Archive for October, 2008

Constantine

October 24, 2008

Constantine is a classic example of a movie that needs and uses special effects to carry the story forward; make it believable to an extent; and somewhat enhance the look of the movie and scenery of such that could not exist in real life. However, in any sort of SFX/VFX film there is the drawback that the special effects can hinder the movie and make it unrealistic. Because of the type of story being told in Constantine the film relies on the special effects to carry it forward. Even though one could suggest that the acting in the film is quite good, many other critics would suggest films like this rely more on the CG graphics to bring the film to life.

CG image

CG image

For actors and talent to act in a film with a lot of special effects, it takes a lot of skill to perform in scenes and shots, when sometimes they are the only one actually being filmed. The CG image is inserted through the post production stage and this means the actor must first and foremost be as believable as if they were acting with a real person.

Since Constantine is the genre that it is, the film required much work with green screen and VFX. Stunt work (where the man gets hit by the car at the beginning of the film), the colourising of the veins in actors, the distortion of faces in the exorcism, eyes changing colour, digitally enhanced faces, and morphing of characters are all very clear examples of visual effects used in the movie.

Demonised girl; coloured veins and demonised face

Demonised girl; coloured veins and demonised face

An even more clear example of the CG images is the bug man that fights with John near the gas station. When watching the behind the scenes part on the DVD we are shown how the creature is created and brought to life through SFX. The crew shot not only Keanu acting with a stand-in for the creature but also shot more footage of Keanu acting and basically fighting with himself. It is here that the actor is applauded in his talent to carry the scene, but without the CG images and SFX the scene would not be believable (who wants to see a guy fight mid air?!?!).

Bug man is just about to attack

Bug man is just about to attack in the background

If SFX is used properly and precisely it can work in synthesis with other parts of the film to enhance the look of the film and scenes. Though VFX has been used throughout the entire of the film it does not make it unbelievable but adds to the film in the sense that you think it is real. It makes you question yourself after you’ve watched the film in the sense that sometimes during the film you become unable to distinct what is CG and what is not. The SFX tricks you in a sense but that is the beauty of CG. As long as you can’t tell it’s CG then I think it works.

Everything stopped even broken glass except for Lucifer

Everything stopped even broken glass except for Lucifer

I recently watched the movie 21 (Blackjack MIT kids) and in the opening scene the shot is seamless, yet it uses two types of filming; one being shot in a helicopter; and one being shot on the road. You know that the shot can’t be shot all just in one medium yet the shot is seamless and fluid like running in from helicopter to the road shot. However if you look closely enough you can see that a transition occurs and the shot is actually digitalised to make a seamless shot (Pure genius!!). Like this other shots in Constantine like the stopping of time (broken glass stopped falling but the character keeps moving), and the changing from earth to hell all are such great work to make a great seamless fluid shot.

 

Jarhead

October 14, 2008

Jarhead begins and shows evidence of continuity editing (signing up for the marines, riding bus, and being assigned into a platoon- which would obviously take longer than it does). The main actor starts to tell his story and is broken up by a sergeant. The beginning is quite slowing moving except for the initial fight scene and when the sergeant is screaming at the marines. The scenes start to speed up again when the try-out for the snipers begin and builds up until one of the soldiers get shot when he tries to stand up under the barbwire and the final snipers and spotter have been decided.

the yelling sergeant

the yelling sergeant

Here after the marines start to watch the war film on the big screen and everyone gets ‘fired up’ with the background music, guns, helicopters and missiles. The next scene on the plane adds the background music as they arrive in the desert which helps with the moving-along of the film for some type of build up with a speech by the Coronel (soon after continuity editing with the trucks rolling into the desert is shown in a couple of shots to show how they get there and helps the motion of the film).

Another example of the continuity and advance editing is the part where they hydrate and hydrate and hydrate and hydrate whilst training in the desert showing short parts of what the marines do over a somewhat long period of time. This then leads up to the fight between the white and black scorpions- which could also be seen in some retrospect as the fight against Iraq and America. A voiceover is then heard from the main actor and he explains what goes on when they are in the desert. Even though there are not many visuals, the audience can still get some idea that time has passed because of repetition of certain words.

Another thing that seems to strike the dramatic side of the film is when the main actor’s girlfriend’s letter arrives and when the rest of the marines tell him that she’s with another man and then he tries to call her and the conversation is cut short. The next scene then shows a video of the Captain’s wife cheating on him. It puts a major theme out to the audience, loneliness and betrayal.

Throughout the film a subtitle stating how many days the troops have been in the desert which helps explain the reasons why many of the marines are going through so many hard times especially the main actor (who seems to be going insane). A scene which shows the cause and effect is evident when the marines hear sound or gunfire in the distance (effect) and then the cause is shown afterwards where some locals are seen with camels. For a moment it leaves the audience wondering if something bad may happen or the locals with camels will attack them (leaves the audience hanging).

The voice over of the movie does a lot of the explaining (the why) in the film and tells the audience what they can not actually see. My favourite part in the film is when Tony’s first combat experience is seen in slow motion. Here the audience is drawn to the editing (slow motion) and shows the emotion of the actor and how helpless and scary war can be at times.

My Experience

October 1, 2008

From taking Digital Video Foundations this semester, it has helped me change the way that I look and enjoy movies. What Jules and Josh said was right. It will change the way you view movies. I don’t hate watching films; I just look at them differently. Previously, films were just a way to pass time and a form of entertainment with friends and I never knew how intricate the processes of making a film were.

I am currently doing my second last semester at Griffith with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Japanese and Marketing. Through starting my degree my interest in Japan grew and the opportunity arose to do a year exchange at a Japanese university. I took that offer up and travelled there last year. Soon after I arrived I got involved with doing some modelling and acting. I had formerly taken acting classes back in high school and had enjoyed making short films with friends in my spare time. As I became more involved with acting in films, TV shows and commercials I became more interested in the way everything was done from filming to editing (because what they shot during the day look so much more better in the finished product). Working on films and TV shows helped me appreciate how much work goes into lighting and especially film sets.

Although nearly to the end of my studies working as an actor opened my eyes up and ever so more whilst taking this course. The production side is so completely different to what us actors see and do. We are on set one second and off the next just performing. Digital video foundations taught me a lot about what happens behind the scenes and the countless hours that people have to spend on organising, editing etc. I remember seeing lots of lights at sets and microphones and that but never really realised how precise they have to be in order to get a good shot. And that helps explains why sometimes it takes so long to get a good shot. Because I’ve seen and done a lot of the practical on camera stuff, but never really studied the theory behind it all this subject taught me about the why, and the how of film making. I now can appreciate the production crew more and can in some circumstance understand why they do the things they do.

In all the classes and films based on visualisation, production, screenwriting, storyboarding, budget scheduling, framing & composition, lighting, editing and audio, framing and composition, lighting and editing would have to be my favourites. They taught me how to appreciate and know a good from bad shots and special ways to use audio and lighting and the effect that it can have on a film if used correctly. The editing part (not to forget all the parts integrated) I think will help me when I come to film and edit a film that I make someday.

I wish that I could carry on with more film studies because I have a passion for this kind of stuff and wish that I had done this subject much earlier than I have now. I see myself now much more alert to what’s going on in a movie and sometimes find myself a little critical of things. I see films more as a piece of artwork rather than entertainment and understand why some films flop and some are great. Great composition, acting, editing, organisation, and every other part that adds to a great film. I feel as I can connect with the director now and understand his motives around producing such a film and shooting particular scenes. Even though I will finish at Griffith soon I am sure that I will pursue film studies (or acting) either as a hobby or something more professional.

Commando

October 1, 2008

One of the first things I noticed about the lighting in Commando apart from all the various mistakes and somewhat unbelievable scenes and shots is the amount of lighting that the used in the film. At the very start of the movie you can see Matrix and his daughter having fun with each other. The camera shots are very straight face on and do not follow the rule of thirds. Also, the amount of light in the scene is a little unusual. It is midday usually having the sun directly above, however the actor’s faces are brightly lit up, almost gleaming and light bouncing off them. It suggests that maybe they were using a light reflection sheets so that their faces would be lit up.

Throughout the film you can see a lot of different styles of lighting. In many of the small location area scenes the lighting of the scene and the light reflecting of the actors suggest a three point lighting system with the key, fill and back light used. In many of the battle scenes, especially during the day, they are outside and a high-key lighting style would be mostly used because the director wants to show Arny’s muscled body and is evident through close ups on his biceps, chest and painted body.

In other parts the crew have used lighting to light up the scene but leaves the shot somewhat unrealistic. The cliff where Sully is dropped off is lit up but the only light should is from the roadside light and wouldn’t usually go that far down the cliff. In the same scene they crash the car into the pole and the only light is above, yet from side on it seems though as if there is a fill light reflecting light on the actors.

In the final battle between Matrix and Bennet and when Matrix and the girl go to get guns and are caught by police, the scene is set at night (note that when they enter the shop it is daylight but when they exit it is night! That can’t happen in a matter of seconds!) and the crew have obviously used lots of light to light up the scene (nice backlight in smoke scene) and when there is backlight usually the foreground actor would not be seen but because of key light and fill the actors face is lit up (everyone knows you can’t see that well in the dark).

I do though have to acknowledge towards the end battle in the corridor with the pipes and furnace, knife scene etc. they have used mood lighting to set a certain feel (good against bad) with dark shaded areas and slightly lit up areas. But when the fire comes he grabs the furnace door with his bare hand but doesn’t get burned, what the?!?! Other scenes and shots also show light bouncing off Matrix’s body and arms one second but then the light disappears the next, yet he’s under a tree. Strange isn’t it.