Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Camera terms: Profile

Profile; a shot in which the camera is positioned so that only the side of a subject can bee seen. This type of framing does seem to get a good deal of use especially in visually describing a couple interacting as in movie posters that feature a love interest.
This is true also in films as seen in "The Princess Bride" 1987. Ah love..."Is this a kissing book?"
But profiles are also used to portray two subjects at odds with each other. Like Prince John and Sir Guy from "The Adventures of Robin hood" (1938) See how they are not seeing 'eye to eye'?
Or in this shot from "The Fall" (2006).  Clearly the guy on the left doesn't like the guy on the right.  The cinematography in this film is amazing!!  Every shot is beautiful! But if you're not into that, the car alone is worth the view.  It gets pretty rough at the end, there so consider yourself warned.
Profiles are used to show two armies clashing together in battle as well.  Ever since 2001's "Lord of the Ring; Fellowship of the Ring" it seems that whenever there is a battle of armies in a movie, the profile is (yawn) go to choice for this kind of thing. It's effective but it's getting pretty stale.  Guaranteed, if a movie has two armies in it now and they fight of screen, you'll see this setup even in the trailer which will usually have some VO then pull out the sound just before the two armies collide and as soon as they do, it will cut. Formula, woot!
Profiles also help to set up what a person is thinking.  In the case of "Hunt For Red October" (1990) we end the film with a series of profiles to suggest the great submarine commander, Ramius, wonders what to do with his new life as he leaves the old one behind. That so called "far away look".
Profiles are great for covering space quickly such as in "Run Lola Run" (1998),
Or in "Cars" (2006).  Okay - sorry, my kids watched this movie all the time and despite my dislike for the storyline and characters, the compositions are wonderful!
But the best use of profiles in visual media are to describe a character's hidden agenda.  They may speak and agree with another but have something else on their mind or may know something the other character or the audience doesn't. "I'm smarter than you!" says the detective to Verbal in "Usual Suspects" (1995).  I am not going to give this one away, but Verbal may know something Agent Kujan doesn't.
Use a profile when it's necessary, not when it easy. I see a lot of profiles which shouldn't have been profiles, rather 3/4s.  Profiles tend to break the eye line or line of action is they get used to much.

TRY THIS: The next time someone asks you a question, speak to them only so that they see your profile.  They will think you're dodging them, or are hiding something. Like this:
"Who was that on the phone?"
"Nobody" (in profile)
"What? Who was it really?"
"Nobody, really...wrong number..." (stay in profile)
See the power of profiles now? Use them sparingly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Camera Terms: Three Quarter 3/4

Three quarter (3/4) shot is a composition created from positioning the camera off of center to favor one side of a subject.  This is a very common setup because of its natural feel.  Used in almost every conversational situation, it reflects how we typically see the world.  Not in frontal, not in profile but comfortably with a sense of space.  Think you need to use a frontal or profile? I doubt it.  In fact if a whole movie (Alien 1979) can feature a spaceship full of characters that pick up a 'passenger' with "a wonderful defense mechanism" that will (spoilers) eventually kill all of them except one...and a cat, and show them all in 3/4 then yes, you too, can use 3/4 shots liberally.
Sheesh, 3/4s for everyone!! Including the freakin' cat...
 Then use this shot to get realism and don't rely on the frontal or profile to get your point across. Perhaps practice your drawing skills so they are something more than mediocre?

Gosh, snarky!

Welp, now that I've Alien-ated you (pun, see?), thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Camera terms: Over the Shoulder OTS

Over the Shoulder (OTS) shot: Camera is positioned so that a subject appears in front or frames another which is further in space.  This is a great framing tactic in setting up shots as it instantly describes the spacial relationship of subjects and what the setting (environment, time period, action) looks like.

Generally, the lens shoots just off the shoulder of the nearest character (subject) on to the face of the other and is typically coupled with a Reverse shot and seen below from Sin City (2002).  One character speaks to another which sets up a new shot .  These are the go-to shot for dialogue sequences but their use is fragile.  Too much of the same type of shot makes the sequence feel stale.  Note, in this case that we don't see an exact reverse and are shown Shellie's point of view even in a cut to Dwight.  We are ERL on Shellie and look up to Dwight.

In Iron Man (2008) Tony rushes to Yinsen's side after He has found a way to allow Tony more time to get the Mark 1 armor up and running. Tony learns that Yinsen has sacrificed himself for Tony which begins a series of events that will change the billionaire's life.  Here, we look up at Tony, and down at Yinsen, this is not an intentional set up of power/status, it's just a way to continue the feeling of Yinsen laying dying on the ground and Tony being over him. The two are the same size and mirror the other's composition putting them on the same level, allowing them to share a commonality. Don't get me started on the hidden meanings in these compositions...that is for a different post.

An OTS can also be used to describe a size variation between subjects as in this set from Iron Giant (1999) (See what I did there?). The Giant towers over Hogarth but the two seem to share similar cinematographic presence due to their non threatening posing.

The OTS shot does not need to be coupled with a reverse. In Jaws (1975), Chief Brody is chumming for the shark and snarking at Quint when, who should appear in the background, but the shark AKA Bruce? In this OTS, we get to see Brody at his snarkiest but also see the hugeness of the shark which stays out of focus. Had this been a dialogue shot, we may have cut to a reverse OTS off shark on to Brody as he whirls around to face the giant fish. But what gives this shot power, is how Brody looks behind him and then bolts out of shot, think about a time when you reached into a bush or cabinet and something moved and you jumped back-that is empathy. We see Brody back his way into the cabin to setup another OTS, this time with Quint in foreground and Brody taking the left side.  This is a fun way to portray Brody's two antagonists surrounding him without a reverse. Note how Brody can't take his eyes off the stern where the shark was, that makes for a pretty cool eye line. "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"

Another example of not needing a reverse OTS is from Jurassic Park (1993) (see what I did here?) Grant and Lex get up close and personal with the T-Rex. This OTS describes the sheer size of the dinosaur and the utter believability of the moment. The next shot in this sequence is a profile of Grant and Lex while the T-Rex skulks into shot from the frame's left side allowing us to continue experiencing the moment in Grant's Point of view.
An OTS can also be used to suggest a goal. Wreck it Ralph (2012) employs this OTS to describe Ralph's situation.  He must get the medal so he can go back to his game and get respect.  But where is the medal? Way up on the top branch of a candy cane tree in the middle of a saccharine world, continue making the task harder and the story deepens. 

It's not just movies that have an affinity for the OTS,  great painters of the past used the OTS to bring their viewers into scene as in "Holy Week In Seville" by Jose Jimenez y Aranda (1879) All of these images are larger, just click on them as it's a crime to view the paintings below so tiny.
Or "The Rehearsal Onstage" by Edgar Degas (1874).
Illustrators have been using the OTS to tell stories for years and years, here is one example from Dick Stone.
Sandro Symeoni, Italian illustrator's OTS.
 And Haddon Sundblom's Coca Cola Santas used the OTS.
Concept artists like Ralph Mcquarie knew the power of the OTS.
In fact whole genres of films seem to begin with a movie poster as seen in OTS.  Of course the "S" may actually mean a woman's legs (OTWL?)
Or in terms of horror, through foreground elements such as thorns (OT...T?)
Go out there and come up with some OTS shots coupled with their reverse!  Have fun drawing, Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Camera Terms-Scale and Singles

Scale or Framing Height refers to how much of the character/subject that can be seen in the shot and be any angle like frontal, 3/4 or profile etc. 

Full Shot
 A full shows the whole subject in the shot. From "House of Flying Daggers" (2004).

 Medium Full Shot (MFS)
 Generally tends to show character from knees up. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988)

Medium Shot (MS)
Portrays the character from the waist up."Room on the Broom" (2012)

Medium Close Up (MCU)
Describes subject(s) from mid-chest up.  Also know as the 2 T shot."Ghostbusters" (1984)

Close Up (CU)
Generally just off the shoulder up. "Dumbo" (1941)

Extreme Close Up (ECU)
Camera is usually framed on specific details of the face to heighten intensity whether to make something more scary as in "Coraline" (2009). Or to signify a waking moment, from reality to dream or vise-versa. As from "Lost" (2004).

Number of subjects in a shot is a simple of subtractive addition, or additive subtraction comes down to this:

A shot with one subject (typically a character) in the frame is called a Single. Like the Framing Heights mentioned above, the camera can be positioned on the subject in any way; LA, HA, ERL, Frontal. Profile, 3/4 etc. What the below images cover are the number of subjects in shot at one time.
Here are two singles, one from "Ninja Scroll" (1993) and the other from "Master and Commander; Far Side of the World" (2003)

What do you think a shot framing two characters is called? A double? Nah, those are hits where you get two bases or a delicious hamburger. The term you are looking for is "2-Shot" as shown in These examples from "Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers" (2002), "Ghost in the Shell" (1995) and  "Mark of Zorro" (1940)
2-shots can also be used to give weight to a character or characters.  Below, two shots (two 2-shots?) which separate characters but give them equal weight. From "Akira" (1988) and "Moon" (2009).
2-Shots also are used to give one character power over another. From "The Mark Of Zorro" (1940), Captain Esteban gains a momentary advantage over Diego.

Shots composed around three characters are not called triples, what are you a baseball freak or something? These are known as "3-Shots" Here are three, from "Anastasia" (1997), "Princess Bride" (1987) and "Batman; The Movie" (1966) Holy Threesomes, Batman!

If you have four folks framed in a shot you are looking at a "4-Shot" but these tend to be referred to as Crowd shots because that's a lot of folks huddled in one shot.  "The Lord of the Ring; Fellowship of the Ring" (2001) and "Ghostbusters" (1984).

After a while, everything just gets called a crowd unless it's really specific in the script...Adding characters requires special attention to composition so the the shots don't get muddled. Mantis is a little hard to read below from "Kung Fu Panda" (2008). Five characters.
Six characters in a triangular pattern from "Big Hero Six" (2014).
A seven character set up interestingly composed from "Usual Suspects" (1995). 
 The more subjects, the more you loose track and all the characters just become texture. "Star Wars" (1977-Special Edition 1997).