Within this week we’ve been working on certain parts of screen motion – how there are so many different aspects that control what make scenes look good. There are various different aspects to it, and I will try and cover most of it within this post as well as create my own example.
The Nature of Screen Motion
Screen motion is anything to do with movement on the actual screen – whether it’s the camera, actors, groups of people, individuals, background movement, weather etc. it keeps the film flowing and adds a sense of mood to the scene as well as keeps a control over the film in particular.
Akira Kurosawa - Composing Movement (Every Frame a Painting, 2015)
To start with in this session, we watched a video from Akira Kurosawa who was good at composing movement, and we could learn various different factors when it came to how movement can be composed and how it can work well within any scene.
From watching this specific part of the scene, we learnt various different approaches, those including:
To get a smooth flow, you have to have some form of control, organisation and selection to the certain movements. Some of the types of movements are on performers and the camera itself, and can be done in a circular fashion, horizontal and vertical. You can also get great movement by having some form of a moving background, for example, clouds moving, or fire to show some of rage or evil from one of the characters.
You can also get a great sense of continuous movement which is usually recorded from various different cameras at different shots and angles. Whilst this is effective, you still have to remember the 180 degree rule, otherwise it will make it look like the certain character/part in the scene suddenly changes direction. You can change the way they are moving easily by having the object move to the left or right of you whilst on the line going straight towards the camera. This is called “Neutral Direction“. You can also use a “Cutaway“, which is a cut to something in the scene that is currently relevant, and its purpose is to make the audience forget the sense of direction in the previous movement that was shown.
Analysis of Screen Direction
After the previous understanding of Screen Direction, we watched and analysed screen direction in a scene from Amelie (2001) – in particular the scene known as “Les Flèches bleues”.
Amélie Poulain - "Les Flèches bleues" (neo932rcl, 2011)
Within this scene, there are various different ways that you can see the use of screen direction. At various different parts of the scene, there is movement from individuals – in this scene the main movement from the individuals is obviously the main characters. Whilst the main characters are moving, in the background at the start of the shot we can see the carousel is moving as well showing the idea of background movement and keeping the smooth flow in the scene – always having something moving.
This then moves onto a tilt shot from the floor going up with a lot of pigeons everywhere on the floor and a kid running straight through the neutral line and then to the kids left and running back on himself. This turns into a wide shot and establishing shot showing a bit more of the current location, and creates the idea for the audience to know that the man within the scene is going to follow the arrows that are on the floor. Whilst the man begins to walk, the camera follows (tracking) him, and whilst he’s about to walk past the lady, we get a movement shot from the camera which seems to be panning and sliding to the left at the same time.
Just before the man starts to walk up the stairs, we gather that someone is following him on a dolly up the slope with him in the centre which would be the new neutral line, so the direction could change at any moment on either side. The idea of the arrows on the floor create the idea that the audience know where he’s going to be going before he does. Whilst one of the arrows is on the floor with a bunch of pigeons around it, it acts as a cutaway shot – or at least that’s what we think, he then looks to the opposite direction of the arrow, and then actually begins to walk the correct direction of the arrow before turning his head again.
One clever moment within this scene to change the direction is the movement around the statue, it starts on one side and changes to the opposite side in one take. There is also a POV shot through the telescope which moves around alongside what we would suspect the man would see. The shots basically go in reverse from this point onwards back towards the end, however at the end there is a shot where the camera shows an establishing shot by showing the location, and one of the characters leaving on a bike, to a close up on the lady’s face.
There are various different types of camera movements that can be used within the production of a film or TV show – the main ones:
- Pan – This is when the camera moves from left to right (or right to left), usually it moves no more than what the human head can move
- Tilt – This is when the camera moves up and/or down whilst on the tripod. It shouldn’t move any further than what the human head can move to.
- Track – This is when the camera is physically moving from the left to right (or right to left) remaining perpendicular and tracking the original character.
There are also different ways that you can create a great effect using camera movement, a couple of these in particular is by using a Camera Slider. This allows you to be able to move the camera smoothly across a slider and follow the specific target that you want to follow.
You can also get what is known as a “Glidecam” or a “Steadicam” which aims on creating a steady approach to using the camera so it’s not jigged at all, and can be smooth rather than bumpy – the way they work is through weights. In particular they use a certain amount of weights so that rather than swinging, it comes to a steady halt within a swing or two.
Our task was created and we had to create a storyboard to try and use some of these skills to be able to later produce a video later in the week to show we have an understanding of the skills that we’ve come across.
As it only had to be a simple storyline as we could only film it within the college, I decided to have the idea of someone wanting to go and get a drink as they were cold for example, so as this project was based on visuals, I decided to start with a person sitting down at the start, possibly a chair, and that they stand up and the camera tilts alongside it. After this I had the idea of them walking to the right and I followed. My original plan was to use a slider, but to be able to use one whilst we were walking would’ve been a lot harder, so I decided it may be easier to just follow on. After this I decided to have the person walk on the neutral line and exit to the right. Next I decided maybe it would be an idea to have the person continue walking towards the machine where you can get a drink, and follow it by a couple of cutaway shots to show the money being put into the machine, and the cup falling out of the machine, and end it with a medium close-up of the person drinking it, possibly a close-up instead when it comes to it.
As the machine is a Nescafé machine, I ended up deciding that maybe it could work as some form of advertisement for Nescafé at the same time as showing some of the skills in the video itself.
Here is the video that I created:
- Kai Ross-Best – Directing & Cinematography
- Lydia Reeves – Acting
- Sara Jeffrey – Acting
- Kyle Alford – Acting
- Marwan Boudanga – Slating
In the end I started with a tripod low-down to the ground and slowly tilted it up as Lydia was standing up, and followed it by another shot of her walking – for this shot in particular we used a shoulder cam as we couldn’t get access to the glidecam at the time of filming this, so the shoulder cam worked enough to stay at the same level as us. After this we moved into a corridor to try working with the neutral line, which didn’t work to my expectation as the next shot where Lydia is walking in came from another side which I only realised during the edit itself. I used the pan idea to pan with Lydia as she was walking towards the machine. After this I used a couple of cutaways to her putting the money in the machine and the cup falling out of the machine to add a bit more depth and effect to it and make it a bit more interesting. Finally I ended it with Lydia taking the cup and drinking out of the cup as a close-up.
There were a few problems within this such as at the time of filming, sometimes our camera just randomly said “The camera has stopped recording.” and we had to start filming again as the footage wasn’t enough to be able to work with. As well as this, as you can see in the edit it looks like Lydia isn’t walking straight away to start with on the first walking part, it looks like she’s only just started walking which is an issue, but it can be changed next time around whilst doing this. The other issue as I stated in the previous paragraph was that I should’ve had Lydia go around the other side of the camera on the neutral line to be able to make it look like she was walking towards me.