Similarities in camera technique : LUSENET : ER Discussions : One Thread

I don't know if a lot of you pay attention to the camera work in ER, but I take a film course in my high school where we regularly watch Prime Time TV episodes to jot notes on camera technique. It's actually quite fun, and in a short time you quickly become addicted:) So anyway, since I have nothing better to do (exams over WOOHOO), I was watching tonite's rerun "Last Call", and there were many similar camera devices used in that eppy comparable to the ones seen in the last couple of ones in season six that I thought were interesting. One, when Jeanie is in the bathroom waiting for the clock to ring so she could take her AIDS medication; they had that same effect where there was an overhead shot of her, sitting on the toilet, and then almost beginning to cry in despair. I thought it was really similar to the one when Carter breaks down in the men's room in Such Sweet Sorrow.

And then when the police were interviewing Doug, and they used the same shots where you don't see Doug clearly, but with black slats over his profile, and you kind of get the sense of a shady, tense atmosphere; kind of like the closing shot of the scene in Such Sweet Sorrow when Mark finishes talking to Carter. Anyway, looking at the eppy after my class and finding these things was kinda cool... do any of you take note of this kind of stuff? Just curious:)

-- samira (, May 30, 2000


Samira - Wow, that's so cool that you can take a course to learn about such things. I definately notice certain techniques such as the ones you favourites are those shots that are done for a long time that wind through rooms without any breaks (I'm sure there is a technical name for them that I just don't know) because they look so difficult. I know that these things definately add to the context of a know, making the viewer empathize with the character or whatever. Are there certain standards that are, "overhead shot=character feeling watched" or something? Or is there a lot of creative licence? Every time I've seen the shadow of venetian blinds on a characters face, it always means they're thinking of the Vietnam War...I know that sounds silly, but I swear, I've seen it several times on different shows. So I'm wondering, is that some sort of cultural thing that I don't know about, or is the shadow of blinds a commonly employed camera technique that signifies, like you said, a tense atmosphere? I can't remember Last Call, but in May Day, as soon as I saw the venetian blinds in the room I thought, just for a second, that someone was going to start talking about 'Nam. I know this sounds a bit ridiculous...please set me straight!

-- vicki (, May 30, 2000.

Hi Vicki! For the most part, I don't think that there's any technical name for all these shots. Sometimes different camera-men teams have their own code words for filming "figurative" shots. The one where you go from room to room, my teacher likes to call "Trailblazer" shots, pretty self explanatory there. Also, the same kinds of techniques are obviously used to depict the same kind of emotion: for example, the overhead shot, I thought, meant that the character was 'boxed in', and that was true for both Jeanie and Carter. There is definately a lot of creative lisence, depending of course on what technology you use, and most camera people/directors like to try all sorts of different shots to show one feeling/emotion. It does seem that ER has its favourites, though!

About your Venetian Blind/Vietnam War thing: interesting! I never really noticed that. The venetian blind atmosphere often connotes seriousness, caginess, feelings held back, a type of jail-like feeling; feelings all probably prevailant during the Vietnam War Era, and thus used in many VW movies or scenes. It also gives a sort of shady feeling/shadowy feeling, like there is something evil lurking in the background: probably ties in with some of the war fought on the field, where you're constantly looking behind your shoulder, I'm not sure, though. The most important thing I learnt was that the most creative shots ask the viewer to interpret the scene in a multitude of ways. The best shots don't require much dialouge either: for example, if you wanted to connote a character feeling depressed, you want to find (if possible) a camera angle/technique that would show that without having the character say, "Oh boy, i'm so depressed!". Probably, maybe someone else on this board would know more about this.

-- samira (, May 30, 2000.

I don't know the names of the shots either, but you should watch the movie "The Player" to see a great "Trailblazer" shot. The opening sequence is one continuous shot with no cuts and it's really an incredible feat of filmmaking.

-- Christy (, May 31, 2000.

I guess you'd call it a Trailblazer shot, but the Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Rope" with James Stewart is one continuous camera shot, throughout the whole movie (or at least it's edited to be that way). It's a very good movie, and having no breaks adds to the creepy tension.

ER is the only place I can tolerate the spinning camera shot, where you get to see everybody doing something different during a busy trauma. Anywhere else, it makes me dizzy.

-- dana (, May 31, 2000.

One of my favorite "Trailblazer" shots on ER was on "All in the Family," when the camera rolled from a room to the staircase, as the music intensified, to show Peter running down the steps and then down the hall, knocking over a police officer, and shouting "Is he conscious?" toward the end. It was an exciting shot!

-- Diana (, May 31, 2000.

I don't know if this is actually called something, but my favorite shots are the floor's view ones. Example: In "Be Still My Heart" when Carter gets stabbed (boohoo) you see Lucy lying on the floor from his perspective. I guess they had to lay the camera on the floor to get that shot while Kellie was laying on the floor. I bet that is wierd for the actors when you have to look like you're responding to some one while it's only a camera! (I thought Kellie did a great job!)

-- Stephanie (, May 31, 2000.

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