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The Secrets of Movie Making

Dec 25, 2007
The use of pictorial continuity, the proper development and connection of motion-picture sequences to create a smoothly joined, coherent motion-picture story, is the secret of good moviemaking. It is the easiest, simplest way, because it is the correct way. But - and this is a thankful thing - even the most expensive, gadget-studded movie camera hasn't got pictorial continuity built into it, to function automatically for the cameraman whenever he shoots a story.

Continuity is what transforms a strip of exposed film into a motion-picture: NO gadget can do that. It calls for a little thought in advance, for a good deal of movement to and fro for different angles and shots, for care - deliberation-planning.

The question therefore arises, especially for the non-professional who does his shooting during a few precious hours of leisure: Is it worth it?

Wouldn't it be easier just to load one's camera, check focus and exposure, make sure composition and the expression of the subject are good - and just shoot? Just as one does with still pictures?

Just like still pictures! The ghost of still-picture psychology hovers around many beginning motion-picture cameramen - and logically, for most of us shot stills years before we took up the movie camera. So let's get the straight facts of the matter.

Operating a motion-picture camera with still-camera technique will get you pictures all right; if you are a competent still cameraman those pictures no doubt will be "good" in the sense of being well exposed, nice and sharp, probably well composed, even lively.

But without pictorial continuity, they will not be motion pictures. They will be animated still pictures. Perhaps you will be content to have them so. But we think it an awful shame if you ask of your motion-picture camera only what any decent still camera will give you - a good, sharp, pleasing likeness.

You will also be unfair to the ability of the motion-picture camera to do more than just render a likeness; you will be ignoring its power to tell a living story.

You will also he unfair to yourself, because the apparent trouble of breaking down action into sequences, and sequences into separate shots, the "bother" of observing pictorial continuity, are really no problems at all, but add immeasurably to the sheer fun of movie-making. Once you try it, the bother of getting buildup shots, of establishing tempo, and so on, will warm you up, exhilarate you with an appeal to your imagination and your creative instinct - an instinct that is latent in every camera zealot.

Look at the question from the viewpoint of your prospective audience. Every moviegoer who has seen good and bad movies is sensitive to continuity. He may not be consciously aware of it - he may never even have heard of the term - but it has had its influence on him just the same.
He takes it for granted when he sees a good motion picture: he knows the picture is moving smoothly from scene to scene, sequence to sequence, climax to climax.

If the picture-, however, moves jerkily, without coherence or flow - if continuity is lacking - the moviegoer feels its absence even though he cannot say in so many words what is lacking.

Your audience, your friends, and you will miss it as much whether your picture is for public showing or for persona' pleasure.

The fault is the same - and the remedy is the same. You do not use watercolor technique when painting a canvas in oils: it is as illogical to handle a motion- picture camera as though it were a still camera. You cannot have a true motion picture, a good motion picture, without pictorial continuity. That is the answer to the question. It is worth it!
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