The standard way of shooting a ballet scene, up until 1948, would be to photograph the dancers from head to toe. However, Red Shoes – photographed by Jack Cardiff – completely changed this. The movie is photographed in such a way, that we’ll see what goes on inside the dancer’s head – we are shown what they see(=their POV). (And there is nothing better than POV when it comes to sound design, but wait! 🙂 )
Few years later, Martin Scorsese applied this in boxing scenes in Raging Bull. If you pay attention, you’ll notice, that the camera stays always inside the ring. Watch the video below to see a comparison of ballet and boxing scenes in Red Shoes and Raging Bull (taken from the documentary Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff):
The similarity is clearly visible. But Martin Scorsese took this concept even further.
POV and Sound Design
The POV shots are amazing opportunity for sound designers – the POV gets us inside the head of the character. That means, that we see what they see, but also hear what they hear! And this is extremely exciting, because you can, as a sound designer, play with the sounds what they hear. Being inside the head of the character gives you license to distort and manipulate the sounds.
Frank Warner, the sound designer of Raging Bull, created whole library of sound effects, that you’ll hear during the boxing scenes. These include: Smashed watermelon and tomatoes, animal like noises, gunshots(these were used for the sound of camera flash bulbs going off) and many others. (Sound mix for Raging Bull took six months!)
I can only guess, what sound effects were used in the boxing scenes, but the truth is, that even Martin Scorsese doesn’t know. Frank Warner was so protective about his sound effects, that he destroyed them later, so nobody else could use them again.
Anyway, POV shots are brilliant for sound design. Especially for self-destructing characters like Jake La Motta.
Plus, the boxing ring in itself creates an attractive environment for sound design. I think everyone would be interesting in terms of sound design when standing inside the boxing ring, not just Jake La Motta. In boxing ring, you just see and hear differently, trust me.
In January 2012, I wrote a post about POV and sound design, you can read it by clicking here.