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Andrzej Sekula & the presence of camera


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#1 Joseph Nesbitt

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:00 PM

In Resevoir dogs (a movie which Sekula was Dop) the first scene after the credits are rolled is a car scene, where Harvy Keitel is driving a wounded Tim Roth to the safehouse. Now I was watching the movie with the commentary by Sekula on, he mentioned the Tarantino wanted the entire scene done with one shot of the camera panning back and forth from Roth to Keitel; Keitel to Roth. Sekula couldn't let this shot be done, the reason was that this would give away the presence of camera, he said that the audience would be thinking about the camera angle more than what was going on in the scene. He solved the problem by filming a few static angles from a different camera postion. This really confused me, in Children of Men they had a lot of shots that were done in one take and it seemed so real, like I was in the car with the actors, running away from soldiers, etc. So my question is what is this presence of camera rule? What are the exeptions i.e Children of Men wasn't breaking this rule because..... Any responce will help
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#2 anthony le grand

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 11:40 PM

In Resevoir dogs (a movie which Sekula was Dop) the first scene after the credits are rolled is a car scene, where Harvy Keitel is driving a wounded Tim Roth to the safehouse. Now I was watching the movie with the commentary by Sekula on, he mentioned the Tarantino wanted the entire scene done with one shot of the camera panning back and forth from Roth to Keitel; Keitel to Roth. Sekula couldn't let this shot be done, the reason was that this would give away the presence of camera, he said that the audience would be thinking about the camera angle more than what was going on in the scene. He solved the problem by filming a few static angles from a different camera postion. This really confused me, in Children of Men they had a lot of shots that were done in one take and it seemed so real, like I was in the car with the actors, running away from soldiers, etc. So my question is what is this presence of camera rule? What are the exeptions i.e Children of Men wasn't breaking this rule because..... Any responce will help


Well, I think Sekula said that cause the movements in this scene are very nervous. Generaly, it's better not to feel the camera but it's also a kind of philosophy of filmmaking to have a kind of transparency.
For Children of Men, the camera follows the character so in a way, you don't feel the camera. There is this transparency without the "cut" and with the fact that the camera follows the characters without strong movements, camera is like an eye.
But if you really want to read about it, have a look at all the books of André Bazin, who generally talk about this presence and the fact that, for him, everything must happen in the same shot, without editing, to avoid to feel and to see all the technics of filmmaking.
Have a look to the films of Max Ophuls too who did absolutely wondeful shots like that even if, for some people, travelling and movements show that the camera is here. But movement is not necessarily the same than feeling the camera.
But it depends of your style and what you like cause some directors or dop like when you feel it. Just think about Kubrick, Welles, Scorsese or Kalatozov..

Hope it was clear....
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 05:54 AM

The camera movement can lead your attention shift between subjects, follow your attention shift between subjects, or match your attention shift between subjects. If it matches, you usually don't notice it. If it leads or follows, you'll probably notice the camera movement because it doesn't match your own shift in focus or attention between subjects. Also, if the camera moves too fast you'll probably notice that move as well, even it keeps pace with your natural shift in focus. Fast camera moves generally draw attention to themselves, even if they're motivated by the drama.

Check out the long, single-take moving camera in the middle of Touch of Evil (apartment interior). You don't really even notice that the camera is moving or that it's a single take because the camera movement is so well choreographed with the action. If the camera were to pan or whip-pan between characters you would surely notice the movement, and that could distract you from the content.
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#4 Joseph Nesbitt

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 08:42 AM

Thanks for clearing that up I'll definetly check out those books. I've never seen touch of evil but I get what your saying Michael. But I have one more question about the attention shifts between subjects, does this mean following the flow of dialoge? I've noticed in movies like Raging Bull there are seens like this.

De Niro comes into the kitchen to confront his brother ( Joe Peci ) about signing him to a fight that he is too heavy to compete in
They argue for a while then Peci explains thing
CU Peci- Your too heavy so what
MCU De Niro- So what? I'm Goanna loose 15 grand
CU Peci- Good, right now no one wants to fight you right?
MCU De Niro- Yea
CUPeci- So Loose this then what?
MCUDe Niro- Then What I loose !5 thousand
CU Peci- Then they'll think your not as tuff and all those guys afraid to fight you will fight you
CU Deniro
That one shot, just the close up of Deniro, why would that be there, there is no dailoge from him, following that Peci breaks down his plan more, why not just stick with Pesci's dialoge, isn't that shot breaking this following attention shift between subjects? And this happens a million times in this movie, this is just one scene, De Niro doesn't even have any emotion or action in this shot so whay is it there?
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 03:11 PM

That one shot, just the close up of Deniro, why would that be there, there is no dailoge from him, following that Peci breaks down his plan more, why not just stick with Pesci's dialoge, isn't that shot breaking this following attention shift between subjects? And this happens a million times in this movie, this is just one scene, De Niro doesn't even have any emotion or action in this shot so whay is it there?


The "content" of a scene isn't just the dialogue, or even just the action -- it's the drama, or the emotional journey the characters and the viewer go through. If you were to simply "cover" or document the dialogue and action, you'd have a pretty boring film no matter how good the script or performances. That last shot of Deniro is called a reaction shot, letting the audience see how he feels about what's just happened. The story is about what the characters are going through emotionally, not just what they're saying and doing.

Filmmaking is an art, and as such there are no hard and fast rules about how to move the camera, when to cut, and so on. There are guidelines and conventions that filmmakers follow, but ultimately shots are chosen as much by feel and intuition as they are by design.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 03:41 PM

That one shot, just the close up of Deniro, why would that be there, there is no dailoge from him, following that Peci breaks down his plan more, why not just stick with Pesci's dialoge, isn't that shot breaking this following attention shift between subjects? And this happens a million times in this movie, this is just one scene, De Niro doesn't even have any emotion or action in this shot so whay is it there?


It's there because the editor felt that it should be. Notice I say that he didn't "read in a book that it should be" or "know that it should be there." He felt it. Was it the right decision? Well, I don't know what his options were but it's a damn good movie. ;)
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#7 Joseph Nesbitt

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 07:20 PM

thanks for clearing that up guys.
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#8 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 11:01 AM

A film is as much about the psycho-emotional impact of rhythm and pacing as it is about straight information.
Kind of like where you place the silence in music.
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#9 Dominic Cochran

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 06:52 PM

A film is as much about the psycho-emotional impact of rhythm and pacing as it is about straight information.
Kind of like where you place the silence in music.


?Don't play what's there, play what's not there.?

-Miles Davis
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