On September 11, pioneering pilot and aerial cinematographer, occasional cameo actor and air ambulance pilot Alan Purwin was killed in a plane crash in Colombia while working on a movie. The master of the dangerous art of aerial photography is memorialized by[WATCH ME] his friend and frequent collaborator, Michael Bay.
Tony Zhou looks at the quadrant system with scenes from Nicolas Winding Refn’s film Drive, geometric staging with Akira Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well, and character decision with Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer. [more inside]
"Ida" (trailer: YouTube & Apple) is a black & white (and a Polish language) film from Poland by director Pavel Pawlikowski (this link contains spoilers). Hailed a film "masterpiece" by more than one critic, the film has now been recognized in America by not just one Oscar nomination (Foreign Language Film) but a 2nd in the broader category of Cinematography. For those interested in filmmaking, cinematography, and lighting, here is a look at three scenes from Ida. More? Here are another four scenes. The film is not without controversy, including Poles who are upset at the portrayal of their countrymen (and women) during the Nazi occupation and the Stalinism that followed WWII. Does 'Ida' misrepresent Poland's treatment of Jews?
"Over the course of eight episodes, Fukunaga essentially rewrote the visual language of a televised cop show. Gone were the traditional establishing exterior shot of a police department, leading to an establishing shot of an office, a two-shot of the players, and a series of reaction shots between them as a conversation takes place. Here we had a director who seemed to take every frame, every movement, every bit of shadow, and every movement of the camera as seriously as the story."
Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion. It... ain't so good. Want something more artful? Look no further than The Prince of Egypt [alt], an underrated masterpiece of DreamWorks' traditional animation era. Directed by Brenda Chapman (a first for women in animation), scored to spectacular effect by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, and voiced by, among others, Voldemort, Batman, and Professor X, the ambitious film features gorgeous, striking visuals and tastefully integrated CGI in nearly every scene. It also manages the improbable feat of maturing beyond cartoon clichés while humanizing the prophet's journey from carefree scion to noble (and remorseful) liberator without offending half the planet -- while still being quite a fun ride. Already seen it? Catch the making-of documentary, or click inside for more. [more inside]
Satoshi Kon - Editing Space & Time A short video on Vimeo which explains the editing techniques of the late anime director Satoshi Kon used in his works by Tony Zhou. [more inside]
The Spielberg Oner: "One overlooked aspect of Spielberg is that he's actually a stealth master of the long take. From Duel to Tintin, for forty years, he has sneakily filmed many scenes in a single continuous shot." [more inside]
After Michael Mann set out to direct Collateral, the story’s setting moved from New York to Los Angeles. This decision was in part motivated by the unique visual presence of the city — especially the way it looked at night. Mann shot a majority of the film in HD (this was 2004), feeling the format better captured the city’s night lighting. Even the film’s protagonist taxi needed a custom coat to pick up different sheens depending on the type of artificial lighting the cab passed beneath. That city, at least as it appears in Collateral and countless other films, will never be the same again. L.A. has made a vast change-over to LED street lights, with New York City not far behind. Why Hollywood Will Never Look the Same Again on Film: LEDs Hit the Streets of LA & NY
Hitflix's 2012 top ten list and discussion of individual film images. [each year's top ten shots are broken into chunks of five, with one page for each five shot group]. [more inside]
With the momentous series finale of Breaking Bad just hours away, fans of the show are hungry for something, anything to wile away the time before the epic conclusion tonight. So why not kick back and chew the fat with your fellow MeFites with the help of a little tool I like to call "The Periodic Table of Breaking Bad." [more inside]
Craft Truck is a filmmaker website and home of the web series Through the Lens, a regular series of interviews with leading cinematographers. [more inside]
Christopher Doyle, cinematographer for Wong Kar-Wai's most acclaimed works (and dozens of other movies), calls Life of Pi's Academy Award an "insult to cinematography" in a recent interview. He elaborated: "What a total fucking piece of shit." (Part 1 of the same interview, more informative but less entertaining) [NSFW film posters and language]
Bond film Skyfall has been nominated for its first Academy Awards since 1982. Skyfall was nominated for original score, sound mixing, sound editing, original song, and cinematography. It is also cinematographer Roger Deakins' tenth nomination without a win. [more inside]
Scott Eric Kaufman examines the visual rhetoric of Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, Mad Men, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and more.
"Fast Company’s four-hour interview with [Martin Scorsese] for their December-January cover story: How to Lead A Creative Life, was ostensibly about his career, and how he had been able to stay so creative through years of battling studios. But the Hugo director punctuated everything he said with references to movies: 85 of them, in fact." Welcome to Martin Scorsese’s Film School: The 85 Films You Need To See To Know Anything About Film [more inside]
A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt] is remembered for a lot of things: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography (a pioneer of digital color grading), its whimsical humor, fluid vernacular, and many subtle references to Homer's Odyssey. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music. Assembled by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads and angelic hymns to wistful blues and chain-gang anthems. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South. Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker's Down from the Mountain, an extraordinary yet intimate concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley) and wryly hosted by John Hartford, an accomplished fiddler, riverboat captain, and raconteur whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu and YouTube -- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list's fascinating history. [more inside]
Drive and Bellflower are both movies with fast cars and distinctive looks but one had a budget 765x the other. Drive was captured to Betamax's grandchild, Bellflower to a Mac Book Pro. [more inside]
With digital cinema on the rise, and DSLR video shooting becoming increasingly popular for low-budget and independent film making, expectations were high for Canon's big announcement at Paramount Studios today. And Canon delivered, the C300 is a DSLR-like camera that uses Canon or PL mount lenses (two different models), with no autofocus, S35mm sensor size, full HD to a 50Mbps 10-bit 4:2:2 stream, shipping in January 2012 for $20,000. They also announced a new range of high-resolution affordable zoom and prime lenses for cinema use, and, as an extra bonus, they announced they were developing a similar camera that could record 4k video for release at some time in the future. It all looked like a big win for Canon... But, a few hours later, the always controversial and disruptive Red Digital Cinema, makers of the ubiquitous Red One and the relatively new 5K, 120fps EPIC, announced the EPIC's little sister, based on the same sensor, the Scarlet, a camera that also uses Canon or PL mount lenses, with an interchangeable lens mount, autofocus on Canon lenses, S35mm sensor size, 4k video (with HDR option) and 5k stills to a 400Mbps 16-bit compressed raw stream, shipping December 1st for $9,750 for the body (under $14,000 for a full, ready to shoot kit with media, card reader and 5" touchscreen, minus the lenses).
For the past year, director Stephen Soderbergh has been recording and sharing a list of the books that he has read, and films that he has watched. The writers at Flavorwire noted Soderbergh's decision to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark in black & white three times, and have compiled a list of color films that work better in monochrome. [more inside]
Old Hong Kong/Macau clips 1949-1989 by Michael Rogge, now 81, who was stationed in Hong Kong and Japan. He documented his life in photos and 16mm film, clips on YT | his YouTube channel | Old Japan in 1870 Engravings. Taken from a Dutch magazine 'De aarde en haar volken' of 1875. Engravings done by French artists. | Old JAPAN in 1869 in engravings French engravings, part of a travelogue, picture a weird Japan. Pictures appeared in Dutch magazine 'De Aarde en haar Volken' of 1869 and were engraved by French artists. [more inside]
In The Mood For Chris Doyle "The most Chinese white man to have ever lived...the incomparable, incredibly talented Chris Doyle... is a highly acclaimed, AFI Award-winning cinematographer, known for his use of extreme angles and vanguard color grading. He has won, amongst other accolades, the Cannes Technical Grand Prize, Golden Osella, the Golden Horse awards (four times), and Hong Kong Film Award (six times). Doyle is an affiliate of the Hong Kong Society of Cinematographers." (more)
"Because the camera is so close to the character(s) being followed, we feel that we're physically attached to those characters, as if by an invisible guide wire, being towed through their world, sometimes keeping pace, other times losing them as they weave through hallways, down staircases or through smoke or fog." A video montage and essay by Matt Zoller Seitz. All shots are identified at the end; you may know more of them than you think. (via)
They were originally created to maintain consistency in color, greyscale, and fleshtones. Lab technicians posed them, projectionists collected them, and the general public wasn't supposed to see them. After they were consigned to obsolescence by digital technology, they became a found object for artists and filmmakers. What no one can agree on is how they got their names. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you China Girls.
Have your filmmaking questions answered by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC. One of the great cinematographers maintains a forum on his website in which he answers readers' questions with a treasure trove of information and opinion on cameras, lighting and filmmaking in general.
Sven Nykvist leaves us. A master at the subtle manipulation of light, the multiple academy award winner and longtime Ingmar Bergman collaborator (including Persona, and the Through a Glass Darkly/Winter Light/The Silence trilogy) has passed away at 83.
more obits   more about him  
more obits   more about him  
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. A key documentary artifact of the uprising is Magyarország lángokban (Hungary in Flames) [embedded .wmv], partly composed of footage shot by two young film school students using whatever equipment they could find. Narrowly avoiding capture by the Communists, the duo smuggled 10,000 feet of film out of the country in spare tires and potato sacks; there's much more to the story, but better to hear Vilmos tell it in his own words. [.rm] Eventually, they made their way to America, where László Kovács, ASC (Five Easy Pieces, Ghost Busters, more) and Vilmos Zsigmund, ASC (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Deliverance, more) became two of the most prolific cinematographers in Hollywood history. [more inside]
"Hitch was always trying to push the limits on techniques and to be different". Cary Grant chased by a crop-duster plane in a corn field; Janet Leigh screaming in the shower; Tippi Hedren attacked by killer seagulls. The man behind lens? Leonard J. South (1914-2006) , Hitchcock's camera operator. More inside.
Will we ever know what is real anymore? The making of the Matrix sequels. After these movies, will we ever be able to tell what is real or not on the small and large screen?