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Film Stock Days of Heaven Terrence Malick Nestor Almendros

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#1 Miguel Roman

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 05:52 AM

Hello everyone! I am a Phd student and I am currently writing my thesis about the cinematography of Terrence Malick's films; I would like to ask if anyone knows what film stock was used in the shooting of Days of Heaven. So far I have only been able to find on the internet that Néstor Almendros used a "new Eastman ultra light-sensitive stock negative"...


Edited by Miguel Roman, 27 December 2017 - 06:03 AM.

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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 09:21 AM

I would check out the American Cinematographer magazine, from memory there was an issue on Days of Heaven. So worth a visit by a Phd student, Néstor Almendros has written a book "Man with a Camera*, which discusses "Day of Heaven"

 

I would assume it was 5247 (100ASA), since it came out about the time the film was being shot.


Edited by Brian Drysdale, 27 December 2017 - 09:25 AM.

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 11:15 AM

"Days of Heaven" was covered by American Cinematographer in a short article in May 1979 as part of their Oscar roundup and then a full article in June 1979.

 

It was also covered in an interview with Almendros in the book "Masters of Light" plus in Almendros autobiography "Man with a Camera."

 

It was shot on Kodak 100T (or 125T -- Kodak changed the rating at one point) 5247, tungsten-balanced.  Almendros push-processed the stock in low-light to 200 ASA and for a few shots, to 400 ASA, often pulling the 85 correction filter in low-light to gain more exposure.

 

5247 had a complex history.  The first 100 ASA motion picture color negative stock came out in 1968 with Kodak's 5254, which replaced 50 ASA 5251 -- Kodak didn't have multiple speed stocks for movie work until the 1980's so a new stock replaced the previous stock.

 

5247 came out in 1974 to replace 5254, same ASA, along with a new process, ECN2, to replace ECN, that allowed negative stock to be processed at faster speeds (by which I mean, it could be run through the machines faster).  However, a lot of cinematographers and directors did not like the first version of 5247, which was a bit contrasty and tended to go green when push-processed, so in the U.S., they kept selling 5254, whereas in Europe, you had to switch to 5247.

 

In the summer of 1976, Kodak came out with the Series 600 version of 5247 which solved the problems with push-processing and obsoleted 5254, first in 35mm and then in 65mm.  For this reason, movies made in 1976 could have been shot on either 5254, the old 5247, or the new 5247.  "Star Wars" for example went into production in April 1976 and started shooting on the earlier version of 5247 but at some point switched to the new version.  "Close Encounters" started in May 1976 and probably used both versions of 5247 in 35mm but shot all the 65mm footage on 5254. Spielberg at the time said he preferred the look of the older 5254, which was a bit softer and more pastel -- he thought 5247 looked too slick.  However, Geoffrey Unsworth, who used fog filters plus underexposure and push-processing on his movies like "Superman", said he preferred the new stock since it was sharper and finer-grained and thus handled his filtration and push-processing better. In the AC article on "Barry Lyndon", John Alcott said he shot the movie on 5254 on a LowCon #3 filter but if he had used 5247 he would have increased the heaviness of the LowCon filter to compensate.

 

"Days of Heaven" started filming in the fall of 1976 so would have used the new version of 5247.

 

Most movies made in the late 1970's were shot on Kodak 5247 until 1981 when Fuji came out with the first "high-speed" color negative, followed by Kodak a few months later.  After that, there were multiple-speed stocks available for filmmakers, first a fast and a slower-speed stock, and then by the late 1980's, a number of stocks in different speeds, in both daylight and tungsten balance.


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#4 Miguel Roman

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 11:38 AM

Thank you so much for the info, It is really helpful!!


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#5 Miguel Roman

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 11:56 AM

I would like to know if you could also recommend me a good book (besides the ones you mentioned and American Cinematographer magazines) that talks about the history of the different film stocks (for cinema) manufactured by Kodak, specially about the stocks released from the 1970s on (I found the story about the 5247 very interesting). Thank you!


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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 05:23 PM

“Film Style & Technology: History & Analysis” by Barry Salt is a good resource.

There is also this:
https://www.kodak.co...979/default.htm
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#7 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 11:35 PM

Just as a point of interest for the OP.. Terrence Malik is actually in Badlands..  he comes to the door of the rich guys house .. who Sheen has at gun point with his maid.. (later he steals the black Caddie).. the actor didn't turn up and Malik did it as there was no one else around..


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#8 Miguel Roman

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Posted 28 December 2017 - 10:57 AM

Thank you Mr. Mullen for the book, I already got Barry Salt's, which I would say it's almost indispensable for any cinematographer/student; thanks also for the link!


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#9 Miguel Roman

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Posted 28 December 2017 - 10:59 AM

About Malick in Badlands, I believe that he always wanted to reshoot that scene later on, but Martin Sheen wouldn't let him (also the production went over budget and for an independent film it would have been difficult to reshoot, I imagine)


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#10 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 28 December 2017 - 08:29 PM

Yes quite possible.. yeah not a happy production by all accounts.. but not a bad first film out of film school..! my old man was the first DP.. till Malik nearly killed him.. perforated Ulcer .. :)


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 28 December 2017 - 08:30 PM.

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#11 Miguel Roman

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 01:09 AM

Wow, your father was Brian?? That's really interesting! I am sorry to hear about that ulcer...but could you tell me about the shooting experience of your father in Badlands? What did he think of the shooting style of Malick (and about Malick himself?


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#12 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 02:58 AM

I was still a school boy in the UK.. but I remember a few things the old man talked about .. Malik believed my dad didn't use any lights.. ! and so there was no budget for any .. that had too be changed.. the old man also over exposed all of the hot day ext by 2 stops.. corrected in post to give a sort of washed out "hot" look..which concerned the producers at the time .. I guess my old man was used to a more structured way of covering a scene and often saw it different to Malik .. sorry I don't really have alot of detailed stuff.. he got on well with Sheen and Specek who were both pretty much unknown then .. but I believe there was some tension with Mr Malik and then the old man had a burst ulcer and was rushed to hospital.. Malik gave him the black caddie from the film so I guess they got on OK.. Malik was pretty young and straight out of film school ..his dad was an oil company exc or something like that.. Im not really sure why he wanted a UK DOP and I wouldn't say Badlands is really shot in a doc/tons of hand held style..which was seen as a forte of alot of the British DOP,s who had a background from the 60,s in that field..

 

I still think Badlands is his best film TBH.. the music is amazing too.. 


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#13 Miguel Roman

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 12:31 PM

Now, that is very interesting; according to an article published in The Guardian, your father was the first cinematographer to work on the movie, until he "got ill"and had to stop; after that, Tak Fujimoto took over the photography and finally Steven Larner completed the shooting of the film.

 

Watching Badlands, I never got the feeling that the photography changed very much during the length of the film, despite having been shot by three different persons. I wonder if by any chance you know which scenes or shots were shot by your father?


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#14 tom lombard

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 01:51 PM

This discussion led me to look up info on Badlands as that's one of the many gaps in my cinema knowledge.  I had to smile & put it on my "see ASAP" list because of the topic.  I read "Inspired by real-life killers Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate..." and my jaw dropped.  I'm basically a life resident of Lincoln, NE and vividly recall these events happening during my childhood including his execution.  It's a major, dark part of local lore.  My son went to find (and did) Charles's grave last halloween.  My daily commute takes me past a building where I believe one of the killings took place.  


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#15 Miguel Roman

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 03:08 PM

Badlands is a very recommendable film to watch, although it is not a totally faithful recreation of the actual events, just inspired by them and their characters; when I first watched it I didn't know anything about the story of Starkweather and Fugate, but I liked it as a film in its entirety, a film which was slightly different than the ones I had seen before; you can already see Malick's trade mark shots and montages. Tom, let us know what you think about it when you finally watch it!


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#16 tom lombard

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 04:17 PM

Will do.  I was aware of another film on the subject but made a point of not watching it as I couldn't imagine watching Woody Harrelson in the role without hearing the theme from Cheers over top of it.


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#17 Samuel Berger

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 04:25 PM

Will do.  I was aware of another film on the subject but made a point of not watching it as I couldn't imagine watching Woody Harrelson in the role without hearing the theme from Cheers over top of it.

 

That was NATURAL BORN KILLERS, which was only marginally inspired by the Starkweather case. I didn't like the film or what it had to say, I felt it was over the top and self-indulgent. THE FRIGHTENERS has a great little fictionalization of Starkweather & Fugate with Jake Busey and Fairuza Balk in the roles, but it wasn't  the main focus of the film. 

 

The murderous couple were evil people and should never be glorified, but the portrayal in FRIGHTENERS was possibly the most entertaining. BADLANDS lacked in accuracy, in fact the names were changed to signal this, but was very well done.


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#18 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 08:32 PM

Now, that is very interesting; according to an article published in The Guardian, your father was the first cinematographer to work on the movie, until he "got ill"and had to stop; after that, Tak Fujimoto took over the photography and finally Steven Larner completed the shooting of the film.

 

Watching Badlands, I never got the feeling that the photography changed very much during the length of the film, despite having been shot by three different persons. I wonder if by any chance you know which scenes or shots were shot by your father?

 

 

Sorry I don't know which ones he did.. he was gone for a fair while so I guess he shot most of it.. and I presume they stuck with his film choice and over exp 2 stops of some day ext. Tak Fujimoto was the original 1st AC wasn't he.. so I guess he was on the shoot the longest.. my old man used to say the Starkweather case was little known ,because unlike Bonny and Clyde,or Gangsters who killed for money.. which people could understand..Starkweather didn't.. he just killed people.. years later when I was a AC I worked in NY with a guy who had been a runner on Badlands.. he said Malik was pretty hard to work with just due to inexperience.. and they often slated a shot upside down to show the editors the old man had shot it "under protest"..


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#19 Miguel Roman

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 10:43 AM

I read about the the upside down slating; I guess I can understand why the crew was not really happy about working with an inexperienced director, but the final result did pay off, in my opinion. About Tak Fujimoto, he supposedly only took over after Brian Probyn stopped and then left when Steven Larner came in. I leave you the extract of the article where this is mentioned (took from The Guardian):

 

British cinematographer Brian Probyn established the dreamy texture of the picture before being taken ill, exhausted by the heat, the long hours and Malick's idiosyncrasies. "On several occasions," says Pressman, "I can recall Brian shooting with the slate upside down as a form of protest in a disagreement with Terry about methods of orthodox coverage and matching shots." Tak Fujimoto - who later became Jonathan Demme's regular cinematographer - took over after Probyn's departure, until a new director of photography, Steven Larner, was found.


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#20 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 08:09 PM

I read about the the upside down slating; I guess I can understand why the crew was not really happy about working with an inexperienced director, but the final result did pay off, in my opinion. About Tak Fujimoto, he supposedly only took over after Brian Probyn stopped and then left when Steven Larner came in. I leave you the extract of the article where this is mentioned (took from The Guardian):

 

British cinematographer Brian Probyn established the dreamy texture of the picture before being taken ill, exhausted by the heat, the long hours and Malick's idiosyncrasies. "On several occasions," says Pressman, "I can recall Brian shooting with the slate upside down as a form of protest in a disagreement with Terry about methods of orthodox coverage and matching shots." Tak Fujimoto - who later became Jonathan Demme's regular cinematographer - took over after Probyn's departure, until a new director of photography, Steven Larner, was found.

 

 

Ok thanks .. yes I guess this article sums it up.. yeah I knew Tak was the fill in guy.. he's a very good DP now too..and yes a very good outcome.. as I say in another thread .. I think its by far his best film.. nothing to do with my old mans connection.. actually the music is one of the really big things for me if I had to point to one Ione thing.. and with Apocalypse Now I think its one of Sheens best performances too.. 


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