Back Parallax

In this post we’ll talk about simple, but extremely effective camera move. As you can see in the video above, the camera is pivoting around the actor. This results in heavy back parallax (background is moving really fast).

This effect is further enhanced by using telephoto lens. The longer the focal length, the faster the background will move.

This move becomes extremely effective, when the director knows why to use it. One of the great opportunities for using this camera move is when we want to symbolize character’s train of thoughts. This usually happens when the character:

  • reveals new information
  • realizes/discovers something
  • becomes confused

P.S. This camera move became one of the signatures in Michael Bay’s movies. (The other one is teal and orange look. Click here to read more about this color grading “virus” and here for a tutorial by Stu Maschwitz, where he explains how to achieve this look.)

Color and the look of a film – Visual Analysis

Cinematic storytelling is about connection between various filmmaking techniques (in this case color palette) and their function within the narrative of the film.

This excellent article guides you through color palette in various movies and answers questions to “what, how”, but most importantly answers the “WHY” question! Love it!

filmschoolthrucommentaries

Have you ever wondered or noticed why certain films look a certain way tonally? It is not just a simple matter of color grading an image in post-production. A director works closely with a director of photography, production designer and costume designers to create a color palette that fits the story of the film. The color of the film is controlled on a set. Each story itself can be told in a plethora of ways – meaning, depending on what that story is about, and what is the thematic underpinning of it – the look of the film will often be based on those factors. For instance it may depend on the setting and the world within which the story takes place; time period, location of it. Therefore the color palette of the film will largely be dictated by these elements. So let’s start looking at some examples..

In a scene…

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Two worlds in Limitless

When I read articles related to movies, it happens quite often, that I’ll read something like this:

“We used camera to tell a story…  Sound played a really important role, it helped to tell the story…”

And I always get frustrated, because usually (99% of time) it is not clear what they meant by that. The sentences above leave me asking: It’s nice, but what exactly did you do?

Well, the interview by Debra Kaufman with cinematographer Jo Willems at creativecow.net is one of those rare exceptions, where you’ll learn not only what they did to help telling the story, but most importantly – why.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a wrecked writer whose life is falling apart. Well, one day he is visited by old friend Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) and he offers him a pill: “You know how they say we can only access 20% of our brain? This lets you access all of it.”  So what this pill does is that it fully unlocks the potential of human brain, in other words, you get access to super human abilities.

Limitless (2011)
Limitless (2011)

When I saw the movie for the first time, I noticed the change in color grading, when he takes the pill – everything is graded towards warm sunny tones (especially yellow and orange),

Limitless (2011)
Limitless (2011)

while when he is not on the pill, there is a lot of cool tones (especially blue), the colors are desaturated, everything seems darker and more contrasty.

Watch the trailer and try to focus only on the tones. I’m sure, that just by looking at the tones/colors you’ll be able to tell, whether he is on the drug or not. But there is more to that, so let’s take a look what else did they do, to differentiate the two worlds:

World 1 – Down and broke (off pill) World 2 – Powerful and charismatic (on pill)
Camera moves hand held dollies, cranes, steadicam
Film stock Fuji Kodak
Lighting uncontrolled (hard and fractured) controlled (softer and diffused)
Lenses longer focal length (tele) shorter focal length (wide)

Ok, the table above sums up, what they (Neil Burger, Jo Willems and others) did, to differentiate the two worlds when he is on/off the pill. But far more interesting is to read why! 🙂

Links:

Behind the Lens: DP Jo Willems & Limitless


Watch the trailer and notice the dolly-zoom move at 0:45. You can read more about this technique by clicking here.