Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Rocks Have Names

Well, Errol Morris is at the end of his three-part pursuit of Photographic Truth in two old photos.

Do not attempt to read this if you are in a hurry...

Update on the "New Rules"

An update on the status of new regulations on photography and videography in New York.

"The rules, to be released on Tuesday for public comment, would generally allow people using hand-held equipment, including tripods, to shoot for any length of time on sidewalks and in parks as long as they leave sufficient room for pedestrians."
More details Tuesday....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Preview at Inkaland.

CFoA (Certified Friends of Actualities) Chris and Profluence member Maya have posted a trailer for their documentary-in-progress over at Inkaland.

Not that they ever link back or anything like that. But go and watch it anyway.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Some Thoughts on Editing a Chase

Here are some ideas I went over with my editing class last week. The notion was that if we can understand the editing systems used in a well-made chase scene, it will help us understand editing in general.

How do we know which character is which? Does one wear a white cowboy hat and the other a black one? Does one have a red car and the other blue? Is the pickup basketball game shirts versus skins?

If we see the leader pass the big red building, then ten seconds later the chaser, we know how far apart the characters are. Often, a camera will stay at a landmark position, and pan from one character to another.

If a car is chasing a moped, the car has a clear advantage. But when the moped goes into the subway and the car driver follows on foot, now the moped has the advantage.

Is a character gaining or falling behind? A shot where the camera is pulling away, or where the character is catching up to the camera may tell us. A shot with both characters in it might reveal the relative status as well.

We want to know what the character is thinking, feeling and doing -- so a cut to a shot through the windshield might reveal the character's expression. Or a cut to the foot on the brake might tell us what's happening. Or a closeup on the gear shift. Make careful note of where the character looks -- the next shot might be their "point of view."

A camera can be low in the front of a car, can look out the rear window, can sit in the passenger seat, can look down at the brake pedal -- and all of these shots are useful. It can run alongside the moped as it plunges down the stairs. It can turn to watch the car streak by. It can shake, float, or fly.

If a car goes from screen left to screen right, we expect it to keep doing that unless we some change -- a shot where it turns, or where we "move" into the car before coming back out. And we expect the car chasing to also maintain consistent screen direction -- unless we see a change happen.

If we cut from the big black car to the little red sports car -- should the sound change right on that cut? Or should it change in other ways? Do we want to hear the sound of the car coming toward us, then going away?

Even in a short chase, all go-go-go action wears thin. It's usually more exciting to have a lot of action, then a tiny pacing "deep breath" before the big finish.

That tank chasing the laser-guided skateboard just knocked over every fruit stand in aisle 19. Maybe we could cut back to see what happened, and the angry manager shaking her fist at us? Or maybe our wheel can't take much more and is starting to wobble -- maybe a closeup to reveal that?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Also, Stay Off His Lawn

Peter Greenaway has announced the Death of Cinema.

"Cinema's death date was 31 September 1983, when the remote-control zapper was introduced to the living room, because now cinema has to be interactive, multi-media art," he told a director's masterclass. ... There were gasps among film students when he took aim at some of the biggest names. "Here's a real provocation: [US video artist] Bill Viola is worth 10 Martin Scorseses. Scorsese is old-fashioned and is making the same films that [the pioneering director] DW Griffiths was making early last century," he said.
Of course, since Thirty Days Hath September, and Cinema has muddled on since that fateful (and technically nonexistent) day, one might be inclined to nominate him for a Francis Fukuyama award.

But Greenaway is a very smart guy, and a very talented guy too. So my take is this: whenever somebody that good and that studied on a subject starts ringing the alarms, there's a problem. He'll probably be wrong in what he predicts is next, or in what he thinks is the root cause. It's tough to figure that sort of thing out. But if he says there's a problem, it's worth considering.

By the way, Greenaway started out as an editor....

Friday, October 05, 2007

Morris on Fenton, Part Two

Errol Morris continues his search for the documentary truth. More or less.

IDA's 25 "Best"

The International Documentary Association announced the results of its Top 25 Documentaries member poll.

No real surprises -- all popular, excellent documentaries -- but one thing did strike me: how many of these films have more than one editor. Of the 25 films, 13 have multiple editors. More than half.

Meaning that now I have to teach my editing students that they'll have to learn an additional skill: shared vision.

(I'm an IDA member, and I did vote. One thing to note: it wasn't a process where you just voted for one favorite "best" film -- but checked off a number of films. I expect that produces a different result than a simple "vote for one" process. In this case, I think it may have made for a better, if mainstream, list.)