Director of Photography Breakdown - Roger Deakins
Roger Deakins. A man who has developed the irrefutablereputation of a cinematographer with unmatched consistency. If he works on amovie, it looks good. His style is often referenced for what we have come toexpect in aesthetically pleasing contemporary cinema. In this post I willattempt to break down constant techniques he uses and develop through linesbetween films.
Deakins is a master of the extreme wide shot.Perfect lens choice and composition allow him to establish space like no other.Often these shots are used at the beginning or end of a scene to lead us intoor ease us out of a moment. I find that when I experience shots like thisviscerally, with the character, it provides a perfect entrance into the headspace of the characters within the scene. The shot from Skyfall (upper middle shot) is not only incredible to look at, but it is used as an opener to establish the emotional turmoil he is experiencing by returning to the harsh and unrelenting landscape of his childhood. In the top shot from True Grit, the shot is used to establish the isolation and privacy Mattie hops to experience when visiting the grave of Rooster.
I think these are my personal favourites when it comes to Deakins work. Every establishing shot is on point. Not only are they all composed to perfection, but the slight tweaks in variety keep them interesting. I found 4 examples in which the subjects are never in the same part of the frame. On top of that, he uses leading lines and lens choice to create depth and completely establishes colour palette for every scene with these awesome shots.
Although there are only two examples here, they are the perfect ones to represent the strength in Deakins’ mid shots. For the first shot, both the vertical and horizontal thirds are filled with interesting material. It creates immediate depth with the shallower depth of field, with the closer out of focus grass, the subject and then finally the fence trees and sky outside the focal plane. In the second shot from Prisoners it demonstrates Deakins’ excellent use of the leading lines in the desk to draw our eye to the subject in the center of the frame. It is also a perfect representation of his use of practical’s to light a subject in low light.
Finally the close ups, the bread and butter of most DP’s. Deakin’s is definitely a fan of unconventional these types of shots. These frames scream unconventional, from a close up with no light on the subject, to the side view of the parked car, they are trying to break the mold of what we expect from an average close up shot. Why follow the textbook when you can create your own.