Episode 5 - Composition (29 replies and 13 comments)
n this episode, we talk about the importance of composition and why composition matters.
It’s a tricky and complicated subject and there are no set answers. We talked about the difference of composition in still work and in motion. It’s one of those subjects that could continue on and on! Just defining composition is difficult!
Post your comments or questions on this topic below.
I thought it was really interesting to hear about needing to take out the chainsaw to put a hole in the ceiling. It never really occurred to me that Roger Deakins would travel around with a chainsaw but that makes a lot of sense now thinking about it.
Everyone imagines the camera bodies, lights, lenses, light meters, etc. But I'm very curious to know what other pieces gear or tools are on the checklist, so to speak, that I wouldn't normally think of.
It was also neat to hear what formerly essential items, like a viewfinder, aren't on the list anymore because of the advancement of smartphones.
Great podcast, thank you!
Hello team Deakins. Thank you for the wonderful podcast, I had such a great time listening.
I have a question related to what you said about that way in which a story could be overpowered by the the style of the cinematography. You also referred to the use of wide screen and an intimate story, and you could not see how it could work.
At that point came into my mind 2046, a Wong Kar Wai film, shot by Christopher Doyle. It is a love story, intimate and wide screen, mostly interiors. I have seen the movie two or three times already, maybe the last time more than ten years ago, and I can’t remember the story, but I do remember the feel of it. It had rather the effect an impressionist painting would have. I was wondering if movies could function in this way too, in which the story is not that important, and the focus is more on the characters and what they feel. A modern way to look at things, I guess. Maybe we do not remember so many stories about our former lovers, but we do remember what we felt for these persons. I would say it works more like a memory of feelings, and not one of facts.
I gave this this example, because you said you never saw an intimate story that worked on wide screen.
Is there a way in witch a film could work while it is relaying more on the cinematography, and the cinematography does overpower the story?
I liked a lot the cinematography of Blade Runner 2049, and I can’t tell if I was more into the story or the way film felt…
The chainsaw is part of the grip's package of equipment!
Super cool! Thanks, James!
I don't believe I said I have never seen an intimate film that worked in widescreen. Really? I have shot some myself, 'Revolutionary Road' being just one.
Maybe my English is not that good, so maybe I got it all wrong, but I will give it one more try, if that is ok. I wrote down as precise as I could, without altering what you talked about, from 37th minute to 40:17.
"The aspect ratio is one of the early choices you make, it is the feeling of the film, and again I do not know why , I could not write a paper on why, one aspect ratio works for one film and doesn't for another, I do not know..."
"we are expecting you to write a paper"
"If it is a western, wide open spaces we got to do it. You know, wide screen, cinemascope, whatever... You know, really, do you? I do not know really. The lighthouse had a lot of exteriors, probably not the best example, but you know, you do not have to go to a wide screen just because it is a western."
MATT talks about aspect ratio for social media 9:16, and the fact there are people who shoot anamorphic just because it is a trend...
You say you would try it (9:16), interesting, but not for an entire feature film. You also talked about your experience with photography, the academy ratio...
"I do not know why, but it is just... I mean, you could say you want to be careful that the frame, or the format, the hole style of the cinematography doesn't overpower story. You might have a very quiet, delicate story and then you shoot in wide screen with strong compositions, with people one the side of the frame, so the cuts are really dramatic when somebody is looking left or looking right or maybe you short sight them the wrong way. Now is that really wright necessary for the subject if it is a very quiet intense small piece, and it is really about the characters? I think that is destructive myself, I would like to see it work, but I haven't yet..."
I wonder If I got what you meant by saying that wide screen with strong compositions it`s destructive for intimate characters-based stories. and if you used that on Revolutionary Road.
The car scene I think is a good illustration of that. It seems the use of the wide screen is to set them apart. One on one side of the frame, the other on the opposite side. When it cuts on Leo 'character, he seems so far from his wife, and when he leans on his back, the distance increases. Once they are arguing beside the car, there are the electric pols separating them, the verticals in the background.
And the shot with them standing in the car, it`s an odd shot, with all that space to the left and up the frame. When they get back in the car they are filmed from the side, with the focus on the face in front and the other just blurred, but no more separation this time, no more distance between them, maybe because they share the same grief? Their heads nearly overlap... Having one character in the foreground and the other behind blurred heavily, it's something that it`s used later in the film, but you keep a distance between the two, when they have an argue, more than once this reoccurs.
When back to the house she is so far from the window, and there are all that verticals which block her, the frame of the door, the staircase, the frame of the window, the frames of the paintings. And yet again she is on the other side on the frame. She has the back blocked by the lamp; she is so trapped. The house is so present, on wide screen, the place she does not like, the place she would want to leave behind. When she takes the garbage outside once again, she is blocked to the right by some fence, and to the left in the background it is a street pole, as if a frame in a frame. With that street pole, the top of it it`s cut, I wonder if you choose to that in a way to avoid too much symmetry, perhaps with the top of the pole it would have had too much balance?
There is another frame, in front of the house, on the lone, sunset I guess, water sparkling, they have a hug, it all happens in a distance, and their shapes over lapse the shape of a tree in the background. The camera is quite frontal. There are no diagonals, no perspective, lines aren`t going anywhere, it`s quite a bidimensional representation. This is just after they decide they will go to Paris. Did you choose this framing to induce the fact that they won't go anywhere?
Franck`s first appearance to the office, he comes from the background, left side of the frame, he is small. We find out he does not like his job... The second time he appears to the office with his big news, he is still left of the frame, much closer this time, but he does not own the frame, he is not in the middle. He is enthusiastic, he pushes the camera, but it is not in the center, once again all that space the other side.
Was wide screen more convenient for this film to enhance the dramatic relationship between characters by putting more space between them, by trapping them inside the frame? The bigger the frame, the bigger the trap?
There is a painter Roger mentions that he likes. I didn’t catch the name. Edward Boon?
I think it's Edvard Munch
Yes, Edvard Munch. Wonderful paintings!
RM I was specifically referring to a very specific way of framing that disrupts the viewer's experience. For instance, imagine a close up of someone framed to the right and looking right and cut that image with another character framed on the left and looking left out of frame. I would call that disruptive. That kind of dynamic framing and cutting pattern is hard to pull off in an intimate scene whatever the format but, certainly more difficult in widescreen simply because the viewer's eyes are stretched from the extreme on one side to the extreme on the other.
Yes, on 'Rev. Road' we were deliberately using framing and focus to express the story in a visual way but we would have done that whatever the format. You do have a more dramatic frame to play with in 2:40 but that also means you need to be more careful, especially when shooting something that is more intimate, not to distract.
There are any number of widescreen films shot in a more formal and symmetrical style, such as 'Kundun' and others, such as 'The Lighthouse', which have quite formal compositions and use a squarer frame. When you compose by centering your subject in the frame the eye has far less distance to travel from cut to cut, whatever the format.
Thank you for the insight. This is great!
I still have a very precise curiosity regarding this just one scene, it has only 3 cuts. April sits on the stairs of the house; Franck arrives with the car. The kids play in the sun light, they are overexposed, as if to take out their reality, the screen is also cut in two by that tree in the middle of the frame. It is almost like a split screen. April runs in the frame, she is huge, she covers Franck entirely, Franck is small. The last frame with April and Franck, another vertical behind separates them. They kiss and Franck sits perfectly on that tree`s shape. Does it work like an edge, witch character with his side of the frame? Did you also choose not to show their feet on the ground, I mean they just came with an improbable plan, so they lost the grip on reality, and their real issues, oh well...
I am not going to interpret too much, or talk about Freud, childhood problems, mother issues and so on... Frank depicted as a boy, Leo how plays this character, he looks ageless in a way, young, boyish. I am maybe losing it, but still.
It seems to me that almost all the themes of the movie are to be found here, translated visually.
I apologize if I am too specific and maybe wrong, but it would mean a lot to me to know it, either way.
To be honest, I can't remember. I know we deliberately cut the frame at times and the relationship between the characters in the frame was important to us, but that is all I can say.
But sometimes, you look at it, your looking changes it...The more you look the less you know.
I wish I had questions about gels, but they are just gels, or about color, but is just a color. If I don`t do this detective forensics job I don't see the point. This would be great on a crime scene if only the dead guy could speak, you would ask him who shot him, that would be to simple, i know... I thought I`ll give it a try anyway. I got the frames, I think I have a strong case here.
Right! The more you look the less you know! And that cat!
I guess you have to be a teef and steal from the best and not get got. I`ll look for that cat.
Now I think you are overthinking! The cat I referred to was Schrodinger's cat, which could be alive or dead up until the point you look at it.