November 29, 2010

The Cinematography of "Raiders of the Lost Arc"

Douglas Slocombe B.S.C., A.S.C. (in glasses), on the set of "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Let's take a look back at the extraordinary work of cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, who shot the first three Indiana Jones films.

By the time of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," (1981), Slocombe was a veteran cinematographer, with a rich and varied filmmography in both the United States and in England, and both in black and white and color., and was nominated for three Academy Awards (including "Raiders").

His photography gave "Raiders" a classic feel, visually paying homage to the matinee thrillers of the 1930's, while also raising the level of quality and aesthetics of 1980's blockbuster filmmaking. The collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and Slocombe is the reason why "Raiders" remains, to this day, one of the best looking action movies of all time.

Director Steven Spielberg and Douglas Slocombe, on location for "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Here we pay a small tribute to the cinematography of "Raiders of the Lost Arc", and we'll start by observing Slocombe's use of shadows and silhouettes, the his use of framing eyes, and then his use of creating depth and overlapping elements with foreground and background.


Here are a sample of images from "Raiders" where Slocombe and Spielberg focus on characters' eyes.

Foregrounds and Backgrounds

Here is a sampling of images from "Raiders," where Spielberg and Slocombe frame objects of varying depths in the frame. In these shots, the filmmakers are telling a story from multiple depths, as well as filling the screen from left to right.

Now let's finish off with some just plain cool in-camera shots (no visual effects) from "Raiders."

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