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Karl Lee

Examples of When You've Used a Tighter Shutter Angle when Shooting Film?

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Hi everyone.

A while back I finished filming the first 2 test rolls through my SR3 and have had a chance to review the transfer many times and scrutinize my work. Looking at some still frames individually, not surprisingly and as expected with filming at 24 FPS and a standard 180° shutter angle, many of the frames with moving objects do show a fair amount of motion blur.

As the SR3 has a few different shutter angle settings (45°, 90°, 135°, 144°, 172.8°, 180°), in my next round of filming I’d like to try experimenting with smaller shutter angles and seeing and learning first hand how they affect different scenes with varying amounts and speeds of motion.

I understand the theory behind adjusting the shutter angle…less exposure time leads to a sharper image and less motion blur, choppier appearance, and so on. Practically speaking, though, I was curious if anyone could share specific examples of situations when you’ve used a tighter shutter angle on a film camera and the reasoning and desired effect of doing so. I can see where having a tighter shutter angle might be considered when filming scenes which predominantly consist of fast motion (sports, cars moving or auto racing, etc.), but apparently the resulting choppier motion when viewed at 24 FPS is less natural in appearance and considered somewhat of a compromise. As I haven’t knowingly viewed anything filmed with a tight shutter angle, I don’t really have a frame of reference or comparison, so I am kind of looking forward to giving it a try on my own and viewing the results.

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I shot all of the dance numbers in the NBC series "Smash" with a 90 degree shutter angle, it made the dance moves seem more precise and clear, and I don't think the strobing was too obvious. I've also used the 90 degree shutter angle for scenes where a character has nervous energy, just to make the movements a bit crisper.


Though the compression of YouTube clips is pretty bad, you can see the use of the 90 degree shutter in this dance number:

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The fights in Gladiator used a high shutter speed too, although I can't remember exactly which.


I have used it for a couple of fight sequences, especially lower budget ones actually. The higher the shutter speed, the less "time" you are capturing in the image - meaning punches, etc... are less likely to be caught out when you're faking them. I've also used it in a couple of sequences with VFX to give the post guys a slightly easier time doing keys, when it was artistically appropriate.

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All of the film footage that I have shot has been at 180 or 144 degree shutter, I can recommend several Hollywood films that have used the narrow shutter look, very well.


Check out the movie 'KILLING THEM SOFTLY', starring Brad Pitt. The one scene in the movie that used a 90 degree angle is the scene where Ray Liotta's character is beaten by two thugs in the rain.

The frontal lighting, narrow shutter angle and the rain REALLY gives the scene a visceral effect.


Another example is 'THE CROW', starring Brandon Lee. Toward the end of the film, when Eric is finishing the bad guys in their lair. There is a short 'light-outs' scene where the practical lights are flashing and a narrow shutter is used to a creepy, ghost-like effect.

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The opening desert scenes in The Exorcist use a narrow shutter angle. It creates an edgy disturbing quality, though maybe the AC just forget to pack the ND filters on the truck that day, and they compensated exposure with shutter angle! Either way, it works for me.

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