The 5 C’s of Cinematography – Camera Angles

This post includes my notes from the chapter on camera angles from The 5 C’s of Cinematography by Joseph Mascelli. My previous notes from the chapter on composition are blogged here. I haven’t read this book since first year and had forgotten a lot of important points through lack of practice. Hopefully we’ll be able to employ this knowledge better in our next animatic!

Screen Shot 10-28-17 at 12.35 PM

Mascelli, J. (1965) The 5 C’s of Cinematography. U.S.A. : Silman-James Press

The 5 C’s of Cinematography

  1. Camera Angles
  2. Continuity
  3. Cutting
  4. Close-ups
  5. Composition

Camera Angles Notes:

Story requirement should dictate the choice of camera angle. Ask yourself two questions when choosing: What is the best viewpoint and how much area should be included?

The scene is the place where action is shot. The shot is one continuous view without cuts, also known as a take. A sequence is a series of scenes or shots.

Consider three types of camera angles – objective, subjective, point-of-view.

The objective camera is when the viewpoint is from the sidelines.

The subjective camera is from a viewpoint within the scene, e.g. from a person within the scene or moving with the camera to take a tour of the scene. This is an effective viewpoint for startling the viewer e.g. in a rollercoaster or falling from a height. The viewer feels like they are in the scene, through the eyes of the characters on screen.

Moving shots are always subjective. A static shot can be made subjective by first showing a close-up of the person whose eyes you will see through, looking off screen.

You don’t generally see from the viewpoint of characters who are interacting as it will result in disruption from characters looking into the camera (your eyes).

Subjective filming should be reserved for when you want to show the mental condition of a character as using this shot too often will rob the audience of seeing the subject’s reactions.

Point-of-view shots are those that position the camera within the scene but not from the viewpoint of a character. It is like standing cheek to cheek with the character so that you see what they see, but you remain objective. Over-the-shoulder shots set up the relationship between the two characters. This objective shot can again become subjective by showing a close-up of a character looking off screen. It is easier to identify with characters on-screen if you see them from the same viewpoint/standing alongside other characters in the scene rather than objectively on the sidelines.

Two don’ts: Don’t show a close-up of a player looking off screen, cut to see what they’re seeing and then pan around to look at themself. Don’t show a player pointing off screen and then have them walk in the same direction that they’re pointing. (why this second one?)

A camera angle is defined as the area and view-point recorded by the lens” and is determined by three factors – subject size, subject angle, camera height.

The size of the subject in relation to the frame determines the type of shotExtreme long shot, long shot, medium shot, close-up.

An extreme long shot depicts a vast area from a great distance and is used to impress the viewer with the huge scope of the setting or event. A panning camera for this shot should be reserved for when something interesting can be revealed with the pan.

The long shot is used to establish the scene, who is involved and where they are. Whenever considerable, narratively significant movement is made by the character it should be re-established in the long shot. Medium long shots can be substitued for long shots on narrower screens.

A medium shot frames characters above the knee or below the waist.

The two-shot is a dramatic medium shot where two characters are framed confronting each other. The two shot can be framed with both characters in profile and equally dominant or it may be more interesting to frame the characters at an angle, with the character closest angled away from the camera. The character angled most towards the camera is most likely compositionally dominant in this situation. The two shot should be brought about in a natural progression of the medium or long shot. The characters should not be filmed toe-to-toe unless in a dramatic confrontation.

There are varying degrees of close-ups (discussed in a later chapter).

Terms: A pan shot is when the camera rotates on its vertical axis. A dolly, crane or boom shot is when the entire camera is moved with its mount. A follow or tracking shot is when the camera moves along with the character. A low shot is where the camera is angled upward and a high shot is where the camera is high and angled downwards. Also consider reverse shots, cut-in shots, cut-away shots and reaction shots.

The subject angle should be chosen for the best degree of modeling. Avoid flat images by showing at least two sides of the subject e.g. film heads at three-quarter angles and film streets so that they converge into the distance. Achieve depth with “lighting, camera and player movement, overlapping subject matter, linear and aerial perspective, use of short focal length lenses”. The camera angle is the greatest tool for achieving depth.

Camera height influences audience involvement e.g. viewing the subject at eye-level or above or below. A level camera results in vertical lines not converging and therefore not distorting. Importance is stressed when choosing the camera height for close-ups. The objective camera height should be on eye-level with the close-up subject, unless you are simulating the p.o.v. height difference of characters e.g. sitting and standing. Subjective close-ups should always be at the subject’s eye-level.

Level shots are employed dramatically in shots where a vehicle is rushing towards the camera.

High angle shots are useful for showing the layout of the setting or making the audience feel superior to a character. The subject always dictates the angle.

Low angle shots are useful for creating awe and excitement for the subject, and also for creating more forced perspective.

Angle-plus-angle is where the camera is angled to the subject but also tilted upwards or downwards. It creates the greatest degree of modeling a subject in 3D and also the greatest convergence of perspective.

Use dutch-angles with discretion for impressions of violence or instability.

Plan your combinations of camera angles and consider the pattern of shots, looking at area photographed and viewpoint. In progressive shots, the area and/or angle is progressively greater or smaller. Progressive/regressive shots require a definite change in the image size and angle or it will be jarring. In contrasting shots, pairs of shots are opposite in area photographed and/or angle. Contrasting shots also require a definite change. In repititious shots, the area and/or angles in a series of shots are the same.

Think “how much area should be included in this shot and where should the camera be positioned to view the action?” Only subjects of importance to the story should be included in the shot and for only as long as it’s point story point requires. Approach the shots in a scene creatively. Progressive shots are a standard way for telling the story but may become a lazy go-to, so look for dramatic opportunities with contrasting or repititious shots.

When filming continuous action, be sure to change the camera angle, lens, or both between cuts so as to avoid jarringly similar images. Be definite with change unless you are purposefully trying to pop into a distant subject e.g. a person in a crowd. Think of the lens focal length which is best suited for the shot e.g wide-angle lens for a distant shot, normal lens for a medium shot and a semi-telephoto or telephoto lens for a close-up.

Consider the individual story requirements of each shot but also consider everything as part of a sequence.

Consider the esthetic, technical, psychological, dramatic, editorial, natural and physical factors that will occur when choosing how to shoot the scene.

 

Advertisements

Top 10 Cinematographers

This video gives a great overview of important cinematographers over the last century. Seeing theory done well is very inspiring! We’ve been advised to find similar shots to what we want to achieve so that we can examine and understand the language of framing what’s on screen more effectively. I admit that I’m a bit ignorant of the work of specific cinematographers, apart from Roger Deakins who was another team’s presentation topic in first year, so this is a good place to start.

CineFix (2010) Top 10 Cinematographers of All Time

Gnomon Creating a Sci-Fi Alleyway

Creating a Sci-fi Alleyway. Detailed Environment Techniques with Devon Fay  – great inspirational tutorial on the gnomon workshop.

What a beautiful piece of art Fay’s “Sci-fi Alleyway” is. I love this feeling of rain-slick, beaten up alleyways filled with old tech and Japanese references. The image has really stuck with me and I can’t help but think of it when I look down narrow alleys in Belfast. Even during the weekend, I saw a poster in The Ramen Bar in Dublin and immediately thought, sci-fi alleyway!

This is the VR (or AR?) dream.

 

Summary of my notes from the tutorial:

Continue reading

Storyboards and Hitchcock

Week 05

This video has a useful side by side comparison of the storyboards and the the final shower scene in Psycho (1960) (Alfred Hithcock and Saul Bass). It’s interesting to see how the storyboards capture the key facial expressions and actions of the scenes but then the final camera work takes extra shots to develop/take advantage of other compositions on set.

Who Directed the Shower Scene in PSYCHO? from Vashi Nedomansky on Vimeo.

I found this other article with examples of storyboards used on Hitchcock films.

http://filmmakeriq.com/2010/11/hitchcocks-storyboards-from-13-classic-films/

I liked the simple use of tone on these and how some of the backgrounds are impressionistic but still effective.

The Art of Storyboarding with Ridley Scott

The Art of Storyboarding with Ridley Scott

 

Week 05

This week we are focusing on creating storyboards to show a scenario that demonstrates the choice mechanic in 13 Songs. I consider storyboarding an important skill that I haven’t got the grip of yet. With this scenario between Julie and William, the challenge is to make a quite mundane scene really connect with audience while still remaining interesting visually. This short video from Ridley Scott has a few directions to think about/look into.

I like how attentive Scott is to the shape that light makes. Even from the storyboarding stage, Scott is crafting the scene with an attention to how light will shape the composition. Even on a car journey he is “reading the performance of light on objects”.

Storyboards help Scott to articulate exactly what he wants to achieve with the team.

Look at what Hitchcock did with storyboards.

Get rid of the white immediately. Bash through and get the idea down straight away. Then there is something to improve upon. Storyboards get you sucked into the scene so that you can see opportunities e.g. acting and staging.

Even two talking heads can be made more interesting but they can also be interesting by themselves. You should know when to pull back.

Eytan Zana Graphic Compositions

Week 02

I wanted to try a different approach to building compositions and liked the look of Eytan Zana’s simple and graphic shapes in his tutorial on gumroad Graphic Compositions for Environments.

I would like to master conveying a narrative driven design through building from simple graphic shapes

Eytan Zana Graphic Compositions

  • Use clipping masks to add light to a shape.
  • Start with big shapes.
  • Paint in the dark value only so that it can be used as a clipping mask (i.e. one value per layer).
  • Think about what shape the light will make on your forms. Start clean and get messy later. Restrict your values but use more if that’s what you need to sell it.
  • You can turn autoselect on with the select tool!
  • Smudge elements like water and clouds.
  • Try using s-curves to lead the eye.
  • Think of light falling/cutting across your composition.

.

The Five C’s of Cinematography

Mascelli, J. (1965) The 5 C’s of Cinematography. U.S.A. : Silman-James Press

This book is quite dense with information. It’s split into camera angles, continuity, cutting, close-ups and composition. I read the first four sections after Christmas and picked it up again to finish the composition chapter. I took notes this time for quicker revision of concepts as I think I’ve lost bits of what were in the first 4 sections. It’s probably worth re-reading anyway.

IMG_20150413_123544

These are my rough notes for composition:

Composition

  • motivate audience reaction according to scripts intent. Balanced or unbalanced?
  • Space and time dimensions: movement holds the viewers attention, guard against insignificant/undesirable movement. Secondary actions such as dialogue also attract attention.
  • Compose the shape of motions
  • Language: lines, forms, masses, movements. Imaginary transitional lines are created from following action – these are important too.

IMG_20150413_125557

The different types of lines and their possible effect:

IMG_20150413_125750

IMG_20150413_125800

  • Lines can lie flat on surface or recede into picture. Diagonals are dynamic. Line sharpness is connected to speed and forcefulness.
  • Form: abstract forms can be created from the arrangement of physical objects: triangles wide, based triangles, inverted triangles, circles, crosses, radiating lines, L-shaped composition.

IMG_20150413_130959

IMG_20150413_131231

  • Mass: the pictorial weight of an object. Light mass on dark bg or vice versa. Large versus small mass. 
  • Movements: right to left movements are harder to follow, moving against the grain, should be used for actions which are difficult such as moving towards the villain. vertical movment: upward or downward? Diagonal, opposing forces, stress, the use of force. Curved; fear. Pendulum; pacing, monotony. Cascading. Radiating; growth. Interrupted or movement which changes direction. Towards or away from viewer.
  • Balance: unbalance upsets the viewer. A large static object can be counter balanced by a small moving object.The two sides of the screen are like a see-saw. A moving object possesses more weight than a stationary object. The upper part of a picture is heavier than the bottom. The left side of frame can support more weight. An isolated object has more weight than crowded or stacked ones. Warm colours carry more weight than cold ones. Light values are heavier than shadowed objects.

IMG_20150413_144434

IMG_20150413_144802

  • Formal and informal balance: symmetry versus asymmetry. Gravity inflluences balance; an objects center of gravity.
  • Unity; perfect integration of elements.
  • One center of interest. A group of people or objects can also be one center of interest.
  • Positioning center of interest. Avoid vertical or horizontal lines cutting the image in half. Diversify: horizon placement, position of center of interest, player and camera movement.

IMG_20150413_145217

  • Attracting or switching center of interest: Position, movement, action and sound. Lighting, tonal value and colours. Selective focusing.
  • Eye scan: within the frame and also from one frame to another. Usually smooth and orderly unless you want to add shock and abruptness to a subject.
  • Image placement. lead room. head room is determined by image balance. Avoid cutting joints with the edge of the frame.
  • Image size: give a clue (objects of known size) to scale. Framing influences how you perceive the size of a subject.

IMG_20150413_155101

  • Integrate composition and camera angles: continually revise player/background relationship.
  • Perspective: linear; convergence of parallel lines. Aerial perspective; gradual lightening and softening of distant objects.
  • How to increase perspective effects: camera angles which reveal the greatest number of planes/facets; angle plus angle. Choose angle and lens focal length that gives best linear convergence. Partially overlap players/props so as to convey spatial relation. Overlapping on movement introduces motion parallax. Move toward or away from screen to indicate spatial depth. Light a scene so as to get contrasting planes. Light an interior scene with a ‘hotter’ background for something similar to aerial perspective.

IMG_20150419_132529

  • Backgrounds: actions in foreground should be tied in with background. The background should be a constant subtle reminder of setting.Use lighting, tone and colour to separate the character from the background.
  • Frames: Compose an internal frame at an angle for depth. The frame should some tonal contrast with the subject it”s framing. Keep large foreground frames in sharp focus. Avoid wildly moving frames that detract from subject such as leaves in a high wind. Frames relevant/connected tto story may aid story telling and convey setting.

IMG_20150419_133353

  • Dynamic composition: move from a quiet scene to one which contains sudden movement close to the camera. Use this for dramatic situations.
  • Suspenseful composition: Show a few frames where the action is hidden from the audience.
  • Catalog pictures: grouping and arranging shapes.
  • Compositional variety: variety in composition, camera angle, image size.
  • Always think in terms of creating depth.
  • Simplicity: be economical in terms of line, form, mass and movement. Have one center of interest and employ one unified style. Get rid of anything in frame that’s not needed for the storytelling. “If a vast number of compositional elements must be photographed then they should be harmoniously grouped.”
  • “remember that the viewer mst be affected both pictorially and psychologically.