Sunday, 6 August 2017

100 film conventions; and a few cool things recently noted

Here are my notes from Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Films Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know by Jennifer Van Sijll: 
1/ Space: 
- X-axis (horizontal): 
Left to right: good 
Right to left: bad 
- Y-axis (vertical): 
Straight line: good 
Detouring or being sidetracked: bad 
- XY-axes (diagonals): 
Descending: aided by gravity; once the motion starts, it’s hard to stop 
Ascending: against gravity 
- Z-axis (depth-of-field): 
Character’s height and power 
- Z-axis (planes of action): 
Staging in-depth: actions in foreground, middleground and background 
- Z-axis (rack focus/ pull focus): 
Shifting focus from 1 object to another 
2/ Frame: 
- Directing the eye: light and dark function as visual signposts—directing the audience to focus on what’s intended
- Balance/ symmetry 
- Imbalance
- Orientation 
- Size: character’s relative strength and weakness may be established by the use of size 
3/ Shape within the frame: 
- Circular (circular imagery can inherently suggest confusion, repetition and time) 
- Linear 
- Triangular: created by lighting, furnishings, exterior graphics, character positioning, or movement; harmony or disharmony (e.g. love triangle) 
- Rectangular: may represent logic, civilisation, control, or the aesthetics of modernity; can represent death (coffin) 
- Organic vs geometric 
4/ Editing: 
- Montage: created through an assembly of quick cuts, disconnected in time or place, that combine to form a larger idea
- Assembly editing 
- Mise-en-Scène: new compositions are created through blocking, lens zooms and camera movement instead of cutting; uninterrupted take 
- Intercutting/ cross-cutting: cutting back and forth between 2 actions occurring simultaneously in 2 different locations 
- Split screen 
- Dissolves: blending 1 shot to another
- Smash cut: to jar the audience with a sudden and unexpected change in image or sound (e.g. cutting a wide shot against a huge close-up or vice versa)
5/ Time: 
- Expanding time through pacing 
- Contrast of time (pacing and intercutting): slow vs fast (suspense) 
- Expanding time—overlapping action 
- Slow-motion 
- Fast-motion
- Flashback
- Flashforward: cut to the future, real or imagined; typically assisted with a slow dissolve
- Freeze-frame
- Visual foreshadowing 
6/ Sound effects: 
- Realistic sound (diegetic): character, emotional response and outer world 
- Surreal sound (meta-diegetic): inner world 
7/ Music: 
- Lyrics as narrator: character’s inner thoughts 
- Symbolic use of music 
- Music as a moveable prop: e.g. used to express an idea linked to a character 
8/ Scene transitions: 
- Matching audio segue 
- Audio bridge: dialogue or sound effects 
- Visual match-cut: 
Graphic similarity
Pattern and colour
- Extended match dissolve (time transition) 
- Disrupted match-cut: 2 matched images separated by a single shot 
9/ Camera lenses: 
- Wide-angle 
3 grounds 
Establishing shots 
- Telephoto: brings distant objects closer to the viewer, compresses space, making objects appear to be on the same horizontal plane; its shallow depth-of-field throws objects, both in front of and behind the focal point, out of focus 
- Fish-eye: distortion 
- Prop lenses within the scene 
- Objects: stained glass, water or plastic (distortion) 
10/ Camera position: 
- Close-up 
- Extreme close-up
- 2-shot 
- Over-the-shoulder shot 
- Point-of-view 
- High-angle: makes subject small and vulnerable 
- Low-angle: makes subject large and dominant 
- High-low combine
11/ Camera motion: 
- Static shot
- Pan
- Tilt
- Rotation 
- Tracking shot
- Circular: hand-held camera, Steadicam, or tracks 
- Push-in 
- Pull-out 
- Crane 
- Handheld 
- Steadicam 
- Aerial 
12/ Lighting: 
- Rembrandt lighting: light vs dark 
- TV lighting: conventionally bright, flat and shadowless 
- Candlelight: flatters the face, smoothens the skin and adds a warm tone 
- Motivated lighting: any light that would naturally exist in the world depicted in the frame, e.g. a lamp
- Unmotivated light: e.g. the bath of light symbolising goodness
- Motion: e.g. swinging light bulb, flash lights, etc.
13/ Colour: 
- Coding character 
14/ Props: 
- Externalising character: 
Dramatic way to express a character’s inner world 
Gives a scene an added layer of meaning
- Repurposing props: the meaning of a prop changes over the course of the film
- Contrast 
15/ Wardrobe: 
- Wardrobe 
- Repurposing wardrobe 
- Contrast of wardrobe
16/ Locations: 
- Defining character 
- Location as unifying element: e.g. similar locations 
- Location as theme 
- Moving locations: e.g. train 
17/ Natural environment: 
- Climate 
- Seasons and the passage of time 
- Physical phenomena: can be foreshadowing, can have symbolic meaning, etc. 


Here are a few cool things I’ve just noted lately watching films: 
- The fade-out in the middle of the scene in Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue 
- The fade-to/from-red in Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers
- The wipe in Kurosawa (scene transition)
- Ingmar Bergman’s juxtaposed faces: close-up of 2 faces, in the same shot, not looking at each other
- Kurosawa’s axial cut
- The geometry of the scene in Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well
- Mizoguchi’s mise-en-scène: move characters around, and then move the camera accordingly; long take
- The dream sequence in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona of Elisabet entering Alma’s room—the use of smoke and the resulting ghost/dream image  
- The metaphorical/ symbolic images in Jodorowsky’s The Dance of Reality 
- The repetition of the exact same scene, from 2 different angles, in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona 
- The face-merging in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona: the morph at the beginning of the film, and the combination of the 2 halves 
- The superimposed image in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive

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