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Adam Frisch FSF

Over-use of close-ups.

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They were in 20s Russia!

 

Actually I think Eisenstein was a bit influenced by Walt Disney's movies on the use of close-ups. Do you remember those static shots of the German soldiers riding their horses in the battlefield (Alexander Nevsky) ? Looks like a cartoon.

 

(coincidently I saw "Alexander Nevsky" and "Ivan the Terrible" this last weekend)

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Mr. and Mrs. Smith provides a good example of a DP resisting the tendency toward overly exaggerated closeups, despite featuring two of Hollywood's best known faces. There seems to be a motivation to put some "air" around the subjects, on both the vertical and horizontal planes.

 

Are there any other recnt films where the DP/director has moved away from close-ups to a noticable extent? Its a shame as I cant help thinking that "Mr and Mrs Smith" did this to enable the film-makers to show of the bodies of the two leads (apologies for insulting any Vince Vaughn fans but he just doesnt count!!)

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Comedic directors like Wes Anderson and Jared Hess have a style based more on wide shots.

 

I remember reading that Lawrence Kasdan and Owen Roizman decided that part of the deeper focus style of classic westerns was partly due to keeping the framing less tight, which they did on "Wyatt Earp."

 

A more extreme example of comedic wide shots would be Roy Andersson's brilliant "Songs From The Second Floor".

 

It's harder to think of dramatic directors that favor staying wide, for the obvious reasons, but Clint Eastwood's films, for example, avoid overusing close-ups. We already talked about Gus Van Sant's films.

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I feel a lot of modern filmmaking has gone to hell.

It's a truly painful experience going to a multiplex these days,

Like watching first year work in a high school media studies screening.

 

Come on now, it's not that bad...

Just cause you don't like the stories or ideas being protrayed

Doesn't mean the technical aspect aren't top-notch.

 

Yeah there are lots of bad movies out these days...

But I'm sure 40-50 years ago there were lots of bad movies put out as well...

Have you watched any of the 50's sci-fi B movies?

 

People have become to snobby--it's just entertainment.

There are places in the world were people would kill

Just to see a badly pirated version of the stuff we call crap.

 

You don't have to love it--it's just entertainment--watch for two hours.

We've really becomed spoiled when we complain about our entertainment.

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You don't have to love it--it's just entertainment--watch for two hours.

We've really becomed spoiled when we complain about our entertainment.

 

Well, some of us see movies as a little more then disposable entertainment, we actually got into this for the chance to create some art now and then... so it's not that we're spoiled, it's that we care. We do have to "love it" -- movies -- so I don't buy the argument that we should all just care a little less about the thing we chose to pursue as a lifelong career! Is it so unreasonable that people who make movies more a living should care more deeply for the subject than the average person? Should we only have an average person's passion for filmmaking?

 

Aren't we supposed to care more about our chosen field, just as a doctor cares more about medical issues than the average person or an architect cares more about architecture? Or are they just being spoiled too? Why would anyone put up with all the crap it takes to succeed in the film industry or to make a movie if they didn't love movies? There are easier things to do out there. Are you seriously advocating that we all should love movies a little less?

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I don't think you should go into a production and say nope, I won't do it. Flexibility leads to creativity.

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Well, some of us see movies as a little more then disposable entertainment, we actually got into this for the chance to create some art now and then... so it's not that we're spoiled, it's that we care. We do have to "love it" -- movies -- so I don't buy the argument that we should all just care a little less about the thing we chose to pursue as a lifelong career! Is it so unreasonable that people who make movies more a living should care more deeply for the subject than the average person? Should we only have an average person's passion for filmmaking?

 

Aren't we supposed to care more about our chosen field, just as a doctor cares more about medical issues than the average person or an architect cares more about architecture? Or are they just being spoiled too? Why would anyone put up with all the crap it takes to succeed in the film industry or to make a movie if they didn't love movies? There are easier things to do out there. Are you seriously advocating that we all should love movies a little less?

 

 

I agree. I would also add that many films clearly go beyond being "just entertainment". There have been so many films over the years that have changed the way people think, and bettered our society that it should be clear that cinema can be more than mere entertainment.

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I don't think you should go into a production and say nope, I won't do it. Flexibility leads to creativity.

 

Actually, you don't even get very far as a DP if you're not flexible, because no one starts at the top, and it's impossible to NOT be flexible when working on a small budget with a short schedule. I think the trick is figuring out when not to be accomodating, when to stand your ground -- that's the hard part. Sometimes I feel I care so much about staying on schedule and budget, while getting the director what he wants, that I make too many compromises in my own work. Whenever I ask an actor or crew person about some great DP they had worked with, I always hear words like "demanding", "attention to detail", "relentless", "picky", "meticulous", etc. -- I don't hear "flexible", "fast", "accomodating", etc. Makes me wonder if to be at the top of the game, you have to be a little more selfish in protecting your own work.

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WKW and 2046 is a very good use of film grammer!!!!

 

chris doyle is my hero dp hope i will aver be as half brave as him in using light and composition and grammer

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[quote name='David Mullen ASC' post='109191' date='Jun 8 2006, 09:09 AM']Actually, you don't even get very far as a DP if you're not flexible, because no one starts at the top, and it's impossible to NOT be flexible when working on a small budget with a short schedule. I think the trick is figuring out when not to be accomodating, when to stand your ground -- that's the hard part. Sometimes I feel I care so much about staying on schedule and budget, while getting the director what he wants, that I make too many compromises in my own work. Whenever I ask an actor or crew person about some great DP they had worked with, I always hear words like "demanding", "attention to detail", "relentless", "picky", "meticulous", etc. -- I don't hear "flexible", "fast", "accomodating", etc. Makes me wonder if to be at the top of the game, you have to be a little more selfish in protecting your own work.[/quote]

The busiest DP's in this world are the accomodators - Seale, Semler etc. They might not always win the Oscar, but they sure get to shoot some big stuff and work a lot. I feel exactly the same way you do - coming up through the low budget music video ranks I always do my lightlist with an eye to the budget, always trying to accomodate - I always under-order as to not be wasteful, since this is how I was "brough up". Makes me sick of myself sometimes, but I can't change who I am. Naturally, as one's career progresses and you get to do bigger stuff, the kit you get to play with expands because the jobs demand it. But I've actually come to terms with the fact that that's how I am - I think there's value in being able to deliver within the productions limits. For me there's almost a sport in trying to achieve this and that, but only with this lean light kit. Limitations is the mother of invention and all that.

Big shot DP's that are demanding and break light budgets and do expensive stuff always get sought after (it's almost like a frenzy) for a short period of time, but then they go cold once people catch up with the fact that they're gits. A**holes don't last in the long run. Hubris, arrogance and self-importance and indulgence has ended many more Hollywood careers than it's started.

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Actually I think Eisenstein was a bit influenced by Walt Disney's movies on the use of close-ups. Do you remember those static shots of the German soldiers riding their horses in the battlefield (Alexander Nevsky) ? Looks like a cartoon.

 

(coincidently I saw "Alexander Nevsky" and "Ivan the Terrible" this last weekend)

 

---Eisenstein was doing cartoony close ups long before he could have seen Disney cartoons.

'October' and 'The Old and New' were basically political cartoons.

 

His later Disney influences would be in use of music and color.

 

---LV

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---Eisenstein was doing cartoony close ups long before he could have seen Disney cartoons.

'October' and 'The Old and New' were basically political cartoons.

 

His later Disney influences would be in use of music and color.

 

---LV

 

Oh ok, thanks for the correction Leo, I didn't know that. I've just watched those two movies I mentioned in my previous post.

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The busiest DP's in this world are the accomodators - Seale, Semler etc. They might not always win the Oscar, but they sure get to shoot some big stuff and work a lot. I feel exactly the same way you do - coming up through the low budget music video ranks I always do my lightlist with an eye to the budget, always trying to accomodate - I always under-order as to not be wasteful, since this is how I was "brough up". Makes me sick of myself sometimes, but I can't change who I am. Naturally, as one's career progresses and you get to do bigger stuff, the kit you get to play with expands because the jobs demand it. But I've actually come to terms with the fact that that's how I am - I think there's value in being able to deliver within the productions limits. For me there's almost a sport in trying to achieve this and that, but only with this lean light kit. Limitations is the mother of invention and all that.

 

Big shot DP's that are demanding and break light budgets and do expensive stuff always get sought after (it's almost like a frenzy) for a short period of time, but then they go cold once people catch up with the fact that they're gits. A**holes don't last in the long run. Hubris, arrogance and self-importance and indulgence has ended many more Hollywood careers than it's started.

 

 

i having the same problem betwen by flaxebel and yet fight for what is needed . a lot of producers i work with wants ferrari and have the budget for toyota and want you to do magic i always ask my self were to drew the line???? and not to cross it to the point were i do damege to my name its very thin line

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One of the most visual films i've seen : The Graduate featured an ECU (hands only) of Ben (Hoffman) shaving, stopping , then later cutting his hand as his mother 'grills' him about where he goes late at night. It worked great and it could be considered a close-up...

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How about the Tv Series Friends? i dont remember watching any close ups on that show....it just wide and medium shots. So close ups more or less work against comedy......just my opinion.

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Director Alexander Mackendrick at CalArts used to teach us that: comedy plays better in wide and medium shots. It's partially because a lot of comedy, physical or character, is derived from interaction with either the room, props, etc. or with other people, so you want those elements to appear in the same frame.

 

Cutting for the sake of showing off a joke is rarely as funny as the joke just happening on camera without a cut, especially physical humor / slapstick. Plus close-ups are generally emotional devices, whereas comedy is an intellectual process involving the humorous juxtaposition of elements and ideas.

 

I remember doing this indie movie, "The Last Big Thing", where a character who drives an old rusty clunker because he hates the monotony of modern car design, is driving through a uniform-looking housing tract past uniform-looking cars, and deliberately decides to roll his rust-bucket of a car into a parked new car sitting in front of a cookie-cutter home.

 

Well, the producers, worried about damaging the parked (rental) car wanted us to fake the minor collision with tight cuts, maybe with another car & bumper for the impact standing in for the picture car. But the director and I argued that what was FUNNY about the scene was this postcard-pefect wide shot of peaceful tract-home neighborhood, with a perfectly composed shot of a new house, blue skies, etc. and new car parked in front of it... and then this ugly rusty old car rolls into frame and hits the parked car. It would not have been funny in cuts -- then it would have been a suspense sequence. Besides, an insert of a bumper being hit doesn't really mean anything, narrative-wise -- it would have been a cut ONLY to make shooting easier.

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Close ups can be used in comedy. When a person slighly looks at the camera as if sharing the irony or joke with the audience. The look on the face usually sells that trick.

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Close ups can be used in comedy. When a person slighly looks at the camera as if sharing the irony or joke with the audience. The look on the face usually sells that trick.

 

Sure, but they are used less often than in dramas. And Buster Keaton (or Chuck Jones in his cartoons) managed to sell that deadpan reaction in a face without cutting to a close-up. You don't want to telegraph a joke is coming by cutting to it. Although one of the funniest cuts to a reaction (a medium shot, not a close-up) is in "The General" -- Buster Keaton staged the most expensive shot in Silent Era history with the train crossing the burning, collapsing bridge, falling into the river. But it's almost used just for the punchline from cutting to the dumbfounded reaction of the general who ordered the train to cross, having said "It will hold!"

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One well used effect for comedy is just sticking an 18mm or wider lens right up in the actor's face, causing a distortion and exaggeration of facial features.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, check out the anamorphic framing of Scarface (now showing in HD on cable). This movie provides a great example of framing for wide and medium shots, with a minimum of close ups. DP John Alonzo made great use of space, leaving plenty of air in the frame, while using the whole 2.35/1 aspect ratio to maximum effect.

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It's an odd thing, wider lenses,( not just wider compositions) play better for broad comedy.

The only comedic style I've ever really seen work in longer-lens stuff is the sort of knowing, slick, one-liners.

Shane Blacks stuff comes to mind, "Last Boy Scout" & "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" are both very funny movies (to me, anyway) but are both farly long lensed.

 

Strange...broad & slapstick plays best wide. Slick & smart-aleck plays better long.

 

Discuss

 

J

Edited by John Allardice

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Plus close-ups are generally emotional devices, whereas comedy is an intellectual process involving the humorous juxtaposition of elements and ideas.

 

That's good, I never thought of it that way or heard that before. But it makes perfect sense. Emotional vs. intellectual.

 

I did a comedy pilot last year and was constantly on my toes to find the best angles to make the most of the comedy. I knew that comedy generally plays out better in wider framings, but I didn't want to be held to that rule and preferred to take each sketch on its own terms. I did end up seeking out wider, more objective angles most of the time.

 

But the other big thing with comedy is timing. A well placed cut (or zoom, or dolly) to a detail or CU can make or break the flow of the joke. Think of something like "Arrested Development" which uses active camerawork to draw attention to the right detail at the right time. It's a real art, learning how to "shoot funny." You have to both intellectually understand the juxtapositions as David says, and feel if it works or not.

 

It's an odd thing, wider lenses,( not just wider compositions) play better for broad comedy.

 

Strange...broad & slapstick plays best wide. Slick & smart-aleck plays better long.

 

Discuss

 

Whenever I get pitched a comedy project by a director I always have to ask what "style" of comedy directing they prefer; a passive or active camera. The example I always used to use for active camerawork was the TV show "Parker Lewis Can't Lose." That show's a little out of date now as a reference, but it used extensive fish-eye lenses with extreme moves to present a distorted view of reality. "Malcolm In The Middle" is similar although much milder this way.

 

A more passive approach doesn't use the camera so much as a "voice" for the comedy, but instead tries to capture the action and elements more objectively.

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I've always been nervous about pushing or milking a joke by using super wide-angle lenses on close shots -- to me, it makes more sense for that Polanski creepiness, like in "Repulsion" or in an Orson Welles movie (although the wide-angle CU's in "Touch of Evil" and his later movies do add a slightly humorous quality.)

 

But I worry about making a scene "funnier" because of the distortions of a wide-angle lens; seems a little crass.

 

I've always liked the more subtle visual approach to comedy as in what Chris Menges did for "Local Hero" and "Comfort and Joy" or what Gordon Willis did for those Woody Allen movies. But of course those were gentle character comedies, not high farce.

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I'm struggling for an example, but before I forget...don't british comedies use the wide angle CU's a fair amount?

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I'm struggling for an example, but before I forget...don't british comedies use the wide angle CU's a fair amount?

 

I'm sure you can find examples everywhere.

 

Actually, there were two extremely wide-angle CU's in Mackendrick's "The Maggie", an Ealing Comedy, but they occur at a key dramatic moment, not funny, where the rich American tells the Maggie's captain that he is going to buy his boat out from him, which is about the worst thing that could happen to the captain.

 

I was just watching the new Criterion DVD of Welles' "Mr. Arkadin" and that's full of wide-angle, Dutch-angled, close-ups -- cartoonish/nightmarish more than comedic. Accompanied by a rather Nino Rota-ish score.

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