Wim Wenders, photographer

Wim Wenders makes good 3D movies because he’s a photographer in the first place. Recently, the BJP has written of a Wim Wenders photographer.

In a time when many DSLR users find the technical possibility of ¬†experimenting with motion pictures (as opposed to still-only images), we find that Wim Wenders had already been succeeding with both – and indeed one needn’t be aware of his photographs to trust his photographic eye: even just the beautifully composed, colourful images from Paris, Texas would suffice.

I find Wim Wenders a great photogrpaher and I admire him greatly (I am not surprised that Leica chose him as their testimonial). Curiously, after watching his recent Pina, I noticed how he successfully abandoned traditional photographic techniques in favour of new ones, while still achieving the same objective. I am referring to the tridimensionality of the images.

Photographers have long spoken of the apparent tridimensionality of still photographs (2D), much before than, and independently from, the formulation of 3D cine techniques. Usually this ntangible yet real property is achieved by side light and selective focus, keeping the subject tack sharp and the background much less so, as in this simple example of mine:
This approach relies on the technical beauty of the lens in achieving

  • a smooth transition between in-focus areas and bokeh,
  • a non invasive defocussed background (Gaussian blur circles),
  • very high resolution in the plane of focus, to enhance the apparent detachment from the soft background.

Wim Wenders filmed Pina in a beautiful 3D. He clearly designed the scenes with this new tool in mind, without merely swapping an old camera for a heavier one. Wim learned (while most 3D movie makers did not) that the tridimensionality can (and must) be achieved differently: the depth of focus is always very large in Pina; everything (except for the most extreme cases) is in focus and the brain decodes the images in a very different way, without the “artificial” addition of any out-of-focus areas that our eyes would never really experience in real life. Not only our eyes have a pretty large d.o.f., but the brain usually concentrates its attention on the sharp areas only, ignoring the out-of-focus field: this exclusion cannot work when we look at 2D photographs with bokeh.

Discarded the bokeh, Wim Wenders clearly retained the other main ingredient for tridimensional effect: perfect lighting. I was amazed at one of the first scenes (dancing on soil indoor), where the light seems to arrive from every direction and yet always from the only best angle. Clearly, an expensive 3D camera is useless if one does not illuminate his subject properly first.

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