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A question about old-school film making: on-location vs. studio process shots

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A question about old-school film making: on-location vs. studio process shots

Old 04-12-08, 02:10 AM
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A question about old-school film making: on-location vs. studio process shots

So I'm working my way through the Elvis Presley films. Right now I am watching "Girls, Girls Girls" I'm not even five minutes into the film and already I am bothered by the production decisions of the DP and the director. The film opens with Elvis, on the bow of his boat, on location out in the ocean. The audio has obviously been ADR'ed later. The next few shots are of he and the same boat, still on the same ocean location, just with a long-distance lens to show the marlin that the people on the boat have hooked with their fishing pole. Then, all of a sudden, there is a horrible jump cut to an obvious sound stage, with a process shot of the ocean from before playing behind them. It even bounces back and forth between the studio process shots, and location insert shots of a jumping marlin. My question is, why was it necessary to switch from the location shoot to the studio? The continuity between the two is horrendous. The lighting angles are different, the color temperatures between the natural sunlight and the gelled and goboed studio lights is sickening. Why not just do everything in the natural light, on location, and loop the necessary dialogue in post-production? Is it cheaper to shoot on a sound stage later? Retakes or something? "Viva Las Vegas", another of Elvis' films I watched earlier, did not have these kinds of problems. Chalk it up to the studio system, budgets, and incompetent crew. Oh well. At least I never again have to suffer through "Jail House Rock"!

Last edited by E. Honda; 04-12-08 at 02:13 AM.
Old 04-12-08, 02:35 AM
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It's an Elvis Presley movie called "Girls, Girls, Girls", my sumo friend. I doubt the filmmakers were caring too much about whether or not gum-chewing teenyboppers appreciated the cinematography.

That said, the level of control is much greater on a soundstage. Outside you are slave to the weather - you may not get that shot because the sun's going down, clouds obscure the sun, it starts snowing etc. It's very likely they shot what they could with the time they had (these weren't exactly David Lean epic schedules) and decided to fix whatever they needed later.

Personally I don't mind process shots in the old flicks. Adds to the charm.
Old 04-12-08, 04:50 AM
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Is it just me, or all the movies Elvis ever made the same exact formula?
  • Elvis has a good job
  • Due to some tragic consequence of something he does, Elvis loses said job
  • Elvis broods for a while, then shakes his money maker for his supper
  • Elvis meets a girl who is both the beginning and ending of his troubles
  • Elvis gets in a fight with someone over said girl
  • Elvis gets the girl, and a better job at the same time



But on a more serious note, i have noticed the vast difference in the talents of the DP's that worked on these films. The "Girls" cinematography was random, forced, and no real organization. Compare that to the film I am on now, "Fun In Acapulco". This film's DP has a definite eye for shot composition. All the shots are uniform, balanced, and well blocked. It makes use of process insert shots, like Girls, but the translation between the two flows much better and is far less noticeable. A much better end result that show's someone who cared about what he was doing, and not just about cranking out another Saturday afternoon matinee throwaway.
Old 04-12-08, 07:56 AM
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Terminator 2 is a prime example of this. The movie still is a great example of camera work and on location shooting except for one sequence...

After rescuing Sarah from the hospital her and John have that discussion in the car and it is an obvious processed shot on a sound stage. Nothing in that shot looks good. It just seems strange that all the time and money spent making that movie look the best it could, the film makers would cut corners on that one scene.
Old 04-12-08, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by E. Honda
But on a more serious note, i have noticed the vast difference in the talents of the DP's that worked on these films. The "Girls" cinematography was random, forced, and no real organization. Compare that to the film I am on now, "Fun In Acapulco". This film's DP has a definite eye for shot composition. All the shots are uniform, balanced, and well blocked. It makes use of process insert shots, like Girls, but the translation between the two flows much better and is far less noticeable.
You sound like you're trying to analyze the works of Ingmar Bergman, when in fact you're going through a bunch of low-budget movies that were aimed at teenage girls to capitalize on a rock star's popularity.

Yes, they're formulaic and no, no one gave a damn about technical quality. The movies were going to fill seats because of Elvis, not the cinematography.

This is like arguing the technical merits of "Glitter" or the Spice Girls movie.
Old 04-13-08, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Salty
This is like arguing the technical merits of "Glitter" or the Spice Girls movie.
The difference is that people actually liked seeing Elvis in movies.
Old 04-14-08, 07:23 PM
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While Elvis movies are trivial, the intercutting of process studio shots and locations shots is something that was done in many films, particularly in the '50s. Hitchcock did it all the time, it is jarring, and the only explanation I can offer is that it seems to have been acceptable at the time.

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