Production Archives - Blog
Quentin Tarantino has a long history of using SPLIT DIOPTER shots in:
- Reservoir Dogs
- Pulp Fiction
- Jackie Brown
- THE HATEFUL EIGHT
This time around with the help of legendary DP Robert Richardson they have accomplished the shots in the Ultra Panavision 70 format. It is technically a 65mm film format that is projected in 70mm and it is one of the largest film formats available. IMAX is larger but it lacks the super-wide 2.76:1 aspect ratio of Ultra Panavision 70.
The cinematic film look is a mysterious and multi-layered aesthetic. Lighting, set design, costumes, camera and lens choice all factor in to try and achieve the elusive final effect.
Once you’ve finished shooting your footage on the set, only imagery can be manipulated. I have always tried to find creative solutions to technical challenges and to create presets and templates for myself that will give me the final aesthetic that I see in my head.
As an editor and colorist, I can create looks that focus on improving the captured image no matter what camera it was shot with. I previously released the VashiMorphic40 template which replicates the look of the Panavision 40mm anamorphic lens. Since it works exclusively within After Effects, I decided to make a new Premiere Pro Preset package that is resolution independent and offers real-time playback inside Premiere Pro.
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.
Download Template (.zip file)
Download Template – 4K Version (.zip file)
Download Template – After Effects CS5.5 Version (.zip file)
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.
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:
His second feature film as a director was The American starring George Clooney. The story of an assassin hiding out in Italy for one last assignment is the short version of a much more layered tale.
Corbijn chose to use epic wide shots to help balance the internal conflict of the lead character and at the same time show his place in the greater scheme of things as microscopic. One of my favorite cuts as a film editor is to go from a close up to a majestic wide shot. It signals a change. Often it is a dramatic change of thought / point of view / location or story point. When done purely through visual means it creates a moment so that you can absorb what just occurred and prepare you for what may yet come.
Corbijn uses wide shots as connective tissue to bridge scenes but to also release tension and remind the audience of the beauty of the Italian locations. Here are all his massive vista wide shots in chronological order:
Until next time…
In more and more prestige TV series, an odd aspect ratio is popping up on some of the most popular and well-reviewed shows.
The 2.00:1 aspect ratio has stealthily wormed its way into our viewing experiences without any of us knowing it.
Here’s how and why it was created.
Technically, the first use of the 2.00:1 aspect ratio was in the RKO SUPERSCOPE format for the 1954 production of VERA CRUZ.
A Split Focus Diopter is a half convex piece of glass that attaches to the front of a camera’s main lens to make half the lens nearsighted. This lens can focus on a plane in the background and on a foreground element at the same time. To effectively apply this cinematographer’s tool a filmmaker has to plan out each shot so that both the foreground and background elements will be in focus.
The Spilt Focus Diopter creates a hyper-real visual effect that logically shouldn’t happen but somehow it magically delivers a striking and visceral image that resonates in the mind of the viewer.
SPLIT DIOPTER shots are most often attributed to Brian De Palma but director Robert Wise incorporated them into many of his films as a visual style and storytelling device, often using them more than 100 times in one film.
His split diopter shots became an integral part of the story and not just a stand-alone visual trick. In THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, Robert Wise used 206 split diopter shots…the most in any feature film I’ve researched.
Robert Wise edited Citizen Kane. That alone is most impressive. He then went on to direct: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Run Silent Run Deep, West Side Story, The Haunting, The Sound of Music, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and 35 other feature films. On THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, Wise teamed up again with DP Richard H. Kline, one his favorite cinematographers. They went on to film Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 which had over 100 split diopter shots as well.
The Shooting Ratio in filmmaking and television production is the ratio between the total duration of its footage created for possible use in a project and that which appears in its final cut. In the Golden Age of Hollywood (1930-1959), it was normal to have a 10:1 ratio. A 90 minute feature film would have have shot roughly 25 hours of film. Certain directors like Alfred Hitchcock were known to have a 3:1 ratio so he could control the edit by leaving the studio no other options.
The shooting ratio has skyrocketed over the last 20 years. Due to the relative inexpensive nature of digital filmmaking, cameras often shoot for extended periods that cover several takes, resets and everything in-between. Film has always been associated with a more disciplined style of shooting with the camera rolling only between “Action” and “Cut”…well technically between “Speed” and “Cut”!
I have edited 9 feature films over the last 15 years and I can attest to the fact of getting more and more footage into the edit bay on every project. Here’s an infographic that compares 8 films shot over the last 35 years to give you an idea of the actual numbers and ratios.
Until next time…