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Framing in contemporary film (1 Viewer)

Mike Huey

Apr 11, 2005
Is the practice of very close and confined framing (even with 2.35:1 films) a conscious act stemming from the fact that eventually it'll be seen in full-screen on TV? Sometimes it seems really claustrophobic (although for some it works brilliantly) with the extreme close-ups of the actors faces with little breathing room. What's even worse is when an already tightly framed 1.85:1 film is hard-matted to 2.35:1 in post.

Do you think we'll see an opposite move in the future with more and more people getting bigger widescreen tv's?

Leo Kerr

May 10, 1999
There are a lot of trends that come and go. Sometimes you wish they'd go a little faster. Sometimes, you can see where it came from. I remember watching on of the Star Trek films and knowing that it was done by a TV crew - the entire thing was shot like it was an SD television show, where there were never any long shots, and a whole lot of extreme closeups.

Often times, "rules" are established early on, and then as the format matures, people begin to bend and break the rules. I know there are a few areas where I wish the rules weren't being broken - shakey-cam for no good reason, so-called "dutch" or whatever when they roll the camera 20° to one side (or more) and the like. I'd like to think that big budget films are being shot on a big budget, and so that they can afford the tools for doing it "right." Another thing I dislike is the, "well, we've been on this shot for 20-frames now, we need to do a cut soon!"

In answer to your first query, "it depends." Old-school directors, camera-people, et cetera, yes, it may be a conscious decision. Newer kids on the block, well, it's all that they've seen, so they're doing it out of habit (I fear.)

As I implied earlier, yes, I hope we can get back to the longer, nicely composed shooting, allowing people to see a scene in their own right, both in time and in space.



Bounded In a Nutshell
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Senior HTF Member
Jun 20, 2000
A Mile High
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It's just lazy filmmaking, regardless the size of the budget. Sergio Leone was a master of what you describe, but he did it for a reason and not endlessly. Other techniques become popular and as a result are used just to use them. Typically they are heavily overused, because the filmmakers don't know why they are using them. The current trend I find most annoying is the rapid, jerky zooms, a-la 24. I find it ironic that so much money has been spent developing lenses which focus without changing focal length, all to keep the viewer in the movie, rather than making them aware of the mechanics, then these "techniques" go haywire and intentionally take the viewer out of the movie.

Lew Crippen

Senior HTF Member
May 19, 2002
I think that the example as applicable to fitting the framing to 4:3 TVs, are the TV shows shot in HD but that are not planned to be letterboxed when telecast in standard definitiin. When you look at one of these shows in 16:9, the compositions are almost invariably cramped and center-weighted, regardless of close-ups.

As a comment on trends, Carl Th. Dreyer shot one of the greatest movies of all time, The Passion of Joan of Arc almost without any establishing shots. Pretty much all close-ups sprinkled with some medium two-shots and pans.


Senior HTF Member
Apr 20, 1999
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As already mentioned, Leone's movies and Passion of Joan of Arc are famous for their close-ups.

Probably the best use of close-ups I've seen in the past few decades is Speed Racer.



Senior HTF Member
Jun 20, 2004
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Richard W
I see a lot of poor composition in films today. I refer to films I watch in the theater. Today's lenses offer more definition and a cleaner, sharper image than ever before, but directors aren't taking advantage of this fact. Too often the camera is in the wrong place or in motion when it should be still. I don't know what has happened to basic photographic composition. Poor framing, inappropriate focal lengths, desaturated color, hazy lighting, dizzy camera, and cutting faster than the eye can register are not the elements of good storytelling nor do they make for memorable experiences at the movies. Audiences are not sitting in front of an Avid or at Grassvalley switchers with multiple monitors in front of them. Their eyes can't follow rapid cutting of shaky cameras.

I wish directors and dp's working in the new high-def frame would emulate the type of balanced, symmetrical, and layered composition seen in older, traditional films. The only maestro of composition and lensmanship around today is Martin Scorsese.

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