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how to achieve a "70's look"


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#1 Christian Tanner

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 09:37 AM

hi guys!

the visual reference i got from my director for the next short i'm doing camera on is "70's cheap suspence-horror-scifi" movies. (because the story is going to play with stereotypes of that kind).
also - the director refered to the 70's era as a one of strong colors. (but we're not talking technicolor here).

it's going to be super16 - straight to telecine/beta (with little chance to end up as a print).
when i heard that - first thing that popped into my head was: "reversal" and "promist-filter". (i'm a fan of doing as much as i can in camera. having said that, i'm reasonable enough not to do major stunts).

does anyone have any experience in recreating that or an even earlier look?
what stock to use? what camerafilters? what's to be left (concidering the above statement) to post?

thanx in advance!
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#2 Filip Plesha

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 11:53 AM

No doubt you'll get a lot of different advices, but if you want
an authentic effect, well, good luck with that lol
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#3 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 01:24 PM

hi guys!

the visual reference i got from my director for the next short i'm doing camera on is "70's cheap suspence-horror-scifi" movies. (because the story is going to play with stereotypes of that kind).
also - the director refered to the 70's era as a one of strong colors. (but we're not talking technicolor here).

it's going to be super16 - straight to telecine/beta (with little chance to end up as a print).
when i heard that - first thing that popped into my head was: "reversal" and "promist-filter". (i'm a fan of doing as much as i can in camera. having said that, i'm reasonable enough not to do major stunts).

does anyone have any experience in recreating that or an even earlier look?
what stock to use? what camerafilters? what's to be left (concidering the above statement) to post?

thanx in advance!


---Lots of open faced lights and nine-light pars would be more to the point than filter packs.
Use art direction and costumes for the bright colors.
And ZOOM alot.
10 to 1.
ZOOM. ZOOM. ZOOM.

---lv
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#4 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 02:41 PM

Don't zoom too much because people will just feel seasick after awhile. Do consider using older optics from the 70's.
Reversal is a good idea but exposure latitude as you probably know is far less.
Open fixtures are also pretty trashy looking (in the way you might be looking for).
Actors often looked quite sweaty from all that heat on set from all the open faced fixtures and slower filmstocks that made alot of light necessary.
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#5 Tom Bays

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 03:28 PM

Many of the 70's movies looked like they suffered from poor processing...often they were shot with 16 millimeter film and wound up with tons of artifacting.
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#6 Filip Plesha

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 04:09 PM

Many of the 70's movies looked like they suffered from poor processing...often they were shot with 16 millimeter film and wound up with tons of artifacting.


I think you have seen one too many bad film-chain transfers

Sometimes a 30+ year old film transfered today from the original negative can look as if it was shot yesterday

And 16mm film is more common now than it has been back then. If anything, prior to 70's the hip thing was to shoot larger than 35mm.
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#7 fstop

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 04:11 PM

Cheap 70s sci-fi/horror is more or less an A-Z of bad film student work: obvious grain from not compesating half stops for filters, bleeding colours, flat, frontal hard lighting with multiple shadows, faded school play gel work, dollyless tracking etc. I know it's all post-ironic and in period but what's the point in making bad cinematography just to wink at the camera?

I'd look at Daniel Pearl's lensing of AMAZON WOMEN OF THE MOON, which is all a big parody of this genre tripe, but the DP manages to mold the rough edges into something photogenic and flattering for the (80s) contemporary tastes. I remember seeing one set up where Pearl had lit an alien throneroom set intentionally carelessly hard and horrible, but from above he had a rig of 10K diffused softlights wrapped in black velvet all the way around so it would pour in a wrap around soft light from above (keeping everyone photogenic behind the hard light). By lighting this way he was playing two worlds at once rather than just making the movie look like poop because it was in period.

The big trick with this schlock stuff is to light the interiors flat and hard, as if totally lit in a hard theatrical fashion, but on the exteriors it's usually overcast in a flat, unattractive way (clearly lit by god). I dig the promist idea, and get star filters in there too for LEDs and actress close ups.
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#8 Filip Plesha

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 04:20 PM

Reversal is a good idea but exposure latitude as you probably know is far less.


And why do you think reversal would be a good idea? If anything, negative film from 70's had a more subtle look than 90's color neg.

The color can look catchy because it had a nice smooth snap, but it wasn't really that saturated. It was a combination of low contrast and moderate saturation.

It was all pretty much the same, still Kodacolor, Vericolor and motion picture film, and it all looked less contrasty than 90's stuff.

Highlights seemed to have less contrast with a very soft clip, and the shadows were really cut off. Mid tones had moderate saturation, and smooth contrast.

Today film has its curve straightened a bit, so you get higher "local" gamma in highlights, and a lot more shadow detail, which takes away the magic for me..

In other words the film curve is gradually morphing into a more linear "video" curve. It's funny really, film engineers want film to look linear like video, and video engineers are trying to twist video to look like film.
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#9 Filip Plesha

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 04:34 PM

flat, frontal hard lighting with multiple shadows


You've just described a LOT of movies from 50's to 70's. Why is that bad cinematography?

You know what I consider bad cinematography? When a student reads what is pretty and what is right in a book, then makes his lighting from a diagram someone else thought of.
Playing safe, that's what I consider bad cinematography.
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#10 Ryan Puckett

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 04:41 PM

My first reaction is that the 70s color had much less to do with the stock, and a lot more to do with what was in fashion at the time. Deal with the color in art direction. 70s era 35mm being a bit more grainy, you might be able to get away shooting a modern stock in 16mm. Definitely use older optics, and maybe pull process to bring the contrast down a bit. Milky blacks, and hard lighting.
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#11 fstop

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 04:47 PM

You've just described a LOT of movies from 50's to 70's. Why is that bad cinematography?

You know what I consider bad cinematography? When a student reads what is pretty and what is right in a book, then makes his lighting from a diagram someone else thought of.
Playing safe, that's what I consider bad cinematography.


Likewise we can just laugh at cheap 70s genre pieces, send up the quaint look with all of our year 2000 advances, time and progress, not really understand WHY the look was so quaint in the first place and in no way advance or develop one's photographic voice.
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#12 Filip Plesha

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 05:05 PM

You seem to look at photographic voice as something that has a linear progress.
What you see on screen is not progress, just changing of trends. The only progress is in growing variety of styles.

It states nowhere that cinematography (or any part of filmamking from acting to writing) has to be naturalistic.
Naturalism is a trend like any other, just like theatricality.
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#13 fstop

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 05:36 PM

Now you've gone on a big U-turn about linear progress and naturalism, neither of which I even hinted at in my earlier posts.

MY POINT (as if it couldn't be clearer) is that the original poster is chasing an aesthetic for what seems to be for the sake of parody, meaning intentionally bad cinematography through 2006 technology. These old cheapies were made with no money, often cheap and limited economy bulk leftover poor latitude slow stock, arcahic poorly maintained in-house lighting and camera equipment, miniscule shedules with no time for relights, cheap sets and they were delivered on film and have since only been seen on bad 80s VHS masters or ghastly 16mm dupes- and now it's to be parodied 30 years later by film students who have seen lighting-for-exposure cinematography in their first semester, developed their voice and yet now they are effectively revisiting it by way of finer grained film stocks, more variety of equipment and TELECINE, yet to get what was undesirable by early 1970s standards. By contrast you could do something more rewarding like Daniel Pearl did on AWOTM; developing ones own voice yet sending up and citing the past effectively.
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#14 Christian Tanner

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 06:38 PM

zooming - of course!... <_< (thanx leo)

filip and tim - is it just me or is there the possibility that you guys actually think along the same lines?
i mean - thats a tricky one anyways - since we're not talking technical here.
but as i see it, we agree on the fact that we ought to try to achieve as good of a picture as possible. how one defines "good", is the confusing bit i think
here are my thoughts on that...
i was always concerned with what i like to call "the cinematic look". the kind of picture quality i'm used to se on the big screen. (Funny enough - i still strugle even with its deffinition - so i just skip that one and hope you might know what i'm talking about anyway...) it always felt for me that this was (and is) something i have to be able to achieve, before i develop personal preferences as a dp.
anyways - i believe that this kind of picture quality doesn't necessarily need high contrast - nor does it need sharpness (in terms of grain). so, criteria that i intend to use to create a look that implyes another era - call it a storytelling device. hope that made any sense.
color - as ryan suggested - i'll try to figure out in colaboration with the production designer.

back to the "film stocks and processing" bit then: what stocks would you guys suggest?
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#15 Filip Plesha

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 06:40 PM

The reason I brought naturalism up is because that style of direct hard lighting is pretty unnatural, and modern films tend to emulate practical or natural lighting.

But, ok, you mentioned a lot of technical issues, aside from faulty lighting equipment and stuff like that, why is grainy film and simplistic hard lighting "bad cinematography"

And that's what I'm protesting here, the fact that you name such photography as "bad" because it is technically flawed.

Just because something was technically undesirable once, does not mean it is bad. It maybe is if you are a sony electronics rep, or a Kodak lab technician.
But, is oil on canvas bad because it's not photorealistic? No. Why? Because it was never supose to look like photography, but like oil on canvas.
Photography it taken to literally by some people. Photography is not reality, its image making, and images range from drawings to ultra realistic digital images. Some images are supose to be realistic, some are not.
Why use super8? Because its grainy? Why would one want to look at grainy super8 Kodachrome? Depends, maybe because he finds esthetic pleasure in that. Others find pleasure in looking at 8x10 transperencies for its realism. Neither is better from the point of view of art.
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#16 fstop

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 07:32 PM

As far as I'm concerned there's no art in making deliberately duff, frankly derivitive and uninspired to start off with recreations.

Grainy photography and flat hard lighting can both be used to punctuate a film to great effect, but in this instant it's nothing more than superficial period parody. It's like saying you can be technically and artistically deficient so long as it's in this genre only. Surely those are the true colours of the real play it safe crowd. If the DPs of 70s AIP could have had the look of 2001 I'm very sure they would've jumped at the chance, but neccesity forced them into going the low end kitsch route. Plus there are a bunch of REALLY well lit genre cheapies from the 70s that escaped the curse rule- look at Silent Running or Dark Star. Perhaps there could be something inspirational to run with from exploring the good and the bad and finding what does and doesn't strike a chord or may answer more questions on genre cheapy visuals? Is it really fulfilling to ignore the whole bigger picture in order to go with patronising cheap laughs?

Returning to that tiring issue of naturalism, I'd actually argue that mocking the functional period aesthetic (definitely a negative implication going with the "cheap 70s genre" flicks) and running back to the safe haven of common contemporary verisimilitude would be more likely. It'd be great if Cary could research a whole bunch of 70s genre movies from AIP and Corman to Robert Wise and Trumbull, perhaps even Tarkovsky's Solaris for reference of it's potential influence at the B movie low end while also pushing the development of his own tastes within. I'm sure that would set him well ahead of all of the other half-assed post modern homework assignments to be handed in on Friday.
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#17 Keneu Luca

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 03:16 AM

Perhaps some 70's issues of American Cinematographer that have articles about your genre may be a good idea.
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#18 Filip Plesha

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 06:26 AM

As far as I'm concerned there's no art in making deliberately duff, frankly derivitive and uninspired to start off with recreations.

Grainy photography and flat hard lighting can both be used to punctuate a film to great effect, but in this instant it's nothing more than superficial period parody. It's like saying you can be technically and artistically deficient so long as it's in this genre only. Surely those are the true colours of the real play it safe crowd. If the DPs of 70s AIP could have had the look of 2001 I'm very sure they would've jumped at the chance, but neccesity forced them into going the low end kitsch route. Plus there are a bunch of REALLY well lit genre cheapies from the 70s that escaped the curse rule- look at Silent Running or Dark Star. Perhaps there could be something inspirational to run with from exploring the good and the bad and finding what does and doesn't strike a chord or may answer more questions on genre cheapy visuals? Is it really fulfilling to ignore the whole bigger picture in order to go with patronising cheap laughs?

Returning to that tiring issue of naturalism, I'd actually argue that mocking the functional period aesthetic (definitely a negative implication going with the "cheap 70s genre" flicks) and running back to the safe haven of common contemporary verisimilitude would be more likely. It'd be great if Cary could research a whole bunch of 70s genre movies from AIP and Corman to Robert Wise and Trumbull, perhaps even Tarkovsky's Solaris for reference of it's potential influence at the B movie low end while also pushing the development of his own tastes within. I'm sure that would set him well ahead of all of the other half-assed post modern homework assignments to be handed in on Friday.



well if you put it that way, yea, copying something may not be art in the limits of that specific art statement, but can be art on a larger scal outside those limits.
To be a little more clear: while copying lighting is not a work of art in cinematography, it may be a work of art from a directors point of view, using emulation as a tool for an artistic statement.

While I see what you mean, I must say it does not only apply for bad films. Emulating Lawrence of arabia or 2001 would be just as unartistic as emulating grainy 16mm horror films.

My whole point was, that outside the idea of emulating something, one can use grainy film and flat lighting for his own art, if it is his vision, without trying to emulated something else.
In other words there is nothing inherently wrong in such imagery, to some it is pleasant, to others it is not.
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#19 Craig Knowles

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 10:20 AM

My whole point was, that outside the idea of emulating something, one can use grainy film and flat lighting for his own art, if it is his vision, without trying to emulated something else.


With all do respect, why not let this thread answer the question the original poster asked, instead of fighting every answer or suggestion someone has been willing to post? This entire thread has become a few answers to the original question, interspersed with your ramblings about what you do and don't know.

"No doubt you'll get a lot of different advices, but if you want
an authentic effect, well, good luck with that lol"

How about laying off and letting people speak? You seem to be more interested in shooting down every suggestion someone offers, but at the same time, offering little concrete suggestions of you own.

--

Now, Cary, sorry for that, but getting back to the actual topic of this thread, if you want to seen a recent well-done throwback to 70's style, check out Spielberg's "Munich" if you haven't done so already. Plenty of zooms, 70's colour palette, 70's shot choices, diffusion, and wardrobe are all major players and go a long way toward selling the 70's aesthetic.
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#20 Jason Eitelbach

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 11:25 AM

Well I'm shooting an anamorphic 35mm western in May. Many of the films we looked at were for the 70's and 80's.

We just watched our tests (projected on film in a 300 seat theatre) and we're going to be shooting 5218 (Vision 2 500T) pulled one stop, overexposed one stop with 85 + coral 1. Which creates a lower contrast, lower color saturated, "faded", "hot" look. And the extra speed allows us to get super deep focus with our scope lenses.

I would start with '18,'29 and '17 (Vision 2 500T, Vision 2 500T Expression, and Vision 2 200T)

I would also look at some fuji stocks, not the new Eterna stocks, but the older ones, F-400T, F-500T

Fuji stocks sometimes can have a more classic "film" look.

Typically higher speed stocks will have less contrast and less saturation. Since you're finishing on video you have more lattitude with boosting saturation in your telecine. So getting the contrast right in the neg would be where I would start.

Get some period optics, shouldn't be to hard, three or four stocks and test, test, test, test.

Don't forget to test pulled and pushed if you think that might help. (minimizing grain, maximizing grain etc.) The more to can do optically the less $$$ you pay in telecine.
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