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.

No comments: