Tag Archives: Friday Fundas

Eyeline Match

Eyeline Match

In last week’s Friday fundas I had discussed about the 180 degree rule that is associated with the spatial relationship of the characters on screen. I had discussed about a scene in which two characters are talking to each other. Now consider the same scene is shot by alternating between the close up shots of each character as they talk. In reality this shot could be taken with covering all the dialogues of one person first and then covering the responses. During editing these are arranged in proper sequence. One of the items to take care when doing such a scene is Eyeline Match. In this week’s Friday fundas I would talk about Eyeline Match.

Eyeline Match is a movie editing technique. Whenever a character on screen is looking into the off screen space then audience would want to follow the gaze of the character. They would want to see the object, person or scene the character is looking at. Hence this is normally followed by a cut to the scene involving the object, scene or person the character is looking at. In our conversation scene character A is talking to character B. Now the shot involving character A talking is taken first. It is important to match the eyeline of character A such that it gives a feeling that the character is looking at B. Usually the actor playing character B is placed off camera for the character A to look at. Sometimes there is a mark placed off camera on which the character A focuses on while delivering the dialogue. The same technique is employed when taking the shot of character B responding to the conversation. In this case the camera is placed on the opposite direction. Now we know there is a 180 degree rule governing this. As we are going to focus on a different character there is no rule broken here. However in order to get the eyeline match right the same camera lens is maintained and also the camera is placed equidistant from the 180 degree axis as the previous shot. For instance if the camera has been placed 3 feet from character A then the same distance is maintained for character B during the next shot. Look at the following two shots from The Dark Knight movie where Batman interrogates Joker. The eyeline match makes it look they are looking at each other and talking.

Dark Knight - Batman interrogates Joker
Dark Knight – Batman interrogates Joker

At the editing table when the editor assembles these shots in order it appears to be a continuous flow of sequence for the audience. They feel that both characters are conversing with each other. However if these positions are not maintained correctly the characters would seem disconnected from each other and so would be the audience from the scene. Although this is a simple technique, when followed right it would create a pleasant visual.

You may also like: 180 degree rule | Creative Geography | Kuleshov Effect | Friday Fundas Archive

180 Degree Rule – Can I cross the line?

180 Degree Rule – Can I cross the line?

Let us consider you are watching a movie and there is a scene which shows a car running at a considerable speed. You see the car entering the left side of the frame and exit on the right side of the frame on a highway background. But now in the next shot without any transition you see the car entering the right side of the frame and exit on the left side. What would you feel? Would you feel disoriented in figuring out which side the car is going? And if the car is actually moving forward? Well to avoid this phenomenon the film making process has framed a guideline called as the 180 degree rule.

180 degree rule is going to be the topic for this week’s Friday Fundas. 180 degree rule refers to the spatial relationship between the characters on screen. Let us look a setup in which two characters are conversing with each other. There is an imaginary line called the axis that connects the two characters. As depicted in the figure below the camera could be placed on either side of this line. This is denoted by Camera A and Camera B.

180 Degree Rule
180 Degree Rule

The shots as taken by the Camera A and B are shown in the illustration of Shot A and Shot B respectively. You would see based on which side the camera is the characters left and right position changes. For instance the green person is on the left in shot A while in shot B he is on the right. If the scene involves dialogue between the two characters and then it is advised to keep the camera on one side of the 180 degree axis line. The camera can move to any position within the side but cannot jump over to the other side. If it jumps over to the other side then it causes the audience to get disoriented like our example on the car scene.

If the shot after the original shot has the camera on the other side of the line then it is called as the Reverse cut. This usually disorients the viewers and their ability to connect to the visuals is lost. However many directors have broken the 180 degree rule to give more conveying newer meanings. These are part of the new wave film making. At most care should be taken when breaking this rule. Some of the directors who had broken this rule and succeeded are Stanely Kubrick (Shining), Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) and the Wachowskis (The Matrix).

The Matrix Bullet Time
The Matrix Bullet Time

In the movie The Matrix the bullet time technique is used and while crossing the line the frame is frozen on that time and the logical arrangement of cameras produces a continuous motion to cross the line there by adjusting the orientation of the viewers as well. Many film makers use a buffer shot while crossing the line. The buffer shot would involve a shot along the 180 degree line which separates the two sides. This minimizes the jolt and help in re-orientation of the audience.

Gollum
Gollum

In the movie Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Peter Jackson has crossed this line to show Gollum’s split personalities of the good and the bad. The shots in which the Gollum is speaking good, he is on the right side while the shot in which he speaks evil, he is on the left side.

180 degree rule is not a hard and fast rule but film makers should give due respect to this and use this diligently to produce a visual connect for the audience with the movie.

Read other Friday Fundas

Chroma Key – How to make Superman fly the sky

Chroma Key – How to make Superman fly in the sky

In the previous Friday Fundas section I mentioned Cinema is a magical medium and how optical illusion can create perceived reality with techniques like Forced Perspective. One of the readers had asked an interesting question on how scenes similar to Kumbakarna and the tiny soldiers, Gulliver and Lilliputs are made. While some of the scenes may be forced perspective but the scenes which involve the Lilliputs walk over the giant body of Gulliver is covered by what is known as the Chroma Key Compositing or Chroma Keying Technique. This also popularly called as the Green Screen effect or the Blue screen effect.

The basic of Chroma Key is overlapping two images and make them merge with each other. Let us consider the flying action of Superman and the image of sky behind him. As images are built of pixels you would want to replace the background from the image of superman in flying action with that of the image of the sky. In order to achieve it you would want to make any pixels around Superman transparent. Well Chroma Keying is the technique to do that. The technique involves choosing certain color range of pixels and making it transparent.

A shot from Man of Steel using Chroma Keying
A shot from Man of Steel using Chroma Keying

In the initial days this was done using a blue screen at the background and then blue color was made transparent to merge with another frame to make it look like they are happening in the same space. It should be noted that no other character or object in the first scene should have blue color. As Superman has a blue costume instead of a blue screen a green screen could be used. In the modern days a green screen is used prevalently as the image sensors in digital video cameras are more sensitive to green there by allocating more pixels to green channel.

Prior to the digital era Chroma Key was also performed on the films. It was popularly referred to as Matte technique. The technique is as old as 1930s. The scene comprises of two scenes one the foreground shot and the other the background shot. The background of the foreground shot when taken would be a blue screen. Now the camera color negative of this shot was printed onto a high contrast black and white film using either a filter or the black and white film to limit the blue color. The resultant film produced transparent color wherever it found blue. The end result is the foreground object with a transparent background. This is called the “Female matte”. This was now copied onto the high contrast negative of the background scene which is called the “Male matte”. The end result is the negative of the film with both these scenes merged with each other.

One of the key challenges in this technique was camera movement. The camera movement used when shooting the foreground should be used exactly the same way while shooting the background scene. Later techniques were developed to automate this process to move the camera exactly the same way.

Well next time you see Superman fly or Batman jump across buildings you would remember there is always a Chroma Key behind it.

Related Posts: Forced Perspective | Bullet Time | Friday Fundas Archive

Creative Geography – How Aamir Khan went from Chicago to Switzerland within minutes

This week’s Friday Fundas covers yet another interesting editing technique in movies popularly known as Creative Geography.

Creative Geography is an artificial landscape that is created in movies. This technique was invented by Russian film maker Lev Kuleshov. You might also remember few weeks back I had covered another popular experiment called as Kuleshov’s effect in movies which was done by Lev Kuleshov. Creative Geography involves a subset of the montage in which various segments are shot at different locations. But in the way it gets assembled during editing, all these appear to be one continuous location.

Consider a shot involving a person walking into a big bungalow and then the next shot shows him walking into a large hall. These two locations could be entirely different and in fact miles apart. But in the way the editing is done it appears to be a continuous space for the viewers. The shot of the person entering the bungalow is shot first and then the next shot is shot entirely in a different location in a hall where the person is walking in. The costume of the artist is maintained the same for the sake of continuity.

Let us now look at some examples of this in Indian movies

Dhoom 3
Dhoom 3

In the recent Bollywood movie Dhoom 3 starring Aamir Khan, the entire story is based out of Chicago, Illinois in the United States. However the climax portion of the movie where Aamir Khan rides on the top of a bridge is shot in Contra Dam, Ticino, Switzerland. Actually he starts his bike in Chicago and within few minutes he is in Switzerland. In the movie the dam is shown as a location in the outskirts of Chicago. This is achieved through editing and thus it forms the creative geography for the movie.

Nayagan
Nayagan

Similarly in the Tamil Blockbuster Nayagan the entire movie is based out of Mumbai and follows the life of a Mumbai don. The climax portion of the movie is shot in College of Engineering, Guindy. The college in Guindy becomes part of the creative geography of Mumbai for the movie.

This is again an elementary technique used in movies and it is used by the film makers to achieve the desired outcome of the image they had while writing the script. Next time when you watch movies look out for its creative geography. You will start appreciating the amount of efforts the film makers undergo to give a visually compelling product.

Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sounds in movies

Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sounds in movies

When Resul Pookutty received the Academy Awards Awards for best sound mixing for his work in the movie Slumdog millionaire many of us came to know the existence of department of Sound mixing in movies and the background score is not just limited to background music but also includes sound mixing.

Resul Pookutty receiving academy award
Resul Pookutty receiving academy award

In this week’s Friday Fundas we will see one of the basic ways of classifying the sounds in movies. It is done in the following two ways

  1. Diegetic Sounds
  2. Non-Diegetic Sounds

Diegetic sound is basically the sound that arises from the elements of the surroundings. These are natural and realistic sounds of the particular scene. Often this is confused as recording the real sounds during shooting. Actually diegetic sound can be composed, mixed and recorded during the dubbing of the movie. But they would represent the typical sound that would arise in the scene. For example the character is sitting in the hall, reading a newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. The ceiling fan is turned on. The sounds of a ceiling fan, turning pages of a newspaper and placing of the coffee cup onto the table are all diegetic sounds for this sequence. These sounds can be recorded live or created later in the studio.  These are sounds that can be heard by the characters on the screen. The opening scene in Slumdog millionaire where Jamal is interrogated by a police officer is an example of Diegetic sound. The sound you hear is from the police office blowing the smoke on Jamal’s face. In the Korean movie The Chaser diegetic sound is used predominantly to build the suspense of the scene.

Non-Diegetic sound arises from outside the story space. Usually this is used to create a specific mood to the scene. For instance in the above sequence where the character is reading a newspaper, he is seeing a news article that is shocking, now a background music conveying the shock of the character is added to the scene. This coupled with the reaction of the character helps in creating the mood for the scene. These are sounds that cannot be heard by the characters on screen. Other sound elements like narrators voice is also a non-diegetic sound in the context of the movie. In the Tamil movie 7G Rainbow Colony Yuvanshankar Raja composed a background music using a symphony orchestra that goes well with the mood of the scene. As director Selvaraghavan explains it, even if you are not watching the visual the background music would convey the mood of the film. This is an example of Non-diegetic sound.

Film is a visual media and to connect the audience to the images on the screen sound mixing plays a vital role. Diegetic sounds connect the audience to the environment of the scene while Non-diegetic sounds connect the audience to the mood of the film. Normally in a movie you would have a mix of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds.

Next time you watch a scene from a movie identify the diegetic and non-diegetic sounds.

Read more Friday Fundas