Saturday, November 16, 2013

Exercise: Composition & balance

This exercise is all about balance and continuity between shots. When this is broken it can work well to create a change of pace, atmosphere, add or remove tension or to communicate something about the state of mind of a character. I think I have a pretty good grasp on this from my still photography experience and also my recent experiments with the moving image but I have found a few examples of composition and balance from Breaking Bad (which I am missing badly).  There are many breaks in the continuity of this part of the episode to create the tension. There are also some long heavy parts where we are given time to contemplate the drama as it unfolds.

This is a point in the sequence where Walt realises something important which is pivotal to the plot. Although he has been centred, the sunflash adds some balance but still leaves the composition as quite uncomfortable to reflect Walt's discomfort.

Classic use of the rule of thirds with the figure in the foreground weighting down the empty space towards the bottom of the image and the centred character being the one moving across the set. This allows the viewer to take in a lot of information with any distractions.

A brave shot - like much of the cinematography in this show. We can barely see Walt as he is numbed with the reality of what has happened but he is centred because he is the pivot of everything.

A superb shot showing Walt twice - one reflection with the bullet hole in his head - to remind us that we still don't know how this will end. These dramatic and unusual changes in the composition and continuity keep us on edge and build the feeling of voyeurism. We almost feel like we are next to the car, hiding, looking everywhere as there is such danger.

In the preceding shots we have seen Walt walking in the desert and then the Native American watching the approach from his home and coming outside to interact. This shot is from a higher angle and has a much more symbolic feel to it. The fence and straggly tree between these two people accentuates Walt's remoteness, that somehow there is no going back to normality even though he is in 'civilisation' again. 

An incredibly tense scene between the two sisters. The set up feels very stagnant at first sight. The corporate or institutional feel of the office design; they are facing each other and we see then squarely in profile. Fairly muted colours apart from the purple orchid.  Commentators have said that purple in the series usually indicates someone is being misled or is delusional.  For a while nothing much happens - and then Marie confronts Skyler. 

Added tension is created in this already excruciating scene by the camera "jumping the line" across the safe 180 degree arc. This reverses the pre-established direction of the gaze between the two women which accentuates the battle of wills between them. We only see Skyler's purple sleeve from the other side.

Powerful use of the rule of thirds. Walt is down on the bottom left of the image, tiny, powerless and weighed down by events.  He is framed by two trees showing that he is hemmed in and, behind, the design on the embankment looks like gravestones.  The viewer is allowed to gaze at this still, quiet moment to contemplate Walter's fate.  

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