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virgilxavier
the hollywood look
on Sep 28, 2006 at 5:17:08 pm

although I have just posed this under my previous "proffessional look" thread, I thought that given the lapse of time and refocused subject It might be better to post a new thread.

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.


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Frank Otto
Re: the hollywood look
on Sep 28, 2006 at 11:06:26 pm

[virgilxavier] "obviously there is a tremendous gap between what I can do in a few minutes with limited resources"

Time and/or money.

The "hollywood" look isn't limited to hwood...or feature films. It is limited to...time and/or money.

And we all like to say it's the skillset of the DP and labor - you know the quote,"in the hands of a talented DP a video camera can look like 35mmm..." but that's so not true. A 1/2" or even a 2/3"ccd hasn't the depth of modulation, resolution nor the colorometry of 5274 or 5279 stock and our current post for digital imaging is still only working on 10bit information recorded on digital/magnetic stock vs. the equivelent of 120bit information from the analog/chemical stock.

A "commercial unit", (that is to say, professional producion of anything) will wait all day on location, rehearsed and in place, until the moment comes along when the lighting is just right. One shot we had for "The Wiz" at the old World's Fair/Flushing site began at 4am with set up to 9am - sound playback rehersals until 2pm and then wait until 5:15 to do one shot of the principals walking on the yellow brick road to get the right "glow".

Time and money.

Consider the shot I pulled for "Freewill" required coming out to the same location twice because of cloud cover occluding the full moon - the director was insistant that the moon be realized as the key light and be visable in the shot. I set a 1200w HMI on a 40'mast, poking over the trees - on camera it looked like a full moon but the director didn't buy it...

Did it make a difference? No, the shot looked the same but it wasn't "real" enough for the director. And his budget allowed for his arrogance.

Time and money.

We shot a spot for Nissan-International in just under three hours. One driver/talent for one car driving thru downtown L.A., three camera car drivers, two gennie ops, three gaffers, a D.P. and a director and A.D. Three camera cars provided lighting for the car, street and background...car C had four 6-color scrollers on four 2500w.HMI fresnels to change color for background, car B had a nine-light on a jib arm to repo the car fill light and the A car shot the product plus had a second arm with a 1200w HMI par for a moving street light effect. The result was a multicolored wash background with a very stylized key and fill for the car without having to plant a light. Not rehearsed - the Director called for light moves and color changes as we drove a ten block area. 48 minutes to shoot and 90 minutes to rig. Labor was expensive, equipment was expensive, crew was smallish.

But it was expensive.

To do the nine minutes of bar scenes in "High Desert" required a month of Sundays...literally. 7am call for 2 gaffer/grips with electric, 9am cast call and shoot two set ups by 3 pm when we got thrown out so they could open for business. Total crew of four (DP, 2 gaffers/grips, sound recordist) and director for five Sundays. Location was free, labor was small, costs were small

But it cost in time.

And consider all the shots you reference...most were shot with a Panaflex with Primos glass and with film stock specifically chosen for the light/look, then timed by a colorist in the print phase. You just are not going to get the look of film stock with a DV cam...unless you go the HD cam route and properly light for it - including items like wide apeture lights, 20x20 frames and silks/nets and the labor or time to assemble it all. And even then...close but no prize.

Time and money. And resources that cost money.

So, bottom line...you want the look of a feature it costs. Your time, your money, be it equipment or skilled labor.



Cheers,

Frank Otto



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promoboy
Re: the hollywood look
on Sep 28, 2006 at 11:45:08 pm

Frank,
That post was incredible. Just when I think I'm starting to get the hang of this whole video thing I realize just how little I know. It's exciting to know that I can do this for the rest of my life and barely scratch the surface. Again, great post.

Mike.


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Frank Otto
Re: the hollywood look
on Sep 29, 2006 at 4:30:45 am

Thanks, Mike...but there's still so much to learn - I am so behind on transmission and delivery, storage modes and a lot of the digital hoo-haa.

Of course, it'll all change next week.

Cheers,

Frank Otto



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Blub06
Re: the hollywood look
on Sep 29, 2006 at 3:58:05 pm

I think a good example of this so called Hollywood look, yet done in a different way might be most of S> Kubricks films. The ones he did in England (all the later ones) were done with very small crews and LOTS AND LOTS of time.

Its a complealy different type of film making and to my eyes it works. In fact, it ight be the best way to slog your way through a film rather then all those tucks and permits and people and paperwork etc.

I have thought for some time that young film makers would be better off taking their time making the film of their dreams. They could do many reshoots and tweek the look so it has the, dare I say, Hollywood look. So much of indy film making is people apeing what the big boys do and its not money efficent, and it shows. The "we gota build and army to shot this thing" mentality is the road to an ugly looking thing. Unles of course you have the money.

Chris


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Frank Otto
Re: the hollywood look
on Sep 30, 2006 at 1:36:35 am

And consider U.S. producer Roger Corman. The master of no-budget, low budget film. The master scrounger used sets from other films, standing sets, in some cases standing lights (blocking action to use existing set ups.) Along the way dozens of stars and revered members of various crafts began their careers with him. His $1.98 films have grossed millions over the years and, even with the label(by the critics)of tacky and poorly directed are part of the Hollywood look that other directors emulate today.

And speaking of Kubrick, (who could spend millions on a shot if necessary) one of the most exquisitely lit films ever produced was "Barry Lyndon". Huge crews, tons of lighting (big-assed carbon arc 20k lights by the dozens), huge cast and plenty of movement. I always reccommend this film and "Day Of The Locust" as the most "Hollywood" looking films...as far as technical quality to classes that I lecture.

But...Time AND Money made those films.

Chris makes my earlier point that it can be done and maybe should be done by spending time. But not just the production.

Take classes in art - not how-to, but study the works of many artists. Study their eye for light and composition. Study architecture...see how artists and society contribute to building...anything whether it be offices, schools or homes.

And lastly, study society - not just today's but globally and historically. Learn all that is learnable about the reasons behind culture including religion. All of this has to do with your craft and getting the look.

I say this because too many of the folks getting into this business know only the gear. They learn how to operate in school and they ask in this forum and others for "basic set-ups" and "standard methods" when there is no such thing. Yeah, you may set up the same shot, over and over...but is it really? Is that the same wall, the same action, the same motivation, the same story? Probably not. For an example of what happens when you shoot everything the same way, just look at all the television product from Universal in the 70's and 80's - regardless of theme or storyline, Columbo looked like Quincy looked like McMillan looked like Models Inc looked like McCloud...

Image makers (and I use the term for film, video or any art) need to understand more. Read articles from American Cinematographer, read interviews with DP's, many who state that the Director will have a look in mind that resembles a certain painting or period...what I'm saying is the more you know about stuff that isn't in a tech manual the better you be able to understand how to visualize the look and then apply known technical paramaters to it.

Cheers,

Frank Otto



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Tim Kolb
Re: the hollywood look
on Sep 30, 2006 at 2:52:56 am

No...I won't jump you again on this topic...

However, the point I was attempting to make still stands and is even echoed in this thread. You've now had everything in this thread from car-mounted lighting to feature film full day=one scene to back to the same spot 3 times to see the moon.

My original point was that it wasn't really any "settings" on the camera that make a shoot look "professional", and in all your responses please notice that there is no mention of even what model camera was used much less settings...

As far as the capability to make incredible looking footage with "lesser" cameras...the DP that I mentioned and I worked on a relatively major market industrial shoot a while back...nearly two weeks of work with a small, but adequate crew (5) and a 3 ton truck. We shot the entire thing with a Sony Z1 with a Red Rock Micro prime adapter.

The skills of the DP were able to make the shots look very aesthetically pleasing...even a bit film-like (we did NOT use the CineFrame 24 mode) and the client was, I think, surprised at what they saw and how much they liked it.

There are so many attributes that make images look like they do...

Perhaps one point might be a good place to start. Real life does not allow the key light to always be 30 degrees off center-front. In the case of drama, there are often light sources in the shot that are blown out. The principal light source may be behind the subject. A small bounce card to strictly reveal detail in an actor's face may be all that's necessary as it may make perfect sense for the principal light to be behind the subject if the sun is outside a window or a street light is behind the actor at night.

Car commercials, like all product showcases, feature a product and the "hero" shot usually demands some sort of fully realized frontal lighting. Dramatic lighting that mimicks reality is a different animal.

My personal suggestion to you would be to look around you every day and note where light is coming from in restaurants, or your office, or the street outside. Note how the highlights on a person's hair are so bright that they look white to your eye on a sunny day when they are walking with the sun at their back. Notice how a person's natural downshadows on that same sunny day are affected by a white car that bounces light onto them, or how their look changes when they walk under an awning. Notice how someone looks as they walk across a parking lot at night past the overhead lights front lit, then back lit, then front lit again. Look at how the very blue light of the sun paints a room that is otherwise illuminated by incandescent or fluorescent lighting and how the whole room is a series of color temperatures, not one uniform "white balance".

After you've made some observations...start lighting with only a piece of white presentation board and the sun, or only ONE light, augmented with a large white board...we use the regular 4'x8' sheets of white styrofoam to use as fills...and we cut some in half to 4'x4'...we also use black foam core boards when a person is simply lit "too flat" and there is no ratio to cut some light...commonly referred to as "negative fill."

Learning how to manage light will change your images faster than anything else.




TimK,
Director,
Kolb Productions,

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


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Frank Otto
Re: the hollywood look
on Oct 1, 2006 at 7:02:05 am

[Tim Kolb] "My personal suggestion to you would be to look around you every day"

That's probably the most dead on advice you can give, Tim.

A job I had coveted went to another and I'd asked why. The producer said, "You know how to make pictures, send me your reel when you learn how to see pictures."

Changed my life...



Cheers,

Frank Otto



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Blub06
Re: the hollywood look
on Oct 2, 2006 at 12:01:59 am

I cant help but to repeat a funny joke that was said on the set of Barry Lyndon as reported by American Cinematographer.

The night scenes shot around a table lit ONLY by candle light was done with candles that had three or more wicks. So, when some one might ask, how many foot candles do we have, all you have to do is count the candles!

As an example of how Stanley Kubric always broke the mold, he took his new 25x1 zoom, made by of all companies Canon, and put the thing on a camera that was mounted on a dolly track and DOLLYED AT FULL TELE!! This was done on one of the battle scenes.

I think one of the teams of this thread is not doing things in a way because they are always supposed to be done that way, like three point lighting as an example. Even the greats think out of the box, or should I say of course the greats work out side of the box. Of course it takes some time to have the skill that lets you do that and get away with it.

Chris




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virgilxavier
Re: the hollywood look
on Oct 2, 2006 at 4:19:07 pm

"think one of the teams of this thread is not doing things in a way because they are always supposed to be done that way,"

And yet remember that picasso firt learned to create art in the style of previous periods before inventing his own. In much the same way the students of an art school in Suzdal russia are taught. I lived in one of their dormitories for about 3 months and got to know the process pretty well--they got a readily available model and I got a class full of people to speak russian with. They are taught to create works in the a great variety of styles. By the time they graduate they have an intimate understanding of how great art has been created in the past allowing them to invent truly new and techinally masterful works rather than arrangements of junk they rescued from the scrapheap.

virgilxavier


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virgilxavier
Re: the hollywood look
on Sep 30, 2006 at 12:23:23 pm

thankyou very much for your post. I think your the first person to give me something to go on.

Just to clear something up--I never asked how to get that look with only a prosumer camera (though your mention of an hd cam is intriguing) only "how do you get the look and what is the minimum nesseary equipment. I also wrote that I found the look of older films reletively easy to imitate using only my prosumer hdcam and sunglight.

How would you describe the look I've been asking about technically? Do you agree that there seems to be a certain look in films that the audience has been conditioned to imitate.

Many thanks


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Bruce Alan Greene
Re: the hollywood look
on Sep 30, 2006 at 7:30:05 pm

To keep things pretty simple, I think the "look" that you're attracted to involves just two techniques:

1. The strongest light comes from behind the subjects.
2. The use of a slightly telephoto lens.

That's pretty much it. To do this for interior shots may require a crew and lighting equipment, but for a simple day exterior, perhaps just the right weather and a reflector.

As far as the camera, I think you can acheive your look on a good mini-dv camera. It will just start looking soft as the screen gets bigger:)

I shot a feature a couple years ago on a $3000.00 panasonic dvx-100 camera. It certainly is not "Barry Lyndon" but on a small screen it looks pretty "hollywood" (it was made for a dvd release). You can see a small clip at: http://brucealangreene.com/LYtheater.html

Note: the jerky motion is due to the quicktime being made at 15fps instead of 30 for those with slower connections to the net.

And just a quick story. A number of years ago, a cinematographer whom I admired showed me the best looking film he ever shot. It was a short 16mm film, B&W. The director made the ground rules for the shoot: The cinematographer could only use as much lighting and grip equipment as he could carry in his own two hands at the same time. The picture looked spectacular.


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Frank Otto
Re: the hollywood look
on Oct 1, 2006 at 9:09:02 am

Nice stuff Bruce...and your shoot makes one of my points - you shot with equipment for a specific distribution and met or exceeded the technical requirements of that medium by utilizing your skillset AND good choices (or compromises) in lighting techniques and technology.

As Bruce noted...strong backlight and diffused frontlight with diffused focus background is a easy enough setup. But - can your imager handle it? Can you meet the resoultion needed for detail not to get lost? Or blow out the foreground detail?

It's part of the consideration necessary if you want to achieve any look - along with: Where is it going? How will it be viewed and on what device? Are there technical needs and limitations that have to be met before those of "art"?

Tim also pointed out (in his fine post) that no one mentioned cameras or settings - again, the shoots I mentioned, everything was chosen for the final distribution of the product - "Freewill" was shot with a Arri 35BL2 with a Schneider 10x120 T2 at or about T8/f8 on an odd 400iso AFGA stock, with designs to be theatrical - ended up on VHS - clearly overkill.

The Nissan spot was shot with a Panavision 35/Cooke 18mm T2 lens at around T4/f4 and it was all going to HD in Japan. "High Desert" was shot with an IkegamiHL79/Cannon 18x1F1.8 on standard BETACAM. It was shot and lit as if it were 16MM, processed with "FilmLook"tm and distributed on PAL - VHS.

Right now, I do a lot of 720x480 MPEG (both 4x3 and 16x9)distribution currently - it's the distribution flavor our client/servers work with, and we shoot with DVCPro 25/50 gear and Panasonic F525 cameras with Canon glass and post with Avid/Vegas/PremierPro/AE. Not the most expensive gear but we light what we need to and take advantage of the architectural surroundings and available light to keep our lighting to a minimum. And for the most part we get pretty pictures.

Then again, sometimes art just happens - just ask Steve Miller.

Cheers,

Frank Otto



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virgilxavier
Re: the hollywood look
on Oct 2, 2006 at 4:02:33 pm

WoW
that file is dead on what I'm looking to achieve. As I said--I'm not always a fan of this look but that shot of the barn with the suv next to it was beautiful. Are there any other tips you can give me. How do you keep the background from being washed out or is the back light not to to much brighter than the key? what effect does the slightly telephoto lens have on the image and what do you mean by slightly telephoto?

I'm serving in the Army right now, deployed to Ghazni, Afghanistan. (doe a news article search for ghazni and you should come up with some interesting stuff--If it involves us forces I was probably involved in some way) Until I come home I'm just trying to get a little experiance behind the camera in the time available. Any sort of sophisticated interior set up is out of the question--though there is plenty of very high voltage halogen lighting around. We have no shortage of sunlight and the mountain/desert location is fairly cinematic particurally a few hours before sunset. I can get hold of an unlimited amount of reflector material--large styrofoam boards used for packaging and of course lens's can be ordered as long as they dont cost thousands of dollars. Time is also available as long as it isnt a very large amount at once. Any further info would be much apprieciated. Aside from experiance I'd also like to take home some fairly nice footage of my time here even if the really interesting bits--rockets impacting, ambush's, bombing runs doesnt have the "hollywood look" because we have to shoot on the run.

Virgilxavier


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Bruce Alan Greene
Re: the hollywood look
on Oct 2, 2006 at 4:32:42 pm

[virgilxavier] "WoW
that file is dead on what I'm looking to achieve. As I said--I'm not always a fan of this look but that shot of the barn with the suv next to it was beautiful. Are there any other tips you can give me. How do you keep the background from being washed out or is the back light not to to much brighter than the key? what effect does the slightly telephoto lens have on the image and what do you mean by slightly telephoto?"


Think of the backlight as the key light... and "slightly telephoto" means kinda zoomed in. Zooming in and moving the camera back helps make people photograph more attractively and also helps make the background out of focus to seperate the subjects from the background. And large pieces of styrofoam make good reflectors. You'll just have to have some friends help by holding and aiming them.

The shot of the SUV was in overcast light (cloudy), and was done with a wide lens (zoomed out).

And lastly, thank you for your service in Afghanistan.


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Bob Cole
combat zone?
on Oct 2, 2006 at 10:24:49 pm

Sometimes the Hollywood look is not appropriate. For the D-Day landing, Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" emulated the look of film shot with a 16mm wind-up camera.

Afghanistan sounds like a dangerous place to be, and even more dangerous to videotape, because sometimes you can lose yourself in the viewfinder. Not even in a combat zone, just in a chemical plant, I've seen a cameraman get so wrapped up in a beautiful shot that he nearly got killed. Be careful over there.

-- Bob C.



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