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The Third Man - Dutch Angle

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Richard Schiller
The Third Man - Dutch Angle
on Dec 23, 2013 at 9:00:26 am

Colleagues

It would be easy to say that this fim (The Third Man) has Dutch Angle shots but on close inspection I notice that it is more complicated than that. During the scene where Lime first appears there are a couple of shots where the pictures are not just rotated (so that the horizon is not level and what I understand as a Dutch Angle shot) but where it has also undergone shear. What I mean by this is that even if you straightened the horizon again a ninety degree rightangle in the scene is now leant over to become more accute or more obtuse. The full-length shots of the doorway where Lime is hidden in the shadows are like this as is the brief shot of the car (front view) as it speeds past between Martins and Lime.

My questions are:
  • What equipment would have been used in 1949 to shear an image like this?
  • Does this technique have any special name or if not then what would it have been classified as?


Thanks in advance for your help everybody.

Richard


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Todd Terry
Re: The Third Man - Dutch Angle
on Dec 23, 2013 at 7:06:48 pm

It's hard to say, but that could have been done either during shooting as a practical in-camera effect, or in post during the printing stage.

If you are shooting anamorphic rather than spherical lenses, as you know the anamorphic lens "squeezes" the image from left to right. Now, if someone didn't have their lens mounted at a perfect vertical angle, it would also squeeze it a little bit from corner to corner as well as left to right. That would give you the "skew" that you are referring to. The same would be true if you were using spherical lenses but shooting anamorphic with a front-of-lens anamorphic adapter... if you didn't put the adapter on straight but rather it was cocked a bit, you'd get that skew. You could even change the amount and the direction of the skew by rotating the adapter during the shot.

Here's the kicker though... we know that The Third Man was not an anamorphic film, it was definitely shot with spherical lenses (the first anamorphic feature was about five years later). It still could happen though, with a "sort of anamorphic" front-of-lens adapter, not put on quite straight. It probably wouldn't be a true anamorphic adapter as that would be way too much (and too early for that anyway), but some kind of slight cylindrical (rather than spherical) lens attachment in front.

If it wasn't done in camera, then it was done during optical printing... with a similar lens setup... just done at the printing stage rather than the camera stage.

Of course, these days we'd just do it in post in about two seconds.

I'm not sure if this effect has any particular name, at least I've never heard one. I'd just call it a "skew."

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Richard Schiller
Re: The Third Man - Dutch Angle
on Dec 23, 2013 at 9:06:12 pm

Todd

Thanks a lot for your analysis. As you say it would be so easy now. Glad that someone with some knowledge of celluloid was able to help.

I am still curious to know a bit more - perhaps from anyone who used this same effect in celluloid or has noticed it in another film.

Once again, thanks.

Richard Schiller

Working amateur

Panasonic Camcorder 1080p, Nikon SLR with video acquisition 720p, Sony Vegas editing software.


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Mark Suszko
Re: The Third Man - Dutch Angle
on Dec 23, 2013 at 9:12:31 pm

Not just a "tilt-shift" bellows on the front, Todd?


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Todd Terry
Re: The Third Man - Dutch Angle
on Dec 23, 2013 at 9:19:48 pm

I don't think so, Mark... a tilt-shift lens is going to shift (and/or tilt) the focal plane, but isn't going to give that corner-to-corner skew that Richard mentioned. It will really just affect focus only. That's going to take some kind of cylindrical-but-non-vertical quasi-anamorphic lens.

I have to admit it's been a loooong time since I've seen that movie. I'll have to check it again.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: The Third Man - Dutch Angle
on Dec 23, 2013 at 10:31:22 pm

What about a mirror, either in the shooting plane or in an optical printer?

Been a while since I saw it too, but you know, maybe we're over-thinking it, because stage-trained Orson wasn't above using forced-perspective scenery gags.


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Todd Terry
Re: The Third Man - Dutch Angle
on Dec 23, 2013 at 11:30:02 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Dec 23, 2013 at 11:32:53 pm

[Mark Suszko] "maybe we're over-thinking"

I honestly don't think we are. If anything, we're under-thinking it. :)

As far as I know Wells didn't have anything to do with the physical nuts-and-bolts of the production, he was an actor on the show, and a contributing writer. He might have chimed in about some other things, but it was his DP Gregg Toland who was really responsible for all those inventive shots and camera tricks, like on Kane... and I don't think he had anything to do with The Third Man (especially since I believe he was already pushing up daisies by then).

A flat mirror is going to do nothing to change skew perspective, only the flat orientation. To do that purely optically/mechanically, it's going to require a non-completely-vertical cylindrical lens. It could happen at the camera or optical printing step, but it must be cylindrical. And non vertical. Neither anything flat nor spherical will give that effect, whether they be mirrors, filters, lenses, or whatever.

I'd almost bet the farm that this effect was discovered by accident, some DP accidently putting on an anamorphic attachment a little crooked, or by the DP who happened to be looking through the viewfinder while an anamorphic lens was being mounted and noticed the effect. As noted earlier, this was a spherical-lens production not an anamorphic production, but the DP could easily have seen, used, or been familiar with anamorphic lenses as they had actually already been around for years... just not used for features yet.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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