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Pursuing Cinematic Techniques

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This was a very interesting way to approach critiquing techniques of visual and audio and how they come together in a movie. Cutting off the senses really makes one focus on the specific aspects that contribute to one technique rather that putting everything together at once. I chose a clip from the Pursuit of Happyness to critique. I found it had many different effects that together added to the emotion of the scene.

Visual Notes:

  • Begins with a timing scene (through night to the morning)
  • Cuts to frantic running- camera moves around a lot, cuts to different views of character
  • When arrives at destination camera evens out and slows cuts down, but still gives different views of character
  • When character starts walking, follows him from behind at first, then cuts to following him in front, occasionally giving a few POV scenes
  • Enters meeting room- starts off following main character around the room but then changes
  • Conversation cutting- scenes cut back and forth to the person talking in conversation

Audio Notes:

  • Begins with serious slow music, but starts to pick up the speed a bit
  • Can hear sound effects (honking, cars moving, door slamming, elevator ding, people talking) in the background of music
  • Eventually music stops and you just hear people talking and things moving around (papers, carts, etc…)
  • Then music fades in again (serious, but upbeat and a bit frantic) and you hear sound effects (people talking, phones ringing)
  • Music fades out
  • Conversation between characters begin- not many sound effects

Together Notes:

  • Music only plays when main character is on the move (running to appointment, walking to meeting room)

After I took all of these notes, I started trying to connect them with the characteristics I read about from Robert Ebert. The first connection I came across was the idea of intrinsic weighing. He defines this by “certain areas of the available visual space have tendencies to stir emotional or aesthetic reactions”. As I thought about this, it made sense to me. The positioning of the person does seem to have an effect of¬†hierarchy or emotional that is un-noticed to the viewer until specifically pointed out. One of these that Ebert pointed out was that a centered person is¬†objectified. He said it was somewhat like a mug shot. I noticed that in the meeting room, Will Smith (the main character) is mostly centered. He also sits on the other side of the table from his interviewers in the only middle chair. This makes sense in the fact that he is in an interview and is the subject of the scene. I also noticed that during the interview, the main (I’m assuming CEO) is on the right. When the scene cuts to the other two main people (besides Will Smith) that the older,¬†hierarchical person is on the right. According to Ebert, in scenes like this the person on the right is more dominant and positive than the one on the left. This is true for this scene.

I next moved on the actual camera cuts. I mostly used the video of Top Cinematic Techniques as a reference for this part. I went back and watched the clip one more time, then watched the technique video and tried to connect any camera techniques together. The first one I came across was the tracking shot. This was used in the Pursuit of Happiness clip when Will Smith starts walking through the office space to the meeting room. The camera sort of follows him through some of the office. During this part, it also cuts to some POV shots where we see everything how Will Smith would be seeing it. The next camera technique that I connected to this scene was a steady cam. In the first part of the scene, the camera was frantic and moving a lot. It had many cuts and was a bit crazy. However, when Will Smith started slowing and calming down, the camera reacted in the same way. It still cut, but it wasn’t as much or as quickly. There was a camera technique that I couldn’t find any reference on, but still really stood out to me was in the conference room. The camera would cut back and forth to whomever was speaking at the time. It was sort of a conversation cut. I’m not positive if this is an actual technique, but it did stand out to me.

It is amazing how much you actually notice something when it is pointed out to you. I have never noticed how camera angles or positioning of people affect emotions and visuals so much. However, now that it has been pointed out I know that they discretely do. Cutting off senses helps to distinguish these effects even more. It forces you to really focus on that specific aspect with nothing else interfering.

In this montage of videos, the one I watched is simply called the pursuit of happyness. If you click on playlist at the bottom of the video screen you can scroll through the videos and find this one!



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