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Published : 26th january 2004


For a course I'm teaching, I'm looking for interesting examples in the following areas:

1/. Use of focus/depth-of-field as a storytelling tool.

2/. Use of the lens for specific story purpose. (example : the 14mm as a "comedy" lens, etc)

3/. Use of camera movement for specific story purposes.

4/. Other camera techniques used for storytelling.

I'm not looking for examples that are "just really cool shots," I'm only looking for excellent examples that use camera technique to further the story or create a specific mood, etc.

For example : the use of different frame rates for each of the fights in Raging Bull; that sort of thing.

Feel free to email me privately if you wish. Focus is the one I need most, the others are not so difficult to think of examples, but I'm always looking for better ones.

Thanks

Blain Brown
DP
LA



Hello Blain –

Here are a couple of examples I’ve come up with.

1/. Use of focus/depth-of-field as a storytelling tool.

***********Buffalo 66
– In a scene near the middle of the film, the two stars are at a bowling alley. There is a sequence when the male actor is preparing to bowl and the female actor is getting ready to watch. It seems to be shot T1.3 wide open with super speeds with the camera at close focus – or near to it. To me the scene plays out the sexual tensions that are inside the two characters through some simple images that wouldn’t represent such tensions if not portrayed in such a way

2/. Use of the lens for specific story purpose. (example: the 14mm as a "comedy" lens, etc)

*********Mother and Son

– Throughout this film and many other films made by Alexander Sokurov – he used old Lomo anamorphic lenses and repositions the anamorphic element. (usually being used in spherical film shoots – mostly 1.33 and 1.66) The effect distorts the world and the characters who live in it, giving it a sense of extreme weight and a physical pressure that stems from their and the world’s spiritual states.

3/. Use of camera movement for specific story purposes.

*********In the Mood for Love

– The many slow-mo dolly shots set to music when the two main characters pass each other in the streets. These scenes always hit me with so many strong emotions that I really can’t think of what to say. A couple of words that don’t do this scenes justice – timelessness – desire – pain – longing – anticipation…

4/. Other camera techniques used for storytelling.

**********Stroszek

– There are many moments of stillness and silence where the camera doesn’t
do any thing at all. You really don’t know what to feel. A strange
awkwardness creeps in and makes the shots stand out and quite beautifully

– One of those shots is when Stroszek’s mobile home is taken away near the
end of the film

– Another is at the end when he makes a toast with an American man at an
Indian burger joint

– Another is at the beginning of the film where he plays music in a courtyard – when he leaves a small boy is left behind crying

– The last one is when his female friend is beat up in his house – we see a shot of him and another man sitting silently at a piano smoking cigarettes

I hope some of these work for you – Have a nice day

Joe Zovko
AC and finally IA 600 eligible
LA, CA



Joe Zovko wrote :

> *Stroszek

A wonderful film.

Jeff Kreines



> 1. Use of focus/depth-of-field as a storytelling tool.

--Elephant-- Gus van sant.

The first most obvious thing that came to my mind.

Magela
NY



> --Elephant

Thanks for the suggestions: so far they have been extremely useful. One thing I forgot to specify — unless they are available on DVD or VHS, I can't use them in class, except to recommend that the students see them.

Certainly the suggestion has prompted me to try to see Elephant as soon as possible, however.

Thanks

Blain Brown
DP
LA



A little cheesy perhaps, though I've always loved it, are the repeated flashbacks in Once Upon a Time in the West

-The focus is set on the foreground and it's only on the third time in the film that we see the shot that Henry Fonda becomes recognisable as he lopes towards the camera -

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.



Blain,

"1984" is the one that comes to mind for me - there are crowd scenes where the focus is deliberately in the 'wrong' place for the composition. This perhaps works in a 'subliminal' way when contributing to the atmosphere of
the film.

Ted Hayash
Los Angeles, CA



>A little cheesy perhaps, though I've always loved it, are the repeated >flashbacks in Once Upon a Time in the West

Tom

Great reference (especially since this film was wonderfully re-mastered by our own John Lowry to DVD recently-gorgeous!)

I think this works--and not so cheesily--probably as an homage to the flashback effect used so prominently in films prior to this.

The script was written using pieces of American westerns that the writers and director really loved. I thought it to be an effective visual connection to the event that drives the whole story.

Kent Hughes
DoP
SoCal



I'm sure you've already used it in your course, but the film at the top of the list has got to be CITIZEN KANE. The camera floating through the "El Rancho" neon sign in the rainstorm, then through the skylight and then slowly dropping down, down, down, onto the pathetic figure of Susan Alexander crying in her beer may be the best example of the "form" becoming the "content" of a scene ever to come out of the old Hollywood studio system. And it is, of course, only one of dozens of examples of the genius of the Toland/Welles collaboration.

As for the lens telling the story, another film school classic is THE GRADUATE, specifically when the Alfa-Romeo that Ben has been driving runs out of gas and he is forced to run straight at the camera...the use of the very long end of a zoom lens makes it appear as if no matter how fast he tries to run, he appears to be getting nowhere... then a snap zoom to the wide end of the zoom as he turns and runs to the church... looking very much like the tiny and (almost) powerless player that he has been up to this point in the game....Even the lens is an obstacle in his attempt to stop the wedding and get the girl!

Sounds like a great course... and I'll bet your having fun with it!

Bill Hornsby
Film Department (Cinematography)
Brooklyn College, NYC



>1/. Use of focus/depth-of-field as a storytelling tool.
>2/. Use of the lens for specific story purpose. (example: the 14mm as a
>"comedy" lens, etc)
>3/. Use of camera movement for specific story purposes.
>4/. Other camera techniques used for storytelling.


IMHO, Brazil would be a very good example of 1, 2 and 3. A Clockwork Orange would come to mind too. Vertigo and Rear Window, for obvious reasons. And I love the way the camera moves so slowly and smoothly across the rooms in The Age of Innocence creating that feeling of quietness and immobility of the society it reflects. In fact this last example might be the antithesis of the first two.

All the Best.
José Manuel García-Patos
Cinematographer (Madrid)



>1/. Use of focus/depth-of-field as a storytelling tool.
>2/. Use of the lens for specific story purpose. (example: the 14mm as a "comedy" lens, etc)
>3/. Use of camera movement for specific story purposes.
>4/. Other camera techniques used for storytelling.

Example of 'States of Mind'.

David Lynch uses the 'pulling the lens right out and back in' for some wacky shaky blurring focus effects ie : Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive.

He also uses the 'people coming out of complete darkness' with very dramatic results ie : Eraser head, Lost Highway, Mulholland drive etc on and on.

Do these count?

Brent Marrale
CSR Camera W.F.Whites



A nice recent example of selective focus occurs in Road to Perdition." The focus follows Newman and Hanks as they recede in the background while the outsider-son nearly fills the frame in an out of focus close-up.

Another great selective focus using diopters is in All the President's Men. A medium wide shot of Robert Redford sitting at his desk as he makes an important phone call. There are split diopters on either side of the frame so that focus appears to drop off around him. As the camera slowly dollies in the diopters are racked out the sides of the frame while Redford remains in selective focus due to the AC pulling focus in closer. The shot ends in a fairly tight close-up with the diopters now completely out of the frame. Gordon Willis had the geared diopter rig specially constructed for the shot. Very subtle, but I think on DVD you should just barely notice it all happening.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP