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Old December 1st, 2014, 04:47 PM   #1
Absence of motion
Adrian Tan Adrian Tan is offline December 1st, 2014, 04:47 PM

Wanted to comment on a video I was looking at (this is not one of my videos!).

Typically, when I shoot, one of my rules of thumb is "either movement in the frame or movement of the frame". So, for me, video is usually about motion. I think this is a rule that Discovery Channel shooters often follow (or, at least, that's what I've observed from many of their programs).

It was quite striking to see a company tuning into a different aesthetic... partially anyway. Check out the first minute.

If you couldn't be bothered to look at the video, there's frame grabs at the end of this post.

A similar aesthetic is used in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, and there's a word for that applies to some of this -- "tableau".

Wikipedia definition goes: 'Tableau vivant (plural: tableaux vivants) means "living picture". The term, borrowed from the French language, describes a group of suitably costumed actors or artist's models, carefully posed and often theatrically lit. Throughout the duration of the display, the people shown do not speak or move. The approach thus marries the art forms of the stage with those of painting or photography, and as such it has been of interest to modern photographers. The most recent heyday of the tableau vivant was the 19th century, with virtually nude tableaux vivants or poses plastiques providing a form of erotic entertainment.

Occasionally, a Mass was punctuated with short dramatic scenes and tableaux. They were a major feature of festivities for royal weddings, coronations and royal entries into cities. Often the actors imitated statues, much in the manner of modern street entertainers, but in larger groups, and mounted on elaborate temporary stands along the path of the main procession.'

What's striking about the tableau-esque shots, at least in the context of the video, is that there's almost no movement. No or very little movement of camera (it's mainly either locked-off tripod or slow pan/tilt), and barely any movement of subjects. The shots are wide angle, so you see context. They're beautiful images in terms of having depth, being well lit ("theatrically lit"), having a nice balance of colours -- which adds to the painterly, posed, set-up feel. The décor is old world aristocrat, which also adds to the painterly feel (which you don't get in Australia, but get in Europe in spades). And the choice of music obviously helps.

More importantly, what you get is an unusual mood for wedding videos. I was sort of writing about exploring different moods in a different thread. Instead of the usual "happy snaps", the tableau images are about quietness, contemplation, and a certain sort of calm grandness.

So this tableau technique is also something that wouldn't suit a lot of weddings. If it's the chaos of a Greek or Jewish bridal prep, with a room full of people, rather than one or two people, you're not going to get the same mood in your images. If it's a happy, always-laughing bride, you're not going to get the same mood. And in fact, what makes the Soda Films video change after the first minute or so is that more people are introduced, so that the mood can't be sustained.

Two more thoughts. Firstly, check out their framing for the reception speeches. They're not framing just for the speaker. Notice use of foreground and the way context is showed.

Also, check out some of their close-ups. The close-ups aren't "tableau", but they have a similar mood: no motion of camera or subject, and a beautiful look to the images that gives them a set-up feel (good lighting -- "theatrically lit" -- good texture, colours, composition).

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Adrian Tan
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Old December 2nd, 2014, 09:10 PM   #2
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Re: Absence of motion

One thing I noticed throughout this video is that most of the shots show the subjects being lit in very flattering ways. I wouldn't be surprised if that's one of the things they really focus on because there's no way all of these really well lit shots just happened by accident. This is something that Ray Roman is talking about in the Creative Live series of his that I'm watching right now, and for my next wedding I'm planning to pay much closer attention to how the subjects are lit and try to control it as much as possible.
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