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Film Noir


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#1 Aaron Bernakevitch

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Posted 07 December 2005 - 01:33 AM

Hey Guys

Seeing what your ideas are for lighting film noirs. I have never D.P'ed' anything so night and contrast drivin. I have been watching alot of the oldies and taking pointers from all the epics noirs - The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a lot of fritz lang and some newer films. Wondering if you guys have any good pointers for lighting styles or suggestions for proceesing looks weather in camera or post. Also I heard it might be good to overexpose 1/2 stop just to make shute you get all of the info and them you can stop it down in post - is this a good idea? Also I have used a fog machine before but never a haze machine, we are talking about using this for our shoot - any suggestions for that.

Any comments questions or concerns are appreciated

---I am using a pretty average light kit, no h.m.i lights as big as a 2k

thanks

Aaron
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#2 Mario C. Jackson

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 06:45 PM

One thing you have to keep in mind about film noir is the harsh shadows. Thos old movies was shot on very slow film, so it was extremely bright inside those studios. If I were you I would just do everything in camera and use all post produciton stuff for back up. Practically all of your lighting will be hard. Are you shooting video or film. If you are shooting film then what stock?
Hope this helps
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#3 Ry Kawanaka

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 08:09 PM

Bring a BUNCH of black flags with you. And flag the lights like nuts.

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#4 Michael Collier

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 08:18 PM

One thing I always loved about noir was the composition. I love not having to light the main charecter whos talking. You can let them go black, you can put them in a little window in a weird place in frame almost so you dont see them, but use the composition to draw the eye to that charecter.

Like has been said before flag. Let blackness devide the scene. you dont need to rely on closeups very much. I like to shoot wide and let the space tell the story, if the scene supports that.

One trick I like to use is to make two charecters whos faces are visible in frame light them such that each ones key light is comming from a different part of screen. It sells the idea of depth in a shallow depth environment.

I could go on and on and on about what I like about noir and how to light that (noir and dark dramas are my favorite) but the main point is you are in the inverse of a comedy. If you want something to go black, let it go really black. If you want just two pools of light to light the only two charecters in the scene and let everything else fall almost dark, do it. Play around with light to your hearts content. The frame is totally yours, not much would be considered 'wrong' in a noir. Watch the old batman cartoon (90's version, really dark, almost frank millers)
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 01:11 AM

Hey now,

I shot a noir detective story last summer in B&W DV. Single point light and light control were my big tools (like dude said, flag the heck out of the lights).

The noiriest of noirs for me is Touch of Evil. I love how they put black figures agwinst light BGs and lit subjects against black BGs in one shot. If you need a primer on noir, I'd suggest this movie.

The great thing about noir is the fewer lights needed for each set-up. It really is a time saving technique.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 03:54 PM

The noiriest of noirs for me is Touch of Evil. I love how they put black figures agwinst light BGs and lit subjects against black BGs in one shot. If you need a primer on noir, I'd suggest this movie.

The great thing about noir is the fewer lights needed for each set-up. It really is a time saving technique.



Definately watch Touch of Evil. ALso check out The Maltese Falcon for some classic film noir.


I disagree about it being a timesaver, though. true you set up fewer lights sometimes, but often you spend more time cutting those lights into select bits where you want them. I think you juts trade time setting lights for more time cutting lights.
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#7 Aaron Bernakevitch

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 12:39 AM

Hey guys


Thanks for all the suggestion and film ideas, i appreciate the shared knowledge. Now i have a couple more questions. What is the best way to seprate haze (from a haze machine) from the front of the lense, if you are trying to sell the back ground as this hazy atmosphere and yet keep the talent and front part of the image clear. Also I am thinking of using pro mist blk 1/4 in conjunction with most of my shots. Will the haze machine and this filter work well together or will the image become too foggy?

As for the film stock i have choosen to use the 7218, i think it will give the cleanest negative possible, due to the small light kit i feel slower films would limit use from lighting master shots (i feel i will need to use more lights than normal to focus on lighting dress elements). Will this stock be ok witha lot of the shadowy shots? or am I sending my self up the creek? Let me know. Our light kit is all tungstun with the biggest light being a 2k.,


Questions comments concerns

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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 01:10 AM

You want to backlight the smoke in the background but not have the backlight extend to the subject in the foreground, otherwise the smokey beam sort of crosses in front of the person, washing them out. As long as the smoke around the foreground subject is not backlit, it won't show up as well as the background smoke.
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#9 Mike Williamson

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 02:52 AM

As for the film stock i have choosen to use the 7218, i think it will give the cleanest negative possible, due to the small light kit i feel slower films would limit use from lighting master shots (i feel i will need to use more lights than normal to focus on lighting dress elements).


If you're going for a traditional film noir look, the idea of lighting MORE than usual may be moving in the wrong direction. To my eye, the style is about using as few lights as possible, ideally a powerful single source from the back or from the side, I'm thinking of the light in some of Caravaggio's paintings for example. You can't be afraid of things getting dark. In this style especially, I'd avoid running around with your light meter and taking readings all over the set, as it will eventually make you scared and you'll start adding fill light. For noir, you really have to trust your eye and run with it.

You should take a look at the films shot by John Alton when you get a chance, some of my favorite films from that period, amazing cinematography. I'd recommend "The Big Combo" and "T-Men" for starters, there are a few others that Anthony Mann directed that are good as well. Also "Touch of Evil" is stunning, probably my favorite film.

If you're going for something different, like an 80's color noir or something, then my suggestions may not be as useful. It sounds like you're adding diffusion to the lens which doesn't strike me as noirish either. I always think of a certain hardness when I think of noir, in the light of course, but also in the images themselves.

The smoke should look great for the look. Hopefully everything works out well, let us know how it goes, good luck!
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#10 Sam Wells

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 09:53 AM

You can end up using quite a few lights, although they can be small ones, in a tight space with complex elements - say 4 or 5 characters. Sometimes this is better - and gives you more control - than trying to flag off / cut up 1 or 2 sources, especially if they move around.

I've found large like exterior spaces are actualy simpler than enclosed ones.

-Sam
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#11 Aaron Bernakevitch

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 11:25 PM

If you're going for something different, like an 80's color noir or something, then my suggestions may not be as useful. It sounds like you're adding diffusion to the lens which doesn't strike me as noirish either. I always think of a certain hardness when I think of noir, in the light of course, but also in the images themselves.

The smoke should look great for the look. Hopefully everything works out well, let us know how it goes, good luck!




Hey Mike



Yeah thanks for the suggestion, the reason for the pro mist, is that we are filmming a sort of femme fatal noir, that glamour 40's look. So i figured the 1/4 pro mist would give it that soft beauty look, well keepin alot of the shadows sharp and lights sourcy, what do you think. The noir has sort of a pastish(mixed time periods's) yet still trying to retain the basic characteristics of a film noir.



What do you think?

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#12 Mike Williamson

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 02:41 AM

It sounds like you've got a more glamorous, old Hollywood kind of noir look in mind, so you're plan should work well for that. I'm obviously a bit biased, as for me the word "noir" brings to mind the Poverty Row B-films and the New York street look. I love the dark, gritty aspects of noir and the abstract elements of the lighting. Anyhow, I think you've got a good idea of what you're going for, so now you've just got to execute the plan.

I'll stand by the comment about trusting your eyes over your meter, and you should still see the John Alton films because they are great. For this project, you could look at somebody like Lee Garmes who lit the Dietrich pictures like "Shanghai Express" and "Morocco", as well as the Hawks' "Scarface". Not strictly noir films, but sort of the predecessors of the glamorous part of the genre.

And Sam is also right, sometimes a bunch of small lamps can allow you to build up planes better than a big source. My big fear is overlighting, so I'm less likely to take that approach if I can avoid it. And a noir film would be a bad place to be overlighting.
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#13 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 03:23 AM

I recommend you watch & study Robert Krasker's cinematography in the noir film, "The Third Man".
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#14 Aaron Bernakevitch

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 05:12 PM

Hey Mike

Thanks for all the help and suggestions, i appreciate it. I feel that trusting my eye over the meter would be a good idea. If that is the case, do you think it would be a good idea to over expose 1/2 a stop just in case I lite something a little too dark?, then they could stop it down at the lab if the exposure was bang on. I guess it comes down to trust, but I alwasy like a plan B if something goes a rye. If i do over expose I guess i would losse 1/2 a stop off the bottom of the latitude of the film, then when they printed down at the lab all the blacks would crunch down and I would loose my detail. Would this be noticable?

Also


Have you ever worked with contrast filters? i am planning to use the 1/4 pro mist blk but after reading about the tiffens contrast filters i feel it might be a better approach.


Let me know

Aaron
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#15 Sam Wells

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 10:37 AM

I don't think going up a few printer points on the bottom end is going to kill your shadow detail with Vision 2 stock.

If anything it's getting really hard to HIDE anything in shadows these days.....

Actually if this is really in the noir tradition I'd try and *create* somewhat impenetrable shadow; if you then want detail on a character lets say, have them move into light - and out again if you want. Or light them so that the light will change relative to a camera move...

Why do you want low contrast filters ? - it seems to me that defeats the purpose here.

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#16 Mario C. Jackson

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 11:18 AM

When it comes to film stocks I would probally go with 320T. Normally when it comes to shooting film I normally choose fast film stocks and fast prime lenses. But for some reason I think 320 T (7277) will be the way to go. It has a very soft look which will work well in film noir. It picks up good detail, and also maintains shadow detail. This stock also has very rich black and it has a good latitude. So your lighting package should be fine. I shot film about ayear ago on 320T and I learned alot since then. It was my first time shooting film and it didn't all that good to me but when I looked at the dailies I got to see the detail and latitude of the film. I have since shot on film 5 times and although I love fast stocks I would defintetly shoot on 320T again.
Hope this helps
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#17 Mike Williamson

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 04:37 PM

If that is the case, do you think it would be a good idea to over expose 1/2 a stop just in case I lite something a little too dark?, then they could stop it down at the lab if the exposure was bang on. I guess it comes down to trust, but I alwasy like a plan B if something goes a rye.

Have you ever worked with contrast filters? i am planning to use the 1/4 pro mist blk but after reading about the tiffens contrast filters i feel it might be a better approach.


Overexposing the stock by rating at a lower ASA (rating 7218 at 320 rather than 500 for example) would give you a margin of error, but I don't personally like having a margin of error. I'd rather push myself further to try and get past the fear of making mistakes because I don't like the idea of letting my fear dictate my exposures. That's my own idiosyncracy though, and what you're suggesting is a good safety net.

I'm not that familiar with diffusion and contrast filters as I don't use them if I can help it, so someone else might be able to give you a better idea of what they would look like. The best idea is to get ahold some different diffusion and contrast filters and test them for yourself to see which ones will work best for your film.

As a note, I believe they've discontinued '77 in both 16 and 35mm, you can probably still find it from resellers though.
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