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Showing posts with label selective focus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label selective focus. Show all posts

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lensbabies, Tilt-Shift Photog, Vacuum Commercials, Oh My!

So, when you've covered the basics of theme, character, beginning, middle, end all the way up to blocking, what else can you do? Hmm, create atmosphere! [Cue jazz hands] But "Can" Doesn't Always Mean 'Do.' Snazzy camera or visual effects can be great, but context should always be the measure.

Lensbaby photo of Dresden Hauptbahnhof
by Sven Storbeck
The Lensbaby seems to be trending of late (Lensbaby examples at PP Magazine). Maybe it's because of the Lensbaby's recent portability to film cameras. Maybe it's because filmmakers *in droves* just like the look. Maybe it's because cool visuals is all some narratives have to offer in the end. Relying on the look of a film definitely has its place. The look helps to set tone. Just like music helps to set mood. But with selective focus now showing up in major vacuum TV commercials and USA Network shows like *Fairly Legal*, something seems to be in the air.

Sometimes these things work for a film. Sometimes they're one of the few things working for a film. E.g. Noé's *Enter the Void* had some highly engaging digital/post visual work though potentially disorienting for some. Rachel Ward's *Beautiful Kate* uses extensively what appears to be a Lensbaby for dreamy flashback scenes . . . to good effect. *Fairly Legal* is a sort of pastiche show and the selective focus+time lapsed insert shots of San Francisco somehow mesh with its light charm tone. In these cases, the look suited or made the piece endurable.

Tilt-Shift Photo of Sibiu, Romania
Wikimedia Commons: cc by-sa Amorphisman
But we've all seen movies where we wondered why the camera lingered so long on X (*Solaris* highway scene--why?) or why that shot of a rocking chair was there--what does it have to do with everything else you're showing us? How does it fit? *The Social Network* provided a moment like this for me. The film was primarily dark scenes and tonally restrained. Then in the middle of the film appeared a Tilt-Shift Photography1 scene: the rowing scene. Definitely remarkable. Definitely caused me to perk up. And just as soon as it was done, I started to wonder why--why now, why this, where is *this* coming from and where is it going? It was jarring.

Being a good cinematographer or a good singer or a good anything doesn't mean having to throw in everything AND the kitchen sink. You listen to Ella Fitzgerald and know she could sing runs around 90% of the world's singers but doesn't. --Jeff Cronenweth, I've thought you were wonderful since *One Hour Photo.* Why that shift of look for that one scene?

5-minute drum solos can be amazing. They also run the risk of becoming irritating or seeming self-indulgent. Shots and edits and styles need context. Except when randomness is intentionally at play in a work. Continuity, cohesion--these are in the pantheon for characters, stories, and film look.


1See examples of real Tilt-Shift vs. a post "Blur Mask" (Mask + Gradient Lens Blur) at The Cleverest.