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Discussion The Cinematography of Episode VII

Discussion in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' started by TCF-1138, Dec 7, 2013.

  1. TCF-1138 New Films & Fan Films Mod

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 20, 2002
    star 5
    Being a cinematography nut, I was thinking a bit about the visual style of Star Wars. Contrary to what some prequel bashers might want to argue, all six Star Wars movies so far have pretty consistant cinematographical style.
    Lucas has his own way of shooting, and this influenced Kershner and Marquand quite a lot.
    They all use a lot of wide establishing shots that really allow the viewer to take in the landscape. They all use medium shots that include several charactes, really taking advantade of the 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio. And they all include close ups that also allows the background to come alive. Not too shallow a depth-of-field gives us information other than just the close up.

    I took some screen shots from all the existing Star Wars movies that are all similar to each other to make this point.
    I also chose to include The Clone Wars in this, since it's now a big part of Star Wars, and something that has introduced Star Wars to a whole generation.

    What I'd like to hear about this is - how similar to the earlier movies do you think Episode VII will be? How similar to the earlier movies do you want Episode VII to be?

    Take a look at screenshots below - do you expect to see shots like these in the new movie?

    Close-ups:

    The Phantom Menace
    [IMG]

    Attack of the Clones
    [IMG]

    The Clone Wars
    (OK, I had to cut this one picture since appearantly there's a twenty-image limit on the forum. Sorry about that. But you can see it here)

    Revenge of the Sith
    [IMG]

    A New Hope
    [IMG]

    The Empire Strikes Back
    [IMG]

    Return of the Jedi
    [IMG]

    As you can see, all of the above shots have a similar style of composition. The close-ups are not too close-up as to hide the surroundings (I think only Revenge of the Sith has a couple of those, otherwise most close-ups in Star Wars are like these).

    Medium shots:

    The Phantom Menace
    [IMG]

    Attack of the Clones
    [IMG]

    The Clone Wars
    [IMG]

    Revenge of the Sith
    [IMG]

    A New Hope
    [IMG]

    The Empire Strikes Back
    [IMG]

    Return of the Jedi
    [IMG]

    Again, all of the above shots really take care to utilize the entire widescreen frame.

    Long shots

    The Phantom Menace
    [IMG]

    Attack of the Clones
    [IMG]

    The Clone Wars
    [IMG]

    Revenge of the Sith
    [IMG]

    A New Hope
    [IMG]

    The Empire Strikes Back
    [IMG]

    Return of the Jedi
    [IMG]

    These pictures really show why Star Wars is, in a way, westerns. These huge landscape shots really allow us to enter this world, while still not losing contact with the characters.
    Of course, the shots from RotS and ANH are virtually the same, but I chose those specifically to further emphazise the fact that these movies all share a common visual style.

    Now, I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. Will the cinematography of Episode VII match this?
  2. Immortiss Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 10, 2013
    star 5
    If the ST doesn't it will be cinematographic hell. JJ will imitate well. One reason he was chosen for the job I suspect. The one thing I hoped he'd do, really. And work well with the actors. Great shots. Thanks for the images.
  3. Dra--- Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 30, 2012
    star 6
    Great thread! It's neat to see the connections between all the films. And while I wouldn't want to handcuff future directors too much, I would like to see this visual style remain as consistent as possible.

    And I think the long shots may be the most important of all. I do believe that frontiers are an important quality of the Saga, and these longshots really do a great job of establishing the heroes there.
    Last edited by Dra---, Dec 7, 2013
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  4. Darth PJ Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2013
    star 5
    You're dead right... there is a consistency in both the style and quality of cinematography in the existing 6 films. One of my favourite elements of Star Wars is the composition of shots and scenes... be it Vader silhouetted in the carbon freezing chamber or Maul's reveal in the Theed hangar. Each film is a visual feast and have so many iconic shots... which, IMHO, is something lacking in many modern blockbusters... Star Wars is shot/lit like a movie should be rather than a television show like many often are...

    I think JJ will try and imimitate the cinematography of at least the OT - that's a given. Wether he can create shots as iconic remains to be seen (although I've never thought the cinematograpgy in his work has been a problem before). ;)
  5. Force Smuggler Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 7
    I can't wait to see many new screen shots in the ST.
  6. Count Yubnub Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 2012
    star 4
    I love Lucas' direction (obviously) but I have yet to see evidence that Abrams can compose a shot as beautifully as Lucas can. Those Star Trek movie of his in particular look positively ugly.

    I'll gladly be shown wrong of course. He's shown himself to be a capable mediocre Spielberg epigone when he wants to (Super 8), maybe he can find a phone booth, change clothes, and turn himself into a capable mediocre Lucas epigone.

    I'm really positive about this, aren't I. *insert Debbie Downer trombone here*
    Last edited by Count Yubnub, Dec 7, 2013
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  7. Echo-07 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 9, 2012
    star 4
    You stole my words!!!

    +10000

    I don't know about that. I actually thought his Trek movies were visually stunning. I thought the entire Production design, while familiar, was fresh and dynamic. Also, as Immortiss already stated Abrams was chosen in part because of his adaptive style -- I think he will be able to marry the ST to the rest of the saga both visually and thematically.
  8. Count Yubnub Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 2012
    star 4
    To each their own, obviously.

    Immortiss was just voicing a suspicion--about which he/she might very well be right--but I don't think anyone of Disney or LFL has explicitly stated that Abrams was picked because of his adaptive style.
  9. The-Eternal-Hero Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2012
    star 4
    I'm praying that JJA leaves his "epileptic cameraman" out of EVII.
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  10. Dra--- Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 30, 2012
    star 6
    Then again, it's not very clear how much influence JJ will have on the cinematography to me. I'm sure Lucas had more control in asking for what he wanted, but I assume he had a cinematographer do the actual composition (no?). My idea about how this works is that the director has an idea of how he wants the shots to look, but then he leaves it to the cinematographer to carry the shot out, even often allowing them to compose as they see best.

    But I'm no expert on this process. I think we can say that JJ, and most directors, aren't composing all on their own.
  11. Count Yubnub Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 2012
    star 4
    David Tattersall is credited with the cinematography for the PT, but I don't know if that means he did the actual screen shot composition.

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  12. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 8
    Why didn't you post pics from VII? The hell man?!
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  13. TCF-1138 New Films & Fan Films Mod

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 20, 2002
    star 5
    Yeah, my bad! But now it's too late to edit the post. I'll do a repost in a couple of years or so.
  14. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 8
    Too late. I'm putting you on "ignore". You have failed me for the last time.
  15. The-Eternal-Hero Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2012
    star 4
    Tattersall is very gifted but Lucas was basically composing the shots in post and Tattersall didn't do pick-ups. SW movies are also heavily storyboarded, which is usually the director's job. SW also has a very set style. In terms of photography, there are some elements I am hoping JJA retains:

    High contrast / "True" blacks
    Clear, "white" light fills
    Bright, well defined colors (almost animation-level)

    I'd hate to see a smudgy, blurry, desaturated SW movie. Interesting story: when making RotS, GL had every single frame of SW footage existing loaded onto an editing machine and he purposely recreated and mirrored shots - precisely- from every movie . . .
    Last edited by The-Eternal-Hero, Dec 7, 2013
  16. phatdude1138 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2005
    star 4
    @TigerCraneFist great comparison of the sagas cinematography!

    I somewhat agree with Count on the Star Trek shots. I won't say "ugly", but definitely DON'T have a Star Wars feel at all.
  17. Han Burgundy Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
    star 3
    Not to plug myself, but I made a thread about this a while back on the previous board. You can read my OP here:

    http://boards.theforce.net/threads/lets-talk-cinematography.50012196/

    Basically, I think if you look at JJ's ability to adapt his style to that of other filmmakers (Super 8) and consider his reverence for Star Wars, I think we're in good hands. I wouldn't expect Episode 7 to look like any of JJ's past films. AND Daniel Mindel is a solid cinematographer. His work on John Carter and the first Star Trek (which had more classical, less stylized cinematography than the first) gives me confidence that he can do Star Wars justice.

    And I just have to say... as far as existing SW cinematography goes... ESB should be the template here. The cinematography for that one evokes emotion and intimacy through lighting and composition a way the other films rarely do. And although the PT had better cinematography than most give it credit for, there are a few PT lowpoints that i hope the new films avoid:

    1. Slow Zooms- When a still camera slowly zooms in on the subject in the middle of a scene for no reason. The PT had a lot of these, and they are excessively annoying.

    2. Poor exposure: mostly in AOTC, where the digital cameras just couldn't pick up light as well as traditional film cameras. Since EP7 will be shot on film, this will likely be avoided.
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, Dec 7, 2013
  18. Mystery Roach Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 10, 2004
    star 4
    My hope is that Abrams will follow the cinematography of the existing saga as closely as possible. Into Darkness looked better to me than the first one, but I thought both films were full of a lot of visual flourishes and fancy camerawork which would be out of place in Star Wars. I'm not too concerned about that though... I thought that style worked for Star Trek and I expect Abrams understands the difference as well.

    As for shot composition, it varies from director to director but many have a large hand in it, including Lucas. Most of the time the director has a pretty clear idea of how they want the shot to look, often complete with storyboards as has been said, and it's then up to the cinematographer to use their knowledge of lighting, lenses, and film (or digital as the case may be) to make it look that way. The way Lucas frames his shots is very specific, which is why there are many shots that have identical framing throughout the saga. Filoni has done a good job emulating Lucas's style of shooting in TCW, and I still haven't seen Super 8, but if Abrams apes Spielberg as well as I've heard then he should have no trouble doing the same.
    Last edited by Mystery_Roach, Dec 8, 2013
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  19. The Hellhammer Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 4, 2012
    star 5
    Which is quite alright, since they are Star Trek and not Star Wars.
  20. Diggs Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 2012
    star 4
    The way is mimicked early Amblin for at least the 1st half of Super 8 is what gives me the best hope, along with Dan Mindel's work on John Carter which I thought was great. My instinct is he will very much be looking to mirror the look and feel of the other films in the saga (favouring the OT I would imagine).
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  21. klooney Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2009
    star 1
    This. John Carter is a very good looking film.
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  22. Darth Eddie Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 14, 2013
    star 4
    I have little tolerance for shaky-cam can't-tell-quite-what's-going-on style action sequences. The whole Star Wars saga probably contains several dozen seconds worth of this sort of thing, and what's there is well executed. However I'm skeptical since based on what I've seen of Dan Mindel, he seems to me to be a little reliant on the quick and confusing approach. As long as the ST stays away from the head-spinning action sequences that plague a lot modern genre films, then I'll be cool with it. For me this is just one of the few chinks in the armor that I'll be keeping my eye on but hoping for an expert execution in the vein of traditional Star Wars.
  23. I Are The Internets Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 8
    If there is shaky-cam, I'm succumbing to the dark side.
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  24. Count Yubnub Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 2012
    star 4
    To be fair, what I find "ugly" about JJTrek is the color grading. I'm pretty sure we won't see that kind of color grading in Star Wars.
  25. Master_Sword Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2003
    star 4
    No plastic CGI. Make the movies dirty and lived in; that's part of the charm of the originals.

    We'll have to wait and see if we can see anything through the lens flares. :p