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Abdul Rahman Jamous

Mass audience don't appreciate the art of cinematography, which is good!

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To appreciate something you have to notice it. Mass audience don't notice the lighting of a set, they don't notice the angle of the shot, they don't notice what set of lens (for example whether it is spherical or anamorphic) or filters was used for the shooting, but each one of those choices absolutely affects their feelings and emotions. And that's raise the question, Is the job of a DP is to directly target the subconscious mind of the viewers?

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How would one "directly target the subconscious" as opposed to the normal activity of a cinematographer, which is to light /  pick a lens / compose a frame / move the camera in a way that tells the story and creates a mood that supports it and supports what the actors are doing in the scene?

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1 hour ago, David Mullen ASC said:

creates a mood that supports it and supports what the actors are doing

Great! 

 

do the audience notice the mood that was created for the actors? or is it that their mind is already occupied by the actors and the story?? 

The average audience might critics the performance of the actor, he /she might say his opinion about the story, he/she might likes or dislikes the soundtrack of the film. But the average audience never question  the mood of the movie. because the mood of a movie is not something that can be noticed, but it directly hits the feelings.
 

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Nobody really hears the music. Nobody really notices cuts. Nobody notices cinematography.

But it barely matters, because they do notice if it's wrong, for some very variable value of "wrong."

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Posted (edited)
52 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Nobody really hears the music. Nobody really notices cuts. Nobody notices cinematography.

But it barely matters, because they do notice if it's wrong, for some very variable value of "wrong."

Actually a lot of people hear music, Youtube is filled with sound tracks of movies, and some of them are very popular, For example the theme of (Joker) 2019 is very popular nowadays and it has a lot of covers.  and of course the theme of "star wars" is played by orchestras all around the world. so yeah, people listen to the backgrounds music of movies.

And when it comes to editing, a lot of times when a movie is being reviewed, the reviewer might talk about the editing. also there are a lot of YouTube essays about how editing can ruin action scenes, and  there are a lot of videos that discuss the editing style of Edgar Wright. and also there are a lot of videos that talk trash about the editing of  Michael Bay. 

 

But when was the last time you saw a reviewer talk about the lighting choices of a movie, or how many videos out there talk about Color Palette. 

 

let's take (Joker) for example, its cinematographer Lawrence Sher has chosen the contrast of   blue and orange as one of the essential visual characteristic of the film's (look). but has the average audience actually expressed whether he/she liked or disliked this color combination? movie viewers have discussed the performance of  Joaquin Phoenix, they have discussed whether the story has a good moral value or not. but did they talk about this choice of lighting?

 

 

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Edited by Abdul Rahman Jamous

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Abdul Rahman Jamous said:

To appreciate something you have to notice it. Mass audience don't notice the lighting of a set, they don't notice the angle of the shot, they don't notice what set of lens (for example whether it is spherical or anamorphic) or filters was used for the shooting, but each one of those choices absolutely affects their feelings and emotions. And that's raise the question, Is the job of a DP is to directly target the subconscious mind of the viewers?

It's analogous to a sound mixer at a rock concert. You don't really notice until something is wrong. People are more sophisticated about film-making than we give them credit for (certainly very sophisticated about storytelling as we've all been watching film/tv since we were in the maternity ward). That being said I think the general strategy for most films is really for the DP to kind of stay out of the way and not call attention to himself. The mantra is always story is king and character first, so naturally things like production design and cinematography take a back seat (although really striking set and costume design will stand out like in 2001 or Darth Vader's costume). Music is a bit different because it exists apart from the narrative -- you notice it and you don't and it is often meant to be noticed (this is less so with cinematography unless its Lawrence of Arabia or something because we're usually looking at something rather than the photography itself). And editing is how we make sense of what's going on over time, so when editing goes wrong (i.e. the scene is hard to understand) then you notice it even if the average person may not have the technical ability to say "that action scene was editorially incomprehensible." The same frenetic technique done well such as that flourish at the beginning of The Social Network is invisible but insanely powerful.

This is also true, by the way, of screenwriting. Good screenwriting is very structured often with clear, predictable beats such as the "inciting incident" and "emotional lowpoint" and three-act structure. When its done well its all disguised by the narrative and portrayal of the characters, but when it goes wrong people have an uneasy feeling or they intuit that something was off. They might have the intuition to say "it was a bad plot" or something when in reality, the plotting and beats may have been out of order. A good example is Star Trek Beyond, which isn't a bad movie, but the emotional lowpoint that would generally happen at the end of the second act in 99% of films, happens at the beginning of the second act (the destruction of the Enterprise) and so the movie doesn't necessarily have the progress and complications that give variety to most narratives in the second half the movie. The second and third acts just kind of run together as a protracted action scene, and while it all works, it never really feels as emotionally satisfying as it should. So your instinct is right that much of what we do, while profoundly technical, is meant to be felt and not necessarily understood on a logical level by the audience.

Edited by Phil Jackson

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I don't think the notion of the invisibility of style / technique in classic narrative cinema is completely desirable or inviolate.

We see movies for lots of reasons, not just to watch a story unfold, there are aesthetic pleasures from the imagery or music score or exotic locations or attractive casting, for example, that are an aspect of the moviegoing experience. Sure, the pleasures may be a bit shallow at times -- this is a commercial product and a popular art form after all even if it has more serious pretensions.

As for the cyan industrial lighting in many scenes in "Joker" it is there obviously to reinforce the melancholy mood. How "subconscious" it is depends on the level of awareness of the viewer about the purpose of such color schemes. Even people outside the film industry can have some knowledge of color design.

As far as everything taking a back seat to the script, I feel a movie is a bit like a symphony score where there are moments where the horns or violins take center stage and then step back and meld into the orchestra again. We don't expect every instrument to be indistinguishable when we hear a symphony even if everything contributes to an overall effect.

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This page out of a David Mamet book could be a decent perspective

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If you notice the colors or the quality of the dancing or the beauty of the actors or the sweeping camera moves or the music score in this number in "Singin' in the Rain" is that a failure of script?

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 11.07.55 AM.png

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

If you notice the colors or the quality of the dancing or the beauty of the actors or the sweeping camera moves or the music score in this number in "Singin' in the Rain" is that a failure of script?

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 11.07.55 AM.png

Not at all. Though we might draw a fuzzy line between stuff that's intended to be spectacle. (And I mean a very fuzzy line. Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey can be just as much spectacle as any MGM musical).

I personally don't think its a problem whether people notice or don't. Like you said people are often looking for different things. For me, personally, I may not notice much the first time through if I'm engaged, but on subsequent viewings only pay attention to the techniques. To me it doesn't matter whether I know what ingredients the chef used or if I don't if it all tastes good.

Edited by Phil Jackson

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1 hour ago, David Mullen ASC said:

If you notice the colors or the quality of the dancing or the beauty of the actors or the sweeping camera moves or the music score in this number in "Singin' in the Rain" is that a failure of script?

Let's be real though, no one has ever touted Singin' in the Rain as a brilliant work of screenwriting. The entire purpose of the picture is entertaining through music, choreography, and color.

Also we're all guys posting on Cinematography.com here, of course we're going to notice the visuals, he's referring to the average film-goer or critic.

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1 hour ago, David Mullen ASC said:

As for the cyan industrial lighting in many scenes in "Joker" it is there obviously to reinforce the melancholy mood. How "subconscious" it is depends on the level of awareness of the viewer about the purpose of such color schemes. Even people outside the film industry can have some knowledge of color design.

 

Well, let's say that a viewer has zero knowledge about color design or color theory, that viewer will still be affected by those color choices. 

 

my point is that cinematography is so powerful because it will hit the viewer, even if he/she is not aware of it.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Abdul Rahman Jamous said:

Well, let's say that a viewer has zero knowledge about color design or color theory, that viewer will still be affected by those color choices. 

 

my point is that cinematography is so powerful because it will hit the viewer, even if he/she is not aware of it.

That's true of all the film disciplines though. Music, editing, art direction, costuming, acting, sound design even directing can have that effect. Darth Vader's shiny black costume against Luke's messianic white cloths hits the viewer with as much power as John Williams' score, both are emblazoned into our consciousness and both call on deep archetypes.

Edited by Phil Jackson

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3 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

But it barely matters, because they do notice if it's wrong, for some very variable value of "wrong."

I agree with this. I have a problem with paying attention to the nuances of a movie, which is why I like technically amazing films, even if the story or acting is so-so. I can appreciate what the crew achieved on set. Most people could give two shits, the constant bombardment of visual effects and/or fast paced story, makes it so they can't even sit in a given scene long enough to notice things. I think a lot of hype is placed in reviews saying "this movie has excellent XYX technical stuff, so go see it". Reality is, most people just follow what others say. 

My dad catches things that I simply don't notice and visa versa. A lot of my filmmaking friends are snobs and require tarkovsky level sophistication in every movie or it's crap. Others love everything and it's hard to have a conversation with them because everything is so amazing. I'm one of those people who loves being in the moment in a given scene, looking at the framing and depth, examining the textures, studying the emotion of the actors, listening to the music, wondering what may come next. I think as a filmmaker, I just expect more from people who are being paid a lot more than I am, on productions that cost more than 99% of the films out there. Sadly, those expectations are rarely met and when they are (Joker 2019), I generally fall in love with the movie. 

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Posted (edited)

OP, one of my late mentors used to say he didn't like the camera work to over power the subject. In other words he liked the photography to be invisible. But that is just one person's opinion. Now, the average Jane or Joe may not know or care because they don't have a trained eye to notice unless things are very extreme and in your face.

With cine' work you can develop a story over time. With still photos you have to do it all with one image. But whether still or cine', many of us use tools to one degree or another so we can use to call attention to our image.….high or low contrast, HDR, grain, color whether muted, bold or selective, BW, sharpness, diffusion, composition, bokeh, lighting, subject matter, etc. And with cine' work you have many other tools to use with camera movement. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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