HOW-TO: “Prisoners”, lensed by Roger Deakins, ASC

WELCOME to my short HOW-TO blog series referenced from some of my favorite films. We can go into scenes taken from classics all the way to modern films of today.

Our first example is the excellent film, Prisoners, directed by Denis Villeneuve and lensed by Roger Deakins, ASC.

As a departure from his previous film, Skyfall, Roger returned to a simpler, low-tech style of photography, which gave the overall story a more “human” and intimate approach.

Here’s one example, taken from a super-tense scene within the film.

Prisoners- Roger Deakins, ASC

You can see here the classic frame within a frame approach, which is among my favorite techniques. It doesn’t need a close up or an OTS shot of any sort, though the latter may have been good for a differing style. However, the medium-wide shot of this, framed within a frame added A LOT of tension to the scene, as the viewer may expect something horrific to take place. It really jumps out at you.

Lastly, check out the single-source light Roger has used. No need for any fill or even a highlight of any sort (with about a 3200-kelvin temperature). It’s possible that this light source was about a 250-500w source to give enough exposure based on the Alexa’s native 800 ASA rating. As a result, the dank, dreary bathroom is emphasized more by leaving the image simply lit and in my opinion, that much creepier.

What are some of your favorite single-source lit scenes? Share in your comments below.

One thought on “HOW-TO: “Prisoners”, lensed by Roger Deakins, ASC

  1. finaldraftjunki Levan Reginald Hines says:

    Deakins is so boss… Dude, the frame within a frame shot adds so much gravity… when he did it in Shawshank, during the escape reveal, magical… and then using the available light source in the bathroom reminds me of Barton Fink… setting a warm glow upon the developing horror on the performers faces, while not fighting the almost sinister feel of that bathroom, which becomes a beautifully retched accompanist… In the end it provides sort of this new and unsettling information in the frame about what depths these characters have delved… He is too good

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