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Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?

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Martin Reed
Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 1, 2009 at 10:14:36 am

Hi guys, I'm a student DP heading into my first shoot with the RED camera in the next couple of weeks.

The director has told me that he wants to achieve a look similar to this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxn0-nYU1P8

I was wondering if some of your experienced vets could provide me a quick 'expert diagnosis' of the video?

Ie. from giving it a look over, what kind of gear/lenses do you think I could use to achieve a similar look and effect?

Any help would really push this hungry young DP to another level, and I'd really appreciate it.


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Rick Wise
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 1, 2009 at 4:59:38 pm

There are at least five issues here: lenses, location, lighting, angles, and exposure.

Lenses: looks like shot with primes, frequently with shallow depth of field (achieved, as you probably know by now, by shooting with the iris close to wide open and also shooting with a longer focal length.)

Location: one that offers the variety of shots you need. (This location offers variety, but is not in itself very interesting. An opportunity missed.)

Lighting: looks to me likely that the shooter used available light, possibly augmented with very soft additional light, but I suspect it's all just what's there. Note that to pull this off with available light you need to be able to "read" the light that's there and find the best angles accordingly.

Shooting angles: a variety that fits the story. Myself, I'm not crazy about the wide shots flat on to the couch with the light coming in over the camera, but many of the other shots "work" well. The crew could have turned the couch 45 or 0 degrees to the window light for a more nuanced look.

Exposure: dp not afraid to "underexpose" many shots. Often those "underexposed" shots are visually the most interesting.



Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 1, 2009 at 9:01:53 pm

Wow Rick... no one will question your DP ability (far more expertise than I have) and I will completely defer to your judgement, but do you really think that was mostly an available-light shoot?

To me, it looked lit like crazy. With all those big windows on set I would be guessing there were quite a few largish HMIs, very heavily diffused with lots of large softboxes, diffusion in Hollywood frames, or bounced onto white cards. Available light just rarely looks as beautiful and perfectly lit as those scenes. And there seemed to be an awful lot of what were actually very natural-looking nice soft shadows... but not coming from the direction that the apparent available light would have created. And lots and lots of "against the windows" shots that would have been all blown out and silhouetted had it be only avail-light.

On the other hand, if that was largely an available light shoot... then the DP was a genius... and really really knew how to read what he or she had.

On a completely different note... when the heck are today's singers going to stop relying on AutoTune?


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Rick Wise
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 1, 2009 at 10:20:54 pm

Todd,

I took another look at the sample video and you are indeed correct that the shooter used some lights. At 2:47 there's a relatively wide shot with a window behind the two actors. The shadow of a tree says the sun is coming from the right, fairly high in the sky, as does the look of the hill outside the window. But hard warm (setting) "sunlight" is coming in from the left at eye level. The close-up of the girl at 2:55 shows that also. (While a lot of the lighting is soft, sometimes it is hard with hard shadows.)

I think I was seduced into the "available light" idea by the underexposed shots of the couple on the floor in the kitchen where they cavort below where the "window" light can reach. (3:21 and earlier.) This is the kind of lighting situation video can often handle well.

(Note, I just discovered something you all may know: on YouTube, if you pause the video, then move the slider along, a tiny window shows where in the video you are, timewise.)

Shooting available light is definitely going out on a very thin limb. It's fun, though.... On one of my favorite shoots (the boxing spot on my reel --http://rickwisedp.com/Box.htm) I had a full LA crew with all the lights and grip equipment and crew you could ask for. I shot 95% available light, because what was there was perfect. I sort of felt bad about the crew not doing much (other than the dolly grip) but they didn't mind at all. Had the weather turned dark, I had the reserves to restore the "sun." Not a luxury you are likely to encounter these days.

One more observation about the sample shoot: filter. I think it highly likely the DP used a light classic soft or some such.

Good catch, Todd!



Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 2, 2009 at 4:24:06 am

Some of the really wide shots show some obvious barrel distortion at the sides, so I'm guessing maybe a wide-angle adapter was used on those. The vignetting could be in-camera, but is just as easy and more controllable to apply in post.

Auto-tune in vocals today is like when electric guitarists first got a hold of fuzzboxes, talkboxes, flangers, and phasers. or when keyboardists started hooking up vocoders. Some awesome art occasionally occurred, in the hands of some talented folks, but much more bad than good was created by all the follow-on imitators, and a dated "period" sound that burned itself out of popularity and took years to slowly sneak back in with more subtlety and discretion in use the second time around.


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Martin Reed
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 2, 2009 at 5:40:03 am

Thanks for the responses guys. Keep them coming.

As far as "difficulty level", I don't think that achieving a look similar to this should be *too* hard to achieve (comparitively speaking, of course), but then again, the director I'm working with did say that "sometimes, making something simple look appealing can be just as challenging as figuring out a way to get a T-Rex to eat Jeff Goldblum."

What type lens sizes do you think I could use to achieve similar coverage in the close-ups? The lens kit we've got access to from a rental house is "Zeiss Ultra Primes - 16mm, 24mm, 32mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 100mm".

I feel like those are diverse enough to get the shots I want.

As you can probably tell by now, I'm rather naive/inexperienced when it comes to DOP'ing my first shoot, but I'm excited as hell to do it, and am looking forward to applying my enthusiasm and passion to making this work for the director.


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Rick Wise
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 2, 2009 at 5:56:04 pm

What camera are you using with those primes? The field of view of any lens is relative to the recording format, whether it's film or video. In film, a 25mm lens has the same coverage when shooting 16mm film as does a 50mm lens when shooting 35mm (well, roughly so.) However, the depth of field characteristics do not change for any lens, no matter what format it is being used on. That is, at a given distance and f/stop, a 50mm lens with have the same depth of field if it is used on a 35mm camera as on a 16mm camera. It is only the field of view that changes.

Your lens selection looks quite complete. To make sure, go to the rental house and set up your widest and your longest lens to see if your wide coverage will work, and your long, given the limitations of your location.

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Martin Reed
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 2, 2009 at 11:25:32 pm

Hi Rick,

I'm going to be shooting with a RED camera, most likely at 4k.


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Todd Terry
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 2, 2009 at 11:58:50 pm

Well shooting RED at 4k is more or less the equiv of 35mm film as far as focal lengths, DoF, and angle of view goes for each of those lenses.

I'd say with that package you'd be very very well covered... unless, as Rick suggests, you need something extremely wide or extremely long.

That's a bit more of an arsenal than I usually travel with, and I'm rarely in need of more lens choices. My usual set is 18mm, 35mm, 50mm, 80mm, and 200mm. Sometimes I'll bring along a 6mm (very wide, 180° view) and a 37-140mm if I think there's any chance I'll need a zoom. I think your package should more than cover what you need... in fact, I'm more than a litte jealous of it.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Richard Herd
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 4, 2009 at 5:42:29 pm

Over the last 5 years, at least, there's been a controversy brewing about the DP's roll in affecting the final look. As editors continue to get more advanced digital grading tools, post production is the place where "the look" is set. In my opinion, that means, for the digital DP, he or she needs to capture as much dynamic range as possible. For me that means nothing--or at least very little--in the frame is black. I find that even when there is enough light in the low levels, I can still shape them in post with amazing precision. From the perspective of "being on set," this means, it's a bit sketchy to screen the untimed dailies or playback footage because it doesn't "look" like it should.

I'm 100% certain that the DP on that video did a fine job of exposing the image so the low light was hot enough so the colorist/editor/timer could move data around. To me, some of the images appear a bit too hot, like at 1:42 compared with 1:40.

If I was shootin it, I'd bring four, maybe five, china lanterns and diffusion, some CTB, and bounce cards, and we'd cruise through the whole thing. It's about the band getting their image out there. Like Rick said, I'd match and supplement daylight as the shot dictated. My goal would be to give as much information as possible to the post folks so they could apply color grading.

Having said all that: check out this tutorial, because it's what editors/producers/graders/directors expect the footage to handle: http://library.creativecow.net/articles/maschwitz_stu/red-giant-blockbuster...

The fundamental issue appears to be the DP's vision of the look is being trumped by desktop tools, and the DPs are looked at more and more as either automatons (at worst) or technicians (at best).


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Martin Reed
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 5, 2009 at 1:38:24 am

Wow, Richard, thanks for the link to that tutorial. Some great, eye-opening stuff in there!


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Richard Herd
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 5, 2009 at 5:08:20 pm

No problemo.


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Richard Herd
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 4, 2009 at 5:20:36 pm

Since you mentioned auto tune. You have got to check out the very clever segments called "auto tune the news" on youtube. Pure genius fun!


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anil kumar
panasonic HPX300
on Aug 8, 2009 at 9:38:15 pm

i would like to buy panasonic HPX300 . love to hear the users comment about the camera.


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Tony Stampalia
Re: Student DP help: How can I achieve a similar look to this music video?
on Aug 17, 2009 at 5:34:46 pm

Good luck.


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