As technology progresses more forms of video editing are being introduced
As technology progresses more forms of video editing are being introduced, with this comes the easier and more intelligent way of creating suspense during a film, or for sections and events in a film or on Television. There are a number of factors that influence the way in which suspense is created, these are, camera angles & shots, sound, lighting and finally editing. All of these factors combined create a very professional and effective way of suspense being built up.
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Camera angles & shots are effective on their own as well as being backed up by sound and lighting.
There are many forms of camera angles that are used for different events, for example, a Long Shot (LS) would not be used to show the emotion of someone, to show the emotion and make an effective sequence an Extreme Close-Up (ECU) would be used. The same goes for when a high authority figure is being portrayed. To make someone look powerful a Low Angle Shot (looking upwards at the object) would be used to create a feeling that the viewer is smaller and less powerful that the object that is being portrayed. Sound is used as a form of backing device, which basically supports the camera.
There are 4 types of sound, Dialogue, sound effects, ambient sounds and Non-diegetic sounds (especially music). Lighting does more than ‘lighting up and area’, lighting is referred to in two manors, Realist light and Expressive light. Realist light is used to simulate reality, it has worked if you haven’t noticed it being used, and Expressive Lighting is to set the mood or affect our view of a character or an incident. There are three main points of light, Key light, fill light and back light. Key if the main light source on set, Fill removes shadows and Back defines figures outline.
Finally there comes editing, there are two main forms of film editing, they are called Continuity Editing and MTV Styles Editing. Features of continuity editing are the 180 and 30-degree rule, shot/reverse shot for dialogue and match cutting. Features of MTV Style Editing are side-steps traditional narrative, more concerned with establishing mood or feeling. There are a few reasons why people distinguish between the two types of editing, it helps focus attention on the editing process and also opens up helpful ways of looking at short forms like adverts and music video.
The Untouchables was set in the year 1930, and America pays heavy price for its experiment with Prohibition. Illegal, yet lucrative business of bootlegging made Al Capone (played by Robert de Niro) the undisputed leader of the Chicago underworld and most powerful man in the city. However, despite his public businessman personality, Capone keeps his supremacy by brutal violence, not caring about the lives of innocent people. After a small girl died in one of such incidents. The Federal Government decided to stop the violence by creating a special task force.
The force was led by Eliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner). His debut raid on Capone’s warehouse ends up as an embarrassing fiasco, and Ness now knows that he can’t rely on notoriously corrupt local police. The rare exception among Chicago cops is old Malone (played by Sean Connery), who lost his career because of his honesty. Ness gets the idea to create a new unit of few, yet capable and reliable lawmen that would battle Capone’s all-powerful organisation. He and Malone recruited two more men – Treasury accountant Oscar Wallace (played by
Charles Martin Smith) and Chicago rookie policeman George Stone (Andy Garcia) – and they started hitting Capone’s operations hard, earning the nickname ‘The Untouchables’ by the press that were following them as they started crushing Capone. The extract in which I am examining for the build up of suspense is the part of the film where Eliot Ness and his partner are waiting at the train station for ‘The Bookkeeper’. Eliot Ness and his partner (both being police officers) arrive at Grand Central Station at five minutes to midnight to intercept the departure of ‘The Bookkeeper’ who is due to travel on the five past twelve train to Miami.
As the police officers take up their ‘ambush’ positions the beginning of the suspense sequence begins. By this I mean that with them taking up their positions it in a way makes the viewer think, ‘hey, what’s going to happen here? ‘ As the officers take up their positions the sound of footsteps is amplified (made louder and more noticeable) than that of the normal sounds within a train station. There is also the sound of a large group of people speaking and having a general chitchat. The camera movement between these separate events is frequent yet timed in a way to keep the viewers brain in motion.
There are a number of low angle shots, which cause the detectives to look vulnerable as if they are in danger. As a mother and her baby enter the shot, wanting to go up the stairs with a big pram and suitcase. The mother is struggling to move all on her own. Elliot Ness sees the mother struggling, and knows that if she doesn’t get out of there soon she is danger of being shot. Once the mother and baby enter a lullaby starts playing in the background, as if to exaggerate the innocence of the baby and it’s mother. All of the camera shots of the mother and baby are from a bird’s eye perspective.
As the mother starts to take the pram and suitcase up the stairs, the baby starts crying. As the mother tries to stop the baby crying the camera jumps in a rapid motion between the baby, Elliot Ness and the clock. The clock is showing the time of about two minutes to twelve. You see the mother and baby from Elliot’s point of view (from his line of sight), which shows the mother and baby not only to be innocent but very vulnerable to the violence that is very probable to happen within the next three to four minutes.
At this point there is a considerable amount of suspense that has been built up with the camera constantly flickering between a helpless baby, a struggling mother, a detective poised to shoot people and a clock showing how very little time there is until the gangsters arrive with The Bookkeeper. At this point Elliot, as a natural reaction to help the mother, leaves his ‘ambush’ position and runs down the stairs to help the mother take the baby up the stairs. As he runs towards her he hides his gun so not to alarm her that something dreadful is about to happen.
As he goes to help the viewer feels a small sense of relief that the mother and baby are going to fine and unharmed yet there is still the possibility that the gangsters are about to arrive at any minute. As Elliot starts helping the mother orchestral yet dramatic music begins along with the sound of a train. When Elliot is about half way up the stairs the dramatic music becomes louder as he stops. As a man enters the station and stands at the door, there is a high angle shot on Elliot, camera focuses on Elliot and the baby and then the people entering the station.
Then a man with a strap on his nose enters the station and stands there smiling. At this point very dramatic music starts playing and the lullaby stops; the camera zooms in for an extreme close up of the gangster’s eyes and Elliot’s face. Elliot draws his gun and shoots this man, as Elliot shoots him he lets go of the pram and the baby and pram start falling down the stairs. There is then lots of shooting and gunshots stand out over all other sounds.
The picture starts moving in slow motion, you can hear the prams wheels creaking as the pram starts dropping down the stairs which is the shot twice. You then see the mother screaming but can’t hear her. Elliot and his partner shoot and kill all the gangsters and keep the Bookkeeper alive. Elliot’s partner then runs across and throws up a gun to Elliot, as Elliot’s shotgun was empty, as his partner dives and saves the baby’s pram Elliot shoots the last gangster. It is still unknown whether the baby is alive or not.
As Elliot’s partner saves the pram and chaos is restored to normality the lullaby starts again indicating that the baby is ok and then you see a camera shot of the baby. The sequence between the gangster entering and Elliot’s partner saving the babies pram is the climax of the suspense that has been built up by all of the camera’s jumping. During this sequence of scenes there has been alot of MTV Style editing that has taken place. This is because of all the jump cuts that have been used between each picture. A study of how suspense is used in an extract from the film ‘The untouchables’