Jump to content


Photo

Innovation in cinematography


  • Please log in to reply
41 replies to this topic

#1 David Vinelli

David Vinelli
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student

Posted 23 August 2011 - 07:46 PM

Hi
I'd like to know your thoughts: what is innovation nowadays in film making and cinematography? Now that everything has been done, more or less, in our era of CGI and so on, what might you call groundbreaking, avant-garde etc?
  • 0

#2 Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1234 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • Dallas, TX

Posted 23 August 2011 - 10:31 PM

Hi
I'd like to know your thoughts: what is innovation nowadays in film making and cinematography? Now that everything has been done, more or less, in our era of CGI and so on, what might you call groundbreaking, avant-garde etc?


The digital revolution has been the most significant change in movie technology in the last 100 years. It has jumped leaps and bounds in the past 15-20 and greatly in the last 10.

Also, reality TV has done wonders. lol
  • 0

#3 Chris Millar

Chris Millar
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1642 posts
  • Other

Posted 23 August 2011 - 10:55 PM

Sure, there is a connection between technicality and output, but there's soooooo much more to cinematography than resolution, pipelines and well, hmmmm - hey, yeh there's something that has come leaps and bounds since digital came along - granding - teals, greens and orange/yellows everywhere. Don't see much of it in reality TV though ...theres a thought Posted Image

I personally am fascinated with the era of real practical special effects used to make the films I grew up with, and to a certain extent the films that paved the way for them, and then next in line are the films that are still following in that regard (The Fountain is a good example) - starting pretty much with Kubricks 2001, but mostly starwars and 80's sci-fi and fantasy...

Old cinefex magazines are my bedtime stories.


Edit>> but to answer your question .... hmmm

um,

hmmmm,

>>crickets chirping<<

How far can we go back before we can't call it 'our era' ?

Edited by Chris Millar, 23 August 2011 - 10:57 PM.

  • 0

#4 David Vinelli

David Vinelli
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student

Posted 24 August 2011 - 11:13 PM

I'm afraid I wasn't very clear: I meant aesthetically speaking or "storytelling wise". Like Citizen Kane or 2001 were ground-breaking, is there anything in our time that might be called that, or that must yet be done? Now that you can do everything digitally, including long tracking shots, etc, I feel there's not much challenge left cinematographically speaking, so I'm asking for ideas and opinions. What is good cinematography in our day? Just beautiful colors and correct exposure?
  • 0

#5 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 25 August 2011 - 05:42 AM

Good cinematography, and great cinematography is that which fits the story and the projects and the characters. What that means is something you'll decide for yourself for the film.

And it's a bit laughable to think there's not much challenge left in making your shots just because of digital. If anything, digital can often make it harder because it's easier for other people to un-do any work you have done.
  • 0

#6 David Vinelli

David Vinelli
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student

Posted 25 August 2011 - 09:19 AM

Maybe you're right. But, Citizen Kane was and still is regarded as a milestone and great innovation: low angle shots, deep focus, narration style etc. Has there been anything as significant in the last 10-15 years? If so could you please tell me what? And in what field can you now be innovative? You can forget about new angles, everything's been done. Every color treatment, or filters, or every kind of lighting have been used. Tracking shots are not a problem anymore, you could even make a whole feature film in one shot. Outrageous violence and sadism have been depicted, and are barely shocking to today's audience, not to speak of the ethical and artistic value of such devices. Flashbacks are outmoded, actors are getting worse than ever, so I don't know. In painting you had the Renaissance, then the baroque style, academism, etc, impressionism, expressionism, cubism and so on. It's unfortunately impossible in film to have such variety of visual style.
  • 0

#7 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 25 August 2011 - 09:31 AM

This sounds like i'm writing your homework for you, which I'm not about to go into. Sufficient to say it is naive to say that film can't have such a variety of visual style-- though it is also important to remember, film is not painting. It's close to photography but it isn't photography. Hence, the same lexicon which we use to describe photography and painting cannot really be applied.
What you're missing is that in a painting, the painting is the whole, as in the photograph. But, with cinematography, it is only a part of a whole-- the thing called a film. As such, you need to really look beyond just the cinematography-- a brush-- to the rest of what makes the movie. What you're asking is akin, to take from painting, is what innovation in brush technology has come about lately? Oh no! The world is over, brushes haven't changed and there can now be no innovation in painting! The tools/technologies are not as important as the implementation. And, in terms of what is ground-breaking or avant gaurde, revolutionary, it's more so in the types of shots we do. Now, whether they have been done before or not is less important -v- the fact that they have become mainstream. We borrow a lot of our looks now from reality tv and the youtube "aesthetic," to convey what is real. We use less lighting, I'd say. We shoot a lot more at night in urban environments than we used to. I mean, whens the last time you really saw Day for Night in a movie?
  • 0

#8 David Vinelli

David Vinelli
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student

Posted 25 August 2011 - 10:03 AM

This sounds like i'm writing your homework for you, which I'm not about to go into. Sufficient to say it is naive to say that film can't have such a variety of visual style-- though it is also important to remember, film is not painting. It's close to photography but it isn't photography. Hence, the same lexicon which we use to describe photography and painting cannot really be applied.
What you're missing is that in a painting, the painting is the whole, as in the photograph. But, with cinematography, it is only a part of a whole-- the thing called a film. As such, you need to really look beyond just the cinematography-- a brush-- to the rest of what makes the movie. What you're asking is akin, to take from painting, is what innovation in brush technology has come about lately? Oh no! The world is over, brushes haven't changed and there can now be no innovation in painting! The tools/technologies are not as important as the implementation. And, in terms of what is ground-breaking or avant gaurde, revolutionary, it's more so in the types of shots we do. Now, whether they have been done before or not is less important -v- the fact that they have become mainstream. We borrow a lot of our looks now from reality tv and the youtube "aesthetic," to convey what is real. We use less lighting, I'd say. We shoot a lot more at night in urban environments than we used to. I mean, whens the last time you really saw Day for Night in a movie?

No homework, just opinions, and I thank you for giving yours. I think it's obvious film hasn't such diversity, our palette is limited, but it doesn't mean we can do nothing and I agree that film is moving and not just a still picture. You accuse me of being naive, childish or I don't know what, well maybe, but I didn't say a word about the tools. Personally I don't care that the tools haven't evolved (they have though, I mentioned CGI and stuff earlier, didn't I). We, human beings, haven't evolved in the last five hundred years, doesn't mean art hasn't. There's development, in all art forms, music, painting, sculpture, but in film, I think it's somewhat limited. Do you think Social Network will be remembered in, say, twenty years for its cinematography and themes? Or Tree of Life? Or Transformers?
  • 0

#9 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 25 August 2011 - 10:23 AM

No homework, just opinions, and I thank you for giving yours. I think it's obvious film hasn't such diversity, our palette is limited, but it doesn't mean we can do nothing and I agree that film is moving and not just a still picture. You accuse me of being naive, childish or I don't know what, well maybe, but I didn't say a word about the tools. Personally I don't care that the tools haven't evolved (they have though, I mentioned CGI and stuff earlier, didn't I). We, human beings, haven't evolved in the last five hundred years, doesn't mean art hasn't. There's development, in all art forms, music, painting, sculpture, but in film, I think it's somewhat limited. Do you think Social Network will be remembered in, say, twenty years for its cinematography and themes? Or Tree of Life? Or Transformers?


Not you, just the thinking that film has reached all it can reach is naive, that it's palette is limited. I would suggest, that film like any art is only as limited as the creativity of the people making it, and what will be looked back upon in 20 years will also be as dependent of the people 20 years from now finding a value in them-- finding meaning. Film, one of the youngest of any art out there, is constantly expanding how it does things. We have recently begun working with hand-held aesthetics (Children of Men, for example) and youtube "looks" (Cloverfield) ect. We are playing a lot more with speed of actions (Antichrist) ect. But they are still the small steps of what both must serve as an art and an entertainment. Now all of these things have antecedents in film history, as well as other art forms, but the point being they are moving more and more main-stream and merging into the "hollywood," style. And that is what we are really talking about here, in the end, a certain school of thought on film-- the Hollywood style. It's like any other period/style of any other art where it currently is the dominate trend; but that doesn't mean it's dead, or immobile or confined to a limited pallete. I would argue, of any art there is, film has the capacity to be more liberated than anything else simply because it incorporates so many other art forms into itself (Mothlight is an interesting example). Now whether or not it becomes the main style is another story.
  • 0

#10 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5070 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 25 August 2011 - 11:47 AM

Do you think Social Network will be remembered in, say, twenty years for its cinematography and themes? Or Tree of Life? Or Transformers?


It's hard to tell which films are remembered. Some well known films did relatively poorly when they first came out, whilst others did well when they first came out (happy studios and funders) haven't lasted in the long term and have been forgotten.

Here's Empire magazine's top 500 as voted by its readers.

http://www.empireonline.com/500/1.asp

I'm sure if you went to a different set of voters you'd find a different order, if not always different films.

The limitations are those imposed by the cost of making the films. The more daring films tend not to be those found in mainstream cinemas, you'll have to go to the art house cinemas and the film festivals to uncover those. You can also find film/video in art galleries, commercial cinema tends to be more about bums on seats than exploring ideas.
  • 0

#11 David Vinelli

David Vinelli
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student

Posted 25 August 2011 - 11:47 AM

I don't agree, but I see your point. Thank you. It's funny though no one else wants to give their opinion on this.

Not you, just the thinking that film has reached all it can reach is naive, that it's palette is limited. I would suggest, that film like any art is only as limited as the creativity of the people making it, and what will be looked back upon in 20 years will also be as dependent of the people 20 years from now finding a value in them-- finding meaning. Film, one of the youngest of any art out there, is constantly expanding how it does things. We have recently begun working with hand-held aesthetics (Children of Men, for example) and youtube "looks" (Cloverfield) ect. We are playing a lot more with speed of actions (Antichrist) ect. But they are still the small steps of what both must serve as an art and an entertainment. Now all of these things have antecedents in film history, as well as other art forms, but the point being they are moving more and more main-stream and merging into the "hollywood," style. And that is what we are really talking about here, in the end, a certain school of thought on film-- the Hollywood style. It's like any other period/style of any other art where it currently is the dominate trend; but that doesn't mean it's dead, or immobile or confined to a limited pallete. I would argue, of any art there is, film has the capacity to be more liberated than anything else simply because it incorporates so many other art forms into itself (Mothlight is an interesting example). Now whether or not it becomes the main style is another story.


  • 0

#12 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 25 August 2011 - 11:53 AM

Fair enough. When we're old men, look me up and if you're right I owe you a beer and if I'm right you owe me one.
Other people will chime in, I'm sure.
  • 0

#13 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 25 August 2011 - 12:12 PM

When an art form matures, then innovation becomes less commonplace, even less necessary, it becomes harder to find new permutations that have any practical meaning. We're talking about narrative cinema, as opposed to experimental non-narrative cinema, so you have to think about the fact that the ultimate goal is to tell a story. Form follows function to some degree -- the point of a narrative movie is usually not its style or technique.

So ask yourself -- what have been the recent innovations in the narrative novel? Extreme structural and stylistic experimentation in narrative can often work against the effectiveness of that narrative -- there are exceptions of course but it will always be rare to find ways that some totally unique approach will end up being the most effective way to tell the story.

Most good innovations come out of solving a problem. So it's hard to set out to be innovative for its own sake, out of any context.

Cinema is an established art, though newer than some others. Conrad Hall once said that it was harder for him to be experimental as he got older, to take risks, because over time, he had tried most risky or experimental approaches, so in essence, they were no longer risky to him because he knew what the results would be. He said he had to reach farther to find ways of failing, so to speak. So as time goes by with cinema, it becomes harder and harder to discover new techniques because we have more and more history behind us. And since form often follows function, there are limits to how much you can alter something that works already -- like a pencil or a hammer, for example. They already do what we need for them to do. You can be innovative with architecture, but ultimately there are common things that the building has to accomplish, you usually need doors and bathrooms, for example.
  • 0

#14 David Vinelli

David Vinelli
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student

Posted 25 August 2011 - 12:43 PM

When an art form matures, then innovation becomes less commonplace, even less necessary, it becomes harder to find new permutations that have any practical meaning. We're talking about narrative cinema, as opposed to experimental non-narrative cinema, so you have to think about the fact that the ultimate goal is to tell a story. Form follows function to some degree -- the point of a narrative movie is usually not its style or technique.

So ask yourself -- what have been the recent innovations in the narrative novel? Extreme structural and stylistic experimentation in narrative can often work against the effectiveness of that narrative -- there are exceptions of course but it will always be rare to find ways that some totally unique approach will end up being the most effective way to tell the story.

Most good innovations come out of solving a problem. So it's hard to set out to be innovative for its own sake, out of any context.

Cinema is an established art, though newer than some others. Conrad Hall once said that it was harder for him to be experimental as he got older, to take risks, because over time, he had tried most risky or experimental approaches, so in essence, they were no longer risky to him because he knew what the results would be. He said he had to reach farther to find ways of failing, so to speak. So as time goes by with cinema, it becomes harder and harder to discover new techniques because we have more and more history behind us. And since form often follows function, there are limits to how much you can alter something that works already -- like a pencil or a hammer, for example. They already do what we need for them to do. You can be innovative with architecture, but ultimately there are common things that the building has to accomplish, you usually need doors and bathrooms, for example.

There's been many evolutions from Lascaux to Van Gogh though. Perhaps some art forms are in the end more fecund than others - by which I don't mean to say they're worth more or anything. But overall I think your statement is very true.
Adrian, I'll see to it and give you a call in some fifty years. In the meantime, the best of luck to you both and thanks again.
  • 0

#15 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 25 August 2011 - 06:11 PM

There's been many evolutions from Lascaux to Van Gogh though.


Sure, but if you're willing to include experimental cinema & video art installations, then cinema has also gone through some extreme changes and styles.
  • 0

#16 Chris Millar

Chris Millar
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1642 posts
  • Other

Posted 26 August 2011 - 12:10 AM

Sure, but if you're willing to include experimental cinema & video art installations, then cinema has also gone through some extreme changes and styles.


Yup, agree ...

And advertising / music videos

It eventually ends up on a narrative feature

Matrix/bullet time

Gondry/Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless mind

Here's a small but on occasion very influential effect: http://www.flong.com...ists/slit_scan/

All can be done non-digitally ... actually, maybe not some parts of gondrys morphing hoohah


Where do we start and stop in terms on the boundaries between cinematography and vfx and special effects ?
  • 0

#17 David Vinelli

David Vinelli
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student

Posted 26 August 2011 - 10:32 AM

Yes, of course you're right, technically, but I'm thinking serious stuff, not Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and the likes. If you want to include those people then, yes, you should include advertising, experimental movies like Mothlight, pseudo-artistic things like 'the Wall', etc.
  • 0

#18 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 26 August 2011 - 02:40 PM

Yes, of course you're right, technically, but I'm thinking serious stuff, not Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and the likes. If you want to include those people then, yes, you should include advertising, experimental movies like Mothlight, pseudo-artistic things like 'the Wall', etc.


What, experimental cinema / video art isn't "serious stuff"? I think what you mean is conventional narrative cinema, but experimental cinema is a legitimate art form. My point is that you can't compare it to painting if you are going to include all forms of painting over 10,000 years but restrict cinema to traditional narrative cinema and then say that it is more limited stylistically. Besides, who knows what cinema will be like when it's as old as cave paintings.
  • 0

#19 David Vinelli

David Vinelli
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Student

Posted 26 August 2011 - 04:54 PM

What, experimental cinema / video art isn't "serious stuff"? I think what you mean is conventional narrative cinema, but experimental cinema is a legitimate art form. My point is that you can't compare it to painting if you are going to include all forms of painting over 10,000 years but restrict cinema to traditional narrative cinema and then say that it is more limited stylistically. Besides, who knows what cinema will be like when it's as old as cave paintings.

In my opinion, no. All art forms are narrative to a certain extent. Lascaux, the Sistine chapel, a painting by Monet, a Shakespeare play, a John Ford film, all tell a story, be it in one frame or several. To me, "experimental" cinema is a recent scam, as is most of what is done in modern art. Do you think Mothlight tells a story? I'd prefer to be staring at a rug instead.
  • 0

#20 Chris Millar

Chris Millar
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1642 posts
  • Other

Posted 26 August 2011 - 05:14 PM

In my opinion, no. All art forms are narrative to a certain extent. Lascaux, the Sistine chapel, a painting by Monet, a Shakespeare play, a John Ford film, all tell a story, be it in one frame or several. To me, "experimental" cinema is a recent scam, as is most of what is done in modern art. Do you think Mothlight tells a story? I'd prefer to be staring at a rug instead.


We're getting off topic - too many questions for what you've said here... Not sure how to interpret your "experimental" quote marks - and this rug... It's telling you a story ? When cinema itself was experimental was that a recent scam ? and so on ...

I know you weren't talking to me directly and David could well have a researched 5000 word essay in reply, but I think this thread is going to get off topic without some clear definitions/delineation in your original query, or did you just want to have a bit of a freewheeling chat about filmy theory stuff in general ?
  • 0


Paralinx LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Glidecam

FJS International, LLC

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Wooden Camera

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

Metropolis Post

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

Tai Audio

Rig Wheels Passport

CineLab

Visual Products

The Slider

CineTape

Metropolis Post

Glidecam

Paralinx LLC

FJS International, LLC

Aerial Filmworks

CineLab

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Visual Products

Rig Wheels Passport

rebotnix Technologies

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineTape

Tai Audio

Willys Widgets

The Slider

Opal