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class="Paragraph" Composition

Published : 31 March 2004


...A friend of mine operated on a series of features with a director who framed shots in the oddest ways possible. He liked giving people haircuts... which is fine if you're on an 85 mm, but on a 25mm or an 18mm wide shot it's a little odd...

I recently worked with the opposite in a Director that constantly wanted to give people bunches of headroom. I tried to explain that it felt awkwardly spacious up top and he was surprised to hear that it seemed unnatural.

I then paid particular attention to the next movie I saw at the theatre which happened to be Matrix: Reloaded and in that one even the wide shots gave everyone haircuts. Maybe this is a new trend.

Roderick Stevens
Az. D.P.
12On / 12Off



Roderick Stevens writes:

>even the wide shots gave everyone haircuts. Maybe this is a new trend.

I find there to be quite distinct cultural differences here as well.

At university I had the opportunity to work with directors from Japan, Korea, Singapore, France, UK, Norway, Mexico and the US, as well as Australia.

One of the Japanese directors would consistently have the eyes pretty much dead on the half way mark, leaving an enormous amount of headroom, the other Asians following suit, Europeans also seemed to like a bit of air, the Aussies somewhat undecided and Americans more into their haircuts.

As a gross over generalisation I seem to find these same trends also prevalent in films I watch from outside the "student world".

On another note, I have also noticed that the preferred head room seems to diminish with experience...

Kim Sargenius
(Recently Graduated) Student Shooter
Sydney Australia



>I find there to be quite distinct cultural differences here as well. At >university I had the opportunity to work with directors from Japan, Korea, >Singapore, France, UK, Norway, Mexico and the US, as well as >Australia.

There used to be distinct cultural differences between all the nationalities when it came to cinematography. The U.S. was most diverse but I'd have to say the distinguishing characteristic was "polished" lighting and subtle compositions. The British style favoured very graphically interesting compositions, as did the Australian style, although the Australian lighting style was occasionally less polished. The 70s also saw a lot of extreme wide angle, fast-zoom and snap-focus shots from the U.K.

Canadians were a mix of British and American. The French used to create moody lighting in the background and then light the foreground right up. The Italian style escapes me other than for the zooming. I can't remember the others; this was all about 20 years ago, but I used to be able to pick out the nationality of a film simply by looking at the lighting and the compositions.

I can't do any of that anymore, sadly. I thought it was pretty cool at the time. Now... I guess there's too much homogeneity, too much "I can emulate that look from the U.S."

>On another note, I have also noticed that the preferred head room >seems to diminish with experience

I'm a big fan of haircuts.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/



>which happened to be Matrix: Reloaded and in that one even the wide >shots gave everyone haircuts. Maybe this is a new trend.

And I thought that was just a lousy projection in the particular theatre where I saw it! So the scalping was intentional??

I was definitely disturbed by the down-to-the-eyebrows head-chopping, but my non-industry friends who saw the movie with me didn't even notice anything. Something to think about.

Is the concept of headroom on its way out?

(Or maybe it's simply a visual metaphor for some sublime techno-philosophical insight, dreamed up by the Watchowskis and Bill Pope? *** Concordantly! Vis-a-vis! Apropos!!!

>On another note, I have also noticed that the preferred head room >seems to diminish with experience

I totally agree.

One producer I worked with had taken a documentary video production course in college; it was there that she picked up the dogma that "the subject's eyes have to be on the upper one-third line of the frame". She'd repeatedly insist on this rule on

ALL my setups.

(Of course I cheated the frame a bit every time to keep things interesting! In any case, she loved the end product, so no worries...)

See, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing...

Paolo A. Dy
Director / Cinematographer
Manila, Philippines



>she picked up the dogma that "the subject's eyes have to be on the >upper one-third line of the frame"

This is one of the most basic image composition rules, that I apply as first approach always. This usually produces haircuts when in CS or CU, the wider the A.R., the more. Then I adjust the framing whenever the subject leads you to (I don't know why, but with some people haircut framing feel like a kick in the crotch; perhaps it has something to do with their hairstyle or the way it relates to the hairline combined with the haircutting, making their heads to look... well, like Frankenstein's). But in general I abhor of excess headroom.

Of course, the upper one-third line rule gets varied also depending on the other elements present in the frame.

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Filmmaker
Madrid (Imperial Spain)



Hi,

>I can't do any of that anymore, sadly. I thought it was pretty cool at the >time. Now... I guess there's too much homogeneity, too much "I can >emulate that look from the U.S."

Guilty, if that headroom thing holds true. Last (tiny, independent, insignificant) drama I shot even the totally non-framing-aware director said it was "too tight on eyes." I think this comes from having worked on many very bad productions wherein it's better to fill the frame with an interesting-looking actor than the badly lit uninteresting backdrop. And I doubt it's an experience thing if I'm doing it!

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



>she picked up the dogma that "the subject's eyes have to be on the >upper one-third line of the frame".

However, so often now, we have to make allowance for a thundering lower third on a lot of TV interviews.

Again, with news stories, it is necessary to leave that big space because you never know what bit is going to be used and never even know where the super(s) are likely to be.

Once, we could "guess" what was the grab. And could frame for the super, then slowly tighten - meaningfully - as the Subject's words came tumbling out. But now, with a different style of production, it can be the most innocuous grab gets the big super because it times out nicely with some sort of promo or back-announce.

It is safer just to frame wide and let things happen. After all, with short, sharp News grabs, it can only hurt for a second, right?

John Hollands
Not Doing News Right Now.
Sydney Australia



>However, so often now, we have to make allowance for a thundering >lower third on a lot of TV interviews.

So many photographers I work with deal with this problem and hate every second of it. Some even shoot close ups in protest, just to make it look bad so that maybe something in the production will be changed.

Good luck, I doubt the consultants will mention anything about getting rid of huge supers with 10 lines of info. (sarcasm). Others shoot tight because it makes for a nice piece that will go on their reel without any supers. Besides, when news stories are less than a minute thirty, there is so much info being fed to the viewer that those lower 3rds can be seen as a distraction.

Just my thought on that.

Chad Simcox
"working in news till the 18th of January"
www.sonofsimon.com



>So many photographers I work with deal with this problem and hate >every second of it. Some even shoot close ups in protest, just to make it >look bad

Naughty boys.

Sometimes it helps to think differently about things.

When I am shooting a commercial with a new DP, I explain that there will be supers on the screen.

I say to them "if you are shooting a shot of a person, try and think of it not as a portrait, but as a magazine cover".

Looking at magazine covers, they are littered with text - supers - and that is how many of our commercials will look in the end.

Frankly it is just plain dumb to shoot (say) a pack shot centre frame. It needs to be pushed off to the side to allow space for supers. If the DP doesn't do it, I will do it in Post. But how much more calming (Karma-wise) to accept that things are as they are and just do a good job using appropriate framing. Hmmm?

>After all, with short, sharp News grabs, it can only hurt for a second, >right?

In case nobody "got it". This is allegedly a quote from John Ford…

Apparently, while cutting a Western, he was concerned about the amount of time a cowboy took to exit the saloon, get on his horse, and ride off.

As there was no other coverage, Ford asked the Editor to "jumpcut" the sequence. "Get him on the goddam horse".

The Editor complained, and Ford is reported to have said "Sure it is a bad cut, but it only hurts for a second. The other way, it hurt for a lot longer..."

John Hollands
Sydney
Cheap Commercial-maker (the commercials aren't cheap, *I* am)



Art Adams writes :

>I can't do any of that anymore, sadly. I thought it was pretty cool at the >time. Now... I guess there's too much homogeneity, too much "I can >emulate that look from the U.S."

What do you mean? That the rest of the worlds cinema now looks like it was lit in 1970's-80's America?

I hope not. Yeuch!!

Chris Maris



>she picked up the dogma that "the subject's eyes have to be on the >upper one-third line of the frame"

As a friend (and mentor) told me, "Frame for the face, not the head."

>What do you mean? That the rest of the worlds cinema now looks like it >was lit in 1970's-80's America?

Uh... no. Thankfully.

>So many photographers I work with deal with this problem and hate >every second of it. Some even shoot close ups in protest, just to make it >look bad so that maybe something in the production will be changed.

Wow. I shoot occasional corporate jobs where they want room to drop in ID's at the bottom of the frame. Do I frame tight shots in protest? The answer to that would be, "Uh, no Bob, I don't do that."

As much as I'd like to think so, it isn't about me. It's about the client getting what they want. Sometimes I'll try and steer them in another direction if I think the project will benefit, but if they don't want my input then they won't have to fight it.

There are some jobs done for the art, and there are some jobs done for the craft and the pay cheque. Either way, it beats flipping burgers.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



Hi,

>There are some jobs done for the art, and there are some jobs done for >the craft and the pay cheque.

I generally find that jobs are done for the pay cheque, and freebies are done for the art.

Anyone else?

>Either way, it beats flipping burgers.

There is that!

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



>I generally find that jobs are done for the pay cheque, and freebies are >done for the art... Anyone else?

That's mostly my experience, too. Doesn't stop me from doing what I can within the parameters of the gig, but usually I can't cut loose except on the freebies (and that only in consultation with the director, of course).

Headroom: for the '98 elections I was working graphics for ABC (American Broadcasting) in New York (after getting the blessings of my locked-out union buddies). Because of the lockout the cameras were all manned by management, and the director (who also served as the DP) had a heck of a time getting the cam ops to frame tighter than a full hand span of headroom above the top of the head. The director wanted a slight haircutting, and the rookie cam ops couldn't seem to get used to the idea, despite having watched this same director's framing on World News Tonight for *years*.

He eventually managed to get them trained in his desired composition (there was a full 8 hours of training) but there were a lot of foul words used on the intercom that day.

Adam Wilt / Video Geek / Menlo Park CA USA



Phil Rhodes

>very bad productions wherein it's better to fill the frame with an >interesting-looking actor than the badly lit uninteresting backdrop.

I think it's also the all encompassing influence of TV, the smaller screen.

A lot of directors & DP's now busy come from a TV background and continue to use the framing and editing that works for TV, the bigger screen can be wider and slower.

This is not to say that it's bad to come from a TV background, just that you have to adjust the way you shoot something according to it's viewing size.

Most directors from a TV/Commercials/Music Video background have difficulty with this.

This problem is exacerbated by the use of video assist and cutting on Avid's.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net



Geoff Boyle writes :

>Most directors from a TV/Commercials/Music Video background have >difficulty with this.

Yes!!

This is exactly the point I was trying to get across a few months back when I started my thread on "Too many close-ups?"

On the big screen, many factors come into play to give the movie a 'big' feel...meaning a 'non-made-for-tv' look.

Composition is a big one.

I have often attempted to analyse why some films look like tv-movies and others look like big screen epics....of course great production design, a great script and big actors help! I always thought that the over use of close-ups was a tv thing...smaller screen and a director viewing the image on a tiny 9" video assist monitor...but, for Christmas, I received the DVD of ONCE UPON

A TIME IN THE WEST!! WOW!!

Now I think my theory on close-ups is not valid!

Cheers,

Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
www.barklage.com



Roderick doth quoth :

>I then paid particular attention to the next movie I saw at the theatre >which happened to be Matrix: Reloaded and in that one even the wide >shots gave everyone haircuts. Maybe this is a new trend.

Very little head room certainly seems to be the trend in print photographic work - so its probably spilling into the more 'fashion' conscious cinematography of films like the Matrix. But the 'haircut' style I think is part of the whole hi-tech faux realism which has become popular over the last 5 years.

Ya know the deal : variations of the beach bypass look, hand held camera work, a 90 to 45 shutter angle, 2.35 aspect (which seems to be going through a resurgence since the advent of DVD), highly 'graphic' framing, and frantic editing.

That said, I think the boundaries of acceptable composition have been shifting wide and fast over the last ten years. A film like “Being John Malkovich” uses a LOT of headroom while a film like Fight Club (same year) doesn't.

Stuart M. Willis
Studentish Director
Sydney, Australia



>I generally find that jobs are done for the pay cheque, and freebies are >done for the art... Anyone else?

Dead on THEN and Dead on NOW

Robert Rouveroy csc
The Hague, Holland

I plan to live forever. So far, so good.



Hi,

>This problem is exacerbated by the use of video assist and cutting on >Avid's.

Video assist, yeah, I can understand that - but is the screen on a Steinbeck any bigger than a decent video monitor? Or is it just that film cutting gear inherently shows image outside the frame area which gives a greater impression of headroom?

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



Jeff Barklage said :

> Now I think my theory on close-ups is not valid!

Well it's too late Jeff! I've already used that theory with two directors and I'm not going back to retract it.

Either way - I still believe close-ups are WAY overused in most movies today.

The fact is, the close-up was first used to accentuate a facial expression/reaction and make a significant point. Nowadays with scene after scene shot in close-ups the punctuation is so diluted that there’s not much of a crescendo.

Roderick Stevens
Az. D.P.
www.restevens.com
12On / 12Off



Hi,

>4) Factor in the likelihood of supered graphics, TV cut off, widescreen >and so forth whenever possible.

Framing for television in the UK is currently very much about compromise framing for both 14:9 and 16:9. This stuffs everyone - graphics end up floating around in the middle of the wider frame, you can't use the 16:9 image properly because it'll be nonsensical when cropped - awful.

>On the big screen, many factors come into play to give the movie a 'big' >feel...meaning a 'non-made-for-tv' look.

Ages ago I wrote a thesis on this. Other than composition, as you mentioned, there's things like the title lettering generally being smaller, superimposed graphics and titles being non-interlaced, that tiny amount of weave, and something else - is it me, or do TV movies tend to get shot by TV people, the same sort of people who make "ER" and "Buffy the vampire slayer?"

Or is it just a scheduling thing? There's certainly something about the way they're lit as well, possibly just for speed, possibly because they're used to doing lower-contrast stuff? Or is there less room for experimentation on TV movies? Nobody seems to shoot TV movies using strange processing tricks.

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



>but is the screen on a Steinbeck any bigger than a decent video >monitor?

No, but it is an ordinary practice in good film editing to view the cutting copy projected in a full size screen once in a while as the editing progresses. While in the case of video/offline digital editing that's more than amazingly extraordinary.

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Filmmaker
Madrid (Imperial Spain)



>Video assist, yeah, I can understand that - but is the screen on a >Steinbeck any bigger than a decent video monitor?

Not necessarily but it feels more "movie projection like"; it seems easier to imagine that image on a large theatre screen.

It also seems true with ground glass finders vs. video finders as well : sometimes I look at the film camera GG as if it were a theatre screen and I'm really seeing a 22' screen from the back row.

No doubt I have learned prejudices, but....

Sam Wells



>I suppose he didn't make himself popular with The Suits.

How do you do that short of showing up for work for free? The suits don't want change, they want what all the other current hits look like... whatever they think that may be.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



>Or is there less room for experimentation on TV movies?

>Nobody seems to shoot TV movies using strange processing tricks.


You should've seen Roy Wagner's work on "Push Nevada" (not a TV Movie, but episodic)

I suppose he didn't make himself popular with The Suits.

Sam Wells



>Video assist, yeah, I can understand that - but is the screen on a >Steinbeck any bigger than a decent video monitor? Or is it just that film >cutting gear inherently shows image outside the frame area which gives >a greater impression of headroom?

If you are cutting work print on a flatbed, you are MUCH more likely to screen a reel on the big screen as soon as a sequence is cut, whereas on the Avid, it is not always the case that the work print gets conformed to the cut as you are working.

My theory is that by the time the director sees a sequence on the big screen, he/she is more likely to be emotionally invested in a take that might have a buzz in it having seen it work in the cut on the avid all this time.

Mark Weingartner
LA Based



Sam Wells writes:

>You should've seen Roy Wagner's work on "Push Nevada" (not a TV >Movie, but episodic) I suppose he didn't make himself popular with The >Suits.

That's for sure. And as Roy has said, it had little to do with his cinematography, which was outstanding.

The sad truth is that nearly everything done for TV, is done by audience surveys and/or by ratings and the bottom line.

Think about this : do you know anyone, whose opinion you care about, who would want to be in the audience for a TV sitcom. Because of the reliance on audience surveys TV is locked in a continuous downward spiral in order to capture more and more viewers. However, the reality is they're not gaining viewers; it's the same total number of viewers but they're simply changing channels.

As a result, The Learning Channel has degenerated into little more than the Chopper channel, and Bravo seems to have nothing than interviews and celebrity poker. And everything else is extreme.

Do you seriously believe that the people who decide these things are concerned about the finer points of composition and lighting?

Or as H.L. Mencken once put it: "No one has ever gone broke by underestimating the taste of the American public."

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



>I suppose he didn't make himself popular with The Suits. How do you do >that short of showing up for work for free? The suits don't want change, >they want what all the other current hits look like, whatever they think >that may be.

I think Roy has been quite the victim of this based on his various experiences including CSI.

Roderick Stevens
Az. D.P.
12On / 12Off



>Think about this: do you know anyone, whose opinion you care about, >who would want to be in the audience for a TV sitcom.

Depends on the sitcom. I'd go see Will and Grace, but I'm slowly getting tired of that. (It's very nicely photographed.) I tried to see Cheers years ago but that was very tough to get in to. I saw Duet live, which was a decent show but didn't last long, and The Tortellis, which died a quick and horrible death. I also saw "The Tracey Ulman Show" but I was visiting one of the operators.

They were all fun, but mostly because I was able to yell down to the stage, "What kind of diffusion are you using?"

>Because of the reliance on audience surveys TV is locked in a >continuous downward spiral in order to capture more and more viewers.

It's funny; everyone who produces TV is trying to rip off shows that are the most popular to the most people, and in the process TV gets dumber and dumber. I've got two shelves of old TV shows and obscure movies on DVD that prove that I want something different. How many people will want to buy DVD's of "Survivor" and watch them over and over? In the short term they make money, but in the long term the "Survivor" channel will most likely be a bomb.

>As a result, The Learning Channel has degenerated into little more than >the Chopper channel

The Learning Channel is running HGTV-style house makeover shows. What sense does that make? One of the shows is an hour long and shot on DV. It's difficult to watch, and it's slow as molasses. (I watch a lot of "slow" stuff and this is slow even for me.)

>and Bravo seems to have nothing than interviews and celebrity poker.

They have Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, one of the best original shows I've seen in years and the best reality show I've seen by far. They are milking it like it's the cow-o-plenty. That celebrity poker game is someone's pipe dream, but at least it's somewhat original (although totally not my taste.)

I think it'd be fun if we adopted the UK method of creating and running short series of six-eight episodes each. That would add more variety, and the better received shows could come back for additional seasons. Then they could make money on DVD sales. This whole "let's crank out 26 episodes of dreck per year" thing just doesn't seem to pay off except in very limited circumstances.

>Do you seriously believe that the people who decide these things are >concerned about the finer points of composition and lighting?

If composition and lighting come back as a "style," then yes, they'll be concerned when it's the "in" thing. Fortunately the MTV wave-the-camera-around style is nearly gone, although the fake documentary "everything is lit nicely but shot handheld" style is in full swing. I'm really tired of that. I can't watch any of those shows except for "Law and Order," the original series, which does a bang up job that puts all the others to shame, but that's the only one I watch and enjoy. Curiously, they seem to have the best storylines as well.

Also, there's the "I'm so stylish I'm totally aware of it" look that pervades most police crime drama shows. I'm tired of that too.

>Or as H.L. Mencken once put it: "No one has ever gone broke by >underestimating the taste of the American public."

And some have done quite well, over time, by overestimating it, or by at least giving credit where credit is due. Then again, "Everybody Loves Raymond" is still a hit show. The disturbing words in that sentence are "hit" and "still."

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



>A lot of directors & DP's now busy come from a TV background and >continue to use the framing and editing that works for TV, the bigger >screen can be wider and slower.

What I find annoying is that in a couple of TV docs I've shot recently, it seems that the directors and producers want every interview shot as a tight close-up...Even when I'm shooting 16:9 and have more than adequate time to arrange the interview setting so that attractive medium shots are possible.

Not just possible, but, I think, preferable – certainly with the wider frame.

When the whole interview is an extreme close-up, what am I supposed to do when the subject gets to the intensely emotional subjects?? There's no place left to go!

George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada



>the most popular to the most people, and in the process TV gets >dumber and dumber.

Man, do I miss shows like I dream of Jeannie, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West...

Every aspect of those shows-music, cinematography, directing, etc etc.

I wasn't even around back then but grew up with the re-runs both here and in Brazil when I was a kid-yep, Maxwell Smart had the same funny voice in Portuguese. I Dream of Jeanie transfers look beautiful on TV. I wonder if they are still the film chain transfers we watch nowadays in re-runs.

The reality crap infesting the networks nowadays is an insult to the senses.

Jesus Christ, we're gonna need a CML Rant! LOL Hummm, sounds good! Why not? (Big laughs) Can you imagine? Not moderated by listmums? Alright, alright, bad idea!

Best regards,

John F. Babl
Miami



>A lot of directors & DP's now busy come from a TV background and >continue to use the framing and editing that works for TV, the bigger >screen can be wider and slower.

Heck, TV can be wider and slower if it's intelligent, well-acted and interesting.

>When the whole interview is an extreme close-up, what am I supposed to do when the subject gets to the intensely emotional subjects?? There's no place left to go!

Remember when the ticket to the B-camera operator's job was Steadicam? Now it's optometry. For truly emotional moments we'll be looking at someone's retina.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



>Think about this: do you know anyone, whose opinion you care about, >who would want to be in the audience for a TV sitcom.

I think sitcoms are very interesting from an image point of view. I think it is useful to ponder the image quality where the lighting has been done for more than one camera.

I want to be careful about how I say this - writing skills where are you now? - but it does seem to me to be possible to get better pictures from a Beta or Digibeta where a skilled Lighting Cameraman has lit for a single angle, than the images resulting from "even" 35mm cameras shooting a bright lit scene which has been lit for multiple cameras or angles.

I've learnt to be quiet about this normally, but I never did subscribe to the argument that all one needed to do to get "brilliant" images was to take out the tape and put in the celluloid.

I always thought it was more complicated than that - and often I think it just comes down to how much time can be spent. Even beyond number and variety of lights. I suppose what I am also saying is that crook pictures are crook pictures no matter what the gauge or format.

I remember my assumptions being turned upside down when trying to insert actual video news footage into an 35mm Eastman colour production.

I discovered I was wrong in my expectation that Betacam would be "better" than BVU, and that PAL would be "better" than NTSC...

In the end, it came down to the camera. Or rather, the quality of the lens.

Nothing else was as significant.

John Hollands
Sydney



Someone mentioned that I was being spoken about in this thread. Can you catch me up to date so that I can participate?

Thank you!

Roy H. Wagner ASC
director of Photography



Roderick E. Stevens writes :

>the close-up was first used to accentuate a facial expression/reaction >and make a significant point. Nowadays with scene after scene shot in >close-ups the punctuation is so diluted that there’s not much of a >crescendo.

Small minds will always opt for trendiness rather than creativity or relevant aesthetics. I include here many contemporary automotive designers, who, for the past 5-7 years, have been producing probably the ugliest run of sheet metal ever to hit the road since the 1950s. Elegance and cohesiveness have been replaced by me-too aesthetic conceits and gimmicks all sort of thrown together without much rhyme or reason.

Don't get me started.

I guess the advertising trend. Of short, punchy sentences. Has run its course. But bleach-bypass is still soooo trendy. Yuck.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Geoff Boyle writes :

>A lot of directors & DP's now busy come from a TV background and >continue to use the framing and editing that works for TV, the bigger >screen can be wider and slower...This problem is exacerbated by the >use of video assist and cutting on Avid's.

I haven't tried this myself, but I've always wondered what would happen if you attached a horizontal strip photo of the backs of an audience's heads just under a video monitor's screen, to fool the brain just a bit into perceiving the screen as theatre-sized.

Maybe also add some movie-palace drapes and architectural gingerbread, etc...I'm not being facetious.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



George Hupka writes :

>When the whole interview is an extreme close-up, what am I supposed >to do when the subject gets to the intensely emotional subjects?? >There's no place left to go!

Go macro.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Dan Drasin writes :

>Go Macro

Cut to the onion on the table (laughs)

Macro?

Actually I have shot w/ the Arri 200mm macro,(a favourite) and racking focus blurs things into oblivion. (The depth of field is absurd, lack-of, that is)

Would be an interesting cut actually.

>Altho I'm shooting a film currently that looks almost the opposite, I think >bleach bypass can work very well at times.

I'm testing 5229 and considering the bleach bypass option.

John Babl
Miami



>Someone mentioned that I was being spoken about in this thread.

>Phil Rhodes : Or is there less room for experimentation on TV movies? >Nobody seems to shoot TV movies using strange processing tricks.

I replied :

>You should've seen Roy Wagner's work on "Push Nevada" (not a TV >Movie, but episodic)

**(I didn't distinguish between what was processing, what was post, but..)**

I suppose he didn't make himself popular with The Suits. (there was a mention re your work on CSI at the beginning of that series...)

> But bleach-bypass is still soooo trendy.

But I do think among other things, bleach bypass can have the following very interesting motivation, in that it does emulate do a degree the human eye's response to color in low light....Altho I'm shooting a film currently that looks almost the opposite, I think bleach bypass can work very well at times.

Sam Wells



Dan,

>if you attached a horizontal strip photo of the backs of an audience's >heads just under a video monitor's screen

If it works for Walter Murch...In his book "In the Blink of an Eye" he describes how he'll sometimes make card board cut outs and place them in front of the monitor/Moviola.

I've had great success with Lego in the same way, and find that the three-dimensionality really helps getting my mindset into the theatre.

Maybe I should bring those for the onset monitor as well...

Cheers

Kim Sargenius
(recently graduated) student shooter + occasional editor
Sydney Australia



>we're gonna need a CML Rant! LOL Hummm, sounds good! Why not? >(Big laughs) Can you imagine? Not moderated by listmums? Alright, >alright, bad idea!

I've actually thought about this a number of times but I don't think it would work.

This is simply because people love to rant they hate to read rants!

If you want it you can have it, just remember to always be careful of what you wish for, you may get it!

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net



>I suppose what I am also saying is that crook pictures are crook pictures >no matter what the gauge or format.

Words of wisdom...

Also, to go back to your point of multi V single camera, format regardless, it's always got to be easier to light for one camera, when there is more than one camera you'll have to make a compromise of some kind.

One of the reasons I prefer film is the ability to see what's about to come into shot, with the way I light operators are always up against light stands, flags, frames etc.

I can't do that with multi cameras.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



>Someone mentioned that I was being spoken about in this thread. Can >you catch me up to date so that I can participate?

Roy,

Go to http://ls.cinematography.net/read/all_forums/ and log on to this list you can then read all the messages in this thread.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



George Hupka writes :

>When the whole interview is an extreme close-up, what am I supposed >to do when the subject gets to the intensely emotional subjects?? >There's no place left to go!

Years ago we had an interview show on CBC Canada, called 'Fighting Words", featuring Nathan Cohen, all shot in ecu. When really emoting, the spit flew and the camera did macro cu on a drop of sweat. Wonderful TV. No color yet. Every drop beautifully backlit. Had massive ratings.

If handled well with the right subjects, ecu's work very well. It is the wishy-washy framing of many sit-coms that fuels this discussion, n'est ce pas?

Robert Rouveroy csc
The Hague, Holland



Dan Drasin wrote:

>...Maybe the only useful rules are:..

Excellent list!

I think it is important to realize that for CU shots that are not going to be cluttered with supered text, the viewer is going to be concentrating on the face, not the whole head. You look at the eyes and the mouth. The face should, generally, be in the frame centre, top to bottom. This places the eye line about one-third of the way down in the frame, as has been mentioned.

As you tighten it you'll cut off hair, then chin. If you try to retain the top of the head on a tight CU you get an expanse of forehead and the composition looks bottom heavy. If you tighten in while keeping headroom you get a head with no shoulders, which looks like a melon or lollipop, depending on the amount of neck that survives!

What irritates me is this current trend in interviews of offsetting the CU face clear against the left or right frame line for no apparent reason, leaving a lot of dead space in the rest of the frame. If there is some background to balance the frame it can look good. But the other night, during one of the bowl games, one coach's face had his left ear and temple lopped off and the rest of the frame was an out of focus muddy bkgrd drape. I think it's a silly affectation (sorry if it was shot by someone on the list!)

The only thing worse is the psuedo documentary look where the camera is waving around to be sure you know it's handheld.

And yes, I've done both of these tricks without complaint because the director wanted it and it's his show.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>What irritates me is this current trend in interviews of offsetting the CU >face clear against the left or right frame line for no apparent reason, >leaving a lot of dead space in the rest of the frame.

I've been doing a lot of this lately, mostly against black limbo. It can look fairly nice, and it's "edgy" from a corporate standpoint. (That's about as edgy as they'll let me go!)

>The only thing worse is the psuedo documentary look where the camera >is waving around to be sure you know it's handheld.

Yes, yes, and yes. What's so hot about a handheld camera, anyway? It's not the way I see reality, or at least not the way I perceive reality.

>And yes, I've done both of these tricks without complaint because the >director wanted it and it's his show.

Yup, yup, and yup.

I'm hoping that nice solid graphically interesting and striking compositions shot on a dolly come back into vogue. I would be all over that.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



>The only thing worse is the psuedo documentary look where the camera >is waving around to be sure you know it's handheld.

Yeah and another annoying thing I've noticed lately is the cut to snap zoom during an interview. I don't mean in between questions I mean while they are answering. Must have been done with two cameras cause it was seamless yet you don't actually see the zoom. Just a sudden jump to a closer close-up or the other way around. Very jarring and annoying IMHO.

Seen this on some CBC mini docs.

Denny Lajeunesse



Art Adams writes:

>What's so hot about a handheld camera, anyway? It's not the way I see >reality, or at least not the way I perceive reality.

We don't perceive people with their hair or ears cut off, either, or with backgrounds out of focus, so there!

But seriously, I recently (finally!) saw a few episodes of 'K Street.' What irked me most about it wasn't the non-lighting, or the non-direction or even the non-acting, but the fact that the handheld cinematography was a lot worse than it needed to be. I don't care in how much of a rush those scenes were shot -- there's no excuse for such slapdash quality. I've seen much better shooting under much more spontaneous conditions -- shooting that effectively conveys immediacy but is much easier to watch and calls a hellava lot less negative attention to itself.

One way that might have worked for K Street would have been to keep the A camera in what Jeff Kreines would call "Switar 10mm" mode -- i.e., fixed wide-angle, close-in on the main action and very stable, with the B and C cameras on *monopods* (there, I said it.) handling CU's and details. (Always wished someone made a monopod with a quick-release column lock, like the Bogen tripod that unlocks/locks all three legs at once at the press of a lever.)

But perhaps I've misunderstood Soderbergh's intentions. It's possible he just wanted to be in our faces -- if so, he succeeded.

>I'm hoping that nice solid graphically interesting and striking >compositions shot on a dolly come back into vogue. I would be all over >that.

There's no reason not to do that now, what with dollies and jibs being very compact, mobile and cheap. Dollying by swinging a jib is really fast to set up, too -- no tracks needed.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



>There's no reason not to do that now, what with dollies and jibs being >very compact, mobile and cheap. Dollying by swinging a jib is really >fast to set up, too -- no tracks needed.

No reason not to, but how do you sell a production company on that?

"I want to do really cool well-composed shots that are graphically dynamic and striking, using foreground elements and frames within the frame."

                                                    vs.

"I want to do a fast, frenetic style without dollies, jibs, or any of the extra stuff, and make it move fast because that's what kids with money and no attention spans want."

The latter will win every time, regardless of whether it's correct or not.

Creating nicely composed shots that cut together requires planning and skill, whereas waving the camera around wildly hides that no planning was actually done and that the show is being totally created in the editing room. I think that's why it's been so popular. If you shoot it to look like an amateur production no one can fault you for it. In fact, they can only praise you for achieving your vision so successfully.

This too shall pass.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



Thanks for everyone's contributions to this discussion -- which has probably been going on since painting moved out of the caves and onto geometrically defined surfaces.

As far as framing talking heads/faces is concerned, I guess I've always been hard-pressed to come up with any rules for novices (especially those who may not have a highly developed sense of composition... Arrrrghhh...), because just about any change in focal length or distance begs for a compositional re-adjustment that's ultimately subjective. The rule of thirds is fine as a starting point, but -- like any rule of thumb -- if adhered to slavishly it can become a grotesque joke.

Maybe the only useful rules are :

1) The tightness of your framing should be directly proportional to the cost of your pan head. (Meaning you can take more risks with a well-behaved head that allows graceful reframing when needed.)

2) Don't lock the camera down tight -- be poised to make whatever minor re-adjustments feel right. Be especially tuned in to body balance and postural habits so you can anticipate the subject's movements, shifting of weight, habitual rocking and futzing, etc. But include a strong "damping factor" so the camera isn't constantly bouncing around; i.e., if someone's rocking, let the composition relax at the extremes and confine your panning to the central area. (Keeping your composition on the loose side will minimize the need for camera movement.)

3) When a subject is really well behaved, snug up the tension (though not the locks!) and hold static framings, which can save the day in the event you need to do soft cuts. Or zoom between responses, if you like, but maybe hold your zooming in reserve for when the subject is zeroing in on their punch line.

4) Factor in the likelihood of supered graphics, TV cut-off, widescreen and so forth whenever possible.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA