cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

10 Cinematographers to watch 2016





GRAPHIC FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY jumble words


10 Cinematographers to watch 2016



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May 29, 2016 Posted by | cinematographer, cinematography | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY Beauty Will Save the World, Will It Save Cinematography?





GRAPHIC FILM beauty-cinematography



If Beauty Will Save the World, Will It Save Cinematography?

….the history of cinematography and its roots in painting for clues about how to continue to develop the art and craft.



By


Yuri Neyman, ASC



November 13, 2013 Posted by | cinematographer, cinematography | , | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY Cinematographer Style





SNIP VIDEO Cinematographer style



For those of you wondering what gives with the funny way of setting out the titles of COTA’s posts: genus, species, variety. Nerdy, but then I name my files in the same way for a good reason – when you search on genus, voila a list of files and graphics you don’t remember you had.

And so once more to cinematography. What gives with all the posts on cinematography or cinematographers? Screenwriting is my primary interest. But writing scripts can never be some sort of isolated activity which has no connection with the work of director, cinematographer and editor.

Photography has always been a hobby since early teens. My father was a serious hobbyist who had his own darkroom. So it’s natural to look at the aesthetics of film in a practical sense. The theory, well, I’ve said it before: it’s a long way down the list. The odd academic article speaks to me but most seem either pretty pointless, too removed from films themselves or too opaque.

Remember that thing about art being a triangle between artist, his agent and the rich buyer? Maybe it was Picasso’s friend and biographer, John Richardson who said it. That’s academic film.

Let’s do film film. Cinematographers talking film. Cinematographer Style.


And then Cinematography: The art of painting with light



November 13, 2013 Posted by | cinematographer, cinematography | , | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGARPHY The Cinematographer’s Process





cinematography-poster




The Cinematographer’s Process (Part 1): Breaking Down the Script


The Cinematographer’s Process (Part 2): Defining Your Camera Strategy


Robert Hardy, nofilmschool



November 12, 2013 Posted by | cinematographer, cinematography | | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY The Importance of Cinematography





FILM Citizen Kane contract signing


Citizen Kane: adapted from David Bordwell: Foreground, background, playground




The Importance of Cinematography




A 5.50 min video by Saun McDougall [Sean McDougall, McDougallFilm. What no website?]


There are terazillions of videos on cinematography. But this is a catchy title. The importance of anything surely gets your attention over A Guide to Basic Cinematography – yet the latter is a good video for someone who has read books, seen stills and diagrams but yearns to see film explained in film. Barring the neat postage stamp famous film examples popping up top right, it is a text book. But let’s have it called I Love Cinematography with the narrator appearing left, cartwheeling into medium shot, then running to camera for his close-up, puffing, hair awry: “I love cinematography and this is why….”

101 Film anything doesn’t quite do it title-wise. Earnest, but not sounding important. Lots of good videos, but look fella-me-guys we need titles, Gone with the Cinematographer, Lost in Cinematography, The Silence of the Cinematographer, The Pursuit of Cinematography, There Will Be Cinematography, Synecdoche, Cinematography. That Obscure Object of Cinematography. Now you’re watching.


Richard Michalak’s {1} (there must be a series somewhere..) is the best Idiot’s Short Information-Packed Guide to Cinematography I’ve seen so far. Mark Fenton who put it up (with permission he says..) calls it, Cinematography Learn from a Master. O.k, let’s loop back to the previous paragraph for the names bit.

Next it’ll be the nexus of writer, director, cinematographer and editor. Descriptions of people working together, not theory. Best/worst. Someone said in something I just read that the screenwriter and the editor are considered the more creative of this group. But before that a few links in a separate post on what the cinematographer aka the director of photography does when he gets hold of the screenplay. But before that a couple of who wins cinematography awards.



November 9, 2013 Posted by | cinematography, film, Richard Michalak | , | Leave a comment

FILM DIRECTOR Directors who Started in Other Departments





Directors who Started in Other Departments – PART I



Directors who Started in Other Departments – PART II


From : notesonafilm



October 26, 2013 Posted by | cinematographer, cinematography | Leave a comment

FILM Greatest cinematographers



50 Greatest Cinematographers


1. Gunnar Fischer who shot many of Bergman’s films


2. Jack Cardiff


Top 10 Greatest Cinematographers


1. Charles Rosher, 1885-1974


Cardiff doesn’t figure in this top 10



October 26, 2013 Posted by | Charles Rosher, cinematographer, cinematography, Gunnar Fischer | | Leave a comment

FILM Cinematographer [1]





NFS Exclusive Series – The Cinematographer’s Process (Part 1): Breaking Down the Script

♦ …a process in which you scan the script for technical issues and viability based on the budget of the film



Only just come across Ryan Koo whose website, nofilmschool, has as he explains in one video (of many about film-making) gone from a few hits to millions in no time at all. The fun one was where he proudly explains how he bought a Red on a credit card, renting it out and other wheezes to end up with a no-cost camera.


Also posted:


‘There is No Formula’: Cinematographer Gordon Willis on Testing the Limits of His Craft





October 22, 2013 Posted by | cinematography | Leave a comment

FILM JOURNAL Alphaville Issue 5 – Cinema in the Interstices





PHOTO Cracked_Concrete_01_by_RocketStock


click to enlarge



Alphaville : Journal of Film and Scene Media


Issue 5


Cinema in the Interstices





Cinema in the Interstices: Editorial


Conscious of the underlying significance of this term and its many interpretations within the context of visual culture, particularly as related to film and screen media, Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media set out to provide a forum to explore the myriad of interstices that exist both within the medium of film and between film and other media, firstly in the form of an international conference held at University College Cork in September 2012, and now in a special issue of Alphaville dedicated to the topic.



Lot’s and lots to read.

I was drawn in by the word interstice. A wonderful sounding word which most people couldn’t pronounce let alone define. The editorials starts with:

The interstice: something empty, something minute—a crevice, a chink, a narrow gap—yet, in spite of this definition of something apparently slight and inconsequential, one perhaps may make the claim that the interstice serves as a foundational element of film. The “intervening space”, as the OED defines it, in its celluloid form provided the connection between multiple images, allowing them to run together to form the illusion of movement. While this interstitial black strip that imperceptibly framed the moving image is no longer a constituent part of cinema in its current digital format, interstices continue to proliferate in screen media, perhaps to a greater extent than ever. Indeed, just as cinema originated in the interstices between theatre, painting, literature and photography, this intermediality takes on a redefined role in the digital era, with the lines between cinema, television, art, video and new media becoming increasingly difficult to define.



And so I was off, thinking about black bars between frames of pellicule. Though I knew in my bones, chasing a few rabbits down their holes, this was the entre to a lot more things of interest and use among a whole swathe I probably wouldn’t understand or be bothered with. But how do you know till you read?

And so what exactly are the film things I am bothered with? Think, Think. One, how films are made, particularly cinematography and editing, aesthetics goes without saying (but there, I’ve said it), and the limits of film (and the sort of questions that cropped up when Godard started writing in the Cahiers and then made films himself which, if we use A Bout de Souffle, was often about how film was not up to the job he wanted it to do – and/or was dead and gone in the terms in which he saw it: in two words Eisenstein and montage. Godard a writer trying a new medium and as I see it often being disappointed and expressing this disappointment in his own films. Alright, I admit it, I’ve been trying Histoires yet again). Phew! How hard it is to attend to three things at once and have the added disadvantage of English subtitles. Perhaps better without enough French to read La « partition » des Histoire(s) du cinéma de Jean-Luc Godard by Céline Scemama as a companion-piece to Histoire(s). My ideal: watch it first, then the transcription,then both together. But it becomes a study not an experience, where it has to be watched on DVD to stop it at will.

The start point – stimulated by the Alphaville editorial’s first para – was that black gap between each frame. Faux naively (sometimes the ridiculously obvious can turn up insights) I mused the black dividing lines had to be there because of the way a roll of film running through a camera exposed individual frames. A shutter or shutters opened to expose each frame and it couldn’t do it quick enough to have no gap between frames. Though of course even if that were feasible, with each frame abutting directly to the next, the separation of frames as they are by a gap might well be needed to help create the moving images at a certain speed of projection. Who knows – not many – if the movie would work projected without the few millimeters of black space?

It wasn’t there in order to. It was there because it had to be there, and then they found a way to get over these leetel black bars between frames by projecting the film at a certain speed both to eliminate them from perception, and eventually at 24fps to get a movie that wasn’t jerky as the early silent films were.

Then the assertion that

[..] cinema originated in the interstices between theatre, painting, literature and photography

made me think some more – and this is the first paragraph of the editorial! – what interstices were these exactly? That later.

The fourth wall. We know that cinema was distinctly theatrical in it’s beginnings. But surely, film rather than being in cracks between the traditional arts – once the theatrical style was left behind – was a new art form which superimposed itself on them as a whole, using them; or perhaps that the arts fed directly or indirectly into film, rather than the other way round. Or even that it parasitised on them or was in symbiosis with them. Or both. Or saprophytic. Or even commensal. But it did become the predominant – as in popular and wide-spread – art form the 20 century. Pretty quickly it was the flicks people went to see instead of music hall – certainly not art galleries or museums. Though come to think of it, music and film became close partners in a way that art and theatre did not. Theatre and ballet became favourite subjects of film and have remained so to the present day. Opera became the musical. But film technique has developed on its own.


Film Studies at University College Cork


Well, better start reading. Might learn something.

October 2, 2013 Posted by | 24 fps, art, À bout de souffle, Breathless, Cahiers du cinéma, cinematography, Eisenstein, film, Film and The Arts, film editing, film music, film [its techniques], film-making, Godard, perception | , , , | Leave a comment

FILM Revise Cinematography



Cinematography


Pdf of 47 ppt slides also from Lisa Cook’s Website



June 15, 2011 Posted by | cinematography | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGRAPHER Roger Deakins



Master Cinematographer Roger Deakins on Shooting with ARRI ALEXA: ‘Film Had a Good Run

Another post from nofilmschool, 12 February 2011


Deakins Hearts Alexa

Kendal Miller, 10 February 2011


Roger Deakins on Digital vs. 35mm: “Whether I’ll Shoot On Film Again, I Don’t Know”

Peter Sciretta, Slashfilm, 9 February 2011



June 9, 2011 Posted by | cinematography, digital cinematography | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY optical printer



wiki:Optical printer



June 4, 2011 Posted by | cinematography, editing, film still, film techniques, film theory, film [its techniques], Martin Arnold | Leave a comment

FILM GODARD Two men arguing about a camera



Genesis of a Camera: Jean-Pierre Beauviala and Jean-Luc Godard


from


Godard=Cinema=Godard


A reprint of a discussion between Jean-Pierre Beauviala and Jean-Luc Godard originally published in Camera Obscura Vol. 5, No. 13/14 (Spring-Summer 1985): 163-193.



May 31, 2011 Posted by | Aaton 16mm camera, Aaton 35-8, aesthetics and technology, Cahiers du cinéma, cinematography, film [its techniques], Godard=Cinema=Godard, Jean-Pierre Beauviala, Paluche camera | Leave a comment

Glossary of film terms from filmsite.org




Film Term Glossary



March 20, 2011 Posted by | cinéma-vérité, cinematography, Classical American cinema, film analysis, film editing, film narrative, film narratology, film postproduction, film production, Film script/screenplay, film still, film techniques, film theory, film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

FILM Reflections and mirrors in film






Reminded of the classic uses of mirrors in film, such as those in Renoir’s Regle du Jeu, by looking at Darren Hughes’ clever ‘movie still’ in his profile page in the new version of Long Pauses. The page I was reading was his post on Fred Brakhage. {wiki:Stan Brakhage}

In Regle du Jeu, I thought there was a mirror shot within the complex tracking shot involving the opening and closing of a wardrobe door, a corridor and two rooms, but as yet can’t find it!

There is one like that in The Million Pound Note. Though according to this, there is one scene where the cameraman can be seen in the mirror.

In another shot in Le Regle du Jeu , a pan involving the Countess, Christine de la Cheyniest, played by Nora Gregor, coming out of one door and entering another on a landing, the mirror is used to extend the shot. There is no need to move the camera to do a shot of the maid: the maid moves into view in the mirror on the right as Christine moves towards the mirror on her left. Then her maid, Lisette, is seen with Christine on the landing without her reflection. Christine moves to a door with a flunkie standing outside, leaving Lisette with the dog in the foreground. She enters. As she does so, we can see the closed door of the room she has left.

At the end of La Regle du Jeu, Octave is getting ready to leave. Again Renoir uses a mirror to extend the shot, showing the door behind him through which he is about to leave. Within the shot he walks towards the camera to get his hat and returns to the set position. While he does, we can see him getting his hat in the reflection. Towards the end he can be seen looking at his own reflection in the mirror: staring in a sudden realisation, over the shoulder of Lisette.

Without the mirror, walking out of shot towards the camera won’t look right. With the mirror there is no need to set up another shot to show him unhooking his hat.

Came across this forum in MUBI [formerly Auteurs] with quite a few examples of stills and movie sequences sent in by the debaters. The topic is ‘reflections and mirrors’  which slightly widens it out a bit.  Please post in any films with reflections you like.

The one at the top is from Regle du Jeu.  One can always make obvious remarks and seem slightly naive about film-making, but I can see in my mind’s eye the image being noticed by Renoir as he looks for the first time at  the set up created for him by the cinematographer. He has asked for the maid (in black) to seem to be the reflection of the Contess, but when he sees what has been done for him, sacred blue, he is impressed.

Godard talked about guns and girls, but this is surely as much why men and women nearly kill themselves to make films.





O.k. this is Berman – you get the idea.  In fact you more than get it: you’ve seen films, or documentaries of films being made, in which directors look at the cinematographs set-up and start enthusing.

There is also that thing about a cinematographer catching a light effect while filming a shot which is seen by director for the first time in the rushes. “Wahddisdat? BriiilliaNt! Cut it in ” [THICK GUTTERAL GERMAN-AMERICAN  ACCENT]

A real chateau was used for Regle du Jeu. It would be interesting to know if the interiors were sets or chateau. If chateau, there would have been a time when, on arrival and initial shufti, the possibilities of the mirrors became apparent and were probably included in the working script. If he chose the chateau partly for its mirrors before the script was written, then he really was a clever chap.

#

Below a cut and paste of photo a quoter quoting a book:





Film noir often uses mirrors as symbols of a person’s dual nature.

Quote from Dev Anand: Dashing Debonair by Alpana Chowdhury (p.43).

#

P D Smith reviews what looks like a must have for the generally curious, film mirror lovers and narcissists:

Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection
by Mark Pendergrast 404pp
Basic Books, £19.99

August 6, 2010 Posted by | cinematography, cognitive illusion, cognitive science, culture, director of photography, film directors, film narrative, film still, film techniques, Fred Brakhage, perception, Renoir | , | Leave a comment

FILM – Top 10 directors of photography


The Top 10 according to Josh Timmermann in Stylus Magazine.

According to the wiki: cinematographer:

The term cinematographer has been a point of contention for some time now; some professionals insist that it only applies when the director of photography and camera operator are the same person.

Perhaps the director of photography (film or digital) should be called The Lilac Chaser, after the well-known visual illusion. In other words, he or she’s the one who knows how to produce a good visual effect in the completed film – which thereby enhances a good script – but also has the knowledge to avoid unintended visual consequences which might wreck a good script. 

Josh talks about the opposite, where great cinematography props up an initially weak film idea.

I’ll put a link  to Jim Emerson’s cinematography post here:

Avatar and Oscar again raise the question: What is cinematography? (Part 1)

Read the comments as well which debate cinematographer/Director of photography.

Jim himself writes in reponse to a commenter:

The cameraman on set or on location must understand not only the sequence of shots, but the time of day, the temperature of the lights, how the film reacts in a multitude of situations, and even what time the sun will rise and set. Then there are the happy accidents that only the trained eye will catch, like the way the heat waves will play with the light in a telephoto shot. The cinematographer with experience will in many cases give the director the benefits of his or her knowledge.

(Which reminds me of the work of the location manager and the scouts, who themselves are the beginning of the the cinematographer’s work. It is they who will begin the work of noting where the sun sets and rises in relation to a building, say, and when, because they will be working from a script, will be able to see such things as whether it will be easy or diffcult to lay tracking down, which will effect how the film can look.)

No one has mentioned that a film (film or digital) is edited after it is made. So it is quite posible that much of a cinematographers work can be removed afterwards for non-cinematographic reasons, such as length of final film.

The more one looks at film the more the collaborative nature of film-making is highlighted. A professional editor (unless that means the director) works with the director and all the other major players on the film. Who can imagine the director of photography not being allowed in to see how the editing is going, and to perhaps have some say in how the editing is altering (for good or bad) the look he has set out to achieve?


April 7, 2010 Posted by | cinematography, director of photography, editing, film [its techniques] | | Leave a comment

FILM ESSAY The Emergence of Filmic Artifacts by Stephen Prince



The Emergence of Filmic Artifacts
by

Stephen Prince


Film Quarterly, vol 57, No 3, pp 23-33 ( 2004)


Abstract

The tools of digital filmmaking are transforming all aspects of cinema, including production, postproduction, and exhibition. In the process, they are altering the visual characterisitics of the moving image and changing the viewer’s perceptual understanding of the nature of cinema, leading to the emergence, for the first time in the medium’s history, of filmic artifacts.









Things get interesting from page 30 when the discussion turns to how digital video:

….”reads” a scene very differently than film does. One of the unmistakable hallmarks of DV is its clarity and depth of field. DV tends to record everything in deep focus and with extreme sharp focus, whereas varying degrees of shallow focus are the norm for images shot on film. Most shots have a limited focal plane, as determined by the speed of the film, the f-stop and the amount of light available. Even celebrated deep-focus films also include numerous shots where the focal plane is restricited. In contrast, DV produces deep focus as a kind of auto-default, and filmmakers working in the format studiously try to avoid this look.

Price wonders what Bazin, who advocated deep focus, would think of DV, suggesting he would have thought it good. But he then goes on to consider the paradox of film looking more alive than DV, despite being grainy. Films like Lawrence of Arabia, North by Northwest and Citizen Kane that have been digitally re-mastered for DVD have a very different feel from the film versions.

A few other important differences between film and digital are mentioned.

March 12, 2010 Posted by | Bazin, cinematography, digital exhibition, digital technology, digitisation, film postproduction, film production, film [its techniques], George Melies, Siegried Kracauer | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHY FILM: Between four and nine pictures

Mogan Meis’s essay in The Smart Set, Quite Ripples – Capturing the moments indifferent to being captured, plucks a chord  for me: a harpsichord –and not clavichord or pianoforte — kind of moment. Meis moved from an idea from Thales to a quote from Hericlatus (‘You can’t step into the same river twice’), followed by Plato’s, ‘ if the nature of things is so unstable as that, you can’t even step in the same river fronting an explanation of a photographer’s art.

A clear litte expansion on the philosophical background from Siva Prasad might help at this point.

The photographer he looks at is Paul Graham: his exhibition, A Shimmering of Possibility, at MoMa, the perfect excuse for Meis to deliver two killer paragraphs:

..human beings have been trying to figure out what makes one thing one thing and another thing another thing. In very general terms, there have always been some people who are more comfortable with Being and some people who are more comfortable with Becoming. The Being people get excited about how identity remains stable, how a chair is always a chair, a table always a table. The Becoming people are fascinated by the gray areas, the things you can’t quite categorize, the fleeting, the indefinite.

Photography, since its invention in the 19th century, has always played the role of a double agent. On one hand, photography fixes time, a notoriously shifty and ever-changing phenomenon. But photography grabs time and sits it down. You could say that photography freezes moments of essence. This pleases the Being people. A photograph has a sliver of forever inside it.

and two killer sentences:

The old saying tells us that a picture is worth a thousand words. Graham, however, thinks you need somewhere between four and nine pictures.

Meis dissects the notions of  being and becoming a bit more, but it was something else that occured to me: somehow the great filmmakers are and were quite aware of this ‘between four and nine pictures’.

Recently I saw an interview with Truffaut in which he was talking about 8 frame freezes: the maximum was 12 frames: more obtruded into the movie shots either side: the viewer was aware it was a still. Somehow at the optimal 8 frames, the stillness of a face amongst action is more a psychological stop than a physical one. Is the 8-frame an artifical construct of film with no parallel in real life? Perhaps an equivalent; is the sensation of a person talking to you suddenly having her sound off as one’s concentration goes from the words to the expression, and suddenly back again as some process in the brain decides to switch the sound back on, which hasn’t been off at all (so to speak).

In film we are being shown this 8-frame phenomenon as a stylisation. It has been used time and again by many directors. So why are cinematographers like Truffaut obsessed with it? For me, it runs right back to the simple pleaure of a flick book:; bored in a school classroom on a hot summer afternoon, teacher droning on, we idly draw a matchstick man in the top corner of the text book and make him move: the 8-frame splice is a reverse flicker book. It is a little bit ‘because it was there’, but it has a serious purpose, noneless.

No film-maker gets over the way film works: 24 fps. Even a photographer who has run off a rapid set of shots of a face, now finds it possible, with digital technology, to make the head move up and down with a loop of two photographs. There is something mesmerising about creating movement from stills.

Many filmmakers use a sequence of photographic stills or frames from a movie shot – in lieu of tight montage sequences – because they come to the conclusion that these stills — simply a short set of consecutive frames — played slower than 24 fps by digitally chosing say 1-3 seconds which is the poor man’s; still creating the necessary movement both in cinematographic and perceptio-cognitive (narrative) terms.

~

In a short documentary I am making, after much playing around with one sequence of  someone arriving on a train, decamping, and walking back up the station to where I, the cameraman, am standing, I came to the slow conclusion it was more effective as film not just to show the sequence at normal speed (the edited shot with only a few seconds taken off each end), but also a repetiton of the same shot in single frames at an optimal fps to produce an inexorable slow movement forward, which at the same time was seen as a set of ever changing stills.

Such a design is always self-reflexive: that is so much what the fun of filmmaking is. In some cases, the auteur seems to be almost solely concerned with cinematographic  reflexivity. No crime. The medium itself has it built into its DNA. The films such people make are as much about the pressure and satisfaction in the making as any subsequent viewing by a third party. True of all creative art.

~

In the process of running a sequence of screen grabs, one is consciously aware that this is what it must have been like for the first filmmakers – and their enchantment with the new medium – as they ran their celloid through a projector. The movie made of stills or screen grabs, though often run quite slow, is smoother than the flickering of those films at less than otpimum speed. One is fully aware, as all this happens, that one is watching how movie works, but also fully conscious immediately, or in slow stages, what it can and can’t do.

~

If I was teaching film (not likely) these are aspects of film-making I would emphasise: practical exercises with HDV cameras, each student would be told to go out and film and bring to class to work on: a few tricks to encourage the enjoyment of the filming such as how to film continuously, panning and zooming at the places where they envisioned cuts for example, to prevent them wasting too much time switching the camera on and off (and missing some of the action in the process) in the attempt to create ready made and editable shots.

~

Creating movie sequences from stills is quite a laborious process, involving grabbing maybe as many as 50 – 100 digital ‘frames’ for a 20-30 second shot. It is only when the slow motion sequence is played and replayed that it can become apparent how other elements such as music can subtly but radically alter the images.

In this specific case, I found quite quickly – almost by chance – a backing track from music site Jamendo that moved forward at the same speed as the slow movement of the stills. This sequence lasts about 30 seconds, which would be considered incredibly long by some ‘default’ filmmakers. But the slow pace of the figure moving up the station platform, facial expression slowly changing, physical actions – the posture of the body in relation to limbs – is enhanced by the perfect matching of the pace of the film with the music.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | cinéma-vérité, cinematography, cognitive illusion, cognitive science, consciousness studies, documentary, film analysis, film directors, film editing, film narrative, film theory, film [its techniques] | | Leave a comment

Fear of death is intransitive becomes cutting on the action

img_1178

After a sudden inspiration, and a little consideration, it seemed a good idea to change the name fear of death is intransitive (which is, in any case, meant to be more motif than title) to cutting on the action to reflect my growing interest in and preoccupation with film and photography. Cutting on the action is often expressed as cutting on action, but it does not quite say what I want it to say beyond film technique.

Match cut means the same thing, roughly, but does not transfer out of film into other realms, as I like to think ‘cutting to the action’ does.

Cutting on the action is nicely explained in Basic training: cutting to action page in videomaker.com.

There are quite a lot of Youtube videos, such as Horrors of War EDITING 1 web doc, which also do it well. They don’t get the interpretative value of a good title when they post in YouTube. Here, Horrors of War refers to a film used to explain the technique not to the editing process. Genus => species => variety, guys – please – and all will be much clear. So first say what it is about, then what about is about.

~

Solzhynitsyn once defined an intellectual as someone who had an insistent and persistent concern with the spiritual, which I take to mean soul: what man is or thinks he could be. Whether that meant overall or if one could be obsessed with one little corner of how men act and think and feel,to some effect, who knows.

rubins-vase

fear of death is intransitive seemed like a good idea at the time – a word vase illusion: about how words are only as good at expressing what the author meant for them, as the care with which they were laid down one by one in a certain order – but the novelty has worn off now, and it is probably off-putting to many who think the blog might be focused on death: there must be an awful lot of people on the internet who have been looking for some way to overcome their fear of death who have ended up here reading about film and books and stuff.

The version of the vase illusion above appeals to me because it itself is more subtly designed than your average vase illusion and so flip-flops more readily. The bog-standard vase illusion in black and white often needs a bit of a perceptio-cognitive push to make it transform between faces and vase. And so, in a way, with words: sometimes they are so perfect they create a whole world without any help form the reader of them; sometimes just good enough to take you on a smaller, though not in itself not insignificant mental journey; often completely impenetrable and, in turn, in their way, as if created by a random sentence generator – or a deranged mind. Do they have a larger proportion of deranged intellectuals in France than elsewhere? (Reference to the myriad of totally impenetrable writers France seems to produce….)

girl-and-deer1

What photography and film are, can do, means has become overidingly important to me. You watch hundreds of films in a life time and then wham, something happens – you get it. You really see why the greats of the stills and movie camera were so obsessed with their crafts. Not unlike looking at cubist paintings for years and then realising that while, before, you understood one of the principles of cubism as showing different views at the same time, now you live the feeling you imagine Picasso had at getting to that point in his artistic journey.

image01

Cromer Pier 14 November 1993

The journey I have travelled to get to this point – reaching a sheer dazzlement at what film is and does – was not an epiphany out of the blue. I reached a similar point with photography 30 years ago. And somehow getting photography – though not how to take well executed photographs! – laid the ground for my much later getting of film, nurturing my ‘insistent and consistent’ desire to be a film-maker.

Girl and a Deer was one of the hundreds of duds on contact sheets which were never printed. Years later, once I had made up my mind this photo had really said something – would say something –  I spent several pleasurable hours framing and reframing it with sheets of white paper and paper clips to try to make the best of a bad job, and to make it mean to others what I saw one day in a second in a wildlife park in the lake district.

I sent it in to The Observer weekly competition. It was published the following sunday.

It was not well executed shot: I had not got the hang at all of using my then new toy, a semi-automatic Nikon. One day, many years after taking the photograph, I overcame my rejection of the shot, because it was a poorly exposed photograph, made a few prints at photography night class and cropped with a vengence. I sent an A4 photo with a neatly cut out of a sheet of A4 showing the crop, and was gratified to see they accepted the crop exactly.

The photograph was taken very quickly.  As they are.  I think I remember the deer approaching people, or at least not running away, and was drawn to the situation. With a Nikkormat there was control over shutter speed and aperture, but they were linked (as they are…) through the light meter. If you chose the speed route for shake (no slower thatn 1/60th.), aperture was then set by middling the light meter needle; if aperture was set (do you want depth of field or not?), the speed in its turn was fixed by metering. And, yes, you had to focus manually.

I am trying to re-imagine what I would have done: speed or aperture.  I guess speed. A professional can tell which I chose from the photograph: it should be possible to work it out now. The background is over exposed and out of focus. The smaller the f-stop number, the bigger the aperture. I might have known enough to set the focus to infinity for maximum depth of field, but because I didn’t know all the permutations at that stage, I probably relied on what in a digital camera at the press of a button sets shutter priority, hoping for the best. It was a very bright day but the two figures were under a tree, in shade. A no-win situation, as they say. You focus on figures 15 feet away and you get a bleached background.

I had wanted that arm round the deer at any price (I wondered later, looking at the image many times, if the deer did a little side line in posing with all the children…) so the technical element went out of the door. However, the people assessing the cropped A4 size photograph I sent in must have accepted it was “all in the eyes”,  like I had done, and were prepared to publish a poor shot for the sake of the greater art, so to speak.

When the girl suddenly put her arm round her new deer friend (I can’t help think she is a she), I saw the photograph and what I thought it meant before I pressed the button. This is sort of decoupage. A detailed ‘pre-planning’ of the result in three seconds rather than hours slaving over a timed script.

The conviction I had the photo right when I took it was confirmed a decade later when it was published so quickly: exciting, shocking and vindicating.

The shot of Cromer Pier was also a disaster. Couldn’t improve it with printing. I knew next to nothing of taking photographs with a fancy camera or developing and printing.

It seemed, from the numbers passing up and down the front, every professional and amateur in the area had honed in, as if by telepathy, on Cromer in atrocious weather on that particular November day. I was the unlucky sod who was duped into standing in a foreground shot for a professional: as I did so, a massive wave rose up, curled over the concrete rolled lip of the sea wall, and dumped itself on me and my precious Nikon, which I frantically swathed in kitchen roll to get the worst of the salt water off. Years later I had to have the internal mech. de-rusted. The water marks on my pier photo show I had already taken it before he got me to do his biding. After its soaking, I did not feel very confident to try winding the film on any further. I wonder who he was and what his photographs were like. And if he deliberately tried to ruin my camera, or really did need a foreground subject. Let me know if you are he and reading this.

In my mind that day, I was taking photographs like these by Richard Trim.

Today, with digital editing, an artistic smudge does wonders:

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April 1, 2009 Posted by | blog name change, cinematography, cognitive illusion, culture, film editing, film [its techniques], photography | | Leave a comment

FILM ESSAY TRUFFAULT A certain tendency of the French cinema





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Catherine Grant does Truffault in her latest post in Film Studies for Free. This link to Truffault’s essay, A Certain tendency in French cinema [pdf file], comes from there. A footnote in the essay mentions it was first published in Cahiers du Cinema in 1954.



March 10, 2009 Posted by | cinéma-vérité, cinematography, film analysis, film editing, film narrative, film theory, film [its techniques] | Leave a comment