Topics

Too much headroom

Steven Morton
 

OK, it's official I really am an old fart
I've been in two minds about sending this post, but anyway here goes:

I've just watched the UK TV series "Kiri" and while I think it has some
really great shots in it, I personally think it had way too much head
room in many of the one and two shot people sequences. Call me old
fashioned, call me whatever you like, but too much headroom can be just
a waste of real estate in my opinion. I can certainly live with and
sometimes even like the occasional big headroom when that space has
visual patterns and textures that compliment the scene or mood. But I'm
afraid I don't see the reason for shot after shot to be composed like
that. If it is to be different, then that aim has been achieved. To me
tight composition is one of the integral components of recording drama.
Sure that can be way over used. I am a believer in traditional
composition (most of the time). For me repeated large headroom starts to
inject a visual disconnection with the characters.

So that is just my humble opinion.
Apologies to Matt G for not seeing his vision.

All the best
Steve

Steven Morton FRPS
Scientific Imaging
Monash University
Melbourne
Australia

Michael Most
 

On Apr 8, 2018, at 8:12 PM, Steven Morton via Cml.News <steven.morton=monash.edu@...> wrote:

For me repeated large headroom starts to
inject a visual disconnection with the characters.
You would definitely not like the show "Mr. Robot”…..

Mike Most
On Location Services Director
Technicolor
Los Angeles, CA.

Geoff Boyle
 

This is yet another example of visual illiteracy.

Off framing is used to make a point. It's like shouting.
Effective if you use it occasionally but totally ineffective if you do it all the time.
Like unsaturated low contrast images of high contrast saturated images.
If you get it all the time you habituate to it and it's no longer effective.

People don't want to take the time to learn the visual language properly and instead use a kind of tourist phrase book approach.
I'm sure a lot of you have seen the Monty python phrase book sketch.

Unfortunately a lot of images now are fondling my buttocks.

Cheers
Geoff Boyle NSC FBKS
Cinematographer
EU based

Sent from Blue

On 9 Apr 2018, at 06:07, Michael Most <mdmost@...> wrote:
On Apr 8, 2018, at 8:12 PM, Steven Morton via Cml.News <steven.morton=monash.edu@...> wrote:

For me repeated large headroom starts to
inject a visual disconnection with the characters.
You would definitely not like the show "Mr. Robot”…..

Mike Most
On Location Services Director
Technicolor
Los Angeles, CA.

Mark Sasahara
 

"People ... instead use a kind of tourist phrase book approach.
I'm sure a lot of you have seen the Monty python phrase book sketch.

Unfortunately a lot of images now are fondling my buttocks.

Cheers
Geoff Boyle NSC FBKS
Cinematographer
EU based"

"My hovercraft is full of eels"...

{Originally, I was going to write "My neeples explode with deelight". But decided against it.}

-Mark "If I walked that way, I wouldn't need after shave" Sasahara, DP, NYC

P.S. I suggest calling Alexander Yalt, for the afore mentioned image problems.



Mark Sasahara
  marksasahara@...
   718-440-1013
    http://msasahara.com


On Mon, Apr 9, 2018 at 12:39 AM, Geoff Boyle <geoff@...> wrote:
This is yet another example of visual illiteracy.

Off framing is used to make a point. It's like shouting.
Effective if you use it occasionally but totally ineffective if you do it all the time.
Like unsaturated low contrast images of high contrast saturated images.
If you get it all the time you habituate to it and it's no longer effective.

People don't want to take the time to learn the visual language properly and instead use a kind of tourist phrase book approach.
I'm sure a lot of you have seen the Monty python phrase book sketch.

Unfortunately a lot of images now are fondling my buttocks.

Cheers
Geoff Boyle NSC FBKS
Cinematographer
EU based

Sent from Blue
On 9 Apr 2018, at 06:07, Michael Most <mdmost@...> wrote:
On Apr 8, 2018, at 8:12 PM, Steven Morton via Cml.News <steven.morton=monash.edu@cml.news> wrote:

For me repeated large headroom starts to
inject a visual disconnection with the characters.
You would definitely not like the show "Mr. Robot”…..

Mike Most
On Location Services Director
Technicolor
Los Angeles, CA.

Jim Feeley
 

On Apr 8, 2018, at 9:39 PM, Geoff Boyle <geoff@...> wrote:

Unfortunately a lot of images now are fondling my buttocks.

I actually LOLd. Just brilliant.

That's going to look great on the next CML t-shirt.

Going to miss your wit at NAB.


jim feeley
producer, journalist, mixer
near san francisco usa

Adam Wilt
 

Unfortunately a lot of images now are fondling my buttocks.

“My hovercraft is full of ARRIs.”

“Would you like to photograph my show, shaky-shaky?”

“I would like to return this film stock, it is scratched.”

Sorry, that last one made sense.

Adam Wilt
technical services: consulting / coding / camerawork
Vancouver WA USA (no, not that Vancouver, the other one)

Daniel Drasin
 

Geoff writes: This is yet another example of visual illiteracy. People don't want to take the time to learn the visual language properly and instead use a kind of tourist phrase book approach.

-----------

Careful!  It could be contagious. Watch enough YouTube videos and Skype sessions with small heads centered in the frame, and one may begin to think of this as normal.

Then there's the nefarious rule of thirds, which, when followed slavishly, leads to all manner of esthetic malpractice.

         Unfortunately a lot of images now are fondling my buttocks.

That would be the rule of turds.

(Sorry -- couldn't resist.)

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA

Stephen Lighthill
 

This conversation reminds me to review EDA, the many-times honored Polish film
that uses lots of headroom in the most
creative and story-appropriate manner.
 
Stephen Lighthill, ASC | Senior Filmmaker-In-Residence: Cinematography |
AFI Conservatory | American Film Institute 



On Monday, April 9, 2018 3:43 PM, Daniel Drasin <danieldrasin@...> wrote:


Geoff writes: This is yet another example of visual illiteracy. People don't want to take the time to learn the visual language properly and instead use a kind of tourist phrase book approach.

-----------

Careful!  It could be contagious. Watch enough YouTube videos and Skype sessions with small heads centered in the frame, and one may begin to think of this as normal.

Then there's the nefarious rule of thirds, which, when followed slavishly, leads to all manner of esthetic malpractice.

         Unfortunately a lot of images now are fondling my buttocks.

That would be the rule of turds.

(Sorry -- couldn't resist.)

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Jeff Kreines
 

My partner was extremely irritated by the awful frames in Spotlight — there’s always some fragment of a person at the edge of the frame, like a failed over-the-shoulder shot where there’s so little shoulder that you can’t imagine what they had in mind. Happens over and over and over again. 

Annoying as hell. 

Jeff Kreines

Sent from iPhone. 

On Apr 9, 2018, at 5:47 PM, Stephen Lighthill <slights@...> wrote:

This conversation reminds me to review EDA, the many-times honored Polish film
that uses lots of headroom in the most
creative and story-appropriate manner.
 
Stephen Lighthill, ASC | Senior Filmmaker-In-Residence: Cinematography |
AFI Conservatory | American Film Institute 



On Monday, April 9, 2018 3:43 PM, Daniel Drasin <danieldrasin@...> wrote:


Geoff writes: This is yet another example of visual illiteracy. People don't want to take the time to learn the visual language properly and instead use a kind of tourist phrase book approach.

-----------

Careful!  It could be contagious. Watch enough YouTube videos and Skype sessions with small heads centered in the frame, and one may begin to think of this as normal.

Then there's the nefarious rule of thirds, which, when followed slavishly, leads to all manner of esthetic malpractice.

         Unfortunately a lot of images now are fondling my buttocks.

That would be the rule of turds.

(Sorry -- couldn't resist.)

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Steven Gruen
 

SL >> This  conversation reminds me to review EDA

I'll second that. Shot in 4:3 it was a gorgeous lesson in unconventional framing from the first shot forward.

In France it was released it was released as Ida.

Steven Gruen
Camera/Directing
Paris, France

Art Adams
 

I love extra headroom shots when they are story appropriate. Like any other tool, they can be abused by people who see them as a fad or their ticket to being cool (see shaky-cam). When used well, it's an amazing style. In my mind, this style comes from the mingling of still photography techniques and cinematography, as still frames tend to be more about composing a large vertically-oriented image, or a square-ish image, where there's no reason to put the person's head just at the top of the frame as that's valuable real estate that can be used for composition. That's the trick, though: it has to be used. If it's just empty, then it needs to be story appropriate.

Mr. Robot, House of Cards and series one of Broadchurch come to mind as excellent examples of what this technique looks like when used well. In most cases, the top of the frame contains architectural elements that round out or close off the top of the frame. Door frames, the tops of windows, etc. are good tools for this. It generally works best if there's a shape of some sort that gives some meaning to where the frame edge falls, although bottom-weighted frames with not much at the top can work spectacularly as well. This is the way we see the world normally, and there are several centuries of extraordinary paintings that use this technique and so far no one has complained about excess headroom.

One of the best examples of this I've seen in recent history, other than Mr. Robot, is Utopia. They managed to pull off this kind of framing with a very wide frame, when it generally works best with taller frames (or so I'd thought).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJnN3WMwDsk

--
Art Adams
Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area

Daniel Drasin
 

Art writes: I love extra headroom shots when they are story appropriate. 

--------

Agreed, regarding headroom or anything else -- even in stills, where the "story" is implied.

     they can be abused by people who see them as a fad or their ticket to being cool (see shaky-cam).

My guess is that most poor or counterproductive composition these days is more a matter of ignorance or naivete.  Negative noseroom is another example. To me it always feels annoying and meaningless unless it has a definite purpose; i.e., to suggest a forward imbalance to make a dramatic point.  Psychologically speaking, the spaces in front of, vs. behind, someone's head, have hugely different implications.  Where a subject is facing an off-screen presence (an interviewer, for example), the space in front of the subject is, by implication, filled or charged with that presence, The space behind their head is essentially a "psychological vacuum." Where a forward imbalance is dramatically appropriate, that vacuum helps create the necessary tension.  But fchrissake, we don't need to maintain that tension for the entire duration of a lecture, interview, etc.

End of pedantic "composition 101" screed. :-)

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA

Art Adams
 

>Negative noseroom is another example.

I quite like that. Not for everything, but it can be extremely interesting. As can just about any kind of framing, honestly. I guess the difference is whether someone uses "non-standard" framing knowing that it will advance the story or build tension in the scene, or if it's just something they did once successfully and now they repeat it for everything.

If we used "standard" framing from a century ago we'd be shooting portrait images with half of it being sky and clouds. Tastes change.

--
Art Adams
Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area

Jonathon Sendall
 

I recently watched a documentary on BBC about the Magnum agency and they’re relationship to movies and Hollywood. You see in the stills, that quite dramatically changed the way we see photography, such framing we’re talking about on this thread before it became a “thing” in filmmaking ( although the Cabinet of Dr Calgari broke some ground on framing).

What I really liked about the Magnum photographers is that they approached documentary images as fiction, not reality. It freed them to photograph in a way that people don’t seem to in BTS photos and video today, the studios worried about damaging images leaking out. But I can certainly see the influence Magnum had in breaking ground in how we frame.

Jonathon Sendall
DP, London

On Tue, 10 Apr 2018 at 20:18, Art Adams <art.cml.only@...> wrote:
>Negative noseroom is another example.

I quite like that. Not for everything, but it can be extremely interesting. As can just about any kind of framing, honestly. I guess the difference is whether someone uses "non-standard" framing knowing that it will advance the story or build tension in the scene, or if it's just something they did once successfully and now they repeat it for everything.

If we used "standard" framing from a century ago we'd be shooting portrait images with half of it being sky and clouds. Tastes change.

--
Art Adams
Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area

Jen White
 


On Apr 10, 2018, at 11:55 AM, Daniel Drasin <danieldrasin@...> wrote:

My guess is that most poor or counterproductive composition these days is more a matter of ignorance or naivety. 

Definitely. Or they think it’s “cool” to not follow the rules. [insert eye roll]

I have started having the conversation in interviews with directors about how they feel about the 180 rule. If they say “it doesn’t matter” then I know I shouldn’t shoot for them because I’ll be pulling my hair out. A lot of shows/films are getting really sloppy about eyelines these days and it makes me nuts. It completely jerks me out of the story and I’m trying to figure out who’s where and talking to who. 

You never really know if it’s the director, the DP, the editor, or a combination of the three that allows it, so it’s hard to know who to pin it on, but if I’m shooting something and the director wants to cover it from both sides of the line, we have that conversation about how there must be a motivated transition and the cut can’t go between them. 

I’m all for breaking rules if there is a motivation, but these days it seems the idea is that you’re a rebel or something if you don’t follow them. But they are there for a reason.  If you break the line, you should be doing it because you want to jar the audience for a specific moment. Extreme headroom should be motivated. Minimal lead space should be motivated.  

All things should serve the story. Full stop. 

Tod Campbell’s work on Mr. Robot I think is a great example. The weird framing completely works in the context of telling the story from that character’s unusual perspective. It’s beautifully done. Peaky Blinders is another great example, though it’s more subtle with that show. Mindhunter also comes to mind. 


Jen White
ICG DP/LA (on my way to Denver)

Greg Lowry
 

Definitely. Or they think it’s “cool” to not follow the rules.
[insert eye roll]
Yeah, just like that Toland guy on Citizen Kane. What a show off! I
can't believe that criticism of composition (of any kind) has a place on
this list.

Greg Lowry
Scopica Group
Vancouver

Phil Badger
 

Anybody seen the Errol Morris doc “Wormwood” on Netflix? It’s interviews and reenactments. Visually quite fascinating and sometimes beautiful. But the interview camera angles are ALL over the place. Crosses the line constantly. Appears to have used several different cameras arrayed in extremely different positions, hidden from each other. It works for the subject matter because the subject is about the son of the dead guy who spent his life investigating the story of how his father actually died, and his experience was jarring as hell, so ...

It’s a great work; I found it to be quite moving, maybe because I could relate to it a little too much because of the work my own father did ...

Anyway I recommend it, and seeing those angles. Never seen anything quite like it.

Phil Badger
Gaffer, Currently in Portland.

Jen White
 


On Apr 10, 2018, at 3:43 PM, Greg Lowry <cml@...> wrote:

Yeah, just like that Toland guy on Citizen Kane. What a show off! I 
can't believe that criticism of composition (of any kind) has a place on 
this list.

Please note the point of/the rest of the message that said breaking the rules is great if it’s motivated, which I think was certainly the case with Citizen Kane. 

Break the rules all you want, just have a reason other than ego. 

If critical discussion of composition doesn’t belong here on CML, then where? 


Jen White
ICG DP/LA (heading to Denver)

Bob Kertesz
 

I have started having the conversation in interviews with directors
about how they feel about the 180 rule.
I worked a 'standard' 4 camera kid's sitcom for a couple of years, with
a rotating group of directors. On the first day, all four cameras moved
across the line to the other side of the set 'for coverage'.

I brought up how jarring it was going to be on the cuts, and was told by
the AD and then the DP to be quiet and mind my own business. It seems
the sets were specifically designed in that way (lots of movable walls)
so the coverage could be from all four sides of most sets, which is what
we did. Things got weird in the edit.

After being told to shut up, I just made sure the cameras looked good
and matched. Crafty had very fresh bagels every morning.

Bob's First Rule of Production: Do the best you can for people, then
give them what they want, even if it's crap.

Helped me survive for almost 45 years.

-Bob

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California

DIT, Video Controller, and live compositor extraordinaire.

High quality images for more than four decades - whether you've wanted
them or not.©

* * * * * * * * * *

Stephen Lighthill
 

In France it was released it was released as Ida.

Of course; it is IDA in English, as well.
Brain disengaged from fingers.
 
Stephen Lighthill, ASC | Senior Filmmaker-In-Residence: Cinematography |
AFI Conservatory | American Film Institute 



On Tuesday, April 10, 2018 8:43 AM, Art Adams <art.cml.only@...> wrote:


I love extra headroom shots when they are story appropriate. Like any other tool, they can be abused by people who see them as a fad or their ticket to being cool (see shaky-cam). When used well, it's an amazing style. In my mind, this style comes from the mingling of still photography techniques and cinematography, as still frames tend to be more about composing a large vertically-oriented image, or a square-ish image, where there's no reason to put the person's head just at the top of the frame as that's valuable real estate that can be used for composition. That's the trick, though: it has to be used. If it's just empty, then it needs to be story appropriate.

Mr. Robot, House of Cards and series one of Broadchurch come to mind as excellent examples of what this technique looks like when used well. In most cases, the top of the frame contains architectural elements that round out or close off the top of the frame. Door frames, the tops of windows, etc. are good tools for this. It generally works best if there's a shape of some sort that gives some meaning to where the frame edge falls, although bottom-weighted frames with not much at the top can work spectacularly as well. This is the way we see the world normally, and there are several centuries of extraordinary paintings that use this technique and so far no one has complained about excess headroom.

One of the best examples of this I've seen in recent history, other than Mr. Robot, is Utopia. They managed to pull off this kind of framing with a very wide frame, when it generally works best with taller frames (or so I'd thought).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJnN3WMwDsk

--
Art Adams
Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area



Previous Topic Next Topic