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Bilal Abedin

Character and perspective.

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Hi, 

Is there a guideline for framing the character regarding lens? what lens should I use to frame my main character if the story is told from her perspective and why ??

Thanks 

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The main thing is to find an approach, whatever it is, and be consistent so that it gets established as part of the grammar of the storytelling, whatever you end up doing. It's the old saying "if it happens twice, it's a coincidence; if it happens three time, it is a motif".

The general thought these days is that being closer physically with the camera (meaning wider-angle lenses) helps create a feeling of presence, that the audience feels closer to the actor. But you may or may not want to be too distorting with the lenses.

As for their POV's, some filmmakers would go over-the-shoulder of the actor (so not a true POV) to again make the audience feel that they are on a journey with the main character, while other directors would shoot true POV's (Hitchcock for example).  But either way, it's the intercutting of POV with reaction shots of the main character that establish that the story is from their perspective, and avoiding going too often to objective angles or cutting to scenes without the main character.

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Posted (edited)

Range of narration and whether or not you share POV shots (as well as physical proximity to the character as David mentions, within reason–CUs wider than 28mm will feel really weird imo) will all help.

I'd study the Coens as well as Hitchock, specifically. 

Edited by M Joel W

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

The general thought these days is that being closer physically with the camera (meaning wider-angle lenses) helps create a feeling of presence, that the audience feels closer to the actor. But you may or may not want to be too distorting with the lenses.

Is this just conventional wisdom? I was working on a paper about Spielberg and his use of camera movement and this was a critical component of my notes. Where did you come across this idea or is it just something directors intuitively know?

Edited by M Joel W

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1 hour ago, M Joel W said:

Is this just conventional wisdom? I was working on a paper about Spielberg and his use of camera movement and this was a critical component of my notes. Where did you come across this idea or is it just something directors intuitively know?

I think it's commonly known. It's quite easy to see and feel. I remember watching a behind the scenes interview of Roger Deakins explaining why he sometimes shoots mid-close ups on a wider lens with the Coen brothers. He explained the same premise as what David said, you have a sense of presence.

For an example when I look through a telescope or binoculars at a passing ship or plane I don't feel as if I am closer to it by doing so, I feel as if I'm observing it. Even though it is enlarged it doesn't feel closer so to speak. Compare that to shots in the Revenant where Leonardo DiCaprio is cm's away from the lens, it's the exact opposite. Those are extreme examples, you can gain the same effect by shooting on a 28 instead of a 35 or the reverse for the opposite effect!

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, Gabriel Devereux said:

I think it's commonly known. It's quite easy to see and feel. I remember watching a behind the scenes interview of Roger Deakins explaining why he sometimes shoots mid-close ups on a wider lens with the Coen brothers. He explained the same premise as what David said, you have a sense of presence.

For an example when I look through a telescope or binoculars at a passing ship or plane I don't feel as if I am closer to it by doing so, I feel as if I'm observing it. Even though it is enlarged it doesn't feel closer so to speak. Compare that to shots in the Revenant where Leonardo DiCaprio is cm's away from the lens, it's the exact opposite. Those are extreme examples, you can gain the same effect by shooting on a 28 instead of a 35 or the reverse for the opposite effect!

Yes, I agree. The examples I was using were different and of course more subtle as you mention but right, same idea.

The Coens seem acutely aware of form. The way they modulate range of narration feels carefully considered. 

Edited by M Joel W

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It's an effect that you can see when you shoot, however, it is not absolute -- if a long-lens close-up is tight enough and sharp/contrasty, then it does not necessarily feel distanced. But for medium shots, you do sense whether the camera was closer or farther away even though the subject size might be the same.

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2 hours ago, Gabriel Devereux said:

I think it's commonly known. It's quite easy to see and feel. I remember watching a behind the scenes interview of Roger Deakins explaining why he sometimes shoots mid-close ups on a wider lens with the Coen brothers. He explained the same premise as what David said, you have a sense of presence.

For an example when I look through a telescope or binoculars at a passing ship or plane I don't feel as if I am closer to it by doing so, I feel as if I'm observing it. Even though it is enlarged it doesn't feel closer so to speak. Compare that to shots in the Revenant where Leonardo DiCaprio is cm's away from the lens, it's the exact opposite. Those are extreme examples, you can gain the same effect by shooting on a 28 instead of a 35 or the reverse for the opposite effect!

I think the ‘wide and close’ framing also belongs to a cinematic tradition, from Welles/Toland, Kalatazov, Leone, Kubrick, Frankenheimer, Gilliam, Juenet, etc. It’s not a new thing, but definitely in vogue right now. 

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