Cinematography 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.
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 6th Street Bridge was built in 1932 by architect Merrill Butler and is currently the longest bridge (3500 feet) in Los Angeles. On January 27, 2016 it closed down and will be demolished in the upcoming weeks. The concrete has become unstable and for safety’s sake it must be rebuilt. The 6th Street Bridge has been an iconic staple in Los Angeles motion picture history and has been used in hundreds of productions.
The last chance for the public to cross the bridge occurred January 26th.
I had the pleasure of shooting a film on the bridge in 2010 and the visuals and angles of downtown Los Angeles make it evident why so many filmmakers have shot this location.
No more films will be shot on the historic bridge. We only have the imagery of films such as: Terminator 2, To Live and Die in L.A., The Mask, Drive, Point Blank, Grease and hundreds of others to remind us of this beautiful bridge.
Enjoy this video with my favorite films to feature the 6th Street Bridge.
Until next time…
Enjoy the experimental film 6 shot exclusively on and under the 6th Street Bridge before it was torn down.
This beautifully executed shot from Tinker Tailor Solider Spy by DP Hoyte van Hoytema was filmed with a 2000mm lens. This massive telephoto lens compresses the foreground and background so they appear to be very close together. The mile long runway allows the approaching plane to act as the agent of impending doom as a critical secret is revealed in the plot. The 2000mm lens keeps the actors and the plane at relatively the same size and adds incredible tension to the scene.
I don’t know exactly which lens was used…but here’s a Nikon 2000mm f11 lens from 1970 as an example.
It is 2 feet long and weights 39 pounds. This one sold for $32,777 on eBay.
Creating tension and dramatic moments in filmmaking can be accomplished in many different ways. Lens choice and cinematography are the tools used in this specific example. The take-away is to put some extra forethought into your own choices before you shoot…so on the day you can confidently create impactful shots, story points and dramatic moments.
Until next time…