Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2011

300 (2005)


Discussion Questions:

Remember, your images are ABOVE your name.

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: tboake@sympatico.ca I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it.


I am looking for general observations about the film and the relationship to any aspect of f/x that we have examined. The images attached to your "words" are to clarify the intention but are not meant to be action specific. We are tying the films 300 and Sin City together....plus any other films that you might find of value in your discussion.


Jennifer Beggs
Comment on the use of colour and tone in the opening minutes of the film. What do you think the purpose of this might be from the perspective of narrative?

The opening moments of the film set up the feel and approach for the movie. It is important to submerge the viewers into the right frame of mind in order to ensure the significant and critical elements are emphasized properly to allow the movie to unveil itself properly, as the director had intended it. When introducing different elements, characters and situation to a movie, it is important people get the same impression that the director had planned so that the movie reveals itself to match the narrative.

Typically in films the colour red represents passion, destiny and obsession. Blue is typically used to portray a gloomy, suspenseful and uncertain feel. At the beginning of the film 300, the opening scene begins dark with short, intense flashes of white lights. It creates an uneasy and unstable feeling with the sharp changes in lighting and atmosphere. It suggests that something is unknown and uncertain. The first appearance of the colour red comes in lighting, when the baby is introduced to the movie. Being the first person who appears in the movie, the use of red lighting gives a strong introduction that the baby and the baby’s life’s journey is going to be of great significance. The baby is glowing red and has red lights casting on him when he is being held up to the camera. This red light is significant to the baby’s destiny and emphasizes that the baby is very important.

The scene then cuts to the baby who has now grown up into a little boy and is in a fight with a grown man. The colour tone is predominantly blue and the saturation level is very low. This creates a very suspenseful mood to go along with the fight. It is perhaps foreshadowing great things to come but with struggles; the baby was glowing red, foreshadowing a great destiny and here he is fighting. This suggests a future of conquering a battle or leading an army to success. Shortly after the fight scene, a wolf-like animal appears with eyes glowing red. The colour chosen for his eyes was intentionally chosen to instil a notion of importance and powerful impact on the characters. The red glow is a sign of a fierce fire inside of the animal – it is ready to fight and is a metaphor of the little boy whose journey in life is all about fighting for his people.


Jaliya Fonseka
Comment on the use of architecture as setting in the film, noting that the scenes that employ architectural settings make up a minor portion of the film. How does this feed into the presentation of history?

Since the landscape and environment seemed very distant and somewhat artificial and disconnected in the film 300, even the minor depiction of an architectural setting was crucial in grounding the film. This architectural setting aided in convincing the viewer of the film and their overall understanding of the film, which in turn enhanced its realism.
The handful of scenes in which a setting was presented all shared the common visual portrayal of the architecture to be very simple and low key. The buildings were not highly ornamented nor detailed, rather simple and quite elegant. This representation of setting, although to be un-noticed alongside the grander narrative of the film, tells us much about the overall meaning of the film itself- It tells us much about the Spartans.

A civilization that is as much about equality as it is of life, not wealth nor power. Thus, both the minor role of an architectural setting, and the very minimalist representation of the bit of architecture that is shown both covey the history and nature of the Spartans themselves. It reflects the ideology of the movie; a group of men who fight not for wealth or power rather for the freedom of all.

The beginning of the movie revealed an important piece of architecture that began to tell us a bit more about this civilization. This was the large circular 'bottomless' pit that mercilessly consumed the Persian messengers. The pit seems very symbolic and possesses qualities of warriors with an unforgiving nature. This is very much true to the story as we later here Leonidas, in the midst of battle, yell "give them nothing, but take from them everything."  



Miles Gertler 
Trace the use of focal blur in the film and explain how this is used as a cinematic effect in the telling of the story.

In Zack Snyder's 300, the manipulation of focal blur is used ubiquitously throughout to achieve a variety of ends.

Throughout Snyder's film there is an evident desire to represent the narrative in stylistic means similar to those found in the original graphic novel. One example is his use of slow motion, allowing the viewer to experience the near-still image as if it were a pose in a comic frame. Often in Frank Miller's original work, only the main or foreground elements of a scene are illustrated or rendered in detail. Focal blur can be seen as this drawing technique's cinematic equivalent. Perhaps also it is used to stay stylistically true to the novel as Snyder attempts with other qualities of the film version.

Where deep focus, a shot that focuses clearly on all elements in widely separated planes, is often used to represent reality in a way that viewers perceive as true (photorealistic, as we would see it), a shallow focus and manipulation of depth of field portrays even normal scenes in a dramatized manner, much as Snyder does with his use of slow motion.

Snyder often employs a dynamic focal blur in his film. That is, in which the focus changes between planes in the space of the shot. The effect is that the viewer follows the shifting focus like a visual divining rod, led by it toward the point of intent. Not only does this indicate psychological introspection, as only the character in focus is singled out from the blurry world around them, but it also extends the entertainment value of a single shot, appealing to a short attention span by ensuring that the narrative continues to move with the dynamic pace of the focus. For instance, we see the focus shift from a young Leonidas to the wolf in the extended opening montage. Had Snyder used deep focus here, the dramatic quality of the scene would be minimized, and since all elements would be evident in a single glance, the length of the shot, which relates delicately to the building sense of tension, would likely have been shortened and potentially out of sync with the tone of the narrative. Furthermore, the shift from Leonidas' head to the body of the wolf indicates the unshakable focus of the future King.

Ultimately, Snyder's use of focal blur generates an effect that directly affects the telling of the story through its impact on style, perception of character, and of narrative.

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Suzan Ibrahim
Comment on the effectiveness of the use of the grand distant landscapes in the creation of the mood for the film. Comment on the blending of

Shots of distant landscapes can provide a wide scope of the atmosphere and context in which all the characters within the movie inhabit. The distant shot and blending of the horizon in 300 takes place in different parts of the movie for to achieve a strong grounding in the story and to represent the struggle between the relationships, cultures in war and the responsibility a king has to his country.

One of the first shots of the movie introduced a landscape that informed the viewer that such a vast space had a distance that took time to travel across and must be in a far away secluded place, out of reach to many people. 300 takes time in a period where the major transportation was by horses, and where such travels would be a great challenge and strain on families during war and conflict. Several times there was a shot of the King looking over the horizon across the land; the length of his gaze in combination with the view gave the sense of a weight of his responsibility towards his land and a certain respect that he held to it. His gaze into the landscape where the earth almost fades with the sky gave the impression that he was as well thinking of the future; of how it would be if he would be able to return to his son and wife after the war.  The landscape is both a way of giving the viewer a context, but also a possibility to sympathize with the character that seems to be in such a distant space and field secluded from much escape into what seems open and free.

The landscape shots where also found as checkpoints within displacements in the movie. As scenes and characters where switched, a landscpae of the new context was always carefully introduced to give an idea of the atmosphere and the characters inhabiting it (whether that atmosphere was where they belonged or not).  Other times the landscapes acted as a comparison of how it is serene by itself but also was a dangerous field in which wars and conflicts took place. It acted as a space-holder for where all the characters would end up meeting up.

Most of the scenes had been adjusted to look almost like an impressionist painting, like a Turner painting where it has more of a story-like quality than a reality.


David McMurchy
Watch the film for the incidences of "feet" shots. Where are they used? Why do you think they have chosen this focus as an effect of cinematography that aids the narrative?



Benny Or
Watch the film for symmetrical shots. Why are they used? How can symmetry be considered an effect?



William Pentesco
Watch the film for extreme low angle shots. Why are they used? How do they propel the narrative of the film?

Camera angle in film can change how the audience perceives the subject. If shot high the subject may seem small and diminutive, if shot low then the subject may seem tall and impressive. A low angle shot is one where the camera is located below eye level (5 or 6 feet) and aimed up. Extreme low angle shots are a variant of that, taking the low part to the max. Extreme low angle shots are used in moments where characters of importance are introduced into the storyline, or moments of pause in an action packed sequence.
When introducing new characters an extreme low angle shot is used. This angle allows the person to appear taller and more impressive in a general sense. When King Leonidas is introduced he a low angle shot looks up at him, instilling a sense of importance and power. When Queen Gorgo enters the council to try and convince them of sending out more soldiers an extreme low angle shot is used again. Once again trying to portray to the audience that the message she caries is one of importance.

During the battle scene’s there are moments of reprieve that are mostly coupled with low and close shots of the carnage in the battle field. The shots mostly try and frame the death and disaster with the Spartan soldier’s. A shot that gives the impression of the power and might that these soldier’s possess.

These extreme low angle shots propel the narrative by creating an atmosphere or persona of the subject. Mostly a shot from below signifies importance, and I found this film used them in that way. This propelled the narrative by creating a feeling in the audience that does not require words or explaining. In parts where the narration of the movie overlapped with special shot angles they reinforced and made an effect that was more tangible.

In 300 it becomes difficult to tell when a shot is in extreme low angle, or a close up. I tried my best to filter out anything that was not an extreme low angle when watching the film. My basic requirements followed that it was low to the ground and looking up for the most part. Some shots that were basically horizontal but very low I included, ones that were very low and looked down I categorized as a close up shot.


Emmanuelle Sainté
Watch the film for high angle views. Why are they used? How do they propel the narrative of the film?

The movie 300 uses a number of high angle shots, which help to establish a mood and evoke emotions in the audience. They are also used to propel the story quickly, without resorting to dialogue.

The first instances of high angle views in the film are largely establishing shots – an overview of a city, the 300 men marching off into battle, and all the high angle views right before a battle scene, showing the size of Xerxes’ army. These propel the narrative by quickly acquainting the audience with the setting and situation without the use of dialogue, allowing the story to move forward at a faster pace.

Similarly, some high angle views are used to play with scale – a low angle shot, for example, would only show the front ranks of an army, but with a high angle shot showing Xerxes’ troops stretching out towards the horizon, one gets an understanding of it’s imposing size. Sometimes, however the reverse is done. For example, one shot show two of Leonidas’ men at work building a pile from the bodies of dead Persians. This pile, from a high angle appears sizable, but one does not get the full effect of its size until the angle is lowered, and then we see how far it stretches towards the sky.

Mostly, high angle views in this movie are used for dramatic effect, to increase the sense of tension in the audience. Returning to the example of the establishing shots of the Persian army, shown always right before a battle is to begin, these add suspense as through causing the former to appear as an insurmountable obstacle through its sheer size. Or, in the reverse, as Queen Gorgo walks through the empty courtyard to speak in front of the council, the high angle shot seems to emphasize how alone she is. These set the mood for the following scenes, and at times even seem to foreshadow things to come. King Leonidas, when consulting with the Oracle and drawing out for the priests his strategy, is shown from above, encircled by the hooded figures which instill in the viewer a sense of foreboding. Or Ephialtes, for example, is introduced to the audience as a figure creeping in the shadows, watching from high above the Spartan force as it marched toward battle, and later, is the one who betrays them by showing Xerxes’ how to defeat them.
Therefore, while high angle shots are prevalently used to set the scene, they are also useful in 300 to increase dramatic effect and foreshadow things to come.



Tristan van Leur
Comment on the use of blue screen in the filming. How do you think it affected the believability of this scene?

The special effects in 300 are what allow the movie to be successful.  The blue screen is the key component in making this happen.

300 is a simple, yet absurd Greek legend.  Frank Miller stylized this myth and turned it into a beautiful and interesting work of art.  He paraded the absurdity of the tale, and highlighted the obvious folklore.  The key to the movie was the success in stylizing the tale, and keeping the mood and art that was displayed in the graphic novels.  The blue screen is the key component to making this happen.

The entire story hinges on these mythical cliffs that wall off the Spartan capital from the sea and create a narrow channel for the Spartan warriors.  In the world, it is unlikely to find such a fantastic place, but the blue screen allows them to translate the renderings from the graphic novel into a realistic scene, allowing a place for the tale to unfold.  Beyond simple scenery, beasts, and special effects play a massive role in furthering the tale.  It shows the strength and power of the Spartans, turning them into something beyond human, captivating the audience with their strength and fearlessness.

But what makes 300 a successful film is the way the highlight the fantasy of this world; the sky colours, the cliffs, and the beasts.   It is this literal translation from the images of the book that creates the fantastic style in which the film is shot.  The blue screen is the vehicle that drives this stylistic masterpiece, and is the only thing that makes this film possible.  The real question is, where would this film be without blue screen technologies, and my suspicion is it would be entirely unwatchable.  The thing that makes the movie enjoyable is the manner in which it basks in its absurdities and clichés, none of those would be possible without the blue screen.


Benjamin Van Nostrand
Shadow is used as an effect in the film. Using the three images above, discuss the varying ways that shadow can be used to work with the narrative.

In these particular scenes, shadow is used as a natural framing element within the boundaries of the shot's crop, as a balancing element in articulating interesting compositions, and as a sort of conceptual refinery that abstracts and distills objects, displaying their essence with minimal distraction.

Within the frame, shadows provide an advantageous opportunity to subdivide the shot and, in creating several sub-frames within the main frame, either focus the viewer's attention or scatter it.

Most importantly though, the stylized use of shadows serves to boil down the essence of things. The shadow of a spear is a pure spear, uncluttered with the visual distractions that make the CG soundstage details so compelling. Similarly, the shadow of the wolf against the cliff wall is just as intimidating as the head-on shots of the wolf, but without the visual glamour of mangy fur and glistening saliva to distract from the essence of what is going on in the scene. Additionally, shadows emphasize or even exaggerate formal character traits that can reinforce the viewer's opinion of a character – the wolf's size and general creepiness is obvious when seen in silhouette, Leonidas' manly shadow makes him appear even beefier and stronger, and Ephialtes' deformed appearance is further emphasized by his irregular shadow.

On a technical level, the use of shadows is also advantageous in turning bluescreen soundstages into realistic environments. It is helpful to cheat the points of interface between the actors and the blue surfaces they touch by overlaying an artificial shadow. The shadow also makes scenes feel more realistic by directly connecting the real-world component (human actor) to the digital component (computer-generated world) by projecting their silhouette onto the planes of the digital set. Shadow also creates a sense of spatial depth or layering within the sometimes planar world of CG sets, helping fill out the digital models and visually extending their forms into three dimensions.


Shane Neill
Lighting and varying vantage points are used in the scenes of the film as cinematic devices. Explain how these can be used as effects to differently portray the scene as opposed to a singular vantage point and uniform lighting.

Chiaroscuro and perspective are the principle means in Western art by which the perception of multi-dimensional space is visually created in two dimensions. Though they might be understood to be two parts of the same perspectivizing practice, in fact chiaroscuro predates the ‘scientific perspective’ developed by Brunelleschi and Alberti in the early 15th century. (cf. Bell) And interestingly, with the modern development of photography, chiaroscuro is the means by which photography most idiomatically creates space. In On Photography, Susan Sontag explains:

The camera’s translation of reality into highly polarized areas of light and dark, the free or arbitrary cropping of the image in photographs, the indifference of photographers to making space, particularly background space, intelligible—these were the main inspiration for the Impressionist painters’ professions of scientific interest in the properties of light, for their experiments in flattened perspective and unfamiliar angles and decentralized forms that are sliced off by the picture’s edge. (Sontag, 92)
Film, as a media of moving images and spatial representation of figures, must overcome the camera’s abstraction of space from the frame. The tendency toward chiaroscuro must be tempered with the calculated construction and manipulation of perspective. The calibration of the two techniques capacitates the unfolding of space as a cinematic effect.

In expository scenes, lighting and perspective are often generalized or complicit with one another. Why is this so? At the beginning of any work, be it musical, literary, or cinematic, the work is in binary opposition to the audience. The work and the world it conveys is outside or ‘other’ to the audience. As the audience gradually assumes a suspension of disbelief, this binary opposition dissolves, ‘breaking the fourth wall,’ and creating the opportunity for the introduction of a secondary ‘other’ within the work. Though this secondary opposition can be abstract, such as a moral ambiguity, or an atmospheric or phenomenal dissonance, its presence creates a spatial and/or temporal duality. This is wherein the use of chiaroscuro and perspective become special effects; in conveying the spatial overlapping or in the simultaneity of such oppositions.  

In the scene between the queen and Theron, each character opposes the other on the moral/legal question of Leonides’ actions: the queen in favour, Theron opposed. The representation of their characters together in this scene presents the simultaneous spatialization of the dramatic opposition. Perspective and chiaroscuro are used to spatially define their moral position. The queen’s illuminous presence within the shadows is outside the space and light source of perspective that constructs the rest of the frame wherein the out-of-frame moon casts light slightly askew to the perspectival geometry and obscures Theron in shadow. As the scene progresses and her position is morally and visually compromised or equivocated with that of Theron, the frame shifts to cast them in the same centred perspective. Both figures are drenched in shadows against the distant light source that fades into the foreground. At the end of the scene the frame abstracts their figures, focusing on their shadows cast onto the ground. Their shadows are visually and morally upside down; the high angle of the perspective is subverted to the geometry of the light source casting the two figures. The geometry of the chiaroscuro renders a false sense of perspective—the lines of which if traced cast the characters beyond the geometrical vanishing point. Admittedly, this is a highly-overwrought reading of an effect which was most likely conceived through intuition, but it underscores the possibility of future intentional manipulations of the two spatializing methods.

From a technical standpoint, given that the film is largely shot against a green screen, the emphasis of chiaroscuro over perspective is natural. Because the frames are often physically shallow, with grandiose extra-perspectival natural or Romantic back drops post-processed in, there is not enough physical space to create realistic perspective without Palladian theatrical tricks. Depth isexpressed through the tension between the angularity of distorted perspective coupled with skewed light sources. As space can be seen or experienced to be constructed, it takes on a fictive or imaginary nature. In the acknowledgement that it is not ‘real’ and in the exploitation of tension to create it, space is more easily imbued with narrative or special effect. Concluding with Deleuze:

We have seen how Expressionism operates with darkness and light, the opaque black background and the luminous principle: the two powers couple together gripping like wrestlers, giving space a great depth, a prominent and distorted perspective, which will be filled with shadows, sometimes in the form of all the degrees of chiaroscuro, sometimes in the form of alternating and contrasted streaks. A ‘Gothic’ world, which drowns and breaks the contours, which endows things with a non-organic life in which they lose their individuality, and which potentialises space, whilst making it something unlimited. Depth is the location of the struggle, which sometimes draws space into the botomlessness of a black hole, and sometimes draws it towards the light. (Deleuze, 111)

Bell, Janis Callen. "Chiaroscuro." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 31 Oct. 2011

Bell, Janis Callen. "Perspective." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 31 Oct. 2011

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1977.


Michelle Greyling
Face shots are portrayed differently throughout the film. What is the effect of this particular framing (cutting off the top/bottom of the head) as opposed to shooting full face? Why do you think the director has chosen this type of view? How does the aspect ratio of the film feed into this type of framing?

Face shots in the film "300" are portrayed with either the top of the head or both the top and bottom of the head cut off. The film "300" is captured in Panavision format with a very wide ratio of 2.40:1. The primary reason for manner facial shots are captured in "300" is the result or consequence of the aspect ratio which is said to be 2.35:1. This ratio however is noted to be rather the actual ratio of 2.39:1 which is labelled 2.40:1 by the American Society of cinematographers but is often wrongfully called 2.35:1 due to old habit. It is noted also that only the cinema films prior to 1970 actually used the 2.35: 1 aspect ratio.

In "300" the horizontal ratio is significantly higher than the vertical ratio and if compared to 4:3 (1.33: 1) result in vary different emphasis of subject matter and background scenes. This aspect ratio compared to 4:3 tends to capture the horizontal components of a scene rather than the vertical. The movie "300" often depicts large groups of soldiers standing side by side in a horizontal linear formation which would not be possible with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The aspect ratio of 2.40: 1 is thus used to enable the depiction of an enormous amount of people who often is ordered in war-like patterns in a single scene. The vastness of the mountaineous background is another scene that is elevated by the aspect ratio. Here the aspect ratio allows for the celebration of a large and vast landscape that is seemingly untouchable. This fantastic depth is created by the combination of the significant background image and the ability of the camera to capture it. This is of such great importance in films that have been captured in front of green or blue screens (chroma key). Chroma key films require a large amount of post production to create background scenes that accurately and realistically play into the film. In "300" the aspect ratio allow for radical manipulation of the background implementation during post production to create the scenes fit for the film. The theme of the movie is accurately expressed due to the use of such a wide screen and the larger variations of the horizontal and vertical components of the aspect ratio.

On the contrary however this tends to be a give and take situation. When the camera zooms toward a subject, cropping occurs due to the wide aspect ratio. In the instances where the camera is required to portray close-ups or extreme close-ups of facial expression, the geometry of the face does not allow for a full facial shot. As result the top of the head is cut off in mid close ups and both the top and the bottom of the head is cut off in close-ups and extreme close-ups. The closest that the camera is able to get to the face with this aspect ratio without cutting of the eyes or mouth result in the top and bottom of the face is cut off.

When the camera is required to shoot a medium close-up only the top of the head is cut off due to the fact that the frame is required to show the neck and shoulders of the character. In the cases where clothing or jewelry is wrapped around the chin and the chest the camera films the shot to include these. Naturally, the less the camera is zoomed-in toward the subject the larger the frame and thus allowing the neck and chest to be included and only the top of the head to be cut off. The medium close-up and close up shots tend to emphasize the eyes and the emotion of the character. The closer the frame to the subject the bigger the facial features. Further emphasis lie with capturing the expression and the emotion of the figure rather than the visual image of the actor. A full face shot would reveal the aesthetics of the character's clothes and reveal the body language and not the emotive characteristics of facial expression. A full facial shot is possible when the camera frames a mid shot. The camera is allowed to take the shot without zooming to the full extend which result in a full facial shot without the top or bottom cut off.

Close up shots in the film provides a deeper perception of the character and what his or her intentions are. The aspect ratio of 2.40:1 allows for large horizontal scene depictions but cause the parts of close ups to be cut off.



Richard D'Allessandro
The credits take on a different form of animation and in doing so depict a different version of the film and its relation to the graphic novel on which it was based. Elaborate.

The opening credits of a film, should the producers opt for the traditional opening credits versus the more recently made popular ending credits, occupy an important moment precluding the actual viewing of the film.  This brief but captious moment signifies the beginning of the cinematic experience; where the audience rests their corporeal selves in the darkness and the mental link between screen and story is formed.  Introducing the creators and artisans responsible for the production, first and foremost, is arguably an appropriate use of such a sensitive and precarious span of the audience’s attention.  Accompanying the opening credits with some sort of backdrop has also been common practice since the advent of film and film screenings.  Though, while the cinematic complexity of this backdrop has been known to vary a great deal, it has quite consistently been used as a clever introductory device.  Whether this device is characterized by simple graphics or a series of abstractly shot scenes, the definite intent is to introduce the mood of the film.  More aptly, this can be defined as the general effect of the film, cinematic method of storytelling, or the more subtle visual and even acoustic qualities of the experience to come.
In fairness to the audience, makers of comic book-to-film adaptations have a considerably wider gap to bridge before the opening credits stop rolling.  In translating a story from one very visually based artistic medium to another, serious decisions would have been made by the film makers in regards to the aforementioned effect of the film.  Comic books, after all, employ a very particular method of storytelling, one which is even more particular between artists.  In Zack Snyder’s film 300, the producers have seized this likely opportunity to acclimate the viewer appropriately.  By delicately animating selections of original comic book content, on which the film is directly based, a middle ground is reached which serves as a comfortable medium and point of transition between graphic novel and film.  The director, Zack Snyder, also holds the original work, by Frank Miller, in profoundly high regard, having a sort of reverent attitude in his creative approach that should be established explicitly.  On that note, this transition effectively preserves the language of the story’s original telling while inviting a comprehensible comparison between the two ways of telling it.

For those not familiar with the original work, the animated series of opening credits serves as a sort of visual primer, one which is much needed for those who are accustomed to the more traditional effects of film or whom are not overly familiar with the visual language of graphic novels.  Perhaps more importantly, for those already familiar with the Frank Miller’s story and his way of telling it, these opening credits are a diplomatic gesture of good will.  While settling expectations and putting those potential concerns for the integrity of the original work to rest, it braces those skeptics for their beloved story to be told under the guise of film and its own unique effect.


Talayeh Hamidya
There are numerous instances in the film where the colour from one scene changes to the next. How is fire used as a transition element in this scene to change colours? Does this work better or worse than other parts of the film where the hue changes?



Maryam Abedini Rad
Discuss the use of slow motion and other effects to both suppress and accentuate the graphic nature of the violence of battle in the film.

Slow motion is ubiquitous in modern filmmaking. It is used by a diverse range of directors to achieve diverse effects. Slow motion is used widely in action films for dramatic effect or commonly used to show in detail some actions.It can also be used for artistic effect, to create a romantic or suspenseful aura or to stress a moment in time.

Bullet time effect is a special and visual effect that refers to a digitally enhanced simulation of variable-speed (i.e. slow motiontime-lapse, etc.) photography used in films, broadcast advertisements, and video games. It is characterized both by its extreme transformation of time (slow enough to show normally imperceptible and unfilmable events, such as flying bullets) and space (by way of the ability of the camera angle—the audience's point-of-view—to move around the scene at a normal speed while events are slowed).The bullet time effect was originally achieved photographically by a set of still cameras surrounding the subject. The cameras are fired sequentially, or all at the same time, depending on the desired effect. Single frames from each camera are then arranged and displayed consecutively to produce an orbiting viewpoint of an action frozen in time or as hyper-slow-motion. This technique suggests the limitless perspectives and variable frame rates possible with a virtual camera. However, if the still array process is done with real cameras, it is often limited to assigned paths.

In recent years, mainly after 1995, directors use slow motion (abbreviated as slomo or bullet time) for other purposes. Sometimes they use a very special slomo effect to impress the audience with details of every movement of the main characters.
The movie 300, by Zack Snyder was released in 2006. The director used slomo in a different way. This movie was shot with three cameras running at different focal lengths, and all running at 120fps. Then in post production, they were taken into a time-line, and speed ramped between 24fps and back to 120fps, and morphed between the three cameras for the effect.

The first violent scene starts off when little Leonidas brutally punches another child in the face; blood is shown all over his fists. Second is pretty much when teenage Leonidas finds a black wolf and kills it by jamming a pointy piece of wood through his mouth or in another scene when the camera focuses on 2 Spartans fighting side by side and one of them get’s his head decapitated, then the father of the Spartan goes into a blood lust, he kills everything in his path, no honor, only revenge.

There are lots of slow motion hack and slash with swords, spears and shields flying every which way in relentless battle scenes. The explicit violence is of an exaggerated nature, exemplified by the blood droplets that float about as if suspended in animation.

In the battle scenes, there are some important and some unimportant moments. For example, when two men are fighting and finally one of them kills the other one with his sword, the moment of hitting the man with the sword is the most important moment.

What the director and the editor do for this scene is showing us a slomo film of this fight. When they are fighting nonsense, the speed slowly goes up (to ignore the inactive moments, and when the important moment comes (the moment of sticking the sword into the enemy's body) it slows down again to impress the audience and punctuate the moment of victory). When the enemy is killed and falls on the ground, the speed goes up again (it's not important) but when his blood sprays in the air, it slows down again to show this violent detail... so the audience sees exactly what the director wants to be seen: the moment of killing, the blood in the air and etc.

In some scenes, the director uses this type of effect to ignore a predictable motion or act. For example, when a man falls into that deep hole, we see the moment of falling down in slomo, but the rest of this scene (which is completely predictable: man falling down and getting smaller and smaller) is shown in fast motion.

In summary, Zack Snyder has used three different speeds for his movie: slow motion, regular motion and fast motion. The scenes that are important are shown in slow motion, the dialogues are in regular motion and unimportant or predictable scenes are in fast motion. This gives the audience a unique experience; he just sees important scenes and dramatic effects or details.



Jamie Usas
Speak to the transformation of the graphic novel to a film. How does this affect view, camera angle and dialogue? How are film effects used to accommodate this transformation?

300, directed by Zack Snyder and adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novel by the same title, successfully transforms a graphic work into a cinematic experience.  The impact of 300’s highly visual style, however, is not the result of any one effect, but a carefully composed composite of varying subtle effects. Through the use of speed ramping, matte painting and forced perspective, Snyder has broken notable ground in the contemporary field of the comic-to-film adaptation genre.  The film employs a ubiquitous use of speed ramping (shifting from fast to slow-motion) that functions to abstract moments in time into a nearly graphic cell stillness, which distances the viewer from the extreme violence of the film and effectively suggests a certain beauty and gracefulness to the act of war.  As all of production was located within the confines of a sound stage, the in-camera depth of every shot was reduced to foreground and mid-ground, leaving nearly all background imagery to the hands of matte painting artists.  This consistent flattening of each image acts as a subtle device to again distance the viewer from a sense of reality within the frame and maintain a graphic novel quality to each image.  Synder’s subtle distortions of reality continue through the use of forced perspectives, achieved by employing the effects of matte painting to the foreground and mid-ground of the frame, reducing and exaggerating the depth, achieving a certain graphic quality to the image.  Combining these visual effects, Snyder has done justice to the often disappointing adaptation of anime to live-action.  If a shortcoming must be related as resulting from Snyder’s treatment of 300, it is no doubt in the simplistic use of dialogue throughout the film.  While effective in the medium of graphic novels, the choppy dialogue of 300 does little to draw the viewer into the film and sadly acts more to distract than suspend disbelief. 



updated 22-Dec-2011 2:28 PM

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