Ohh it is 2020 and everybody is a traveller, movie buff, critique, teacher, philosopher, photographer and filmmaker. Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a world in which everybody can be somebody even without being 2% of the person they claim to be, of course, I am talking about the cinema buffs creating amazing ‘cinematic’ films for YouTube and Instagram.
Vertical is the new norm, it’s the future. What use are those 70mm cinema halls when a great piece of cinematic video can be enjoyed on your smartphone 24×7, 365?
But.. is it really cinema? I mean really?
Your Red camera footage no doubt looks impeccable, the colours are perfect, the framing is top-notch, and the camera movements make my head turn but do they make me feel anything other than awe for the first 30 seconds of the video? Most of these ‘cinematic’ videos we see on YouTube and Instagram are travel videos with no substance, just random shots that are cut to the beat. At best these videos can be called music videos. There is no story, no character, no sound, nothing to bind together, they don’t capture life and do nothing for the viewer, except of course if the viewer is someone experiencing it for the first time however it fades fast.
Cinema in its traditional sense is meant to be experienced in a big hall on a big screen with big speakers. Cinema is larger than life, its a reflection of ourselves 24 times a second. Just talking about the technicalities disqualifies most of these videos online of being cinema. Is the video widescreen, what is the sound design, how many frames per second are there, sound script anyone..? oh fuck that, just a script?
Now, let me make this clear- I don’t know what exactly cinema is but I do know what it is not- It’s not a video on the internet and, to be extremely conservative- if it’s not worth playing in a cinema hall then it is NOT cinema.
These videos surely can, however, be a piece of art. Modern technologies have always given birth to new forms of art and these videos definitely are. a product of new technology. Tech has put cameras into everyone’s hand, including me hence there is a flood of people exploring stuff. It is a genre in itself and deserves respect. These videos do a great job in replicating cinema but just the fancy camera work and edit is not equivalent to cinema. Cinema requires and demands much more from its creator.
Some of the techniques that are used to replicate the cinematic look are:
- Slow Motion Shots
- Fast cuts
- Drone Shots
- Shallow depth of field
- Insane camera movements
- A sprinkle of location sound
- A ton of reverb
- Vignette and
- 1.85:1 aspect ratio
Yes, these are all cinematic techniques but there is no language in these alone. All these can be employed into a piece of video work but it still won’t make it cinema. An actual cinematic piece of work starts with an idea, then it makes its way on to a paper where it stays for a long period of time. It goes through a series of modifications and changes, improvements so as to say. It gets developed and takes form. It gets translated into storyboards, screenplays, script and after that, it comes in front of the camera. It is at that point that these techniques are used to create it. But a piece of cinema is not yet complete. It has to go through the brutal phase of editing, all the great shots taken employing the amazing techniques listed above are chopped to their bare minimum required for the film. The final output is a multiple gigabyte file ready to be viewed. But it still is not cinema, it now has to go through the process of distribution- the business aspect carries a lot of weight. Finally, when it arrives in front of the cinema-goer and is viewed it takes its final form and becomes Cinema. It makes the cinema-goer happy, it makes them think, it makes them feel, it makes them get closer to themselves and in turn become closer to the world. It makes them question their instincts and ideologies eventually moulding them to be a different version of themselves. Can a video on YouTube do that, or how is that Cinematic Instagram story changing a person?
I am a purist and maybe this rant makes no sense. Unless I am convinced otherwise, I will not sacrifice my understanding and will critique everything that challenges it. If correct terminology is used, half of the world’s problems will reveal themselves. This post is not about that however and is a topic of a different, larger discussion.
Tl:Dr- YouTube videos are not cinema, they replicate the cinematic look and are subject to criticism when regarded as cinematic. They just look like it.