Everyday Media

An everyday blog about media by everyday blogger Louise Alice Wilson.

Month: April 2018

Basic Research Project

I have chosen to look at Roger Deakins’ cinematography for my research project. I guess everyone’s heard of Roger Deakins which is why I’m also aware of him, but what initially attracted me to Roger was his work on Blade Runner 2049 and his largely ‘physical’ approach to cinematography – which I have since learnt about.

On Blade Runner 2049 Roger Deakins worked closely with director Denis Villeneuve – in fact Denis invited Deakins to be the cinematographer as soon as he himself was asked to do this project – from that moment on Denis and Roger worked together on constructing the world of Blade Runner. This meant that Roger was involved in almost every decision regarding the ‘look’ of the film, from the initial colour palette used to the very last lamp shade or wallpaper print. This obsession of Rogers to control all elements of the visual ‘look’ of a film is part of what makes a film look so obviously ‘Rogerian’, as he is quite literally part of every process.  Most films would often be partly developed by the time the cinematographer has been asked to come on board, so Blade Runner presented Roger with a unique opportunity to really control every visual element of the film.

Dennis and Roger have had a close relationship working on three films together: Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). When Ridley Scott and Hampton Fancher handed the sequel of Blade Runner over to Villeneuve they told him that even though Blade Runner is often placed as a sci-fi, at its heart it really is a film noir. Both Prisoners and Sicario have a very dark, almost noir-ish feel to them so it only make sense that Villeneuve asked Roger Deakins to work on Blade Runner 2049.

Prisoners (2013)

Sicario (2015)

Throughout Blade Runner and indeed Deakins’ other work he always prefers to use practical lighting (using lighting visible within the frame to help light the scene) as well as using actual physical effects (such as constructing cardboard city’s to look like the view of a window, rather than simply CGI the view in). This preference for utilising the physical means Deakins can do things such as light a scene and see how the light actually plays off those objects. Allowing him to achieve a very natural look, rather than simply guess how the light would be affected by the objects in frame.

One such example relates to the image above, whereby most cinematographers would choose to simply CGI the purple woman into the frame. However Roger had image of the woman projected into the environment where they were filming, so all the purple light present in the scene and the way it bathes both Ryan and the bridge are real. This also allows the actor to give a better performance as they are truly interacting with the objects in their environment, rather than just pretending they are.

Hallmarks of Roger Deakins’ approach to cinematography:

  • Muslin Bounce: Often tapes muslin onto walls or floors to bounce light around.
  • Tungsten Lights: Predominantly used for indoor scenes.
  • Vermeer Lighting: Bounces HMI’s through windows for a ‘Vermeer’ (soft light) look.
  • High Contrast Ratio: Especially on the face. Prefers to over expose the lit side of a persons face by 1 or 2 stops and maintains an approximate contrast ratio of between 2-3 stops.
  • Ring Light System: DIY ring light system that Rogers created himself to light scenes overhead, to provide an even distribution of light for large interiors. Uses dimmable tungsten or halogen fixtures.
  • Uses Natural Light: Prefers to scrim and bounce sunlight, rather than use artificial light for outdoor scenes.
  • Light Background Opposite to Subject: Lights the subject with the fill on one side and the key on the other, swaps this approach for the background lighting, placing the fill and key on the opposite sides to add more depth to the image.
  • Silhouettes: Often silhouettes characters in wide shots, to show their relationship to the surrounding environment.
  • Colour: Muted – normal looking colours. Rarely over saturates colours.
  • Favourite Camera: Arri Alexa
  • Favourite Lenses: Arri Master Prime Lenses
  • Favourite Focal Length: 32mm

Until next time,

Louise Wilson

 

Week 6 – Reflection

This week was an interesting week, as rather than work through specific activities we ended up discussing what it was we wanted to work on for the rest of the term, which certainly was a very interesting experience. I guess its rare for a teacher to ask you – “what do you want to learn about?”.

Essentially Robin got each of us to tell him what we would like to focus on for the rest of the semester, or what we were enjoying and from that he could gather a deeper understanding of what the class collectively was interested in exploring next.

Lots of people had plenty of good ideas about what to do, a few people suggesting we attempt to recreate a shot we liked, in order to learn from it – which I am really interested in doing and thus said that very thing. Others suggested they wanted to create something they felt was worthy of a ‘showreel’ – though I guess thats a big ask from a studio, but I certainly would love to create a piece of work which I am that proud of. Some people wanted to do things that were a bit more radical, such as explore more ‘abstract or artistic’ lighting, such as the use of coloured gels to light a scene. Or to explore how different genres utilise different lighting setups, which of course would be dramatically different depending on the genre, as ever genre has their own rules. It’d be interesting to see how something would never be done in a certain genre, but would be pushed to the extreme in another genre.

From that we somewhat deduced a plan for the rest of the studio which essentially involves us getting into groups and filming a small scene of whatever we wanted, leaving it up to us to choose. I’m in the same group as I have been for most of the semester – minus a few of the usual suspects – and am pretty excited to see what we come up with.

 

Until next time,

Louise Wilson

Week 5 – Reflection

This week, again like last week we were hands on filming more scenes. However, unlike last time the scenes we shot this time were a lot simpler, or maybe they just felt a lot simpler?

We were given the exercises ahead of the day, but this time our group (which was the same as last time) didn’t plan the shoot out prior to the exercise but rather worked it out on the day. Our group however got to shoot in the second half of the class, as everyone else was out shooting in the first half of the class, so in a way we did get a little extra time for planning.

For the first half of the class Robin gave us a mini lesson going through cinematography terms that we’d learnt thus far, grouping related terms together and adding new terms to the ones we already knew – thoroughly expanding our cinematographic vocabulary. Then Robin also showed us numerous clips where we got to visually explore the terms we were learning, as well as simply appreciate some brilliant filmmaking such as Orson Welles’ ‘Citizen Kane’ and a number of other classic examples.

At the tail end of this lesson we quickly planned out which group member would do what in the scenes we were shooting and we decided to switch roles around, to drastically different roles than the ones we were used to. As we’d worked out that even though we are encouraged to switch roles or try new things, often people that were comfortable or interested in particular areas kept doing the same roles. For example I’ve always been very interested in doing camerawork so I always offer myself as DOP or camera assistant, Darcey quite loves directing, so would often take on that role and Sam has discovered that she makes a great First AD so she kept offering herself for that role.

This time we decided to switch it up, so I was an actor along with Alex and Aly, Sam was on camera, Quinlan was directing and Darcey and Alaa were doing the lighting and sound. Having radically different roles was great, it was nice to sink into the role of ‘actor’ and just be told what to do and where to stand. I just focussed on practising my lines and making my ’emotions’ feel genuine, rather than being fixated on getting ‘the best shot’.

I remember Robin saying that he kept rewatching our clip as the acting was quite – I can’t remember the exact word – but somewhere along the lines of engaging? When I watch the footage back I guess I tend to agree, both Aly and I attempted to be as genuine as possible, mimicking the emotions that someone would feel, in the situation we were in. Which was essentially bumping into someone you thought didn’t like you, and realising they did. I guess we all can relate to that?

It was very interesting also to see how someone else deals with the problem of getting the right framing, or avoiding showing specific objects in frame, or dealing with locations with starkly different exposures. It meant I could learn by taking a step back, rather than being right in there – which was a new experience for me.

 

Until next time,

Louise Wilson

 

Week 5 Reflection: http://www.mediafactory.org.au/louise-wilson/2018/04/27/week-5-reflection/

Week 6 Reflection: http://www.mediafactory.org.au/louise-wilson/2018/04/27/week-6-reflection/

Basic Research Project: http://www.mediafactory.org.au/louise-wilson/2018/04/27/basic-research-project/

 

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