Scott from Three Fingers Hold the Pen commented on my post about experiencing movies on the Big screen. Here's what he had to say:
Been preaching this for years.
These things are MEANT to be seen big.
I caught the Director's cut of Das Boot in LA that same year while working for Disney. Un-believable.
How did they get those dolly shots of the guys running down the length of the sub?
Went to every screening I could manage.
Saw Ben Hur one night at the Egyptian. Twenty Thousand Leagues at the El Capitan.
Actual Technicolor prints!
Lawrence of Arabia at the Cinerama Dome.
But the best was 25 years ago - a superb print of Midsummer Night's Dream, the old 39 version from Warner Bros, in one of the great grand old movie palaces...suddenly understood what it must have been like to go to the movies back then and why it was such a big deal and why The Movies became the Thing we revere today.
It is interesting how apple etc. can make a big sell out of movies that are meant to be seen big, on tiny screens( ipod, iphone, etc.) What is the attraction of Youtube? We (or rather those who don't know better) are being sold a bill of goods!
The problem with television and more so with video on Ipod and youtube is that we've altered the visual style of filmmaking to accommodate the smaller screen. If you look at the change in films in the last thirty years you'll notice that we've gotten closer and closer to the face. Scenes are designed more and more where we cut between closeups. Establishing shots have been truncated and the camera has studied the actors faces at close range. The size of the television and the advent of home video made filmmakers reconsider their visual style so it would have impact on the smaller, lower resolution screen. The internet compounds this with low resolution images that are often less than four inches wide.
What this amounts to is removing cinematic storytelling and makes us rely even more on talking heads. A contrasting example of this is the popular 1988 action classic 'Die Hard'. Pay attention to the lack of closeups in the film - it was designed for the theatre. The majority of the close ups in the film are from stomach to head where now we see the top of shoulders to the top of the head or closer. This is also due to the modern editing equipment where editors got used to looking at the images on small broadcast monitors which fool you into feeling that there isn't enough detail. With digital editing, you are much less inclined to take your workprint and project it in a theatre. Walter Murch understood this and he would place a size comparison by his monitor so he would always be aware of the theatrical exhibition.
High definition television has been a terrific invention and is starting to reverse some of these visual trends. With its much higher resolution it has allowed television filmmakers to think more cinematically. Just look at many of these new shows that look and feel much more like movies than traditional television - '24', 'Lost', 'Breaking Bad', 'Deadwood', etc. Even situation comedies like 'Malcolm in the Middle' got rid of the staged, three camera setup and replaced it with a single camera, four wall design.
Still, theatrical exhibition is the most powerful way to see a motion picture. It's too bad that the theatre exhibitors and studios are so paranoid about losing the market they are pushing carnival tricks like 3D movies. The filmmakers need to worry less about these quaint technical solutions and focus more on getting back to more cinemactic visual design - to experiment more and most of all, tell great stories.