Stories get told through many mediums, such as movies, television, video games, and so on. There is, however, a large misconception that stories are merely just words one character says to another or the overall plot. In reality, that is far from the truth. Many different things go into making a story happen, especially when it comes to mediums like film or television. There’s the cinematography, sound design, set design, character interactions, and so much more. WandaVision‘s first two episodes provided something rare in terms of cinematography. Their attention to detail is outstanding, so why don’t we take a closer look at how far Marvel Studios went with this series.
Here is a spoiler warning for WandaVision’s first two episodes. If you haven’t watched the show yet, then only continue at your own risk.
The Aspect Ratio
Aspect Ratio is defined as the ratio of an image’s width to its height. Simply put, it’s the way we see films when we’re either watching them on the television or an IMAX screen in cinemas. Most movies tend to have an aspect ratio of 2.35 nowadays, which many might recognize from their cinema visit. This ratio wasn’t always the case, as back in the day, aspect ratios actually would vary quite a lot. Back in the day, the standard was 4.3, which is that square image many might remember from their childhood. Marvel’s attention to detail already shows itself at the very beginning of WandaVision, when the Marvel Studios fanfare changes from a 2.35 ratio into black and white 4.3.
I find the use of the aspect ratio to have both a literal and symbolic meaning. The literal meaning is Marvel Studios’ commitment to recreating the various sitcom eras, so they opted to follow the aspect ratio dependent on the tribute. I do believe there’s also a symbolic meaning behind it. At the end of WandaVision‘s first episode, credits start to roll and reveal that someone is watching this sitcom reality. As such, the aspect ratio converts back from 4.3 to the standard 2.35 as it zooms out into a SWORD lab. It turns the 4.3 ratios into a figurative prison. That is why the real world is in familiar 2.35, which is a curious notion to ponder.
The Camera Work
Stories are only as good as the lens that conveys them. WandaVision does exemplary work at pulling it off. In their way to pay homage and recreate the different eras of television sitcoms, Matt Shakman went off to make something that felt authentic and natural to the times, and you can see that in several ways in these past two episodes. For example, in the first episodes, you’ll notice that the camera work followed the I Love Lucy and The Dick van Dyke Show 3-camera approach. Each camera has a deep focus, which means that everything from the background to the foreground remains in focus at all times. You won’t find any flashy or dramatic camera movements, as they only pan to the left or the right with some cuts in between.
The second episode’s Bewitched approach introduced a shallow focus with more close-ups of the actors. As the episode progresses, you’ll notice that the camera work modernizes the instant that the outside world seeps in. There is a glance in the first episode when Mr. Hart starts choking on his food. When he asks Wanda and Vision why they came to WestView, the camera is still in that immobile position, with all four people at the dinner table in frame. It’s not until Mrs. Hart tells Arthur to stop it for a second time that we see the camera angles come in with the slow zoom and the shallow focus. Even the lighting on set turns dark. Once Vision helps Mr. Hart, everything returns to the sitcom format as if nothing happened.
The Effects Work
It even shows in their approach to utilizing technology from the sitcom era they are exploring. In an age where CGI is so commonly used nowadays for even the simplest of things, Matt Shakman went out of his way to use strings and wires to prop all these set pieces up. It sold the authenticity of the first episode and could easily be mistaken for an episode of Bewitched. It makes the episode feel authentic, as they aren’t taking the easy way out. They are committed to recreating these sitcoms in a way that anyone would instantly recognize the inspiration. Everyone involved in this production did their homework and it shows. We’ve only got a glimpse with these first two episodes, so we can expect a lot more authenticity with each era we visit.