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Silent films are films that lack conversations and the characters communicate through actions or body movements. In some cases, communications is assisted by background music and subtitles. This paper outlines the shooting of three clips from three films of the silent era. It analyzes the shooting of the scenes and presents the character-constituent of the scenes by outlining both the content and the form of the scenes.
The Train Wreck In the Film “The General”
This scene is credited as the most expensive shot in the Silent film period. I watched the clip from the documentary of some of the most expensive shots in the silent film era. This scene was shot in a conifer forest at the outskirts of the Cottage Grove town. The filming involved a solo shooting with a real train and a dummy engineer as can be witnessed by the white arm emerging from the conductor’s window. The scene showed real shocked faces of Union officials who because the characters that played them were not aware of what was to unfold. The scene was so realistic that observers who had come to witness the drama screamed with terror.
The train wreck scene took a long time to organize. The crew arrived at the Cottage Grove with several freight Civil War Cannons and started the setting of the scene on May 27, 1926. This involved construction of passenger railroads, stagecoaches and some houses. The filmmakers used a combination of still and mobile cameras. The mobile cameras were used to film the moving trains. This involved the use of Bell and Howell cameras that were placed on a rebuilt automobile. This was driven along the roads constructed beside the rail tracks. Still cameras were placed on top of railroad flat automobiles whenever they used the parallel tracks. The filming thus used a combination of both long and short shots. One can observe the train moving and the terrified faces of the Union Officials. The scene ends with the train crashing and the wreck falling into the river.
This shot increased enhanced my knowledge on silent film clip shooting because I never believed before that such a shooting could be scary even to the observers. I also learnt that characters in a film do not necessarily understand or have knowledge of the outcomes of a scene as evidence by the characters playing the Union Officials in this scene.
The scene picking drowned woman
This is a scene from the film The Phantom Carriage. The Phantom Carriage is an outstanding and captivating movie that is a true illustration of the triumph of silent films. It has an amazing quality that can be observed in almost all of its scenes. I watched this film from a documentary about the shooting of the film. The scene features Sjostrom as he descends to collect a woman who had drowned. The rescue team first descends into the sea and then moves underground to rescue the woman. The scene is too scary such that one has to see it first in order to believe.
The filmmakers used still cameras in close range because it was an indoor filming. The crew used a sophisticated double coverage shooting to create unique effects for this and the rest of the scenes. They deployed superimposed images to as many as four times using different lighting for each of them to create scary images. This technique created an aspect of three-dimension that improved the quality of the movie.
This scene enabled me to understand how desperation and rage can is created in shooting a film. The shooting frame shows the rescue team descending to the sea and moving in the waters in search of the woman. In this scene, the faces of the characters particularly Sjostrom send a message of anger and desperation, which eliminate the need for conversation.
The Miners’ Desperate Plan
This is a scene from the film “The Gold Rush” by Charles Chaplin. I watched the clip from a documentary of the shooting of film. The crew started by creating an Alaskan snows cape in the Hollywood studio. This involved constructing a realistic minuscule mountain range out of wood, wire, plaster and other components. The studio crew also improvised superb molds to create the special effects to liken the miners hut. The miners can be seen in the flame while preparing for their mission while in the hut. Their hut is located deep into the Alaska forest.
The shooting used mobile cameras because it involved the filming of four cars and four trucks of carrying the miners on their way from a military operation. The miners were travelling towards the Alaska forest to execute their mission of getting gold. Four camera crews and a helicopter were involved in the shooting. The vehicles carrying the miners as well as the cameras were in motion while taking the shots. There was a combination of both long-range and short-range shots in the filming. The long-range shots were used in filming the moving vehicles while short-range shots were used in the miners hut.
I learnt from this shooting that some of the scenes in films are created by studio technicians in Hollywood and are not necessary shot from the areas the viewer watches.
I have learnt several things from doing this assignment. One of the most important things I have learnt is that silent movies can be edited in the Hollywood studios to include additional features such as sound effects to make them quality pieces to watch. This is evidenced by the production of the edited version of Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush”. I have also learnt shooting of films is an expensive experience takes a lot of time. This is because it involves the preparation and planning to acquire all the necessary equipments for the shooting. Finally, I have learnt several details associated with the shooting of films including technical aspects such as camera position and creation of special effects in films.