You’ve seen it ten thousand times over the course of your movie viewing life – a raking shot of two people in the front seat of a car as they drive along the streets. Though there’s nothing innovative or remarkable going on here, there are a few things worth mentioning. Find this scene at the 0:19:00 mark…
According to the diagram, passenger Harrison Ford and driver John Spencer are lit by separate units that are well flagged off from each other. Since the windshield is covered with Half-Spun diffusion, both lamps blended together to form a single source – and each actor received considerable spill from the unit diagonally across from them. If nothing, Willis’ approach was always about finding the shortest distance between two points. The same effect could have been achieved using one light and no flag; I had seen him do exactly that many times before. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to ask him what he was thinking in this case.
Also note that he was working at a deep stop – T11 – which carried focus for both actors. This was important because there was no coverage at all (save for an insert of some papers in Ford’s hands). Today this would be considered a “brave” choice, but for a smart director and cinematographer it was merely the correct one. It’s a short scene that relays some pivotal information to the viewer; as with the rest of the movie, their approach was to let the story unfold in as unobtrusive way as possible.
But in spite of its simplicity, don’t think this was a casual decision. Doing it in a one-er meant camera placement was of supreme importance. That Harrison Ford is locked in the foreground and appears as the largest object in frame was no accident.
As camera operators and focus pullers the world over are fond of saying, “Always go with the money, baby!”