I Had to Learn How to Read…Again

One of Roger Ebert’s most interesting tips on how to read a movie was that there really are no concrete rules to be followed when filmmaking. There are guidelines and generalities, rather. I like this approach to movies because sometimes when things get too technical they can lose their meaning and emotion. I found it compelling that the right side seems more positive while the left seems more negative. It’s amazing that just a change in direction can elicit an emotional response. A lot of video techniques are similar to photography techniques, especially in a stationary scene. One that stood out the most was how diagonals create motion where there is none by drawing the eye across the image. The main thing I took away from Ebert’s advice was to follow emotion, instinct, and strategy, rather than “the rules.”

Some editing techniques I learned were different ways to transition and edit scenes. My favorite cuts were the tempo/rhythm and jump cuts. I liked the tempo/rhythm cut (that changes the shot on the beat of the soundtrack) because having the shot change on the beat emphasizes each one and adds importance to the changes as well. This gives the scene a very purposeful style and makes the scene seem very important with the added emphasis this type of cut gives it. I liked the jump cut because it keeps the action flowing quickly and allows the audience to see different character’s reactions as the camera comes quickly back to them. I didn’t like the swipe transition; it looks like a movie made with a Powerpoint transition in it. Although, I do think in a less serious movie it could work, and it does have the advantage of drawing the eye toward the next action. 

A technique I enjoyed was the freeze frame. The first thing that came to mind was the last shot of The Breakfast Club where Bender throws his fist in the air and the frame freezes for the credits.

The freeze frame shows the importance of a moment by making the audience watch it for longer. It can also extend the emotion a shot is expressing.

Next I looked at zooms in The Shining. This video was disturbing because of all the sounds from the overlapping scenes. From watching this I gathered how zooms can represent different things. Zooming in or out can build suspense, especially if it is a slow zoom with building music. It also shows the audience exactly where to look, and sometimes gives an uneasiness derived from the closeness, in the case of zooming in. Oppositely, zooming out shows that the whole shot is of importance and can give a sense of being overwhelmed.

Lastly, I looked at different camera angles. One of the techniques that was reiterated here was that for action especially, the camera angles need to keep changing and being unconventional to keep interest and energy up. Different shots and angles give the film depth, which is something you need in order to give the 2D media of video a 3D feel to the audience. My favorite technique I learned was called the zolly, where the camera zooms out and the dolly that the camera is on moves in. If the zoom and dolly are moving at the same speed, it results in the subject in focus staying the same size, but the background moves closer. I have seen this technique many times but never knew how it was accomplished until today!

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