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We say Conrad Hall & Greg Tolland were the best...


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#21 fstop

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 11:58 AM

Wendell - I was just listening to the LAP album when I read your post!!! :blink: :blink: :ph34r: :huh: :o We can't let my two chief interests crossover like that again! ;) Promise to Try...

Boone -

I'd love to hear your comments on Toland's SONG OF THE SOUTH - I think the guy was quite an underrated master of colour, especially photographing colour actors. Those nighttime interiors of Uncle Remus are really inspiring, and the exterior night stuff photographed entirely in colour day-for-night is probably as far away from the exressionism of Kane and the naturalism of Grapes as you could possibly go!

Edited by fstop, 20 April 2005 - 12:00 PM.

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#22 J. Lamar King

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 01:49 PM

Daniel, you might not see it now being inexperienced but you will begin to realize how good these guys are after you get a few real shoots under your belt. It takes a lot of skill and talent to produce that level of work throughout a feature. Sure you have to give some of the music video shooters kudos, because the level of work being done nowadays is very high.

Interesting that "Song of the South" was brought up. Always one of my favorites for the visuals but rarely seen as Disney tries to hide it due to its obvious racial content. NCSA has one of the few 35mm prints available to watch.
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#23 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 07:02 PM

  That said, I don't agree with you.

Well, I suppose at the end of the day I'm not a pro and you have a better understanding of whats great and whats not, so, I'll take your word for it.

I am just amazed you were able to find music videos; they don't play them over on this side of the pond.

Usually found of digital channels, MTV, Kerrang, stuff like that. Those videos I downloaded from Kazaa ( :ph34r: )


I think the secret here isn't picking who's the best, or deciding who's work is more influential -- it's realizing that C. Hall and the DP's of the music videos you mentioned are, at a certain level, equally talented.

Yeh, well when you think about it a scene can only be *so* complex, the main part of it is down to your artist *vision*, I mean, different artists paint different pictures, different styles e.t.c. The effects shown in those music videos may have been extremely complex, but it was all down to the DP's artistry, obviously they wouldn't suit any feature length films.

Different DP's are suited to different tasks, Conrad L. Hall might not have had the creative ability to do what they did in those music videos, but the DP's who did those music videos would't have the creative ability to do what Conrad L. Hall did in Road to Perdition.


And to say that treating "Citizen Kane" (or any other film) as masterpiece is spineless is simply ignorant. Personally, I'm still totally in awe of that film, because of both the quality of the work and its innovations within the context of when and where it was made. That sense of awe is very important to me because if I lose it, I lose touch with why I'm making films in the first place. The day I'm no longer wowed by Welles, Toland, Willis, etc., I'm going to be very worried because it means that I've lost touch with my love of cinema.

Well if you still gasp at the shots in Citizen Kane and realise that's why you want to make films, then fair enough, that's your choice, but not everyone elses.

The reason I make films is because when I was about 7 I watched films like Godzilla and Jurassic Park, I started making films with with my black and white camcorder. It just came as a real excitement to me watching films like Godzilla, and from then on I knew I wanted to make these films.

I also saw Citizen Kane, and like Jonathon gave it the respect it deserves, but I can't say I think about it as an undiscovered bible written by Jesus himself, which is what most people do.

I'm not the kind of person that lives in the past, I know films like Citizen Kane have made cinema what it is today, but I've moved on. My inspiration lies on all those Hollywood blockbuster movies, and theres nothing wrong with that. You say your inspiration was on Citizen Kane, well that's yours, mine is on blockbusters. So, respect my inpirations and I'll respect yours. Personally I would much rather make a film like Jurrasic Park than Citizen Kane, but that's because I was brought up on a whole different generation of films. I was brought up on the modern greats. And to this day I still prefer them.


I hate most of those mtv videos, they all look just the same. Heavy post-processing and grading, uninteresting lighting techniques, etc. and a lot of "cool" tricks thrown in.

Well I actually think that the video "Time is Running Out" by MUSE was all done on set, I have a short behind the scenes clip of it and from what I can see everything is there on set. That video has got to be my favourite (it might have something to do with me thinking MUSE are the greatest band in the world...) But I honestly do think that video is amazing, the director was extremely good as well.

What I liked most about the the videos was there POV in scenes,1st,2nd,3rd
person. However if this was done in post I don't know if I will stay impressed.

Being a music video I dare say some of the tricks in those videos were done on computer, although I have seen the "behind the scenes" on some of those videos and from what I could see it was all done on set. For instance the greenday video was shot like the old style movies, they had a rear projection on the board and a conveyor belt for the actors to either stand or walk on. All the burn and scratch marks in the film were done optically by the director burning holes and blowing smoke onto it with ciggerettes. (He looked asthough he was having fun...)

Most of the pro-
ducers I've been talking to here in the east want to start going the digital way.

Well... we all love film, but then again, episode 2 and 3 of Star Wars was shot on digital, and just look how that turned out! I mean, if it's good enough for Lucas, then it's good enough for me. And personally I like the look of HD anyway, it just looks modern, I would hardly call that a downfall. Whatever takes your fancy.

Daniel, you might not see it now being inexperienced but you will begin to realize how good these guys are after you get a few real shoots under your belt.

Yeh I agree, down to my lack of experience I can't make professional opinions on what?s better and what?s not. Although, speaking from an amateurs point of view, and I mean so amateur that I'm one of these kids sitting at home watching these music videos and films, I was honestly more impressed with the cinematography in the music videos. And when you think about it, in a way (and forgive me, I feel realy arrogant saying this) but it's actually my opinion that counts overall, considering I'm pretty much an average consumer of this work. And as an average consumer I thought that the music videos looked better.


Well, thanks for the replies people. I think I'll look at things a bit more closer now.

Man that took a long time to write... can't sleep. (What were those pills anyway...)

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith, 20 April 2005 - 07:12 PM.

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#24 Boone Hudgins

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 08:05 PM

Boone -

I'd love to hear your comments on Toland's SONG OF THE SOUTH - I think the guy was quite an underrated master of colour, especially photographing colour actors. Those nighttime interiors of Uncle Remus are really inspiring, and the exterior night stuff photographed entirely in colour day-for-night is probably as far away from the exressionism of Kane and the naturalism of Grapes as you could possibly go!

I'd love to comment on the movie, but the last time I saw it was in music class in Kindergarten. It stinks that it was so hard to find (my brother's fifth grade teacher always bragged of his Japanese bootleg and made them watch it all the time), it really is historically important and a work of art. When the DVD comes out I'm going to hurry to get it.

I could automatically assume though that it is striking visually, even if it's against his pigeonhole style. He was an innovator.

I don't think anybody's getting all over you that you want to make blockbuster's Daniel, it's just a little worrisome that you limit yourself so much. Many of these "blockbuster" filmmakers were inspired by movies of a completely different nature. Steven Spielberg's favorite director is David Lean, and though I doubt he'd make a movie about genetically recreated dinosaurs, it makes sense that Spielberg would love somebody that had such a huge scope in his movies. His first movie, Sugar Land Express, wasn't exactly action packed (it's a great little movie; wonderful night scenes...anybody know how Vilmos did some of that stuff?)

John Woo's favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz. Jackie Chan loves Harold Lloyd movies. Martin Scorcese grew up on musicals and westerns. George Lucas loved B-serials growing up. The list could go on. The point is, don't limit yourself. If all you watch are big budget action movies, you stuff will all be imitation; knockoffs. Inspiration comes from the weirdest places sometimes.

Besides, I don't know how the cinematographers of those videos would like it if you said they were better than Conrad Hall.
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#25 Dominic Case

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 09:48 PM

When I read Daniel's opening email my first reaction was one of "don't go there, what's the point."

But IF Daniel's strategy was to throw in a firecracker and see what it stirred up, then it's the best posting of the month. That is, except for all the replies - which add up to darn good lesson on styles of cinematography from a number of viewpoints. Thanks for starting the argument Daniel.

That said, Daniel, if you prefer to learn from current films and not examine where they have come from, that IS your choice. I personally think it's a lot easier to analyse what is going on if you can deconstruct a modern film by reference to older styles. I think one of the points that Tim made was that Hall's work (that he referred to) was a reaction against earlier styles. You've got to look at, and learn about, the earlier styles if you are going to react to them.

episode 2 and 3 of Star Wars was shot on digital, and just look how that turned out! I mean, if it's good enough for Lucas, then it's good enough for me.

I can't tell you what a gulf this opens up between your views and mine (though that's not surprising). Maybe my first reaction was correct. I certainly don't want to embark on the whole Star Wars thing - most particularly in this thread which was supposed to be about cinematographic excellence.
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#26 Shaun Joye

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 12:19 AM

Since when did Toland and Hall become outdated? Besides any educational or historical significance, their work is simply beautiful and the passage of time won't change that. I agree we're still in the shadow of Carvaggio, and we'll always be in the shadow of Toland and Hall as well.

Dan, you're entitled to your own opinion, but Jurassic Park? I mean, I respect your views and all, but JURASSIC PARK? I agree that there are interesting things done with music video, but being a cinematographer is much more than making pretty pictures.

Ever notice how the soundtrack in a film can make cuts look smoother? Or how editing can make acting seem more real? Or how art direction can make lighting look better? All the aspects of filmmaking depend on each other and its all about making a film that draws the audience in. Conrad Hall was a great cinematographer because he helped tell the story, and he did so with a level of skill that, in my opinion, is simply unmatched.

I don't see what the problem is with looking up to people like Hall or Toland. None of us are going to immitate them, I don't think any of us really could. They were masters of the art, and it is constantly changing, and there are those who will become masters and do new and amazing things in the future. However, from a personal standpoint, I'd consider myself lucky if I ever got close to where either of them were proffessionally and artistically. And if I'm at the top of my game in my seventies I'll be a very happy man.
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#27 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 12:57 AM

You can't really compare the cinematography of a 30 second commercial or 3 minute music video to a 2 hour movie.

For one thing, the average commercial or music video has a lot more time to shoot compared to the final running time (a commercial shooting perhaps 1/8 of a page per day versus three to five pages of script per day for a feature) plus the goals are generally different: cinematography in a feature is there to SUPPORT the story and acting, not dominate it. In commercials and music videos, the visuals are front and center usually. It's got nothing to do with being a "better" DP because you can create more striking images -- maybe a better commercial or music video DP... but that's not what makes a great feature film DP.

Also you have to consider that the average feature may well be made up of over 1000 shots, done over a couple of months in a wide variety of conditions, often shot out-of-sequence, yet the final result has to look fairly consistent. Consistency is harder than creating some great shots.

I'd suggest that anyone who thinks that what Hall or Toland has done as being relatively easy to accomplish FIRST go out and accomplish it themselves before stating so. I mean, you can look at a Van Gogh painting and also think it's relatively easy to accomplish but that doesn't mean you're as great an artist as Van Gogh.

Great cinematography has little to do with how hard it was to set-up anyway -- in fact, often the best cinematography is quite simple technically. But that doesn't mean it isn't hard to think it up artistically. Gordon Willis lit many scenes in "The Godfather" with a soft box over the center of the set -- doing that wasn't hard to accomplish, but THINKING UP how to treat that film visually using such techniques was an act of genius.
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#28 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 05:10 PM

I don't think anybody's getting all over you that you want to make blockbuster's Daniel, it's just a little worrisome that you limit yourself so much. Many of these "blockbuster" filmmakers were inspired by movies of a completely different nature. Steven Spielberg's favorite director is David Lean, and though I doubt he'd make a movie about genetically recreated dinosaurs, it makes sense that Spielberg would love somebody that had such a huge scope in his movies. His first movie, Sugar Land Express, wasn't exactly action packed (it's a great little movie; wonderful night scenes...anybody know how Vilmos did some of that stuff?)

Perhaps from the influence of these blockbusters I'll create something completely different.

Besides by blockbusters I don't mean all out 100% action, I like something with a bit of story to it. For instance my favourite film is Leon, it's based around an action film but it also has a very complex story behind it.

For that reason I never really liked films like the Fast and Furious e.t.c.


Dan, you're entitled to your own opinion, but Jurassic Park? I mean, I respect your views and all, but JURASSIC PARK? I agree that there are interesting things done with music video, but being a cinematographer is much more than making pretty pictures.

I'm speaking more from a director?s point of view. The cinematography in Jurassic Park was pretty good I thought, but it was mainly the film, it had such a huge storyline, it certainly kept me in the cinema. (Well actually I saw Jurassic Park in the cinemas when I was younger and apparently I was screaming my head off :blink: ) But, I liked it when I got older. And to this day I'd still rather watch that than Citizen Kane, which I watched and thought was ok, but I didn't turn the TV off at the end of it saying "Wow, what a great film". But on the other hand I still gave Citizen Kane the respect it deserves, but as a viewer it didn't really appeal to me greatly, I mean it was ok, but not *that* great.

You can't really compare the cinematography of a 30 second commercial or 3 minute music video to a 2 hour movie.

I realise that now, two different mediums anyway.
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#29 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 07:19 PM

One music video thar really did get my attention was "My Immortal" by Evanescence.

Video

I have yet to see cinematography in any feature length film as good as this!

I just honestly don't think these music video DP's get the credit they deserve. Everyone is on about Greg Tolland e.t.c. but everyone seems to forget the other fantastic DP's out there.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith, 21 April 2005 - 07:19 PM.

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#30 Ilmari Reitmaa

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 08:00 PM

I have yet to see cinematography in any feature length film as good as this!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Apart from the incessant camera movement and overall softness, resemblance to Robert Krasker's work on The Third Man is at times quite uncanny; hard light and cast shadows, not mentioning old city exteriors and withering leaves..
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#31 Rik Andino

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 08:12 PM

I'd suggest that anyone who thinks that what Hall or Toland has done as being relatively easy to accomplish FIRST go out and accomplish it themselves before stating so.  I mean, you can look at a Van Gogh painting and also think it's relatively easy to accomplish but that doesn't mean you're as great an artist as Van Gogh.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I recently saw some Van Gogh paintings...
And anyone who says they're easy to accomplish hasn't seriously seen a Van Gogh

The same way anyone who negates the skill that Hall and Toland have
Hasn't really seen any of their movies...

The more you practice and learn about these things
The more admiration you have for the people who have done it
It ain't as easy as every idiot think it is--there is actually some skill involved.
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#32 Boone Hudgins

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 09:14 PM

It's one thing to reproduce the works of Toland, Hall, Willis, Van Gogh, but remember that they created them.

I do think that video is neat, Daniel, (it's the only Evanesence song, and video, I like) but I've seen plenty of black and white movies that were as good, and a lot that were better. Better music videos, too. I'm not sure what you're trying to prove. It's like saying that you don't see what the big deal about The Great Gatsby is because Michael Crichton's Timline is such a better book. Even if you like Timeline better, you can't dismiss the former as being considered the great American novel. So many people are influenced by these cinematographers, it's a bit odd for you to dismiss them as "no big deal." Especially when you compare them to people who are probably close to the same age as the cinematographers that post on here. They're classics, don't fight that.

But I stand by the fact that if all you watch are those big movies, you're only limiting your scope of influence, and for a while at least it will border on imitation. If you want to start a rock band and you only listen to Blink-182, what do you think you're going to sound like?
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#33 Dominic Case

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 12:11 AM

It's one thing to reproduce the works of Toland, Hall, Willis, Van Gogh
<snip>
Especially when you compare them to people who are probably close to the same age as the cinematographers that post on here.


Wow!

Conrad Hall would have been 79 this year: Gregg Toland 101.

Not many of the cinematographers on this list are very close to that age.

Most could add Boone's AND Daniel's ages on to their own and still get in underneath.

Still, I guess over 40 is over the hill from somebody's point of view. (sigh!)
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#34 Boone Hudgins

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 11:03 AM

I meant to say that he was saying that younger cinematographers are better, and for some reason you guys should look up to them more (apparently), even though you are their peers. I was comparing you guys to the young bucks!
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#35 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 02:54 PM

and for some reason you guys should look up to them more (apparently)

Not neccesarily look up to them, but respect them more. Their work is amazing, if it wasn't they wouldn't be doing videos for some of the biggest rock bands around.

I mean, could anyone on this board actually do work like that?
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#36 jon w

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 03:11 PM

i kinda see music video cinematography similar to still photography, individual shots. dont get me wrong, a lot of it is beautiful!, its just that for the most part you dont have to worry about lighting continuity, eyelines matching, if shots will cut togeather nicely.

its just constant visual stimulation... i couldnt imagine trying to sit through a feature shot like this.
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#37 Robert Hughes

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 03:17 PM

... it's like saying you don't see what's the big deal with good wine because crack is so much more exciting!
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#38 Gordon Highland

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 03:40 PM

its just constant visual stimulation... i couldnt imagine trying to sit through a feature shot like this.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


you mean like the Charlie's Angels movies? [shudder] sure, they're kind of interesting to look at for four minutes, but the number of excuse-to-use-a-pop-song montages and excessive star-mugging makes me ill. pure sugar. this is a guy who makes music videos, and should stick to what he does well.
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#39 Rik Andino

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 08:33 PM

Not neccesarily look up to them, but respect them more. Their work is amazing, if it wasn't they wouldn't be doing videos for some of the biggest rock bands around.

I mean, could anyone on this board actually do work like that?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I'm sure a bunch of cinematographers here
Have shot Music Videos for big Rock bands...

And besides getting work on music videos sometimes is more about politics
And less about skill--I've seen very mediocre DP's get big video work
Because of who they know or how they present themselves to certain folks.


I don't know if you've talked to many DPs
Especially those who mostly do Music Videos
Ask them: "Who do they respect & admire?"
And they'll probably tell you
All those old feature film DP's you're not so impressed by

Then ask them: "What would they like to do?"
And they'll mostly tell you: "They want to DP a feature film..."
Music Videos are fun and all but they're not as great as doing a feature film
Everyone (or at least almost everyone) wants to DP a feature film

So yes I do respect cinematographers who shoot videos & I do admire their work
I respect most cinematographers...
But I respect the cinematographers who shoot features the most
Because a feature film is alot harder than doing a video.

Edited by Rik Andino, 22 April 2005 - 08:34 PM.

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#40 Tim van der Linden

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 10:16 PM

I mean, could anyone on this board actually do work like that?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


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