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The film director said “Move in close!”

It was supposed to be my day off. I’d gone down to London to visit a Trade Fair, and I’d had loads of fun looking at cameras and other photographer’s work all day long. I’d taken my camera with me, and after the show ended decided to walk around London to capture the life of the city at twilight.

I’d headed down Covent Garden way, as there is usually something interesting happening there – you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll see. I went past Bow Street Magisrates Court, and carried on walking South.

As I kept on walking I found myself walking down a street I wasn’t familiar with – Drury Lane? There was a Theatre whose name I can’t remember – I think it was the Lyceum. It’s doors were open but nobody was on the door – very strange. From inside came the sound of wailing electric guitars. Intrigued, I crept inside.

There was a crowd of people near the stage – there must have been a hundred or so – and a rock band was playing to them. A typical four piece band, playing the same track over and over again, with film cameras shooting everything that moved. I joined in.

Who were these people, I thought to myself, who was the band? I had a telephoto on the camera so could really see each of them, but I didn’t recognise them or their music, a vanilla flavour of interesting but not compelling soft rock.

The Director came over and said to me “Get in close! Get in closer!” He wanted me in his shots too, of course, but also wanted to help.

I moved closer, but with the telephoto on I was soon close enough at the edge of the stage. The music stopped and started, with the Director wanting three takes of every shot, every time, even when he thought he had a good one. Film was he cheapest commodity there – getting the band to fly over from the States wasn’t something he could do again next week if a shot didn’t work out.

I had a chat with him about his techniques and so on, and he kept on coming back to this single phrase, “Get in Close” which he said in film school was the main instruction for video operators he’d been given.

Since then, as I’ve watched TV programs, Hollywood films, and other film work I’ve seen the echo of this instruction many many times in shots where the camera was in really, really close – often too close for comfort.

And now I’m thinking about getting an HDTV – a larger than life, wall hanging flatscreen that magnifies everything the TV signal sends through the ether. And the Director’s instruction hovers over me like a falcon, ready to strike at any moment.

With High Definition, and “Get in close!” will I really be able to see the detail up people’s noses? Will the screen jump and zoom to show me more than I had bargained for? Will the film schools keep on telling students to “Get in close” even when this makes the viewer look away? And in those TV shows with the “hand-held” cameras nervously flickering around hither and thither, will I get so dizzy I can no longer look at the screen? I already have to look away sometimes just to avoid sea sickness.

Will it be worse in HD? I hope not. Hopefully the Directors will see sense and let me see less intense images of noses, ears and eyes.

Please, step back a bit and let me see more than just the face, not just the wheel of the racing car, but its position in the race. I can’t bear the close up of the drivers helmet as he is overtaken by a rival, I want to see it all, to make it archival. If all I can see is the main sponsors “B” it’ll be no good at all for relaxing TV.

So, please directors, with HDTV, please remember me. I won’t look at your work if you make it too big, too close, too nervous. All that technique will be wasted. And the reason you moved in closer won’t apply any more – with HD detail I’ll still be able to see the close up detail from far away!


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