Perfect Placement / by Jaz Malone

Two films I recently saw were The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet and X-Men: First Class from Matthew Vaughn. I saw First Class twice; the only reason I didn't do the same with The Illusionist is because it was someone else's copy of the film, although I will look at it again plenty of times. One thing that stood out to me the most in both films was the layout of each shot. I am certainly no layout genius, but thanks to my old teachers Mike Manley and Lowell Boston (October Studios), I can appreciate a good setup when I see it.

Let's start with The Illusionist. Check out the still above. Everything, from the lighting, the colors, the placement of the characters, and even the perspective of the room, all draw the eye to the central figure.
















These two images are very well thought out, although at first glance they seem only like beautiful backgrounds. The image of the town moves the eye upward; the general height of buildings in any particular area, paired with the direction of the road and the lighting create this movement. The beach uses curved lines to keep the viewer focused on the two characters in the front.

X-Men focused on the interaction between a group of people, rather than one or two individuals. At almost no point were any X-Men or X-Men-related characters blocked off by the rest of the group. As you can see above, each shot was perfectly set up so that there was a clear balance, and everyone could be seen. The most important characters (Xavier, Erik, Moira) are up front, but no one is entirely diminished. Occasionally, Mystique is up front with Xavier, but as her character develops to love her mutant side, she is shown more an more as part of the general mutant group.

As in The Illustionist (and all well-storyboarded films), X-Men used line and placement to draw the eye to a specific point or points on the screen. Charles' arm and the design of the aircraft he's in not only keep the viewer focused on him in the above scene, but also on Moira sitting in the back. She's out of focus, but she is clearly there.

All this to say, I love seeing films that look like someone thought things out a little bit. Also, I like superheroes...and magicians. But mostly thinking things through. :)