Term 1 - Week 5 - Film Language
In the spirit of early Monday morning, instead of getting into the nitty-gritty, Mhairi showed us a few videos describing how to utilise, and break the rules of framing, camera movement, and other details that fall under these.
These gave both in depth detail to the different aspects we were to discuss this session, and provided very supportive visual representations to drive home their points. I personally feel like I'm more of a spatial, visual, and kinesthetic learner, which I'm sure most art driven people would be, and watching these videos really aided in understanding the importance of the aspects they reviewed. I feel as though I'm fairly well versed with the aspects of film language, at least from a theoretical standpoint, but these sessions definitely reaffirm just how complex film can be, and how many things there are to consider when setting up just a single shot, and I find myself learning again exactly the importance and potential of the tools film language provides.
We have the frame, which is everything the camera captures, and everything the audience sees, but this doesn't necessarily mean things out of the frame are non existent. Certain methods, or rules, can be used to create a world around the frame, immersing the audience by creating a natural, balanced shot. These "rules" can of course be broken, but, and you hear this a lot in the creative world: If you want to break the rules, it can help to at least understand them first. In understanding what makes a rule work, you can making breaking it even more effective, by creating the opposite conditions.
Some of the things we covered this week we did go over last week, but it certainly isn't a bad thing seeing these things in a different context, like line, where last week we saw this used to create a certain feeling, using harsh angled lines. We saw this time how line directs attention, by creating direction which the viewers eye follows to the point of focus, making it easier to quickly navigate and understand quick shots for the audience (which is something I need to generate in the background of my Inanimate Object project).
The lines below move towards a point, our eyes follow until they reach an interruption in this movement, in this case a circle, which has become the focus.
I feel this becomes even more effective when the ball becomes the point of the lines, like there is less to understand about the image, whereas before we kind of have to process that although the ball isn't where our lines originate from, it is still the focus- this time, the lines lead us straight to the circle, and find there is no where else to look.
Although the circle in this case takes up a larger majority of the image, when I see this image, I do not feel like the ball follows the lines, and instead feels nonsensical, as well creating imbalance in the frame, an aspect I'll discuss later.
There are I suppose an infinite amount of ways to draw attention within a frame, but the basic ideas from both videos covered line, and contrast. Contrast Is not limited to hue and shade, and can be a result of shape, movement, and positioning.
Pattern, like the circles above, also makes for an interesting composition, although the patterns above don't necessarily illustrate this in a film way, pattern can be used to create an instantaneously familiar, and aesthetically pleasing shot. In my search for something that could describe this cinematically, outside of the videos we watched, I stumbled upon a film called 'Pattern', released in 1956, directed by Fielder Cook, which after scrubbing through, I discovered contained many patterns. From scrubbing through the film, utilising patterns seems to be a motif, the purpose of which I'm not yet sure, and although I'd like to think the title of the film and the significant use of patterns is a coincidence, I don't think this is the case. Either way, the film creates interesting shots, that will also serve to direct the audiences eye through previously discussed line and contrast.
Patterns (1956): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMnU4faUMUY
Depth, as described by the former video, is the difference between amateur films, and professional block busters. Depth simply describing the 3rd dimension of a shot, the difference between the foreground, mid ground, and background. Depth can be created by things like perspective lines, similar to those I created in the circle example earlier, or frames WITHIN the frame, like a doorway, window frame, branches of a tree, or literally anything that creates a line around a subject. The subject doesn't necessarily have to walk through the frame, like the former video shows, as long as there is a clear line around the area you want to create focus the frame could be in the foreground, and the character in the background. This is utilised in paintings to placement for a subject, and can make the difference between a subject feeling out of place, and alone in the frame, to having purpose, and natural positioning. I find one of the best examples for this to be Art Nouveau, especially the works of Alphonse Mucha, which display a frame through simple shapes, as well as detailed natural elements that encompass the subject.
Depth can also be made flat, which framing techniques are still applicable to, but create a blunt composition, that is quite unusual to see in films nowadays, where depth has become a standard. This, however, would make the impact of flat depth more powerful, where flatness could reflect a characters own feelings of perhaps being trapped, or alone.
We also explored camera movement, and the reason behind some of the terminology, which mightn't make sense if you were an animator who had never explored live action film, and the equipment this entails. A lot of the names are self explanatory:
- Crane: whereby the camera is mounted on a crane, or jib, which allows for a large scope of movements from, long swooping motions, high angle shots, low angle shots, or a combination of the lot in the same shot.
- Dolly/Tracking shot: Although not necessarily the same thing, as a dolly can be mounted on wheels, or a track, they are effectively the same. A dolly shot would have the camera mounted on a dolly, which depending on the terrain can make for smooth pans and lateral camera movements with a lot of directional versatility. A tracking shot would have the dolly on a set of tracks, making smooth shots possible on a variety of surfaces, although you are limited to the tracks direction, because as far as I know you can't really move the tracks once they have been placed. Either way, this could be desirable as tracks can elevate, and if the dolly is motorised, extremely smooth shots become a possibility when following a subject.
- Handheld: extremely simple, the camera is held in the hands of a person. Although the name can be fooling, because this doesn't necessarily entail that the camera is shaky, which is what first springs to mind. Certain wearable rigs can stabilise shots to the point you might consider them dolly/tracking shots, even to the trained eye, and these are even more versatile in smaller spaces, which wouldn't allow bigger pieces of equipment like dollys to fit. Expensive equipment isn't necessarily required, and there are techniques to holding the camera which can improve the camera stability, however, these require walking funny, and that isn't always desirable, neither is it the most reliable way of creating a stable shot, depending on the camera's own stability countermeasures. You could also be aiming for a shaky shot, in which it's as easy as holding the camera and shooting, although I'm sure there are better shakes than others in the wide world of cinema, and perhaps there are methods to creating a good shake, as opposed to a not good shake.
- Drone shots: which have become increasingly popular, especially amongst amateur filmmakers, to who the sky was a place rich professionals filmed in helicopters, but with the advent of cheaper and high quality drones, can now create spectacular ultra wide establishing shots from super high angles, for reasonably cheap.
We also went over some other good composition habits to get into, such as looking room, which simply gives the character space to look, so it doesn't look like they're looking off into nothing, which would be short sighting. Head room on closer shots also prevents the characters head from being chopped off, and gives them space to move, and looks more natural, which is for similar reasons to why it looks like characters' limbs are chopped off if you frame the edge of a shot on a joint of their body.
The good old 180 degree rule, which simply prevents confusion in the audience. An imaginary line is set in your scene, and if you are able to capture your subjects in multiple shots without crossing this line, things like line of movement stay consistent, which would otherwise make it look like your characters are moving to one side of the screen, then suddenly to the other side if you cross the line in another shot. This is also used during shot, reverse shots when characters converse on screen, which makes it look like your characters switch places if you cross the line, the line generally travelling between the two characters.