Tuesday October 9, 2012 – FILM LECTURE
Today’s topic: Cinematography
Just as mise-en-scene employs elements originally found in the theatre, the
cinematographic properties derive largely from photography. Film involves duration in a
way that photography can’t. We want to:
1. Identify techniques associated with cinematography
2. Think how cinematography interacts with other elements in a film.
Three words we want to distinguish: scene, shot, sequence.
Shot: it is one uninterrupted image (that which lies between to edits)
Scene: a segment in a narrative film that takes place in one time and place (scene can be
distinguished from shot and sequence). Usually shot is smaller than scene – a scene is
usually made up of multiple shots. Sometimes, we can have a scene rendered in a single
shot. What is incredible rare: when a single shot contains more than one scene.
Sequence: a single stretch of action or a portion of a film of a varying size. A sequence
can include from one to many scenes. A sequence is not as delimited or defined as a shot
Opening sequence of “Touch of Evil” = most celebrated shot by cinematographers and
film enthusiasts. Shows the profound contributions cinematography can be to establishing
look, feel, rhythm and flow of film as well as relaying info that is important to the
narrative. Mise-en-scene and cinematography can be coordinated as we can see in shot.
Cinematography serves narrative purpose of film as well as to style of film. Shot took a
very long time to film.
This is a good example of a prolonged shot and a prolonged sequence.
Defining characteristics of the shot:
1. A shot’s photographic qualities: determines how the camera renders what it films.
Different lenses, filters, filming processes will all render diff shots.
Range of tonalities:
Range of tonalities: How finely detailed an image is, how vibrant or
saturated or contrasted an image’s color is. We can think about film stock
(different film stocks give a different type of image – ex: In Kane,
different film stocks where used for filming the news reel and the rest of
the film. Using a film stock of a lower gage helped give an impression of
Rate of exposure: We vary how much light comes into the camera (ex: We
can let little light in and have an image that is very dark, or we can let a lot
of light in and have overexposure -> abundance of light is allowed to pass
through the lens, it is blown out).
We can also use filters in order to create different types of light and
different qualities to the image Speed of motion: Speed at which film is shot and subsequently project. It
is crucial that a continuity between speed at which an image is shot
matches speed at which it is projected. Old films appear sped up because
they were shot at 16 – 20 fps being projected at 24 fps -> actions appear
sped up. Sometimes, films deliberately shoot scenes at different speeds
than speed at which they will be projected. For slow motion, we shoot at a
faster rate than the one at which it will be projected. Slow motion usually
creates poetic imagery, affects us emotionally in a profound way. But it
can also be used to invoke the supernatural (ex: Picnic at Hanging Rock ->
all images of blond girls climbing up rock are slowed down, images which
are intercut by shots of brown haired girl who is at a normal pace). Fast
motion = shooting at a slower pace than 24 fps (ex: Requiem for a Dream
-> film attempts to give us a vantage on the characters’ experiences). We
can clarify differences between mise-en-scene and cinematography while
looking at speed of motion. The “what” of mise-en-scene is always at the
service of the “how” of cinematography. Cinematography has power to
completely transform what the camera captures.
Perspective: The first thing the camera lens determines is the perspective.
Renaissance technique: Trying to create an illusion of depth, to create a 3-
D impression from a 2-D image. Renaissance perspective became a
standard of painting and art during the Renaissance. Before, we were more
concentrated on contents of image, the more an object was important the
bigger it was. During Renaissance however, we try to introduce
perspective -> become more realistic. Most camera lenses are ground to
reproduce Renaissance perspective -> our expectations of cinema is to be
realistic. Most cinematographers want to represent the world as we
experience it. Some cinematographers reject this however (ex: The Text of
Light by Stan Brakhage -> He filmed an entire film through a lens made of
a glass hotel ashtray, he wanted us to experience the film in a different
way). Some cinematographers use different lenses (which differ in their
focal length – measured in millimeters). Normal lenses have a focal length
of 35-50 mm. Wide-angle lenses create a distorted/enhanced sense of
depth (stretches space) and have shorter focal lengths while Telephoto
lenses, which magnify events or objects at a distance (but they squash
planes in an image – can no longer distinguish foreground,
background…), possess longer focal lengths. With Telephoto lenses
(shorten sense of depth in a shot), we don’t really have a sense of what
space is anymore. We can also use a zoom lens which can change its focal
length over the course of a single shot. There are a wide variety of lenses
at disposal of the cinematographer. Lenses can distort spatial relations to
Lenses also contribute to a shot’s depth of field (= what is in focus when
we look with a lens). The depth of field can vary between deep focus
(when the foreground, middle ground and back ground are all in focus)
and selective focus (when only one or a limited number of pla