Christopher Doyle on Cinematography

April 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is an interview/masterclass filmed for the BBC Culture Show. It looks at how Doyle chooses camera-movment, lighting and locations as well as his sensitive to colour.


Film Test 3

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is the result from the second shoot, focusing on the character running as allegory for an ambiguous backstory and themes.

While this test shows potential, the shoot was extremely rushed and didn’t achieve the attention to lighting and cinematography I had strived for. That said, it was an extremely useful learning tool that has already given me direction for the next shoot.

Here is a list of practical (and somewhat candid) things I did wrong and could do better, made during the early hours of the morning while digesting and editing the piece.

-needed more shots of her just standing for the beginning

– B Role stuff is priceless, shoot more of it

-don’t be so quick to say action and cut, you need some stillness

-adjusting exposure or colour with H.264 footage is hell

-you have to have equal amounts of footage from each angle; if you shoot a closeup and medium shot from the same angle, generally they can’t be edited together without the background looking like a jump cut. Get another angle to cut the two between

-decide if this part of the sequence is static or dynamic. Cutting from lots of camera movement to a static dead shot looks weird

-make sure exposure/whitebalance are the same for every shot – You cannot grade h.264! lock the colour balance of the lights and don’t change them

-don’t get your own shadow in the shot, just by the way

Cinematography: Killing Them Softly

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Cinematography: Killing Them Softly

Continuing on my rave for Killing Them Softly’s visual style (of which I would happy put in the same calibre as Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or Goodfellas), here is an article in American Cinematographer that discusses with Cinematographer Greig Fraser the approach taken to creating the aesthetics of the film.  I find the discussion on the manipulation of lenses to achieve specific bokeh incredible as well Frasers discussion of lighting looking beyond simply its effect on the aesthetics of film but also considerations like functionality and speed of setup.  In relation to light, Greig’s use of multiple lights soft lights to create low contrast, sourceless scene with a few directional hard lights to add depth and clarity exactly what I want to do.

Behind-the-Scenes of Killing Them Softly

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

I recently watched the film Killing Them Softly by Andrew Dominik and was blown away by the cinematography. The mixing ambient and introduced lighting at night as well extremely effective camera work was enlightening.

This is a random collection of silent behind-the-scenes footage from shooting the film. The video is useful when comparing the shots from the film to this footage as a helpful way to deconstruct lighting and how camera movements were created. Particularly interesting was how car’s were rigged with lights to expose the interior of the car without spilling into the surrounding environment and ruining the exterior exposure.

Here is the second part:

Three Sequences of People Running

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

The strength of the next video test will balance in the cinematography above all.  Visual interest will be sustained by how well I create interest in the character and the act of running’s allegorical possibilities, but also quite simply how interesting I can make the act of running.

With this in mind, here are three very different sequences that shoot people running in interesting, or at least competent ways.


Forrest Gump:

Certainly an obvious choice, Spielberg’s treatment of Forest’s first run, while a little melodramatic, expertly applies slow-motion and camera movements to give a simple act of running austerity and dynamism.  Of particular interest is how Spielberg transitions into the slow motion, increasing the reverb of the girl’s screams and introducing music as a kind of soundbridge into the over-cranked sequence.  The camera work also shifts from quite static to using dolly shots and Point of View shots as well as tracking shots later in the sequence.  This involves the audience in the motion of running and, as Forest gets away from the bullies,  emphasises Forest’s speed – the camera can’t keep up with the character, and so multiple shots are edited together to keep Forest in frame.



While a brilliant opening sequence, this clip doesn’t exactly shoot the actors running in particularly new or exciting ways, but it certainly grabs interest in its use of music, voice overs, still-frames and camera work.  Firstly, the opening tranquil shot of street so quickly destroyed by fast music and a chase scene grabs attention.  Boyle shoots this first sequence only from behind or infront of the actors.  In doing so, the actors remain relatively static in frame as the rest of world flies by; the audience is placed in the action, not by its side watching on.  Also, only medium shots of the actor’s torso or legs are used, edited together enhance the speed at which the background moves past as the actors run.

To keep pace, there is also very few static shots.  Despite moderate editing speed, almost every shot involves fast camera movement.  This, combined with fast-tempo, rythmic music and an excited, fast voiceover, gives the sequence vitality and interest.  Unrelated, by worth mentioning is the brilliant visual matches between the Renton falling down at a Soccor match and Renton falling while having a smoke.  This is such a brilliant scene transition and begs to be compared; Renton’s lifestyle can be attributed to being knocked out – either in a good or bad way.



A much more frantic style of filmmaking, Bekmambetov uses few camera angles but constantly cuts between each to give a sense of urgency.  Similiarly, each shot is unsteady handheld work with exgensive use of medium and close up shots to involve the audience in the action.  Bekmambetov also ramps between over cranking and slightly undercranking to give Mr. X’s speed context; by starting the character’s run in slow motion we can appreciate the power of the action before speeding the footage to emphasise his speed.


Cinematography Compilation

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a two part compilation video of interesting cinematography.

Both videos highlight good use of camera movement and lighting, however the Part 1 shows some excellent use of colour, particarly reds, greens and blacks to create mood. Part 2 is more useful for composition, selective focus and more static camera movement.

Part 2:

Pre-Shoot Organising

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a list of shots I have in my head leading up to the second video shoot.  Aside from these, I will experiment as always on set and see what comes of it.
  • Last shot – long shot of her standing in the middle of the road, lit by the LightPro covered with 2 flags
  • Symetrical shot from behind, everything else in bokeh
  • Extreme low shot as she jumps over the camera, crossing a ditch in the earth (she should wear scrungies)
  • Tracking shots of her running from behind, looking over shoulder as well.
  • Feet against ground, tracking
  • arms flexing
  • hands ‘swimming’ as they run
  • macro of her eyes, facial skin, eyebrows and sweat and breathing. Best for when she’s stopped running.
  • focus on the brush as she runs past
  • closeup of her face before she starts running
Storyboard without the pictures but not really of the first 30 seconds:
  • medium-long of her standing straight on in the brush
  • pan from feet up to show face
  • closeup of eyes
  • medium closeup of side of face, look around, breathing
  • medium-long of her suddenly beginning to run
  • hair as it moves with her starting to run
  • flexing of shins
  • tracking shot from behind as she runs
  • tracking shot from in front as she runs
  • medium close tracking shot as she runs
  • medium close of the environment as she runs through it

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