Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Steven Soderbergh Wants You To Learn From Steven Spielberg

Steven Soderbergh examines the staging in Raiders.

"So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit)."

I watched the famous opening scene. He's right, "THIS LOOKS AMAZING IN BLACK AND WHITE". This scene also works without dialog (even the final bit in the plane, you make out he's yelling "I hate snakes" and the pilot is not making a big deal of it). Here's what I got out of the staging.

For the most part, the sets are shallow but there are almost always characters (or something significant) in the foreground and background of a shot. The exteriors were shot in Hawaii but I'm not sure how deep the jungle is. Notice on the shots of them hiking, the camera is either low, with sky behind the foliage (not more foliage) or it's high and you're seeing a patch of ground their walking across. If there is depth, the characters are walking to or from the camera. It's like there were limited angles to use and they made use of them. Also they kept Indy and the assistants in different planes. Indy is in the lead and they are keeping up. There are multiple characters in the shot until the one where you see Indy's face, and in that one there's (conveniently) a beautiful waterfall behind him.

This foreground and background stuff continues into the cave. Think about it, when exploring a dark cave, why is the guy with the torch in the back? Because the lighting effect looks cool :)

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