Brown takes the mystery out of it and presents the technical aspects of this change seamlessly. It is, after all, about art! Blain Brown demystifies the technical processes of digital cinematography from the most basic to the more complex. Given the recent rapid development in this field, working professionals too will find this is a must-have guide. Post College; M. He began in New York as a commercial still photographer before starting in the film business.
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Take this opening frame from Punch Drunk Love Figure 1. It gives us a great deal of information about the situation and the main character. Instantly, we know he is isolated, cut off from most of the world. The wide and distant shot emphasizes his isolation and loneliness reinforced by the color scheme and the lack of wall decoration.
The dull shapeless overhead fluorescent lighting underscores the mood and tone of the scene. Finally, the negative space on the right not only plays into the isolation and loneliness but into the possibility of something about to happen. The strong lines of perspective, both horizontal and vertical, converge on him, "pinning" him in his hunched-over position.
Without a word being said, we know a great deal about this person, his world, and social situation, all of which are fundamental to the story. This frame from a beach scene in Angel Heart Figure 1. In unconventional framing, most of the frame is sky: negative space, we barely see the beach at all. One man is bundled in a coat, the other in a T-shirt, even though it hardly seems like good tanning conditions. The viewpoint is distant, observational.
We know this is going to be no ordinary everyday conversation. Even when the dialog begins and you would normally expect the director to go in for close-ups, the camera hangs back, reinforcing the strangeness of the situation. In this scene from The Verdict Figures 1. He has nothing left but his final summation and everything depends on it. Even though the courtroom is crowded, he is surrounded by empty space: isolated and alone visually, this reflects his situation — he is utterly on his own at this point.
Strong lines of perspective cut him off and lead the eye constantly back to him. A lamp hangs over his head like the sword of Damocles as if it might come crashing down any instant. All eyes are turned toward him at the almost exact center of the frame; clearly the weight of the world is on him at this instant.
Everything about the visuals tells us that this is his do-or-die moment — that everything about the case, and indeed about his entire life, depends on what he is about to say. The Lens Again, we are not talking about the physical lens, what concerns us here is how various lenses render images in different ways. This is a powerful tool of visual storytelling — the ability of optics to alter our perception of the physical world. Every lens has a "personality" — a flavor and an inflection it adds to the image.
There are many factors involved: contrast and sharpness, for example, but by far the most influential aspect of a lens is the focal length: how wide or long it is. A short focal length lens has a wide field of view, and a long focal length lens is like a telescope or binoculars; it has a narrow field of view.
More importantly, a long lens compresses space and a wide lens expands and distorts space. Look at this frame from Seven Figure 1. It is a powerfully graphic and arresting image that precisely reinforces the story point at that moment.
We see the opposite effect in the frame from City of Lost Children Figure 1. Here an extremely wide lens, a visual constant in the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, expands our perception of space and distorts the face — it has an effect that is both comedic and ominous. Light and Color Light and color are some of the most powerful tools in the cinematographers arsenal. They also have a special power that is shared only by a very few art forms such as music and dance: they have the ability to reach people at a gut, emotional level.
This is the very definition of cinematic language as we use the term here: visual tools that add additional layers of meaning to the content of the story. In this frame from Apocalypse Now Figure 1.
In a climactic frame from Blade Runner Figure 1. Texture These days, we rarely shoot anything "straight" — meaning a scene where we merely record reality and attempt to reproduce it exactly as it appears in life. In most cases — particularly in feature films, commercials, and certainly in music videos — we manipulate the image in some way, we add some visual texture to it; this is not to be confused with the surface texture of objects.
There are many devices we use to accomplish this: changing the color and contrast of the picture, desaturating the color of the image, filters, fog and smoke effects, rain, using unusual film stocks, various printing techniques, and of course the whole range of image manipulation that can be accomplished with digital images on the computer — the list goes on and on. Some of these image manipulations are done with the camera, some are done with lighting, some are mechanical efx, and some are done in post production.
Figure 1. Cinematographer Roger Deakins experimented with many camera and filter techniques to create the faded postcard sepia-toned look that he and the director envisioned. None of them proved satisfactory and in the end, he turned to an entirely new process: the digital intermediate DI. The DI employs the best of both worlds: the original images are shot on film and ultimately will be projected on film in theaters.
But in the intermediate stages, the image is manipulated electronically, in the digital world, with all the vast array of tools for image making that computers afford us — and there are many. Some similar techniques are used in this music video Come to Daddy by English music video director Chris Cunningham Figure 1. In this video, Cunningham uses a wide variety of visual texture devices, including making film look like bad video, stutter frames, slow motion, and many more.
Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc.
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Cinematography: Theory and Practice : Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors