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Adam Frisch FSF

Over-use of close-ups.

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""It is a very different approach to overuse of close-ups, because the tracking shots fit into an overall astaethic and are therefore justified.""

 

I see what you're saying, but in my opinion the same overall aesthetic could have been acheived with less tracking shots because some of those shots were way too long and ultimately just plain boring.

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I see what you're saying, but in my opinion the same overall aesthetic could have been acheived with less tracking shots because some of those shots were way too long and ultimately just plain boring.

I would venture to say that the whole point of these long tracking shots where nothing is happening is to be boring. It is an approach used by directors like Tarkovsky and Tarr as well. They create these very long shots, mostly tracking, to get the audience into a meditative state where you simply enjoy the movement and the sounds. It is a cinema that is not plot-driven, but instead is more about the rhythm and the mood, something closer to how we experience music.

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I would venture to say that the whole point of these long tracking shots where nothing is happening is to be boring. It is an approach used by directors like Tarkovsky and Tarr as well. They create these very long shots, mostly tracking, to get the audience into a meditative state where you simply enjoy the movement and the sounds. It is a cinema that is not plot-driven, but instead is more about the rhythm and the mood, something closer to how we experience music.

 

Interesting point. It certainly had that effect.

 

But at the same time I found myself becoming more aware of the camera work in and of itself, and the fact that "it's only a movie" because the tracking shots, lengthwise, weren't as subtle as the tracking shots I've seen before.

 

I suppose that if I was more familiar with Tarkovsky and Tarr's work, 'Elephant' would seem more organic.

 

Any recommendations of some of their films using this technique?

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The first Tarkovsky film I ever saw was 'Solaris'. There is a scene towards the beginning where the main character drives through a city. And drives. And drives. And drives. And then I got up and left the theatre. When I later spoke with a friend he said that 'Solaris' was a masterpiece. He himself has watched it five times already and fell asleep every single time...

 

But a couple of years later I watched it again and knew what to expect. And this time when the driving scene came up I got into it.

 

My favorite films of his are 'Andrei Rublev' and 'Stalker'. Especially in 'Stalker' there are some very long tracking shots that had a big influence on 'Elephant'

 

I am not so familiar with Bela Tarr, I saw one of his films at the NFT some years ago and thought it was very slow too, but towards the end there was a very long scene with the camera tracking around a room that I got really into.

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Any recommendations of some of their films using this technique?

The film Gus Van Sant made just before Elephant was Gerry, and the two films are very similar in form. Gerry has some very long tracking shots, some with almost no dialogue at all. The whole film has very few cuts and very little dialogue. The film is about two guys lost in the desert, so the long shots of them just walking help the viewer feel the isolation and desperation.

I heard that at a screening in Sundance (or was it Cannes?) many people in the audience got up and left halfway through the film because it was so slow.

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The film Gus Van Sant made just before Elephant was Gerry, and the two films are very similar in form. Gerry has some very long tracking shots, some with almost no dialogue at all. The whole film has very few cuts and very little dialogue. The film is about two guys lost in the desert, so the long shots of them just walking help the viewer feel the isolation and desperation.

I heard that at a screening in Sundance (or was it Cannes?) many people in the audience got up and left halfway through the film because it was so slow.

 

Have you seen Gerry--it's probably the most boring film I've seen.

It's got lots of great shots and I'm sure wonderful visual metaphors and other arthouse quality

But it's just too much nothing for too long.

 

 

As all this talk of too many close-ups...

I don't notice that, I think movies have the right mixture of CU with Wide shots...

I've yet to see someone bring up an examples of excessive use of close-ups in films

(Lets keep it to films made for the big screen

CU overused in TV is another story)

 

I think films are still very well shot.

Afterall if they're badly shot who are we to blame--we're the ones who make these films.

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I felt that the Da vinci Code had way to many CU's in the Louvre. I just never got a feel of the Louvre in the movie, it felt small and claustrophobic, nothing like the louvre in real life.

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Have you seen Gerry--it's probably the most boring film I've seen.

It's got lots of great shots and I'm sure wonderful visual metaphors and other arthouse quality

But it's just too much nothing for too long.

Well, we disagree on that point. I think Gerry is a great film. Not boring at all. But I can see how someone could feel it was boring if they didn't connect with it. It's probably not for everyone.

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I love 'Gerry'.

 

It was screened at Sundance, there was an article in AC about it some years back. Obviously the film isn't for everyone, if you're only used to narrative Hollywood cinema with a logic driven plot and a satfisfying ending, you're bound to be disappointed.

 

Gus Van Sant said somewhere that he likes the idea that some kids will rent his film on the basis that Matt Damon and Casey Affleck are in it and when they sit down to watch it, they're in for a bit of a surprise...

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I felt that the Da vinci Code had way to many CU's in the Louvre. I just never got a feel of the Louvre in the movie, it felt small and claustrophobic, nothing like the louvre in real life.

 

I haven't seen the movie, but I wonder how much of it they actually shot on location in the Louvre any way. Maybe the use of CU's was intended to hide the fact that some footage was shot else where. Perhaps they were only allowed to shoot at certain times and were limited to certain areas of the museum.

 

How much does it cost to shoot in the Louvre and how difficult is it to get permission? Could the use of CUs in this case be more related to necessity than esthetic choice?

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It's mostly an editorial issue -- we all shoot the wide and medium shots as a rule when covering a scene (and I'm sure that "DaVinci Code" shot a ton of coverage), it's just that the editor often leans more heavily on the CU's when cutting, for various reasons. But one common reason that on the small screen of an AVID or home computer, the wider shots seem to lack the same dramatic intensity and detail (seeing the performance) as they do on the big screen, so they opt to cut in tighter rather than trust that the looser shot will play fine on the big screen. Also directors want more cuts in the scene these days and it's easier to cut up tighter shots.

 

Action often needs faster editing, but I'm not sure the same thing can be applied to mysteries, so it depends on whether you think of "The DaVinci Code" as a mystery film or an action film, or how much it is one or the other. Personally, I would have preferred a more mysterious style that used wider shots more often because the book is set in such great locations! Also, one of the major action scenes, the car chase in the streets, is oddly played (by design I guess) in such tight shots as to become mostly a series of abstract images. It's an artistic choice obviously, maybe to suggest that the scene is being played mostly from Langdon's confused perspective, but I'm not sure I agree with it.

 

We all discussed earlier how the tight coverage on "Mission Impossible III" was rather TV-ish. At least with John Woo's directing in the second film, there was BOTH wide and tight shots (the movie sucked anyway.) My preference is for the first one by DePalma & Burum, which has more of a paranoid spy thriller design rather than an action film mentality.

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Batman Returns fight scenes...the worst edited and shot ever for such a big movie.

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I'd like to point out that most of you guys' avatar images are CUs. :P

 

That's because the avatar closely approximates the size window our movies are delivered on these days... :(

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Batman Returns fight scenes...the worst edited and shot ever for such a big movie.

 

Yes, that wasn't very good. Action isn't Nolan's forte.

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Ah, yes of course, my mistake. It was Begins I was referencing, though - thought it had some pretty badly edited action sequences.

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You know there is another consideration perhaps hasn't been mentioned here yet, if you read the Showreel mag that was offered a little while ago on these boards, there was an article in there about how Hollywood made their money and interestingly enough according to the mag sense 1985 thearical sales have been a steadily declining percentage of a film's total return, that video and cable sales far out pace the boxoffice from theatrical release. The fact that so many films are mow being edited on computers w/ an eye towards video sales, for which, most TV's are still academy standard aspect ratios, may well be an inportant reason CUs seam to be more prevailent...which makes perfect sense considering what Mr. Mullions just mentioned w/ reguards to wide shots looking less dramatic on the small scream, and considering that letterboxing on a 4:3 TV screen further shrinks the image, CUs work wonderfully well for Pan and Scan transfers to fullscreen video versions. No matter how much I mention to my Mom that she's missing half the movie and the increadable composition that took so much time and effort to get just right by buying a Fullscreen version of the DVD, her only reply is "I hate those black stripes at the bottom and top!" I'm afraid CUs in abundence will be w/ us until the majority of screens change over to 16:9 and even then movies in scope will STILL have black bars.

 

Also David, I'm not saying that you don't need a variety of shots to tell a story, I just meant that CU are perhaps the most dramatic shots in the filmmakers arsenal. There is nothing that can convey that kind of intensity. Obviously it would be dificult to film an entire movie in CU, but in the most general of terms, The plot points and punctuation of emotion are best delivered in a series of well placed CUs, hense, the story is told in CU. Of course the demands of script, mood and style dictate what shots are best used in any specific situation. I can envision a film done w/out a single CU in order to enhance a sense of say indefference of comradery. Being an actor, I completely agree that you comunicate w/ you body aswell as your face but as they say, particularly on film, the eyes are the window to the soul and the mst intence emotional qualities frow through them. I haven't been particularly distracted by an over abundance of unnessesary UCs in modern films, but maybe that's just my personal taste. My first reaction is always "Did I enjoy it and if not, why not" I can honestly say the answer is almost never what shots they used but was the story any good. 99% of the time that is the most decisive factor.

Edited by Capt.Video

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The fact that so many films are mow being edited on computers w/ an eye towards video sales, for which, most TV's are still academy standard aspect ratios, may well be an inportant reason CUs seam to be more prevailent...

 

No theatrical release motion picture is cut "with an eye towards video sales." Editors are concerned solely with the theatrical release, and cut the picture for that format. Accomodations for video are done later, but basic editorial is never altered for the small screen.

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Now see, to me that doesn't make any sense. If most of your money comes from video sales wouldn't it be more imprtant that the product look better on the small screen that on the big screen? I think that has to be a concideration to anyone in business, "Where is my product going to have the highest sales revenue?". How do you know editing isn't done w/ an "with an eye towards video sales", have you done a survey of film editors? I'm quite sure every business consideration is taken into account.

Edited by Capt.Video

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Now see, to me that doesn't make any sense. If most of your money comes from video sales wouldn't it be more imprtant that the product look better on the small screen that on the big screen? I think that has to be a concideration to anyone in business, "Where is my product going to have the highest sales revenue?". How do you know editing isn't done w/ an "with an eye towards video sales", have you done a survey of film editors? I'm quite sure every business consideration is taken into account.

 

I don't have to do a survey. I've worked in the film and television business for over 30 years. During those 30 years, I've worked on at least 5 features, and worked with many, many editors who have done a lot more than that. I think I'm quite qualified to make the statement I made.

 

Business considerations are taken into account by businessmen. Editors are not businessmen. Editors work for directors, who in turn work for producers. When a project is made for the big screen, it is crafted creatively for that format, regardless of whether that makes sense to you. The largest format is the most technically demanding, so it is far more sensible to craft the picture for that, and then use that version to create the less demanding formats. Someday, that may change. Today isn't that someday.

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Since we're talking about an art, it's hard to draw definite lines here. But people wouldn't be composing for 2.35 or shooting in anamorphic if video sales were at the front of their mind -- they'd make life easier on themselves and shoot 1.85. And about half the movies made by Hollywood studios are released in scope prints.

 

Now someone making a feature with little hope of a theatrical release but a strong chance of a video release, for example, a low-budget horror film, may make certain decisions that would favor how the movie would look on video more, but the truth is that if there is any chance of a theatrical release, you have to think in those terms because there are certain technical demands to consider when shooting.

 

This is an odd year for me, by the way. Whereas the rule is that most indie movies don't get any theatrical release, now it appears that FIVE of the projects I shot over the past two years will be released in theaters in 2006.

 

This year I've already had "When Do We Eat?" (24P HD) get a limited release, and "Akeelah and the Bee" (35mm anamorphic) get a wide release, but now it appears that "Shadowboxer" (35mm anamorphic) and "The Quiet" (24P HD) will get limited releases in some theaters in July and August. And then "The Astronaut Farmer" (35mm anamorphic) should get a wider release in the fall.

 

By coincidence, all five films were framed for release in 2.35 scope prints, but "The Quiet" was probably the longest shot at a release being the lowest-budgeted.

 

Anyway, if movies are framed tighter than they used to be because of TV, I don't think it's primarily due to a conscious choice to shoot something that looks best for TV display, but simply due to the fact that the whole production and post-production chain these days involves viewing the image on small TV monitors, so it's hard to remind oneself to plan on how it will look on a much larger screen. In the old days of cutting workprint on a flatbed, editors and directors would routinely check to see how the cuts played on a big screen by projecting the workprint in a theater.

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Well, seeing as how this seems to be a somewhat recent phenomenon, someday may be here. Isn't it also true that directors rarely get the final cut? If producers have influence on directors and directors have influence on editors the it is possible that producers are "suggesting" things they'd like to see in the final cut that will help please investors. You've been doing this for 30 years which means you've developed a style that is yours, this may not be true with the newer geneation of editors. It wouldn't be the first time financial conciderations influence a film's production, in fact that's always a condsideration for people in the film industry. The Biz runs on the bottom line. :)

Edited by Capt.Video

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Sure it's a business, but rarely does that factor into issues like composition and how tight the framing should be -- producers don't often interfere at that level of artistic decision-making, except in the rare "we want to see more cleavage" type discussions (which actually tend to favor widening out a little!) and even those can actually be story-motivated decisions (the actress needs to look seductive in this scene, etc.)

 

I don't think any studio has a policy of "tighter framing means more money at the box office and home video". No one buys a DVD based on how tight the framing is.

 

I do think, however, that there is a tendency to solve a "problematic" movie with more edits, i.e. each new cut of the movie involves making more cuts to "fix" a scene -- rarely does a long editing process lead to fewer cuts.

 

And of course a distributor may have an opinion on aspect ratio, i.e. if the movie is mainly intended for the straight-to-video market ("direct to DVD" is another term) then there is little reason to shoot in 2.35.

 

But I don't think there is any policy at the studios to frame movies tighter because they'll sell better in the video market. If a movie is first intended for the theatrical market, what's important is that the movie works well in that market, because high sales will help drive home video sales later. So there is no financial reason to compromise the theatrical version to suit a later video release.

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It's an interesting and plausible concept that the migration over to Avid and other non-linear edit systems during the nineties may be a factor in the move toward using tighter shots, as edit decisions were now being made on 20" video monitors. One hopeful trend is the move toward HD for offline (or even online) editing, with the added ability to monitor the edits on a larger screen. Some edit facilities are also being set up with 2K projection, so that the production team can get a better look at how the finished edit will look in a theatrical setting. The trend toward larger-sized home HDTVs will also hopefully hasten the move away from claustrophobic film production.

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