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#1 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 05:44 AM

I thought I would ask a question about making the talent look better in a subtle way - without screaming from the video village that the "talent look like Sh..t and thank god you are on set to save the day"- just gently and quietly positioning talent

So to start these are general rules I use if I can :) but here goes

Film people with big(ish noses) from below their eye line if you can
Film people with big eyes and small noses from above their eye line
Film people with weird jaw bone structure from the side
Try and create physical tension by twisting then pose for close ups (look at any good headshot in LA) never straight to camera

Now out to the floor....
And does anyone else do this kind of thing - I haven't really started but some of my stills fashion people turned me on to it

thanks

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#2 Keith Mottram

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 01:20 PM

from my point of view this would cause huge gramatical errors in the cut. Yes you want the talent to look great and in a commercial this could be acceptable. In a drama, in my opinion, you want scene continuety so by all means if you have time cover all artists in this scene with all your options but if you have time to shoot each talent with only one close up then decide which is the best style of close ups for the scene. From my point of view there is also a gramatical difference between shooting from below, above, from the side etc- and each case you are making a statement. Personally I couldn't care less whether a big nose is wrong for a particular tipe of close up, but conflicting styles within a scene are incredibly jarring (unless that is your intention).

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 01:35 PM

Personally I couldn't care less whether a big nose is wrong for a particular tipe of close up, but conflicting styles within a scene are incredibly jarring (unless that is your intention).


Your leading actress might care...

Part of your job as a DP is to take every department's concerns into consideration while maintaining some sort of visual consistency and overall style. Doesn't mean you have to cave into everyone's requests, but you do have to listen, which is hard to do when you're rushed.

I had to placate an upset make-up person who said I didn't pay enough attention to the actor's hairpiece join line at the scalp -- she said I was hitting it with too much hard light. Now since I was lighting the actor with a big soft light and they were moving around (so shadowing the top of the forehead wasn't really possible anyway, besides the light was too soft for a flag) I was sort of dismissive -- so she complained to the producer and I had to apologize to her for not taking the time to do something (even though there was nothing I could do.) I sort of calmed her down by saying that as a last recourse, we could blend the hairpiece digitally in post if it were too visible.

The point is that you can't be too dogmatic, stylistically. Few people on the set care about your artistic intent with a certain type of light or lens if they feel it doesn't make the actor look good, unless you have the director on your side and they will back you up. But often they give in and say "do whatever makes her happy."

I remember being upset with some sound people who tried to dictate camera placement and lens choice to make their life easier. It seems everytime I do a "Citizen Kane" deep-focus shot with one person big in the f.g and someone in the far background also in focus, talking, the sound man complains because they can't record it with one mic, and if I'm at a low-angle to boot, they can't get the boom close enough to the far background person. And they don't want to use a lavelier mic, etc. At some point I have to say "what, we can't do any more low-angle deep-focus two-shots?" My response can get rather testy, I'm afraid to say.

I can recall saying things like "if I could figure out how to light this complex moving shot, surely you can figure out how to mic it."

I've also been told to set-up and light a scene for two cameras, and after all that work, the sound man convinces everyone to run the two cameras separately because he can record sound better for a single camera at a time. But now I've compromised the lighting and framing to get two cameras on the scene, and if now I want to make adjustments for running them separately, the AD yells at me because I said I was ready to roll both cameras, so what difference does it make if I roll them separately? (Well, the same reasons why the sound guy wants to roll one camera at a time...)
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#4 Max Jacoby

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 01:47 PM

Your leading actress might care...


Yep :-)

Speaking of sound people, their opinions on all things cinematography is always filtered by how it influences their work. A great sound recordist I know once told me that he prefers the Cooke S4s over the Ultra Primes. The reason? The Cookes are bigger, therefore less noise comes out of the lens mount... He loves shooting with the Hawks too, because they are even bigger!

He also has this very interesting way of judging lighting. If there are a lot of boom shadows, then the lighting very often isn't good. Which makes sense, because boom shadows are visible if the light comes from the same angle as the camera, so the lighting is flat.
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#5 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 01:59 PM

Sound guys get ignored, trodded upon, brushed aside all the time by film crews - sound just isn't very important to most film people. Therefore I've forced myself to do the opposite - I try to accomodate sound as much as I can and they really appreciate it.
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#6 Robert Edge

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 04:13 PM

Film people with big(ish noses) from below their eye line if you can


Now I have to go rent a Pedro Almodovar film and see how he handles Rossy de Palma :) Speaking of whom, I saw de Palma interviewed one night on French television. She came off as an extraordinarily interesting, well-spoken, intelligent person.
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#7 Gordon Highland

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 07:01 PM

As someone who spends about half his time doing sound, I gotta chime in. When I see extraneous headroom in the frame it drives me freakin crazy, cuz it means i can't get the boom in close enough for a good s/n ratio. especially when it's a height discrepancy between actors and the director made poor blocking choices. i'm not shy about warning him, either, even though i may get overruled. i don't like mixing a boom and a lav cuz they don't sound the same (plus a certain amount of laziness), and i don't get much time for audio post. anyone you talk to will prefer a boom. when i'm shooting, i'll usually frame/block the shots with some compromise to accommodate sound. but sometimes the visuals are just more important, and some things can be ADRed.

i used to work with a sound guy (USED to, won't call him anymore) who was awesome and someone i learned a lot from, but if he didn't like something he would sometimes deliberately drop his boom into frame for an unusable take. i finally pulled him aside and had to explain that it's MY decision as to what's good and what isn't, and even if he or an actor botched something, wait until AFTERWARDS to tell me, because I usually know what kind of coverage i'm going to cut to and thus not everything has to be totally perfect in every take. on the other hand, sound people can also be pretty helpful with continuity if you're on a small crew; they usually know the dialog pretty well and what physical business and nuance the actors are(n't) doing from take to take.

i've found the majority of people look most flattering from a 3/4 angle and about chest height, camera tilted up slightly. a little eyelight. those nose shadows can be a real pain sometimes, but the most common complaints are shiny skin and wispy hair.
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#8 Robert Edge

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 08:16 PM

i don't like mixing a boom and a lav cuz they don't sound the same


Gordon, do you mind expanding a bit on this? Specifically, are you saying that the sound quality from the lavalier mics that you have used is noticeably inferior?
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#9 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 08:37 PM

Loved this

http://www.gdotcom.c...e/outtakes.html

had me in stiches in places (the talent mountain and the big foot look!)

you should send it to the DGA

thanks

Rolfe
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 09:01 PM

Sound guys generally like me -- I've done eight features with one guy in particular. I'll be the first to point out on a locations scout the sound problems to the director if the sound person is not there, I'll set flags if necessary for a boom shadow, I'll tell them what and why I'm doing something and what their problems might be in advance, I'll operate under a blanket if the camera gets noisy, whatever. And generally I light in a soft side-light style which they like.

Where I draw the line is when a sound person's requests will weaken the scene just to make their job easier. For example a scene of people sitting around a small dinner table lit with a hanging overhead lamp, and a hanging Chinese Lantern in close-ups -- and the sound guy doesn't want you to use either type of overhead key because he wants to put the boom right there. He asks you to light from the side or something instead. That crosses the line.

Or on "D.E.B.S." where the director wanted an old-fashioned glamorous key light using a snooted tweenie or Dedo right over the lens for the women's close-ups, and the boom person said loudly in front of the crew "you're not planning on lighting the whol f---- movie that way, are you???" (By the way, that guy was soon fired for saying insulting things about the director not realizing his boom mic was on and she had her headphones still on...)

I had a very large boom person on a shoot who always stood in front of the fill light just before we rolled and then asked the light to be moved.

And sometimes you can't help but shoot in front light outdoors for various reasons (like a scene where two people stare at the setting sun...)

And not all shots can have no excess headroom over the person talking. Sometimes the point of the shot is to see something over their heads. Sometimes the person talking is sitting but talking to someone standing and the headroom is set for the standing person.

I'm well aware that sound people get short shrift on a film set and often have to make-do in impossible situations. On the other hand, their mistakes are more easily fixed in post than mine, so there's not much point in making the image suffer in order to make the sound better.

Some types of lighting styles are just more challenging for booming a mic -- hard cross-lighting for example, or a room lit with multiple hard spotlights from above. That doesn't mean that we have to eliminate that sort of lighting though.
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#11 Gordon Highland

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 10:07 PM

are you saying that the sound quality from the lavalier mics that you have used is noticeably inferior?

Correct. If it's two lavs, then that's fine cuz they'll likely match. Lavs (aside from being a bit tinny for me) tend to be omnidirectional as a necessity, so they also pick up quite a bit of extraneous things compared to a hypercardioid shotgun on a boom that has a nice full voice tone with lots of rejection. And you gotta listen for interference on the wirelesses (i have some great Lectros that rarely drop out), clothing rustles, etc. There are lots of tricks to prevent these things, but they're just kind of a pain in general. The tone difference isn't a HUGE deal, just annoying. Record them on separate channels if possible to make an EQ pass easier. If you're a larger production with a sound mixer in addition to the boom op, it's far less of a problem and can be compensated for on set.

It's always good to work with flexible people, whether you're the DP or the boom op! You can have mad skills, but often the easygoing team players get the first calls.
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#12 Gordon Highland

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 10:21 PM

http://www.gdotcom.c...e/outtakes.html
had me in stiches in places (the talent mountain and the big foot look!)

Thank you! We had a lot of fun with that project. Some of the humor goes over non-industry folks' heads, but certainly anyone on this forum could identify with what we were doing with it. :D It was weird shooting myself (the green-tinted shots); I was the only person in the room, so lighting and framing and focus and the eyeline and sound level and all that was kind of tricky. It's hard to tell the outtakes from the actual material, the only difference being that the camera doesn't move and they were unscripted.
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#13 Robert Edge

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 10:49 PM

Gordon,

Thanks very much. You may be amused to know that your comments will have a direct bearing on how I'm going to handle a film/sound recording in a couple of weeks from the place where Marconi made his first transatlantic transmission.
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#14 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 12:13 AM

No one has asked if I have heard any good movies recently.

As David said, sound problems are more easily fixed in post than picture. I do sympathize for the sound person because they often do get screwed at the end of the day.

On the last feature I shot, we had a great sound guy who had to work with ridiculous lighting circumstances in really tiny locations. He never complained once, he just did his job the best he could, simply saying that because of the setup, he can?t get the best mic position. I would try to help him whenever I could.

I hate it when people talk out of their departments. A set should not be like high school, although after a month of working with the same people it always seems to.


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#15 Robert Edge

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 01:07 AM

No one has asked if I have heard any good movies recently


So I've been wondering what would happen if a director used that line on an editor like Walter Murch or his writer or his actors or his composer, and it has occurred to me that if a director actually said something like that the only person who wouldn't walk would be a cinematographer who had a strong sense of his own importance.

You are joking, right?
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 01:16 AM

So I've been wondering what would happen if a director used that line on an editor like Walter Murch or his writer or his actors or his composer, and it has occurred to me that if a director actually said something like that the only person who wouldn't walk would be a cinematographer who had a strong sense of his own importance.

You are joking, right?


I think you're overreacting. It's a common joke on film sets, often told by the sound recordist! No one is saying that sound is not important to a movie, only that it's easier to fix a sound problem in post than it is to fix an image problem, so the priority on the set tends to be get the shot no matter what, even if occasionally the sound suffers (or even if no sound is recorded at all.) If getting good sound was always the main priority on a film set, you'd never see a windstorm sequence because no one could use a fan to create wind.

Certainly Walter Murch knows something about building up a soundtrack in post -- every gun shot and helicopter sound in "Apocalypse Now" was created by him.

I'm sorry I brought the whole thing up, but I've always felt it important to paint a somewhat accurate portrait of what goes on during a film shoot. Every department has to cooperate with every other department, but sometimes you compromise for someone else's sake and sometimes someone has to compromise for your sake. I have to consider even the needs of the transpo department and where they need to park vehicles, but I'm not going to use a less interesting angle on a location just to accomodate where transpo would like to park, because the audience isn't going to know that's the reason the shot was boring. But I do have to consider the parking issues because it can come back to bite me on the ass if I can't get the working trucks near the set.

Anyone who doesn't recognize that it's a give and take situation has never worked on a film set. At some point, everyone gets screwed but the point is to TRY and not make compromises that affect the quality of the film itself.

Even when it comes to scheduling, you have to work with the AD and his needs, but also at some point, you do have to stand up to protect your own work because it's possible to be TOO acommodating. You're making a movie on schedule if possible, but you aren't making a schedule, you're making a movie.

And you have been hired, afterall, by the director and producers to protect the visuals of the movie, so you're doing them a disservice to give up too easily just to make things easier for other departments. And other creative people on a set will also fight for what they think is important and you have to respect that. In the case of my last film, the sound man (who I've worked with many times) told me that it was unlikely that our two child actors could deal with ADR later, so getting their dialogue clean on set was very important, and I understood that. On the other hand, I'm dealing with child labor laws that restrict their working hours and the AD wants me to use two cameras on them to save time and get the kids wrapped, yet the sound man doesn't because he can't mic them well-enough with two cameras, etc. So we all have to work together to solve these problems, but sometimes, like I said, someone gets screwed.

Edited by David Mullen, 29 November 2005 - 01:32 AM.

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#17 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 02 December 2005 - 09:43 PM

This thread is starting to remind me of my professor for my Location Sound class...he would go off about the horrendous composition of various wide shots in student films, and how hard it was to boom anybody from, "I swear to god, man..like freakin FIVE FEET ABOVE THE GUY'S HEAD!". His face would eventually turn bright purple as he ranted about I Mean, Who Teaches These Kids How to Frame Things Anyway. It was epic...
As Mr. Mullen said, any film is a give-and-take experience, but on the other hand, it could also be seen as a constant game of everybody figuring out how much they can get away with, without taking too much from others!
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#18 David Sweetman

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Posted 03 December 2005 - 12:22 AM

Thank you! We had a lot of fun with that project. Some of the humor goes over non-industry folks' heads, but certainly anyone on this forum could identify with what we were doing with it. :D It was weird shooting myself (the green-tinted shots); I was the only person in the room, so lighting and framing and focus and the eyeline and sound level and all that was kind of tricky. It's hard to tell the outtakes from the actual material, the only difference being that the camera doesn't move and they were unscripted.


Gah! I'm well on the way with the script for "Swashbuckle: The Blockbuster Featurette." Mine is the same idea with a different behind-the-story story. It's discouraging knowing that someone has already done it, although I really want to complete it.
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#19 Gordon Highland

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Posted 03 December 2005 - 02:11 PM

Gah! I'm well on the way with the script for "Swashbuckle: The Blockbuster Featurette." Mine is the same idea with a different behind-the-story story. It's discouraging knowing that someone has already done it, although I really want to complete it.

I thought mine was a pretty original idea when I was working on it, but of course, right about the time I was finishing it, I saw a couple of very similar shorts and got discouraged, although I could tell they were less thought out, like weekend projects. The idea of the mockumentary is in no way new, but I thought the way I approached it was, because on my DVD (the way it's meant to be seen), there is no actual film. . . you pop it in, there's the splash screen for the nonexistent movie, but the only option is "Special Features," and then my Featurette and other stuff pops up in that menu. And of course there's a lot more depth to the script and little psychological layering things going on that someone couldn't just throw together, so that made me feel better.

I write a lot of music, too, and that's similar in that it's damn near impossible to come up with anything that's absolutely never been done before, so all you can do is trust your instincts, be sure you at least have a unique point of view when it comes to familiar subjects, and that the work is worth your time to produce. Chuck Palahniuk had a good line about it in one of his books, talking about how that in modern media, whether it's journalism or reality TV or whatever, that we're mistaken to think that we can capture "the truth" by having the camera that's the farthest back, like the movie-behind-the-movie-behind-the-movie-behind-the-movie or whatever, exposing the exposer. Sorry to carry this thing off topic.
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#20 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 04 December 2005 - 08:40 PM

Back to the starting point of this thread, I've been in a situation where you can't shoot the left (or right I don't remember exactly) profile of an actress on a CU because she has a small scare on her face, and you just have no choice. Many actors have their "best profile", but in that case, she was a very famous one (I like better not to tell her name) and there was no way the operator could make the director change the shot for a question like "she was looking right in the large shot, she can't look left". She looks left, that all !

As for the sound, I second David about the "line" but it's also true that when a boomer has honestly no room to work, it is I think a symptom that something's wrong with the light. It's not only a flat image because the source is in front, it can also be too many sources so that you have shadows in all directions, and of course, too much light in general.

I remember a boomer on a feature who was coming to my hotel room every night, close to crying when I was ACing an operator who was using 1000 Fresnels in all directions on a comedy, where it was hard to say in advance where the actors would move and stay. I suggested the operator (He's retired by now) to use soft lights instead, but he was feeling like it was no good work if he would not use the "only real cinema sources that fresnels are". Bouncing a redhead would have been a treason, to him...

After we had too many boom shadows on walls and doors at the dailies, well, he changed his way of lighting !

This boomer said to me : you see there is about 20 % of operators with whom it's always a pain to work with, no matter what you say or do, you're always screwed. There is about 60 % of operators where it's usually OK, though you have some little problems sometimes, but find their solutions, and you have 20 % percent of operators with whom it's always nice to work with. He said these ones are the ones who think of leaving some room in the light ways for the boom, anticipate flags overhead etc.

On the other hand, a large shot has to be large at the sound too, I think, and when you don't see the lips, you often can use the CU's sound... or do it in post. In France, I've never seen a sound man saying "change that light " on the set.
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