Orson Welles used these 7 Secrets of Cinematic Composition. Just copy it.
Articles Blog

Orson Welles used these 7 Secrets of Cinematic Composition. Just copy it.

October 12, 2019


Point a camera at anything and you have a
composition. The hard part is to design cinematic shots that don’t call attention to themselves
yet are so powerful your eyes can’t look away. Orson Welles is one of the greatest masters
of cinematic framing, if not the greatest. So who better to learn from? In this video
let’s go over seven techniques Welles consistently used to get great compositions every single
time. Number One. The power of black One of the strongest ways to draw the eye
is contrast. And nothing is more contrasty than pure black over white. Welles goes out of his way to put some characters
in complete silhouettes while others are brightly lit. The effect is of your eye racing from
one to the other, creating movement and rhythm, even if nothing is moving. Number Two. Layers of light and shadow Black and white was too easy for Welles. He
took it to another level. He had layers of white and black, as much
as was practically possible with the equipment he had. Take a look at this magnificent shot
from The Magnificent Ambersons. There’s the foreground layer in shadow.
The subjects well lit. The third layer is the pots and pans in total shadow. The fourth
layer is the bright room beyond that. And the final fifth layer is the rain outside.
Everything is in focus. Your eyes are free to roam and look at whatever they may please. The scene remains static for most of its duration,
and there is so much richness you don’t get bored looking at the shot. Now you know
why. Number Three. The Dutch Angle Welles used lateral movement. He used depth.
But he also used roll, or what is popularly known as the dutch angle. Anybody who has shot for a while knows how
tacky the dutch angle can become if used incorrectly. So it takes great courage to use it consistently,
like in this opening scene in Othello. It is a monumental event, and it needed that
one extra thing. In this case, the dutch angle was that thing. Number Four. Movement in a fixed frame This is one of the most powerful compositional
techniques available to filmmakers. Blocking. Let’s take this seemingly simple shot from
the beginning of the Magnificent Ambersons. These ladies are talking about the Ambersons.
Anybody else would have used close ups or kept it simple. I don’t have to say anything. Watch the
choreography here. It’s like a dance. If you’re wondering what lens you should
use to get this kind of composition, then that’s – Number Five. The Wide Angle Lens This allows you to move people like pieces
on a chessboard. You can position them in the foreground and background, and still have
enough space to have your subjects in the middle. On top of that, you add – Number Six. Long Takes with Camera Movement. If you know anything about Orson Welles, you
probably know he is the father of the long take. What he achieved with the limited equipment
he had is astounding. Even today with all the lightweight gear we have filmmakers are
dead scared to attempt the long take. Orson Welles said it best: The ability to create
mind blowing long takes is what separates the men from the boys. If you want a few examples to study, then
nothing beats the opening scene in Touch of Evil, where the camera moves from one part
of the city to the other. The butchered ballroom shot in the Magnificent Ambersons is another
excellent example, and of course, Citizen Kane has many, the most famous being the lodge
scene. Number Seven. Take Risks This is the crux of it all. You can have all
the ideas in the world but to execute them you need to have the courage to believe in
yourself. I cannot find a better example than the room of mirrors scene in The Lady from
Shanghai. You might have seen copycat scenes in many other movies, but this is still the
best. Why? Because it takes the idea as far as it
can go. The compositional variety in this scene is just on another level. If you are
interested in camera angles and framing then be sure to watch my next few videos and please
subscribe now if you haven’t already. After you subscribe, don’t forget to hit the bell
you’ll see on the right, so that you won’t miss any new videos.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Even though he is a legend, I think he is a little under appreciated. If he had died young his status would have been secure.

  2. Thank you my friend! Great stuff! What do you think of Abbas Kiarostami? Would be a nice video! Cheers!

  3. Hi,
    Nice review. But it would be nice of you if you could do a review about the cinematographers that had been used by Alfred Hitchcock. Most of his shots would be long shots, the camera starts from the second floor and follows straight down to
    the ground floor, where one of his characters would be having the key that is required to open the door, which moves the story further. Though he is a director, his cinematography would be excellent. Its what people basically call Camera Choreography. According to me, the cinematography of Alfred Hitchcock is pretty excellent to the extent that camera also plays a character in his movie.
    Have you seen my channel ? Please do a review about one footage called "Sootchamam". Waiting for your reply or comment. My whatsapp no is +91 9962867473. Good work. Keep it up. Expecting more reviews from you.

  4. I don't know how you were able to put so much useful information to have a general idea of so many techniques in less than 5 minutes, but you did it. Great video.

  5. Great stuff as always!

    I'd love to see you do another video on Sergio Leone some time. He's my all-time favorite and I'm always yearning to learn more of his methods and techniques!

  6. Welles was no doubt a genius. But Citizen Kane was his first movie and he knew nothing about cinematography at the time. He learned from and collaborated with DP Greg Toland, who translated Welles' ideas onto film. Welles contained to use and developed what he learned from Toland for the rest of his career. But ascribing the brilliance of so many shots and compositions to Welles alone is a mistake.

  7. It certainly helped coming from theater. Modern filmmakers that do not have this in their arsenal, suffer. They have to do close-ups because everyone does close-ups. Plus, what would the poor editors do without them?

  8. …WHATS BEST IS WHEN U TALK ABOUT CAMERA ANGLES U NOT ONLY TALK ABOUT FRAMING AND COMPOSITION BUT TALK ABOUT HOW CINEMATOGRAPHY IS SEAMLESSLY INTEGRATED WITH PRODUCTION DESIGN BEST EXAMPLE IS UR POST ON SERGIO LEONE ……THANKS FOR NEW ONE

  9. Is it only Welles or also the credit should goes to the Cinematogrephers??
    I know that after all it's the director's vision that we are watching but in case of the lighting and camera movements, it's not only Welles(the director).

  10. Very good observations, thanks! Shared on Photo Ten Five https://phototenfive.com/ (PS you have #4 marked as #3)

  11. Please do a camera angles and composition video on the final sequence of SUICIDE SQUAD….. please

  12. Hi loving the content . I’m a professional camera operator and I have to say you are 100% clued in to what’s important and relevant . Which is not easy with the sea of media content . My personal hate is the over use of shallow depth of field . It’s just a technique however it’s lazy and over used. It takes very little effort . The framing and real compositional skills are lost because of the bokeh obsession we see in photography and video work. Shallow depth of field has its place but like a pan or camera move that’s unmotivated its lazy and jarring . I’d love you to do more videos on the deep shot . On deep composition . Sorry for the rant 😊. What did you think of Mark cousins Story of Film

  13. Loved this Sareesh, thank you as always — sincerely appreciate the insight and instruction as well as the great finds. Ps the new 'pointer-fingers' on the screen are great and help a lot with the narrative you're providing.

  14. I wonder what Orson Welles style I can,t tell it so hard to describe his style on google or YouTube and I like that he puts light in foreground and silhouette the background or the reverse very interesting this may be his trademark.

  15. Great scenes! But, an aspiring director may just use those techniques indiscriminatorily and achieve little. I think, it wasn't so much the wish for unusual cinematography that facilitated those movie scenes but Orson Welle's experience in theator and staging of scenes there. This and a will for filmic expressionism. As you showed for example, he invented a certain style of "choreography" instead of back and forth cuts in some scenes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *