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Shit- and hit-list for 2007.


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#1 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 05:37 AM

Coming towards the end of the year and inspired by another thread, allow me to tell you what I think is right - and wrong - to do in 2007. Tongue obviously firmly planted in cheek. :P

poop LIST:

Big focus pulls are on my "no I don't want to do that"-list for 2007. I'm getting really tired of pulling extreme focus from foreground objects to background stuff on long lenses to force some shallowness into the picture and to mask the fact that you're more often than not working on a format that has too much inherent DOF built in (16mm, HD, Video). It's a misuse of the format forced on by trying to emulate 35mm shallow DOF. It's vulgar, it's tasteless, it's "hey, look at me". Who says you have to pull focus to the one who's talking in frame, anyway? Enough.

Dutch angles. Sorry, you're still in the dog house and not likely to come back in anytime soon.

Editing. Cover in camera - pan, tilt, dolly to tie scenes together. It's sloppy to cut afterwards, do it in camera.

Circular track. Must. Die. Now.

Wide angles for close-ups. They had it right 70 years ago when they figured out that poeple just don't look good in wide angles when you're close. Don't fight the system. Accept.

Toplight. It's lovely when done right, but has become this safe zone for sloppy DP's. It's a bit like wearing jeans. But sometimes it's nice to dress up and do something else.

16x9 framing. It's all what I hate in a format - there simply to please some DVT at some TV-station or standards body. Just die.

Handheld.

HIT LIST:

Underlight is back in from the dog house. You just have to do it right, make it soft and nice.

Frontlight. This much maligned backwards cousin has come into town to stay. Accept him into the family. Don't just let him stay with all his music video relatives, bring him into the feature film family as well.

Tracking shots without panning or tilting. You track through stuff, start low and boom up to find the end frame, i.e. letting the grip frame for you. Panning and tilting particularly screw up stuff on circular tracks, but they do so to a lesser degree on straight track too. And it ain't pretty. I only want to see straight vertical and horizontal lines in the frame from now on.

:blink: :D
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#2 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 08:13 AM

I basically second all that - as I've done for years - but, let me know what is a "dutch angle" please.
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#3 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 08:28 AM

let me know what is a "dutch angle" please.


It's when the horizontal axis of the camera is not parallel to the horizon.
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 09:12 AM

Hi,

> Toplight. It's lovely when done right, but has become this safe zone for sloppy DP's.

Gah. Rumbled.

Phil
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#5 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 09:13 AM

Thanks Franceso.
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#6 Tim J Durham

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 11:16 AM

Editing. Cover in camera - pan, tilt, dolly to tie scenes together. It's sloppy to cut afterwards, do it in camera.

:blink: :D


Huh?
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#7 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 11:25 AM

Don't know if it's what Tim had in mind when he wrote this but I fell my self like many directors/editors - esp. in short movies - don't pay enough attention on how the shots create rythm and try to create it afterwards. If this is what he ment, I second that. I hate it when you are asked to do a slow tracking shot on stage though you try to say 'look, it's too long, we should shorten it or make it faster" and the director insists, and then, you see that the shot was cut at the editing, breaking the rythm you've given, like pasting a steady shot after it, since the tracking shot doesn't stop before it's cut... arrgh !
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 12:27 PM

I'll tell what has bugged me the most this year -- and I know it's completely dramatically motivated and the people involved are top-notch talents -- but documentary realism applied to fiction is really starting to bore me silly.

I watched some "important" movie shot mostly in available light with multiple handheld cameras on long lenses and I started to wish someone would just COMPOSE a frame for once, in a WIDER shot where you could see the action that was WELL-STAGED. It seems too easy just to let all the action play and set-up cameras in the four corners on zoom lenses and tell the operators to have at it and grab all the coverage.

Mainly it was the fact that most of these movies are made up in tight snippets with no sense of space or place that gets on my nerves.

Overuse of close-ups therefore is tied to the first thing I listed that bugs me. And tied to that: close-ups that are tighter than dramatically motivated.

The understandable need to cater to the vanity of actors to the point where no shot has any contrast to it is another pet peeve. Some of these actresses are fairly attractive people so why must every interesting line, wrinkle, facial flaw that gives them character be erased through flat lighting?

Overuse of dialogue -- after hundred years of cinema, many screenwriters are still too in love with the sound of their own dialogue that they write, to the point where many couldn't make a plot point happen visually if you put a gun to their head.

As far as wide-angle versus longer lenses, or what direction the light comes from, if it looks good, I don't have a bias for one versus the other.
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#9 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 12:57 PM

Huh?


Editing qulity has really gone down a lot over tha past decades. Like David mentioned - they rely too much on close-ups nad fast pace to get away with it. But not only that, 99,99999% of the edited dialogue sequences I see on TV or in movies cut to the one speaking. In a close-up. You rarely see a cut linger on the reaction of the one not speaking although that would be just as valid.

I just miss gutsy directors like John McTiernan, David Fincher, Spielberg who allow a scene to be cut in camera. In Fight Club there's tons of shots going something like this: CU of Norton, PAN OFF to reveal Durden coming down stairs, PAN BACK to CU of Norton as he turns around, we TRACK into the kitchen following him to reveal Marla at the sink. Die Hard is another very good example of this technique - or any of Spielbergs films for that matter.

Now, this is scary for directors to do because it means they don't allow themselves any options - they can't cut to that B and C-camera to cover their ass, because then that has a domino effect on everything else. It also means they're imposing editing and pacing decisions on their editor, something that is not always welcomed.

To use that technique requires some planning and some thinking and some serious thought on how to pace films beforehand - and I think the storytelling benefits from it.
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#10 Steven C. Boone

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 02:07 PM

On top of everything, overbearing sound design/mixing/scoring destroys even movies that have been thoughtfully composed, lit, art directed. For over a decade now NLE's in the hands of folks with no sense of what good coverage or classical editing techniques can do... have been destroying mainstream audiences' palates. But the way each gesture or transition is met with with some kind of thunderous underscoring nowadays compounds the crime.

Lumet's Find Me Guilty was a shocking, refreshing anachronism this year. Fluidly choregraphed master shots and cuts that resounded rather than jerked you from one universe to another. Even Spielberg and Scorsese have forgotten how to be this nimble and economical.

It's a bad year when an Almodovar melodrama is about the subtlest piece of work in consideration for major awards.

Random gripes.
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#11 Max Jacoby

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 06:42 PM

I'll tell what has bugged me the most this year -- and I know it's completely dramatically motivated and the people involved are top-notch talents -- but documentary realism applied to fiction is really starting to bore me silly.

I watched some "important" movie shot mostly in available light with multiple handheld cameras on long lenses and I started to wish someone would just COMPOSE a frame for once, in a WIDER shot where you could see the action that was WELL-STAGED. It seems too easy just to let all the action play and set-up cameras in the four corners on zoom lenses and tell the operators to have at it and grab all the coverage.

I have found the same thing when watching many of these films. This pseudo-documentary look is getting old very fast. The only person who used to do it well is Michael Mann. In films like 'The Insider' and 'Ali' he created a look that on the surface felt like documentary, but in fast it was very composed and well thought out, in fact quite stylized. His shots became very expressive, because he took this documentary approach one step further and created a unique style that was very expressionistic.

Unfortunately he is quite alone in that respect, because most directors/cinematogrpahers do not push the medium in any form, in fact they seem happy to resort to the same shooting-by-numbers that has been around for decades and just bores me to death.
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#12 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:25 PM

Ken Loach and sometimes Mike Leigh also shoot a "documentary way" and don't use all these ENG tricks...
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#13 Patrick McGowan

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:45 PM

I'll tell what has bugged me the most this year -- and I know it's completely dramatically motivated and the people involved are top-notch talents -- but documentary realism applied to fiction is really starting to bore me silly.

I watched some "important" movie shot mostly in available light with multiple handheld cameras on long lenses and I started to wish someone would just COMPOSE a frame for once, in a WIDER shot where you could see the action that was WELL-STAGED. It seems too easy just to let all the action play and set-up cameras in the four corners on zoom lenses and tell the operators to have at it and grab all the coverage.

Mainly it was the fact that most of these movies are made up in tight snippets with no sense of space or place that gets on my nerves.

Overuse of close-ups therefore is tied to the first thing I listed that bugs me. And tied to that: close-ups that are tighter than dramatically motivated.

The understandable need to cater to the vanity of actors to the point where no shot has any contrast

to it is another pet peeve. Some of these actresses are fairly attractive people so why must every interesting line, wrinkle, facial flaw that gives them character be erased through flat lighting?

Overuse of dialogue -- after hundred years of cinema, many screenwriters are still too in love with the sound of their own dialogue that they write, to the point where many couldn't make a plot point happen visually if you put a gun to their head.

As far as wide-angle versus longer lenses, or what direction the light comes from, if it looks good, I don't have a bias for one versus the other.


Could you maybe say what this "important" movie was? Because I saw "Half Nelson" which did basically exactly what you just described, but I thought it worked beautifully for the story, it was a really honest movie and it worked.
I'm not trying to argue anything, I'm definitely no where near your level of film knowledge, I guess I am just curious as to what film you are describing.
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:53 PM

Could you maybe say what this "important" movie was? Because I saw "Half Nelson" which did basically exactly what you just described, but I thought it worked beautifully for the story, it was a really honest movie and it worked.
I'm not trying to argue anything, I'm definitely no where near your level of film knowledge, I guess I am just curious as to what film you are describing.


When something works, it works. Most of time when it doesn't work, it's because the material is weak enough for you to start staring at the technique.

I won't mention the movie because I know the people involved and I like them and their work, and they are better filmmakers than me. My complaint anyway isn't particularly directed at that film, but just that occasionally straight realism when shot in a fake documentary style bores me. Not always. I like realism in lighting, for example. I just get annoyed by that Quisinart style of directing where you ingest several hours of multiple camera footage into a computer and "find" the point of the scene in the footage. That makes sense for a documentary but it can seem lazy for narrative fiction if not done well.
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#15 Max Jacoby

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 08:50 PM

I won't mention the movie because I know the people involved and I like them and their work, and they are better filmmakers than me.

Did you tell them in private?

I always feel free to speak my mind on Hollywood films because I don't intend to work there anyway ;)
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#16 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 12:15 AM

Overuse of dialogue -- after hundred years of cinema, many screenwriters are still too in love with the sound of their own dialogue that they write, to the point where many couldn't make a plot point happen visually if you put a gun to their head.


I'd re-word that to overuse of BAD, extrainious dialogue. Well written, well motivated dialogue can be down right inspirational. That's one thing I miss about old movies, the beautiful use of language. In our video gaming, MTV world, the art of writing great cinematic dialogue seems to be considered passe' and old fashioned, set by the roadside like so much refuse in favor of attending to the adrenaline addicted needs of every ADD afflicted 14 year old with a bad attitude and an overly extravegent allowance for the sole purpose of squeezing every last dime out of some souless over-hyped, blood drenched, FX laddened summer release who's only reason for existence is to serve as a sequel maternity ward. In the hands of skilled actors, well written movie dialogue can bring a depth and breth to a piece that simply can't be told in visuals alone. However, in the hands of some marginally talented hack writer with a low self esteem fueled obcession to prove himself by festidiuosly committing to paper what he believes to be every single profound thought he has ever had in his life, reguardless of any requirements the story may demand, Dialogue becomes the sledge hammer at an arciological dig where a dental pick SHOULD have been used. So many unskilled writers seen to try to patch up a badly written, poorly thought out storyline with inane dialogue and a preposterious turn of phrase that it borders on the criminally neglegent. But then again what the Hell do I know? I'm poor and thy're rich, Go figure! B)
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 12:31 AM

Sure, great dialogue well-acted is a joy.

But I would say that the Number One problem with the stack of scripts I read each year is that they are talky and non-visual, as if someone on a budget has decided that the only type of movie he can afford to make involves two guys sitting in a diner talking, or two girls in their apartment talking. And talking. And talking. And these writers aren't Shakespeare or even Mamet, and the actors often won't be Olivier or even DeNiro.

A couple of scenes like that would be fine, but to read one three-page talky scene followed by another followed by another, culminating in the big ten-page talky scene until the movie is over, and then to read a dozen scripts like that, and you can see why I get fed up as a cinematographer looking for an opportunity to shoot more than shots of people talking...

The problem is that too many writers don't know how to advance plot and lay out exposition except through dialogue, when dialogue should be there more to develop character and reveal emotional states.

There is a real art to writing for the cinema that seems to be becoming a lost art and what we're left with are basically wannabee TV sitcom scripts.
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#18 Sam Wells

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 12:34 AM

Ken Loach and sometimes Mike Leigh also shoot a "documentary way" and don't use all these ENG tricks...


Kore-eda Hirokazu also shoots in a "documentary way" (the background he comes from) but has a very classical sense of structure (check out the haunting, sad "Nobody Knows" from a few years ago) and is not "pushy poiny" with the camera...

I agree with other posts here -- too much obliteration of space to no end. (Fincher in his defense disects it for a reason, there's a logic to it).

-Sam
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 01:04 AM

I agree with other posts here -- too much obliteration of space to no end. (Fincher in his defense disects it for a reason, there's a logic to it).


Ridley Scott is also good at fracturing and chopping up space in tight telephoto shots without losing a sense of place and atmosphere. Partly because the fractured, compressed, chaotic quality is part of the nature of the setting, like the city in "Blade Runner." Michael Mann is good at that too, where a small detail can tell you more about the setting than a wide shot. The difference with those two is that the tight shots aren't a bunch of conventional talking-head close-ups. In "The Insider" sometimes the tight shot is of the back of someone's neck & ear...
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#20 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 05:38 AM

Overuse of dialogue -- after hundred years of cinema, many screenwriters are still too in love with the sound of their own dialogue that they write, to the point where many couldn't make a plot point happen visually if you put a gun to their head.


Agree. It got a lot worse after Pulp Fiction, basically. Then everybody was convinced cool dialogue was the path to nirvana and the only worthwile way to write scripts. It spawned a whole pseudo-cooltalk-gunplay genre that just bores me to the core. Everyone else seems to love it, though. The trend is STILL with us more than 10 years later - just have a look at this:

http://www.apple.com...cal_medium.html
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