Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

style="margin-bottom: 0"> 

class="style5" Examples - Insanity

>Published : 26th June 2005

>I'm doing a film where the character thinks she may be going insane; someone may be spying on her; she is not sure who she is.

>I want to do it as visually as possible (minimal dialog or exposition). Just saw "The Aviator" last night and I think they did a pretty good job of portraying Hughes' state of mind.

>I'm looking for other examples of where a character thinks they may be insane but they really aren't: portrayed with camerawork. Amnesia; half-remembered images that may be reality, may be a dream, that sort of thing.

>Thanks

>Blain Brown
DP
LA


class="Paragraph">>I'm looking for other examples of where a character thinks they may be >insane but they really aren't: portrayed with camerawork.

>Gaslight, 1944 Dir. George Cukor, DP Joseph Ruttenberg

>Rebecca, 1940, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, DP George Barnes

>Lilith, 1964, Dir. Robert Rossen, DP Eugen Schufftan (location Rockville, MD, home, coincidentally of recently discussed Colorlab)...off the top of my head, there must be thousands, including the anti-drug films from the 1950's.

>Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


>I would consider shooting S-8, or S-16 cross processed, skip bleach, pushing, hand held, or perhaps some handcranking.

>John Babl


class="Paragraph">> I'm looking for other examples of where a character thinks they may be >insane but they really aren't: portrayed with camerawork.

>Not literally, but there are aspects of this in the Chinese "Vertigo" (remake/homage whatever you want to call it): Lou Yeh's "Suzhou River"

>Sam Wells


>Re : Making the image look different from everything else... hand cranking, unconventional processing, etc...

>If the idea is to unsettle the viewer, and have them question the reality or unreality of what is being presented, would it not be just as effective not to offer them any clues, and have them actively think to themselves..."what did I just see?" rather than, "hmmmm... cross-processed -- must be insane..."? Put another way... make the issue a story, rather than style, element.

>One very quick little example, just a flash, the animated statue in Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander"...everything normal... but,... what the heck was that?

>Joe Owens
Colourist
Studio Post
Edmonton


>Blain wrote :

class="Paragraph">>"I'm doing a film where the character thinks she may be going insane...I >want to do it as visually as possible..."

>Every time you go to one of these shots, put a title at the top that says "INSANE-CAM"

>No, just kidding.

>Seriously, as a result of a limited budget, the movie "If..." (1968, Lindsay Anderson) was shot on different stocks. But, to the viewer such practical things don't occur to you. So, you try to understand the visual shifts. And sometimes, it seems like you can figure out why they're shooting in B&W, but other times you can't. In addition to that, there are scenes which are meant to be sort of insane/sexual fantasies.

>It's all very simply and visually done. You've got to watch it. But, really, what I think is great about it is that on one hand, the stock switches are sort of arbitrary, but the fantasy sequences aren't. Trying to marry the two in your head is one of the more fascinating things about this film.

>David Obuchowski
Brooklyn, NY


>Again not a literal example, but "Providence" (Alain Resnais) as the spatial relationships in the house keep changing as per the John Gielgud character as classic "unreliable narrator".

>And for that matter, a real classic : "Rosemary's Baby"

>Sam Wells


>Along the lines of what Joe suggested - "The Shining" was very effective in portraying insanity with no lab techniques or blatant stock choices- deep focus, sound design, production / set design and slow dolly pushes did the trick rather nicely.

>Brian Bleak
Los Angeles


>Cool thread, I wondered if anyone has mentioned "Repulsion" (Polanski) and "Jacob's Ladder" yet. "Jacob's Ladder" had a lot of cool camera tricks, many of which have been copied since.

>Phil Badger
gaffer, LA
http://home.earthlink.net/~badger111/index.html


class="Paragraph">> Put another way... make the issue a story, rather than style, element.

>Precisely. I know all the cliche ways of doing it: cross processing, 6fps, anamorphic lens twist, all that. Been there, done that.

>I'm looking for examples in good motion pictures that do it in a more subtle and surprising way. I'm not making a music video, it's a feature film. I prefer to "avoid cliches like the plague."

>Blain Brown
DP
LA


class="Paragraph">> Seriously, as a result of a limited budget, the movie "If..." (1968, Lindsay >Anderson) was shot on different stocks.

>Life and Death of Peter Sellers. I thought it contained several very good examples of "INSAME CAM" both through shot composition and use of different stocks and color grading.

>Jeffery Haas
freelance shooter and editor
Dallas, TX


>Phil Badger writes :

class="Paragraph">>"Jacob's Ladder" had a lot of cool camera tricks, many of which have >been copied since.

>I thought of "Jacob's Ladder". Also, the graveyard scene in "Easy Rider"

>Edwin Myers
Atlanta dp


class="Paragraph">> I'm not making a music video, it's a feature film. I prefer to "avoid >clichés like the plague."

>But there are ways to use even clichéd techniques in a "better" way.

>I'm thinking of the speed ramps in "Donnie Darko" as an example. An obviously over-used technique, but in this movie I thought it was quite effectively used to produce a disquieting effect, while being much more subtle than the usual music video or commercial. I think Steven Poster talked about that a bit on the list back when the movie came out....

>George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada


>George Hupka wrote :

class="Paragraph">> I'm thinking of the speed ramps in "Donnie Darko" as an example.

>Interesting, I'll take a second look. I'm not opposed to tricks; I'm just bored with a lot of them. I want to do something I haven't done before and possibly that nobody else has done before (fat chance) but at least in an original and above all, subtle, way. I'm totally opposed to obvious.

>Thanks

>Blain Brown
DP
LA


class="Paragraph">>I think Steven Poster talked about that a bit on the list back when the >movie came out....

>I did.

>The device was used to introduce characters at the beginning of the movie. We decided to shoot the movie with very little photographic affect. There were a couple of devices used strictly for storytelling. But they were used very judiciously and with intent. We both thought that the material was strange enough that it would carry itself without too many tricks.

>I think if you use a photographic device to get your story across you better be damn sure not to draw attention to that device or you will loose your audience in a heartbeat.

>Steven Poster ASC


>I believe it was Steven who replied to a question very like yours about "doing something very different in a music video" with the following :-

>Light it well

>Expose it properly

>Frame it well

>Pace it appropriately

>Shoot it at a normal speed

>Now THAT would be really different!

>Cheers

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


class="Paragraph">> The device was used to introduce characters at the beginning of the >movie.

>Yes, and the bit that I'm thinking of is the yard of the house, as opposed to the more obvious sequence at the school. Especially the shot of the little girl on the trampoline, and how the relatively modest speed ramp changes the rhythm of her movement...

>Since I saw the film I've been waiting for an excuse to shoot some kind of sequence where there's a regular, rhythmic movement that could be shot with a camera ramping over a very small range, to produce an effect that's "somehow just not right" but that doesn't have "effect" written all over it.

>(Which is probably why it came to mind in this context)

>George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada


>Blain wrote :

class="Paragraph">"...character thinks she may be going insane..."

>Here, for me the "..may.." (i.e. the uncertainty) is crucial to the issue of the nature of the visual solution.

>I suggest you take a look at TRAINING DAY and find the scene (in a travelling car) where a character begins to realize he has smoked something rather stronger than he was led to believe. The POV footage has a subtle green cast which is not too distinct from apparent normality.

>The choice of actual POV moving material and this colour shift capture the early stages of an altered state rather well, although the script has informed us (or soon informs us) and the character that what he's smoking is something stronger than straight pot. (A word is worth a thousand images?)

>It follows that the image system you set-up should be amenable to a progressive disorientation via ambiguity or subtly dislocating transformations.

>David Woods
Dr. David Woods
Holcus Ltd.
16 John Street
Kingston Square
Hull HU2 8DH
East Yorkshire
UK


>Hi,

class="Paragraph">> an effect that's "somehow just not right" but that doesn't have "effect" >written all over it.

>Something people have been doing, or at least I think it's what they're doing, is to shoot people moving at half speed at half frame rate. Seems to be the thing to do for spooky things - see "The Grudge," "The Cell" etc.

>Pretty much the opposite of standard music video stuff but now so common that it may offend on that basis.

>Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London


>I had in mind some scenes in CSI Miami-push, cross process, etc, degrade the image, flash frames(with sound design to help)

>I still think S-8 might be a good choice since it will offer a variety of stocks and a dreamlike quality, you can try different speeds, and perhaps the flash frame as transition can help set it up.

>If you’re in the west coast, you should have no problem finding S-8 transfer, and you could always buy a camera on e-bay... Now I’m almost convincing myself to get a S-8 camera!

Check out :


www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/super8/film.jhtmlid=0.1.4.4.10.4.4&lc=en

>And also :

>http://www.pro8mm.com/us/film_frm.htm

>Now 7212 and 17 are also available. Kodachrome 40 must be a nice choice, and

>I’m sure CML has a link to the required labs for processing-

>Best regards,
John F. Babl
DP
Miami
Just a thought,


>Geoff Boyle wrote:

class="style7" > •Light it well •Expose it properly •Frame it well

class="style7" >•Pace it appropriately

class="style7" >•Shoot it at a normal speed
> Now THAT would be really different!

>Excellent. You only left one out: Keep it in focus.

>I think that's where many music video innovations have come from : since there are seldom "circled takes" a music vid director usually sits in the video transfer suite and sees everything, including the mistakes.

>I've seen many instances myself where something is wrong with the image and the director (often aided by various "substances") says "hey, cool, let's use that." (Of course, as always, one man's "wrong" is another man's "art." I've been on both sides of that debate many times.)

>The other thing is so often music vid directors like the actual shooting the least. What they like is being in the transfer suite and the edit room: that's where they are the uncontested sole auteur and their are few time constraints. Often they just want to rush through the shooting as fast as possible and don't want to spend time on things like decent lighting, framing, etc.

>(Obviously, this a broad generalization: there are many music vids that are magnificently well shot. I'm not putting down music video directors - some of my best friends are music video directors.)

>I've seen it happen in fashion photography also. They (or me, when I used to do it) often bracket widely (transparency film) and shoot a lot. Then when you lay them out on the light table: all of them - sometimes you or the magazine editor will look at one that is, for example, two stops overexposed and half out of focus and say "that's the one." From this, many a hip "style" has been born.

>The film I'm looking at now (for the look, not so much portrayal of insanity) is "Gothika." Anybody know details on this one? Bleach bypass? DI? that sort of thing. I thought Libatique did a very nice job on it; even though on the DVD commentary they keep talking about how little prep they had.

>A related issue: what's a nice round, ball park number for Digital Intermediate on a 100 minute 35mm movie? I doubt I can convince them to pay for it, but it's worth a try. I need a scan and then a filmout - I guess (I've never done a movie with a DI).

>I can work from those numbers: the actual colouring of the DI I think I can get covered due to the financing arrangements of this picture but I guess I should research numbers on that as well.

>Blain Brown
DP
LA


class="style7">>I want to do something I haven't done before and possibly that nobody >else has done before

>Ever shot print film in a camera? I haven't done it in a while, but once upon a time there were some print stocks available in BH perf (1870 pitch only). 5380 LCP?

>I'm not going to tell you what happens to the color or contrast - try it and see.

>You'll want to check out some SuperSpeeds.

>Tim Sassoon
SFD Vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


class="style7">>I've seen many instances myself where something is wrong with the >image and the director (often aided by various "substances") says "hey, >cool, let's use that."

>Extreme example of this happened to me while editing a music vid for airplay on the old "Friday Night Videos" (NBC).

>The film transfer displayed some rather cruel looking hiccups. The director decided that it was not "cruel" but "cool" and to my chagrin they stayed.

>When he sent the vid over to MTV they rejected it, stating specifically that they had seen some post problems.

>The vid was re-edited with a different take instead of the questionable one it was placed in rotation.

>My detailed notes

>Jeffery Haas
freelance shooter and editor
Dallas, Texas


>I just saw "Black Narcissus," definitely Sister Ruth going nuts is one you have to look at.

>Ched Beckwith
MFA candidate, American University
IBEW Local 1200
Washington, DC


class="style7">> A related issue: what's a nice round, ball park number for Digital >Intermediate on a 100 minute 35mm movie?

>That depends upon how much you're willing to compromise on in the process, primarily in terms of time. The "ballpark" can range anywhere from about $120K to $400K, depending on where you go, who you want to do it, how much time you're willing to agree to (in terms of time limits), deliverable products, and a few other things.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


>KODAK VISION Color Print Film 2383 is available with BH-1866 negative perforations. CAT 852 3581. Used mostly for background plate projection.

>Since color print film is designed for exposure of an orange-masked negative in a printer using a low color temperature tungsten lamp, you will need lots of orange filtration to come close to a "neutral" balance. Shooting without a filter will expose only the blue sensitive (yellow) layer. Contrast is very high, over 3.0 gamma. Process is ECP-2D.

>John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company
http://www.kodak.com/go/motion