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Thread: Focal Length and Cinematography

  1. #11
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    I've been a boom op, sound designer, recording engineer, as well as general tech guy and even producer on several student films, medium budget productions, and corporate/gov't video projects.

    On many occasions, I've had to explain to very experienced cinematographers as well as directors and even educators teaching video production how exactly focal length, perspective, and foreshortening works.

    Of course, good luck getting any of those folks to sit down and watch an educational video that seems to be explaining "basic" concepts!

    I remember one time a director insisting on a certain shot, and once he described what he wanted I had to explain why it wasn't going to happen without blowing a hole through the ceiling to get the camera much further away from the subjects on a straight-down shot. Certainly was no budget for that .
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  2. #12
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    Quote Originally Posted by Corran View Post
    I've been a boom op, sound designer, recording engineer, as well as general tech guy
    Sound is 50% or more of the image.

  3. #13
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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    Foreshortening is a just a type of perspective control, correct? Most definitions I stubble upon suggest it.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  4. #14

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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    Story time...

    Friend worked in the video design group at Ampex. The entire group of video engineers were absolutely obsessed with getting the video image as accurate, stable, spot on color and ..... They are totally focused on the image only, the sound was near zero priority for them. Design confronted his video design peers telling them how important sound is to any video or film. They had a good and deep belly laugh... He simply turned off the sound during an important demo. The folks viewing the demo was not amused, demanded the sound be proper or no deal.

    It was about that time when this group of video design engineers began to grasp how important sound is to the overall presentation.


    The End,
    Bernice


    Quote Originally Posted by Jac@stafford.net View Post
    Sound is 50% or more of the image.

  5. #15
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    Quote Originally Posted by Jac@stafford.net View Post
    Sound is 50% or more of the image.
    Yup. Technically less on film, ha!

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    Foreshortening is a just a type of perspective control, correct? Most definitions I stubble upon suggest it.
    I love this scene from Jaws that used a "dolly zoom" to affect perspective, and you can see the "foreshortening" effect here:



    Another interesting gif that shows perspective changes and foreshortening (I didn't make this fyi):

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  6. #16
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    I think I am see-saw sick!

    I have read people here that seem to refer to perspective and foreshortening as two different things. Anyway...when I find an image to photograph, it often comes with the framing pretty much laid out, more or less. I then move around to find the perspective/composition to fill the frame. Once found, I grab the camera and pick a lens that will match the framing. Learning to do this with just one lens per format (all 'normal') for the first 25 years or so has helped me to do this without much thought. I guess it is called learning to see like the camera/lens while manipulating the camera/lens to see how I see.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  7. #17
    Les
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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    I've seen this and I always scratch my head. Much like Vaughn....and likely like many others, one chooses the optic/s to align it with the desired composition. Those who have done this shouldn't have any issues what's needed. Did I misunderstand something ? Maybe we should take a poll :>) if this is useful to someone here.

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    Les

  8. #18
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    It's much harder to visualize wide-angle, forced-perspective imaging. That works fine for normal/long lenses. If that's not your bag, it may seem obvious to just "look" at what you are shooting.

    The visual look of a wide-angle lens stuck in the face of an actor or other parts of their body or things in the scene closer to the camera to over-accentuate their size is a very useful tool (both video and still imaging). Obviously many of you know I have a fondness for wide-angles.
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  9. #19

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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    Quote Originally Posted by TrentM View Post
    Bernice,
    You'd be surprised. I actually gave a lesson on hyperfocal distance and depth of field to a very experienced and busy cameraman. It was like I flipped a light switch. On a shoot the other day, I suggested to a cameraman that we could narrow the field of view of a background by moving the camera away from the subject and zooming to a longer focal length. "That did the trick!" was the response. BTW. I'm not a camera operator or DP!
    Thanks for the Kubrick info. I'm a big fan. Once the Arri 35BL became available, the Mitchells were relegated to efx shots.
    This happened to me too!

  10. #20

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    Re: Focal Length and Cinematography

    Corran,

    I find it difficult to understand why someone in the film making industry wouldn't take an interest to learn everything he/she could about the craft of lenses/perspective/lighting.
    The "Jaws" example I hadn't noticed but there is a nice dolly pull back while zooming in, in the movie about Freddie Mercury, I think it's mentioned in one of the videos in the links above.

    The video with the guy explaining how each face requires study to know which focal length to use to tell that part of the story was so useful though many of us probably noticed this in movies without ever thinking about it. I know I had that reaction with the Ace Ventura movies where they would use a wide lens close up to Ace and really exaggerate his face..."well alrighty then".

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