Did somebody say explosions? Michael Bay has created something, the question is, what is it? It’s hard to believe that there’s an actual method to Bay’s visually-assaulting style and film critic Tony Zhou breaks it down in his video essay, “What is Bayhem?” Tony dissects Bay’s overuse of circular camera movement, hero shots and his extremely odd obsession with lamp posts.
6 Easy Steps to Make a Michael Bay Film
1. Make your shots more complicated
Go ahead, make my Bay.
Bay utilizes constant camera movement, composition and vertigo-inducing editing to create a sense of epic scale. He takes pride in the fact that his camera movements are more complicated than his competitors. Bay believes that more depth, parallax, movement and environment make his shots more complicated.
Not necessarily better, just more convoluted.
2. Use 360-degree shots on your protagonist
Bay is the king of the 360-degree slow motion hero shot, but the irony is that Bay constantly contradicts himself with his overuse of this technique. Every shot in a Bay movie is used for maximum visual effect whether it’s appropriate or not. 3,000 epic shots and no static shots, that’s the Bay way.
3. Use a lot of low angles
How low can you go?
Bay typically shoots actors vertically and from a low angle, otherwise known as the “Bay Angle.” They stand up, stare off screen at something epic you can’t see, and boom goes the Michael Bay dynamite.
Bay’s techniques aren’t unique, they’re just a way to visually trick the masses who think they’re experiencing visual depth from a movie that has none.
4. Make your shots tighter or a lot wider
Professor X-plosions constantly borrows the visual style of blockbuster movies like Star Wars, but his favorite movie is West Side Story. Yes, you read that correctly. West Side Story. Bay’s admitted in a New York Times interview that his visual style is borrowed from several shots in West Side Story yet he can’t really verbalize why this is the case.
Bay loves the use of tight shots and tight cuts. His tight shots always get tighter and his wide shots always get wider.
5. Master the Hollywood formula and repeat
One of the most baffling aspects of Michael Bay movies is that he’s constantly plagiarizing himself.
The ingenious review exposed the fact that Bay often uses the exact same shots at the exact same second in the first three installments of the series.
So, at the end of the day, what is “Bayhem?”
Basically, it’s Bay’s adaptation of retro action movie scenes with individual shots being equal parts shakier, dirtier and louder.
Then, you have an editor cut it faster than the brain can comprehend, but not faster than the eye can see. Character, environment, and endless visual layers in a series of continuous epic sweeping shots.
Did Michael Bay’s filmmaking techniques to ruin our collective childhoods? That’s up to you to decide, but the answer is “yes.”
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