Become the filmmaker you want to be.

MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
So I just completed a workshop on cinematography that actually did a great job of proving lots of information to help people become a better filmmaker.  It is ran by an Oscar nominated Director of Cinematography for Saturday Night Live.  I did not realize that SNL had cinematography but looked the guy up and he was nominated for work unrelated to that so I decided to give it a chance.  Well I did the 9 to 9 session today and I am really glad I did because it covers a lot of things which separate running around filming things and what professionals do.  Im not going to just say you have to buy the dvds or go to the tour... its great stuff but that wouldn't of been at all helpful to me a year ago when I would not of did either.  I would like to get a dialogue going of filmmaking concepts because I left the workshop feeling empowered for my own work and want to leave other people empowered too.
Ever shoot but weren't happy it didn't turn out like what you envisioned?  Well what kind of visual design did you apply to your project?  There are certain shots we all know are associated with certain directors and we copy them or keep them in mind when we shoot shorts or work on projects but is there more details to their project which we are missing?  This is where the 7 Visual Components come in.... Space, Line, Shape, Color, Tone, Movement and Rhythm.  These are the things which either planned or just instinctual appear in movies all the movies you watch.  They do not all have to be there... but if you look you can start seeing this in movies.  In a movie focusing on a space component... do you see lots of shallow shots or deep shots that show lots of depth in certain movies?  Or the movie has lots of lines  via background and even actors which draw your attention?  Are there certain shapes prevalent in particular movies, like the hero is always in a square until the chaos in their life represented by a person who always has circles around them comes into the picture?  Which shapes are very intense and which shapes are not?  You get the drift. 
Finding ways to incorporate visual styles changes how you compose a shot or do set dressing or wardrobe.  It arts up your shot and really does something that improves you doing point at the action shooting.  Tarantino does a lot of low shots which would be easy to copy but do you get how he's controlling space by controlling perspectives?
Anyways, what are your thoughts?

Comments

  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    Style is something that has to be carried through the entire process, too. Stylish visuals only work if the edit works together with them. That's something that LOCKOUT does so well - Arseny knows exactly how to carry his style through the visuals, edit, sound and music so that it all feels like a coherent, deliberate piece.
    The biggest mistake I see in amateur/no-budget/etc filmmaking is to have a lack of style. So often, the filmmakers focus on telling the story, moving sequentially through the scenes, ticking off all the essential shots required to depict the events. It becomes list-like, one thing after another, until it ends. It may as well be a stageplay that's been filmed. Even if the script is awesome, it doesn't come alive. A great film requires a great script, but it'll only become a great film is film language is used, abused and manipulated at every stage of the process.
    It's phenomenally had - not only to define your own style, but to effectively carry it out on a zero budget when you have super tight schedules.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    It is really easy to either want to copy someone's style or not have a style.  Its finding a way to use affinity and contrasting visual components.  Affinity components means similar components.  The instructor did 4 examples to show how well the concepts worked. First he showed all white video for 10 seconds...  and said boring right?  Then he showed a all black video for 10 seconds and said also boring right?  A 10 second video that's all one way can get boring fast if its all the same  Then he showed a 10 second video flashed between black and white every other second....  Its more interesting but it eventually gets hard to watch.  Then he showed a video that went through the grey scale.  It was something that  a lot easier and more interesting to watch.  How does that work for all the components?  where there is times to use the same component, the time to contrast them in the same via story telling.  The empire strikes back... you get a scene of darth vader in a dark environment (affinity of color) and then luke skywalker in a wall white environment(affinity or color) but the story is contrasting the 2. Its an interesting concept to take into movies.
    In watching lockout theres definitintly certain visual style components that you see.  Controlling space is one.  There is often something in the forefront of the video while things are happening in the deep background.  Also the lighter backgrounds and dark close wardrobes help give depth to the video.  Tone, Space, Movement and Rhythm are all concepts that were played with to great effect :)
  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    Yes, and particularly in a complex action sequence it is so important to establish the geography of the scene and keep the audience located clearly throughout. If you look back at the classic action movies, they tend to have a really strong sense of situational space - you always knows exactly where the heroes and villains are in relation to each other.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    True but some movies do a good job of knowingly disorienting that space.. the most dramatic example would be Inception but then again its easy to push the limits of things that have monstrous budgets and are super sci fi.
     It was interesting to see a breakdown of Skyfall and see the scene between M and her replacement where kept at the same place in space when you cut between shots of them.  So their eyes were level and in the same place.
  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    I'd actually say that Inception is one of the best examples of retaining a very strong sense of geography. Of course, it plays around with the physical and temporal space massively, but it goes to great pains to ensure that the audience is always clear about who is where. The corridor spinning sequence, for example, is completely mental, but the camera is very, very calm and controlled, making sure that the audience doesn't get entirely disoriented (beyond the inherent "whoah" confusion they were going for).
  • MasquttiMasqutti Website User Posts: 340
    And don't forget THE montage! a Film's own pet, said to be the only aspect in film-art that's not been stolen from other artforms. That not only appears in scripts, but mostly in cinematography. It is one of the basic fundamentals to understand when making a movie!
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    @Simon the hallway scene was actually the scene used as a case study in the workshop.  The whoa is your brain trying to process everything and after a couple seconds you get it and you are fine.  I am trying to think of a bad movie where they messed with space unsuccessfully so you are just confused.  I would want to say the Matrix Revolutions in the final fight where they are flying and fighting in the street at first.  Not only are they rotating but so is the camera and you can lose sense of your direction.  It did not really fit within the movie because that did not happen at other points. 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MfO6quFS-M
  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    Yeah, that fight also had people dressed in black clothing fighting against a black background, in a very, very abstract space. Doesn't work very well - which is unusual, as the other Matrix films do a great job of that kind of thing, and the Wachowskis do it very well in the even more abstract Speed Racer.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    Speed racer... I never saw it but that just felt like a movie that should not be made.  I loved the series and it worked because of the timing but the movie went in a hyper stylized direction that made me not have any interest.  I mean I guess it allows you to maintain the tone originally set by the cartoon but the problem is the cartoon wouldn't fly these days.  They didn't have to go all chris Nolan batman on it...I do feel like they could have done a better job to draw people to see that movie by mixing the car porn which is the fast and furious with the gadget fun of Golden Eye while maintaining the tone of SkyHigh.
  • fredclipsfredclips Website User Posts: 228
    Yeah, that fight also had people dressed in black clothing fighting against a black background, in a very, very abstract space. Doesn't work very well - which is unusual, as the other Matrix films do a great job of that kind of thing, and the Wachowskis do it very well in the even more abstract Speed Racer.


    The action in Speed Racer was great. Totally over the top silly, but you could follow what was going on.
    I still remember the 'punch' that was delivered in the middle of one of the races.
    As you said, the Wachowskis seem to be able to pull off (normally) huge action scenes that you can follow. Where I still wouldn't know what the hell was going on in any Transformers movie. (Pacific Rim was much better!)
     

  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    Yeah, del Toro is also very good at it. Although Blade 2 isn't one of his better films, it's worth watching for the big action sequence halfway through at the night club, as there's about 5 separate mini-fights all happening at the same time, on different floors of the club and outside it, with different characters, and the whole way through it's very apparent how it all connects together.
    It's something Spielberg's always been great at - if you look back at the Indiana Jones movies, the action has a wonderful flow and geography to it. A lot of it is deliberately confined spatially, so you'll have a fight on a rope bridge (only 1 dimensional axis to worry about), or on top of a flying wing/tank where the movement is limited. Perhaps the most impressive sequence for use of space is the truck chase in Raiders, where Indie moves around, underneath and through multiple vehicles. Great, great stuff.
  • MasquttiMasqutti Website User Posts: 340
    edited July 2013
    Now this is a one thing I haven't been studying at all, mainly because it sounds like an action-film necessity, and I'm more into drama.
    Now that you discuss it, one film that really badly messed this "mastering" of space was Expendables 2, the fighting scene @ the airport.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB7lB_URDsc
    T
    his is something ridiculous. After 1-2 mins my head is spinning like a racoon in a bin, and I have no ***** idea where the action takes place. Really, this is bad. They mess that, what do they call it in english, 180 degree line that you shouldn't cross with camera during a shoot? And basicly everything else too.
    A good example of a bad filming.

    Not to mention the absurdness of this scene. the "heroes" of the film, start to shoot through glass, not seeing **** and jeopardizing civilian lives, blasting bullets like madmen. Well. Not my kind of film... ethics are discusting in this one.
  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    I've not seen Expendables 2 yet (didn't think much of the first one, other than the excellent car chase). That airport scene really is messy. No sense of flow to the sequence at all, and the geography is all over the place. The end results - especially when combined with impervious heroes - is a complete lack of tension or excitement.
    This stuff isn't just specific to action movies, though - dialogue scenes are the same, especially if you're dealing with a complex conversation between multiple characters. It's just as important to establish the geography of the scene so that it's clear who is talking to whom.
  • KahvehRobinettKahvehRobinett Website User Posts: 443
    I've not seen Expendables 2 yet (didn't think much of the first one, other than the excellent car chase). That airport scene really is messy. No sense of flow to the sequence at all, and the geography is all over the place. The end results - especially when combined with impervious heroes - is a complete lack of tension or excitement.
    This stuff isn't just specific to action movies, though - dialogue scenes are the same, especially if you're dealing with a complex conversation between multiple characters. It's just as important to establish the geography of the scene so that it's clear who is talking to whom.

    The Expendables 2 is one of the most technically poor movies I've ever seen. It fails on literally every level as an action movie, and a fun thrill ride. Truly horrible stuff :)

  • StormyKnightStormyKnight Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 2,726 Ambassador
    edited July 2013
    The Expendables 2 is one of the most technically poor movies I've ever seen. It fails on literally every level as an action movie, and a fun thrill ride. Truly horrible stuff :)

     

    From the two short clips I watched of E2, it didn't even look like the actors were trying to get into character. They looked more like cheap cameras......point and shoot.
  • AmbiroaAmbiroa Website User Posts: 180 Just Starting Out
    I don't think E2 is necessarily poor in cinematography. Sure, they might not have a great one in the team, but then again, i's not a film where you go to for the technique, deep storytelling or art direction.
    I judge a film on what they (tried to) promise me with marketing around it like the poster, banners, virals, teaser, trailer, etc. E2 never tried to promote awesome cinematography, but awesome over the top actions, fights and things that blow up hard and big. So in a sense, the cinematography they intended to have, is very well delivered. It's just not the style/mood/type that everybody likes.
    An example of cinem... that I really like and not being a blockbuster, is Midnight in Paris. At some point the main character (Owen Wilson) is being accompanied to a bar where he meets Dali, Hemmingway and some others. It was pretty closely filmed giving the sense of intimacy, which is pretty common in a bar I'd say. That was really good way of using the space, angles and composition.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    @Masqutti You can cross the 180 degree rule if the camera moves, the actor moves or you use a cut away.
  • DarrenDarren Website User Posts: 164
    To me, Expendables 2 was just awful.  It was all these old faces coming in and giving one-liners that made them popular in the 80's that doesn't translate well at all.
    I realize they were not going out to make a masterpiece, but it was just bad.  The only character I really liked in the whole piece was Van Damme - and that's not saying much.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    @Darren I think that's just because our palate as movie watchers has grown and the expendables is trying to directly harken back to what made all of those faded action stars famous.  I love total recall but how would that movie do if that original version was released today?  Not well.  almost every action was preceeded by, included, or was followed by a one liner.   "Hey Vinny, Screeeeeeeeeeeew Yooooooooooooooooooou" in the middle of the action.  These days that gets toned down in some of the summer block busters or its not there.  Jason Bourne didn't need witty one liners before he did something.    Imagine Jason Bourne Saying "read this" right before he hit a guy with a rolled up magazine or a book.
  • MasquttiMasqutti Website User Posts: 340
    @Masqutti You can cross the 180 degree rule if the camera moves, the actor moves or you use a cut away.

    Yes I did know that, but there are... several shots in that airport-scene that breaks that rule with still camera. Sure it's only an advice, but then we see how it all works out when it's broke. :)

  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    The difference is that Total Recall is a classic film, even if it does have some dodgy Arnie moments. :)
    The one-liner references in that airport clip from E2 were really painful to watch. You could almost feel the cast and crew laughing on set, but that humour absolutely not translating through to the finished product.
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