Documentary Scene Analysis: Apollo 13 Mae Tidman mTidman@gatech.eduABSTRACT down yet, when it does, it is without any idea of which way isThis essay is a scene analysis of the Apollo 13 sequence in the right side up.documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. The filmmakers of thearchived footage as well as the entire documentary used technical 2.3 Camera Movements to Revealfeatures such as those explored by David Bordwell, Kristin To make still photographs more interesting, it is a simple post-Thompson, and Herbert Zettl to create an intentional perspective production technique to track across the still image in order toof a historic event in NASA and America’s history. reveal more information and not disrupt the flow of motion in the documentary. The occurrence of this in the Apollo 13 scene isKeywords especially effective because it begins zoomed in on the centerIn the Shadow of the Moon, film, documentary, scene, Apollo 13, astronaut and pans sideways to show the other astronauts. Theanalysis, framing, editing, sound, filmic moods camera then zooms out to show the full photograph. This use of camera movement creates continuity for the entire sequence, and the shot would not have been as interesting without it.1. INTRODUCTIONAfter viewing the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon,specifically the Apollo 13 scene, it is obvious that this 3. EDITINGdocumentary – like all documentaries – has a biased approach toits technical features. The director’s decisions regarding framing, 3.1 Continuityediting, and sound make the scene reflect his perspective instead The editing of the entire film successfully creates continuityof the more complex reality. This individual scene contributes to between still images, archive-footage, and interviews while alsothe whole because it is a continuation of the history of America’s creating an atmosphere with the way the images relate.attempted and successful expeditions to the moon, and the editingand framing are mostly consistent throughout the movie. 3.2 Split-ScreenHowever, there are certain aspects of the technicalities of this An effective use of editing is especially apparent in the two shotsscene that warrant analysis and discussion to reveal the director’s that are split-screen. The first one is a crucial cut as John Young,intentions and perspective on the Apollo 13 expedition. These who was at| mission control when the first notice of the explosionaspects also influence the viewer to feel a certain way; these came through, explains that he thought the crew of Apollo 13 wasachieved moods are also examined. lost after the oxygen system started leaking. In the split-screen view, his expression -- past and present – is aware and very grave2. FRAMING on both sides of the screen (figure 1).2.1 Close-UpsThe interviews seen throughout the movie are framed specificallyto create a close and personal perspective of the astronauts beinginterviewed. The framing for these scenes is close-ups of theastronauts, revealing facial expressions and other details that notonly emphasize the specifics of the events being recounted butalso affect how the audience feels.2.2 Hand-Held Point of ViewThe hand-held cameras brought on board the spacecrafts wereused to document the lives of the astronauts in space as well as tosend footage back to Earth for NASA’s use and media coverage.For the purpose of this documentary, the effect of the hand-heldcamera is the immersion of the audience into the spacecraft and itsgravity-free environment. Figure 1: The Use of Split-Screen When the hand-held camera is used to give the shot a point ofview perspective, the audience sees what the astronaut behind the The second use of split screen is to create a better understandingcamera is seeing. The immersive effect achieved with point of of what is going on at mission control. We see a man from controlview shots is more effective in this sense, and the lack of gravity holding a pencil and obviously problem-solving while the olderand the sensation of being in space almost becomes conceivableeven to the youngest of viewers. The floating also causes an eerie version of that man is on the other half of the screen describingrealization of the strangeness of space as the camera turns upside what was going on at that time. This is effective in filling in the
information in an interesting way that also encourages an The first intense moment is seen through a point of view shotunderstanding of the archival footage. inside the spacecraft. When we are first told of the explosion through the voiceover from an interviewee, there is zero-gravity4. SOUND movement through the spaceship that is fast-forwarded to create a strange pace and motion that is suspenseful in that it is awkward.4.1 Continuity This view cuts to the astronaut interviewee who was talking aboutSound is an important element in creating visual continuity . it, and then the next shot shows mission control receiving theThe effectiveness of the interviewee’s voice as first heard in the infamous “Houston, we have a problem.” The frame tracks backpresent as he is saying it and then even after the shot changes to to show the group of operators looking at the control screen to seearchive footage is valuable in creating an understanding that he – what happened. This archival footage was probably not originallythe interviewee astronaut – was sometimes at the control station framed so adequately, but the director’s edits to the original shotson Earth or in the spacecraft and his explanation provides causes the off-screen space revealed to show the imminence of theinformation that the audio of the footage cannot. This use of situation.sound creates an even more personal perspective of the astronautsbecause we are hearing them talk about what happened while 5.2 Reliefseeing them or their colleagues in the past dealing with imminent The relief is initially felt in a change of atmospheric music, whichsituations that were not explained during the original recording. goes from eerie and dark to a lighter and uplifted sound.Considering the difference between this post-production decision Without the original stock footage that is being redisplayed in thisand what the documentary would have been like without this documentary, it is difficult to conceive what edits the directoraddition, it is obvious that this creates a more subjective view for decided upon, such as zooming into the scene and panning tothe audience and increases understanding of what is going on in reveal more information. Whether it was the originalthe footage. cameraman’s or the director’s choice, one shot in the Apollo 13 section of In the Shadow of the Moon uses camera movement in4.2 Soundtrack an especially interesting way. The footage is of the missionThe nondiegetic music aids the viewer in understanding what control team looking in a particular direction, wiping sweat fromexactly is going on when the voiceover is less effective. One their foreheads. The view switches to close-up shots of controlscene that stands out is the one in which the film addresses the team members’ faces smiling in relief and also looking in theexplosion that changed the entire plan of the Apollo 13 mission. previously mentioned direction. The camera then looks in thatWe see a point-of-view shot from the camera of the astronaut in direction to reveal a screen showing the astronauts maneuveringspace, and it is fast or possibly sped up, but the music indicates safely into the atmosphere on a descent back to Earth.the danger of the situation, which is not obvious otherwise. Thechange in the nondiegetic music indicates a change in the trip for This pan is happening while diegetic cheering and clapping risesthe astronauts; they are now in danger and the film suddenly over the aforementioned background soundtrack. These soundsbecomes more intense. The music also effectively creates other plus the visuals of people smiling and clapping is a relief for themoods and understandings with other shots, but in a way similar viewers because the astronauts’ descent is then slowly revealed toto what has been previously mentioned. be what the mission control team is looking towards.The music also complements the energy of the visuals, which issomething that Zettl points out as an important addition to avoidcontradiction and confusion . The dark, eerie music with aheartbeat-like beat in the background rises and falls subtly duringthe suspenseful time, but as soon as the tone of the documentarychanges to one of relief, the music becomes more uplifting andpositive.4.3 Radio SoundsThe sounds from the radio communications between missioncontrol and the spacecraft give extra information and enhance thevisual experience because the radio conversations reveal moreabout the image, such as exactly what is going on and how the Figure 2: Close-up frame reveals relieved expression astronauts in space and on Earth are dealing with the explosion. 6. CONCLUSION5. ACHIEVED MOODS In conclusion, the decisions made by the directors and men behind the cameras of the archived footage came together in a direct and5.1 Suspense intentional way to evoke particular feelings in the audience. InThe Apollo 13 mission was almost a fatal disaster, not only addition to being an educational documentary on the attemptedbecause it did not reach the moon but also because the astronauts and successful expeditions to the moon, this film uses thecould have died in space. The intensity of the situation after the technical aspects of cinematography to influence the viewer toexplosion in the spacecraft is expressed through a combination of feel in certain ways. For Apollo 13, the user feels suspense andsound, editing, and framing.
then relief, just as viewers of the media coverage in April 1970  In The Shadow of the Moon. Dir. David Sington. Discoverywould have felt as the event occurred. Films, 2007.  Zettl, Herbert. Video Basics 6. Australia:7. REFERENCES Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2010. Web. Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: an Introduction. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004. 252-346. Web.