If you can be so enthralled by film so that sitting still isn’t a possibility, then you and I share some things in common. During those moments, a movie is not just a progression of shots, but an intense, and sometimes scary story that has fulfilled its objective of creating suspense.
What are basic filmmaking strategies for making tension? Below are some top picks used in some Hollywood films. Use them to enhance your film’s cutting edge.
1) Your Character Should Have Room to Breathe
Today, most films have a brisk shoddy build up of suspense due to the fast cutting routine of editing quickly. For genuinely suspenseful editing, give the characters a few extra seconds on the screen. Highlight your close-ups, slow down your walking pace, and aim your lighting.
If you want to uncover an essential plot characteristic, or want to build up an anxious personality of the character around their situation, don’t cut the shot – let it linger longer. The longer you let your character wander – both literally and metaphorically, the more intense the suspense will be.
2) Time Your Reveal
The anticipation of what happens next, and how the story evolves are the foundation of suspense in a movie. Choose when to make your big reveal, but make sure the reveal takes place at the peak of your build-up. In The Dark Knight for example, the filmmakers did a fantastic job of using the soundtrack to create an exhilarating amount of tension.
3) Use Different Lenses
To create cinematic suspense, the visual fields in your clip are vital. The depth of your image is crucial, more so when your suspense revolves around an environment. The tension in your scenes can be created using different lenses. The difference in the lens sizes help keep the audience in an attentive state and help them stay connected longer while they enjoy valuable surrounding detail. Even throw the audience off sometimes. Try switching from a super wide 16mm to a shallow 85mm.
4) Prolong Reveal Time
Holding off on your reveal is an excellent technique, especially when you want to slightly torment your viewers by pushing them to the edge of their seat. Filmmakers often use this technique to maximize the effect of their reveal.
5) The Lengthy Tracking Shot
Most filmmakers apply this method for any sort of narration. It is an ideal technique because, as the filming continues, the absence of cutting generates a more intimate feeling for your audience. The continuous capture of the long cut-less clip will engage your audience better than several cuts.
I hope these tips and advice will help bring your suspense to life! Have fun with your filmmaking, and remember – no suspense is too much suspense.
If your passion, goals, and the ultimate feeling of success start and end with editing, then read on to ensure you get to grasp and understand these significant cuts when editing a video or a film. These cuts are also applicable when editing a commercial, industrial, animation, narrative, and a documentary.
1) The L Cut and J Cut
Let us begin with the J Cut. This is where you hear the audio before you see the video. This is a case where an audience will be watching one visual clip one, but they will be listening to the audio in clip 2. This form of a cut is common in all types of videography and filmmaking. It is also used frequently in content featuring an interview.
Vimeo Video School offers an amazing resource for users that want to gain a real understanding of what L and J Cuts are.
L Cut, on the other hand, is where you hear the sound of a previous shot, even when you have moved to the next shot. It happens such that, the audience can watch clip 2 when still listening to the audio in clip 1. It is a favorite editing format to Commercial Videographers, documentary filmmakers, and narrative film.
Here’s a perfect example of an L Cut from David Fincher’s Fight Club. Tyler reads through the rules as various characters prepare themselves for their fights. You’ll notice the audience is introduced to the voice, but given visual information about the environment the voice is in. Using L Cuts will keep your film or video flowing naturally, while also offering much needed spatial information to the audience.
2) Cutting on Action
The cutting action is a popular must-have feature in action films. It is also ideal in films whose explosive action is a minimum. The major purpose of the Cutting to Action Feature is that the editor can cut and extract a shot into another and be able to achieve a perfect match of the two actions. Editing is all about creativity, purpose, and innovation. As an Editor, you must always have a reason as to why you are cutting to a new shot.
One of the best examples of motivated cutting naturally comes from The Matrix. In the clip below, watch closely and specifically look for instances of cutting on action. You’ll notice that almost every cut takes place mid-action, resulting in smooth transitions and more intensity in the action scene.
This is a popular form of editing in the majority of films. Just as its name suggests, Cutaway is a kind of editing cut that drags the audience out of the main action. This is used to give the audience a general outlook of what is going on outside of the main Character.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off offers a great example of cutaways being used during dialogue sequences. Rooney believes he is talking to Ferris, but soon realizes that he is on another line.
4) The Standard.
This is where you cut from one clip to another without any kind of transition. The Standard Cut can also be when you cut from the end of a particular clip to another. The only disadvantage with this cut is that it gives the least visual meaning. Here’s a little example / history breakdown from Filmmaker IQ.
5) Cross Cut
It is also known as parallel editing. In this case, the editor cuts between two separate scenes that are occurring at the same time in different places. If done properly, you can simultaneously narrate two stories at once, and they end up making total sense.
Christopher Nolan has probably expressed his love for the cross cut technique more than any other filmmaker in the last 10 years. In his 2010 film Inception, Nolan perfectly uses the cross cut technique to help the audience keep up with the various levels of the dream state. In fact, some feel that entire film feels like one long series of cross-cuts. Here’s the famous zero gravity fight scene. Watch how it connects the team in the van in a previous dream level.
Editing is just as creative as your mind allows it to be. These extremely useful and helpful forms of cutting are essential and come in handy for any editing job you might take on.
Recently, on a show with Conan O’Brien, the legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog shared his take on the art by saying ““There are too many things you cannot teach in school, and it’s way too long. Young people waste three, four years of their lives on the basics of filmmaking. You can learn in a week”. Herzog also founded the Rogue Film School, where he teaches the young aspiring filmmakers to ‘manage’ little aspects of making a movie, such as forging shooting permits as well as picking locks.
According to Herzog, great filmmaking as an art does not just need learning of the technique, but one also requires foresight, strong willpower, creative vision, and ambition along side a number of other qualities. Therefore, the list of directors we’re outlining does not include some of the directors you might have expected, such as Bergman, Hitchcock, Tarkovsky, Fellini or Anderson. Instead, we bring to you hand-picked interesting examples of relevant movies that will not just inspire you, but also help you to take the steps to great filmmaking. Add them to your list and make it a point to watch them asap.
1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
Citizen Kane leads our list. Well, isn’t it obvious? It had literally ruled the ‘Sight & Sound Critics Tope Ten List’ for almost four decades losing only to Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ in the recent polls. In fact, its technical range is so diverse and huge that the French critic Andre Bazin called it a “discourse on method”.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that all you need to learn about filmmaking, ‘Citizen Kane’ will teach. In the book of Louis Giannetti’s – “Understanding Movies” which is used as a guide to film study, there is chapter called “Synthesis” which is entirely dedicated to Citizen Kane since it illustrates all the aspects of filmmaking that was discussed in the previous chapters.
2. This is not a film (2011, Jafar Panahi)
Here, we’ll introduce to you a no-budget film from Iran. Hard to believe, right? This film was made by Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director who was banned by the government for 20 years. However, this did not stop him from making thought-provoking films. He used his i-Phone or DV to make three films. Of which, “Taxi Tehran” won the Golden Bear award last year.
His first such movie “This is not a film” shows his restricted one-day life in the most creative way which made it to the Cannes film festival. Hence, this proves that nothing is a boulder for one who has strong ambition and vision.
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969, Stanley Kubrick)
You wouldn’t be surprised to the see Kubrick on this list. Keen observation, cinematic innovation and craving for the novel – these are traits Kubrick’s movies are best known for.
You might think that making a movie out of a book is easy but the way Kubrick has made real the words of Arthur C. Clark’s book in his sci-fi movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” is truly surreal. Just imagine the creativity that goes into thinking all of this – classical music to accompany space scenes, abstract graphics to show the stargate scene or using practical effects to show a floating pen.
4. Burden of Dreams (1982, Les Blank) / Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991, Eleanor Coppola, George Hickenlooper, Fax Bahr)
You surely must have watched or heard of “Fitzcarraldo” and “Apocalypse Now” which are considered world-class masterpieces of cinema. What we recommend you to watch are the documentaries behind these great films – “Burden of dreams” and “Heart of darkness”.
The stories of these documentaries are more enthralling than the documentaries themselves hence making it really difficult projects to finish. However, as an aspiring film maker these are movies you can look up to when the going gets tough and it will definitely keep you going ahead stronger than before.
5. To Each His Own Cinema (Various filmmakers, 2007)
At the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, the committee invited 36 internationally-renowned directors and each of them was given three minutes to express their state of mind through motion picture.
The invitees list included the likes of Theo Angelopoulos, Lars von Trier, David Cronenberg and many familiar names.
Using those three minutes in a distinct way to exhibit the thought, style and theme was challenging. Yet in less than thirty seconds you can make out which movie has been made by whom if you have watched their works. This teaches the uniqueness of style and consistent usage will help you define yours.
6. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu)
In the critics poll where “Vertigo” outranked “Citizen Kane”, there was another poll conducted in which the current directors voted for the film they liked most and that list was topped by the Japanese film “Tokyo Story “made in 1953 by Yasuhiro Ozu. Though Ozu loved Hollywood movies, his style is not Hollywood. No use of transitions, over-the shoulder shots in dialogue scenes, no melodrama defined his style.
His films talk about the finer aspects of live, humans and relationships. That is what it teaches the new generation of filmmakers that to create a good film all that is needed is reflections of everyday real life.
7. The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011, Mark Cousins)
Drawing inspiration is what every film maker needs and you often look up to the big ones to get things straight in your head and come up with a cinematic genius. “The Story of Film” is a fifteen hour long epic which comprises 15 episodes in which the director runs us through the various stages of cinema – right from the start to the latest hits.
It is interesting to watch for aspiring filmmakers since it presents a diverse range of films which can fuel their creativity and hone their techniques further. Also, it provides an insight into the movies chosen by the director and why he chose them.
SO mark this in your list to watch, sooner or later.
8. The Room (2003, Tommy Wiseau)
Well, this movie that has been included is not for being one of the best movies but for being the worst of the lot. As a new film maker there are a number of things that you learn from “The Room” which is the numerous mistakes that you should avoid during making a film. It teaches you the don’ts of movie making, from script writing to directing to acting.
It can also act as a confidence booster since you possibly cannot make a movie as bad as “The Room” which has been called the “Citizen Kane of bad movies” by American film professor Ross Morin.
9. Day for Night (1973, Francois Truffaut)
We recommend Francois Truffaut’s “Day for Night” which is an ultimate film about making films. It demonstrates how a film maker should think in a documentary style & what he should do to make a great film.
The high-point of the movie is that it is honest and human. It clearly shows the mistakes, obstacles as well as tragic happenings which commonly occur during film making.
Last but not the least it is an ode to cinema by one of the best in the industry and he has done it beautifully. The views in the movie are those of the director, the cast and the crew.
10. Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013, Frank Herbert)
Did you know that Alejandro Jodorosky, one of the greatest filmmakers of all times had announced that he was going to make a movie on the famous sci-fi novel “Dune” by Frank Herbert. Not just this, he had cast a great team for making the novel a cinematic reality. Pink Floyd for the music, H.R Giger for set and character design, Dan O’Bannon for special effects; and Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, David Carradine, and Mick Jagger for the cast.
Sadly, the film was never made since the project stalled for financial reasons. Though David Lynch got the right to make the film, but his version is not what we are talking about here.
Director Frank Pavich made a documentary on the unfinished project so that people would be able to know everything that went into one of the greatest films never made. It is definitely a must watch for every aspiring filmmaker.
With this, we close the list with the keyword – “Aspire and try”. Efforts have to be made to learn what it takes.
It’s no secret; cinematographers never really get the glory they deserve for their work. However, without their keen eye, creativity, and passionate dedication their vision of perfection, movies and television shows would seem like an addition section to your daily newspaper, left up to your own imagination to envision. Cinematographers set and angle the shots, create the mood, turn your living room into a setting of emotion and magic.
The team at T-Stop pulled together some of the most illustrious cinematographers of the past few years so that our friends and followers of film could take a peek through their lens. No, not their average $100,000 lens – their iPhone lens.
Often times we (those of us in the film industry) forget just how much magic can be created on a simple iPhone. These filmmakers remind us of just that. Not only is it entertaining and inspiring, it gives us a exclusive look into how they view their world, the movies they make, and the potential stories all around them. Here are 5 cinematographers creating not only beautiful work on the big screen, but on social media as well.
1: Emmanuel Lubezki (‘Gravity’): https://www.instagram.com/chivexp/
Emmanuel Lubezki (@chivexp) was the director of photography behind the breathtaking films The Revenant, Birdman and Gravity — for which he won an Academy Award for ‘Best Cinematographer’. With a title like that, should there be any more reason to follow him?
2. Rachel Morrison – @rmorrison: (‘Fruitville Station’): https://www.instagram.com/rmorrison/
Rachel Morrison is an Emmy Nominated cinematographer who is quickly making a name for herself in the filmmaking world. Although she has built up quite a list of television shows and documentaries, her work on Fruitvale Station, Cake, and Dope is what turned all eyes on her.
Her Instagram is full of behind the scene set photos, camera rigs that’ll make you drool, views that will make your jaw drop, and more recently – her adorable newborn.
3. Rodrigo Prieto (‘The Wolf of Wall Street’): https://www.instagram.com/rpstam/
Rodrigo Prieto also has quite an impressive imdb list. He is well known for his “trilogy” with Alejandro González Iñárritu composed of Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel. Prieto was also the Director of Photography for 8 Mile, Argo, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Not to forget, he also received an Oscar Nomination for Brokeback Mountain.
His Instagram will most certainly make your head turn from side to side – but all in good fun. If you look hard enough, you’ll be able to see a story in every one of his photos.
4. Ben Richardson (‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’): https://www.instagram.com/benrichardson/
Best known for his soulful work on the magnificent Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ben Richardson (@benrichardson), also served as the Director of Photography on the highly praised The Fault in Our Stars. His account is equally as stunning as his films – filled with amazing stills capturing the beauty in subtleness. Follow him as he adventures around the world, documenting each breathtaking real life scene as he goes.