November 30, 2010
I was a HUGE Astroboy fan as a kid.
Then, a few years ago, they released a box set of the entire series.
I bought it, and started watching the episodes.
To my surprise... they were different. The writing was a bit different, the voices were completely different, and most of the character names were altered.
This baffled me for quite some time, until I found out that the version I had purchased was the U.S./Australian version. Translated and written from the original Japanese to the English version for American and Australian audiences.
So why was it so different from what I had recalled as a child? Once Canadian broadcaster bought the show (originally seen on ATV), they re-tranlated and re-dubbed in both Canadian English and French. Little did I know that the version us Canadians saw was drastically diffrent from what the rest of the world had seen.
Upon viewing all the DVDs of the U.S. version I noticed that the main negative part was the awful voice acting and changes to the scripts. But on the plus side, it would display the "unedited version", I imagine the Canadian television braodcasters deemed some scenes to be too dark or contentious for young Canandian audiences. So I'd witness scenes with a bit more violence than what I rememberd as a kid.
At any rate, no one on the Internets seemed to know what I was talking about when I first brought this up 5 years ago, the "Canadian Astroboy" seemed to have been a rare phenomenon that no one knew about, or remembered out, or cared about. Until now!
I told you I wasn't crazy! And here it is!.... Hahahhahahahaha...
It even has the recap at the end that was exclusive to the Canadian version as well, the whole "life-lessons" that 80s cartoons are popular for. I had forgotten how funky the music could be in this series. This particular episode was great, Astro fights off lots of Martians on planet Mars, uncovers a big conspiracy and nearly dies in the belly of an alien ship.
I sure hope more of these pop up on YouTube!
November 29, 2010
The Director of my favorite Star Wars Film, has past away.
Below is a photo of Jim Henson visiting the Empire offices to show collaborator Frank Oz a prototype of the Skesis puppet for their later film THE DARK CRYSTAL. You can see Empire director Irvin Kershner standing next to Frank Oz. You know what makes this photo amazing to me? The look on Kershner and Oz’s faces. They look like kids at Christmas… I imagine that would have been the look on my face if I were ever lucky enough to see Jim Henson bring a puppet to life. Also, look closely to the bottom of the pic to see prototype Gelfling heads!!!
Posted by Ron at 6:06 PM
For the next 12 months, there will be a weekly presentation here on Flooby Nooby entitled 'Cinematography'. Where I'll be showcasing some screen captures from various films that have exceptional shot composition.
So far I've displayed shots from City of Lost Children and American Psycho, I hope you like these cause there's lots more to come. Don't hesitate to 'comment' and suggest other movies you'd like to see. In addition, next month I'll be exhibiting screen captures from one of my all-time favorite shows; Deadwood. This will continue once-a-week for 3 months, showing off the last 13 epic episodes of the series.
As well, every Monday morning starting the first week of January, I will be profiling an animation Voice Actor every week. Some will be well known voice-over artists and other lesser known ones, bringing more awareness to the often unsung heroes of this art form. I hope to add in more weekly exclusive stuff like this on the blog, including works from even more mind-blowingly-good visual artists.
So keep visiting, there's more crazy stuff coming to Flooby.
Now let's move on to Indiana Jones!
Shadows & Silhouettes
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.
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."
If you've never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, go see it, right now!
Composition Comparisons: "The Dark Knight" - "The Shining" - "Let The Right One In”
Here's a quick study of the the very different (but distinct and effective) styles of cinematography for these three films.
A strong, conspicuous visual motif of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" is the bold use of converging lines of perspective.
Nolan and his cinematographer Wally Pfister photographed "The Dark Knight" much like they did for its predecessor "Batman Begins," with anamorphic lenses. This time around, however, certain sequences were shot entirely with superwide lenses in the 65mm Imax format. Given that Nolan photographs and edits his films with a classic style (allowing the actors to move about the frame in wide and medium shots, and only going in for tight closeups when absolutely necessary), these wide angle shots give the film its distinctive feel, separating the movie from its louder, messier peers.
Like other films created by smart, visually-minded directors, "The Dark Knight" uses these powerful graphic tools to invoke a visual metaphor for themes within the film. These angles aren't used solely because it 'looks cool;' the style is inherently tied to the themes and ideas of the film. In Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," for example, the converging lines of perspective gave the film a claustrophobic feel, as if the walls of the Overlook Hotel were literally collapsing onto the mind of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson). The production design (long, uninterrupted beams, corridors and hallways, etc.) and cinematographer John Alcott's choice of lenses and camera angles (short lenses, emphasizing scale and perspective) helped tell the story of a man slowly losing his mind.
"The Dark Knight" also utilized production design and cinematography to create these graphic images, and in many cases, (like "The Shining") strategically placing the point of convergence in the precise center of frame. Of course, the gorgeous streets of Chicago, particularly of La Salle Street in the financial district, helped a great deal. The interpretation of this visual style is certainly not iron-clad, and is ultimately up to the viewer to decide what it represents and how it emotionally affected them. I personally interpreted these images as a way of evoking the bizarre feeling of the pillars of society closing in on Gotham City; a looming anxiety and feeling of doom affects its heroes and villians and citizens alike, forcing them to make choices about life and death, good and evil, right and wrong.
The film is about the growing chaos and collapse of our morality, and is deeply interested in the choices we make as individuals and as members of society. Ultimately, we realize these choices start with citizens as solitary human beings (the choice to detonate the ferry bombs, the choice to assassinate Coleman Reese, the choice to help criminals to save one's family). The converging lines of the world are pointing at us. Gotham City is grandiose and complicated, but its destiny is determined by the choices of its inhabitants.
Here are a few frames from "The Dark Knight" that show off this stylistic device.
"The Dark Knight" combined careful choices of camera placement and lenses with production design and location work to create distinctive converging lines of perspective. Its ultimate aesthetic impact was to impart a sense of looming doom, about a city collapsing upon itself with individual morality and societal cooperation hanging precariously in the balance.
I'll have another post with LOTS more frames from the Dark Knight in a few months.
While the use of this visual tool was somewhat subtle in Christopher Nolan's film, Stanley Kubrick pulled out all the stops in "The Shining;" he and cinematographer John Alcott boldly made this stylistic technique a major, driving force in the aesthetic of their film.
For one, Kubrick and Alcott made the unusual choice of framing their film to the full expanse of the film negative, shooting with spherical lenses and ultimately projecting a 1.37 to 1 aspect ratio (As opposed to the standard 1.85 to 1 aspect ratio of standard Academy projection, or the 2.35 to 1 aspect ratio of widescreen films). In fact, Kubrick shot his final four films in this same way-- "Barry Lyndon" (also with Alcott), "Full Metal Jacket" (with Douglas Wilsome), "Eyes Wide Shut" (with Larry Smith). Shooting in this nearly square aspect ratio compresses the horizontal visual range. Vistas and wide, epic films are traditionally shot in widescreen, while more intimate, character-oriented films are traditionally shot in narrower ratios, like 1.85. Using 1.37 as an aspect ratio immediately gives "The Shining" a distinctive look.
Secondly, their use of this nearly square aspect ratio enhances the emotional and psychological effects of the use of wide angle lenses and long, parallel stretches in production design and location work. Kubrick rarely used a long lens, favoring superwide fields of view to exaggerate the feeling of claustrophobia and accentuate the converging lines of perspective.
The same visual technique, photographed with different aspect ratios, gives the audience different psychological impacts. In "Batman's" horizontally wide field of view, the converging lines give the audience the impression that this large, expansive world is looking at its characters and challenging their moral fiber. In "The Shining's" boxy aspect ratio, the converging lines give the audience a creepy, uneasy feeling, as if the world is boxing us in, forcing claustrophobia upon the audience and the characters-- all of which are strong themes in the film.
Notice how Kubrick uses this technique in these frames from "The Shining," from the most apparent examples (any shot from the Overlook hotel hallways) to the less obvious (the police radio room and the near-point-of-view shot of Halloran).
The Shinning is a creepy and surreal, if you haven't seen it, I recommend you do.
Illustrating a visual motif without being overt and obvious is not a simple task, Director Tomas Alfredson and his cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema achieve this delicate balance in "Let The Right One In," the excellent Swedish thriller from 2008.
I was pleasantly surprised over this film when I saw it a couple months ago, stylish, subtle, strong atmosphere, and showcases an interesting take on the vampire genre. Here you can see a simple examination of the geometric shapes formed within the images of the cinematography and how it illustrate the camerawork and production design work together to give the film a distinctive look.
Hoytema frequently frames his shots with long lenses, allowing vertical and horizontal lines to remain parallel to the edges of the frame, giving the feeling of the shapes within the frame existing as subsets of the theater screen. Contrast this with, say, the wide-angle photography of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight". The production design and cinematography of "The Dark Knight" worked together to impart a sense of dread, a feeling of the decaying world collapsing around the characters. In addition, "The Dark Knight" was filmed with anamorphic lenses, which bow and bend straight lines giving even long lens shots a fish eye, distorted and abstract feel, while Hoytema chose to film "Let The Right One In" with spherical lenses (in Super35 for a 2.35 to 1 composition), minimizing distortion. Hoytema's images have straight lines that are parallel to the edges of the frame, emphasizing, coldness and geometric precision.
Alfredson, Hoytema and production designer Eva Noren use everyday objects to highlight this geometric precision. The window frames of Oskar's apartment building is used to great effect, along with the tiny jungle gym in the building's snowy yard (where we meet the mysterious Eli for the first time). Even props like the Rubik's Cube Oskar gives to Eli help drive home the visual theme.
For "Let The Right One In," the use of long lenses significantly reduces the impact of converging lines; wide lenses exaggerate perspective, while longer lenses compress perspective. When a zoom lens is framed on characters, it isolates and focuses the subject. Using longer lenses also reduces depth of field, so extreme foregrounds and backgrounds drift in and out of clarity, further isolating our characters.
If you're truly interested in this type of discussion, I highly recommend picking up the amazing book, "The Visual Story" written by Bruce Block, which contains volumes about screen space, vectors, color, perspective, lenses and even the rhythms of a traditional Hollywood narrative screenplay. In one of the most interesting sections, "Story and Visual Structure," Author Bruce Block illustrates his ideas about story beats by analyzing and breaking apart the story beats of films like Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" and Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark." It's a must read for film fanatics who care about this kind of stuff.
Bonus Random Pics - Observe below the various shots used to tell the story; three very different films with three very different approaches to light, color, contrast, space, and angles. They may not have the same strong visual impact as the films shown above, but graphic styles vary greatly based upon the content and characters displayed in the film. Here's some stills from the films Straight Time, Tron and Fritz The Cat.