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#1 Jim Nelson

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 10:33 AM

Hi,

This question may sound a bit silly but I just want to be 100% sure. You compose a shot to convey/transmit what a character is feeling or thinking. Is this correct?


Thanks :)
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 10:43 AM

Depends on the purpose of the shot. Each shot has a purpose to inform about the story, says me, and as such they don't necessarily have to deal with the character's mental state for any given moment in a film.. though, most of them do. Others exist to give a sense of time and place, scale, and "issue," happening.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 11:05 AM

As Adrian says, shots exist for different purposes. For example, I'm doing a golf movie and some shots are composed to make clear the geography of the course and where the ball goes, etc. The composition may serve general symbolic purposes too - some stories are character driven but some are more driven by a theme or political idea, etc. Some shots don't even have characters in them!

Some shots don't so much convey the character's feelings as they place the character symbolically within a space, to comment on the character.

Sometimes in a Western, for example, you have a wide shot with the character small in frame to suggest man's relative unimportance within the grandness of nature, or the struggle of man against nature, etc. -- but that's not necessarily how the character is feeling at the moment.

It's sort of the difference between subjective and objective staging, composition, etc.
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#4 Brian Rose

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 03:16 PM

I believe in cinematography based on function above all, and any stylization derives from that function. You should always be asking, what is the purpose of this shot? How is it conveying what I want to convey?

Because, with so many conventions, it is so easy to "sleepwalk" through a picture: over the shoulder shot here, shaky cam for "realism"... I can't think of the number of films I've seen that end with a crane shot as two characters walk away. Why? Often I suspect the director and DP never asked this question, but rather bowed to convention...that's how you end a movie...with a crane shot.

Another example: I've worked on a bunch of films where the director is deadset on shooting a bunch of scenes at magic hour, never regarding the headaches, the crucial timing, and the short work span. Not to mention never contemplating WHY they have to film at magic hour, other than that it's "beautiful" or they want it to look like "Days of Heaven."

They never bother to learn that "Days of Heaven," the quintessential magic hour movie, arrived at this look through a very logical and practical manner. As Malick and Almendros both pointed out, they did not choose to shoot so much at magic hour "jus 'cause," but rather because it made sense within the story, and it conveyed an important aspect of the lives of the characters who toil on the land, who would start work at dawn, and work until dusk. It made perfect sense to film at these times, because that is when they would be getting up, finishing work, etc. The magic hour shooting was adopted because it functioned within the storyand the look, the feel of it which in its own way is quite stylized, derives from that function (I recall Malick as he was color correcting the film for Criterion, jokingly forbade the use of the word "beautiful" as they timed the film, because that was not their aim...to make a beautiful film).

An example from my own work...I recently completed a documentary, a biography on an American president that involved traveling all over the country, road trip style. I wanted to avoid the conventions of the form...no shaky cam verite, but no staid, tripod bound stodgy shots of historic sites. And being on a limited budget with few crew and a tight shoot schedule, my solution for all of this was to shoot on a glidecam. It enabled me to grab more shots quite quickly, and because I had a nice, fluid camera movement, it allowed more freedom in the editing suite, by relying upon longer shots where a scene unfolds, rather than choppy pacing. And the end result was something distinctly different in the look, and feel of the picture.

Finally, I recall a famous story told by Spielberg, of his encounter with John Ford. Ford told the young aspirant to look at a landscape painting, and tell him why the painter set the horizon line where he did. Spielberg couldn't answer. Ford told him to think about it, and said that when he understood where to place the horizon (i.e., not in the center like some damn postcard), he would be a good director.

BR
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Aerial Filmworks

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc