Monday, 9 August 2010

Day 221, on which John explains some basics of cinematography [9.8.10]

Dag to hundrede énogtyve. Before we get started on our rant today, I thought I should let you know that I'll be out for the next four days. Yeah, I know you'll miss me. But, I've gone to a better place... Denmark! And about bloody time, too. You'd think if it was my homeland (well not really, but you know) then I'd go there more often, but this is the first time and I'm so excited! I'm going to Copenhagen mostly, but spending a day in Billund because... oh, you know why. Let's hope there's a good Pick-a-Brick wall!

Now, here's something I need to have a good rant about. Cinematography.

Backstory goes as follows: when I was in Portugal, the TV pickings were pretty poor. It was either nonsensical Portuguese TV, CNN, German TV, or The One Show. CNN was boring as hell (sorry America), German TV was entertaining up to a point (the point being, roughly, 30 minutes in when you realise you've watched 30 minutes and didn't understand a word), and The One Show is by its very definition shit.

A german kids' TV show where some Deutche girl had to guess what Star Wars minfig she had in her mouth. LOL?
And that, my friends, is how I ended up watching a certain BBC drama. Names are overrated, you needn't know what it was called, but it was pretty shallow nonetheless. Had that guy in it, the one that always plays jerks. Wore a three-piece suit on BBC Breakfast. I don't know his name, but yeah. That's him. So anyways, I was watching this drama. And, clearly I wasn't watching properly, because all I noticed was the cinematography.

Cinematography = the camera angles and lighting used in TV programmes/films. The lighting was OK in this certain drama, a bit dark and musky but OK nonetheless. So I can tick that off. But the camera angles? Awful!

Here's the main problem:

Numero uno is the placement of subjects in the frame. My Portuguese abode had an old TV, one with an old screen size. Most normal screens in the UK (PAL format) are in 16:9 scale, which is nice and wide, but this TV had a shorter scale. Somewhere in between 16:9 and 4:3 (roughly square; what you Americans mostly use).

OK, so I'm rambling on a bit. Basically, the screen was a bit smaller. And the cinematographer of said show had decided to place the people in the frame (area you see on-screen) right at the edges.

I don't know what this is.
As the caption says, I have no idea what that diagram is. However, it should hopefully give you some idea of how the 16:9 image from the BBC was being cropped down, resulting in me not seeing the characters who were placed at the edges. Accident? NO. Cinematographers are trained in stopping this eventuality. When recording video, there is a watermark of all the screen sizes on the viewfinder of the camera. You need to stick inside most of these lines - though you can probably ignore the 4:3 frame. (whatever stupid idiots still have 4:3 TVs in PAL countries should be shot. Pref. in the face. Pref. ASAP.)

So wahoo. Good choice guys. I love watching TV programmes and not knowing who's talking because they're off-frame. Adds a whole new layer of annoyance. Clap. Clap. Clap.

Luckily, since I'm not stuck with the disappointing platter of channels I was handed through a not-quite-16:9 TV in Portugal, I can avoid that programme. And, if all goes well, I can never watch The One Show again. 

~John

ps. Bye until Saturday!

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