Watching Movies and Learning Through Observation

Victor Ramirez

Moderator
To preface, I have studied the fundamentals of shot composition, am a veteran photographer and am asking this question in regards to story telling and style.

I have heard numerous directors and cinematographers speak about watching a film with the sound off to appreciate the technique and not get immersed in the story itself.

Can anyone give advice or their experience with watching films in this manner? I have done this for a few movies but with modern films, there will be 20 or more cuts from just as many shots in under a minute.

How can I learn without having to pause it every few seconds?

I want to learn how to best convey messages and story from the filmmakers I admire most.
 

Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
Best Learning

Best Learning

Best to go and work with someone or work on your own projects and then look and compare unless you are going to copy the work of someone else. We have an excellent cinematographer that teaches for us. You might want to check into our workshops.
 

Victor Ramirez

Moderator
Ignoring the Digital Age

Ignoring the Digital Age

This idea of just running out and shooting stuff and then comparing work doesn't wash for me. It's only a ten year old idea where as cinema is a hundred years or more.

So, how did people learn to visualize and reappropriate styles and ideas in the past? Sure, there were 8mm cameras and photography but these again were expensive to produce. Directors and cinematographers worked on other people's films but again, this was limited.

Stanley Kubrick was a photographer for Look magazine for a long time so I guess that gives a decent start.

Anyone else know how any others before the digital age studied their craft?
 

Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
i didn't say just run out

i didn't say just run out

i didn't say just run out and shoot. I say use your brain and do some research and planning and start with a vision and plan. but, get off the computer and get out and do some work. working on a project of your own or with others is going to teach you more of the practical stuff and prepare you for bigger and better work. you don't trust me on this?
 

Victor Ramirez

Moderator
Original Question

Original Question

It isn't a matter of not trusting you, I'm sorry if you took it that way. It is that it has nothing to do with my original question.

How did some of the greats learn visual literacy?
 

Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
of course they watched movies

of course they watched movies

I believe in learning by watching and of course they watched movies and learned and built on the work of others and emulated lighting and camera movement... and they took courses and whent to film school when they could afford but not all of them and i promise you that they went out and got to work and worked with other filmmakers and learned by doing. I know some learned this way for a fact because ive met them and talked with them and taken courses from them...and Ive heard from their own mouths to get out and to work on a production as an intern or anything and learn. I have met and spoke with or took classes from Roy Wagner, David Mullen, Vilmos Zsigmond, László Kovács, Stephen H. Burum, Andrew laszlo, Rex Metz, Michael Goi, Richard Crudo, Sol Negrin, Ellen Kuras, Gil Hubbs, and many other great cinematographers. I don't know anything but i strongly suggest you get to work helping someone that knows what they are doing or working on your own projects. Roy Wagner will tell you right off the bat to get on a production crew anyway you can and learn. I guess you can learn by watching up close that way?
 

Tylerb

New member
It's not so much what they do, its how and why they do it.

It's all the same old boring stuff - high angle, low angle etc

But HOW and WHY do they use it?


I was watching Inception the other day and during the last scene where Cobb gives his passport to the officer there was an extremely subtle high and low angle shot maneuver happening... The guard was weaker and Cobb had more control...

They used the shots on a crane so it was gradual. Go youtube it!

-Tyler
 

Victor Ramirez

Moderator
Practice does not make perfect

Practice does not make perfect

I have been a musician since I was four years old. You can meet a musician who plays 20 to 40 hours a week and never gets any better.

When I use the term "better," I mean technically and creatively. These musicians do not challenge themselves or learn new things. If you play twinkle little star forever because it's what you know, you will never get to Van Halen's Eruption.

If you stick to major and minor scales, you will never get to muddy waters. Unless of course you can play by ear (I can) which is one of the hardest things to learn.

I have met many filmmakers who have worked as production assistant on over 50 films and don't understand the term "shooting ratio" or how to write up a budget.
 

Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
that is what you say

that is what you say

that is what you say. i have met many filmmakers that got better and better with time and I have worked with and I have been privileged to work with and watched some of the most talented human beings on the planet. It is very wonderful most of all to see someone that loves his or her work when they are working and doing it well. i just get inspiration out of that. i love the creativity in us all and i think it is the bit of God we have in us. I love watching movies and i just love stories in general told in any media on any canvas from the caves in france where the prehistoric man told his hunting stories to the big Imax 3D screens with stadium seating I watched Avatar on. Anyway here are two little bits of music i made! :)

A Word Or Two
http://networking.studentfilmmakers.com/Kim_Welch/music/view/a-word-or-two/

6 Train
http://networking.studentfilmmakers.com/Kim_Welch/music/view/6-train/
 
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Victor Ramirez

Moderator
I found this DVD set by recommendation of my directing teacher.

It is called the Hollywood Master Course in High-End Blocking & Staging

My mind has been blown. Every little nuance as to why a camera moves is exhaustively explained on these DVDs. They use plain faced 3D models so you are focused on the emotion created by the camera movement and framing as opposed to the actors.

Combine this with great acting and you have a recipe for amazing film. I'm now going back through some of my favorite movies with the sound off and seeing why certain moments just spoke to me so well. Can't wait to learn more about lighting at my next SF workshop.

PS: Kim, when I tried to click the links for your music, a page came up with just comments. Is it because I have adblocker?
 

Rita

New member
Dear Victor,
I'm not sure I've got what you exactly want to know! but if you mean "TO LEARN HOW GREAT FILMMAKERS CONVEY THEIR MESSAGES BY MEANS OF PICTURES", as I've heard from some friends and colleagues ( I haven't tried it myself yet!) one of the best ways to learn it, is trying to tell a story just by pictures and see how much it is conveying the story without the words!
Also, try to avoid using any shot more than it is conveying some pieces of information!
As others recommended you, I can just say: practice, practice and show the results to the professionals and ask for their ideas. Try to start with some short stories, make it very simple and just focus on telling the story without any useless shots & camera movements, just focus on the content & concept, and see how much others get your points! As you are a photographer, you can easily start with some short films consisting of different photos, not shots taken by video cameras. You would find the useful & useless shots. Promise!
And as Tyler mentioned: It's not so much what they do, its HOW and WHY they do it. And you can't find the how & why, unless you start doing some experiences and making some mistakes!

Good Luck
Rita
 

Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
I think i just wanted to have a say on this subject. I know watching movies can really help and it is what a lot of great filmmakers suggest you do. Watch movies that are in the same genre or that you really like to see what they do that works and use those things in your own story telling.
 
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