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Capote -- soft focus & depth of field issues


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#1 santo

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 08:50 PM

I saw CAPOTE the other day and thought it was a pretty terrific film. Although I tend to focus on writing and character, overall I thought the photography was pretty well done and I give good marks. However, I noticed a great deal of problem in the scenes in the jail cell in keeping anything like focus on either of the two character's subjects and it was pretty distracting. There are a couple of sequences which take place in the cell spread out in the film, and they are the only sequences which display this problem. I tried to watch it in the later stages thinking that somehow maybe this was intentional, but couldn't find a link between the filmmakers intentions in dramatic storytelling and the focusing. Maybe I missed something and should watch it again? Did anybody else notice this?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 08:55 PM

Yes, I saw that. I'm sure it was intentional, but it seemed like an odd choice given that they were shooting in Super-35 instead of anamorphic, and thus had more depth of field.

And with a head framed against a blank prison wall like that, in a small space, there was no technical reason why they couldn't have lit the close-ups to f/4 or more to hold more of the face in focus, so clearly that wanted that super shallow-focus look where the eyes are barely in focus (and sometimes, not quite...) and nothing else is in focus. Maybe to force you to concentrate on their eyes.

But I loved the film and thought it looked great in general.

A year before it got made, I had a phone job interview with that director after I had read the script. He told me how impressed he was with the look of "Northfork" and we talked about a certain cold widescreen sparse look to the landscapes. But when his financing eventually came through, he hired Adam Kimmel, a very talented DP (Jesus' Son, Crystal, which I heard looked great.) So I'm a bit jealous.

Edited by David Mullen, 16 December 2005 - 09:00 PM.

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#3 Max Jacoby

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 05:23 AM

I really enjoyed this film too, it's a great character study.

However I saw this in New York at the Angelika and the projection was really bad: soft, anamorphic element misaligned, weave and vignetting... Easily the worst projection I have ever come accross, so I could not possibly comment on the focus of this film. It was shot on Cooke S4s, which are not the sharpest lenses to begin with.
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#4 Thomas Loizeaux

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 10:01 AM

Theres nothing wrong with thin depth-of-field, but what's in focus becomes critical. If you can hold only one eye, then the focus plane HAS to be on that eye!
I've seen many films where the close-ups focused on the actor's ears. That just the camera assistant not getting it right...and the operator not paying attention...or the director or editor not caring.
In any case, it shouldn't happen!

Tom
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 10:18 AM

Theres nothing wrong with thin depth-of-field, but what's in focus becomes critical. If you can hold only one eye, then the focus plane HAS to be on that eye!
I've seen many films where the close-ups focused on the actor's ears. That just the camera assistant not getting it right...and the operator not paying attention...or the director or editor not caring.
In any case, it shouldn't happen!

Tom



Hi,

One of the problems with Video Dalies is everything is copied not just selected takes! The Editor will always take the best performance, and may not realise from an SD transfer that there is a focus issue.

Stephen
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#6 Tim J Durham

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 10:34 AM

A year before it got made, I had a phone job interview with that director after I had read the script. He told me how impressed he was with the look of "Northfork" and we talked about a certain cold widescreen sparse look to the landscapes. But when his financing eventually came through, he hired Adam Kimmel, a very talented DP (Jesus' Son, Crystal, which I heard looked great.) So I'm a bit jealous.

It's funny you should mention that because while I was watching the film, I was thinking about the landscapes
they shot and thought about Eberts comments about your film where he said:

There has never been a movie quite like "Northfork," but if you wanted to put it on a list, you would also include "Days of Heaven" and "Wings of Desire." It has the desolate open spaces of the first, the angels of the second, and the feeling in both of deep sadness and pity. The movie is visionary and elegiac, more a fable than a story, and frame by frame, it looks like a portfolio of spaces so wide, so open, that men must wonder if they have a role beneath such indifferent skies.

That's pretty heady praise and this story really could have benefitted from wide, indifferent skies. What they got as far as exteriors was pretty run of the mill, I think, and a lost opportunity. I appreciated that they resisted the urge to constantly cut away from quiet moments but I had little sense of the lonely landscape of rural Kansas which I think is a central motif to the book as well as Capotes fish-out-of-water discovery of that part of the country and its' people.

When they went back and forth between the crowded parties and small apartments of NY to what should have been a much more expansive and alien (for Capote) setting of Kansas they felt oddly similar in terms of setting.

I don't know if you can divulge that sort of info, but what reason did he give for NOT giving you the gig? Or were you already commited to something else?
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#7 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 11:16 AM

It might very well have been a perfomance driven decision, meaning that the director and dp did as much as possible to isolate the actors from any technical demands: no marks, and the lighting was not pumped up to F4 levels, just so the actors could totally immerse themselves in the scene.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 11:45 AM

I may have been committed to shooting something else, or by the time he got his funding again, he met Kimmel and preferred him. I only interviewed over the phone since the director was in NYC.

I don't recall, really. But it's a good film and Kimmel did a great job.
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#9 Greg Gross

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 05:41 PM

I'm getting more confused here as I read on. Are we talking about effect of soft focus on faces or
actual shallow (depth) focus. I understand that with the light intensity available f4.0 could have been
used. Was the effect seen do to actual soft characteristic of the Cooke lens? I have never seen a Cooke
but have worked with Panavision primes a few times. David, sorry you did not get Capote and sweet
jesus I would have loved to see your set-ups on that film. I'm rooting for you,please hit a ball out of the
park soon! Good luck at the Autry Center this weekend. Sometime when I can I want to fly out to LA and
attend an ASC function where I can meet you. Seems to me that someone on forum in the past brought
this issue up about shallow/soft focus concerning the lockerroom scene in Million Dollar Baby.


Greg Gross
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#10 Tebbe Schoeningh

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 04:24 PM

funny...i was looking for some articles about "capote", yesterday i saw it again on DVD and again i loved the work of adam kimmel.
i loved the shots of the kansas countryside and especially the shots inside the prison with it´s very shallow depth of field called my attention. i thought it was interesting to be that close and in a certain way it made me think of medium or big format portraits.
does anybody have a link to interviews and/or articles about the cinematography of this film?
i´d like to know which emulsions they we´re using and i suppose that they finished photochemically without passing through a DI. do you think that some of the shots have been pull processed? colors are muted and pastels dominate. contrast is quiet low in some of the shots, which gives the film a particular atmosphere (the shots of the first sequence with their clouded skies hav e this atmosphere too).
does anybody know which lenses they we´re using? i liked the way the intercut details / close-ups with wider shots as for example in the scene where capote discovers the article about the murdered family in the newspaper.

do you know if there are any lighting plans available? i loved the way some shots are backlit and i´d like to know which gels and lights they were using...

i think the film is a great example of an almost perfect colaboration between cinematographer and art director. everything seems to fit there!
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