Buster Keaton's Use Of Photography In Silent Film

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While both films are considered to be the best of Buster Keaton’s body of work in the silent film genre. The General and Steamboat Bill Jr. have slight contrasts in their lighting. The cameras themselves, as well as the techniques and lighting effects, show the small gap in time between their release dates. Considering the films short span of time between the films’ respective completions, it comes as no surprise to find miniscule variance in the use of color, hard key lighting, and diffusion despite the fact the films treat the same subject. The General was one of Buster Keaton’s many films that he starred and directed in, in his quest to be one of silent films’ most recognizable faces. Among its predecessors were 1924’s release of Sherlock Jr. and Seven Chances in 1925. All directed by…show more content…
What makes The General significant is its use of diffusion and backlight. Bert Haines (1896-1991) shot the film on panchromatic film in sepia tone. Giving the film a pleasing dynamic image. Throughout the film, Haines capitalizes on the recent technological innovations in the 20’s with lighting instruments. Lighting the exterior of most shots balances the interior so that there are no harsh shadows on any of the faces. When lighting an exterior scene with a wide shot, not much could be done to balance levels. But when the director goes for a close-up or a medium shot, he uses diffusion or bouncing light to hide the hard quality of light from the sun. Diffusion and bounced light is in the movies since the late 1910’s and early 1920’s. Keeping the exposure of the actor’s face allows the audience to believe what is going on. The limitation of power on the non-studio shots makes lighting fixtures difficult to power. Thanks to tungsten lights, which began standardization in mid 1920’s, allows them to run directly to AC power instead of a generator. Director
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