Follow the rules

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Atta Chui

Follow the rules

Post by Atta Chui » Thu Feb 03, 2005 11:13 pm

Follow the rules... or break them?

Do you follow the one-third rule when you compose your frame? Do you leave a space in front of the actor when you film him talking to someone off the screen?

These are rules that give good looking pictures!

But the point is not to follow or break the rule... I think you should ask yourself why you make a particular choice when you shoot. If the answer is “I don’t care” / “I don’t think much” / “it’s just a technical detail”, then I say there is probably room for improvement.

I try to ask myself each time “why”. Why do I put the camera here? If my first thought is to do a tracking shot, then I ask myself “Why? What does a tracking shot mean in this scene?”

Do you not think that in Hollywood movies there are full of routine crane shots and track shots that look good but do not convey anything in storytelling?

In “2046” there are many scenes in which the character talks to someone off screen and his face is at the right edge of the screen facing right, i.e. the director, deliberately, does not conform to the normal rule that you leave space on screen for someone to speak into and look into. The unusual treatment gives additional tension to the scene (I think it fits the story well that the character cannot escape from his past and he is not as free as he would like.)

And I am sure the director knows what the rules are…

Nigel

Re: Follow the rules

Post by Nigel » Fri Feb 04, 2005 8:54 am

I always give tons of thought to every single shot I compose. I strictly follow the rule of thirds, I don't cross the line and I always leave looking room (or with panning shot of sports cars etc, room to drive into).

This is just good practice and it tells the viewer that you care about what you are doing and are not a lazy cameraman.

I have never seen a Hollywood film that contained crane/dolly/crab/pull focus/steady cam/push shot etc etc that didn't mean something, I'm inclined to believe that all Hollywood DPs know what they are doing and I can assure you that they would not just stick in a crane shot for "routine". Unlike the Jibs people use for their Mini DV camcorders, these devices cost tens of thousands of dollars to hire, believe me, they don't throw money like that around if they don't have to.

There is always room for improvement, at any level. Just ask Mr Spielberg, every film he does just gets better, for this very reason. The man continuously strives to better his last picture. Any budding filmmaker should watch his work as part of their training.

Michael Slowe

Re: Follow the rules

Post by Michael Slowe » Fri Feb 04, 2005 11:45 am

Of course they know what the rules are and when they break them it is to create a special effect on the screen. Artists throughout history have been breaking rules but the best ones have known what they are doing and more importantly, why.

As I said in an earlier post, you must obey your instincts in all matters film making and they should tell you what looks right. Mostly I find that this all can be done whilst editing provided you have shot enough material. As to the making of an expensive feature film, Nigel is right. I have been on sets of such productions and every shot and every angle has been mapped out in advance, including of course, the use of cranes and dollies. That is not to say that the final edit reflects all the advance plans because a lot of 'safety' and covering footage is also shot to allow flexibility later.

We however, need not make such careful plans because hopefully, hundreds of thousands of pounds are not at stake every day we shoot! We can experiment, suck it and see and as I say, follow our instincts - the best film makers will get it more or less right in the end.

Michael Slowe.

Ned C

Re: Follow the rules

Post by Ned C » Fri Feb 04, 2005 3:34 pm

Rule One - There are no rules! Just conventions that change with the passage of time.

By putting a person facing the very edge of the frame talking to someone off camera immediately creates a sense of discomfort. For camera work that breaks the rules and adds tremendously to the impact of the film watch Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves, a thoroughly disturbing film on every level.

As non-commercial film makers we are surely free to experiment and should really be at the cutting edge of visual excitement. In my opinion there is a lot of unnecessary camera movement in feature films and particularly ads. I was DP on a 30/60 second Visa ad shot in LA on whch we had to two Chapman dollies with tracks and a crane, in the end only one of the moving shots was used, talk about wasting money.

Ned C

AN

Re: Follow the rules

Post by AN » Sun Feb 06, 2005 3:22 pm

"Atta Chui" <forums@theiac.org.uk> wrote:
Do you follow the one-third rule when you compose your frame?
Those that advocate the use of wide screen for film making have already broken the golden rule by cutting off about 1/3 from the top of their screens !

The old golden rule of one third cannot be applied to wide screen, (or any other modern 'fancy screen') as anyone who uses these abominations has forfeited the right to any creative composition anyway.

Albert....very composed now :-)

Cinema For Thurso Group

Re: Follow the rules

Post by Cinema For Thurso Group » Sun Feb 06, 2005 8:18 pm

Here is a good example of doing what judges might disagree with but works
cinematically.
In “2046” there are many scenes in which the character talks to someone off screen and his face is at the right edge of the screen facing right,
i.e.
the director, deliberately, does not conform to the normal rule that you leave space on screen for someone to speak into and look into.
For the director this choice was correct according to the requirements of the story and helps emphasise the position. As such a 'rule' broken but to great effect.
The unusual treatment gives additional tension to the scene (I think it fits the story well that the character cannot escape from his past and he is not as free as he would like) And I am sure the director knows what the rules are…
In creating special effects for "The Bilbster Adventure" I'm in a position where I am very familiar with each shot. Some of the scenes have the actor facing into the shot as per 'rule' but even when the effect has been added there is still a lot of space left in the Cinemascope frame. Part of the intention is to allow room for the effect but also to convey the wide space in which the action occurs.

There are also matte shots where perspectives conflict and where some images are standard widescreen being subjected to a full 2x anamorphic. Ridley Scott used this technique in Legend for some underwater scenes. Likewise his use of cinemascope in Alien enhanced the feeling of confinement within the Nostromo
spacecraft. It's all about doing what's right for the telling of the story.

Cinema For Thurso Group

Re: Follow the rules

Post by Cinema For Thurso Group » Fri Feb 25, 2005 1:54 pm

[quote]Those that advocate the use of wide screen for film making have already broken the golden rule by cutting off about 1/3 from the top of their screens ! /quote]

Hmm, Only just spotted this. Now where is this idea coming from. The intention of cinemascope is not to cut anything off the top of the screen (the miss-education of showing cinemascope on a standard tv) but only to widen the horizontal field.

Our camera angles are set up to take in exactly what we want to see on the screen so NOTHING is lost from the frame. Additionally if we require a super-panoramic image we have some nice little cameras which don't have to be zoomed in to account for the scope barrel. Onto these are attatched further wide-angle converters to give a field 4 times wider than the normal camera ratio in either scope or 4:3.

Is scope less able in "creative composition" or are some people scared they can't find a way to use such a large canvas?

CFT-friends of Fred Dibner!

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