Discussion Lets talk Cinematography

Discussion in 'Star Wars: Episode VII and Beyond (Archive)' started by Han Burgundy, May 13, 2013.

  1. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 28, 2013
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    I attach this video because, though its meant more for listening, it nevertheless does a great job of demonstrating the cinematography across the saga, from the moody portraits of ESB to the digital sheen of AOTC.

    Star Wars is a series of intensely visual films. As such, one of the most important and yet overlooked aspects of these films is the cinematography. For me, as a very visual person and lover of photography, the camerawork in a film can make or break it.

    So what are your expectations or desires for the cinematography of EP7? If you wish to look for hints by way of JJ Abrams past work, I would suggest you forgo the obvious lense flare issue that 30 million plus people have already mentioned and look at things like camera movement, composition, and color timing (for the unaware, how colors are used to stylize the look of a shot).

    For me, those three categories are what worry me the most about JJ. As far as camera movement goes, he has mastered the use of kinetic dolly and crane shots to make for a constant energy, which I like a lot, but he also seems to enjoy putting in shaky steadycam shots during conversations, which does not fit Star Wars at all.

    Also not fitting for Star Wars is certain elements of his shot composition. His wide shots are absolutely gorgeous and epic, but his close ups during dialogue scenes have that zoomed in, shoulder of other person in the foreground look that worked for his Trek film and MI3 but I'm not nuts about it for Star Wars. Example(sorry for low res):

    [IMG]

    Then there's color timing. This is a big one for me. Look at the trailer for Trek 2:



    Thats a lot of blue. An obnoxious amount of blue. JJ has succumbed to a trend that has become more and more constant in blockbuster films. He's fallen prey to the horrible trap that is teal-and-orange syndrome. Don't know what it is? Take a look at this: http://theabyssgazes.blogspot.com/2010/03/teal-and-orange-hollywood-please-stop.html

    There is one saving grace to keep in mind with JJ's cinematography, though: Super 8. Not only did Super 8 have great cinematography that was well composed, had only a moderate amount of blue, and feature great camera movement, but it also showed JJ's ability to adapt his visual sense to a different situation. Super 8 is meant to be a Speilberg homage, and with the exception of a few odd lense flares, he gave us a lot of great 80's-Speilbergian shots. We know Abrams has a lot of reverence for Star Wars, so there's a good chance he'll maintain the balanced color palate of those films, while adding in some of his smoother and more dynamic camera movement.

    BUT enough about JJ. What do you guys want to see?

    Personally I want a film with good, high energy but not shaky camera movement, a return to the gorgeous lighting of ESB, and honestly something that just looks epic and high quality but doesn't look like the cinematography for every other blockbuster out there. This ain't Transformers.

    Also, who do you want as the cinematographer? Personally, if they could get either Andrew Lesnie or Emmanuel Lubezki I would freak. Abrams frequent collaborator Daniel Mindell would also work, who also did the Star Warsish cinematography for John Carter.
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, May 13, 2013
  2. A Chorus of Disapproval New Films Riot Deterrent

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    I demand old school practical filmmaking!
    [IMG]
    Last edited by A Chorus of Disapproval, May 13, 2013
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  3. EHT New Films Manager

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    There's a lot here to digest, so I'll return to it later. For now, just wanted to say that your username and avatar are great.
  4. A Chorus of Disapproval New Films Riot Deterrent

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  5. EHT New Films Manager

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    Obviously that was for Han Burgundy, haha.
  6. Pro Scoundrel Force Ghost

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    I'm just going to watch this clip over and over. You guys talk amongst yourselves. :)
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  7. FRAGWAGON Force Ghost

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    Nov 3, 2012
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    Burgundy, great great post. I find it fascinating and slightly disturbing how people disgregard the visual.....the VISUAL MIND YOU, trademark of Star Wars. Hasn't it always been very kinetic for battle scenes, but for most normal scenes it's very simple and documentarian (in the best way).

    You expressed my worries about Abrams perfectly.....I love his style and palette in Star Trek but you put your finger on it....Star Wars is another beast, cinematically speaking.
    Last edited by FRAGWAGON, May 13, 2013
  8. BigAl6ft6 Force Ghost

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    Nov 12, 2012
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    To be fair to Abrams (and his cinematographer) they are allowed to go to extremes in Star Trek because there isn't a consistent visual style with it (aside from, like, the colours of the TOS uniforms, maybe) and it's set in a "new" Star Trek universe where the rules are upside down, and this is Abrams' basically own Star Trek universe to play in. Star Wars movies need to look like Star Wars, I agree. But your best comparison is Super 8, wherein Abrams was trying to look like Spielberg (who was an executive producer on the movie, which is what I'm guessing Lucas is gonna end up with), and he did a solid job, reigned back on the lens flare and handheld, which he is entirely allowed to go nuts on in Star Trek & MI:3. So I'm sure Abrams is well versed in the "look" of Star Wars to make it look like Star Wars .... but there will be a bit of handheld here, a bit o' lens flare there, etc. Just not as extreme. Which I don't mind, because I want to see Abrams put his own style on it while still working in the Star Wars framework. However, I don't think there should be handheld shaky action cam for all Star Wars action scenes, but tossing in a sequence or a shot or two could be different. Hell, there's "handheld" in Attack of the Clones CGI shots during the battle. Just think of those, like, maybe a few more.
    Last edited by BigAl6ft6, May 13, 2013
  9. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 28, 2013
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    A little bit I'm fine with. He'll, I'd even say a little shaky-cam puts a proper time-stamp on the film, like synthesizer music in an 80's movie, or casual racism/sexism in a move made before the 60's.

    I am definitely optimistic that the movie will look, on a basic level, like Star Wars. I'm just interested to see the level of craftsmanship beyond that. I mean, look at the Harry Potter films. Say what you will about the plotting, but there was always a sense of meticulous care in the way the films were shot (a quality that was consistent amongst the various directors and cinematographers) that really gave the series a greater sense of respectability.

    Like I said earlier, I think ESB should be the template here. Not to be another Empire-worshiper, but there was an emotive quality to the lighting and photography in that episode which is mostly missing in all the other films. All the Star Wars films are great when comes to visual scale and action, but ESB is the only one that consistently gets you to care even in the most mundane of shots.

    To make my point a little more tangible, I'd like a little more this (one of my favorite shots in the saga):
    [IMG]

    And a little less this (a beautiful shot in its own right, but a rather sterile beauty that lacks an emotional pull, and not because of Portmans neutral face) :
    [IMG]
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, May 13, 2013
  10. The Hellhammer 7SA Forum Interrogator

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    Excellent topic.

    First of all, I think Abrams will approach Episode 7 differently than he did Star Trek. ST was a reboot, he was free to alter everything from the source material, including any and all visual aspects as well. For some this works, for some it doesn't.
    Star Wars is a different case. It is not a reboot, but a continuation of a well established style and look. I have faith that Abrams will take a careful look at the minute aspects of OT and PT aesthetics and base his decisions on that.
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  11. BigAl6ft6 Force Ghost

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    ESB does have the best look to all the series, hell, it's worth it just for the carbon freezing chamber showdown between Vader and Luke. (also I always liked the look of the Falcon when they're in deep space and lit only by the lights of the instruments, the cockpit doesn't look quite as alive in ANH or ROTJ). You could argue that ROTJ is basically trying to ape the look of ESB but the colours aren't as stark or as warm, really. As for the Potter flicks, one thing I noticed was while Columbus did a great job with casting and location and setting, visually his first two Potter flicks really don't jump out. The Potter series really didn't have a distinctive visual signature pop (moody lighting, long dark shadows) until Curon's "Prisoner of Azkaban" which Yates & Newell did a very good job of basically keeping consistent. The odd thing is, the reason why "Prisoner of Azkaban" overall looks so menacing is the subtext is "Sirus Black is going to jump out of the aforementioned long dark shadows kill the hell out of you, Harry" which the other directors sort of kept running with, and that's when the Potter series really starts to look like Potter.

    With Star Wars, it's entrenched in George Lucas' classical visual style, which ESB made more lush, and ROTJ did a really, really good job of keeping it look mostly like a George Lucas film (if there's a slight against ROTJ, I think you can say the dynamic frame arrangements is somewhat less than the other 5 flicks). So, back to JJ, does he make pretty, pretty shots? Hells yeah. Does his sometimes jumbled style get in the way of the aforementioned pretty, pretty shots? Sometimes, yes. Now I don't mind the handheld aesthetic for plain ole dialogue scenes because I watch a hell of a lot of "24", and that's an interesting way to make a dialogue bit fun to watch. With Star Wars, if people are talking, the camera generally remains stationary and it's more of a composed shot. Could a handheld dialogue bit work in Star Wars? Most likely but it should be while something intense is happening or at least they're on a spaceship that is shaking or something. Star Wars style is that it looks spectacular but you don't really notice it. Abrams can do that, it just depends on how much he makes it his own, and how much he follows with the Star Wars style. But look at Super 8. He wanted to look like 80s era Spielberg and I'll be damned if it doesn't really look like that. With a bit of handheld and lens flare here and there. More of a sampling, really, when compared to Star Trek or MI:3.
    Last edited by BigAl6ft6, May 14, 2013
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  12. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

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    @BigAl6ft6 , I agree. I do think that the camera should move during dialogue more than it did in the past 6 films. A use of smooth steady cam shots that flow between characters would be awesome, and give things a great sense of energy.
    Also, I'll concede the points about Potter. SS and CoS look about a decade older than PoA, and the cinematography is a big part of that.
  13. Darth Claire Force Ghost

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    Dec 21, 2012
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    While I dont know many cinematographers, I have a basic idea of what they should be able to do: Capture the look and feel of the original trilogy while making it look new. Give us some gorgeous shots that fill us with nostalgia and wonder but dont come off as blantant rip offs of other scenes.
  14. Bobatron Jedi Grand Master

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    To me, it wasn't a lack of camera movement in the "dialogue scenes" of the prequels that felt odd, but the lack of movement and the settings of those dialogue scenes. It's too rigid with the slow walking or the sitting on couches, and partly because they were trying to make it easier to put in the CGI stuff or might have been restricted by the new digital cameras in 2000. Yes, I wanted to see Mon Mothma in ROTS, but not if it was a scene of people just sitting on couches. "Traditional Star Wars cinematography" had some surprises. Remember the handheld shot from C-3PO's point-of-view when Anakin was saying bye to him? Or the process shot of the cockpit after the "another happy landing" of Grievous's ship? One of my favorites, which was kind of controversial, was the duel in the dark between Anakin and Dooku with the close ups and illumination by lightsabers. It broke up the three back-to-back duels in that one little room without making the whole scene feel too long. The prequels get unfairly bashed for some techniques that were used going back to 1977 (including certain wipes). Abrams has remarked on how much of a STAR WARS fan he is, so with that I expect him to not make the movie look drastically different from the more traditional filming methods used in the series, however, he's been brought in for his talents just like Irvin Kershner was, and TESB looks very different from ANH.
  15. Jedsithor Force Ghost

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    One thing I noticed about Into Darkness was the use of Dutch angles....Battlefield Earth ruined that technique for me.

    With regard to Star Wars, it feels very classical to me. Camera on a tripod, maybe a few uses of the dolly, very wide establishing shots, action shots are smooth. Attack Of The Clones did employ a little bit of a documentary feel during a couple of shots in the Battle of Geonosis but for the most part, I feel that Star Wars took the approach of standing back where possible. With the prequels in particular, every wide shot is composed like a painting. Lucas likes to play around with shadow and often has very specific shots in mind but for the most part, the shot composition in Star Wars is pretty basic - Wide master, medium, close up and inserts.

    As such, Star Wars feels very old school and I would think that's deliberate. It's in the edit where the movie comes alive. Of course there are certain shots that don't necessarily follow the basic formula and in space battle shots, the camera is used to sell movement but unless Lucas thought of a particular shot that he felt would be cool, he tended to stick to the basics of cinematography, which isn't a bad thing. I don't think Star Wars should have a handheld or "shaky cam" look. It isn't real-world. It's a fantasy and a "grittier" in-the-action feel doesn't really suit it.
  16. BigAl6ft6 Force Ghost

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    There is going to be handheld in a JJ Abrams movie. That's a thing. It's just a matter of how much it's used to either give it a sampling of Abrams style applied to a set template (Super 8) or he runs with his own style (Star Trek). Haven't seen Into Darkness yet but I did notice the handheld was toned wayyyyyy down in Super 8 (it is there, though). thing is, I really don't think handheld translates all that well to 3D (which Ep. 7 will definitely be) but, even from the trailers, I can't see that much handheld comparatively to his first Trek flick. Heck, even Michael Bay was able to tone down his sometimes spastic camera for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" because even he knew that some tricks don't fly that well in a 3D area. I don't think handheld in a Star Wars movie will ruin it, I think it could be pulled off. Only slightly, though. Only slightly.
    Last edited by BigAl6ft6, May 14, 2013
  17. The Hellhammer 7SA Forum Interrogator

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    I hope they don't restrict themselves too much with thinking about the 3D thing. That's just a cheap gimmick that's currently popular and one that I've noticed many people find rather annoying for the amount of attention it gets.
    I tend to agree with them.
    Last edited by The Hellhammer, May 15, 2013
  18. Darth slaughter Jedi Master

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    Feb 22, 2013
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    JJ is not silly. He has promised us all he will do SW justice. He has more control over Star Trek, he'll have less control over Star Wars. I'm sure he'll make it as Star Wars as possible and less like Star Trek. He'll probably bend over backwards to make it less like Star Trek actually. I can be sure 99% there will be no lens flare
  19. Darth slaughter Jedi Master

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    Feb 22, 2013
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    Ps
    I saw Star Trek into darkness last night. Must admit I was very impressed. The 3D worked great, the special effects worked great, the acting and emotional drama worked well. Scott and his humour did not work very well. The best humour was between kirk, Spock, Uhura and bones.
    Benedict Cumberbatch was possibly te best actor and character in the movie. Very Sith/Dark Jedi like!
    I expect SW to have an even bigger budget (it's Disney after all) more special effects, bigger sets, more alien costumes/makeup.... Just more and bigger everything.
    I have faith :)
  20. Alexrd Force Ghost

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    Jul 7, 2009
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    I'm not sure that's even a fair comparison. The shots are different and not meant to show the same thing. I do understand your point on what you want to see, though.
  21. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 28, 2013
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    Correct. What I was really trying to highlight, more than anything else, was how differences in lighting technique and lense use created two very different types of images, regardless of the setting.

    The PT cinematography has some great composition (someone called it painterly, which is an apt description), but by and large the lighting was fairly flat and basic throughout (also true for some moments in ROTJ). Especially in AOTC, where the digital cameras weren't quite where they needed to be to handle some of the garishly high bright points, and in general just give everything sort of a stuffy, blasé feel to it, that even affects some of the otherwise best shots on the saga.
  22. Feng Shui Engine Jedi Master

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    I think I see what you're getting at with the two shots. The Leia one definitely has more of a romantic feel to it.
  23. Pro Scoundrel Force Ghost

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    This shot is an example of the kind of "shaky cam" jerky motion that I don't like. The camera just won't sit still, and it drives me nuts.

    Last edited by Pro Scoundrel, May 15, 2013
  24. Bobatron Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 3, 2012
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    I stopped watching the newer Battlestar Galactica because of that stuff. The earliest I remember that kind of shooting becoming common on scripted TV/movies was on NYPD Blue in 1993. I remember thinking it was kind of cool, since it was like what MTV had been doing on non-scripted stuff like MTV Sports before that. I figured it was used to quickly shoot TV without a lot of set-ups in a busy urban environment while also getting a bit of a documentary feel. It made the show look unlike anything else that was on at the time like Law & Order or Homicide: Life on the Street. Now though, it's just annoying and also why I couldn't stand movies like The Hurt Locker and Rachel Getting Married. Here were two films from directors known for crafting nice shots, especially Bigelow for her work in Point Break, just tossing that aside and making it look amateurish. Good shaking hand-held shots used sparingly always stand out when used sparingly and to show certain perspectives. The walk to the monolith on the moon in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The inexplicable switch to hand-held as the waiter brings Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace their drinks in Jack Rabbit Slim's. I don't know how it turned into a technique to use in every fight and dialogue scene.
    Anyway, aside from the shakiness curiosity...I'm eager to see the color palettes. That could depend on the state of the galaxy: wartime, peacetime, prosperous, post-apocalyptic...if the locations are more urban or natural; who knows.
    Last edited by Bobatron, May 15, 2013
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  25. LunarMoth Force Ghost

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    It's unfortunate that a lot of films that are considered hits or successful today are produced in a "flavor of the month" or "trendy" production style.