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Hail Caesar

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Oliver Peters
Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 2:36:23 am

And from the other guys :)

http://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/video/pro-video-tools.html?trackingid=WB...

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Claude Lyneis
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 3:32:40 am

I enjoyed the film a lot, but all the inside stuff about Hollywood probably didn't grab the general audiences. This article does make me wonder how thing might have evolved, had Apple went farther down the FCP7 road. I am happy with X but whether it will ever have much impact on Hollywood is a big question.


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Charlie Austin
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:39:09 am

[Claude Lyneis] "I am happy with X but whether it will ever have much impact on Hollywood is a big question."

Have a look at Tim's WTF article.

-------------------------------------------------------------

~ My FCPX Babbling blog ~
~"It is a poor craftsman who blames his tools."~
~"The function you just attempted is not yet implemented"~


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Tim Wilson
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 10:54:51 am

Yes! Please! Apple FCPX and the Making Of Whisky Tango Foxtrot

Not meaning to suck attention away from the thread topic, which is the rightness of Premiere as the choice for the Coens (see my post below, where I also note how organic a choice it was for Fincher and Tim Miller), but, to speak to your point, Claude, I 100000% believe that X has the potential to move the needle in Hollywood more than FCP ever could, for reasons I discuss in the article.

Now, whether or not it actually WILL, we'll see. :-)


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Claude Lyneis
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 6:31:21 pm

Tim's WTF article underlines that it takes innovative film makers to adopt FCPX for a feature film. From what I have read, the number of Hollywood movies has dropped from 700 a year to 350 a year in the last 10 years and this has made it difficult for independent film makers. Hopefully, their approach of cutting the number of days shooting will open up the possibilities for more films per year.

Can't wait to see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:39:13 pm

[Claude Lyneis] "From what I have read, the number of Hollywood movies has dropped from 700 a year to 350 a year in the last 10 years and this has made it difficult for independent film makers. Hopefully, their approach of cutting the number of days shooting will open up the possibilities for more films per year."

Probably not. From a technical standpoint it probably has never been cheaper or easier to make and distribute a movie than in the past few years. The big reason the number of movies has dropped is because the studios were cranking them out at an unsustainably high rate. There is only so much free time people have and there are more movies, books, TV shows, webisodes, video games, songs, web sites, social media platforms, etc., than ever before all duking it out for those small slivers of free time.

The old adage was everyone in Hollywood had a screenplay (all you need is a typewriter). Then it changed to everyone in Hollywood has a movie (DV and desktop NLEs). Now it's changed to everyone in Hollywood has distribution (YouTube, Netflix, etc.,). The market is supersaturated with content these days because making content (regardless of quality) is so easy. In 2000 about 3500 films were submitted to Sundance. In 2014 about 12,000 films were submitted. 300 hours (hours!) of new content is uploaded to YouTube everyone minute!

The hurdle these days isn't getting your movie made, it's being able to rise above the fray and successfully monetize the movie you made.


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Charlie Austin
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:43:41 am
Last Edited By Charlie Austin on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:48:35 am

[Oliver Peters] "And from the other guys :)"

You mean Adobe? Those guys? You'll note Tim's piece was not written by, or commissioned by Apple. It was written by, um... Tim. :-) Pretty unbiased author I'd say.

-------------------------------------------------------------

~ My FCPX Babbling blog ~
~"It is a poor craftsman who blames his tools."~
~"The function you just attempted is not yet implemented"~


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Tim Wilson
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 10:24:39 am

[Charlie Austin] "Pretty unbiased author I'd say."

Well, it was very biased in the sense that I believe that objectivity is a lie, and to the extent that there may possibly be such a thing, it is to be rigorously avoided. LOL I stated my bias, that I think the WTF guys are up to something that really intrigued me, and I wrote from the perspective of my own enthusiasm with THEIR enthusiasm.

But I also wrote about THEIR biases, which include a love of risk and a desire to touch everything, that made FCPX a good choice for them. Not every director rolls that way. At the other end of the spectrum, I can imagine directors who care every bit as much about the same production issues who don't care specifically how their teams approach it. "I pay U ppl to figure that out." Maybe it'd be the post supervisor or the editor or somebody like that.

It certainly gets fuzzier when you have directors like Ficarra-Requa and the Coens who also edit...

My directors cut of the article also included a brief (FOR ME) compare and contrast with David Fincher's bias to not just pushing post forward onto the set, but pushing cinematography back into post, eg, reframing every single shot. I'd have been stupefied to see him NOT gravitate toward Premiere and After Effects. Completely organic choice, completely reflects his bias that multiple iterations of THE FRAME is a good idea.

The Coen brothers are also one of a kind, so to speak. I was working at Avid when they did their first project on FCP, which caused some consternation. Raising Arizona was a team favorite -- I was odd man out preferring The Big Lebowski (BUT THE DUDE ABIDES) -- and my boss's wife had actually written a book about the Coen brothers. But when I heard their workflow, I said, "Wow, Media Composer would have been a spectacularly bad fit for them."

Of course, the next thing I said was, "The only thing worse for them is Final Cut." LOL I'm surprised that they stuck with it as long as they did. Everything about Premiere for THEM makes vastly more sense to me.

You may recall that, as enthusiastic as I was, and am, about FCPX, I've said loudly and often that the greatest favor Apple may have done the industry is to help more people understand that Premiere is a better fit for them than FCP was in the first place, and certainly the better fit going forward.

It's remarkable to me that workflows as different as Finchers and the Coens (and for that matter Tim Miller with Deadpool) can be accommodated so organically within the Creative Cloud, which is why, as engaged as I've personally been by FCPX since I first saw it, I've also said that I think it's inevitable that Adobe wind up with the biggest slice of the pie. Compelling tools, compelling combinations, enormous flexibility, all the stuff you see in articles like this.....

....which might reflect your priorities, and which might not. But the "originated from Adobe"-ness or "originated from Tim"-ness of it is ultimately irrelevant. The most relevant bias to watch is the bias of the people portrayed IN the article, not the employer of the author.

This is actually a theme I've hammered many times in this forum over the years, that what appears to be a technical choice is actually a reflection of personal style. THAT's the value of articles like these to me. The more biased the better. What are these people trying to do?

Of course, the idea that we're kidding ourselves when we fail to talk about technology choices as a reflection of personality is pretty Freudian. I think "objective" is a lie we tell ourselves to preserve the illusion of rationality.

Whereas Siggy and I feel that rationality is only useful when applied to puncture the illusion of rationality. LOL Be specific: HOW am I kidding myself. LOL Speak aloud the unspoken forces that have driven previous decisions in hopes that the next one might actually be a little more rational, which can't ever be taken for granted.

Being rational is hard precisely because it's unnatural, and more often than not, self-defeating, because it gets conflated with objectivity, which doesn't exist.

So THERE's the task. Identify the biases of the subject of the article, identify the biases in yourself, and ask, "Are the forces that drove those choices similar to the ones that drive mine?"

It's only when you align your inner forces with your outward choices that you can approach balance, and after that, happiness.

THAT's what struck me talking to Glenn Ficarra. He's a happy guy. We laughed a LOT in that conversation. FCPX was the right fit for him and his partner, and the rightness of that choice touched everything they did, including location scouting and screenings for suits. LOVE it.

I'm also gratified that Fincher and the Coens took the advice I would have given them about using Premiere that they could have saved themselves a lot of time if they'd asked me for. LOL

And now I shall reveal my true choice for the new name of this forum: FCPX or Not: Group Therapy. LOL


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Oliver Peters
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 1:17:14 pm

I'll have a WTF article myself coming up as well.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Oliver Peters
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 7:39:06 pm

And my story for DV:

http://www.creativeplanetnetwork.com/news/edit/hail-caesar-modern-workflows...

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Scott Witthaus
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 2:12:41 pm

So if I hate the movie, do I get to blame Premiere? ;-)

Always made me laugh at Avid marketing: "all the award winning films cut on Avid..." What about the one's that suck? Must be FCPX that those were cut on!

Scott Witthaus
Senior Editor/Post Production Supervisor
1708 Inc./Editorial
Professor, VCU Brandcenter


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Oliver Peters
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 7:39:55 pm

And my story for DV magazine/CreativePlanetNetwork:

http://www.creativeplanetnetwork.com/news/edit/hail-caesar-modern-workflows...

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:29:52 pm

[Oliver Peters] "And my story for DV magazine/CreativePlanetNetwork"

Great article, thanks Oliver!

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Bill Davis
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 26, 2016 at 9:58:08 pm
Last Edited By Bill Davis on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:08:18 pm

Weird, but so much fun reading Tims article about X in Wisky Tango and the contrast if that to Oliver's piece about Caesar. Talk about different mindsets! For so many, many months of debate here on the Cow I kept failing so spectacularly to understand many of the reasons I got so frustrated when my sparring partners kept focusing on the minor stuff like the magnetic timeline differences and arguing points like "ALL software uses metadata so what's the big deal?" ... And I kept having the powerful feeling that it was my personal inability to communicate it properly that was driving so much of my angst. Thanks Tim for helping me see (in retrospect) that part of the reason the debate got so messy, was that I just couldn't do even a half decent job of seeing the scope of the changes the X approach was starting to allow. I knew there was a shift. One that was helping me work faster and smarter - but couldn't always put it in context or really, even get it in focus. Reading this actually helped. So too reading about the Premiere approach. What a difference in tone and outlook. Kinda stark, actually. And interesting that fine films can be made with such different approaches. New tools gain power when they suggest to the user, new techniques to leverage them. And traditions rock for those who value that - including, it appears digital foot pedals! Who saw that coming?!? I'm in Florida at the moment returning from a week on a corporate shoot and it was HUGELY different (and more efficient!) than anything I've shot before thanks to X, Lumberjack, X-Rite ... and having a keyword strategy in advance and understanding HOW modern shot logging can work - it's just SO MUCH easier now. And my camera and sound crew (mostly Disney veterans from Orlando) kept making notes.
Change is exciting. Which is nice, cuz I don't think it's slowing down anytime soon!
Great article. The change we're expecting isn't always the real change happening. This brought that home to me again.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Oliver Peters
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 27, 2016 at 12:59:32 am

This seems appropriate to this thread. The Coens' approach to the reverse shot.







- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Chris Harlan
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 27, 2016 at 5:55:56 am

That was terrific!


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Steve Connor
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 27, 2016 at 7:25:11 pm

Great piece!


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Bill Davis
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 28, 2016 at 1:35:05 am

Absolutely. And makes me think about how easy it would be in X (and maybe Premiere and AVID?) to just do multi clips with the reverses bundled together by dialog lines and manage the options via keywording. Instant options always ready at a click. Should be a joy to work if it's prepped with intent.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Oliver Peters
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 28, 2016 at 5:01:41 pm

[Bill Davis] "makes me think about how easy it would be in X (and maybe Premiere and AVID?) to just do multi clips with the reverses bundled together by dialog lines and manage the options via keywording.
"


That really seems like overthinking how to do the edit :). They are already "bundled together" by virtue of how the takes are named. And often reverses aren't even filmed/recorded at the same time, depending on the production and the director. If these were shot 2-cam, then it makes sense, however, the point of the essay was that Deakins frames between the actors, so a 2-cam production isn't viable.

Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Bill Davis
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 28, 2016 at 10:13:27 pm

[Oliver Peters] "If these were shot 2-cam, then it makes sense, however, the point of the essay was that Deakins frames between the actors, so a 2-cam production isn't viable"

Yet.

Who knows how long it will be before there are cameras that act like binaural mics capturing reverses from a single point that allows "live" two shot performances in real time? Why necessarily shoot these sequentially any more? Sure that may still be the directors preference. But what if it's not? Think of all the continuity problems it will solve with elements like changing location light over reverses shot hours apart? And as cameras get more sentitive, and the "existing light with minor enhancements" trend gets more popular - wouldn't concurrent reverses benefit from being captured simultaneously when that fits?

Wasn't part of the point of this discussion that shooting traditional reverses - in the traditional fashion, should be an OPTION, not a requirement?

Or is there something special about the Cohen's employing a camera position more inside the scene that precludes using new technology to make that easier, rather than more difficult?

Honestly asking.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Oliver Peters
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 28, 2016 at 10:38:31 pm

[Bill Davis] "Sure that may still be the directors preference. But what if it's not? Think of all the continuity problems it will solve with elements like changing location light over reverses shot hours apart? And as cameras get more sentitive, and the "existing light with minor enhancements" trend gets more popular - wouldn't concurrent reverses benefit from being captured simultaneously when that fits?"

Precisely because it is the director's choice. These choices are often made to control lighting in a creative fashion. For example, if you study Robert Richardson's lighting (Tarantino's DP) it almost never comes from the direction of a natural, logical source. So using existing light might be technically viable, but it isn't creatively viable for everyone unless that's what the script calls for.

[Bill Davis] "Or is there something special about the Cohen's employing a camera position more inside the scene that precludes using new technology to make that easier, rather than more difficult?"

Right now, physical proximity. Remember, you aren't shooting this with an iPhone or GoPro, although you could if the script called for that look. But remember that even if you shot both sides simultaneously, you probably wouldn't use the take that's in-sync anyway, due to performance choices. Part of it is also letting the director focus in on each little element.

From my vantage point as an editor, I've cut small films done single camera and dual camera and generally you don't get equal use out of both cameras. Maybe - and this is a big maybe - I get 25% utilization of the shots in that other angle. I usually see better results on single-camera shows, unless it's reality TV.

Take two-shots as another example. You'd think that would a no-brainer as it's all in one shot. However, for years now, editors have been combining different takes to composite a new two-shot because Actor A is better in one take and Actor B better in another. Or to adjust performance timing. That's done regardless of the NLE software used. So it's not a matter of whether new technology can do this, but rather whether or not it would be that beneficial to the process.

I post-suped and graded a small indie film that had 76 VFX shots. These were for all kinds of little fixes, but one that's relevant to this discussion is a shot of the hero couple with a ferris wheel in the background. The take the director liked best din't have the ferris wheel moving. A simple composite of another take put in the moving ferris wheel. That sort of stuff is done all the time these days in editing dialogue performances, whether it's for objects or several actors performing.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 28, 2016 at 11:34:17 pm

[Oliver Peters] "Precisely because it is the director's choice. These choices are often made to control lighting in a creative fashion. For example, if you study Robert Richardson's lighting (Tarantino's DP) it almost never comes from the direction of a natural, logical source. So using existing light might be technically viable, but it isn't creatively viable for everyone unless that's what the script calls for."

I'll go one step further and say even in controlled environment like a studio the required setup to get Person A lit correctly might conflict with the required setup to get Person B lit correctly on the reverse so even if you had two cameras to shoot both at the same time you still wouldn't because you couldn't reconcile the lighting issues. For a simple example, say you want Person A extremely back light but by doing so you make Person B, on the reverse, washed out. Or, even more basic than that, you just can't physically place the lights where you want them to be if you are shooting both angles at the same time.

It gets down to the basic difference between shooting single came vs multicam. In single cam you can really fine tune the look you want (the lighting, set design, blocking, etc.,) because you always know what the audience will be seeing. With multicam you have to


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Bill Davis
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 2:22:05 pm

Guys, I acknowledge all of what you are saying. But the point is that while we all know that the traditional process of disconnecting the creation of what will become contiguous takes in shooting space and timers both effective and expected - having new alternatives that allow the possibility of real time capture when the director might want to value single performance energy or tone or character interaction over "assembly control" in building the final scene. It's just another option. And options are good, right?

Plus, remember, again we are talking about processes appropriate to one form of content creation - the type that happens at the top end of the production pyramid where ample resources are the norm to employ time and money in large amounts to precisely solve production problems. There are lots of worthy production types that would relish having the option to capture these types of "inside reaction shots" quicker and easier while spending less to do so.

Seems like that would be a good thing? No?

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Oliver Peters
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 2:54:34 pm

[Bill Davis] " But the point is that while we all know that the traditional process of disconnecting the creation of what will become contiguous takes in shooting space and timers both effective and expected..."

Just as an FYI - the value of the video is the use of the technique, independent of the software used to get there. :)

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 5:23:51 pm

[Bill Davis] "And options are good, right? "

Yes, but you had asked:

[Bill Davis] "Why necessarily shoot these sequentially any more? Sure that may still be the directors preference. But what if it's not?"

So Oliver and I were trying trying to give you some examples of "why not".


[Bill Davis] "There are lots of worthy production types that would relish having the option to capture these types of "inside reaction shots" quicker and easier while spending less to do so."

There are, but like you said the focus of the discussion was on the "...top end of the production pyramid.."so that's what we talked about. As long as the director didn't run into any technical or aesthetic limitations there's no reason one couldn't setup two GoPros, iPhones, DSLRs, Blackmagic Pocket cameras, SI-2k Mini's, ARRI Alexa Mini's, etc., and edit it as multicam as you suggested. I'd honestly be surprised if someone, somewhere hadn't already tried it yet. People are even going 'beyond' what we are talking about (shooting both angles at the same time) and shooting all 'angles' at the same time with 360 degree camera rigs for VR.


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Oliver Peters
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 5:46:08 pm

[Andrew Kimery] "and edit it as multicam as you suggested."

Actually two-cameras and multicam are often shot for dialogue scenes. But, the logistics of camera placement generally dictate two over-the-shoulder shots or two different framings from the same angle or two cameras at 90-degrees apart. You don't get the same effect as the Coens' examples. Plus there's more directorial control in their approach. Some directors want everything to be shot as two camera set-ups and others religiously avoid it and stick with single camera techniques.

This isn't limited to the high-end, since I've seen the same thing done in the most basic corporate training videos.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 5:57:34 pm

[Oliver Peters] "Actually two-cameras and multicam are often shot for dialogue scenes. But, the logistics of camera placement generally dictate two over-the-shoulder shots or two different framings from the same angle or two cameras at 90-degrees apart. You don't get the same effect as the Coens' examples. "

Right, but we were talking about the Coen's approach which could possibly be achieved with small enough cameras likes the ones I mentioned. Even with those small cameras though whether or not a dirctor would want to shoot that way, or could shoot that way, is another question. Not to state the obvious, but the single vs multicam 'debate' isn't just one of technical differences but also aesthetic differences and preferences.


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Tim Wilson
Reverse shots...Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 6:33:26 pm

[Andrew Kimery] "Not to state the obvious, but the single vs multicam 'debate' isn't just one of technical differences but also aesthetic differences and preferences."

But mostly technical, I think.

It highlights a reality that I've never seen addressed at any length: the reverse shot is entirely unnatural. Literally. It can't exist in nature, because it requires two simultaneous points of view.

That may seem obvious, but think about it. You, personally, can't stand in one location and "see" a reverse. It's entirely a cinematic invention, and can only be approached that way.

Although I suppose you COULD say that using reverses AT ALL is an aesthetic choice, which of course it is. And a relatively recent one at that.

What's most interesting to me about reverses as an unnatural artifice is that they're rooted in the very human reality of our role as witnesses, WANTING to see both speakers speak, AND wanting to see both sets of reactions. Even though there's absolutely no way that we could experience the conversation this way "in reality," reverse work because of this fundamentally human drive to empathy, to identify, in this case, with both of the people in the scene.

As both you and Oliver have identified, lighting is ultimately the gating factor in most cases. The lighting that would produce the most "natural" effect from one camera angle in this entirely UN-natural arrangement might not "look" natural from the other angle -- since there's nothing "natural" about the relationship between the two angles!

There's also the technical problem that pumping in enough light to work for two contrasting, perhaps even conflicting, camera angles requires a lot of space. If you say twice as much space, then you might be cutting the number of potential shooting spaces in half, right?

Then staging the shot such that both camera set-ups AND both sets of lights AND their crews (focus pullers and such) are out of the frame now creates hard limits on where the cast can be. It almost certainly necessitates that everything be locked down.

Locking down cameras, lights, and actors for the technical reason of just creating a frame with the right things included and excluded also takes time for testing, and introduces risks for technical issues, rather than artistic choices, necessitating expensive retakes.

Even if there was in fact a one-headed camera that could view multiple perspectives, the rest applies. Costs skyrocket, and artistic choices plummet.

To go off topic of my off topic tangent, my pet peeve is reverse shots where the actor's mouth doesn't match the words we're hearing. That's the OPPOSITE of fixing it in post, u ppl. That's taking a perfectly good shot and CREATING a mistake in post that didn't actually happen on the set.

That's a whole 'nother rant, but we're THIS FAR along in the history of cinematic language, and I still see this almost every single day.

Anyway, there are no problems in creating reverse shots that could be solved by shooting with a single camera, and the small handful of advantages that some multicam shoots allow frequently come at price of severely limiting artistic choices, for fundamentally technical reasons.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Reverse shots...Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 7:30:36 pm

[Tim Wilson] "It highlights a reality that I've never seen addressed at any length: the reverse shot is entirely unnatural. Literally. It can't exist in nature, because it requires two simultaneous points of view."

I do think you might be over-egging this.

If you have two actors sitting facing each other across a table, all the viewer is "effectively" doing is sitting at a third chair at right angles to them and moving his/her head from side to side with each cut, as in a tennis match. Yes, we accept some stretching of reality in that we're seeing further round than we would if we were physically there, but it's not a huge stretch. If we leaned right over the table so that we were more between the two actors then we would reduce the unnaturalness still further.

What shows this to be true is the discomfort we feel when the eyeline is not respected - what's happened is that we've been jolted without warning to the other side of the table.

Obviously we have become accustomed to the stretching of reality here, so that we accept over the shoulder reverses, but I still think that instinctively we sense that we are occupying a viewing position between the two actors. (Over the shoulders on a long lens feel the most unnatural of all, of course ...) Perhaps we feel that we are shifting our body position between cuts to accommodate the change of view?

All the cut is doing is eliminating the head movement (or torso movement or repositioning of our feet) that we would make. But this ellipsis is itself very natural - it's a cognitive error not to realise that our brains see in snatches rather than in a continuous "recording". Film cuts work because they emulate the way our brains see - rather than the way we think we see.

Cinematic conventions tend to stretch reality rather than as you are suggesting break with it altogether.

I would accept however that as the language has evolved it has allowed us to accept a greater degree of implausibility of viewpoint. There is a very bizarre convention that seems to me to be utterly unnatural when you have three people at a table to shoot between the heads of the actors sitting on the same side. To me that feels completely wrong and can result in serious spatial confusion. What's happening there is breaking with the natural sense that you are sitting at the same table as the actors.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Reverse shots...Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 8:06:10 pm
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Feb 29, 2016 at 8:06:26 pm

But I meant to add that you're absolutely right about lighting.

Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Tim Wilson
Re: Reverse shots...Re: Hail Caesar
on Mar 1, 2016 at 9:29:13 pm

[Simon Ubsdell] "I do think you might be over-egging this. "

I need to add "Over-egging" to my job title somehow. Definitely belongs on my business card.



[Simon Ubsdell] "Cinematic conventions tend to stretch reality rather than as you are suggesting break with it altogether. Perhaps we feel that we are shifting our body position between cuts to accommodate the change of view?"


Perhaps I was over-egging my use of the word "reality." And I think there's an extent to which we're using it in a slightly different way.

I like the tennis match analogy, but I think it also supports my view at least as well as yours.

That is, as executed, reverse shots tend not to be filmed from a single seat at center court, but as if they were from two cameras behind each baseline.

There's certainly a spectrum of artistic choices to be made, of course. In the context of the Coens, they (and Roger Deakins) do tend to shoot conversations from "inside" the conversation, so to speak, very frequently (most frequently, if I'm remembering correctly) in a position "between" the actors that one might describe as "on the net."

No OTS, but rather, reversed 1-shots. They may be the only filmmakers for whom Bill's two-headed camera could work.

Except that their use of short lenses is often combined with long distances, to include big parts of the background. They certainly used it to great effect in Fargo, but just as often use it interior spaces to communicate details about minor characters and settings.

This gets back to the reality of one's ability to take in both sides of the reverse. We can't, because the cameras are "really" placed well behind the actor who we're "apparently" in front of.

That is, the camera appears to be in the couple of feet between the actors, but is actually several feet behind the pair of them.

Which is some of what I meant by saying that no one person could actually experience a reverse shot. Not as it's shot, and most often, not as it's viewed.

There's also the matter of non-dialog reverse shots. Call them reverse establishing shots. You could do something close with a pan of course, but as used in practice, especially by the Coens, I think the point is to take away the idea of "there's one perspective that encompasses two points of view" and intentionally replace it with "there are two isolated points of view. There is no unified perspective."

Returning to our tennis analogy, we're not MEANT to be seated in the stands, swiveling our heads from a single perspective. We're MEANT to have TWO points of view, and their isolation from each other is critical.

That's HUGE for the Coens. Sometimes it's expressed as being trapped (think William H Macy in Fargo), sometimes as separation (think Javier Bardem), but I think they're stylizing the dis-unity of emotional elements. The further apart, the less reconcilable their perspectives, the better.

I think Tony's video (which I hope u ppl have watched, so I'll link it again here) also wisely calls out Paul Greengrass's approach to conversational reverses in The Bourne Supremacy, where the shot is almost BEHIND the shoulder, starting at around 1:32 in the clip. It's like we're hiding behind Joan Allen to eavesdrop on Brian Cox....but then we're also hiding behind Albert to eavesdrop on Joan. It's absolutely impossible for one person to be in both of those positions. It simply can't be done.

These are just the grabs I could grab, and don't fully express how far behind them I appear to be standing for the shots in motion. That I can go from having Joan Allen blocking half the screen to in an instant now be alllllll the way behind Brian Cox is impossible.







And then we get even CLOSER. You can definitely get more of a sense of how thoroughly "behind" each of the speakers we are, and the extent to which we as viewers are hiding, in two specific, very separate places.






Not to put too fine a point on the nature of reality, but in reality, human eyes don't work the way this shot works. This shot can ONLY be achieved by a long lens, far away, zoomed in.

As a career documentarian, I think Greengrass is very aware of the extent to which is visual approach is not rooted in "real" reality, but it feels organic in the context of the story. After all, it's a story about manufactured reality explicitly in contrast with "real" reality.

Over-egging our irreconcilable positions in space and time underscores the irreconcilability of Joan Allen and Brian Cox, and very much supports the idea that both have something to hide, and that Very Bad Things Are Coming Soon.

That's one of the things that long lenses, far away, zoomed in TELL us. They compress distance. To start the scene with the cameras so far away, but to wind up so much "in their faces" and yet still hiding? Pressure is building! This isn't sustainable. Something's gotta give.

For that matter, the Coens RELY on the unreality of Deakins' short lenses, frequently using it to distort faces, but also to exaggerate camera moves that, again, we as humans, don't make. Even if we could, we see the world differently than these kinds of shots reflect. We don't have fixed lens lengths. LOL

In all cases I've cited -- long lens or short lens, OTS, "behind" the shoulder, isolated singles, conversational shots, establishing shots, so on -- the physical unreality of our position and intentional deviations from the way we normally see the world are intentional uses of highly stylized cinematic technique to support storytelling. The glues they rely on to hold these shots together include our ability to abstract a unified worldview from conflicting perspectives, and our essentially human drive to empathy, even with characters we don't actually empathize with.

But they DON'T include an especially deep commitment to representing a view of the room that any particular human could ever possibly have.

I think it's worth noting that there's some evolution at work here. Early cinema's roots in theater are evident in the relative absence of reverses. Over time, the angles are further and further separated from each other, to the point that, as in Bourne, they are utterly irreconcilable.

Again noting that there's a spectrum here. There are clearly some parts of the cinematic language that haven't changed much at all, and some filmmakers use visual language that has been settled for generations. But I think that the language of reverses has changed a lot, and I think approaches that Greengrass and the Coens take would have looked daring to any stylistic innovators who might have been contemporary with, say Barton Fink. Buñuel went pretty far, but he never went this far.



[Simon Ubsdell] " it's a cognitive error not to realise that our brains see in snatches rather than in a continuous "recording". Film cuts work because they emulate the way our brains see"

On that we agree completely.

I'm only aware of one music video that uses a single, unbroken take of a slow zoom, Bruce Springsteen's "Brilliant Disguise." Neither a brilliant song, brilliant video, nor much of a disguise at all, it illustrates how completely unnatural it is to see the world without cuts. He's sitting in a chair in the kitchen, playing an acoustic guitar, but we WANT to see multiple closeups -- fingers on frets, strings plucked, his face -- mixed with shots at a variety of distances.

Plus it's in black and white, and hey, where's the rest of the band? LOL It's really a terrible idea. I see you playing AND hear it, so I'm clearly in a world where instruments are playing -- where's everyone else??

I understand why they tried this but I don't get how they found the result usable. You're fighting -- or at least *I'm* fighting the zoom the whole time.







Maybe it felt daring to go so far out on a limb.

Of course, Sinead O'Connor went even further out on the limb 3 years later with "Nothing Compares 2 U." After a brief preamble, the camera rests on a chin-to-no-hairline closeup, no zoom whatsoever. She changes what's in the frame by the size of her singing, but it feels less artificial because there really is nowhere else to look. We're not worried about the music, because we're not in the frame with a musician. We're in the frame with her soul.

If you haven't seen this in a while, you only think you remember how bold it was.









Anyway, if I'm being honest, ever since the part of the conversation where the Englishman mentions tennis, I admit that my internal soundtrack comes from another bit of video, wherein WTF = Why the frogs?








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Bill Davis
Re: Reverse shots...Re: Hail Caesar
on Mar 2, 2016 at 3:42:08 pm

Tim,

Man - I so enjoyed spending a piece of a lazy morning reading this. Thanks.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Reverse shots...Re: Hail Caesar
on Mar 2, 2016 at 4:11:20 pm
Last Edited By Simon Ubsdell on Mar 2, 2016 at 4:26:22 pm

Thank you for your fascinating reply. Lots of really interesting points in there, but I think you are perhaps missing an essential nuance or two.

Film language is much less about physical geometry than it is about "engagement", and engagement is a direct function of "distance" both physical and psychological. Because distance is a sliding scale, so is the effect of any shot or sequence of shots. (I'll explain this in a moment.)

You seem to talk as though there were a Platonically existing reverse shot that it is possible to pin down and measure, with the camera being placed exactly here and looking at exactly this, but my contention would be that there is a continuum in what we are psychologically prepared to accept as a reverse shot and it extends a long way in both directions. But what is important to understand is that the concept is grounded in a simple perceptual model.

Let's step away from reverse shots for a moment, because I think they are a special case of a much more basic principle which we can understand better if we focus on what's happening in a single first of all.

The viewer is "engaged" with the character he is looking at any one time to the exact extent that the actor's eyeline relates to the lens.

It goes without saying that if a character has his/her back to us, we are completely disengaged.

If we move around so that we are at right angles to the eyeline, things have obviously improved but we are still disengaged to a considerable degree. We feel this viewpoint as an objective one - we are "looking on" much more than we are empathising. This viewpoint is typically dispassionate.

If we continue moving round, we engage more and more. An obvious reason for this is that we can now see into the actor's eyes and this is a really huge factor in creating engagement - we have evolved to be incredibly sensitive to the messages we get from another person's eyes. Unless you're a sociopath, it's physically impossible not to be absorbed when you can see into someone's eyes.

If we move all the way around, until we are looking directly into the actor's eyes, we have full engagement, and it is surprisingly disturbing especially in a narrative context, in that instead of "viewing" the scene, we become implicated in it.

Obviously a clever film-maker is going to manipulate the angle of the eyeline to the camera differently at different moments to enhance or reduce the engagement we are feeling. Clearly there is no ideal, right answer to the choice of this angle or the degree of engagement that results from it - that's obviously absurd. It's all about making a choice that is right for that particular moment. Obviously there will be times when disengagement can be used just as effectively as engagement. A film is not a steady state experience - it's an ebb and flow of states and great film-makers are masters of the ebb and flow. (What's really depressing incidentally is to see mere aesthetics trump this fundamental principle - pretty shots are meaningless, and very frequently utterly counter-productive, if they are not subservient to the engagement principle.) Note that I am absolutely not saying that engagement is good and disengagement is bad - both are essential, and to some degree you can't have one without the other. But that's a discussion for another time. (Also I should point out that of course actors turn their heads, which means the the eyeline is not fixed by the camera alone, but let's not over-complicate for now, but merely note that the actor can shift the level of engagement within the shot and this can be a very powerful factor. If you really want complication, remember that the camera too can change its position ...)

What I think this discussion of the eyeline angle and engagement shows us is that the camera puts us the viewer in the scene, not just physically but psychologically. Sticking with our single for a moment, it's obvious that both the choice of lens and the distance of the camera from the subject are going to be factors that we will want to manipulate to enhance or reduce engagement. A lens and camera position that excludes the environment and isolates the actor will create greater engagement than a wider lens that allows us to be aware of what's happening around the character. It's a well-worn trope to use a long lens and shallow focus in order to put us inside the character's thoughts (which usually also involves an eyeline that is close to the lens). Incidentally I don't think we experience the actual distance of the camera in this instance (which will often be quite considerable) - what we feel is the sensation of being inside the character's personal space and it's this psychological "distance" that we feel most strongly, not the geometric distance. (There is the "voyeur factor" that a long lens can introduce sometimes, but again let's not over-complicate.)

So what does all that mean for our reverse shot discussion? I think the important point is that we have established that our engagement is predicated on a sensation of being physically present in the space of the scene. We have also seen that the canny film-maker knowingly varies the "distance" we have from the actors/action, this distance being both a physical and psychological thing and not necessarily dependent on physical geometry.

So I come back to my original contention that in essence we perceive the shot/reverse shot method to conform to the "tennis match" model. In other words, it stems from the natural sensation of standing/sitting between two people and looking from one to the other as they interact, with a neurologically-attested ellipsis for the head movement that relocates our gaze. There is nothing odd or unnatural about this - we know exactly what it feels like to stand/sit between two people who are interacting with each other but not with us, and we know exactly how we redirect our attention, depending on what we want to hear and/or see (not always the same thing).

Now let's think about this in terms of the eyeline/engagement factor. We can go from both actors looking right down the lens (very rare but not unheard of - check out Tokyo Story and be amazed!), all the way round to behind either of the actor's heads. Clearly this is a continuum. There is no cut-off point at which the single of actor A looking straight down the lens ceases to be a single and becomes a reverse shot. Which leads us to the slightly counter-intuitive realisation that a reverse shot is just a (developed) single of actor A ... But what it also shows is that there isn't a definitive set-up for a reverse shot. I would suggest that as film language has evolved, we have become used to how the continuum stretches what it would be physically possible for us to see as an observer within the actual space. As long as we stay on the right side of the eyeline, we accept that it's possible to have a viewpoint anywhere on the arc between the two actors - because if we were quick enough on our feet or our necks were long and supple enough, we could probably just about get there physically in time to redirect our gaze.

I just don't think it's psychologically plausible that we would accept two discrete and unrelated viewpoints as being possible, as you seem to be suggesting. I think you'd have to do a lot of explaining as to how that might have come about if it were true.

The point about this principle being a continuum is that again the knowing film-maker is going to adapt the degree of engagement to achieve specific results at specific moments. Tony Zhou's fascinating video essay on the Coens' use of reverse shots illustrates this nicely. There is a point that he doesn't mention which I think is interesting, and that's how the camera placement is such that it disengages us entirely from actor B (the off camera actor) and puts us in the personal space of actor A. I think part of the reason for this is that the Coens' characters typically "talk past each other" rather than to each other, something that all the best dialogue achieves to some degree. The characters are shown as being "disengaged" from each other - Barton Fink is a magnificent example of this but all the films show it to a greater or lesser degree. They are isolated in their own worlds of desire, ambition, delusion, longing, etc., and we are the only ones who can really hear what they are saying. And we hear it because of where the Coens have physically located us within the space. (Actor B just "doesn't get it" the way we get it.)

What of the opposite of the Coens' method here, namely the over the shoulder reverse? Interestingly, in the light of what we have discussed, an over the shoulder in many ways maximises engagement because we are moving around to a point where actor A's eyeline is closest to the lens. However, because of the principle of "distance", the fact that actor B's shoulder is part of the shot makes us much more aware of B's presence in the scene, so our engagement with actor A is subtly different. We are now "siding" with actor B in our view of actor A. Again, it's important to recognise how significant is our perception of our own physical presence within the space. Literally and metaphorically we are "standing shoulder to shoulder" with actor B, we are "on his/her side". A clever film-makers will use this for the psychological value that is carries with it - sadly, you don't see that happening too often and again the choice is often banally aesthetic rather than freighted with intention.

So it may be that we are not disagreeing as much as all that, but I do think it's very important to stress the psychology of film language as against the mere geometry of it. Yes, the film-maker can use staging and editing effects that are actively disruptive of our engagement but it's best if this is done knowingly - it's even a legitimate tactic to provocatively draw attention to the filmic artifice, but again I would stress that disengagement itself is a sliding scale and we can be acutely conscious of it, or only just barely perceive it or anywhere in between. It's all good if you now what you're doing. If the reverse shot were as disruptive as you seem to be claiming, I'm pretty sure we would feel it - instead of which, most of the time we are barely aware at all that a cut has taken place because in our brain all we've done is turn our head. Yes, of course, it can be used disruptively for creative purposes (and often is by accident because the film-maker isn't actually in control of what s/he is doing), but it's not fundamentally unnatural - indeed the reverse. As it were.







Simon Ubsdell
tokyo-uk.com


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Bill Davis
Re: Reverse shots...Re: Hail Caesar
on Mar 2, 2016 at 5:15:16 pm
Last Edited By Bill Davis on Mar 3, 2016 at 12:51:28 am

[Simon Ubsdell] "I just don't think it's psychologically plausible that we would accept two discrete and unrelated viewpoints as being possible, as you seem to be suggesting. I think you'd have to do a lot of explaining as to how that might have come about if it were true.
"


Perhaps, Simon, it's a simple as the human need to decode everything we experience and seek meaning in even things that aren't perfectly in line with our experience.

If it's not directly our experience, but close to something we've experienced, most people can make the leap.

In fact, one hallmark of dumbed down creativity to my thinking might be trying to OVER CLUE the viewer to subtleties. It's what causes too many movies to believe, for example, that the bad guy must be TOO nuanced, they must be thoroughly bad or the audience might not "get it."

On a totally different track, I see this in my voiceover work constantly. I come at a line in a script "flat" without trying to help the listener "at all" to derive meaning via emphasis or pacing. And then I'll give it another reading looking to provide subtle emphasis and direct the listener to what I hope is increased comprehension.

Usually, the "neutral" read turns out to communicate MUCH more clearly and cleanly, precisely because it allows the listener to focus on what elements of the presentation are the most meaningful to them.

Basically, it's the "less is more" concept.

It's fun to look at all these options in our forum discussions. Like a cook learning the nature of spices and mixture ratios in order to build a singular, and particular flavor profile. But it's often true that the most satisfying dish is the one where the cook gets out of the way of whatever food he or she is preparing - and lets it simply be what is is.

Basically acknowledging that not all peanut butter sandwiches NEED jelly to be delicious. And if jelly is desired, knowing that some jelly's typically work better than others.

I'm still going to be TOTALLY engaged in the character with their back turned, if the director establishes a reason for me to be so engaged. And even if he or she doesn't - the fact that the character is simply in the frame, may be enough to cause large swaths of the audience to wonder why - and thus be engaged.

To me, the biggest threat to good work might be to try to make the audience always see things the way I've decided they must. Because then I'm not engaging them on their terms, but requiring them to engage on mine.

My thinking anyway.

It's a fun discussion.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 28, 2016 at 11:47:05 pm

[Bill Davis] "And I kept having the powerful feeling that it was my personal inability to communicate it properly that was driving so much of my angst. "

Don't worry, it's not all your fault Bill. Some, but not all. ;)

Editors are normal people and like normal people there is a large section that is drawn to external validation. Recently on Facebook I've seen editors (some use Avid, some use X, some use PPro) all basically say the same thing, which is that they like the fact that big Hollywood projects are using their chosen NLE because it solidifies (justifies? vindicates?) the decision that they made in choosing that NLE. It's our equivalent of the celebrity endorsement. Even if the person edits corporate videos and not movies there is the sense or prestige that their NLE of choice has also be chosen by big, hollywood people to edit big, hollywood movies.

I recently read an article about Chevy's relationship with NASCAR and even though there has been nothing 'stock' about stock car racing for decades the motto of win on Sunday, sell on Monday still holds true. Chevy still sees an increase in Chevy sales after one of their cards wins on Sunday which is why, no matter the health of the company, Chevy has never considered putting their racing ties on the chopping block. The connection between the prestige of winning and selling cars is too strong.


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Scott Witthaus
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 1:13:01 am

[Andrew Kimery] " which is that they like the fact that big Hollywood projects are using their chosen NLE because it solidifies (justifies? vindicates?) the decision that they made in choosing that NLE."

In my humble opinion, I think this is a dumb way to choose an NLE (or market an NLE). You choose it on your workflow and taste, not because some Hollywood director thinks Premiere is cool. What about the movies cut on Avid, Premiere or X that suck? Is that a negative mark on the NLE? Of course not, but it highlight the dumbness of choosing an NLE because some Hollywood cat uses (insert your NLE here). All the "non-editors" I know pick NLE's that way. ;-)

Scott Witthaus
Senior Editor/Post Production Supervisor
1708 Inc./Editorial
Professor, VCU Brandcenter


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Hail Caesar
on Feb 29, 2016 at 3:23:35 am

[Scott Witthaus] "In my humble opinion, I think this is a dumb way to choose an NLE (or market an NLE). "

Agreed and, to clarify, these were people had already picked their NLE (presumably based on their specific needs) and just felt it legitimized their decision. That's the whole point of the 'Cold Mountain moment" we talk about for FCP Legend. A high profile, well respected editor chose to use it on a high profile Hollywood project and you couldn't ignore it. On a more local scale the same thing happened when Bunim/Murray switched from Avid to FCP Legend. Were they the first company that did RealityTV to use FCP? No, but they were a large, respected company that could chose anything they wanted and they chose FCP. That had ripple effects that a small shop choosing to use FCP (or whatever) could never produce.

To be fair though high profile, external validation impact many (most?) people's decisions. If it didn't product placement, celebrity endorsements, the phrase "no one ever got fired for buying IBM", etc., wouldn't exist. Heck how many people have a seemingly hardwired connection between price and quality (if it's expensive it must be good, if it's inexpensive it must suck)?


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