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The emotional Steadicamshot


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#1 Nils Valkenborgh

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 04:42 PM

Hi guys,

Kind of an open question topic.

On my last job I came across a shot I had to do of a couple fighting and as soon as they're done, the girl leaves, instead of filming it straight on and travelling backwards in a straight line with the girl in the middle, I made a slight over-shoulder towards the girl (on the left of the frame) to make her the strongest presence in frame. But as soon as she walked away, I arced across her path to put her on the right side facing the frame, giving her practically no lead-space, thus making her weak from a framing point of view (still keeping the guy in the background in frame). The guy then chases her down to stop her, he's got the bigger lead space now and in the story his character gets a stronger persona. This reminded me of the shot Jerry explained in Carlito's way, how Pacino is able to change his emotions with "simple" framing adjustments as an actor towards the operator.

The director I was working with gave me free play concerning the choreography and this was always something I wanted to try. I'm going to try to incorporate these kind of shots more in future jobs, it's so much fun thinking about the psychological and emotional impact a shot can have once you can put aside thinking about the pure mechanical know-how (how to use the rig, balance, force,....)

The question I wanted to ask towards the forum was: "What was the moment for you that made you delve into the emotion of the shot rather than the technical precision? In other words, going beyond the visual side of the image in order to tell the story from a psychological point of view?"

Greetings

Nils
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#2 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 06:17 PM

Nils, I have always thought that any cinematographer should have a vast and heavy background in photography and art. I'm glad you are now able to aesthetically compose your shots with an emphasis on character and story. So many times, we (operators) are regarded as the 'monkeys' that just point the camera, which is more true in the the comedy realm than in the dramatic genre. If anything, for me the technical and logistics are the major distractions on most projects. By this I mean a director that is more worried if it will work in editing and needing to achieve coverage by the numbers to give the editor options, rather than planing elaborate and thought out camera movement. How many times have we seen our steadicam shots chopped to hell?

I made a slight over-shoulder towards the girl (on the left of the frame) to make her the strongest presence in frame

Are you referring to a quarter (between flat on and half-profile) or three-quarter (between half-profile and profile) profile shot with the girl on the left-side of frame looking left of camera? The psyche behind your feeling of the prominent character on the left-side of the frame is that our eyes scan from left-to-right in a top-to-bottom path, just as we read. I guess that would change if you're traditionally educated Japanese and that would be a top-to-bottom in a right-to-left path.


I arced across her path to put her on the right side facing the frame, giving her practically no lead-space


This sounds like a great transition and play on the characters current emotions. The "Negative Space" your giving her certainly adds to what you were hoping to say about the character. The fact that you slammed her up against the right-side of frame also adds a small amount of tension. Again, for the Japanese viewer, that would add even more tension.

On that note, I have a good friend that has all the "theory" behind filmmaking and teaches this "school of thought." Nothing beats the gut of a real artist... its good to know the theory of what we feel, but never let it take over you instinct.

-Alfeo


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#3 Nils Valkenborgh

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 02:31 PM

Are you referring to a quarter (between flat on and half-profile) or three-quarter (between half-profile and profile) profile shot with the girl on the left-side of frame looking left of camera?


I was referring to a quarter profile shot of the girl looking towards the right side of the frame, keeping the western way we read images in the back of my head (left to right)

Thanks a lot for the helpful reply, I won't let the theory take over my instinct but I think it's good to have something to support your motives and actions while operating.

cheers

Nils
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#4 Janice Arthur

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 07:09 AM

Nils;

Your original post asked, I think, when you start to think about the larger perspective of story telling.

I can tell you very simply.

It is when you can do it! Early in your days you are still working on headroom, and keeping the actors in the picture, and understanding the director, putting up with the other work, having the back strength etc. You are just happy doing that. Once you get a handle on precision, and all of the above then your brain can start to work on the "higher level" story telling.

If you get good enough you can do that.

(If that were Carlitos Way shot were the final test shot at a workshop, everyone would fail to some degree because they're simply not at that level of control yet. That's why.)

Have fun.

JA
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#5 Timothy Dolan

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 03:14 PM

It sounds like a really cool shot. No one can really teach you how to think that way, and its awesome that you learned how to do that to make yourself a better operator! I was wondering if you had any video of it so I can visually see and learn what you did?
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#6 Nils Valkenborgh

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 07:52 AM

It was the first job I did after the workshop and it felt like a moment where everything I learned at the workshop really came together. Sadly however, I still haven't received the uncut shot back from the director and the music video still hasn't been released.

I ordered the blacmagic hyperdeck shuttle, that way I can always have material for my showreel (which is almost finished)

As soon as my reel's done I'll post it on the forum.
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