Learn How to Read a Movie

Roger Ebert provided some very useful information on how to read a movie. He talked about his own experience as a film teacher and the different kinds of films he analyzed over the years. I do think that the methods he suggested work but might not seem apparent unless you focus on them. If you are just watching a movie to only watch it and that’s it, then you might not be able to notice the different techniques being used. He talked about the “shot at a time”, which is where you pause the movie at any point and describe everything that you see in that one scene. He tried doing this in his class and found it very useful to help teach his students. I myself have not tried this before and it would be kind of interesting to try this out sometime. He also talked about the right and left sides of the screen, as well as the foreground and the background. He describes the right and left sides as the positive and negative sides. I have heard about this before but have never noticed it while watching a movie. Thinking now about movies I have seen before, or from videos I’ve watched of people describing scenes, I notice how directors use those sides to help describe the story in a deeper way. He said that “Movement to the right seems more favorable; to the left, less so. The future seems to live on the right, the past on the left. The top is dominant over the bottom. The foreground is stronger than the background.” When thinking about this composition, the one movie, or set of movies, that I think of is the Marvel movies. The main movie I think of is Avengers Endgame, with the specific scene being the beginning of the final fight. The three main Avengers are standing on the left side in the rubble of Avengers HQ. Thanos, the main villain sits on the right side. This gives the feeling that Thanos has more dominance over the three Avengers. There is movement from left to right like they are heading towards the future. This happens throughout the entire battle scene, not just in the beginning. The Avengers are trying to move ahead toward whatever the future holds, but Thanos and his army are in the way. This battle scene can also help describe the different use of foreground and background. The fights taking place in the foreground have more “strength” than the ones taking place in the background. Yes, you might notice some characters fighting in the background, but your main focus is on the fight happening in the foreground. Another technique Ebert talked about is the camera angle. In the final scene of Spider-Man Far From Home, Mysterio takes a recording of himself telling people who Spiderman really is. The recording is taken from a low angle making Spiderman seem more like an overpowering bad guy rather than the superhero he is. The opposite of that is having a high angle, or like a bird’s eye view of the ground. This angle is mainly used in the POV of drones or airplanes the show what it would look like from that high on the ground.

The first video I watched was on editing techniques. Different editing techniques are used for different types of videos. Star Wars is notorious for using the wipe transition throughout the movies. Music videos, on the other hand, use the flash cut a majority of the time. If there is dialogue happening between two characters who are not in the same frame, the jump cut is used to cut to whoever is talking at that time. Knowing the different types of editing techniques can help you decide on which technique is best to use for the video that you are making.

The second video that I watched was on camera angles and techniques. There are three different categories when it comes to camera work: angle, shot size, and motion. The video talks about five different techniques used for each of the categories. For the camera angle, there is the eye level, dutch, low, high/top, and over-the-shoulder angles. Eye level is the most common angle that is used. The Dutch angle is a diagonal angle to show an imbalance in the frame. The low angle provides the character in the frame with a sense of dominance. The high angle is used to give the subject in the frame a sense of weakness. The top angle allows you to show the topography of the shot. The last angle is the over-the-shoulder angle which is confrontational by nature. Next is shot size. The five different shot sizes are close-up, medium, long, single, and POV shots. The close-up shot is used to create a focus on the facial expressions of the characters in the frame. An extreme close-up usually cuts the top and bottom parts of the face to add more emphasis to the eyes and expressions. The medium shot is typically used when a character is holding something and the movement is not necessary to be seen. The long shot is used to show movement within the frame. This shot also has an extreme shot where the subject in the frame is very far away from the camera. A single shot is based on the number of people in the frame. If there are two people then it is a two-shot, three being a three-shot, and so on. The last shot is the POV shot. This shot is used to show what the character is seeing from their point of view. The last category that was talked about was motion. The five techniques for motion are pan and tilt, random, zoom, dolly/crane, and 360-degree motion. Pan and tilt is the simplest form of motion and is where the camera stays in one place and goes left to right. Random motion is mainly used during fight scenes and is created by having the camera stay still and move randomly to provide energy to the shot. The dolly and crane motion is used when you want to follow the subject in the frame. Dolly is used for going front to back, the crane is used for going up and down, and the track is used for going left and right. The last motion technique is 360-degree movement. This is used to showcase the subject by moving around it in a 360-degree manner. Using the different techniques from each category can help you become a better filmmaker. Combining shots is called a single take and that is the hardest shot to do because of all the different elements that go into making the shot work.

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