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Old 03-09-2014, 03:05 PM   #54
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Default Re: The Empire Strikes Back Appreciation Thread

Originally Posted by sithgoblin View Post

Here are a series of establishing shots. Notice how the ESB shots (top) use the entire width of the frame and the expansiveness, given by the lens, to show the room and the scenery? Also take note of the colors as well. Compare this with the JEDI shots (bottom) which force the eye to focus only on what's in the center of the frame, thereby deadening the impact of the shot in of itself? You barely have time to notice the shuttle landed in the background because you're too busy concentrating on the poorly framed Han Solo and Rebel Soldiers marching on the bottom of the frame. Would it have been too much to ask to pump some smoke into that forest shot? Have some light-beams filtering through those trees? Of course that was the Director and DOP's decision, but it seems a shame to me to waste such a beauty shot. Again keep in mind that the ESB shots are also dynamic, MOVING shots, while the JEDI ones are locked-off and standing still.

Although these are two very different scenes that are shot under very different circumstances (so perhaps judging the lighting may be moot), the framing is still uniquely interesting. In short notice how the framing in the ESB screenshot (top) isolates Luke on the far right hand side and leaves a huge gap of nothingness on frame-left, heightening his isolation and his sense of helplessness. In the JEDI screenshot (below), the frame is crowded with tonnes of actors all standing in a neat row (a classic "Hollywood Group Shot" from the 40's and 50's). This scene is, of course, meant to be about Luke walking the plank, but the shot doesn't focus on his face where his emotions are being played. It's too wide and has even been compositioned "up" to include Chewbacca in the frame, even though he's irrelevant to that "moment" in the drama. Luke doesn't seem isolated or in danger, he looks like he's waiting to get on a bus. A little harsh? Maybe, but I certainly am not a fan of this kind of framing at all.
Originally Posted by sithgoblin View Post

So here's an interesting comparison. Notice the very subtle, but highly atmospheric lighting used to not only illuminate Luke and Yoda, but also the mist and treetrunks behind them. Note the eerie color and subtle, but effective use of shadows on Luke's face and the area surrounding them. Contrast that with the JEDI image below of Luke and Leia. Firstly I don't know WHY they're framed like that - i mean sure there's something way off in the distant background there, but I can't actually SEE what it is nor do I find it particularly interesting to boot. And whats with all that headspace above Luke and Leia's head? It's not balanced by similar space below, so again its squashing both characters into the edge of a relatively boring and not very well-lit frame. In the ESB Yoda scene (above), he is actually talking ABOUT his size and the Force "around them" so a shot that wide works well with the dialogue. But the Luke and Leia scene is nothing about their surroundings, its about their emotions and really ought to be a lot tighter on their faces and really emphasising Luke's turmoil and Leia's conflict.


There's loads more examples I could cite, but basically these are just some illustrations to show the difference between being "dynamic" in how you shoot your film and being "by the book". One way isn't actually harder than the other, in terms of the advice that I've been given, it's just that one way is what you'll always find in the film books while the other requires experimentation, vision and being willing to go that step further and have more patience with your shot construction.

Just like in storytelling, concepts and other aspects of production like acting, production design, art, wardrobe, makeup and everything else, cinematography is something that people only give a "certain amount of thought to" before dropping it and moving on. But what you do end up with is a filmmaking style that doesn't evolve, doesn't improve and, frankly, ends up looking like everyone else's. If you're not going willing to push yourself further in how you shoot a film your movie will end up looking like a costume drama, which is (in MY OPINION) exactly what "Return of the Jedi" looks like.

I would love to hear other people's feedback on these screenshots and also challenge my opinions on the cinematography of these movies and also how they apply to how they shoot their own films!

May The Force Be With You!

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