Friday, June 12, 2009

Calming Down

Photographer David Friedman has a site called Ironic Sans. One of the things he does there is show 60 second films he's made. The general idea is to take a static shot of a fairly mundane thing for 1 full minute (approximately). For example, he shoots a tree for 60 seconds without moving the camera. It just so happens that there's a fireworks display going on behind the tree. One of his best is a 60 second masterpiece shot across up and down escalators with the camera tilted so the moving stairs seem like horizontal moving sidewalks-- which makes the people going up & down appear to be leaning at extreme angles.

We are all used to lots of camera movement and jump cutting in the visuals that bombard us these days. If you've ever watched an old baseball or football game on ESPN Classic, MLB TV, or The NFL Network you'll be struck by the difference. They feature fewer cameras, shots held longer without a cut, no wooshing sounds, and minimal graphics. Commercials, films, TV programs-- all of the visuals dart around and swoosh about today. Jump cuts are the rule. Even in TV dramas made today people don't sit still and talk-- they walk down halls yakking. No producer or director can take the chance that you'll get bored for a second. We watched the pilot episode of Mannix the other night. Remembered as an action packed sleuth show it now looks slow as molasses. (Still the best theme song this side of The Rockford Files though.)

By the way, I'm not saying that it was better back then. This isn't a guy saying, "Why back in my day we watched NFL games shot with just four cameras, you snot-nosed whippersnappers with your ipods and twitters!" I'm just saying it's dramatically different and that sometimes it's good to sit still and watch a minute-- just a minute-- of a static camera shot.

It doesn't have to be of anything much. It can even be a film about windows at an airport.