A Filmmaking Blog | VashiVisuals
I now triumphantly return with even more visual storytelling examples from Brian De Palma’s epic thriller DRESSED TO KILL:
To reiterate…the most effective use of this optical device is to emphasize a story point and for it not to be a visual gimmick. De Palma incorporated this technique across every film he directed and it is a staple of his visual style.
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Films shot in the Anamorphic process are instantly recognizable. They have a quality and resonance that other lenses can’t capture. Anamorphic films seem to capture an almost 3D quality onto film’s 2D medium. The process makes creative use of aberrations such as long horizontal lens flares, oval bokeh and highly curved corners that all add a sense of heightened reality.
Films are real but not necessarily reality…and the subconscious effect of Anamorphic lenses delivers an exaggerated look that is hard to replicate. This process is much more than just a wide aspect ratio..as demonstrated in The Ultimate Aspect Ratio Guide.
Films shot in the Anamorphic process include: Jaws, The Royal Tenenbaums, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard, The Parallax View and countless others. Getting your hands on Anamorphic lenses is very difficult for the low budget filmmaker…so I created my own After Effects project template that replicates the look and feel of the Anamorphic process. If you drop your footage into the timeline…you will have access to 3 options that help you achieve the magical look without resorting to additional adaptors or lenses. This workflow has been optimized for cameras that capture 16:9 footage and for lenses between 28mm to 35mm (Full frame equivalent).
The Anamorphic lens that I chose as the holy grail to emulate is the Panavision Primo 40mm Anamorphic. It was the ONLY lens used on Roman Polanski’s Chinatown and used 95% of the time on Wes Anderson’s films Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
When editing any project, there are moments when a visual effect can be applied to help the story be told. These effects can emphasize something to make it more evident, subtly isolate a certain element or blend several assets into one shot. Sometimes these effects are added only as eye candy to add production value to a project. Ideally, you are not adding visual effects to hide mistakes or to cover up deficiencies in the story…but this has been know to happen. (Guilty as charged!)
In 1992 Francis Ford Coppola filmed Bram Stoker’s DRACULA with no CGI or digital VFX. He fired his Visual Effects team that said the shots he wanted could not be accomplished without modern digital technology. He hired his son Roman Coppola (only 24 years old at the time) and together they shot all the visual effects with either in-camera and on practical sets. The relied upon tried and true techniques that went back to the birth of cinema. The results were beautiful, organic and surreal while using every trick from the previous 100 years of filmmaking. What could have been done digitally was instead created practically by skilled craftsmen that are slowly becoming obsolete in Hollywood.
I hope that day never fully arrives.
Here are the practical techniques used to create the visual effects:
David Fincher is known for his creative and visually ground-breaking title sequences.
From the frenetic and kinetic jagged cuts of SE7EN to the CGI extravaganza of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO to the North by Northwest inspired large static font in PANIC ROOM.
The Title Sequence is a chance for the filmmaker to set the tone and prepare the audience for the world they are about to enter.
In Fincher’s new NETFLIX show MINDHUNTER…the use of subliminal edits is used to cue the viewers to the violent world of serial killers.
As a filmmaker, I always want to challenge myself both creatively and technically. I pursue projects that can stimulate me on several levels. If I am going to commit a year of my life to a feature film…it is crucial that I walk away with new skills, a successful storytelling experience and a lot of fun in the trenches with my team.
When I was asked by director Scotty Waugh to edit 6 BELOW…all my personal and professional requirements were met. All the checkboxes were ticked. The true story of Eric LeMarque, a professional hockey player, that went snowboarding and got trapped in a snowstorm on an isolated mountain for 8 days was riveting.
As fate would have it, Scotty didn’t know I knew Eric LeMarque when he asked me to edit the film. He didn’t know that Eric and I both played professional hockey together 15 years earlier. That only added to the immense sense of responsibility I had to deal with in telling his true story in the best manner possible. The conflict of editor versus friend.
Then Scotty dropped a couple huge technical bombs on me. 6 BELOW would be the first entire feature film in the history of Hollywood to be presented in the Barco Escape format. The 7:1 aspect ratio is the widest of any format in 100 years. Three 2K DCPs are projected in sync onto 3 full-sized movie screens to create an incredibly immersive viewing experience.
On top of that, we also had to deliver a 2.76:1 aspect ratio (same as the 70mm version of “The Hateful Eight”) theatrical version for traditional one-screen theaters. That meant two complete separate feature film edits to accommodate for the different framings of each format.
After all that…there was one more surprise that Scotty had waiting for me…
I spent 10 months editing 6 BELOW and you only need 97 minutes to enjoy it!
It’s in theaters October 12th and available to stream in HD on October 13th.
I will be posting a breakdown of how I created the first ever 6K Native workflow for a Hollywood feature film here on my blog October 14th.
Until then, here’s a some background on the true story of 6 BELOW…
When a snowstorm strands former professional hockey player Eric LeMarque atop the Sierra Nevada Mountains for eight days, he is forced to face his past and come to terms with his personal demons in order to survive.
My mom handed me her Nikon F2 camera when I was 4-years old and I proceeded to snap some blurry photos of my foot and the wall. I was hooked. A contraption that captured the moment. 40 years later I’m still snapping blurry shots but now on purpose.
Recently I purchased a 5-pack of expired Fuji Velvia 100 35mm color slide film for a trip to Montana. I took a Nikon FE and FE2 film cameras with me and a battered Nikon 43-86mm f3.5 (first version) lens known for its distinct and extreme flares. I ended up shooting only Kodak Portra 400 and Tri-X up there but did go through X-ray security with my film.
On my return to Los Angeles, I shot the Velvia 100 in Culver City and the last couple shots in Palm Springs. The exposed film then sat in my car for a week as the temperature was 120 degrees in the desert. I then send the film to The Dark Room in San Clemente for developing. What I got back blew my mind. These are the untouched scans I received from the lab…
Usually I love to add the distressed, grainy and damaged looks in post to my photography as I’m trying to express a feeling and mood as opposed to worrying about sharpness or focus. This first roll of Velvia went through serious torture before it was developed. I’ve reached out to several professional photographers to ask what could be the cause of the beautiful damage. It’s been narrowed down to but not limited to: expired film, overheated exposed film, x-rays, dirty lens, mold, spores, humidity and dumb luck. Here’s a closer look at some of the shots from roll #1. These are untouched scans with no color correction: