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The Language of Film, Part IV
Transcript of The Language of Film, Part IV
Cinematography -- framing and duration
The static frame
The mobile frame
The industry standard from the early 1930s to mid-50s, standardized throughout the world. “Older” TV screens are still this size -- also represented as 4:3. If you're watching a DVD of a newer movie that was originally filmed in a widescreen format, and it's been changed to this, look how much of the picture you're missing.
The frame dimensions determine how the frame should be composed, so this is a very important consideration for directors
Standardized in the mid-50s in North America; still the dominant format. It was originally designed for "genres of spectacle" like Westerns, musicals, and historical epics -- movies that had sweeping settings that emphasized horizontal compositions. This was part of Hollywood's attempt to compete with TV, which was drawing away viewers.
This is also close to the dimensions of widescreen TV's, which are 16:9 (or 1.77:1). Again, if you're watching an old movie (standard academy) that's been stretched to fit a widescreen TV, you're watching it wrong.
Also standardized in the 1950s, though it's more common today. You see it most often in blockbuster action movies, but it's not uncommon to find it in other genres as well.
All the other framing so far is common to paintings, photography, etc. Mobile framing is unique to cinema – the framing changes during the shot.
Functions of camera movements: increase information about the space of the image; objects become sharper and more vivid; new objects or figures are usually revealed; objects seem more 3-D when camera moves around them; camera movement is kind of substitute for our movement.
(The samurai have saved a village from bandits but lost four of their colleagues in the process.)
Invented by Garrett Brown; first used in 1976 in Hal Ashby’s "Bound for Glory"
Has become increasingly popular in the last few years, probably to the point of overuse -- most agree the Bourne series is an example of "the shaky-cam" used well.
Called a long take to prevent confusion with long shot; "The Russian Ark" (2002) is the most famous example of a film shot entirely with one long take -- almost 90 minutes on digital video; it was shot in St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace with around 2,000 actors; it takes the audience through several periods of Russian history; the crew rehearsed for several months; they got the movie on the fourth try.
This is the opening scene of the film
"Boogie Nights" was P.T. Anderson's second film as a director. Ten years later, he made his fourth, "There Will Be Blood." We'll use a fascinating study of a seemingly nondescript scene from that film as a way to show how directors (or, in this case, one director) use long takes differently.
It started when film historian and scholar David Bordwell analyzed the scene on his blog in 2008. Three years later, psychological researcher Tim Smith studied the scene in a different way to see if Bordwell's analysis was backed up by scientific experimentation.
As you saw, the opening long take of "Boogie Nights" was incredibly kinetic, with the camera in constant motion so that it can show us what Anderson wants the audience to see without cutting to different shots. However, in this scene from "There Will Be Blood," we'll see how he can eliminate practically all camera movement (and again, any cuts to objects or people of interest) and STILL get the audience to look where he wants them. Let's see how.
As Bordwell wrote in his introduction to Smith's research, "The result is almost unprecedented in film studies, I think: an effort to test a critic’s analysis against measurable effects of a movie. What follows may well change the way you think about visual storytelling."
This is an excerpt from There Will Be Blood. Eleven adult viewers were shown the video and their eye movements recorded using an Eyelink 1000 (SR Research) infra-red camera-based eyetracker. Each dot represents the center of one viewer's gaze. The size of each dot represents the length of time they have held fixation.
The long take in question starts at 3 minutes, 37 seconds, and ends at 5 minutes, 24 seconds. Click the play button again to get the link.
OK, now let's watch it one more time, this time with some even more revealing technology. Here's Smith: "The gaze data from multiple viewers is used to create a 'peekthrough' heatmap in which each gaze location shines a virtual spotlight on the film frame. Any part of the frame not attended is black, and the more viewers look in the same location, the hotter the color." Use the same beginning and end points as last time. Click the play button again to get the link.
Lastly, read an excerpt of Tim Smith's guest entry on Bordwell's blog.
Scroll down and begin reading at the "All together now" section and stop after the second paragraph of the "We like to watch" section. This reading provides an excellent analysis of the second video, along with illustrative screenshots. Click the play button again to get the link.
For your consideration: Do you feel this experiment was valuable? As film critic Jim Emerson said in his blog entry discussing this experiment, "Whenever research confirms something we feel we already knew intuitively, or from our own experience, there are always people who'll scoff and say, 'Well, I could have told you that!'" Emerson goes on to say, however, he does see quite a bit of value in the experiment. What do you think?