Shutter Angle, Shutter Speed and Frame Rate: Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan

The combined effect of stop motion and motion blur of the first fight scene in Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000) is frightening. The scene was shot with a narrow shutter angle of 45 degrees; i.e., 1/198. It has the effect of both slowing down the time and speeding it up simultaneously.

The effect in this film has its predecessor. Steven Spielberg used this technique in his 1998 World War film Saving Private Ryan.

In an interview Steven Spielberg said about this technique:

You can also see several explosions, and Janusz came up with the idea of shooting with the shutter open to 45 degrees or 90 degrees, which completely negated any blurring. Often, when you see an explosion with a 180-degree shutter it can be a thing of beauty, but a 45-degree shutter looks very frightening.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski said in another interview:

By applying 45 degree shutter, we are achieving certain staccato in actor’s movement. We are achieving certain crispiness of explosions. Everything becomes slightly, just slightly more realistic.

Spielber continued in the above interview:

I used a 45-degree shutter on the explosions, and a 90-degree shutter on most of the running shots. But we alternated at times. Sometimes the 45-degree shutter would appear too exaggerated and the 90 turned out to be better. But for extreme explosions like this, where we really wanted to practically count each individual particle flying through the air, the 45-degree shutter worked best.

Take a look at part of the battle scene from Saving Private Ryan and you will see the effect we are talking about.



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