by V Renée | Source: NoFilmSchool
A cinematographer expresses his or her vision, and/or that of the director, through the art of composition — the selection and arrangement of elements. This video essay by Press Play not only compares the arrangement of early and contemporary films, but explains the fundamentals of what makes up a composition as well.
In its early years, cinema was essentially as its etymology described it: written movement. The writing, done by exposing light onto celluloid film, and the movement, an illusion called the phi phenomenon, are the most basic components of cinematography, but as filmmakers furthered the art form, films became less focused on simply capturing moments as they unfolded before them (a train pulling into a station, workers leaving a factory), and more so on creating moments by using cinematography to tell stories visually.
As you saw in the video essay, elements like size, shape, color, and many other concepts of aesthetics, can change the way the audience reacts to a scene in your film. Of course, there are many, many questions you might want to ask yourself before arranging a shot, (“What shot size should I use? How many characters do I want in this shot? What size will the background, middleground, and foreground elements be?”), but there are many, many questions you might want to ask yourself before you ever pick up a camera, too, like, “How does a human’s emotional and psychological response to a spherical object compare to that of a rectangular one? What elements produce the most/least aesthetic energy? How do vertices work to guide the viewers eye along a composition?”
These answers probably deserve their very own post, since they form the very foundation of aesthetic theory — something upon which the best cinematographers set their own artistic sensibilities. And don’t get me wrong, not everyone responds to elements the same exact way; for instance, some people, when asked to attribute a color to “royalty” or “regality,” say blue, while others say purple. However, for the most part, human beings seem to generally respond to these aesthetic elements in similar, if not identical ways. After all, art is a mixture of science and imagination: a little bit of earth, a little bit of sky — Leonardo da Vinci and Fibonacci both making Mona Lisa smile.
by Rainer Maria Rilke
His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.
As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.
Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly—. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.
“ If your parents ever measured you as a child, they had you stand against a wall, and made a little pencil mark on the wall to show your growth. They did not measure you against your brother, or the neighbor’s kids, or the kids on TV. When you measure your growth, make sure to only measure your today self by your past self. If you compare your relationships, your success, or anything against anyone else, you are not being fair to you. Everyone has a different path, a different pace, and different challenges to face along the way.”
Ramadan Mubarak everyone, and may this month bring you countless blessings to you and your loved ones!
We live in an age where a 6-year-old with a laptop and a copy of iMovie can edit some footage together. Editing software is abundant and as easy to use as it has ever been, and the masses are using these tools to flood the internet with copious amounts of video content. But most of us can agree that simply being able to make edits does not necessarily make a person an editor, at least in the sense of the editing being a creative art form. However, it’s sometimes not clear what exactly an experienced editor can do, and what impact they can have on the final product of a film. Inside the Edit, a brand new online editing course, has put together a short video that demystifies the complexity of an editor’s job.
Many people who are just learning to edit should take note of the many points of this video. Editing is far more than simply taking the footage and slapping it together for continuity. Editing is the final revision of the script. It creates structure and form from an otherwise structureless mass of media. It creates a rhythm that an audience can subconsciously see and feel. Editing can create tension and release it. It can cause laughter or take it away in a heartbeat. Editing can be used to inform and audience, or deceive them.
And that, my friends, is what an experienced editor does on a day in and day out basis. That’s why it’s incredibly important for editors to be incredible storytellers above all else. It’s a job that requires a decent amount of technical knowledge, but the editor’s artistic impact on the final product is far too important for it to be considered a singularly technical job.
What are your thoughts on this video? Let us know down in the comments!
I stumbled across these valuable tips for buying DSLR second-hand lenses by Karl Taylor. Worth the watch!
Everyone teaches the technical, no one teaches the creative.
There’s always a few things we should ask ourselves before starting to build our sync pulls. Inside The Edit analyses these important pre-constructive questions. One of 80 creative editing tutorials at http://insidetheedit.com
“My first observations positively terrified me as there was present in them something mysterious, not to say supernatural, and I was alone in my laboratory at night.”
― Nikola Tesla, 1901
“The sounds I am listening to every night at first appear to be human voices conversing back and forth in a language I cannot understand. I find it difficult to imagine that I am actually hearing real voices from people not of this planet. There must be a more simple explanation that has so far eluded me.”
― Nikola Tesla, 1918
Included as a bonus feature in the Special Edition DVD of Cuarón’s 2006 masterpiece (and one of my favorite films of all time) Children or Men, “The Possibility of Hope” explores urgent matters of our world such as immigration, global warming and capitalism through the eyes of scientists and philosophers.
written by one of my heroes, James Nachtwey, for the introduction to Humanity in War: from the mid-19th century to the conflicts of today
It’s been said that one picture is worth a thousand words. For a photographer, the saying can be reversed: one word is sometimes worth a thousand pictures. “Genocide”, “famine”, “war”, “epidemic”: words like these have brought about the creation of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and dozens of other humanitarian or organizations, have inspired photographers to take risks and endure hardships. Although it has not always been regarded like this, the fact is that documentary photography and humanitarian work exist symbiotically: one of the primary functions of photography is to complement and support the work of humanitarian agencies.
Photographs documenting the work of the ICRC constitute a visual archive of human suffering from the late 19th century to the present. It can sometimes seem that humanity has been living through a serial nightmare. When one looks back, it’s difficult to accept the necessity of the wholesale slaughter of trench warfare, the cruel internment of millions based solely on their religious background, the use of poison gas to facilitate industrialized extermination of men, women and children, the use of starvation as a weapon of mass destruction, cluster bombs and white phosphorous and landmines, ideological barriers to freedom, deportation, slavery, torture, the organized destruction of an entire tribe using farm implements as weapons. Why do we continually resort to such methods? Why can’t we find better ways to solve our differences? Asking these questions seems as futile as the requirement that we keep asking them. Until we have found satisfactory answers, the best we can do is to try to alleviate the epic suffering endured by millions of people at present. That realization is the basis for humanitarian action, and the ICRC has consistently been in the vanguard.
From 1981 to the present day, as a war photographer and as a documentalist of critical social issues, I have witnessed at first hand the catastrophes depicted in the last three chapters of this book. The pictures telescope my recollections. I see pictures of events I also photographed. Zooming in, I see the exact same place I once photographed, then the same place I photographed on what appears to be the exact same day, and finally one of my own pictures. Zooming back out again, it’s disturbing to see – in photographs taken long before my time, of a place I once photographed – evidence that the situation was no different in the past. Widen the lens of history and you see many different places, but many similar images: the scattered dead, skeletal figures, eyes shining with horror and a trace of desperate hope, columns of refugees, destroyed cities and villages, rows of the sick, mass graves, shackles and chains, crying children, grieving mothers. This raises more, perhaps unanswerable, questions about the nature of human progress.
One of the few things that allows one to take heart is that these photographs also show people coming to the aid of those who are suffering. These people have left their homes, risked lives and limbs, overcome extraordinary obstacles. They have not given up. It’s easy to relinquish hope, especially if you’re only an observer. But it’s too easy, even fashionable among some circles. Giving up never helped anyone. Irony never saved a life.
Often, the worst circumstances can bring out the best in people. I’ve witnessed some of the most calamitous events and injustices of our time, and over and over again, I’ve been humbled by the dignity and grace, the courage and the generosity of those who suffered the most. I’ve seen people who had literally nothing left – their villages destroyed, families gone, sometimes starving, sometimes with not even a shirt on their backs– and yet they continued to struggle on. They continued to hope. And if they didn’t lose hope, how can anyone in the rest of the world ever dream of giving up?
The ICRC’s delegates, and those from other humanitarian organizations, share the same hope as the people they’re helping, and they act on it, despite the hardships they endure and the risks they face. When I look at the pictures in this book, I can’t help but think how much worse things would have been if they hadn’t been there.
The relationship between the ICRC and photographers has often been an uneasy one. I can remember occasions when a request for access to a certain situation, or for information that might help point my work in the right direction, was coldly refused or received with thinly disguised hostility, as if photography would have somehow corrupted or diminished or endangered the work of the ICRC, rather than supported it. I remember being puzzled by this attitude, and wondering why an organization dedicated to reforming unacceptable conditions would consciously block the efforts of a photographer whose work was committed to exactly the same goal.
There also seemed to be a sense that photographing a suffering person was, by definition, a form of exploitation, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. There seemed to exist the proprietary notion that only the efforts of a humanitarian organization could possibly be of any benefit, as if creating mass awareness and mobilizing public opinion was without value.
Humanitarian organizations have a mandate to help those in need. They treat diseases, supply food and water and shelter. Their assistance is immediate and essential. Photographers don’t provide the same kind of relief, except in the rare situation when no one else is in a position to help. At times such as those, it’s incumbent on a photographer to put down the camera and step in. However, documentary photographers do provide a fundamental service: they inform, or educate, a mass audience in order to reform the conditions that are responsible for the suffering of large numbers of people.
Photographs are not cold documents that merely prove something happened. They put a human face on events that might otherwise appear to be abstract or ideological, a matter of statistics or monumental in their global impact. No matter how overwhelming an event, what happens to people at ground level happens to them individually, and photography has a unique ability to portray events from their point of view. Photography gives a voice to the voiceless. It’s a call to action.
When people are suffering, it doesn’t mean they are without dignity. When people are afraid, it doesn’t mean they lack courage. When people are in pain, it does not mean they have no hope. It’s very difficult to witness suffering, even more so when you have to concentrate on it in order to make an effective photograph. What an honest, sensitive and conscientious photographer would work very hard to perceive and to capture is that moment when all of those things coexist. Whatever else one might see or feel when looking at a picture of human suffering – outrage, sadness, disbelief – I think an essential reaction is a sense of compassion. Compassion humanizes issues, helps us identify with others, and requires us to correct that which is unacceptable.
With the famine in Somalia in 1992, the adversarial attitude that had often characterized the relationship between the ICRC and photographers changed dramatically. There were two reasons for that. First, there was no central authority to impose conditions on humanitarian organizations. Second, it was clear that when pictures were published, aid and funding were mobilized. For the first time in my experience, the ICRC actually welcomed photographers and assigned a press officer to facilitate their work. It had finally become accepted that photography was useful and in harmony with the goals of the ICRC.
The courage and steadfastness of the ICRC was severely tested in Somalia. Society had come off the rails, and chaos ruled. To work there, armed mercenaries, known as “technicals”, had to be hired to provide basic security. But sometimes these gunmen turned their weapons on their employers. Food shipments were hijacked, delegates were continually threatened and sometimes killed. The ICRC stayed the course and tens of thousands of lives were saved.
During the civil war that followed the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Afghanistan, the ICRC was again put to the test. The situation on the ground became untenable and every international humanitarian organization – except the ICRC – left the country. Once again, photographers who were committed and daring enough to go to Afghanistan were given assistance. They were briefed on the situation and on logistics. These briefings were extremely helpful in understanding what was happening. It was permissible to photograph ICRC projects, and the pictures not only helped tell the story of Afghanistan, but succeeded in promoting humanitarian efforts.
Photographers are many things – historians, dramatists, artists – and humanitarians. As journalists, one of their tasks is to reveal the unjust and the unacceptable, so that their images become an element in the process of change. In this way, photography is an important complement to the work of humanitarian organizations.
Through the experience of covering wars, I’ve come to realize that nothing in society exists in a vacuum, that solutions begin with shared awareness, that consciousness evolves into a sense of conscience, and that once our collective conscience becomes engaged, solutions – though they may take time and resources and a lot of hard work – become not only possible but inevitable.
From Daniel Quiles, Chicago (Source)
After a screening of the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man,” I heard some of my fellow moviegoers lamenting the film’s portrayal of suburban Minnesotan Jews circa 1967. This is a concern echoed by, among others, Ella Taylor at The Village Voice: that the grotesqueries on hand somehow amount to “Ugly Jew” stereotypes. I would have to disagree with these assessments. As a Jew who grew up in suburban New Jersey, I found the portrayal of middle-class ethnic self-enclosure here hilariously familiar, warts and all. In the character of the protagonist’s son, Danny Gopnik, I saw a gesture in the vein of Fellini’s Amarcord: a dreamlike reflection on the filmmakers’ childhoods in which certain features of a milieu are exaggerated or defamiliarized, but lovingly so. This dimension of recollection is set alongside a structure that should be familiar to any follower of the Coen Brothers’ best films: a naïve or innocent character (think Marge from “Fargo”) is brought face to face with inexplicable acts of human cruelty. And it is precisely this signature approach that I have realized I have a problem with.
It is true that, as some have remarked, Larry Gopnik undergoes a Job-like series of hardships that send his life into a downward spiral. He has done nothing to deserve them, so it is as though a merciless and/or sadistic God (the directors?) is merrily dispensing them. But look again. These misfortunes—his wife leaving him for another man, his student bribing and threatening him, his brother and children stealing his hard-earned money—are caused by other people. Larry’s reaction throughout is the wrong one. He is perplexed that such awful things “are happening,” but cannot even bear to ask the real question: why are these people doing this to him? The quandary only appears to be about God and what chance events might befall us—the real issue is quite terrestrial, and far more sinister—why do those who are supposed to love us, those family members or neighbors who should treat us ethically, sometimes perpetrate evil toward us?
This theme is hinted at not in the movie’s endless references to Jewish theology but in the Jefferson Airplane song that the oldest rabbi, Marshak, quotes toward the end of the film: “When the truth is found / to be lies / and all the joy within you/ dies / don’t you want somebody to love?” Larry’s truth—that he has led a moral life and done nothing to hurt anyone—is revealed as a “lie” insofar as such a life does not shield one from the cruelty of others. As in David Lynch’s films, which Dennis Hopper has termed “American Surrealism,” the suburbs emerge as a place in which nightmarish violence takes place beneath a veneer of peace and manners. Sy, the monster who steals Larry’s wife and turns out to be writing vicious letters about him to the tenure board, always welcomes him with a gentle hug. A racist device from “Fargo” — the Asian character who defies our expectations to overachieve and is instead revealed as incompetent and deceitful — is reprised in “A Serious Man” just to reinforce this point: behind appearances, the violence. But why?
It is this ineffability of evil—the bottom line of “Fargo” and “No Country for Old Men” also—that I have a problem with. The Coen Brothers seem to be arguing that selfishness and cruelty, what we could call “anti-love,” cannot be explained: they are evidence of an amoral and ravaging God in our midst. The psychopathic killers in these earlier movies are driven by a primordial violence, like the killer-for-hire in “Raising Arizona” or the bully who chases Danny on a daily basis in “A Serious Man.” The latter’s face is only seen in the apocalyptic final seconds; he looks like a zombie, devoid of compassion or humanity.
Is this not, however, a mystification of horrible acts? Is evil really some sublime category or blind spot that we cannot look in the face for fear of divine retribution? Is it really true that we have no answers, and that those whose job it is to provide them must only respond with obtuse parables?
This film made me feel for Michael Moore, the artless explainer. Where is the room for those monstrous deeds—and we have seen our share in the past decade—for which there is an explanation? And wouldn’t it be all the more scandalous, and horrifying, to realize that most such deeds do, in fact, have causes; that the “little bit of money” that Marge dismisses as motivation in “Fargo” is, for most, more than enough reason?