Q&A PRE-2004 UNTIL LISTED
if the camera is pulling away and focusing at the same time, but nothing
moves. I've seen this technique done in Raging Bull also. How is it done?
Q&A PRE-2004 UNTIL LISTED
It’s a curious thing about the Panic Room - all I have ever heard discussed
about the movie is how a shot was done. I’ve never heard anybody mention
anything about the movie itself - the story, script, acting etc. This goes
to show that if you shoot something in a flashy way it detracts from the
movie itself. I haven’t seen it yet but I’ll tell you tommorrow. My guess
is that it is A “trombone” shot first done by Hitchcock, then Spielberg (in
Jaws) and now Fincher. You track out and zoom in, or track in and zoom out,
depending on what you want the background to do.
Have you ever seen a shot where the picture is in slow motion
then suddenly it switches to fast motion? I was wondering, since I don't
think you can suddenly switch the frame rate in the camera while shooting,
how exactly that is accomplished. Is it all shot in slow motion? And then
the fast part is sped up in post?
Josh, Bellevue WA
You can "ramp" the camera from one speed to another, and these days
cameras (like the Arri 435) have the ability to compensate the iris for you
while it is happening. Naturally it takes a second or two to make the
change so it is not "instant", but this effect can be created easily in post
by taking out the frames where it was speeding up or slowing down to make
the change faster. If the whole effect is done in post, the slow motion
part will "step" because the "in-between" info is not on the negative.
I have a question that has haunted me most of my life. The answer
simple enough but I haven't encountered it down the years and was never sure
where or who to ask. Here goes:
There are several movies in which the main actor plays a dual role
the story of Al Jolson. In it Larry Parks ends up shaking hands with
himself, playing the part of Al J. meeting with Larry P. and I'm still not
sure how it was done. Is there a simple explanation somewhere that I could
turn to? Is it just a matter of using a split screen?
Any help would be much appreciated and I can stop wondering about
-- all the best for now, from Lora Mendel
In the days pre-computer, all trick shots were called Opticals, because
they were printed on a printer with that name. You rightly surmise
that the shot in question was split screen, but they might have had to
do some tricky work to actually make the hands grasp each other. In split
screen work, the actor cannot "cross" the split as they would disappear
behind the other image, but you can have a actor meet himself, then when
one walks off the other walks off after him: this is done by wiping the
split in the direction of travel.
Motion Control came along to allow trick shots to move, by making the camera do an exact move several times, by mechanizing the move and making it repeatable. This had to very exact when the compositing was done optically: but nowadays computers can track the movement after it is shot and make corrections to any problems during the shoot.
There are several books about Special Effects (the general name for this fascinating and growing area of Cinematography) if you want to get really technical!
Hi, I've been having trouble shooting through car windshields while
retaining visibility of the subjects inside. However, I've seen it done
successfully in a lot of mainstream work. Besides shooting in a studio,
how would you suggest to deal with the glare from the sun and sky?
In still photography, one of the most essential filter for outdoor
shooting is the polarizer. Are polarizers used in filming?
I’ll answer these two at once. A polarising filter is an essential tool for shooting car windows, and also one of the only ways of deepening the blue of a sky, and lessening the glare off water. Because a polariser reduces the light in the opposite “plane” to how the polariser is set, it can be useful in many situations where an increase in colour contrast is sought. If you have a pair of polaroid sunglasses, you can rotate them and you will see a change in skys, windows and any reflective surface that polarises the light. If you get two pairs you will see the whole view turn black as you rotate them. This is because if you polarise the light in two directions then no light will be transmitted. Don’t forget to compensate the exposure ? around 2 stops in most situations.
I am a director who does cinematography and everything else. I am
sort of a
one man film crew. I have a idea, but it seems complicated. The whole film
is set in mirrored rooms, but there are two things that are going to get in
the way of this. My reflection, which I don't want in it, and the light
coming from the still cameras (I hire photographers to take pictures of the
set while we are working on the film). I want the film to look professional,
but I don't have all that much cash to buy something big. I have a digital
camcorder, but I am not sure if it is that easy to take out my reflection.
So what do I do?
What kind of lens would you recommend using for a shot that takes place in a lighted closet, where a man is reaching out with their hand towards the ceiling (and the audience) to grab a gun that is dangling from the ceiling just in front of the lens? I need the gun and his fingers to be in focus, and the man's hand to appear to be exaggerated in length.
There’s a couple of techniques you could consider using here. To exaggerate the length of the hand, you could use an anamorphic lens rotated to give the effect you want. Clairmont hire out a lens called the “squeegee” or something that does weird things as you rotate it.
A “tilt-shift” lens (used a lot in commercials and pop videos), will allow you to exaggerate the plane of focus by either increasing or decreasing the depth. It won’t exaggerate the size of the hand but it will be quite an arresting effect. With some cameras you can take the lens out and hold it tilted in front of the lens port to get a similar effect ? you could even shoot like this with the help of a black cloth to prevent the stray light from getting in.
I'm preparing to shoot a low budget feature film on a combination of two formats; DV and Super 8. I'll be shooting many of the dialogue scenes on DV, and most of the action-only scenes on Super 8. One particular sequence has been scripted to take place entirely under BLACK LIGHT (you know, those weird bulbs that turn everything white into purple, and show-off all the lint on your shirt). The scene calls for dialogue, action, and slow motion. I know that the DV camera works reasonably well in low light, but I can't get the "real" slow-motion effect with video. I've experimented a great deal with the various stocks Kodak manufactures for Super 8, but I fear none of them will be fast enough under the black light, and I can't bring in extra lights without ruining the black light effect. Should I try 16mm and a faster film? Should I shoot under normal lighting conditions, and find a way to fake the black light effect? Can this be achieved on set with filters and gels, or do I need to use an expensive digital effect in post? Should I shoot in black and white, and add the colors later, like they did in TRON? How would you shoot and light this? -David
16mm high speed stock is the way to go here ? especially using fast lenses like the T1.4 zeiss lenses. Also you can adapt stills lenses for 16mm and even get T0.95 lenses! You have already found out that Super 8 is not fast enough, and creating the effect via another route never looks the same. There is no real point is shooting b/w and going digital since it will never look the same. In a recent feature a DP brought in a ton of UV lamps to raise the light level for a big scene and all but destroyed the eye sight of both the cast and crew ? so watch your safety issues here! But bringing it extra lighting to raise the stop to the right level is the only way to do it.. Don’t forget that meters do NOT read UV light accurately, so it is better to decide the exposure by doing some tests, then use the meter as a “relative” guide.
We are about to shoot a movie which takes place as a whole in a box,
designed to fit a 6"2 man. One of the shot required is to shoot the person
as he is lying there and in this one shot to flip the camera by 360 degrees
so it would appear that he is face down. This is to be made while filming
and not done after in post. How would u suggest it to be done?
You need to describe what you mean a bit better for a start! I
think you mean that the camera travels around him to look at him from the
other side. Assuming the box is like a coffin, you want to go round
the box but end up as though you can see in the box?? One way to
do this would be to stand the box on end on a turntable and put the camera
sideways on a dolly. It would then look like you were looking straight
down on the box. When the box starts turning it would feel
like the camera was tracking, as long as the background was neutral so
there wasn’t a foreground/background change to give away what you are doing.
I won’t elaborate as this may not be what you are after!
Whenever you are confronted by a difficult camera move, it is always worth thinking about what the visual elements are, and then another method may present itself. In Buffalo Soldiers, when they fall into the flames at the end, that was done with the actors standing up and rotating on a turntable with a sideways camera tracking in on them.
I need to shoot a sequence where the camera goes from a toilet cubicle, through doorways, around corners and into the midst of a nightclub. What would be the best and most inexpensive way to do this? ??--Phil
"Best" and "inexpensive" have a habit of not mixing too well in any walk of life, and the same applies when you make movies! So the smoothest way to do the shot you describe is with a Steadicam operated by a very expensive individual who gets more money per day than most people earn in a month. Next 'best' would be to do the shot hand-held which will save you the enormous steadicam fee, and might even give a better result if you want a more 'point-of-view' feel to the shot (ie more shaky). Don't forget that in either case, the operator can jump on and off things like trolleys and wheelchairs if that helps the shot. Another factor is the size of the camera: the bigger and heavier it is, the harder it is to do the shot however, usually the quality is best.
I'm an amateur filmmaker and I'm getting ready to purchase a Steadicam & dolly system. The question is when is it best to use one or the other? Clearly, some shots such as climbing stairs or lots of turns are possible only with a Steadicam, but what about the shots that could be accomplished with both? While the dolly is guaranteed to be smooth it's also so much more work to set up when a good Steadicam operator could just get the shot. What's your opinion? ??--Shawn
It's a matter of "feel" - what kind of rhythm do you want any particular shot to have? It takes a very very good steadicam operator to make it seem like a dolly shot, so it you want a shot to be really steady then use a dolly. Decisions in film making are not made based on whether something is "a lot of work": they are made on what is the right way to do the shot for the story you are trying to tell. A simplification would to be to say that a steadicam shot is more "point of view like" than a Dolly shot: the audience senses the presence of the camera operator more than in the more "neutral" Dolly shot.
How was the "invisibility illusion" carried out in The Invisible Man? Since it was done in 1933, whatever process they used must be relatively simple by today's standards. ??--Chris
The process was called a travelling matte and was done with great difficulty! The principles used today are quite similar except that software in a computer does the job. And in just the same way as today, the computer operator has a relatively simple job, but the fella who designs the program is a genius! The machines and chemistry involved in the "old days" were just as hard to create and visualize. The basic idea involved creating high contrast mattes by duplicating the film in a "bi-pack" contact printer, and then re-combining this with the original neg to removes certain tonalities. Also, a lot of work was done "in-camera" by re-winding and re-exposing the negative. You can do this yourself with any Super 8mm or 16mm camera that will run backwards. Film a room with a tripod. Re-wind the film to the start (with the lens cap on!) and film it again whilst having someone walk about - perhaps in a flowing white dress! The room will then "ghost" through the person. If you put a "dissolve" in the middle of the shot, the person would turn back solid, or disappear depending which way you did it. Use about 2/3rd exposure for each run, otherwise the whole will become overexposed. Have fun!
I was recently watching the commentary track on Kevin Smith?s Dogma and he began speaking about how he loved this "stretch." They then went on to discuss other "stretches" in Jaws and Goodfellas which were well done. I guess my question is, what is a stretch? ??--Eric
A "stretch" is sometimes called a "trombone" shot. It is a shot where the camera dollies in and zooms out, or dollies out and zooms in. The foreground image (usually a person), stays the same size whilst the background is either widened or compressed depending which way you are going. A 10:1 zoom is usually the minimum that makes it effective.
Wanted to desperately know how one shoots day for night? Would really appreciate if you could answer the same by giving suitable examples (which I could check out hiring DVDs) of how a particular scene that was meant to be night was shot during the day. ??--Arun
The key question is: are you finishing on digital? The amount you can do with "film only" technology is a lot less than with digital/digital or film/digital. I guess we should start using the expressions DDF, DDD,FDF and FFF like they do for CD"s. (Day-for-Night is well discussed on the CML website (Cinematography.net) so take a look there also): So for FFF, you can shoot 2 stops underexposed with as many grads as you can put in for sky. It only works in the country where there are no light sources, unless you can make lights that look bright in daylight (there?s the sun to compete with?), Use no 85 to make the image cooler/bluer. Light your foreground actors with strong lights or mirrors bouncing the sun. Many old John Ford westerns used campfire scenes shot Day for Night. The fire usually looks weak and overall the scenes look artificial by today?s standards.. but then they are usually badly timed on DV or telly so you can?t really tell how the original looked. For FDF (in other words with a digital Intermediate), you can put the sky in the frame because you can separate it in the timing and make it dark. This opens up a lot more possibilities. The sun can act as a "moon source" by timing it cooler and darker (you can do this in FFF too). You still have a problem with light sources because they might have to be put in digitally (like a lit window), making the process expensive. Still might be cheaper than shooting at night. For FDD or DDD, the same applies. There is still no real way of shooting cities in the day and making them look like night, for obvious reasons. If you take a look at The Van (dir. Stephen Frears) - if you can find it! ? you will see a lot of scenes around a Chip Van. These were all done in a studio with the wider shots done "Dusk for Night" on location. Try and see which are in the studio and which are on location!
(If you find anything about The Waterhorse, much of this was shot Day-for-Night (2007).
Who can be officially credited as the inventor/owner of the Zolly shot? I heard some fans say Hitchcock can claim ownership when he used it in Vertigo. Others believe Spielberg perfected it in Poltergeist and Jaws (I'm not sure which Jaws-- I think it was the second one). But who officially used it for the first time and which film or TV project was it used in??-DJ Heinlein
Hitchcock is generally credited with inventing the "trombone" shot which is another name for it. It's now been used so many times it's almost a cliché.
In a few movies, as soon as an actor discovers something horrible or comes to some kind of realisation, the shot looks as if the whole world around the actor "moves closer" around him/her. Everything, except the actor is out of focus, yet the actor stays in focus. Is this a camera or post production technique, and how is it done???-Hein
There's a very effective shot in Spielberg's JAWS showing Police Chief Brody sitting on the beach and realising he has just seen a boy taken by a shark. I assume the effect is achieved by the camera lens zooming in on Brody while at the same time the camera is tracked away from him. My question is would the same effect be achieved by tracking in while zooming out???-Bruce
Since this is effectively the same question I have put them together. This type of shot is sometimes called a "trombone" shot, or a Hitchcock as he first used it (I think, but a historian might put me right!). It is usually done with a 10:1 zoom (at least) as a 5:1 does not give much range. The idea is to track and zoom in opposite directions, so that the image of the actor stays the same size but the background changes dimension. The focus is held in the normal way with the focus puller maintaining focus as the dolly moves in relation to the actor. As with the use of close-ups, which I was talking about a couple of weeks ago, this shot has become overused so it is losing some of its effectiveness. We tried doing one in a half hearted way the other day shooting The Hoax, but abandoned it after about 15 seconds as it looked so cheesy! I guess a 20:1 zoom might still make it mean something but you'd need track 100 yards long!
I have a simple question: is there anyway possible to shoot a film on one side, then turn it over and shoot on the emulsion? Can I develop it, and how would I do the exposure if so?
I assume this is a serious question! In the days of Standard 8, you did in fact shoot half of a 16mm film, then turn it over and shoot the other half and split it down the middle and join it up in the lab.
I guess you are talking about 35mm film and shooting it the "wrong way" ie through the backing, and then shooting it the right way on to the emulsion. Obviously you would have to consider whether you wanted the second picture to be the same way up as the first etc etc.
There is no technical reason why you can't do this. You'd expose the film normally when it was the right way round, and when you shoot through the backing you would need to test how much exposure it needs. I shot something this way in a Music Video in the early 80's and I seem to remember rating a 500ASA film at something like 8 ASA and getting a result! It had a really dreamy old movie kind of look. A loader put the film in the wrong way round one day which is how I discovered this "look" - fortunately it was a test day!
David Watkin experimented with having the lab wash off the anti-halation backing from some Kodak film he was testing for Yentil and got some results that he loved, but Kodak and the insurance company wouldn't let him use it!
I'm a media art student, and I was wondering how people get the effect of one person moving at normal speed, with everyone else around them moving at a more rapid speed?
There's quite a few ways of doing this. In principle, the person moving at normal speed has to be shot at 24fps and the people going faster at a lesser frame rate: anything from 18fps right down to 2fps or whatever your choice. Before the advent of the computer such a shot might be motion control if the camera was moving, or "locked off" if it was static. The background would be shot at 6fps or whatever the choice, and the then the foreground person shot at 24fps either in a blue screen studio or sometimes in the same space, although this would result in a see-through look.
Nowadays the elements still need to be separated either via bluescreen or with "rotoscoping" which is a fancy way of saying that you sit with the image on a computer and then laboriously frame-by-frame draw around the person moving at normal speed and "lift" them from the BG or whatever is necessary to combine the shots. As far as I know there is no push button easy way of achieving this effect: it's always going to require a certain amount of painful work! Remember that the slower the frame rate the more the motion-blur and vice-versa. This can be used to good effect by say, shooting at 6fps and then transferring at 6fps which means it will then be running at 24fps but with a blurry effect in the movement. Different shutter angles can also be used to control this effect, as he shutter angle affects the "shutter speed" for each frame.
I'm preparing to shoot a low budget feature film on a combination of two formats; DV and Super 8. I'll be shooting many of the dialogue scenes on DV, and most of the action-only scenes on Super 8. One particular sequence has been scripted to take place entirely under black light. The scene calls for dialogue, action, and slow motion.
I know that the DV camera works reasonably well in low light, but I can't get the "real" slow-motion effect with video. I've experimented a great deal with the various stocks Kodak manufactures for Super 8, but I fear none of them will be fast enough under the black light, and I can't bring in extra lights without ruining the black light effect.
Should I try 16mm and a faster film? Should I shoot under normal lighting conditions, and find a way to fake the black light effect? Can this be achieved on set with filters and gels, or do I need to use an expensive digital effect in post? Should I shoot in black and white, and add the colors later, like they did in Tron? How would you shoot and light this?
16mm high speed stock is the way to go here - especially using fast lenses like the T1.4 zeiss lenses. Also, you can adapt stills lenses for 16mm and even get T0.95 lenses! You have already found out that Super 8 is not fast enough, and creating the effect via another route never looks the same. There is no real point is shooting b/w and going digital since it will never look the same.
In a recent feature a DP brought in a ton of UV lamps to raise the light level for a big scene and all but destroyed the eye sight of both the cast and crew - so watch your safety issues here! But bringing in extra lighting to raise the stop to the right level is the only way to do it. Don't forget that meters do NOT read UV light accurately, so it is better to decide the exposure by doing some tests, then use the meter as a "relative" guide.
While the narrative aspect of 300 has divided critics and audience reaction, the film has pretty much gotten universal praise for its visual appeal. How do you think films like this, with their emphasis on post-production CGI work, will affect the role of the cinematographer? By the way, The Shipping News was a beautifully shot movie.
Thanks for the compliment - always appreciated!
I said a few things about this recently so I will address the answer more generally to the role of the cinematographer in this "CGI" world. Storaro took to calling himself the "architect" of Photography at some point, and perhaps there is an indication here as to the future of the DP. It really comes down to the particular film: what are the wishes of the Director/Writer/Producer in terms of who they want to make "in charge" of the visual side of the film. Traditionally there was always no real answer to this: in Dr Strangelove was it Kubrick or Ken Adam (the designer) or Gil Taylor (the DP). Evidently Adam and Taylor assisted Kubrick in his vision.. That's doesn't make the achievement of both Ken Adam and Gil Taylor any less - they made history together.
In the more mundane world of 99% of the films that don't change history, it might be anyone of the personalities that has the dominance of the visual side of the movie. Visual Fx Supervisors are getting paid a lot more than some DP's now which indicates how the good ones are sought after because of the valuable contribution they make to the movie. Joe Leterri (who was the VFX supervisor for Lord of the Rings) clearly had a major role to play along with Grant Major (the designer) and Andrew Lesnie (DP).
So the role of the DP is one sense will not change: it is still a collaboration as it always was. The difference is that there are a lot more ways, and a lot more people "in the mix", so it is harder for a DP to exert his particular influence than it used to be. However, this just means that those with no particular personality or vision will fall by the wayside.. so what's new??
Dear Mr. Stapleton,
This summer we will be shooting a feature film. we'll shoot on super 16 with an aspect ratio 1:2.35. A few scenes will start with a total shot of a circus area. Then an actor will pass the camera and it becomes a close shot.
The total must feel like a steady shot as if it's been shot from a tripod. When the actor passes it's going to be handheld and we will follow the actor all over the circus area. We want to shoot both shots in one camera movement.
My question for you. What are the options to make a style change from a fixed shot to a handheld shot in one take? Considering that this isn't a big budget feature (1 million euros)and steadicam isn't an option because it doesn't give a handheld feel to it. Hope to hear from you soon.
The best way to do this would be to place the camera on a fluid head (with the controls quite "loose") with perhaps a small sandbag between the two. The first part of the shot you can control by having the camera movement as on a tripod (or dolly or that matter). When you want to move into HH, simply lift the camera off the support and walk with the actor. The tricky bit is making the transition between the two reasonably smooth. Because the 16mm camera is much lighter than 35mm it won't be too bad: experiment with how to make this transition - different kinds of handgrips will make a difference as indeed will different body positions. It will also help if there is something in the action to make the transition: this is a discussion you can have with the actor. I have noticed it is now winter so I guess you shot this already! How did it work out??
I am shooting a short film and part of it is set on a train.
In a train compartment I need to reflect the whole compartment on the train window. My objective is to shoot the whole scene reflected on this window.
Do you have any suggestions on how to do this?
I understand I am going to have to illuminate the compartment a lot..
Yes you are: especially if it is daylight outside. However, I do have some suggestions.
1. Try and have the train travel through interesting light and shade, dark banks trees etc. This will make the interior stand out when it is darker outside and also create a much more interesting variety of balance.
2. Try and "ND" the windows (if it is daylight outside). You can do this carefully with soft gel: speak to some grips about how to put it on. There is also a brand new polarizing product from Rosco which looks really useful in these situations (with a suitable price I am sure!).
3. If you have trouble hiding the camera, you could shoot through a mirror which would reflect it's own image back at the window instead of the camera. This may or may not look odd depending on the carriage design and camera angle.
4. Double images off the window might be quite strong/annoying depending on the thickness of the glass.
5. Night or dusk will obviously help visibility of the interior a great deal: full daylight will be the hardest and the least interesting visually unless heavily broken up.
6. I have not gone into blue screen and matt techniques which is most probably what would be used on a film with a reasonable budget.
Is the steadicam one of the more empowering tools in the arsenal of a cinematographer?
Yes, yes, yes. The steadicam has become the mast-have tool of modern cinematography. There are many shots in today's films that look like they were done on a dolly but were in fact done by one of the few and elite steadicam operators. This skill is of the order of an olympic athlete: take a look at someone trying to operate a steadicam and doing it badly to see what I mean. This is a tool I insist on carrying on every film - you never know when it will save you thousands of dollars in wasted time, and also contribute immensely to the versatility of the shoot.
What was the most difficult shot you've ever achieved in your career?
Well the opening shot of Absolute Beginners stands out well above the rest. The shot took 3 week to light (fortunately in pre-production!), and several days to execute. It is, in fact, three shots but they are joined together invisibly by careful planning of foreground wipes. It was early use of the stepping on-and-off crane technique which we had never done before at that time (1985). I remember the lighting list started with 85 x 300W lamps and gaffer said: "I guess we'll have to buy a few more!".
Right up to the last day of pre-production I had not seen anything on the screen that I liked. Because of the huge set I was testing the 5294 400ASA stock of the time for use in Super 35mm (optical blow-up for 70mm release). It did not have the colours I was after and on the last day I decided to shoot some 100ASA 5247 - the "standard" of the time. I got this back on Saturday morning and it looked fantastic!
So that meant shooting at T2.2 which was not much fun for the focus-puller...especially with the special K35 series Canon lenses that were the only ones that covered the Super 35mm format properly at the time and gave me the colour I was after.
The film was unfortunately destroyed by casting the wrong man in the central role: if they had chosen Daniel-Day Lewis who had just achieved fame with My Beautiful Laundrette, it would now be a modern classic instead of a forgotten film!