Special Feature: The Magic of Movies


While movies are a source of entertainment, they also serve as a cultural tool to provide commentary on a distorted view or observation of society, a political criticism, a warning about various threats, as well as suggestions for the future.
The world is being struck yet again by something new. With the rise of the “One’s Nation First” policy, the worldwide epidemic of terrorism, growing societal inequalities, and the destruction of the environment come an ever-increasing threat of a global natural disaster.
As the reasons for the decay of our peaceful existence begin to swell, we have entered an age of movie-making that should present a new message focusing on a bright future and meaningful cooperation (synchronicity).
Among the movies selected for international film festivals, the trend has been towards ones that focus on these themes, and there are many such movies.
The world is seeking stories that provide a refuge from the chaos of the times and present a new message.
On one hand, cinematic expression using imaging techniques made with digital technology these days is seamless and constantly evolving, and many modern movies are created relying heavily on these techniques.
This revolution is not only occurring in theatrical movies, but also in our everyday images.
Documentaries in particular are quick to embrace the latest techniques, giving rise to new expressions.
This holds true for independent productions, too.
We are in an era facing a new “power of movies.”
In every era, moviemakers ask the question: “How can I spin a brand-new story using the latest techniques?”
In this special feature, we catch a glimpse at the “power of movies” by looking at influential Japanese independent filmmakers, directors like Nobuhiko OBAYASHI, and the work of Peter JACKSON who restored 100-year-old footage using the latest technologies to make a documentary film.


“Labyrinth of Cinema”

@2020 e-motion photographers

“Labyrinth of Cinema”
INTERVOEW:Hisaki SANBONGI(Director of Photography / Film Editor)


ーーーーー Movies are “truth born of lies” “Labyrinth of Cinema” This movie is like a 179-minute major production born from overturning the entire contents of the director Nobuhiko OBAYASHI’s labyrinthian mind.
I haven’t counted the exact number of frames, but there was a remarkable person on Twitter who counted all the frames and tweeted their number. According to this person, it was 4,619 frames.
His previous work, “Hanagatami” had 3,774 frames, and this one increased by about 1,000 frames (laughs).

EOS C700/C300 Mark II

The cameras we used this time were the Canon EOS C700 and C300 Mark II.
We shot on location in the summer of 2018 over about 50 days.
The EOS C700 was the main camera we used for wide-angle shots, and the EOS C300 Mark II was our secondary camera that we used for close shots.
We went with the manufacturer’s LUT suggestion and recorded with the Canon Log3.
The CINEMA EOS produces clear images, and the camera settings were normal, but for the lighting we experimented with different techniques, using primary color filters, for example.
For the historical battle scenes we used a monochrome color, dark and solid.
The protagonist, Noriko, is filmed in a pale blue-tinged monochrome.
Street scenes are pictured in vibrant primary colors, and the musical numbers are colorful.
We created these effects during editing. The director, OBAYASHI, changed what we assumed would be monochrome to color or else the completely opposite color, and it was impossible to predict.
So that we wouldn’ face difficulties during editing later, during the shoot we made sure the latitude and color were compatible.
We were scrupulous in our preparations like our camera settings, creating an original LUT to shoot, which was quite a departure from what everyone does these days.
We shot a scene in amber lighting with the sunset as our motif, but when it came time to edit and the director suddenly said, “Let’s go with a bluish moonlight feel”, I felt my heart lurch (laughs).
It was completely unexpected, but the end result was an interesting tone.

OBAYASHI-Style Movie Editing

Nobuhiko OBAYASHI personally oversaw the editing while providing detailed direction, never cutting corners.
He even gave direction on the font size of the opening credits.
There was no offline work in which the editor usually sets things up first according to the script, a rough edit. Instead, everything is laid out perfectly from the start beforehand.
OBAYASHI’s editing style precludes outsourcing post-production, budget-wise and time-wise, so we have an in-house editing system (NLE) that allows him to edit from the start.
Of course I handle the NLE operations, but I look over all the footage and put it together without wasting a frame.
Some days we get through 3 pages of script, and some days it’s just half a page. If it turns into a detailed edit, trial and error, or composites – no matter how rough – it hampers progress.
Mentally, I have a clear picture of what we want to shoot, but more often than not we end up doing something totally different.
Will we get a flash of inspiration to improve the scene in editing? In that case, we’ll change direction for sure.
We look at all the ingredients we’re to edit that day when we’re in the editing room and decide how to “cook” it all.
Once we’ve decided, we don’t waver.
That’s when our aim during the shoot and the director’s vision merge.
OBAYASHI’s editing style is comparatively more draining, but you are rewarded with a scene that you were aiming for from the start. It surprises me every time.
This is OBAYASHI’s movie editing style, and until you get to the end no one but the director knows how it’ll look.

Why We Chose Final Cut Pro 7

I’ve been using Final Cut Pro since Ver.1 came out; it’s like an extension of my body.
But the Final Cut Pro 7 (FCP7) handles intuitively, doing what other NLE can’t.
Though the NLE is a superior as a GUI, unfortunately it’s been discontinued.
Its elaborate and complicated cutting, its composite management and detailed sound construction, its image and audio layers (tracks) accumulate, and you end up with so many tracks.
With the FCP7, the movement is stable. It would be hard to proceed without making the director wait around if we tried to figure things out using another NLE.

Heavy Use of Crosscuts

It’s pretty noticeable that we have so many cutbacks in our recent productions, particularly the fully digital “Casting Blossoms to the Sky” (2012).
The kind of detailed cuts it’d be hard for our audience to keep up with and the back and forth that comes with composites and other things we did during editing for scenes not in the script.

Incorporating CG Performances

Even the artificial composites and VFX were all intentional directions given by OBAYASHI.
He’s always says movies are “truth born from lies”, and even with a fantasy story you can be immersed in it by making the composites look created.

Vertical Transitions

We do vertical scene changes during transitions – my memory of conversations with OBAYASHI during editing are hazy – is because the movie is constantly moving forward in a vertical direction in the director’s mind.
The moviola editing device also loads film in a vertical direction.
Using that as a motif for cuts, we use a lot of vertical slide wipes and push transitions.
In the early stages of editing, we had horizontal transitions, but in the end they all became vertical.


Impressionistic Images

During the atomic bombing, the shot of protagonist Noriko sitting in a chair in her room is impressionistic, but we filmed that in a warehouse in Onomichi.
It was really hot.
You hear Chuya Nakahara’s “June Rain”, which OBAYASHI also used in “Emotion”, a movie he self-produced in the 1960s.
This scene can be interpreted as a return to his roots.

Original Soundtrack

Kosuke YAMASHITA was in charge of the music, which was taken from a production from long ago.
It’s all original; the director didn’t want any breaks in continuity.


Understanding the Script(the entire story)

I was only able to grasp his vision once it was completed (laughs).
When we started filming, there were so many things still up in the air: “Let’s address these once we’ve started shooting, good ideas will come up,” he smiled, always so optimistic.
The script had been written and we had a similar outlook.
The basic outline of the story remained unchanged.
Our days were filled with uncertainty about the scenes we were shooting, but the director was unwavering: “I’m not sure myself, but it looks promising,” he’d say, and the actors would proceed.
The shoot took 50 days, editing took an entire year. As always, we’re surprised when the finished product exceeds the imagination of the staff and actors.