The Evolution of Sound

One of the technological advancements that intrigued me the most from what we have learned this semester is the evolution of sound. Although we take sound in film for granted today, this was not the case when films first started being made at the end of the nineteenth century. I think that it is important to learn about the process of how sound came to be what it is today because it shows the dedication that moviemakers put into the creation of a project that helped shape cultures across the globe, especially the American culture. I particularly enjoyed learning about the different ways in which producers struggled in trying to produce sound, such as in hiding microphones, yet still picking up sound, or in controlling volume. One example of this is present in the movie Singing in the Rain, which came out in 1952. When trying to film the movie, the character Lina Lamont is having trouble understanding that the microphones present only pick up sound when it is in close proximity. I have included a link to a video below for reference. When the film was aired, it produced a great response from the audience as it was very comical to hear which sounds were surprising the loudest, such as Lina’s pearls, compared to other more appropriate sounds such as dialogue, and also how some of the speech got lost.

One thing that I thought was very important was the fact that the emergence of sound also allowed for the creation of whole new genres of film. Some of these included musicals, of course, and also screwball comedies and gangster films. Sound also paved the way for horror movies by offering a crucial component that helped enhance the “edge of your seat” effects on the viewer. I find it fascinating that before films had sound embedded in them, orchestras used to accompany films in the audience.

From the films that we had the opportunity to watch in class, I found that sound was particularly important, or played an interesting role, in Bringing Up Baby and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In Bringing Up Baby, the producers played with sound in a way such that the audience could understand that the leopard was present without actually showing the animal on screen. The were able to do this because the audience could hear the roar of the leopard in the background. This would never have been possible without the development of sound. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the musical numbers and meanings behind conversations would not have been possible without the use of sound. Lorelei and Dorothy perform several acts that are extravagant and simply would not have had the same effect if the audience could not hear the lyrics and thrilling music. This is also true for the musical number that the olympic team carries out. Sound was also crucial for the conversations between the characters. Dorothy offers advice to Lorelei on several occasions, and the two of them also work together to uncover a scheme that Gus Edmond’s father, with the help of his PI, Ernie Malone, has planted against Lorelei. This complicated situation would have been impossible for the audience to understand without knowing what each character was thinking, which was made known through their conversations with each other.

I think that sound plays a key role in what movies are today and I found it very interesting to learn about the process of how it came to be what we know it as today.

 

Singing in the Rain Lina Lamont scene:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTFCctdiS04

 

Sources

“Sutori.” Sutori, www.sutori.com/story/evolution-of-sound-technology-in-film–QLsHDeWcXurhpqmxmvSjW2zx.

Bringing Up Colors

The Introduction to Color

In 1916, a process known as Technicolor introduced by the Technicolor Motion Picture Company, would make its first debut as the alternate and most popular process for coloring film at its time. Its predecessor, Kinemacolor, was the first successful color motion picture process, which was used commercially from 1908 to 1914. It was created by a British man, George Albert Smith, in 1906, and the process was launched by Charles Urban’s Trading Company in 1908. Kinemacolor differentiated from Technicolor in the sense as it was only a two color additive process, projecting only red and green filter on black and white film. Kinemacolor made its first debut in 1909 during an eight minute short film called A Visit to the Seaside. Kinemacolor became somewhat successful in the UK, as more than 250 venues had the license to possess a Kinemacolor system to view Kinemacolor films on. However, the company never became a huge success. Installing Kinemacolor projectors in cinemas were quite expensive, and the process also resulted with film technical difficulties called fringing and haloing. This technical problem would not be resolved until another additive color process would become the successive process to Kinemacolor. This process was known was Technicolor.

Kinemacolor film, Frame from Two Clowns

Technicolor’s Success

Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

The Technicolor process reigned over every coloring processes for color cinematography in  1922 to 1952. It was founded in 1916 by the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation, founded by three engineers, Herbert Kalmus, Daniel Frost Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott. This process was known for creating highly saturated color films, and, therefore, was used in popular films like The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Technicolor first became highly popular because it fixed the fringing technological problems that Kinemacolor could not. Technicolor shared methods of printing and recording in color successfully, making it almost the only used color process in Hollywood through the 1930s and 1950s. When it was perfected in the 1930s, Technicolor differentiated from its predecessor as it became a three color additive process. A camera specialized for Technicolor used a beam-splitting optical cube that would expose three black and white films. Those films would be passed through three different colors, red, green, and blue, and then those films were developed separately through their appropriate dyes. Then, the three films strips of different dyes would be laminated together to portray natural and saturated colors. 

The three-color film process is what debuted Walt Disney’s films, Flowers and Trees and Cat and the Fiddle. However, even if the results from Technicolor were highly successful, other problems arose. The three-color process was still quite expensive, and the cameras needed for Technicolor were limited in the industry. Therefore, obtaining this camera was not actually possible for all studios, and Technicolor required to rent them. As a result, Technicolor cameras were rented by only more prestigious studios through the 1930s and 1950s, until Eastman Kodak and Technicolor Corporation collaborated to make the process cheaper and more available. 

The Better Technicolor

After Eastman Kodak created his own color cinematography process, known as Eastmancolor, it rivaled against Technicolor’s popularity as the process was more compatible with the Cinemascope format, a new widescreen format. Eastmancolor was a lot cheaper than Technicolor as well since it was the first successful single-strip color process. You did not need three of the same strips of film to arrange them into one for successful color films with Eastmancolor. With these new technologies, color film was more accessible and seen as the standard for Hollywood films over black and white films.

Bibliography

“Kinemacolor.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinemacolor.

“Technicolor.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Oct. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technicolor.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Technicolor.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1 Oct. 2013, www.britannica.com/topic/Technicolor.

McKittrick, Christopher. “How Movies Went From Black and White to Color.” LiveAbout, LiveAbout, 21 June 2019, www.liveabout.com/how-movies-went-from-black-white-to-color-4153390.

 

Of Cuts, Clips, and Continuity: Editing the Narrative

I believe it’s safe to say that a film’s narrative is more than the sum of its parts. If all you had to do to make a hit movie was film a couple high-action scenes and record some dialogue, there wouldn’t be a complex business surrounding the industry. The single most important factor in the way we interpret the sequence of images on our screens is, the presentation.

Once the film producers of old realized they could cut and reconnect strings of film, the door to endless possibilities opened up. It might seem trivial, but from a narrative point of view, editing allowed films to begin to approach their own distinct level of sophisticated storytelling that already existed in the medium of novels. Using the written medium, if the story needed to progress three months forward, it could be done in a matter of seconds. As many great films were written as adaptations for popular stories of the time, there was a great need to be able to do things such as this in the alternate medium, and thus, continuity cutting found a foothold in the industry. Certain blurs and transitions made it possible to imply the passing of time, and this became a well known technique we often overlook today.

Similarly, film editors such as D. W. Griffith were able to develop a plethora of techniques that created new narrative constructs, such as parallel editing; a scene would switch back and forth with an alternate series of events, essentially showing two story lines at once. Often, these would converge into a single outcome. A perfect example of this is one of the final segments in the film noir Laura (1955), adapted from a pulp fiction novel of the same name. Three segments are occurring simultaneously: Laura is readying herself for bed, Waldo is sneaking around and retrieving the gun, and the cops are talking outside. Waldo’s scene eventually connects with Laura’s, and shortly after the cops enter the apartment and merge once more. The scene in the book was still tense, but it could not live up to the intensity of the switching back and forth from hectic cops to a calm psychopath having his “last” conversation with his chosen target.

Film quickly caught up to the imaginative creativity of wordplay with the advent of special effects, the most basic of which can be seen in Bringing Up Baby (1938). The movie features a tiger named Baby that brings a great deal of hysteria to the film, and as it turns out, a second tiger joins the fun later on. Some of the actors were, as one would be, extremely afraid of the tiger and could not stand the idea of filming with it in the same shot. As such, the director shot a scene first with just the tiger’s movements, then with just the actor. In post-production, an editor would be able to overlay the negatives to create the illusion of the two being in the same scene together. As someone who watched the film myself, I nearly couldn’t tell at first that this had been done, which was extremely impressive to me upon learning this. As a frequent moviegoer, I’ve learned to appreciate the great length our predecessors went to to perfecting the art of the narrative in film, since these days no one seems to have time for books anymore.

Sources:

image source

Cousins, Mark. The Story of Film. Pavilion, 2015.

The Production Code: Removing the Real on the Reel

In 1934, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America created the Motion Picture Production Code in response to a series of controversies within the film industry in 1930. The resulting code strictly enforced the type of content that could be displayed in films. The long list of guidelines (found here) restricted everything from crimes to religion to alcohol from being displayed on camera, with few exceptions. This sudden and universal “law” in filmmaking proceeded to change the landscape of movies for the next quarter-century, hiding a portion of reality but drastically influencing the subjects depicted in films for better and worse.

We can see the effect of the production code in many of the popular films from the 1930s to the 1950s. The film In a Lonely Place, released in 1950, was about a screenwriter and veteran who is suspected of a murder, but is kept grounded by his love for a woman he meets during the investigation process. This film was also adapted from a novel, but the differences between the film and the movie are clear. While in the book, the protagonist Dixon Steele ends up murdering his fiancée, the movie depicts a softer finish. In the film, just as Steele is about to choke his fiancée to death, he is interrupted by a telephone call. The call is to inform him that he has been cleared of any charges of murder. Though he has been acquitted, this is far from the future either of them could have imagined. At the movie’s conclusion, Dixon Steele walks off from a severed marriage, being the cause of his own undoing. This adapted ending is grave, but it does not elicit the emotional reaction that the original ending would have. This choice reflects adherence to the Production Code, which states that “Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.” Some people who read the novel were disappointed at the “watered-down” nature of the film. In a Lonely Place was only one of the examples of graphic or immoral behavior being blocked by the Production Code. Another movie that was censored due to its depiction of crime was T-Men (1947), where a scene in which a government agent was killed by criminals was deemed unfit for release. This is an example of the censorship of illegal behavior, especially at the expense of officials in government and established society.  In addition, the novel that was adapted into Serenade (1956) was initially cited for several violations, including the justification of murder and the inclusion of illicit sexual relationships. This entire story was essentially rewritten for the film, with many of the taboo topics directly eliminated. The exclusion of explicit content drastically contrasts from the subjects of Pre-Code Era films. Prior to the Code, gangster films like Little Caesar, Public Enemy, and Scarface showed mob violence in detail, directly reflecting the crime of Prohibition-era America in a shocking, romanticized way. Horror films like Frankenstein and The Black Cat depicted horrific scenes that reflected the adversity many Americans faced during The Great Depression. Films like Gabriel over the White House (1933) also directly took on the Hoover Administration, detailing the inadequacies of government through satirical parodies of real-life America. The implementation of the production code seems like a direct response to the liberality and vulgarity of Pre-Code films. Film executives, feeling like they had to uphold the moral values of American citizens, essentially eliminated many of these film genres for much of the 20th century.

The film Serenade ( 1956)  adapted the novel. Several taboo topics were removed from the plotline as requested by Production Code executives.

Instances of censorship like those in In a Lonely Place and T-Men are hard to imagine being a reality today. However, when viewed in a historical context, I can begin to understand their reasoning to a degree. 1950 was a year at the convergence of World War II and the Cold War, two brutal conflicts that led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of men. With all the tragedy happening in the geopolitical scene, it may have been hard to justify these harsh realities being put on the big screen. In the early to mid-twentieth century, film was still a relatively new entity. Therefore, like any new idea, there was fear over the consequences of this new form of technology. In truth, many of the ideas of the Production Code surrounding censorship of media still pervades modern society. Today, countries in Asia and Europe are known to severely vet western movies and video games before releasing them to their citizens, out of fear that films will influence their people into acting poorly. In the United States, the ongoing mass shooting epidemic has caused politicians to call for the ban of violent video games, despite a lack of evidence to support this correlation. Will these efforts to censor media continue to extend into other aspects of our society?

Citations:

“Pre-Code: Hollywood before the Censors: Deep Focus: Sight & Sound.” British Film Institute, www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/features/deep-focus/pre-code-hollywood.

“The Production Code of the Motion Picture Industry (1930-1967).” DH Writings, productioncode.dhwritings.com/multipleframes_productioncode.php.

“SERENADE, 1956.” Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration Records, digitalcollections.oscars.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15759coll30/id/13228/rec/15.

“T-MEN, 1947.” Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration Records, digitalcollections.oscars.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15759coll30/id/15863/rec/23.

 

The Power of Parallel Editing

What is Parallel Editing?

From the earliest days of film, there was always a desire to express deeper narratives that were impossible due to technical constraints and artistic limitations. Over time, parallel editing emerged as an ideal method of telling a story that diverged, either spatially or temporally, and helped the audience  understand both scenes as part of a larger and more comprehensive narrative.

Parallel editing is the technique of cutting between two different subjects to help establish the idea in the audience’s mind that both scenes are occurring at the same time. By alternating between each subject, seemingly unrelated scenes can be related to each other.\

What is its use?

Since those days, parallel editing has been extensively used in films of all genres, as it allows the director to develop interpersonal relationships between characters that were not directly interacting with each other. In addition, it’s a technique that assists in establishing a setting for the film.

 Early Innovations and Later Developments

 

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A scene from Edwin Porter’s “The Great Train Robbery”

The scene above is from Edwin Porter’s 1903 film The Great Train Robbery. Although Porter doesn’t make full use of the technique, he was the first director to bring it to prominence and establish it as a serious film tool. He uses it to transition between the robbers holding the train’s passengers at gunpoint to the robbers’ getaway, implying that both events took place simultaneously or subsequently.

D.W. Griffith was also a pioneer of this technique, having employed it in his films Birth of a Nation and The Lonedale Operator. In both cases, the parallel editing is used to add suspense or some aspect of excitement to an otherwise mundane activity. When paired with other techniques like appropriate music, audio effects, and portrait shots, parallel editing adds a more compelling dimension of emotion to the scene.

Parallel Editing’s Significance

When I first learned of the existence of this specific film technique, I was surprised that it was even classified as a distinct technique worth studying. To me, its use in modern cinema is so ubiquitous that I didn’t even stop to consider that at one point in history, leaders in the film industry actually had to develop its purpose for it be this widespread today. Ultimately, it underscores a fundamental fact of the technology industry as a whole; the best solution often might be the simplest one. Parallel editing, at its core, uses no novel or revolutionary technology, but instead relies on simple techniques used in a creative way. As time passed, the works of other directors added on to the many possible uses for parallel editing, as supplemental film techniques were built around it and elevated its status.

As someone studying computer science, the gradual but consistent development of this technique over time gives me inspiration that the next major breakthrough in computing will start from the basics, only to slowly evolve due to contributions from different people in the field.

Conclusion

Ultimately, parallel editing is a technique that’s stood the test of time, and has been used to help create more cohesive narratives and reveal subtle plot points that otherwise might be missed. The power of association of unrelated imagery is the engine that drives parallel editing’s success, and the story of its creation and growth over time provides an optimistic outlook into the development of future film techniques.

Works Cited

Moura, Gabe. “Parallel Editing.” Elements of Cinema, 1 July 2014, www.elementsofcinema.com/editing/parallel-editing/.

“Parallel Editing.” film110 / Parallel Editing, film110.pbworks.com/w/page/12610274/Parallel%20Editing.

Porter, Edwin, director. The Great Train Robbery. YouTube, 1903, www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuto7qWrplc.

The Moviola: Raising Cinema Standards Since ‘24

This semester, we’ve targeted our focus on reading and analyzing novels, watching their associated film adaptations, and exploring trailblazing film technologies and techniques that all originate from the Hollywood studio era. One specific technology whose functions ultimately paved the way for a key feature of modern film editing today is the Moviola.

The toughest part of video production, editing is what allows us to stitch and weave pieces of a story into a crisp, cohesive narrative. In today’s day and age, it is a major component of virtually every sector or industry regardless of its size or nature. We use video editing software such as Final Cut Pro or iMovie right off of our laptops on a regular basis, letting the program itself basically work its magic for us; there is almost no physical intervention or action whatsoever.

Before any of this, earlier films were simply one dragged-out, static, and permanent shot. Movement was all filmmakers needed to appeal to their audience, so the first films showed simple motion such as people talking or walking. There was no plot without the ability to edit. A film’s running time relied on the amount of film in the camera. However, when film technology began to emerge, film editors would employ linear editing by using a positive copy of the film negative and manually cutting and attaching pieces of film.

The original editing Moviola device in which we can see where the film is entered.

Prior to the Moviola’s invention in 1924, these strips of film would be cut and pieced together with tape or glue. Editors were required to be very accurate since even one wrong cut would need a brand new, positive print, which would cost the producers money and time in waiting for the lab to process and reprint. With the invention of the Moviola by Iwan Serrurier, editing became a much more efficient task with cuts coming out cleaner and more accurate. Editors were able to view the film while also editing. This method of video editing is non-linear, meaning the editor can make quicker choices with which cuts to include and remove.

Editing was considered a technical job and since women were not able to take up positions that require more “creativity”, they used it as their place to claim their ground in filmmaking.

Renowned production studios back in the day such as Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Charles Chaplin Studios, Buster Keaton Productions, Mary Pickford, Mack Sennett, and MGM were immediate customers and used the Moviola as an editing tool on a regular basis. The need for sound, faster film, and portable editing equipment in the 1930s and 40s greatly expanded the market for the device. The upright Moviolas were what were usually used for standard film editing in the US up until the 1970s. After this point, horizontal flatbed editor systems were being used more.

A famous film that was known to have employed the Moviola is Double or Nothing produced in 1937 and edited by Eddie Dmytryk. Even today, a handful of very esteemed editors still prefer the features of the Moviola. One such person is Michael Kahn, who actually received an Oscar’s Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing in 2005 for his work on Steven Spielberg’s Munich, which was edited with a Moviola.

Researching the Moviola has taught me more about how important the film editing process is and how meticulous certain features of its associated technologies need to be in order to get the perfect cuts and story, as a whole. Although I always knew technology and being in the digital age has worked in favor for a lot of filmmakers and their films today, I never understood until now the extent to which these technologies are relied on and how newer technologies we see now are just more digitally-infused versions of older film technologies.

Works Cited

“Moviola.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Feb. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moviola.

“The Moviola Story.” The Moviola Story, web.archive.org/web/20120308230830/http://moviola.com/book/export/html/12.

“Film Editing.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Oct. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_editing.

Serrurier, Mark. “The Origins of the Moviola .” IEEE Xplore Full-Text PDF 1966, ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=7262776.

The Hollywood Studio System: A Technology Whose Impact Is Still Felt Today

One kind of technology I learned about this semester is the Hollywood Studio System. What makes this technology so interesting is that it isn’t something that would usually come to mind when “film technology” is mentioned. I learned, through our studies, that technology doesn’t have to be some piece of equipment; in fact, one working definition of technology is just something that changes or shapes the way we view or think about the world. The Hollywood Studio System certainly changed very much of the way people viewed films during that era, and its impacts have shaped the way we view films even today.

The Hollywood Studio System began around 1917 and essentially created a new way of thinking about film and film-making. Previously, films had been made for predominantly artistic purposes, much like story-writing. Stories were made by an author or writer of some sort, films were carefully edited by some small-scale company, and eventually the films were distributed into the public by some other small corporation. Films were appreciated by the public, but film-making as a job was not necessarily very lucrative. It was an art, not really a business. This all changed with the Hollywood Studio System, which transformed film-making truly into an industry. Big companies (namely, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., and RKO) implemented vertical integration into the idea of film-making. In the past, the different aspects of film-making were pretty separate. For example, The New York Hat was a film made by D.W. Griffith that was produced and distributed by a company called Biograph Company. In comparison, other films by Griffith, such as Intolerance and The Birth of a Nation, were written and produced by himself but distributed by Triangle Distributing Corporation and Epoch Producing Corporation, respectively. Something to notice is that the parts of the job throughout the film-making process were split among different people. In the new Hollywood Studio System era, one company controlled every aspect of film-making, from production to distribution to exhibition, and five companies (plus 3 smaller ones) controlled the entire film industry–they had a monopoly. 

Another thing to notice from the examples regarding Griffith is that he had no personal ties with Biograph, Triangle, or Epoch. The big companies of the Hollywood Studio System era had specific writers, actors, editors, etc. that worked under them, and people outside of one of those companies did not work on films made by those companies. Something that this system perhaps introduced was consumer loyalty. Fans that enjoyed films/actors from a certain company probably continued to view films made by that industry. However, a downside to this system would be the potential limitations it put on creativity (if the company didn’t like your work, it would be very hard to get your work to the public). Regardless, many of the films we studied this semester were born during this era, and we see that all of them were produced by one of the “Big 5” companies (for example, Laura was made by 20th Century Fox, Bringing Up Baby was made by RKO, and Merrily We Go to Hell was made by Paramount). The stars of the movies often belonged to that specific company and consistently acted for them. These stars gained their own following of fans and possibly increased the popularity of all the films made by that specific company.

Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant starring in RKO Radio’s Bringing Up Baby (1937)

Despite this era coming to an end in 1948 (as a result of the antitrust laws), we continue to see its effects today. Film-making is a big and lucrative industry. Though it is still a form of art, it will never just be that anymore. As we approach the next decade, we are beginning to see things (namely, Netflix, which has taken over production, distribution, and exhibition of its “Netflix Originals”) that are eerily similar to the ideas first presented in the Hollywood Studio System era.

For more information on how the Hollywood Studio System worked and its impacts during its time, visit this great website!

 

Works Cited

Bringing Up Baby.” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bringing_Up_Baby.

Intolerance (film).” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intolerance_(film).

“Laura (1944 film).” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_(1944_film).

Merrily We Go to Hell.” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merrily_We_Go_to_Hell.

“Studio System.” Hollywood Lexicon. www.hollywoodlexicon.com/studiosystem.html.

“Studio System.” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studio_system.

The Birth of a Nation.” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_a_Nation.

The New York Hat.” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Hat.

The Tracking Shot: Underrated Much?

We spent a lot of time this semester covering a lot of old technology that I thought was largely useless. Sometimes I sit there and ponder the practicality of learning half the stuff that we learn about film. What utility is there to knowing about Alice Guy Blaché? Why do I need to know the formal name for intertitles? Why was learning about Muybridge so important? For someone who doesn’t appreciate the history of film(or the history of most things in general), I struggled quite a bit to reconcile the usefulness of what we learned in class until we came upon more modern film techniques. It was fun to see the techniques discussed in class and even more fun to try to recollect which techniques certain films used. One in particular that I enjoyed discussing was the tracking shot which is defined as “any shot that physically moves the camera through the scene for an extended amount of time” (Lannom 19). It was even more interesting to see some YouTube videos that detailed how the tracking shot was utilized in current films.

The image above details a transformation made by a character, Shaina. On the right is what was caught by the camera and on the left is an image detailing what is occurring in the room where the filming is taking place. From films like In a Lonely Place to more modern shows like Suits, the tracking shot is an important technological advancement that was made and should continue to exist in films. There are several advantages to using a tracking shot. First, it allows for continuity within a story line. Often times, transformations of scenes have to occur by changing the entirety of a set. In order to make this work, producers would have to insert a new scene or make the insertion of the new one really choppy. A tracking shot allows for a scene to be altered in the background seamlessly as if nothing had occurred. Second, the tracking shot is really good for close ups and characterization. The tracking shot allows an audience to follow along with a character throughout the duration of a scene. This allows for a 3rd person omniscient point of view. Additionally, this would allow for monologues or other important emotional scenes to occur. Often times, this is more engaging for an audience because it allows the viewers to connect with the film. Lastly, an important benefit to the tracking shot is that it gives the audience an understanding of space. Tracking shots can convey the distance between objects better which makes storylines and plots easier to comprehend. It also means that It becomes easier to see objects in the background that can be used to convey themes or symbolism.

Learning about the tracking shot made me appreciate film a little more. I was unaware that the tracking shot could be used in important ways and the significance it has on film despite being so simple. I seem to forget that film itself has a huge history and that living in the 21st century allows for ignorance of minor details to settle in. This raises further questions for me about different film technologies that seem negligible but would make viewing experience radically different. In modern films, everyone seems to only talk about actors or CGI and that seems to abstract from a lot of what this class seems to find important.

“25 Best Tracking Shots of All Time.” StudioBinder, 11 Sept. 2019, https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/tracking-shot-camera-movement-definition/.
Romney, Jonathan. “The Tracking Shot: Film-Making Magic – or Stylistic Self-Indulgence?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Dec. 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/dec/04/tracking-shot-film-making-magic-or-stylistic-self-indulgence-birdman.
YouTube, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_YeNw0N8aE.

Censorship: Friend or Foe

Introduction

The technology that we’ve examined this semester that has intrigued me the most is censorship. I find the tremendous impact it has in the film industry very interesting, especially in how it has evolved over the years, and still controls what audiences can view today. In our course, we watched a lot of films with varying degrees of censorship. Silent films had practically no censorship, but when films started being made with sound, censorship became necessary. “Silent smut had been bad. Vocal smut cried to the censors for vengeance.” – Father Daniel A. Lord

The Code

In 1934, the Motion Picture Production Code was created as a tentative agreement between the U.S. government and the Motion Picture Association of America. The Code’s goal was to set moral guidelines that films had to follow. The Code included specific things that could not appear in any films such as: crimes against the law, sex, vulgarity, obscenity, profanity, costumes, nudity, dances, ridicule of religion, ridicule of nations, indecent titles, etc. Many members of the MPAA didn’t take the code seriously when it was first made. The film Merrily We Go To Hell (1932) was made during the Pre-Code Era when the Code wasn’t being heavily enforced. This movie openly breaks the code and promotes themes of alcoholism and adultery. The Girl From Missouri (1934) was made near the beginning of the code and although it had many sexual innuendos and sexual themes throughout the movie, it stayed clear from any obvious immoral themes. Bringing Up Baby (1938) which was made after the Code started to be taken more seriously also had some sexual innuendos, but it was a mainly light-hearted and comical movie that stayed within the Code’s guidelines.

Censorship Today

In 1968, the Production Code was replaced by today’s current rating system. These ratings are useful as guidelines for parents to get a sense of a movie contains so that they can make the decision of allowing their children to see it. Censorship is still a tool used today by agencies to control what audiences can view. China, for example, has strict rules for what can be shown to their audiences. Therefore, Hollywood self-censors their movies in order for them to be shown in China. Marvel’s Deadpool, which is rated R, was decidedly too graphically violent that no changes could be made to it to have it acceptable to China’s censors which prevent violent and provocative content. Marvel’s Logan, however, was able to have a few scenes removed to be deemed appropriate. China’s censors also prevent films from portraying China in a negative light or their enemies as heroes. China is such an important movie market, and they only accept around 34 foreign films each year, therefore self-censoring is in Hollywood’s best interest to guarantee access to China’s audiences. Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame made about $650 million domestically and around $600 million in China. The sales in China were essential to it beating Avatar as the highest grossing film in history. Hollywood’s self-censorship allowed it to accomplish this feat.

Avenger’s Endgame Poster

Censorship has evolved over the years and become a tool agencies use to expand the audiences of their movies. When it was first created, members of the film industry hated how constraining it was and didn’t want to adhere to any form of censorship. However, censorship is used today by companies to bring their films to new and specific audiences. Censorship has had such a big impact on the film industry and I believe it will continue to have one.

Works Cited

Bisset, Jennifer. “Marvel Is Censoring Films for China, and You Probably Didn’t Even Notice.” CNET, 1 Nov. 2019, www.cnet.com/features/marvel-is-censoring-films-for-china-and-you-probably-didnt-even-notice/.

Davis, Rebecca. “China Box Office: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Breaks a Host of Records.” Variety, 29 Apr. 2019, variety.com/2019/film/news/china-box-office-avengers-endgame-record-opening-1203199993/.

“Motion Picture Association of America Film Rating System.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Nov. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Association_of_America_film_rating_system#Replacement_of_the_Hays_Code.

“Motion Picture Production Code.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Nov. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Production_Code#Pre-code:_%22Don’ts%22_and_%22Be_Carefuls%22,_as_proposed_in_1927.

Ok Boom(er) Mic

I think one of the most important advancements that has been made in film tech is the development of sound recording; specifically, more modern-day equipment like the boom mic. All the sound films we’ve watched in this class – Bringing Up Baby, Laura, The Girl from Missouri, etc. – have used some variant of this technology, as evidenced by the quality of the sound. When sound was first added to film, mics were either attached directly to the actors – in which case some sounds were way too loud, and if the actor turned away the sound would be almost nonexistent – or statically placed in a stationary object – in which case the actors would have to talk directly into the mic to be heard. In both cases, filming was rough and inefficient, and left very little room for the actors to, well, act – since their movements had to be so controlled and rigid. Obviously, in the films we watched, this is not the case. This is largely due to the advancement of microphone technology, specifically with the boom mic, which was an overhead microphone that an operator would move along with the actors in order to pick up their lines (“Boom Microphone”) .

(Boom Operator (Media)

The boom mic was first used in 1928 on the set of Beggars of Life, when the director told the sound man to just put the microphone on a broom handle and walk alongside the actors. Thus, the concept of the boom mic was born, and movies have become all the better for it. Interestingly enough, director Dorothy Arzner once had her sound techs hook up a microphone to a fishing rod – a mental image I find extremely funny. I also learned that the term “dead cat” refers to a windmuff, and a “dead cat on a stick” is just a boom mic with a windmuff covering it (and not at all what it sounds like) (“Boom Operator (Media)”).

Learning about this technology really made me rethink a lot about what we take for granted when we watch movies: due to the immersive nature of films, it can be easy to forget that we’re not actually there listening to the actors speak; it’s a recording, and various techniques needed to be used to capture that audio in an effective manner. This can apply to many other situations too, and opens up a great many questions about what kinds of tech go into filmmaking. For example, how does the the camera not show up in mirror scenes? When you do over-the-shoulder scenes, how does the camera guy recording the other person not show up?

Sound recording technology has more connections with computer science in the modern era, when the recordings are transduced into electronic signals, sent to a computer, and stored there so that they can be manipulated, edited, and then overlaid onto the final footage. In addition, boom mics can now be wireless, and the technology needed to accomplish that is totally in the realm of computer science, and something I could potentially even work on in the future (via networking classes).

 

Works Cited

“Boom Microphone.” How to Use a Boom Microphone, www.mediacollege.com/audio/microphones/boom.html.

“Boom Operator (Media).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boom_operator_(media).