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Are ND grads only used for static shots?

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Rich Rosen
Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 27, 2005 at 3:28:37 pm

If on a wide shot a grad is taking care of the blown out sky what happens when you zoom into a close up that's evenly lit? Seems like the upper portion of the frame will be darker. Does this mean grads are only used for fixed shots?


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tony salgado
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 27, 2005 at 4:31:59 pm



Yes unless you have a mattebox which lets you adjust the vertical placement of the filter as you zoom.

I have seen such units on Panavision matte boxes.

Another options is to use a filter software and do the grad effect in post via tracking the zoom move.


Tony Salgado


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Leo Ticheli
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 27, 2005 at 4:34:21 pm

You've hit the nail squarely on the head; of course real men don't zoom. We do pan and tilt, however.

Good shooting!

Leo
Director/Cinematographer
Southeast USA


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Rich Rosen
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 27, 2005 at 5:17:02 pm

A tilt wouldn't work either when the bright area goes out of frame.


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Ryan
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
by
on May 28, 2005 at 3:50:13 am

Grads can be used where ever you feel they will work. Yes it will be dark at the top. Instead of a zoom track the camera left to right or pan (limit the camera to horizontal movement) and the grad will keep the effect.

Grads were used on lots of scenery shots in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and many other movies.

And not to start a thing here, but zooms are perfectly exceptable to use. Whatever you can do to achieve what looks good is acceptable.



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Steve Wargo
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 29, 2005 at 5:09:49 am

[Ryan] "zooms are perfectly exceptable to use"

By who?

A zoom is only used a last resort in the "cinema" business. In video production, though, it's as common as everything else.

And if you do decide that a zoom is absolutely necessary, the audience should never see it. Unless you studied under Sergio Leone.

Steve W.




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Ryan
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
by
on May 29, 2005 at 5:36:04 am

I agree that zoom's aren't common place, and that other shooting techniques are better. And I am also not saying that someone should just use zooms because it is easier.... But I also don't agree that someone should say that this and that, are and are not acceptable. Many movies in the "cinema" business use zooms to achieve a certain effect whether it be for a last resort or that is the look they want.

To say what the audience wants and does not want is very presumptous. The fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King both had zooms in them, they are two of the highest grossing films in the industry, and they have both won awards for cinematography, as well the later one Best picture.

I am not saying break all the rules of composition, but if someone likes to use a zoom, then use a zoom. Whatever it takes for someone to achieve the final product that they desire should not be toted as the wrong way, just a different way.

This argument could stem into the whole film vs HD argument where someone says that there is no way one will be taken seriously if they shoot on HD. This was one of the original arguments, and a lot of "cinema" people said that HD would never be accepted. Yet many HD movies gain audience approval with them never even knowing they were HD.

In the end you can have the most beautifully shot picture ever, but if the content is bad, then no one will want to watch it.



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Steve Wargo
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 30, 2005 at 8:51:55 pm

Yeah, I guess. With all of the new "films" coming from any one who owns a video camera, everything is now OK.

A live zoom on camera is only used when nothing else works. And I stand by that. If you want to zoom in and out in your movie, you go right ahead.

Steve Wargo


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Ryan
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
by
on May 31, 2005 at 3:36:38 am

Your right, anyone who owns a camera, Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), John Frankenheimer (Ronin), Stephen Spielberg (Jaws), George Lucas (Star Wars), Robert Rodriguez (ONce Upon a Time In Mexico), Tony Scott (Man on Fire), all directors who seem to have no problem utilizing the use of a zoom.

Again, these are examples from directors who have used a zoom in movies that are very high in profitability.

You don't have to use a zoom, and I would rather not either, but to tell someone that it is unprofessional to use a zoom, is to say that all of these directors are unprofessional in their use of a zoom. And not to insult your ability, but I am pretty sure that they have had a lot more success in giving the audience what they want then you have.





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Leo Ticheli
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 31, 2005 at 4:29:28 am

There is a very good reason professional cinematographers and directors almost never use the in-shot zoom; the effect tends to draw immediate attention to itself and takes the viewer out of the story. Sometimes that's just what is called for, but it's extraordinarily rare.

When the zoom is used, it's most often hidden in another camera move, or almost imperceptibly slow.

Typically, a scene looks better when the camera is repositioned at another location, distance to the subject, and angle of view. When we do wish to close on the subject, a dolly or SteadiCam is preferred; it looks more human, more natural and organic, as if the viewer were moving toward the subject.

Great directors and cinematographers probably are better at getting away with a zoom than less experienced shooters; mostly they have the good judgement to forgo it.

Good shooting!

Leo
Director/Cinematographer
Southeast USA


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Ryan
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
by
on May 31, 2005 at 8:13:41 am

I agree with you. The point I am trying to make is that if someone wants to use a zoom, and they think it is suitable for the situation, then no one should sit there and say, "You can't do that because it is unprofessional", or "You can do it, but no one will take you seriously."

It is that same attitude that holds this industry back in so many ways.





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jaan
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
by
on Jun 2, 2005 at 8:52:15 am

to say that any camera technique is bad or unprofessional is straight up retarded. i don't care who you are, what you've done, or how much money your work has made. the correct thing to say would be that "dolly, crane and pan/tilt shots COST more than zoom shots to execute, which to some people automatically makes it a better shot."

feel free to get in your time machine and tell truffaut that the running sequence in Jules et Jim is a bad idea.

____________
jaanshen.com


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Leo Ticheli
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on Jun 2, 2005 at 12:49:56 pm

You've got to remember that many, if not most, of the posters here are relatively inexperienced and may lack your skills. Beginning shooters often discover to their dismay that free use of the zoom produces unwanted results.

As a general rule, for dramatic presentations, zooms do look quite out of place. They break us away from the story by drawing too much attention to themselves. Certainly they do work for certain scenes, such as the Hong Kong "Kung Fu" look such as is seen in Kill Bill 2, or fast-paced, quick-cut "music video" type films. You're unlikely to find them in a dialog scene in something like the "Soprano's."

As discussed above, very slow zooms can work for standard dramas as can subtle zooms hidden within other camera moves.

As for the time machine, I remember quite well my first zoom lens which I purchased for my Bolex. I was thrilled and exuberantly zoomed away on the very next commercial I shot. The results were dreadful because I lacked the skills to use it properly.

Best regards,
Leo
Director/Cinematographer
Southeast USA





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jaan
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
by
on Jun 2, 2005 at 6:56:57 pm

leo, i agree on your points about the generality of our red-headed stepchild, the zoom. and your point about the level of inexperience of many of the posters makes those points even more relevant... but in many ways, i think that makes it even more silly to automatically discount a particular technique. even a moderate beginner has seen a contrived zoom and experienced its "dramatic disruption" as a viewer. let them decide if they want to utilize it for that, or any other strength that particular technique holds. branding it as unprofessional by default is like reaching into a plumber's toolbox and throwing away his 6-inch wrench and telling him "you're never gonna work on a pipe that big anyway, so don't even bother."

and i have to play devil's advocate on your point about zoom usage in a dramatic context by mentioning the shot where tom cruise's character looks up and sees his doctor in mask in "eyes wide shut"-- the most powerful shot in the whole film. whenever i think of kubrick, that is one of the handful of nuggets of cinema that immediately come to mind. i'm glad he had his 6-inch wrench with him that day.

respectfully,
jaan

____________
jaanshen.com


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Leo Ticheli
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on Jun 2, 2005 at 8:04:32 pm

Hi Jaan,
Just to make sure we don't completely agree, I personally hated that zoom shot in Eyes Wide Shut. Opinions vary, and, personally, I'd bet on Stanley Kubrick's judgement over my own. It's also true that even the gods can occasionally fall from grace.

I do agree that we shouldn't throw any tools out of the box, but a six-inch pipe wrench is a poor substitute for a tweezer. On the other hand, a tweezer makes an extraordinarily poor pipe wrench.

By the way, I hit your site and I think you do marvelous work.

Best regards,
Leo

Director/Cinematographer
Southeast USA


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jaan
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
by
on Jun 20, 2005 at 10:29:20 pm

leo, thanks for the kind words. i took a look at your site, and zoom or not, you've obviously been doing things right to have built such a successful company.

i think the real conceptual base of this whole arguement can be boiled down to this:
way back in the day, some artist/philosopher was trying to determine what it was about art that made it such a powerful phenomena. what he (forgot who it was) came up with was that if a person views a painting depicting a wolf in its natural setting, that person can then look at the wolf, studying any and all details of it, while being freed from the instinctual need to flee or kill the wolf-- thus allowing that person to see a wolf in a way that would be impossible in real life.

i think some of us in this arguement want to show people the wolf as they could never see it, while others are more concerned with harnessing people's innate fear of wolves and appropriating it as part of a larger story. i definitely would be of the former, and there's nothing wrong with those who choose the latter. but they're definitely different approaches, and the "awareness" that a zoom creates is a powerful tool for those who feel the same as i.

thanks,
jaan

____________
jaanshen.com


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Peter Ralph
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on Jun 9, 2005 at 4:29:41 pm

[Leo Ticheli] "the effect tends to draw immediate attention to itself and takes the viewer out of the story."

zooms are way over-used by home movie makers, no argument. It is much safer to avoid zooms 100% of the time.

But on a purely aesthetic level - is that pont about meta-awareness really valid? Many years ago people fled movie houses because a train on the screen was about to run them over . But today? Does obvious artifice really detract from the experience? With certain movies yes - just as a Picasso profile would look out of place in a Rembrandt canvas.

the Irish movie "Intermission" is testament to the notion that turning awareness towards the camera can enhance dramatic impact. The artifice is registered on a conscious level, it is not subliminal.

"Jimi - turn the volume down. No-one wants to listen to feedback and distortion"


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Leo Ticheli
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on Jun 9, 2005 at 5:51:09 pm

Golly, I must have cut class the day we discussed, "meta-awareness."

The very simple reality is that any move which draws attention to the camera screams, "look at me, I'm a camera, this is being photographed, forget about being involved in the story!" If that's what you're trying to say, fine. Zoom away. If you want your film to look like a bad home movie or an equally bad Kung Fu movie, zoom away. If you want to be avant-garde, zoom away. If you simply want to be perverse, zoom away until you break the rocker switch or your audience throws shoes at the screen. Otherwise, avoid obvious zooms.


Look, the art component of this business is about a lot more than just breaking rules; it's knowing when and how to break them.

Good shooting,

Leo
Director/Cinematographer
Southeast USA




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Steve Wargo
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 31, 2005 at 10:59:45 am

What I said, Ryan, is that an in-camera zoom is a last resort, or used for a special effect, but it is not a common practice. I see that your profile is empty. How about filling that in so that we can take at look at your history. Mr. Ticheli and I have have been award winning cinematographers for decades. A cinematographer uses a dolly, crane, jib arm or steadi-cam to achive his moving image.

Quite frankly, the constant use of the zoom by today's amateur "filmmakers" makes me ill, as it will any audience.

We're done here.


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David Jones
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on May 31, 2005 at 7:15:37 pm

Well in my neck of the woods, what the client wants dictates how I approach a shoot.
For example... I was contacted by a jewelry store to shoot a new commercial for them.
During the sit down it was decided that they wanted to emulate a movie style approach to their new spot.
We finalized the boards and everything was approved and set.
During the shoot the the AE from the agency told me that the marketing rep from the jewelry store was very upset,
because the camera we were using was very noisy, and must be broken... "It will ruin the sound of our commercial" she said.
I explained that it was an MOS camera, (Shooting with my ole' workhorse, an Eclair CM3) and that audio was not being recorded, as we would add music and VO later.
At that point I recapped our meeting highlights... Their budget did not allow renting a 435 or 535,
and they insisted on 35mm, so I shot with the CM3 instead of using the Arri SR II and shooting 16mm.
Throughout the rest of the shoot it was clear that the marketing rep for the jewelry store was just not happy.
After the shoot and telecine we assembled the new spot and were more than happy with the look of the commercial.
The agency thought the footage looked awesome.
Then came the reply from the jewelry store!
It looks old fashioned because you cut between shots instead of zooming like our competitors commercial.

In the end the agency was dropped, and we were rehired to come back out and shoot a new spot with our nice quiet modern Canon XL1s mounted on a jib doing a sweep and zoom.
When trying to push to raise the quality bar closer to the film we shot earlier, we suggested using the Panny SDX900.
Oh no, we like that little camera, it looks wonderful!

Go figure!


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Leo Ticheli
Art and other arts...
on May 31, 2005 at 8:24:58 pm

Hi David,
Often I think that the real gift in our business is being able to sell the client on allowing us to do the best possible job for them. Not always as simple as it sounds.

Occasionally we are approached with what I like to call the, "ransom note;" only instead of words torn from a magazine and pasted, the client asks for a combination of elements that don't make a coherent whole. Even worse is the situation when the client or client's client suddenly tries to hijack the project midway at checkbook-point and begins to make unwise directorial or cinematographic decrees.

Very often we get to work for truly gifted clients; great art directors, writers, people with unique vision who are a joy to collaborate with; sometimes the client has more passion than talent in the specifics of our business. It's producing great work for the latter that can be a challenge and really pivotal to our careers. Resist too stridently, and we may get on the "do-not-hire-hard-to-work-with" list. Knuckle under and produce sub-standard or compromised work, and we may never get to show what we can do and be regarded as artless hacks.

The secret is making the client feel great about allowing us to do superior work; then everybody wins.

Good shooting!
Leo
Director/Cinematographer
Southeast USA






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Tim Kolb
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
on Jun 8, 2005 at 10:20:54 pm

[David Jones] "Oh no, we like that little camera, it looks wonderful!"

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and I have to admit to laughing and crying simultaneously when reading this as it hits pretty close to home.

...we actually had a corporate client who had a "video enthusiast" on staff in the company somewhere and decided to buy their own camera. They had to shoot a machine that was very tall and not very wide. Of course, it looked fine in the LCD panel because it was tilted 90 degrees with the camera...I swear I thought Allen Funt was going to pop out from behind the plant in the edit suite.

I explained that our most practical options were to run it into a DVE and either drop it back creating space on either side, or we could build a graphic around it...or worse, we could blow it up so it filled the monitor side-to-side, but we'd obviously cut the top and bottom off.

In a final moment of frustration, the client huffed "Well I can't believe in a professional production company with all this equipment you can't do better than that.

...my editor proceeded to get up, walk over to the Sony Broadcast program monitor, and unceremoniously flip it onto its side. He then proceeded back to his chair and without a word, continued to check out the footage.





TimK
Kolb Syverson Communications
Creative Cow Host
2004, 2005 NAB Post Production Conference Premiere Pro Technical Chair
Author, "The Easy Guide to Premiere Pro" http://www.focalpress.com
"Premiere Pro Fast Track DVD Series" http://www.classondemand.net


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Ryan
Re: Are ND grads only used for static shots?
by
on Jun 1, 2005 at 4:43:53 am

Thank you for validating my point.

It is acceptable to use a zoom for necessity or for effect. Thus making them acceptable.....by you.

What does your knowledge of me have to do with anything? Are you going to try and attack the fact that I have less experience than you. Because I don't recall questioning your ability.

I respect all the advice that you and Leo have given, all I was saying is that if the man wants to use a zoom, who is anyone to tell him he can't.

Like you said.... "We're done here"


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Bob Cole
Zoom anecdote
on Jun 7, 2005 at 12:52:32 pm

While a bit pissy, this thread brings back a funny memory. I don't want to make the thread go longer but I have a little anecdote to share.

About 33 years ago my college professor, an English Dept. guy who thought he knew movies, taught a film appreciation seminar -- very competitive to gain entry to. I was the only freshman in the group, because I had a visual arts background, and I was a bit scared to talk.

The prof was really very good about a lot of things, but one day he said, "Notice how the camera ZOOMS down the table..." I was intimidated in this class, but I was so offended that I raised my hand to interrupt him, "Actually it trucks down the table, there's an important difference." Man was he mad -- and he absolutely could not get it -- nor could any of the other students. They were all very smart and far more knowledgeable about film history than I'll ever be, but the diff. bet. trucking and zooming eluded them all.

Why? I guess, because all they saw were old movies, and there was no zooming to compare to the trucking -- while the only cameras they saw were zoom lens-equipped -- so they assumed that the way you did that shot was to zoom.

-- Bob Cole


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Richard Blakeslee
Re: Zoom anecdote
on Jun 10, 2005 at 3:03:26 pm

Hello Bob.

I think you mean 'dolly' down the table. In a 'trucking', shot both the subject and the camera move,(truck along with the action) in a 'dolly' shot the subject stays still and the camera moves. (dolly in or out on the subject)

I've been a cameraman since getting out of the Air Force motion picture camera school in 1962. And yes I use a lot of zooms. I do a lot of 16mm production for television, a lot of it in a 'documentary' style. During an interview I always have my hand on the Micro Force. A very slow and suttle move in at the right moment can really bring out the emotion in the scene. It's risky at times because one doesn't want to be caught in the 'middle' of a zoom , making the editor's life hell, but I found it's worth it to take the chance and 95 per cent of the prodcuers/directors I work with agree. Some will say 'never'. Others let me try to 'feel' the situation and use my experience and talent to capture that moment that they are after.

Cheers,

Richard



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Bob Cole
Re: Zoom anecdote
on Jun 13, 2005 at 3:48:35 pm

I stand corrected about truck/dolly terminology. I think you have a good point about the whole zoom discussion. It's very risky, but I think a nice slow zoom, perfectly timed, in a key point of an interview can be dramatic. As Leo remarks, it does call attention to the camera, but that can actually be useful, for example as a "cue" that the film is over. I recently used a slow dramatic zoom-in interiew bite as the last shot in a small museum piece, and it works great.

-- BC


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