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#1 Ckulakov

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 09:53 PM

Dear Filmmmakers,

Please describe the following cinematographers style (lighting, image, camera-work) with less than five words:


Janusz Kaminski

Gregg Toland

John Toll

Caleb Deschanel

Bojan Bazelli




I what to get as many opinions as possible.

Thank You very much.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 11:17 PM

This sounds like homework or a school report.

Janusz Kaminski -- dramatic impressionism, likes to abstract and poeticize documentary effects

Gregg Toland -- realistic expressionism, likes high-contrast, big dramatic lighting effects mixed with simulated reality

John Toll -- elegant naturalism, likes single source lighting, usually soft with almost no fill.

Caleb Deschanel -- romantic realism, likes mixing color temperatures, likes blue moonlight, likes cool shadows and warm keys

Bojan Bazelli -- romantic realism

Edited by David Mullen, 12 December 2005 - 11:24 PM.

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#3 Josh Bass

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 02:54 AM

Dear, Mr. and Mrs. Mullen,

While an intelligent young man, David consistently fails to follow instructions. On his homework assignment, he was clearly instructed to use less than 5 words when describing several cinematographers, and did not do so except in one case, using upwards of ten words in some cases. This being the case, I am forced to give David a failing grade on Mr. Kukalov's homework, and make him repeat Film Kindergarten.

I think it's time we have a conference about your son.


--Sincerely, Professor Bass.
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#4 Ckulakov

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 08:24 AM

Thanks allot David.

Can you please define the differences of these words:

impressionism
vs.
expressionism
vs.
naturalism

THANK YOU

PLEASE KEEP ON POSTING MORE
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 11:22 AM

Thanks allot David.

Can you please define the differences of these words:

impressionism
vs.
expressionism
vs.
naturalism

THANK YOU

PLEASE KEEP ON POSTING MORE


Can't you do a Google search? These are basic art terms for the most part.

The fewer words you are allowed to use to describe art, the bigger conceptual words are needed to describe it. So if I have to then write out what these big vague words mean, it sort of defeats the purpose of using fewer words!

Edited by David Mullen, 13 December 2005 - 11:23 AM.

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#6 Josh Bass

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 11:31 AM

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Mullen,

David proceeded to talk back to his teacher today, refusing to do Kukalov's homework by following the stated instructions, stamping his foot and saying "I'm an adult! I'll do what I wanna". I was forced to sit him in the corner, away from the other children, and make him sniff film-development chemicals.
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#7 Arni Heimir

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 12:04 PM

Mr Mullen

How would you describe Vittorio Storaro (abstract?) and Peter Andrews (sic)? Are you familiar with the work of Danish DP Jan Weincke?
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 12:26 PM

Lighting-wise, Storaro is more firmly rooted in the sort of realistic yet theatrical, dramatic effects that Caravaggio was famous for. I don't know if you'd call that late Renaissance or Baroque, painting-wise. For example, he's almost never been interested in lens diffusion (with a few minor exceptions).

Someone like Geoffrey Unsworth, Robert Richardson, etc. in terms of liking to use long anamorphic lenses and diffusion, tend to create impressionistic, even sometimes abstract images, although Richardson is much more self-conscious about pushing that effect -- Unsworth was ultimately more of a classicist, but that's mainly because of the era he was working in, and his own temperament.

Storaro's images have a solidity, like Caravaggio's, or even Gregg Toland's, that comes from (often) high-contrast lighting & sharp lenses. Some would call that a realistic sensibility, except that Storaro pushes things towards the operatic often (so did Toland), using theatrical effects like colored lights and dimmers, etc. So it's like if a Fauvist or Post-Impressionist painted in the colors for Caravaggio... but I wouldn't describe Storaro as an Impressionist.

I'm obviously throwing around art-terms somewhat willy-nilly here, somewhat inaccurately... this tends to happen when you apply painting terms to photography.

Peter Andrews (Steven Soderberg) doesn't have a consistent-enough style for me to describe. "Solaris" had a sort of cold modernist sensibility, some abstract qualities, but his other work has been different in approach.

Edited by David Mullen, 13 December 2005 - 12:29 PM.

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#9 Ckulakov

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 06:54 PM

More opinions guys
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#10 Mike Williamson

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 03:09 AM

More opinions guys


Perhaps if you put forward some of your ideas about these different DP's, it would provoke a more lively discussion. What do you think of their different styles? Are there specific films that you're interested in?

It seems to me that Storaro's work has become increasingly theatrical or operatic in his recent work, whereas his earlier films ("Conformist", "Last Tango" and even "Apocalypse Now") seemed to have more of the weight of realism that David talks about in Caravaggio's paintings. His images seem to be less solid in "One From The Heart" or even "Last Emperor" than previously, sort of buoyant or lighter to put it poorly.

I also don't think of him as using extremely sharp lenses, but maybe I'm remembering the films from old video transfers or something. I know he's a fan of Cooke/Technovision lenses, I thought that he used slightly softer lenses so that he wouldn't have to use diffusion, similar to what Bazelli did on "Mr. and Mrs. Smith".

I always think of Toland's mastery of realistic lighting effects in the old Hollywood days when they were using a difficult set of tools (slow film and lenses, bulkier lights, etc.) His lighting is quite dramatic as well, his genius to me is in the way he made dramatic lighting choices feel natural and believable. I see a lot of continuity between Toland and Gordon Willis. Both specialized in dramatic, stylized, contrasty imagery that had a very strong grounding in realism. They were also technically savvy and adventurous and took a certain pride in that.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 03:31 AM

Well, maybe standards for sharpness have risen, but Storaro's work generally had a sort of clarity, especially his anamorphic work. This is a 1.85 movie, but even this frame from "Sheltering Sky" shows what I'm talking about:

Posted Image

Even now, Storaro tends to use 200 ASA film for most everything, and unfiltered lenses (though he prefers Technovision zooms, but they are sharp zooms.)

An early film like "The Conformist" on the other hand was shot with a net behind the lens, if you look carefully.

As for Toland, I think his dramatic sensibilities, his sort of show-offiness too, are more aligned with Storaro than Willis. Toland could do straight-forward realism like "Best Years of Our Lives", even though that has a deep-focus look, but his work also tended towards German Expressionism, which Storaro has also touched on, but Willis less so.

Edited by David Mullen, 14 December 2005 - 03:33 AM.

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#12 Arni Heimir

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 07:13 AM

David,

Perhaps most importantly: What is your style?
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#13 Ckulakov

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 08:01 AM

Janusz Kaminski - Catch me if you can and The Terminal

Gregg Toland - Citizen Cane

John Toll - Vannila Sky

Caleb Deschanel - The Passion and National Treasure

Bojan Bazelli - Mr. and Mrs. Smith ( especially early romantic flashback) and The Ring
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 01:03 PM

David,

Perhaps most importantly: What is your style?


I can't afford to have one!

Seriously, I have to adapt to whatever the needs of the project and the tastes of the directors, and many of them are visually conservative, which can be a good or bad thing depending -- it may mean they are classicists or it may just mean they are bland.

I'd say that my tendencies are somewhere between Vittorio Storaro and Robert Richardson (which sounds arrogant on my part to compare myself to them!) I love anamorphic widescreen, I love strong contrasty lighting, I love heavy backlight, soft side-lighting with no fill, but I'm conflicted between sharpness and diffusion. I generally like a fine-grained image. As far as color saturation level goes, it depends on the project -- I like both extremes and the middle too. I'm a big fan of old 3-strip Technicolor movies, for example.

I find though that I'm pushed to use more fill light than I like by many directors & producers. When answer printing a movie, most directors tell me to print things lighter. Michael Polish is the only director I have worked with who pushes me to print things darker.
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#15 Arni Heimir

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 02:29 PM

David

Do you think that is the reason why directors and cinematographers have fall outs/creative differences? That the director wants it a certain way and the cinematographer wants to maintain his style. As a member of the business - do you think established cinematographers have a "take it or leave it" attitude while insisting that filmmaking is a collaborative process?
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 08:05 PM

do you think established cinematographers have a "take it or leave it" attitude while insisting that filmmaking is a collaborative process?


No, because at that level, they are hired to deliver what they have done in the past, so you wouldn't hire Storaro and then ask him to shoot like someone else anyway.

But obviously a big DP may be more protective of the quality of his work, which can lead to conflicts. It's not that the DP is trying to force his style on everyone, but often he feels he is trying to protect a vision for the movie that he and the director agreed to at the onset, sort of becoming "the keeper of the flame". Because if anyone is going to fight to maintain a visual consistency to the whole movie, it's probably the DP.
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#17 sinisa.kukic

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 09:57 PM

David,

I've been making films for several years and have recently focused on cinematography. Many of the short films that I've shot have been school projects for first time directors. A lot of them tell me exactly what they want and how they want me to achieve it, leaving no room for experimentation or creativity on my part. Most of the time it's very frustrating. There has been only a few projects that I've worked on that felt like there was collaboration with me and the director. Is this because I've been working with first time directors or is this a normal part of being a DP.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 12:40 AM

Well, as you develop a reputation, it's easier to have your opinion considered by the director because they respect your work and want your collaboration, plus the truth is that you know more about shooting quickly and staying on schedule while getting useful coverage than they often do. For example, I've shot 30 features and I often work with directors who are doing their first feature, so they generally listen to my advice on the nuts & bolts of making the day. But it's my job to find a practical way of incorporating their vision into the production, and hopefully augment their ideas with my own.

I try and avoid working for directors who don't want my input, but frankly, that hasn't happened much. But I do have to make their aesthetics part of my approach.

The worst directors are the ones that are vague and/or contradictory about what they want, causing the production to either slow way down, or more likely, they then find themselves steamrolled-over by a decisive DP and AD trying to stay on schedule, and then afterwards, the directors complain that no one listened to them.

I worked with one director who said he wanted a precise style like Hitchcock or the Wachosky Brothers, but then on the set never wanted to block the actors or give them marks, but wanted the camera just to follow them around and shoot whatever they decided to do. Then the producer came on set and saw a scene being shot with actors badly misframed and focused because we were shooting a rehearsal and the director didn't want to actors to have any restrictions in movement. At which point the producer yelled at both of us for shooting crap. I was just trying to give the director what he asked for so he could see what the problems were with that technique.

Edited by David Mullen, 15 December 2005 - 12:47 AM.

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