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Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?

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Scott Smith
Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 4:46:42 am

I have a project that needs a silent movie era/Keystone Kops look to it. I know there are a lot of effects you can do in post, but I figured to get the best out of it, I need to shoot in a way that puts me halfway there. When I search the Cow (or Google) for "Film Look", some advice works - but not all - when thinking about movies from the 20's.

Camera: I plan to shoot in 1080/24p, because that is the only 24p setting on the 7d. I'll try to keep my shutter-speed fairly low, and crank down some detail settings. Should I go ahead and shoot in monochrome, since we're going to drop the color anyway? Any other suggestions for that OLD film look? Any filters you think I might need? I know sometimes you might use a colored filter and shoot in B/W. Mist or soft filter? Recommended ISO setting (considering outside/sunny day) to help achieve that look? I mean, would it do any good to use a ND filter and crank the ISO to introduce grain? Or leave that to post?

Stylistic: Looking at old clips, I think I have to go with nearly all static shots to match the style, and have the subjects enter and exit the frame. I'll try and frame it for 4:3 and crop the sides in post, since those old movies were all in (approximately) 4:3 way back then. The old movies had some weird frame rate causing people to appear to move quickly. If the 7D did under-cranking, I might shoot in 20 or 22fps to get this, but it doesn't. Any suggestions for the best way to achieve this that would affect the way I shoot it? Any other stylistic tips or tricks anyone have?

Any suggestions to make this have the look and feel of old, old film would be appreciated. Thanks!



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Peter Burger
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 7:04:19 am

I'd rather shoot a clean-as-can-be picture and do all effects (b/w conversion, grain, ...) in post. It'll be a bit more time-consuming, but you'll have more control.
Since (at least in the early beginnings) all those cameras were hand-cranked, you might want emulate that look (speeding a bit up and down). Time remapping (for example in After Effects) might be the way to this.
Maybe get a copy of Stu Maschwitz' phenomenal book "The DV Rebels Guide". On the included DVD there's an After Effects script for "hand-cranked" look.
If you're using After Effetcs, b/w conversion IMHO is best achieved not by simply reducing saturation but by either tinting or using the b/w conversion filter (which was introduced with CS5, I think, and works like the similar effect in Photoshop). With that filter you'll have a lot of control over the final b/w look.
The "up-speed" look of that old silent movies in most cases is simply because those films are shown not in their original speed. Many of them are filmed with approximatley 18fps and screened with 24fps.
Grain can be introduced with appropriate filters or - also in After Effects with a very cool preset by Andrew Kramer (http://www.videocopilot.net/presets/fast_film_grain/)

hth

------------------------------------------
"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton


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Scott Smith
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 2:49:31 pm

That is my typical strategy as well. I just thought that in this case, you'd still see a digital quality in it if I got a nice crisp 1080P.
I think I am definitely with you on Color/B&W, though I think I'll quickly switch to B&W during shooting just to check that all of the colors aren't actually washed out into some neutral gray without me realizing it.



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Peter Burger
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 5:41:27 pm

[Scott Smith] "I think I'll quickly switch to B&W during shooting just to check that all of the colors aren't actually washed out into some neutral gray without me realizing it."

Of course you can do that. You can also play around with the built-in camera-filters (not 100% sure if the 7D has them. My T2i offers a variety of digital colour-filters to emulate "in-front-of-the-lens" filters for b/w shooting).

With the b/w conversion filters of Photoshop and After Effects you have total control of the final b/w look in post.

Richard Harrington made a great tutorial on that:

http://library.creativecow.net/articles/harrington_richard/after-effects-cs...

[Scott Smith] " I just thought that in this case, you'd still see a digital quality in it if I got a nice crisp 1080P."

You can use blurs to reduce the crispness of the original footage. When in AE put a blur filter on an adjustment layer above the footage, so you can blur just parts of the picture like a vignette.

Oh... And speaking of vignettes: Don't forget the vignettes :)

------------------------------------------
"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton


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Brent Dunn
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 6, 2011 at 3:38:56 pm

Sapphire Edge by GenArts has some cool settings for getting this kind of effect. But, there are many ways to achieve the same effect. Just play with some test shots to find your way.

Brent Dunn
Owner / Director / Editor
DunnRight Films
DunnRight Video.com
Video Marketing Toolbox.net

Sony EX-1,
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 7D
Mac Pro Tower, Quad Core,
with Final Cut Studio

HP i7 Quad laptop
Adobe CS-5 Production Suite





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Kevin Camin
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 2:43:40 pm

I agree with Peter that you should shoot cleanly and do everything is post. It will take a lot of work in post to make it convincing. One thought is that you might want to rent a Bolex film camera and shoot on B&W reversal film and fluctuate the frames per second while shooting. There is a place in my city, Minneapolis, where you could send it to for development and digital transfer. You would be 3/4 of the way there by this method. You could probably do all this for a couple hundred bucks (rental, film stock, transfer).

One other thought is that the mis-en-scene of those period films had an aesthetic distinctly their own. Their set design was almost like the stage of a play. The acting style of that time was still heavily rooted in theater style acting and appears over the top to us today, but made perfect sense to audiences back then. Make-up and hair was of a certain flavor. I'm sure you or the director is thinking about all this but thought I would lay it out as well.

Good luck!

Best regards,

Kevin Camin


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Scott Smith
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 3:06:10 pm

Thanks Kevin. I've notice most of the silent movies are as you said on set, very theatrical. Though the Keystone Kops - which we are a little closer to emulating - appear to be largely outside and non-setup or lit. You are right about the acting. Actually, that is one of the reasons we chose this format. The original idea was for something more Casablanca'ish. We were concerned about getting some bad acting from our non-professional actor pool. We figured the stage style over-acting and complete lack of audio recording would actually help us out there, and be the better/easier option.

I'm staff at a University, with limited budget. We have some very good, talented people on staff as shooters and editors, but our acting pool are a bunch of random faculty or students. We DID book the School Mascot. And we've acquired a working Model-T Ford for use.



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Jonathan Ziegler
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 4:26:07 pm

Well, consider the technology at the time - many hand-cranked cameras (means the frame rate wasn't always perfect but it would be about 16-18 frames per second with variations that make action randomly jump faster or slower). Then there was the film which was black and white but very very grainy with inconsistent exposure from frame to frame. As it ages, vertical lines develop on the film from passing through the projector again and again. Don't forget the bits of hair, dust, scratches, and places where the film drifts left to right when the sprocket holes don't match up.

Jonathan Ziegler
http://www.electrictiger.com/
520-360-8293


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Peter Burger
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 6:00:38 pm

Another aspect came to my mind right now: A lot of the feeling of these old-time movies is achieved through editing. Even the Keystone Cops films have a slower pace and fewer camera angles than todays movies. The cameras had to be on sticks and editing real film-footage is a lot more work than todays digital approach. Today editing, then watching your edit, re-editing and watching again is done in minutes rather than hours.

------------------------------------------
"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton


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Scott Smith
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 3, 2011 at 7:28:02 pm

Oh yes. I'm certainly planning on the shooting being on sticks with 99% static shots, and edited with simple cuts. I'm not the editor on this, but I think the editor is on the same page with me there. And he's good with effects and the old film look. I'm predominantly the engineer of our department, but am more familiar with SLR shooting than most of our videographers, so am the shooter on this. We thought starting out shooting on a DSLR with a prime lens would be much better than a normal video camera.

My main concern is shooting something that is going to look like Old Film rather than "HD with Effects" after it's edited. Sometimes there is just no substitute for capturing the footage in just the right way. I certainly appreciate all of the advice.

Do you think a Gaussian Blur would come off looking as good as shooting with less detail and possibly a mild optical diffusion filter?



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Peter Burger
Re: Faux Silent Movie on 7D shooting advice?
on Dec 4, 2011 at 12:11:42 am

[Scott Smith] "Do you think a Gaussian Blur would come off looking as good as shooting with less detail and possibly a mild optical diffusion filter?"

Not quite sure if you'll get what you want to achieve with the Gaussian Blur (or Fast Blur, which is basically the the same effect, but renders much faster)...
I'd possibly try Median (at a low value) or Box Blur plus some added grain which IMHO will lead to more believable results.

All kinds of practical effects (like a diffusion filters on the lens) are a bit tricky. You have to know exactly what they do to your picture, because you can't remove the results in post.

If a lens filter produces exactly the look you want, go get one and use it.

So... it might be time for test-footage ;)

Adding blur or contrast (or whatever) in post is easy plus you can try different values without destroying the picture. But if an "effect" is baked in you'll have to live with it.

Making a believable "old-film" conversion is more than just applying one filter. It maybe take two, three or more different filters and some keyframed values to fool the audience.

IMHO, if you (or your editor) have a bit of experience with postproduction you can do almost everything with good, clean source footage, which means in this case degrading the footage.

If I have to apply some kind of "soft filmic look" to video footage, one way for me to get a first rough working-base is:

1. Duplicate the (colour-corrected) source footage
2. Apply a blur filter to the copy
3. Blend the blurred footage with "Soft Light" or "Screen"

The intensity can be easily adjusted by opacity of the blurred layer

Then you can do a b/w conversion, add grain and a vignette or do any kind of crazy stuff (time remapping, dust, scratches)...


------------------------------------------
"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton


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