Thursday, August 23, 2007

Film Editing

Has anyone noticed how many cuts are used in modern films? Especially in the kind of 'action' films that are my guilty pleasure. I've just watched Die Hard 4 and while the editing speed didn't seem (thankfully) too excessive, I immediately noticed another trend that now seems to be essential in these films.... the tracking shot. These days is seems that a director just can't keep the camera still, and even in the film's quieter moments - actually especially in the quiet stuff - the viewer's POV is forever sliding across some surface, or some large unlit or depth-of-field object is moving across the screen between the viewer and whatever we are supposed to be concentrating on.

Much more of this, combined with that other modern action film cliche - the hyperactive editing - and films like this are going to be completely unwatchable. I've been really looking forward to The Bourne Ultimatum, which opens in Australia at the end of the month, but after reading this post on David Bordwell's blog Observations on Film Art blog now I'm not so sure.

3200 shots in 105 minutes?

Here's more on the topic.


Blogger Gary Fitzgerald said...

have to agree on the Bourne thing (even though I enjoyed this one, as a movie, more than the last one).. there's a 'quiet' scene where bourne is giving some bad news to someone, and the hand held camera work is like the scene is on omaha beach..

1:18 PM  
Blogger Dylan said...

I know what you're saying and I think it is a bit unnecessary in the quieter scenes, but I've really enjoyed the Bourne films. I really like what Greengrass is doing the action just seems so relentless in both of his Bourne's, the car chases in particular are just great.
I don't know what it was with Die Hard 4 but I just found it all a bit too slick and uninvolving action-wise, the only bit i really like was when he take on the jet, but I think this was more down to the ott nature of the scene than anything else.

4:00 AM  
Blogger Jason Franks said...

Like everything else, shakeycam is a technique that's just as valid as any other, when used judiciously. My problem with it is overuse or misuse.

Michael Bay and his ilk shake the camera because it's easier than staging and choreographing action scenes properly. They use it to conceal poor CGI. They use it to try to add some veneer of a thrill to make otherwise-dull scenes exciting.

I thought that Greengrass overused it in the second BOURNE flick, but at least he wasn't using it to conceal the fact that he didn't know how to block the scene.

I thought HISTORY OF VIOLENCE was a great example of going the other way. Cronenburg keeps the camera completely static and the violence is rendered 100% clearly. For my $15, those action scenes more visceral than the shakeycam so popular in Hollywood--or the balletic direction we're getting in the recent spate of Chinese kung fu epics.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Bobby.N said...

Yeah - using the 'shaky-cam' is a short-hand method of making the movie more tactile to the viewer (ie. News reporting & home videos) - but Hollywood adopt a lot of camerawork for 'effect' (or something 'COOL')rather than using a camera shot that makes sense of shows the scene in it's best light.

With the 'Bourne' series (or any other action flicks really) - my eyes get frustrated with all the closeups in action sequences. Take a look at the fight scene in Bourne-2 where its just 'grunts & groans' in a very close camera shot.

What an absolute letdown.


11:35 PM  
Blogger Gary Fitzgerald said...

I remember being very impressed with the way Liman filmed the fight in the first Bourne (the pen in the hand one) and that fact that both fighters looked very formidable.. in the second film I was initially disappointed with the way the fight in the house was filmed, but then I thought "maybe they didn't have as much time to train/drill this fight".. but then I saw the same fight filmed by a different (remote) cameraman for the "making of" DVD stuff and it was beautifully staged and much more compelling..
fights should always be filmed by a second unit who know how to film that stuff.. but that requires a director self aware enough to admit they don't know everything..

11:06 AM  
Blogger Colin Wilson said...

... not to mention a second unit director who knows what the hell he's doing. Sometimes I get the felling that they're none too easy to find.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I believe that NYPD BLUE is to blame for ol' shaky cam rearing it's (ugly) head in Hollywood. On the first season DVD set, Steven Bochco and David Milch discuss how they developed the style and how the DOP protested that it went against everything he'd learnt in film school. Whilst it used to be a "fresh" way of viewing things, it's now much too standard, over-used and annoying.

4:39 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:40 AM  

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