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The Fastest Cut: Furious Film Editing

On 14, Jan 2016 | 2 Comments | In Average Shot Length, Cinematography, Editing | By vashi



The Fastest Cut



The average film has around 1250 individual shots. Action films and Blockbusters often have more than 3000 individual shots. This can be attributed to the ongoing trend of Chaos Cinema and the tendency to create false pace and momentum by simply cutting so frequently that it constantly bombards the viewer with new shots and information. This can become overwhelming and it creates a disconnected and jumbled viewing experience that assaults the audience. The frenetic pace exists but the audience can become exhausted as the eye and brain try to make sense of the imagery.


6 extremely quick cut films

6 extremely quick cut films


My most popular post of 2015 was MAD MAX: CENTER FRAMED which explained the cinematography and editing techniques used in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. Even though it had roughly 3000 individual shots, the action and story is comprehensible and digestible while still viscerally effective. Fast editing and ASLs (Average Shot Length) of around 2 seconds does not have to be a visual debris tornado that hammers the viewer. Properly planned shots and diligent editing can result in an energetic AND quickly paced film that tells a coherent story.






To make this point even more evident…I have compiled 5 films that average 2 seconds per shot and average 3000 shots per film. They are being played back in their entirety at 12X speed. The resulting video is 10 minutes long. Only one of these films remains comprehensible at this speed. You don’t have to watch the whole video…feel free to scroll through and view different sections and compare the films. You will see that the painstaking craftsmanship of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD survives the massive speed up.

Enjoy the video:



This bird’s eye view at high speed is something I often use as an editor to help judge the pacing and visual variety of my own work. By pushing the boundary of human information intake, it helps me spot trends, patterns and gives me an overall feeling of the visual mosaic I am creating at that moment. By speeding up the footage I can literally see WHERE in the frame the energy and emphasis exists and I use that information to my advantage.


Congratulations to editor Margaret Sixel on her 2016 Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing!


Until next time…


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The Visual Style of Wes Anderson

On 14, Nov 2015 | No Comments | In Cinematography | By vashi

Wes Anderson Visual Style



For more full film screen grabs covering the history of Cinema…

Visit FILM GRAB and enjoy!

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Star Wars

By vashi

Cinematic Sunset Scenes

On 07, Nov 2015 | One Comment | In Cinematography, Star Wars | By vashi


THX-1138 / Star Wars IV / Raiders of the Lost Ark /  Star Wars VII

THX-1138 / Star Wars IV / Raiders of the Ark / Star Wars VII (CLICK TO ENLARGE)


Sunsets in movies are often cinematic moments that can also signal some kind of change about to occur. When used as a storytelling device, they become more than just beautiful shots. They can become iconic moments. When combining character, story and visuals…the beauty and grandeur of a daily natural phenomenon enhances the narrative and makes the viewer FEEL the moment. Here are 4 cinematic sunsets that had a profound effect on me:

Read more…

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The Editing of MAD MAX: Fury Road

On 30, May 2015 | No Comments | In Cinematography, Editing, Production | By vashi

Film Editor Margaret Sixel was given over 480 hours of footage to create MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. The final edit ran 120 minutes and consisted of 2700 individual shots. That’s 2700 consecutive decisions that must flow smoothly and immerse the viewer. 2700 decisions that must guide and reveal the story in a clear and concise manner. One bad cut can ruin a moment, a scene or the whole film. No pressure!


Right in the middle of it

Mad Max center framed


The most popular editing tendency for action scenes and films over the last 10 years has been the “Chaos Cinema” approach. A barrage of non-congruent and seemingly random shots that overwhelm the viewer with a false sense of kinetic energy and power. It can be effective in smaller doses, but exhausting and confusing when absorbed for 2 hours. If the story is incomprehensible due to editing…you are doing it wrong. So how do you keep action scenes energetic and fresh without shaky cameras and hypersonic editing?  Read more…

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The Cinematography of IDA

On 15, Jan 2015 | No Comments | In Cinematography | By vashi

Sometimes the composition of a static frame can overwhelm you. The power of a carefully crafted image can be staggering.The Polish film IDA was just nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar by The Academy.

90% of the film is shot on a locked off tripod. With so many tools (dollies, sliders, cranes, drones, steadicams, Movis…) available to filmmakers, it is refreshing to experience a movie that chose so many exquisite and deliberate static frames to best tell the story.

Each new shot reveals something about the lead character. Emotions, state of mind and the story’s drama are expressed by the use of camera placement and lighting…not by spoken words. Do yourself a favor and track down this stunning film to experience the power of the static camera.


Here are 52 of my favorite shots from IDA (click image to enlarge)


52 static shots from IDA



Shot on Arri ALEXA in 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Zeiss Ultra Primes. In post production, the color footage was converted to black and white with Nucoda.

IDA recalls for me, the classic cinema of the 1940’s, evoking visual elements of both film noir and Italian Neo-realism.


3 minutes of IDA


DP Ryszard Lenczewski took 3000 photographs to previz and storyboard the film.



Lighting diagram of kitchen scene

Lighting diagram for kitchen scnes


Learn more about the cinematography of IDA from the DPs

Lukasz Zal & Ryszard Lenzewski HERE and HERE.


SOURCE: LENSCULTURE article written by Alexander Strecker


“Ida: Sketches” – photos by Ryszard Lenczewski

one of 3000 photographs used to previz and storyboard IDA




Ultimate Aspect Ratio Guide
The Cinematography of The Ipcress File (1965)


Until next time…


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By vashi

THE THING – Storyboards to Film Comparison

On 06, Jul 2014 | No Comments | In Cinematography | By vashi

John Carpenter’s THE THING is one of my favorite movies. The story, characters, score, location and practical visual effects are some of the most memorable in film history. In this classic horror film, there are several scenes that just DESTROYED me and left me cinematically scarred as a child. One scene in particular was so spectacular that just by saying ‘Chest-Teeth” or “Spider-Head” leaves people shaking their heads in disbelief and sighing loudly. The character of Palmer in the film sums it up nicely with…”You gotta be fuckin’ kidding.”


The Thing storyboard

The famous Spider-Head scene in The Thing


The visuals of both the desolate Antarctic and the ever-morphing alien creatures in THE THING were envisioned long before the movie was shot. Extensive storyboards were drawn by artist Michael Ploog and Mentor Huebner so that all the departments of the production were on the same page in their preparation for the shoot. This is nothing new…but the similarity between the storyboards and the final imagery shot by legendary DP Dean Cundey is staggering. Storyboards are often only a guide, but in this film they were so specifically rendered that they became gospel. The detail and artistry of Ploog’s work up front, allowed the crew to have clear and defined goals on those frigid shooting days in both Alaska and Canada. Read more…

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4K and Beyond – Video Data Rates

On 27, Jun 2014 | No Comments | In Cinematography, Low Budget Filmmaking, Production | By vashi

Today, Apple released a new video codec into the filmmaking post production world. It’s called ProRes 4444 XQ and it’s a mother-scratching beast.
At 4K (4096 x 2160) it registers 1697 Mbps which equals 764 GB/hour of 4K video footage. A single camera large Hollywood production can often shoot 100 hours of footage. That’s 76 TB of 4K ProRes 4444 XQ footage.

The upcoming David Fincher film GONE GIRL crept up on 500 hours of raw footage during its multi camera 6K RED Dragon production. That equates to roughly 315 TB of RED 6K (4:1) footage. Shit just got real for data management and post production workflows. It’s time to embrace the madness! Read more…



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By vashi

THE THING – Atmospheric Anamorphic

On 25, Jun 2014 | No Comments | In Cinematography | By vashi

John Carpenter’s THE THING came out 32 years ago today. It is an epic horror film that has stood the test of time and plays as well today as when it first screened in 1982. Beautifully shot in Anamorphic by Dean Cundey, it completely captures the claustrophobic environment that encased the scientists in their Antarctic station. What is not often discussed are the massive landscapes and perfectly composed wide shots that are sprinkled throughout the film.


The Thing - Atmospheric Anamorphic

John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982)


Most of the photo essays that pay tribute to THE THING focus on the amazing creature design by Rob Bottin that set new standards for practical effects. I want to focus on 44 of my favorite Anamorphic shots that are rarely remembered but immediately recognizable and indelible to creating the atmosphere and impact of the horror that terrorized the characters and the audience. Read more…

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The Cobra Shot

On 04, May 2014 | No Comments | In Cinematography, Raiders of the Lost Ark | By vashi

DPs Caleb Deschanel and Douglas Slocombe create magical moments.

The iconic cobra shot attributed to Raiders of the Lost Ark was first seen 2 years earlier in The Black Stallion. The two shots are almost identical in both framing and context to their respective stories…The Hero in Peril. Read more…

Splitting The Focus in De Palma’s ‘Blow Out’

On 11, Oct 2013 | 7 Comments | In Cinematography, Low Budget Filmmaking, Production | By vashi

Schneider Optics Split Focus Diopter

Schneider Optics Split Focus Diopter



A Split Focus Diopter is half convex glass that attaches in front of the camera’s main lens to make half the lens nearsighted. The lens can focus on a plane in the background and the diopter on a foreground element. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Brian De Palma championed the use of this tool to enhance the visual and emotional experience of his films.

The Split Diopter allows for Deep Focus cinematography but requires much less light. It also delivers a distinctive look that blends sharp and out-of-focus imagery all in one frame. Subjects in both foreground and background can be kept in focus. In the video below are all 15 Split Diopter shots from Brian De Palma’s film Blow Out (1981).

15 Diopter shots in De Palma's Blow Out

De Palma used the Split Diopter to enhance the drama in ‘Blow Out’

Read more…

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