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July 1995, Week 1


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 6 Jul 1995 09:08:28 -0600
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Sylvia Swift writes:
"This transition is called an Iris Out, and may be used at the end of any
sequence, not just at the end of a film.  D.W. Griffith used the effect
extensively, but I think I remember reading he didn't invent it.  To get
an iris effect, a rubber diaphragm is fitted onto the lens.  As it slowly
opens (Iris In to the next shot) or closes (Iris Out) it mimics the iris
of the eye, letting in light in proportion to its degree of openness.
Bordwell and Thompson must have a succinct definition of the Iris
transitions.  Irises are usual roundish, but _The Cabinet of Dr.
Caligari_ has lovely diamonds and rhombuses and so on.  Some modern
movies use Iris Ins/Outs as a way of getting an old-fashioned look: . . . "
One of the first films to use the iris as a "nostalgic" reference to the silent
film era (or the past in general) was THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, as the
car created by Joseph Cotten's character lumbers over the snow-topped road.
Truffaut, among others, also fooled around with the effect, if memory serves,
in SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (and others as well, I think).
In the silent era, the iris was often used as a transitional device between
scenes, but it could also be used within a scene as a substitute for a
closeup, to emphasize some element within the setting.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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