The outfield is the set of elements that do not appear in the frame of an image. This expression designates in particular the part of the scene that does not appear in a plane of a film because it is not intercepted by the field of the optics of the camera , that this field is invariable (fixed plane) or variable (plane where the camera moves ( panning and / or tracking ) and / or zooming ). The out-of-field is not recorded on the film but can be suggested by various elements of the image or sound.

If the term is common for the analysis of audiovisual works, it can also be used for photography or for any still image like a painting , a drawing or a box of comics .

Grammatical explanation

The “off-field” adverb phrase qualifies a way of leaving certain elements outside the spectator’s field of vision (for example, in the phrase “a voice shouts out of the field”).

This phrase is sometimes adjectivated (transformed into an adjective, as in “an out-of-field howling”) or substantivated (transformed into a common noun, as in “out-of-field is suggested by the look of the character”).

The noun “off-field” (written with a dash) thus designates what does not appear on the screen in an audiovisual work.

Outfield and senior

Related Articles: Field (cinema) and Frame (art) .

The technical crew of the filming uses the term of senior executive, which is part of the professional jargon. It is the same thing as the out-of-field, but brought back to the first concern of the operator of shots, which is to frame the characters or the decoration, without bringing into his image elements external to the subject, or to intervene later during the course of the plan (for example, with a “field entry” of a character, as they say). During the preparation of the shot, the operator of shots can thus warn the perchman, who holds the microphone as close as possible to the scene played: “Attention, you are border frame on the left! “. Which means that if the perchman still approaches by mistake, his microphone will appear in the frame of the image, forcing the operator to interrupt the decision: “Perch! “.

In a shoot, decorators and props get rid of any object that has nothing to do in the camera’s field, and thus push that object out of the field, including out of the field that will be scanned by the lens during a camera movement. Of course, the film crew always stays out of the field, unless the director has planned that it appears in part, the perchman for example, to forcefully remind the viewer that he sees a film where the reality is reconstructed using machines, not objective reality.

Outfield and dramaturgy

“On the other hand, the cinema is a language 1  ” , reminds us the critic and theorist of the cinema André Bazin. And indeed, the off-field is commonly used for its intrinsic dramatic value .

The out-of-field replicas

When in the course of a dialogue a comedian is filmed in mid-middle (cut at the waist) or close-up shot (cut at mid-chest), the partner stands out of the field to give him the reply. The director must therefore also direct the out-of-field, and give directions to this actor not filmed but whose presence on the set is essential. In turn, this comedian is filmed in reverse , and the first then gives him the answer by standing out of the field.

“It is said of an actor that he is in the picture when he is in the field of the camera, he is said to be out of the field when he is not visible. Similarly, his voice can be in , when he is in the field, or off , when the character is out of field. His out-of-field voice can also alternate with his image in the field through the cutting in shots or camera movements, it can be sometimes seen by the camera, sometimes out of his sight, but heard by the microphone 2 . “

Some directors prefer to shoot this kind of dialogue scene with two cameras running at the same time, ensuring the field and the backlight in the same shot of two simultaneous shots. This device, effective both for the game of actors and in terms of time saving, has the disadvantage of costing more, any error in the text of one of the actors forcing to restart the decision with the two cameras.

“The editor takes sometimes one sentence on one character and the replica on the other character, sometimes remains on one of the characters who listens to the other, with all possible variants. Viewers will never see the fields or counter fields that editing has eliminated. The outfield will be dead for good, but they have allowed each actor to maintain his playing to the camera by tapping its force in the game of his partner placed offscreen 3 . “

On the other hand, filmmakers prefer to treat the dialogue scenes in American plan (cut at mid-thighs) with the two characters in the same frame, or in a sequence shot , during which the camera goes from one to the other actors by movements that can also provide framing including the two or three actors seen together. The steadicamis the ideal instrument of this kind of sequence shot. A duo of steadicams, even a trio, allows, especially in the series, a saving of time in the positioning of the cameras compared to the filmed scene and a bonus of truth in the verbal clashes, which largely counterbalance the additional expenditure of film. Removing this extra cost, the advent of digital has forced the configuration of shooting two or three steadicams in the series, the off-field being reduced to its simplest expression, that of the team, before starting the editing properly said, the editor has only to eliminate three shots simultaneously, any involuntary entry of a camera and its operator, or any other technician, in the field of any of the cameras.

Field input (and output)

At the beginning of the cinema, the entrances or field trips of the actors were carried out as in the theater, by the natural openings of the stage: on the right or on the left of the frame, and by the bottom (door of decoration), since the plan was in general a fixed plane, in foot (medium plane), even a wider plane (of half-assembly for example). “Méliès held strings on both sides of the field to film and asked his actors not to cross this boundary of the frame 4  ” He also used chalk marks, drawn on the ground.

“In his Jeanne d’Arc , Georges Méliès uses the out-of-field to triple the number of his extras, when the soldiers of the holy warrior parade in a street of Domremy , passing from left to right in front of the camera, then, from that they came out of the field, gallop behind the scenery to iron all thunder a second time in front of the objective, then a third time … Here is an economic and clever use of the exit and the entrance of field 5  ! “

The discovery of the cutting of a scene into several plans that must filmmakers of the School of Brighton , released the film this view “that sees all the decor, the hanger to the ramp 6 . ”

One of the oldest uses of dramatic outfield is a comedy: A Chess Dispute ( Part eventful chess ), conducted in 1903 by the Englishman Robert William Paul . Two elegant young people compete in a chess game at a coffee table, one of them cheats, the tone goes up, they come to the hands and roll on the ground, they disappear off-field, below the frame .

“We see combat only his evocation, a leg emerges from the bottom of the screen, a chest stands up to fall immediately, pieces of clothing are flying in all directions, until the arrival of the master of the place who recovers the brawlers and back in the field of the camera by holding them by the neck. We discover then that they are both in a sorry state. This time, Robert William Paul reveals an off-camera space that is not that of the technical team and the camera. He suggests a game of actors, of which we see only snatches. Thus, to hide the essential is in itself a gag 7 . “

In the course of the shots during a scene, the out-of-the-field of each shot allows a character to be entered at any time in the field of the camera, without using a door or an element of the set. Out of the field can arise different dangers.

For example, in Thelma & Louise , the attempted rape of Thelma by a macho Texan , Harlan, is interrupted in time by Louise. “A voice yells out of the field:” Let it go! “, But, all to his business, the rapist ignores the threat until a revolver is planted in the hollow of his neck 8 . ” It is only the next shot that finally shows Louise shining Harlan with his gun and threatened to blow his brains out. This example leads to another use of the off-field, which is certainly the most important: the out-of-field sound.

The sound outfield

In the two plans cited by Thelma & Louise , Louise’s presence at the scene of the drama is first signaled by her voice-over: “Let go!” In the foreground, then through the revolver’s field entrance, accompanied by the characteristic and threatening rattling of the dog’s lifting of the weapon. And only then, in a second plane of the division, the sight of Louise, out of her, turning her revolver on the sadist. This example shows that sound is a key element in the dramatic use of off-screen.

As early as 1931 , the off sound was masterfully illustrated by Fritz Lang in M the curse . When Elsie’s mother, the first victim in the story, waits for her little girl, who will not come anymore but the mother still does not know her, the minutes pass, maternal anxiety increases.

“Elsie should be home. One rings, the mother rushes, full of hope, but it is a familiar to whom she asks if he has seen his daughter. ” No! The mother then calls out of the window, desperate, “Elsie! Elsie! The staircase of the building is deserted. “Elsie! The attic of the building is empty too. “Elsie! The plate of his daughter is waiting on the kitchen table, the cutlery is well aligned, the child’s chair is empty. “Elsie! Elsie’s balloon emerges from a bush and rolls in the grass. The inflated balloon, abandoned, is dragged into the electrical wires where it clings to finally fly off the frame. Fade out 9 . “

The grieving voice of the mother calling her daughter brings the scene to its tragic climax, that the moment of the murder out of the field (the balloon that the unfortunate little victim lets loose signals the occurrence), and the symbol of the balloon offered to Elsie by the pedophile, flying away and disappearing off-camera in the air, forcefully conclude this upsetting sequence.

In the same way, the horror films, fantastic or thrillers, use the out-of-sound field to announce a danger that the spectator can not yet see, but whose noise makes him imagine the worst. The suspense runs until a plan finally reveals the source of the danger. The scene following this suspense is then necessarily an action scene.

For example, in The Birds , Alfred Hitchcock uses the off-field sound a contrario, when Melanie awaits the end of the class of Kate, the teacher. We hear children singing off a nursery rhyme, with a melody and words in a loop. The nursery rhyme has two functions in this film dramaturgy  : to dilate the time by its renewed cycle and,”Make it plausible that Melanie does not hear the birds approaching and landing behind her. Hitchcock then launches an action that seems banal, Melanie light a cigarette. She tries to calm her nerves because she has had time to tell Kate that they have to discuss serious things. What, we will never know, the count is launched before the attack of the crows, it will last the time of the burning of the cigarette. During this time, the viewer can see the birds land in Melanie’s back on the perches with children installed in the school yard. When she has finished her cigarette, the young woman finally notices the passage of a raven and follows her trajectory. The subjective plane arrives in panoramicon the crows, innumerable, an end of panning which is cold in the back [end of the suspense]. This meant that Melanie Kate does not matter now, the only emergency is to organize the stampede can children as the school’s windows will not resist the pecking 10  ” [beginning of the action scene].

The cutting of this suspense scene is in the form of the storyboard in the book Hitchcock / Truffaut 11 .

But the out-of-field sound, rich in possibilities, does not only generate anxiety. As proof of the sequence of Amadeus in which Salieri tells the young priest come to hear him in confession, “how he had been upset, pushed to tears, ready to faint, when he understood the genius of his rival. This sequence shows him mentally decrypting several of Mozart’s scores , and his voice-over comments on the wonders spread out in front of his eyes as one hears the music as it plays in his head. Defeated by the perfection of what he hears, he drops the partitions that are scattered on the floor 12 . ”

Notes and references

  1. ↑ André Bazin , What is cinema? , Paris, Editions du Cerf, coll.  “7th Art”,, 372  p. ( ISBN  2-204-02419-8 ) , “Ontology of the Photographic Image,” p.  17 (last line)
  2. ↑ Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin , film grammar , Paris, New World ,, 588  p. ( ISBN  978-2-84736-458-3 ) , p.  452
  3. ↑ Idem
  4. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  93
  5. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  450
  6. ↑ Georges Sadoul , history of world cinema from its origins to today , Paris, Flammarion ,, 719  p. p.  29
  7. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  88-89
  8. ↑ Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin , Performer, the “Great” history to fiction , Paris, New World ,, 436  p. ( ISBN  978-2-36583-837-5 ) , p.  62
  9. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  173
  10. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  441-442
  11. ↑ Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut , Hitchcock / Truffaut , Paris, Ramsay , al.  “Ramsay Cinema Pocket”,, 311  p. ( ISBN  2-85956-436-5 ) , p.  249-250
  12. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  456

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