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Michael Bay – What is Bayhem?

Michael Bay – What is Bayhem?

Hi. My name is Tony
and this is Every Frame a Painting. And I know exactly what you’re thinking:
Why am I talking about this guy?— Oh my god, you’re Michael Bay!— Oh my god, I am Michael Bay.
Because I don’t like his films and yet I think it’s crucial
to study them. Why?— …and Paul, I think you have started
to watch WrestleMania on television…
— Well, I…— Because you must not avert your eyes:
this is what is coming at us.
this is what what television,
what a collective
anonymous body of majority wants
to see on television.
Like WrestleMania, like Anna Nicole Smith, like Jackass, Michael Bay has created
— Spectacle!It’s what people want. The Romans new it,
Louis Quatorze knew it, Wolfowitz knows it.
— One, two, three…Boom! Bayhem!!We may find it crass and vulgar,
but if we’re going to make better movies, we have to understand
the images that are coming at us.— Hey, hey!!So let’s talk aboutBayhem.
Is it a unique use of film form? If you want to understand Michael Bay, one of
the best ways is to watch his copycats. Consider this shot from
‘Battleship’, which tries to do that circular camera
move he’s famous for. Doesn’t work here.
Why? It’s actually really simple. First,
there’s no background, except for blue sky. Without a background, we don’t get parallax,
so the shot doesn’t feel like it’s moving. See the difference? On top of that, the lens is wrong. Bay frequently
shoots these shots with a telephoto lens, which compresses the space.
This makes the background whizz by. Third, the actor’s just staring
and turning his head, but the key to the Bay version
is that the actors move vertically. Like here. And here. And last, the low angle is there to give us the
scale and slow motion is there to sell it. So what we have here in the Bay’s shot
is multiple types of movement, integrated: movement of the camera,
movement of the background, movement of the actors,
expansion of time. Then they stand still and look
off-screen, creating stillness. Even though you’re looking at a stationary
point in the frame, this shot feels huge.— Shit just got real.Breakdown any Michael Bay’s shot
and that is basically what you will see: layers of depth, parallax, movement,
character and environment to give this sense of epicness. None of these techniques
is particularly unique. In fact, most cinematographers
will naturally create depth in their images and parallax, whenever the camera moves. And the Hero Shot is everywhere. What makes Bay unique is how many layers
and how complex the movement is. That doesn’t make his shots
better, it just makes them more complicated
than the competition. That’s why his frames seem to have
a lot of stuff going on. Lots of dust, dirt, smoke
or explosions between the layers. Also, lamp-posts. Lots of lamp-posts. If you go back to the first Bad Boys, you
can watch this from the opening credits. Here, the car moves one way,
the plane another, the lamp-posts are in frame for scale
and the camera is on a telephoto lens. Later in the film, you can see
the same compositional techinique. And when the explosions happen… Once you see this, it’s much easier
to deconstruct his imagery and to see its limits. For instance, Bay doesn’t distinguish
between when to do a shot and whennotto do it. He’ll
use the same camera movement, whether the charachter’s
saying something important…— You have any money here in the States?… or total gibberish…— What did I say?!
Did you hear what I said?
I heard what I said
’cause I was standing there when I said it.
Every shot is designed for maximum visual
impact, regardless of whether it fits. But the Bay style also leads
to some fascinating visual ideas. How can you make something feel big? Well, you put lots of things
of varying size in the same shot and then you move the camera to emphasize. This is something “Jurassic Park” also
did very well.— Ah!
— It’s… It’s a dinosaur.
Just as important is off-screen space. Notice here, this actor isn’t looking
at the planes we see in the background. That means there’s even
more planes we can’t see. So while the shot feels huge,
it implies even more scale. How does a filmmaker come up
with images like this? In the case of Michael Bay, let’s look
at one of his favorite films.“When you’re a Jet,
you’re a Jet all the way
From your first cigarette
to your last dying day”
There’s a great New York Times interview
where he watches “West Side Story” and talks about how
is a great shot andthisis a great cut. He can’t articulate why they’re great,
other than “they’re dynamic”. But I think that’s it:
when you put shots from West Side Story back to back with his work,
you can feel the similarities. I think Bay’s goal is to create
what he thinks are good shots and connect them with
what he thinks are good cuts. If Howard Hawks defined a good movie
as three good scenes and no bad ones, Michael Bay seems to
think a good film is three thousand dynamic shots
and no static ones. Apart from West Side Story, Bay’s biggest
influence is actually other blockbusters. He frequently borrows the same basic
vocabularies and other sequence. So something like this… … becomes this. You’ll notice the tight shots
of the character become tighter. And the wide shots become wider. Everything gets more layers of motion,
but the basic vocabulary’s the same.– I got him!
– Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.
And it’s not just other people
he borrows from. Bay cannibalizes himself just as much. So this… … becomes this. You’ll notice every motion
in the original shot. For instance, the camera
turning counter-clockwise, while the bomb turns clockwise — it’s just cranked up in this version.— Autobots, I’m in pursuit.So what is Bayhem? It’s the use of movement, composition
and fast editing to create a sense of epic scale. Each individual shot feels huge, but also
implies bigger things outside the frame. It stacks multiple layers of movement shot
either on a very long lens or a very wide one. It shows you a lot for just a moment
and then takes it away. You feel the overall motion,
but no grasp of anything concrete. And yet, it requires a lot of people
and integration to do this. But it’s basically a variation on the
existing vocabulary of the action scene. Individual shots are a little dirtier, a little
shakier, more complex, few more layers. Then you cut it together faster
than the brain can register, but not faster than the eye can move. It’s not revolutionary,
just the past with a bit of stank on it. If you want to see a more
etxreme version of similiar ideas, you can look at late-era Tony Scott. And if you wanna see a less cluttered
version, you can look at animation. Someone like Glen Keane. This is way more legible than what Bay does,
but the basic idea is the same: character, environment,
many layers, one epic sweep. The world feels huge. One of my favorite adaptations of the
Michael Bay style is actually shrinking it down. Ironically, Bayhem – which seems to have
developed from a kid blowing up his train set – is actually kind of charming when it’s tiny. Instead of blowing up the world,
how about a small English town?— Swan!But in the end, I think the popularity of
this style is hugely important. Whether we like it or not,
the interesting thing here is that we are really
visually sophisticated and totally visually illiterate. We can process visual information
at a speed that wasn’t common before, but thinking through what an image means…— This is not necessary!… not so much. And as Wernor Herzog put it:— You do not avert your eyes.
That’s what’s coming at us.
This might sound a little weird, but
the person who loses the most here is actually Michael Bay.
He is a slave to his own eye. He has a need to make
every image dynamic, even when it runs contrary to
the theme of his movie.— Some people just don’t know a good thing
when it’s staring them in the face.
— It really is the simple things in life…Yeah, the little things,
like a big house, a dock, a view of the water
and a speed boat. What happens when two great storytellers
tackle this exact same theme?— Heck, Norm, you know,
we’re doing pretty good.
— I love you, Margie.— I love you, Norm.— Two more months.— Two more months…Subtitles by the community

Reader Comments

  1. We need people like Michael bay no matter how much critics and audiences bash him for his style. Cinema would be too boring and pretentious without him

  2. Michael bay is great at making thrilling action scenes and that's the truth, but he is horrible at writing and directing a plot, like dude the black ghetto guy joke is so over used in all of your movie, plus stop writing the same plot over and over for transformers man, they all have the same plot set up

  3. Amazing video; you hit the nail on the head with that comparison to Fargo at the end. I will always love this channel; hope you’re doing well, Tony!

  4. I actually do like his films, due to the fact he made me want to direct movies, so I thank him for it, I am not one of those arthouse fanboys, but I thank him for inspiration, and you have to admit Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon, and Pain and Gain are classics.

  5. I maintain that if he put half the effort he puts in camerawork and action into story and characters that he would be this generation’s Spielberg.

  6. It's been pointed out that the visual overcrowding overloads the brain to the point where people have difficulty remembering what actually happened in a Michael Bay movie.

  7. To be honest who ever says micheal bay is a good director im sry to say he is far from good like hes littarally coming out of retirement just to make a transformers sequel just to make money and for no other reason cause after the flop was the last knight you have to admit thats all hes really only trying to get

  8. I'd rather watch the Transformers movies than the poorly shot garbage MCU films. Michael Bay is a gifted but misunderstood filmmaker. Many don't know he's a clever, self-aware satirist. He just never bothers to film a good script lol…But he has a great eye for scale and gift for visceral amazement. He knows he's a junk dealer, so he does it beautifully with stunning visuals. But I'd love him to go full auteur with at least one film. I'm sure that would be insane, in the best possible way.

  9. Micheal Bay is getting far too much blame for Transformers flops. I'm reading that it was Lorenzo di Bonaventura who was responsible for adding a lot of what fans hate about the series. Critics have plenty to complain about but his movies are fun to watch on the big screen.

  10. We all know Bay made some shitty films, but you got to admit that he knows how to handle big budget films & spectacles.

  11. His movies aren't my favorite but there is something I like about his confidence to constantly use these type of shots. He like just doesn't care. lol

  12. so when shooting with Michael Bay you have to leave the budget at the BAY!
    see what i did there?
    badum bam PHISHHHHH!!

  13. I once heard about an interview with Christopher Nolan where he said he likes Michael Bay, and said that he learnt a lot from watching his movies. His stories might be garbage, but the visual experience is actually awe-inspiring.

  14. Not sure why Werner Herzog occasionally comes up as a very high class film expert. Remind me again what notable projects he’s done?

  15. There's a couple of good Michael Bay movies lol like, "The Island," and, "Bad Boys II."

    I get the criticism lol no question, but they're not ALL bad haha I don't care what anyone says

  16. Michael Bay is a very good director. So he's made some bad movies, but he's also made some great films, like Armageddon, The Rock and the first Transformers film. Plus, I think he's an Action Movie King.

  17. thanks–had no idea who this dude was or what he did but i got a general understanding now. well done sir

  18. Fast-cutting, and Crash-Bang-Wallop ruined my love of cinema. Bring back the slow, wide vistas of David Lean.

  19. “It’s not revolutionary, just a pass with a little bit of stank on it.” Perfect summary of Bay’s cinematography

  20. I always find found Michael Bay similar to The Mars Volta. The end product might be an over long, pretentious piece of shit, but damn does it require skill!

  21. What would you say about "13 hours: Secret soldiers of Bengazi"? I feel like he changed and improved his style compared to his older work.

  22. I feel Michael Bay doesn't get enough credit for his knowledge on film, no matter how messy they may be at times.

  23. The way he tries to create mayhem is great, but how he shows it defeats the purpose. The church scene from Kingsman and the war scene in Battle of Bastards from GOT are great examples of how focus and movement of the camera gives character. Yes, there is utter chaos and violence but we can follow it pretty easily because it's focusing on what's happening around the character, we're essentially given a frame of reference.

  24. Everyone can talk shit all they want Michael bay is one my favorite directors of movies.
    Now films …. I’ll take Paul Thomas Anderson as one of best.
    Of course for the art of it there is Kubrick ,
    But for the professionalism there was Scorsese

    If Michael Bay would of had his hand in the marvel movies they would of been so much better that last one end game are whatever was shit!

  25. This video succeeded in two things: being an interesting analysis of his directing style and being good parroting material for armchair film critics.

  26. The only Bay movie I can get behind is the first live action Transformers, just for the nostalgia and Shia LaBeouf.

    And ‘cause Megan Fox is pretty hot.

  27. Eviscerating. Michael Bay's problem is he's good at CG and effects but utterly incompetent in every other respect and it shows.

  28. Anna Nicole Smith has created Something spectacle ? Her parents gave her that Body. She just breathed, Slept and ate.

  29. Wow… an objective, deep, thorough and unbiased analysis on Michael Bay? And from a guy who says he doesn't like his movies? Thank you!

  30. Effects editor : uh maybe this movie we shouldn't include any explosions
    Michael Bay : You're fired explosion

  31. All I know is that The Rock and Armageddon are two of the best action movies ever. I haven't bothered with any of his newer stuff. No interest in transformers or any of that stuff. The slingshot scene in Armageddon – holy shit fucks.

  32. (nod) I'm not a Bayhem fan… I agree with you, and this guy on it… Gladiator | Turning Spectacle into a Meaningful Story

  33. I can only remember every watching one Bay film, and that was the first Transformers, and that was only because it was being played for an audience of kids. I just happened to be there. What I remembered what the sensory overload.

  34. Bay is a master at his craft, he knows what he is doing. The last scene in pain and gain is just him mocking the idea of “It’s the little things that matter “

  35. 1:14 I wouldn't call that copying. These are widely used techniques. Only thing is he doesn't know how to use them. 1:54 is actually good.

  36. Michael Bay movies are like watching a camp fire: lots of contrast, hues of orange and blue, visually magnetic and after staring to it too long you’re beginning to feel a kind of hypnotic emptiness.

  37. The ONLY thing i think Bay is an Master at, is getting the lighting of VFX shots down mixed with practical effects. Case and point the first Transformers when the bus is cut in half on the freeway, the digital Transformers look absolutely amazing as if they were on set in the flesh so to speak. The lighting and his technique to work with the VFX artist to get this down is phenomenal

  38. Studying Micheal Bay to more fully understand film making….is like studying McDonalds to more fully understand aristology (the art or science of cooking and dining).

    …….now, if you will excuse me, im going to go study porn to more fully understand myself.

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