Rutgers University Press

Techniques of the Moving Image

Murray Pomerance

Published by: Rutgers University Press

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Techniques of the Moving Image

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Death of the Moguls

The End of Classical Hollywood

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Death of the Moguls is a detailed assessment of the last days of the “rulers of film.” Wheeler Winston Dixon examines the careers of such moguls as Harry Cohn at Columbia, Louis B. Mayer at MGM, Jack L. Warner at Warner Brothers, Adolph Zukor at Paramount, and Herbert J. Yates at Republic in the dying days of their once-mighty empires. He asserts that the sheer force of personality and business acumen displayed by these moguls made the studios successful; their deaths or departures hastened the studios’ collapse. Almost none had a plan for leadership succession; they simply couldn't imagine a world in which they didn’t reign supreme. Covering 20th Century-Fox, Selznick International Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Republic Pictures, Monogram Pictures and Columbia Pictures, Dixon briefly introduces the studios and their respective bosses in the late 1940s, just before the collapse, then chronicles the last productions from the studios and their eventual demise in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He details such game-changing factors as the de Havilland decision, which made actors free agents; the Consent Decree, which forced the studios to get rid of their theaters; how the moguls dealt with their collapsing empires in the television era; and the end of the conventional studio assembly line, where producers had rosters of directors, writers, and actors under their command. Complemented by rare, behind-the-scenes stills, Death of the Moguls is a compelling narrative on the end of the studio system at each of the Hollywood majors as television, the de Havilland decision, and the Consent Decree forced studios to slash payrolls, make the shift to color, 3D, and CinemaScope in desperate last-ditch efforts to save their kingdoms. The aftermath for some was the final switch to television production and, in some cases, the distribution of independent film.

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Designing Sound

Audiovisual Aesthetics in 1970s American Cinema

Jay Beck

The late 1960s and 1970s are widely recognized as a golden age for American film, as directors like Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Martin Scorsese expanded the Hollywood model with aesthetically innovative works. As this groundbreaking new study reveals, those filmmakers were blessed with more than just visionary eyes; Designing Sound focuses on how those filmmakers also had keen ears that enabled them to perceive new possibilities for cinematic sound design.  
 
Offering detailed case studies of key films and filmmakers, Jay Beck explores how sound design was central to the era’s experimentation with new modes of cinematic storytelling. He demonstrates how sound was key to many directors’ signature aesthetics, from the overlapping dialogue that contributes to Robert Altman’s naturalism to the wordless interludes at the heart of Terrence Malick’s lyricism. Yet the book also examines sound design as a collaborative process, one where certain key directors ceded authority to sound technicians who offered significant creative input.   
 
Designing Sound provides readers with a fresh take on a much-studied era in American film, giving a new appreciation of how artistry emerged from a period of rapid industrial and technological change. Filled with rich behind-the-scenes details, the book vividly conveys how sound practices developed by 1970s filmmakers changed the course of American cinema. 
 

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The Eyes Have It

Cinema and the Reality Effect

Murray Pomerance

The Eyes Have It explores those rarified screen moments when viewers are confronted by sights that seem at once impossible and present, artificial and stimulating, illusory and definitive.

Beginning with a penetrating study of five cornfield sequences—including The Wizard of Oz, Arizona Dream, and Signs—Murray Pomerance journeys through a vast array of cinematic moments, technical methods, and laborious collaborations from the 1930s to the 2000s to show how the viewer's experience of "reality" is put in context, challenged, and willfully engaged.

Four meditations deal with “reality effects” from different philosophical and technical angles. “Vivid Rivals” assesses active participation and critical judgment in seeing effects with such works as Defiance, Cloverfield, Knowing, Thelma & Louise, and more. “The Two of Us” considers double placement and doubled experience with such films as The Prestige, Niagara, and A Stolen Life. “Being There” discusses cinematic performance and the problems of believability, highlighting such films as Gran Torino, The Manchurian Candidate,  In Harm’s Way, and other films. “Fairy Land” explores the art of scenic backing, focusing on the fictional world of Brigadoon, which borrows from both hard-edged realism and evocative landscape painting.

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Hidden in Plain Sight

An Archaeology of Magic and the Cinema

Colin Williamson

What does it mean to describe cinematic effects as “movie magic,” to compare filmmakers to magicians, or to say that the cinema is all a “trick”? The heyday of stage illusionism was over a century ago, so why do such performances still serve as a key reference point for understanding filmmaking, especially now that so much of the cinema rests on the use of computers?
 
To answer these questions, Colin Williamson situates film within a long tradition of magical practices that combine art and science, involve deception and discovery, and evoke two forms of wonder—both awe at the illusion displayed and curiosity about how it was performed. He thus considers how, even as they mystify audiences, cinematic illusions also inspire them to learn more about the technologies and techniques behind moving images. Tracing the overlaps between the worlds of magic and filmmaking, Hidden in Plain Sight examines how professional illusionists and their tricks have been represented onscreen, while also considering stage magicians who have stepped behind the camera, from Georges Méliès to Ricky Jay.
 
Williamson offers an insightful, wide-ranging investigation of how the cinema has functioned as a “device of wonder” for more than a century, while also exploring how several key filmmakers, from Orson Welles to Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese, employ the rhetoric of magic. Examining pre-cinematic visual culture, animation, nonfiction film, and the digital trickery of today’s CGI spectacles, Hidden in Plain Sight provides an eye-opening look at the powerful ways that magic has shaped our modes of perception and our experiences of the cinema. 

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Making Believe

Screen Performance and Special Effects in Popular Cinema

Lisa Bode

In the past twenty years, we have seen the rise of digital effects cinema in which the human performer is entangled with animation, collaged with other performers, or inserted into perilous or fantastic situations and scenery. Making Believe sheds new light on these developments by historicizing screen performance within the context of visual and special effects cinema and technological change in Hollywood filmmaking, through the silent, early sound, and current digital eras.
 
Making Believe incorporates North American film reviews and editorials, actor and crew interviews, trade and fan magazine commentary, actor training manuals, and film production publicity materials to discuss the shifts in screen acting practice and philosophy around transfiguring makeup, doubles, motion capture, and acting to absent places or characters. Along the way it considers how performers and visual and special effects crew work together, and struggle with the industry, critics, and each other to define the aesthetic value of their work, in an industrial system of technological reproduction. Bode opens our eyes to the performing illusions we love and the tensions we experience in wanting to believe in spite of our knowledge that it is all make believe in the end.
 

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Moving Color

Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism

Joshua Yumibe

Color was used in film well before The Wizard of Oz. Thomas Edison, for example, projected two-colored films at his first public screening in New York City on April 23, 1896. These first colors of early cinema were not photographic; they were applied manually through a variety of laborious processes—most commonly by the hand-coloring and stenciling of prints frame by frame, and the tinting and toning of films in vats of chemical dyes. The results were remarkably beautiful.

 Moving Color is the first book-length study of the beginnings of color cinema. Looking backward, Joshua Yumibe traces the legacy of color history from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the cinema of the early twentieth century. Looking forward, he explores the implications of this genealogy on experimental and contemporary digital cinemas in which many colors have become, once again, vividly unhinged from photographic reality. Throughout this history, Moving Color revolves around questions pertaining to the sensuousness of color: how color moves us in the cinema—visually, emotionally, and physically.

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Shot on Location

Postwar American Cinema and the Exploration of Real Place

R. Barton Palmer

In the early days of filmmaking, before many of Hollywood’s elaborate sets and soundstages had been built, it was common for movies to be shot on location. Decades later, Hollywood filmmakers rediscovered the practice of using real locations and documentary footage in their narrative features. Why did this happen? What caused this sudden change? Renowned film scholar R. Barton Palmer answers this question in Shot on Location by exploring the historical, ideological, economic, and technological developments that led Hollywood to head back outside in order to capture footage of real places. His groundbreaking research reveals that wartime newsreels had a massive influence on postwar Hollywood film, although there are key distinctions to be made between these movies and their closest contemporaries, Italian neorealist films. Considering how these practices were used in everything from war movies like Twelve O’Clock High to westerns like The Searchers, Palmer explores how the blurring of the formal boundaries between cinematic journalism and fiction lent a “reality effect” to otherwise implausible stories. Shot on Location describes how the period’s greatest directors, from Alfred Hitchcock to Billy Wilder, increasingly moved beyond the confines of the studio. At the same time, the book acknowledges the collaborative nature of moviemaking, identifying key roles that screenwriters, art designers, location scouts, and editors played in incorporating actual geographical locales and social milieus within a fictional framework. Palmer thus offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood transformed the way we view real spaces.

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