or similar f-stop, but both with a huge difference in depth of field. So clearly either the placement of the camera or the choice of focal length or both or more have created the difference in the depth of focus. Something like this is surely not by chance but by design, which brings me back to my original question, why one over the other, and does that choice have any affect on the audience?


PS. Thanks all for the replies.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 10:40 PM

The shot you describe isn't particular tight, the subjects are not very close to the lens, and the lens is a wider focal length, so it will naturally have a decent amount of depth, and it won't look shallow focus.

But to call it "deep focus"... well, that's obviously debatable, but the term tends to describe a shot where two important subjects or objects, one very near to the lens, and one in the background, are both reasonably in focus. Well, at least a good deep focus shot could be described that way; certainly one could have a badly-composed shot with a competing in-focus but unimportant background that shouldn't be distracting but it is.

If that scene in "Broken Flowers" had a shot of a big close-up of Bill Murray in focus on one side of the frame and a split-diopter was used to hold the background sidewalk action also in focus, that would be a true deep focus shot (well, some might call it a "fake" deep focus shot since the foreground and background are in focus, but the mid-ground is soft).

In this case, the background action is not so important enough to be dramatically in focus, calling attention to some important action happening back there -- it's not like a "Citizen Kane" composition. Not to say that the background is unimportant or else it wouldn't be framed that way. The composition probably reinforces the reoccuring theme of "life goes by" while Bill Murray's character seems detached from it, his disconnect from humanity. But it also is an extension of Jarmusch's general visual aesthetic, that setting is as important as character, so medium shots are preferred over close-ups.

If that shot was a "deep focus" shot, you'd have some character in the far background in sharp focus doing something (holding up a sign that you can read?) while Murray sits in the foreground in focus as well, so you'd be splitting your attention between the action in the f.g. and b.g. Just because the background is visible and you can tell generally what's going on back there doesn't mean it is in sharp focus.

I just don't want the term "deep focus photography" to be thrown around so easily, to describe any wide-angle medium shot where most of the frame seems in focus. Some people use the term that way, but it really should describe something more extreme, when something close to the lens is in focus but so is the background.

Again, staging in depth is not the same thing as a deep focus shot.

And there are many degrees of depth of field effect -- it's not like a movie is either shallow focus or deep focus. "Broken Flowers" is moderate focus if anything. Maybe by modern standards and style, which is SO shallow-focus, the movie seems deep focus to you in comparison. But compared to a true deep focus movie like "Citizen Kane" or "Paper Moon", it's not.
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#19 peter orland

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 11:04 PM

After 6477 posts, you take the time to write an informative and very helpful post to a 21 year old camera operator living across the other side of the globe.

Thanks very much. This is a great forum, and it is poeple like you and the other generous and helpfull members that make it that way.

Cheers.
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