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virgilxavier
The proffesional look?
on Aug 20, 2006 at 7:41:51 pm

How do you achieve that look that all movies from the late 80's on seem to have?

I recently purchased a Sony HDR-HC1 108i HDV camcorder. I was delighted with the quality of the image I could get out of box with minimal care using simple difuse sunlight. With very modest effort in post production I can replicate the look of a well shot film from the 1970's. The easiest to mimic is what you might expect from some BBC costume drama--white white skin & bright. My best stuff looks a lot like the Jeremy Brett sherlock holmes series made by Granada TV--yes it was shot on film. With a little more effort in post I can do the higher contrast stuff similar to Roman polanski's Macbeth or ET. Using the standard advice on achieving the "film look" I can get something very near what you might have expected from hollywood at one point.

What continues to elude me is the polished/slick look of almost all professionally made films and TV shows today. In fact I have trouble articulating exactly what this look is. Films have a great range of color schemes but they all have this common element--it shows most consistently in skin tones. Compare your typical teen comedy say american pie or she's all that with something similar made 20 years earlier say taxi, marathon man or all the presidents men and you should see what I'm talking about. Modern audiences have been taught to associate the look with a proffesional high budget production.

No not the "film look" most films shot before the 80s and many 35mm indie films do not have this look. Digital films and TV have this look--even ones like Bamboozled--suposedly shot with a sony VX-1000 or Dopamine-a film with a $60, 000 budget. Resevoir dogs was shot on 35mm but with a budget of only $24, 000 yet the cinematography is almost indistinguishable from the best hollywood has to offer.

I've had some limited sucess shooting in very bright direct sunlight using a neutral density filter and will continue to experiment along these lines but as this look is so common there must be a fairly standard technique to achieve it. I know it must be some combination of lighting, lens configuration, and color correction but the question is How DO YOU DO IT and what is the minimal hardware requirements to get the job done?



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donatello
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 21, 2006 at 12:42:57 am

"Resevoir dogs was shot on 35mm but with a budget of only $24, 000 "

based on the Charlie Rose interview of Quintin T - QT stated R-dogs was made for 1.3mil


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Blub06
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 21, 2006 at 5:26:51 pm

There are so many reasons for this look. I could argue that that look starts well before the 80's but I will address your notion as you offer it.

In the early 80 Zeiss and Panavision came out with breakthrough prime lenses. Kodak and Fuji came out with much faster breakthrough film and a new light form was invented and quickly adopted by everyone, called HMI.

Before 1983 it was hard to shoot, you needed lots of experience to light for 100 asa film and shoot on location with minimal lighting. After 1983 with those fast fantastic lenses but most importantly the new fast film stocks, anyone could shot fantastic looking stuff just by getting the exposure right and keeping things in focus. This was a God sent for all the no talent music video directors/DPs. I would say the professional look is a product of new equipment and film not talent. But that equipment and film is not cheap.

I could go on but this is my minirant and I doubt you want the maxirant.

Chris




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Leo Ticheli
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 21, 2006 at 8:30:41 pm

The "Professional Look" that virgilxavier asked about is certainly not attributable to any technological achievement.

The, "professional look," is the bringing to bear many disciplines and the skills of artists. It's all about talent; if you want to know how it's done, just study the credits on a film.

The production designers, cinematographers, set designers, wardrobe designers, and many others all working in harmony under the direction of a talented director create the, "professional look."

Good shooting!

Leo







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virgilxavier
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 21, 2006 at 9:20:16 pm

So you think that its a matter of getting a proffesional grade lens and maybe a little better lighting? Fair enough. Are you sure? Presumably there are similar gadgets for digital? I have no problem reading a maxirant as long as it is informative.

What exactly is this look--the color and texture of the image specifically, not as another poster has suggested the sum total effect of all aspects of production. Can it be described in technical terms? Whats this about the exposure? Can you give men any referernces specifically on creating this look?

many thanks
virgilxavier



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virgilxavier
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 21, 2006 at 9:45:52 pm

HMI
are you refering to
Hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide-HMI bulbs rely heavily on the mercury vapour for light output, and the other metal halides mixed with the mercury to give it the spectral peaks in output wavelengths that bring it to approximately 5600K, or the color temperature of noon sunlight. Bulbs seem to be available in the 600-1200w range for between $100 and $250 with proffesional studio equipment including mounts, electronics ect. running into the tens of thousands of dollars

However--as you say shooting in sunlight uses no lights leaving the film and the lens's? Clearly this look is possible using digital and not just the $60-120k camera's. quoting
"CNN's Showbiz Today observed Tuesday. Director Spike Lee told the cable magazine show that he shot his latest film, Bamboozled, with a $1, 200 Sony VX-1000 digital camcorder, which allowed him to make faster set-ups than would have been the case if he had used studio equipment. "We did not have a lot of money to shoot this film, so we really needed to move, " he said"

So does this leave some truly high speed lens's and a modicum of skill in thier use? What does these lenses do to light?

virgilxavier
"some men see things as they are and ask "why". I see things that never were and say "why not" Robert F Kennedy






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tony salgado
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 22, 2006 at 3:36:36 pm

virgilxavier,


The press stories you have been reading touting the miracles a certain director had using pro-consumer equipment on his last movie are at best promotional hype with a sense of confusion added by the writer who could not tell the difference between a Panaflex and a fisher price camera.


The professional look you are seeking is the result of what so many on this thread have cleared pointed out which is raw creative talent first and foremost. Talent combined with technology equals memorable images. The combination of talent,experience, motivation, desire along with technology are some of key ingredients necessary for creative productions.


Any movie analog, film or digital toliet paper needs to have a crew who understands and is experienced in the art of creative lighting and movie making. Mastering any new digital medium still starts and ends with the most essential analog element lighting, lighting and lighting.


Buying a prosumer camera and expecting the internal digital marvels to outshine those who have spent a lifetime mastering the craft of moviemaking is similar to buying a VW bug at the flea market and then showing up at Nascar in an attempt to qualify for entry.


However learning the craft of moviemaking only requires a keen interest and desire to learn from those before them. If you are sincerely interested consider taking an introductory lighting class to learn how to shape, mold and draw with a palette of lighting instruments and tools.

The core elementary skills you learn will last a lifetime.



Good luck,


Tony Salgado



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virgilxavier
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 21, 2006 at 11:18:19 pm

another movie Full Frontal by sondbergh that meets the "look" criteria
"turns out he's shooting with a "bare-bones" XL-1s with a Century wide-angle attachment from Birns & Sawyer. The editing for the movie is being done on Final Cut Pro 3.0."

elswere sondbergh when interviewed stressed the importance of the use of white balance zebra and histogram controls as well as the careful control of video gain and color gain as essential to achieving a quality product using available natural light.

virgilxavier
"there are stranger things on heaven and earth than dreamt of in our philosophies" Hamlet




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Ken Zukin
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 22, 2006 at 12:03:36 am

Cinematography is a craft, and it takes years to develop the skillset necessary to do the job.
Buying the same Fender guitar isn't going to guarantee you'll sound like Eric Clapton.
Enjoy the journey.


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SydneyS
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 22, 2006 at 1:28:44 am

You're not going to get "The Look" with a consumer video camera, at least not the same look as you will with 35mm film cameras... You've got almost triple the dynamic range with the film camera, you're going to end up with blooming being an issue with just about every video camera, (Do a search on pixel blooming for more info) the tonal range of color in the film world is unmatched in the video world, although high end video cameras are fast catching up... They're typically in the $100,000 range and higher with lens included... It's as simple as this... if Sony and company sold a camera for one tenth the amount of another, and it was capable of the same quality as the more expensive one, what sense would that make? On the other hand, most consumer cameras are far more capable of better looking footage than what most people think... The computer plays a much larger but largely ignored role in this... Bottom line is, read some books and practice what you learn. I've been trying to push my own limits for going on 10 years, and I have much to learn...


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promoboy
Re: The profesional look?
on Aug 22, 2006 at 1:37:57 am

Cinematography is definitly a craft and an art form, and it's the sum of multiple talents, often requiring multiple people very skilled in select areas. Pick your favorite movie and pay attention to the lighting, the color pallete, the angles used, wardrobe, camera movements...all of these areas had different people dedicated to just that.
In my opinion, lighting goes a long, long way to a "professional" look. Choosing whether you want rich, deep colors or a flatter, almost monotone look. And don't forget that a lot of work is done in post by professional colorists. Ever watch deleted scenes that aren't finished? They often look more harsh--more detailed, and the colors don't "pop" like the finished piece.
The best advice I could give you is find someone who is good at lighting and ask, beg, plead, bribe, blackmail them (ok, maybe not blackmail) into letting you shadow them. Learn, learn, learn. Do the same with DOPs, editors, colorists, directors, etc. etc. etc...heck, even actors. There is no one quick fix or piece of technology that will give you the look you want. Best of luck...it's a lot to learn, but an awesome field to be in.

M.


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evrard
Re: The proffesional look?
on Oct 5, 2006 at 6:33:35 pm

Ken Zukin said: "Cinematography is a craft, and it takes years to develop the skillset necessary to do the job".

This is true, but its a pity it is still so. I was hoping that the sum of all these knowledges some craftmen have accumulated over the year could be rendered one day as simple tools for mister everybody to exploit easily.

20 years ago you needed to type complex codes to just start a program in a computer or to get it make a simple calculations. Computer was reserved exclusively for those who learned in years. Today, thanks to windows and other conviviality-oriented tools computing is at the level of anyone even my grandmother can use one to send me emails and manage her banking. Everything is just a matter of clicking. Thank god someone invented the mouse. Good thing people like Bill Gates came in the game, or we would still be under the reign of nerdz who would keep the mystification. Just visit some of these forums, specially the open-source philosophers, you would end-up beleiving one day you would never know anything.

Someone has to do something one day so that filmmaking quits being a thing for the craftmen only. First step in that would be to get the craftsmen speak plain english so everybody can understand. What does it profit this boom of new technologies that mushroom out here and there everyday if it is not usable by any pretender? I thought today only creativity would be the limit, but unfortunatly it's still all technicality.

Those who invented the microwave have helped many people finally cook food to eat, this is the essential. Or we would all be forced to suscribe to the next MacDonal to get some food fast. How many people are now able to do egg rolls that thought only chineses masters could years ago?

When shall tools be available so people could make films without "years of learning"?

In medecine everyone is now able to know the basics of headache reliefs...without consulting a doctor. Medecine has done much to come close to the large public. Why not filmaking? Sure we are not expecting the next door neighbor to make heart surgery.

Let's all work to bring knowledge to the simple but not mystify them. Imagine the dream of filmaking becoming as trivial as running a computer today :)


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Blub06
Re: The proffesional look?
on Aug 22, 2006 at 3:54:08 am

I am not sure where this thread is going but I will be glad to answer a question or two. I don


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Tim Kolb
Re: Hire a professional...
on Aug 24, 2006 at 3:23:17 am

[virgilxavier] "another movie Full Frontal by sondbergh that meets the "look" criteria
"turns out he's shooting with a "bare-bones" XL-1s with a Century wide-angle attachment from Birns & Sawyer. The editing for the movie is being done on Final Cut Pro 3.0.""



Interesting...I thought the parts of full frontal that I saw looked a little rough actually...

There are lots of publicity stunt sort of projects going on out there with prosumer equipment over-achieving. We actually made a video with the Z-1 the year they rolled it out at NAB that was shown in the Sony booth. I was stationed in the Adobe booth so they were sending people to me with questions...it was very odd.

The most heard remark was "I can't believe you made those images with a $5,000.00 camera."

My response was "I didn't."

I made those images with a:

VERY skilled Director of Photography
a professional gaffer
two grips
two stylists
a steadicam rig
a doorway dolly
...and a 3 ton grip truck (relatively small equipment truck-cube van loaded with lights and related gear...HMIs, tungsten, silks, rigging, etc.)

...and me (directing).

Oh yeah...and a $5,000.00 camera. Never mind the crew and gear cost more for one day than buying the camera outright.

Cameras CAPTURE images...YOU make them.

People have to understand that technology will NEVER trump technique.





TimK,

Kolb Productions,
Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Leo Ticheli
Re: Hire a professional...
on Aug 24, 2006 at 3:57:57 pm

Thank you, Tim, for your terrific post.

Personally, I find it shockingly ignorant, if not insulting, when people suggest that you can create great cinematography simply by purchasing a more capable camera or modern film stock.

Artists can make beautiful films with virtually any camera; higher quality cameras or film stocks may well help, but it really depends on what look is best to tell the story. I think of the contrasting styles in "Bringing out the dead," which is deliberately gritty and blown out, and the lush majesty of "Geisha."

There is no substitute for talent and skill.

Good shooting!

Leo





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Tim Kolb
Re: Hire a professional...
on Aug 24, 2006 at 6:31:50 pm

Hi Leo,

I don't think people intend to be insulting...they just simply don't know.

My point to them is that no one expects someone off the street to buy the world's most expensive stove and become Emeril or the highest quality paint brush and be Picasso, but Emeril could probably blow you away with something he made from left overs on a campfire and I suspect Picasso could create compelling imagery with Crayolas.

I think the field itself has propagated some of this. Part of the standard marketing throughout the mid-late 80's and all of the 90's was the infamous "equipment list". You could have a 9 year old who barely knew anything beyond playing Pac Man operating, but if it was on a Media Composer...you could book it. We had Media 100s and we regularly got pushed out by the pitch that Avids were the only "professional" system...even though in many cases our professional credentials were superior.

Don't even get me started on Sony cameras or Sachtler tripods...

All of this hardware-oriented posturing is coming home to roost for the mid-level production shop, which must now come to terms with the fact that anybody with some cash can buy this gear these days...but then, as I wrote in my very first article on the Cow...the equipment has always been a commodity no matter what it cost.




TimK,

Kolb Productions,
Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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tony salgado
Re: Hire a professional...
on Aug 24, 2006 at 8:46:07 pm



Well said Tim,



The marketing machine is all about hype, lies, mistruths, half truths, speculation, puffery, and somewhere in there more BS than you care to step in anyday.


People first, last and in between is what it is all really about.



Tony Salgado


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Blub06
Re: Hire a professional...
on Aug 24, 2006 at 10:14:16 pm

I think I hit a nerve, the truth hurts.

In the early 90's Vilmos Zimond was interviewed in American Cinematographer, saying, today with the new film stock and lenses its easy to create beautiful images, its still hard to tell a story.

Sounds right to me. He was responding to a question regarding how the new stuff made it easier. He acknowledges the effect of the new stuff, and how utterly irrelevant it is in being a Cinematographer.

Chris




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Tim Kolb
Re: Hire a professional...
on Aug 25, 2006 at 4:29:33 pm

[Blub06] "
I think I hit a nerve, the truth hurts.

In the early 90's Vilmos Zimond was interviewed in American Cinematographer, saying, today with the new film stock and lenses its easy to create beautiful images, its still hard to tell a story.

Sounds right to me. He was responding to a question regarding how the new stuff made it easier. He acknowledges the effect of the new stuff, and how utterly irrelevant it is in being a Cinematographer."



He, he...yeah, well if that is true, wouldn't you guys be out putting us technique guys out of business instead of here asking us how you make your pictures look like you're a professional? You have the gear, correct?

Vilmos Zimond is a guy with obvious experience and talent and he's probably forgotten more than a lot of guys will ever know. I suspect his remarks were aimed at other experienced professionals...not anyone who wants to buy a prosumer HDV camcorder for $1500.00.

If the camera or gear could do it by itself, virgilxavier would be taking our work instead of asking for our advice I would think...

Good luck with your career if you plan on creating it based on tape stock or a particular camera model.




TimK,

Kolb Productions,
Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Blub06
Re: Hire a professional...
on Aug 26, 2006 at 5:39:36 pm

What we have here is failure to communicate. I guess that


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Tim Kolb
Re: Hire a professional...
on Aug 26, 2006 at 6:05:28 pm

[Blub06] "I think what is causing this miscommunication is the word professional. I don


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Bob Cole
more
on Sep 14, 2006 at 10:20:18 am

First, learn to spell "professional," at least when you're posting to umpteen thousand people.

You're lucky to have gotten such fantastic advice. There are some great responses here. It's a very tough thing to achieve, largely because when you succeed, nobody notices WHAT you've done, only that it attracts their interest. Here is my sense of what goes into "the look."

1. Actors -- people that you want to look at on screen. Interesting faces, not necessarily pretty ones. Even when you're making a documentary, when you see one through the camera, you silently go "Yippee."
2. Shallow depth of field. Big blurry backgrounds, often with light sources creating blobs.
3. Shoot on film or a very high-end video camera. A creamy look rather than a harsh electronic one.
4. Lighting which undergirds the story. It could be the delicate use of fill in an otherwise strongly motivated scene which creates a nice luminous light on the faces (the current version of the "obie") or it can be no light at all where that helps sell the character (exterior/porch scenes in "Unforgiven").





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virgilxavier
Re: The proffesional look?
on Sep 28, 2006 at 5:11:31 pm

I am sorry that I chose to title my post "proffesional look" seeing as it has caused so much confusion and hurt feelings. I mearly chose it because as I said modern audiences have tended to associate it with a proffesional, big budget production and the majority of hollywood films seem to choose this look.

to clear things up (I hope)here are some links to stills from actual films. All were made on budgets in the millions $$$ by large teams of consumate proffesionals in the 90's--so it was likely the directors choice what the film should look like.

http://www.sequined-sensation.me.uk/Middlemarch/XMM018.jpg was taken from the 1997 production of middle march (a costume drama based on a novel by george elliot)
notice the more sedated colors--the impression of white light--this is the look that I have little trouble creating on my own modest camera. obviously there is a tremendous gap between what I can do in a few minutes with limited resources and experiance especially when make up costumes, more complex lightin in other scences, framein ect. are taken into consideration--none the less the look and picture quality (on a tv screen anyways) are comparable.

compare this however to...
http://bztv.typepad.com/moviessquared/images/pride.jpg
-a still from sense & sensibility made in 1995 notice the more vibrant colors the subtle glow ect. This is the look that I do not know how to go about creating

it is even more pronounced in this still from she's all that
http://www.joeythefilmgeek.com/reviews2/allthat.jpg or in tom hanks Terminal http://images.usatoday.com/travel/_photos/2004/06/18/terminal-hanks-inside....
even in the reletively simple lighting strategies of the modern comedy you can see a distinct diference in the look when compared to films maybe 15 years older or some contemporary big budget films and many low budget productions.


I realize I may have bruised some egos by listing a few low budget films that nonetheless achieved this look but it was meant to illustrate my point that I wasnt nessesarily looking for the acme of skill--just a trick that seems to be present in even poorly done proffesional productions. Ishatar has this look despite the comments made about it in this forum--as does the local evening news to some extent.

Personally I dont prefer this look-whatever you call it--but as I said this is what audiences expect to see.

Any specific suggestions? (yes I know the answer invoves lighting, camera's, lens's color correction, and experiance but to be helpfull I need just a little bit more info than that)


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