Remember when Supernatural was a mini-movie every week?
I was doing some screen caps of the pilot and noticed something that others have brought up, which is how the style of filming has changed on Supernatural, particularly the last two seasons. So, I went through season 1 and just grabbed some random screen caps that I thought represented this change.
The first is from the pilot, and it’s just Sam listening to a voice mail from Jess in the motel room. Look at the way he’s seated though and the light coming in the window. It’s representative of the action in which Sam is in the shadows and Jess’s voice is like the light from the window. Directed by David Nutter.
This one’s from Scarecrow, and it’s gorgeous, so atmospheric and creepy. It reminds me of how proud they were on Supernatural to be making a little mini-movie every week. Some fans talk about ‘monster of the week’ episodes with derision now, but that’s what got a lot of fans into the show. It used to be scary; nowadays, not so much. Directed by Kim Manners.
This image is from Faith and shows the care with which scenes were set up. The two women with umbrellas have just crossed in front Sam and Dean. The angle from behind the fence is wonderful. Dean is slowly dying, fading away, and the colors are all washed out and muted, even the red of the woman’s sweater. Again, it’s reflective of what’s happening in the scene. Directed by Allen Kroeker.
The fourth is from Route 666 and the scene is just awesomely set up here. This is the first time Dean and Cassie have been alone since he got back to town, and it’s brilliant the way they are directed to stand facing each but separated as far as they can physically get, leaning away from one another. The camera watches them from a distance, which reinforces the distance between them. Directed by Paul Shapiro.
In the fourth frame, we see Sam and Dean hunting together in Hell House. We don’t really see this much anymore. I can think of a number of times in S7 where they were on the same hunt but they were separate in the building or wherever. That’s a problem others have noted too. I love this shot though just for its beauty. It’s like a painting with the lighting picking up the edge of Dean’s face and making the jar in his hand glow and colors of the jars and angle from behind the shelves. Again, gorgeous. Directed by Chris Long.
This last shot is from Salvation. It’s John driving off in the truck to go meet Meg, and what you can’t see from a screen cap is duration of this shot. We see the truck move from the bottom of the screen to the top. This long shot allowed the viewer time to feel the distance that was being placed again between the boys and John. For all they knew he might not be coming back. Like them, we watched until he was out of sight. Awesome use of a shot to convey the characters’ POV. Directed by Robert Singer.
Another thing I noticed in the first season was how different the pace was. Much more care was taken with each scene. The pacing was more varied, and time was spent conveying mood and atmosphere through camera work, lighting, and editing. The show had much more the look and feel of a conventional TV series in Season 6 and 7, and Season 8, the colors became even more saturated and there were fewer night scenes. It frequently looked like comic book. In Season 9, there’s been a bit of a return to the atmospheric scenes of the earlier seasons. I’m thinking specifically of the barn scenes in Bad Boys and the subterranean scenes in A Rock and a Hard Place.
The pacing still isn’t what it once was. I sometimes feel as though they are trying to cram too much into each episode, but there have been baby steps in terms of bringing back a scarier feel to the cinematography and I hope that continues.
- Supernatural post-Kripke: Who is really in charge? (spnmonster.wordpress.com)
- The Road So Far: Lights, Camera, Action! (supernaturallydevoted.wordpress.com)