Different forms of cinematography

I think photography and cinematography play such powerful, under-rated currents in storytelling. It is what the audience subconsciously takes in without a doubt. When done correctly and effectively, it can convey so much more of the storyline than the dialogue or character development itself. As we say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Two very different forms of cinematography come to mind as quite masterful. The first is Better Call Saul, arguably one of the best TV shows produced in history. Not only does it illustrate incredibly deep characters with ends in sight, it also creates textures and dynamic through camera angles and movements, and colors. There’s a constant play on widescreen angles, zooming into multiple character shots, but rarely a 1:1 unless done through indirect angles. It’s provides more information to the viewer and allows the viewer to infer the status of character relationships and character progression.

I also appreciate how BCS uses really dark shots well – though difficult to see, and shoot, they add so much texture to the plot. Whether it be Jimmy and Chuck’s scenes, or night-cover drug smuggling scenes, it’s like the directors said ‘light is overrated.’ And hid so much unspoken plot into the darkness. It’s an interesting style of storytelling: paint the story rather than tell it. Who knew darkness could be so interesting? This also obviously reflects the characters’ descent into the Breaking Bad world, as we lose sight of lighter-colored characters, and deep dive into the colorful red and yellow world of crime. I feel like these illustrated scenes help us emphasize with the characters’ descent as well – that such were circumstantial – that you can’t judge a character without observing the surroundings.

Better Call Saul | Shows you Should be Watching

One of the keys to this is the opening sequence as well – and how static the sequences gets symbolizes Jimmy’s transition to Saul. When I studied digital media, my professor noted that the staticness or low quality of videos in our digital age brings viewers the sense of authenticity — well since we didn’t have powerful video editing equipment or Photoshop back then. And I think in part, it reveals that Saul’s coming out is Jimmy sadly becoming more authentic to who he was meant to be.

Better Call Saul Title Sequence - Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

The second, though very different, cinematography measure I’d like to point out is Rachel Nguyen’s form of video editing. With the effortless music, the shakiness in the video at times, the raw cuts of editing without the visual effect layovers, really bring the viewer into Rachel’s world. I’ve written a couple of times about her, but I seriously cannot get over how authentic she is able to edit — rawness of it all. I love how you can use uncut versions of yourself to create such a cinematic experience. Of course, the editing on the back end must take so long to match the voiceover, the music, the choppiness at times, but it shows you that authenticity is not about having the fanciest technology – it’s about having a vision and executing against it.

Anyhow, these are two very different types of storytelling through visuals but still manage to convey authentic sentiment to the relevant audience. I hope to emulate this type of editing and video work one day as well in some scale.

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