Steven Spielberg was a master of the camera. His control of the continuity in his film-making induced excitement and clarity that was rarely witnessed before his arrival.
We continue our discussion of Joseph Mascelli’s Five C’s of Cinematography, with the focus on Part 2: continuity. (To begin at the start of the series with Part 1, visit here).
One of the many excellent diagrams from Joseph Mascelli’s book, the 5 C’s of Cinematography. This one indicating the correct placement and direction of cameras in a three character shot.
Many animation artists don’t spend enough time and thought towards the rhythm and flow of images, and often think of things and scenes as just isolated events, stacked together side by side, one after another. It’s not uncommon to see the work of one animator create a pattern of movement or acting choice that do not coincide with surrounding shots performed by others. Not only should artists try to achieve flow and harmony within their own shots, but those of the entire sequence. They need to know when and where the peaks and values of emotions/actions are, and how their work might fit in.
Screenshots from Pixar’s The incredibles. Directed by Brad Bird, this was one of the first CG-animated features to deploy strong use of camera continuity and cut-aways to create frenetic action with clarity.
On his view on continuity and its importance as related to story telling, Mascelli writes:
Continuity is merely common sense in coordinated action. It requires thinking in sequences – instead of individual shots … Good continuity is expected by the audience. By drawing poor attention to itself, poor continuity detracts from the narrative. Nothing should interfere with the illusion through which the audience becomes involved in the story.”
Another diagram from his chapter on continuity. This one showing how to position the camera for shots thru a window.
On a subject familiar to animators, Mascelli instructs:
“Learn how to analyze and handle cinematic time and space. Recognize differences between controlled and uncontrolled action.”
Steven Spielberg’s 1975 landmark film Jaws scared everyone from entering open water. This excellent sequence shows why. Masterful selection and control of camera angles along with precision continuity create tension, suspense and emotional reaction.
He concludes the chapter on continuity with these words that proclaim the importance of clarity, creativity and carefulness so that we can maintain the suspension of disbelief and enjoy the magic on screen:
“A motion picture is a constantly-changing series of images. Thinking continuously will make thoughtful continuity.”
In our next post, we’ll reveal Part 3 of the Five C’s of Cinematography, as we discuss cutting.