Lecture 9

Introduction to Film Studies
Perspective Relations
• Types of camera lenses determined by their focal
length – distance between the centre of the lens to
the point where light rays converge on the film.
Focal length of the lens can affect perspective
relations in the things in a frame.
Perspective Relations
• Short focal length (wideangle) lens - A lens of less
than 35 mm in focal length
• Distort straight lines lying
near the edges of the frame.
• Two towers appear to lean
rightward and leftward
Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now
• Anything nearer the camera appear to bulge and
its shape look distorted.
• In Terry Gilliam’s Brazil a wide-angle lens is
used extensively
• Middle focal length (normal) lens – A lens of
medium focal length between 35 and 50 mm.
• No noticeable perspectival distortion: horizontal and
vertical lines are rendered straight and perpendicular
• Depth does not look stretched apart or squeezed
• Long focal length (telephoto) lens - A lens of long
focal length between 75 and 250 mm or more.
• It flatten the space between what is in the
foreground and in the background
• The planes seem squashed together
• Chen Kaige’s Life on a String
Perspective Relations
• In Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi an airport is shot
from a great distance by a telephoto lens. The long
lens makes the aeroplane look as if it were landing
on a crowded motorway. 25.15 koyaanisqatsi
Perspective Relations
• Akira Kurosawa frequently used the telephoto
lens. In his Red Beard a mad woman walks in a
doctor’s room. It is filmed over the shoulder of
the doctor and the distance between the two
characters appears close at first. When they are
shown sideways, the viewer would know that
they are far apart.
Perspective Relations
• As the telephoto lens flatten depth, a figure
moving towards the camera appears to take more
time to cover what seems to be a small distance.
• Running-in-place
• Mike Nichols’ The Graduate
Perspective Relations
• Zoom lens – a lens which can change focal length
and transform perspective relations within a single
• The zoom lens can substitute for moving the
camera forward and backward, as it can magnify
and de-magnify the subject. The Conversation
The Lens: Depth
of Field and Focus
Depth of focus = the range
before the lens within which
objects can be
in sharp focus. A lens with a depth of field of 10ft
(3m) to infinity renders any object in that range
clearly, but anything outside it (e.g. in 4ft) goes out
of focus.
Lens: Depth of
Field and Focus
• A wide-angle lens has a relatively greater depth of
field than does a telephoto lens. A scene from
Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane – an example of ‘pan’
focus. All the people in this frame are in sharp
Lens: Depth of
Field and Focus
• Only one plane is in focus and the other planes
are blurred – shallow focus. David Fincher’s
Social Network (2010) A young man’s head in
focus, another man in front slightly out of focus,
and everybody beyond the central figure
completely out of focus. A scene
Lens: Depth of
Field and Focus
• Objects nearer to the camera are thrown out of
focus, so that the viewer’s attentions is drawn to
the sharper middle ground.
• A popular visual style in the 1940s.
• More recent example, Godfather (1972)
Lens: Depth of Field and Focus
• Selective focus can be used for a more abstract
compositional effect. Leo Carax’s Boy Meets Girl
(1984) I am what I am
Lens: Depth of
Field and Focus
• Faster film stock, wider-angle lens, more intense
lighting yield a greater depth of field. Deep focus
photography, in which everything is in focus. In
Citizen Kane Greg Toland achieved memorable
deep focus photography.
Lens: Depth of Field and Focus
• Deep focus photography a popular stylistic choice
in the 1940s and 50s. Samuel Fuller, Underworld
USA (1961) The Girl Backed down
Lens: Depth of Field and Focus
• Deep focus photography revived in the 1970s
• Spielberg’s films such as Jaws and The Close
Encounters of the Third Kind
Lens: Depth of
Field and Focus
• Perspective relations can be adjusted by using
rack (racking) focus or pulling focus. One object
is in focus in one plane and you rack focus so that
another thing in another place, which was out of
focus, come in focus. Wes Anderson’s Rushmore
Swimming pool
Framing effects the image by means of:
(1) The size and shape of the frame
(2)The way the frame defines on-screen and
off-screen space
(3) The way framing controls the distance,
angle, and height of a viewpoint
The shape of the frames
On-screen space and off-screen space
Distance, angle and height of the viewpoint
Aspect ration = the ratio of frame width to frame
height; 3 to 2 or 1.33:1
• An early experiment to change the shape of a
• Abel Gance’s ‘Triptych’, composed of three
normal frames shot separately and combined side
by side.
• First attempt to create an wide, panoramic screen
• The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences established ‘Academy Ratio’ 1.33:1 in
the 1930s
• Standard worldwide until the mid-1950s
• A variety of widescreen ratios have dominated
the 35 mm filmmaking since the 1950s
• 1.85:1 in North America (Alien); 1.66:1 in
Europe (Lancelot du lac)
Widescreen format more frequently used in
Europe than US, Robert Bresson’s Lancelot
du lac (1974) Spirit of the lance
• A 2.35:1 aspect ration was standardized by the
name of CinemaScope during the 1950s.
• King Hu’s A Touch of Zen (1970) Bamboo Forest
• How to make a widescreen
• Hard matte = To mask a frame at some stage in
production or exhibition
• The imaged photographed
squeezed horizontally by a
special lens and another
special lens unsqueeze the
image during projection.
Anamorphic lens and
anamorphic process
• Emphasizing the horizontal expanse, widescreens
were initially associated with spectacle genres –
Westerns, travelogues, musicals, historical epics.
• David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Framing (Composition)
• Widescreen can be used for intimate drama as
well. Kurosawa’s Read Beard creates a deep
space photography with foreground, middle
ground and background images.
Framing (Composition)
• Screen size and shape affect the frame composition.
• The audience’s attention is drawn to one area of
the image by putting important information slightly
off centre.
Framing (Composition)
• Many scenes in Woody Allen’s Husbands and
Wives fill the frame with bustle and movements
shot in the hand-held camera. The audience’s
attention shuttles around the frame according to
who is speaking and who responds to the speaker.
• The frame is normally rectangular. Filmmakers can
change its shape by attaching masks over either the
camera’s lens to block the passage of light. A
circular mask is called iris, frequently used in silent
cinema. ‘Circular’ dance in Abel Gance’s La Rou
Masks in various sizes and shapes
Mask reveals and hides: Buster Keaton’s Neighbors
A girl for wedding but her wedding is not luxurious.
Neighbors 12.00
• In D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance the frame is
boldly blocked out to leave only a vertical line or
diagonal line.
Framing (Split
• Split-screen creates different frame shapes. Two or
more different images, each with its own frame size
and shape appear within the larger frame.
Telephone conversation in Philips Smalley’s
Suspense (1913) from Suspense
• The moment before guided missiles are launched
is made more tense by splitting the frame into
several images and giving the audience a good
knowledge about what is going on. Robert
Aldrich’s Twilight’s Last Gleaming Nuclear Weapon
Framing (Off-Screen Space)
• 6 off-screen spaces
• The space beyond each of the four edges of
the frame – left, right, top and bottom
• The space behind the set
• The space behind the camera
Framing (OffScreen Space)
• ‘Little Girl Lost’ is an episode in the American
television series, Twilight Zone. In this episode a
young girl has accidentally passed through a hole
into another dimension. Her parents and friends
try to locate off-screen and rescue her. Dark
Framing (OffScreen Space)
• Many characters appear and diverse actions take
place in a scene, but some stay and some actions
take place in off-screen space. In the opening
scene of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s City of Sadness
(1989), a woman is delivering and people
celebrating the end of the war off-screen while a
man is praying on screen. childbirth
• Many characters appear and diverse actions take
place in Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Good Bye South,
Good Bye. The camera captures a group of
people and move on to another group and action
leaving behind people and actions in one scene.
Indications of off-screen. Quarrel 24.00

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