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#1 Daniel Moore

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 05:43 PM

This movie, United 93, fascinates me. I was just watching some of it. The beginning has amazing low key scenes....really nice orange tones in my opinion. Although, the rest of the movie is suddenly extremely high key, and I think that high key looks REALLY good considering the movie was shot like a documentary. I was trying to analyze the execution of the way the movie was shot, and I was thinking first about format- I'm guessing it was shot on 35mm, but correct me if I'm wrong.....the strong documentary style made it difficult for me to recognize the format because it was so different to standard Hollywood movies. The camera had a lot of free hand held movement, and it didn't seem like any lights were rigged up. The lighting seemed really natural....and at the same time very high key, so I thought maybe the camera's exposures were just very large to let in more of the natural light that was availabe. Anyone seen this movie who can give me their insight?
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#2 K Borowski

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 06:58 PM

While I love "United 93"'s very unorthodox (for Hollywood) approach to the story, and its realism, if anything the cinematography is intentionally bad to further this purpose.

I think they could have thrown some better insert shots into the mix to make up for the lack of stylism in the live-action stuff.

But again, for the subject matter, too much polished cinematography would have been bad too. I really dislike that they don't seem to have any polish at all in this film.

If I recall correctly, from a previous post, the ASC article mentioned they shot in real time with a pair of offset handheld cameras shooting in staggered fashion and reloading continuously for the long takes you see in the movie.
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#3 Daniel Moore

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 08:20 PM

While I love "United 93"'s very unorthodox (for Hollywood) approach to the story, and its realism, if anything the cinematography is intentionally bad to further this purpose.

I think they could have thrown some better insert shots into the mix to make up for the lack of stylism in the live-action stuff.

But again, for the subject matter, too much polished cinematography would have been bad too. I really dislike that they don't seem to have any polish at all in this film.

If I recall correctly, from a previous post, the ASC article mentioned they shot in real time with a pair of offset handheld cameras shooting in staggered fashion and reloading continuously for the long takes you see in the movie.


Hmmm, well, what makes you say "bad"? When I looked at the lighting, I felt like I was actually at the airport(which was probably the intention). When you say "polished", I'm assuming you mean "Hollywood" looking. When I think "polished", I think of a scene that is perceivably lit to please the audience rather than show mood or less common style. I thought the beginning of United 93 was somewhat polished, like all those nice moody orange tones(the close up on the guy's hands holding the book, and the other hotel room shots). In the airport shots I noticed a lot of direct key lighting(I'm guessing completely natural) creating white areas on the film(which doesn't really seem like it fits "polished" to me, but the lighting definitely looked powerful to me)

Edited by Daniel Moore, 05 November 2008 - 08:22 PM.

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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 11:50 PM

Hmmm, well, what makes you say "bad"? When I looked at the lighting, I felt like I was actually at the airport(which was probably the intention). When you say "polished", I'm assuming you mean "Hollywood" looking. When I think "polished", I think of a scene that is perceivably lit to please the audience rather than show mood or less common style. I thought the beginning of United 93 was somewhat polished, like all those nice moody orange tones(the close up on the guy's hands holding the book, and the other hotel room shots). In the airport shots I noticed a lot of direct key lighting(I'm guessing completely natural) creating white areas on the film(which doesn't really seem like it fits "polished" to me, but the lighting definitely looked powerful to me)


I don't mean "bad" in terms of its negative connotations. Rather I'm saying that it was intentionally documentary-style. To be honest I don't remember the beginning of the movie that well, but I felt that there wasn't enough artistry.

Even "The Shield" which I admire for the documentary edge has some photographic irony, allusion, things of that nature.

United 93 worked, but I personally don't enjoy photography that is so documentary in nature. Even photojournalists try to allude to things through framing and composition. This just had the feel of turn the camera on, record what is happening, which again, isn't a bad thing and certainly suited the story, but isn't a good way to win cinematography awards.


I happen, too, to disagree with the notion that cinematography can ever really be "too polished" for a given genre of film. Look at "The Thin Red Line" or "Pulp Fiction", violent war/action movies that are still very artfully photographed.

I think the quest for "realism" is like "the grass is always greener" because documentarians are always trying to make their footage look steadier and steadier and more thoughtful, composed, and it seems like filmmakers are trying harder and harder to make their footage appear unplanned and haphazard, the way that news crews shoot only when they don't have a choice or are rushed.

So these two fields of work are trying harder and harder to look like the other, which is ironic because eventually you get to the point where you are trying to emulate something that no longer has the same style as the style of theirs that you are trying to emulate.

If news footage becomes smooth and cameras more sensitive, how is shakey, grainy, underexposed footage going to be recognized by viewers as trying to emulate news footage?

Same is true with the former notion that grainier footage looked "real" because news was often shot on push-processed 400-speed 16mm film, and movies were seeking to emulate that look by pushing 35mm or even shooting 16. Now the VHS/digital look predominates when most stations have gone to HD, so art imitating life in this case there is a real lag because it seems like both sides are trying to mimic the other and, as a result, are see-sawing back and forth.
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#5 Daniel Moore

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:23 AM

I don't mean "bad" in terms of its negative connotations. Rather I'm saying that it was intentionally documentary-style. To be honest I don't remember the beginning of the movie that well, but I felt that there wasn't enough artistry.

Even "The Shield" which I admire for the documentary edge has some photographic irony, allusion, things of that nature.

United 93 worked, but I personally don't enjoy photography that is so documentary in nature. Even photojournalists try to allude to things through framing and composition. This just had the feel of turn the camera on, record what is happening, which again, isn't a bad thing and certainly suited the story, but isn't a good way to win cinematography awards.


I happen, too, to disagree with the notion that cinematography can ever really be "too polished" for a given genre of film. Look at "The Thin Red Line" or "Pulp Fiction", violent war/action movies that are still very artfully photographed.

I think the quest for "realism" is like "the grass is always greener" because documentarians are always trying to make their footage look steadier and steadier and more thoughtful, composed, and it seems like filmmakers are trying harder and harder to make their footage appear unplanned and haphazard, the way that news crews shoot only when they don't have a choice or are rushed.

So these two fields of work are trying harder and harder to look like the other, which is ironic because eventually you get to the point where you are trying to emulate something that no longer has the same style as the style of theirs that you are trying to emulate.

If news footage becomes smooth and cameras more sensitive, how is shakey, grainy, underexposed footage going to be recognized by viewers as trying to emulate news footage?

Same is true with the former notion that grainier footage looked "real" because news was often shot on push-processed 400-speed 16mm film, and movies were seeking to emulate that look by pushing 35mm or even shooting 16. Now the VHS/digital look predominates when most stations have gone to HD, so art imitating life in this case there is a real lag because it seems like both sides are trying to mimic the other and, as a result, are see-sawing back and forth.


I never saw The Thin Red Line, but I will look into that.

It's interesting that you referred to news footage as looking grainy(and shot on 16mm). When I imagine news footage, I think of modern clear high resolution video tape that's aired on television with the camera being held steady(as with live reports). I would not have imagined "grainy" and "news" in the same sentence.

I do find your examples of the two catagories emulating each other amusing hahahah. I do agree too, based on what you said, both catagories are probably going to look bad.
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