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Early 90's British Crime Dramas


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#1 Jason Eitelbach

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Posted 29 April 2006 - 09:55 PM

I've been watching a lot of "Prime Suspect" and "Cracker" lately and I've been loving the look of these shows.

Any ideas about the tech specs for these shows. I've heard that a lot of BBC dramas are/were shot in 16mm. Is this true? I've hypothesized that it is a combo of Cooke optics, 16mm and Fuji film that give these shows their gritty, grainy, organic feel? Is this correct?

While I do enjoy the highly stylized look of US crime dramas (CSI, Homicide, and Law & Order) I really like the way these shows look. I'd loved to hear from some folks across the pond.

thanks,
je
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 04:09 AM

I've been watching a lot of "Prime Suspect" and "Cracker" lately and I've been loving the look of these shows.

Any ideas about the tech specs for these shows. I've heard that a lot of BBC dramas are/were shot in 16mm. Is this true? I've hypothesized that it is a combo of Cooke optics, 16mm and Fuji film that give these shows their gritty, grainy, organic feel? Is this correct?

While I do enjoy the highly stylized look of US crime dramas (CSI, Homicide, and Law & Order) I really like the way these shows look. I'd loved to hear from some folks across the pond.

thanks,
je


Hi,

The old Rank Mk III telecines the BBC owned added to the gritty look.

Stephen
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 01:00 PM

Yes, Rank 3s and a 2K over camera for lighting.

"Bad, the new good"

Phil
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#4 fstop

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 02:30 PM

Neither Prime Suspect or Cracker were BBC- both were Granada for ITV.

Although often overlooked for being too "conservative" in their photographic approachs, I find all of this British 16mm TV drama work to be very classical, standing the test of time.

I was also bowled over in the mid90s by Ivan Strasburg's work on MOLL FLANDERS (starring Alex Kingston). It's amazing how much of that dramatic contrast was missing in the Hollywood feature shot around the same time by David Tattersall. Strasburg did great work also on Paul Greeengrass' groundbreaking SUNDAY, shot in entirely available light using fast lenses (and high speed Fuji stock I seem to recall).

FOYLE'S WAR is also real eye candy for fans of a more old fashioned approach.

Back to crime dramas, GBH and the Camomile Lawn from 1991 (shot by Peter Jessop and Ernest Vincze BSC respectively) are equally worth checking out. Also worth your time is the later Prime Suspect stuff, shot by Larry Smith (he of Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT fame), which from what I remember seemed to boast wonderful use of wider 16mm lenses (9mm and such).
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#5 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 05:07 PM

I've been puzzled for some time by the complete different 'look' of British broadcasted 16mm and the American material.

British shows like Doc Martin, Waking the Dead, all seem to have a greyish overcast and have slightly less contrast.

Where american shows Scrubs, One Tree Hill, The OC all seem to be more high contrast, have more vivid colours and even sharper.


Could this be caused by the telecine, or maybe popular lighting techniques, the taste of colourists, the weather?
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#6 Stephen Williams

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 06:31 AM

Could this be caused by the telecine, or maybe popular lighting techniques, the taste of colourists, the weather?


Hi,

Telecine & weather! IMHO.

Stephen
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#7 John Allardice

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 09:49 AM

Hi,

Telecine & weather! IMHO.

Stephen


Yeah, it's much easier to time everything down to match the 95% of footage that shot under bleak, drab, concrete colored skies, than to try and match the 5% of your footage that's actually gonna be sunny.

...and anyone who thinks i'm joking hasn't spent enough time in the UK.


J
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#8 fstop

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 12:14 PM

The imapct of sophisticated telecine has really had the most considerable impact on British S16mm dramas. Back up until the early 1990s the stuff shot on film always looked like a bad one light job (alot more reversal stuff too), comparable to the 16mm inserts you use to get for British TV drama/comedy location work (think Fawlty Towers or One Foot in the Grave). In the last ten years we've seen more leaning towrds US trends, with simulated bleach bypass effects, NYPD shakey-cam (as oppose to "Kitchen sink verite"), saturated post filter and grad work and all of those blown out windows with pretend Fincher turquoisey colour schemes. Shows like Silent Witness started it all off.

Now you get stuff like HUSTLE, which looks like a poor man's attempt to do an American TV series (in more ways than just photography).
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#9 Mark Dunn

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 02:16 PM

I don't agree. Most modern British stuff isn't a patch on the well-crafted , atmospheric work on the likes of Euston Films' shows (admittedly 35mm) such as The Sweeney, Out, Danger UXB and so on. Even the 16mm shows such as Brideshead Revisited (Granada) or The Voyage of Charles Darwin (BBC) were beautifully done. More recently we've had Central's Inspecor Morse. Nowadays no-one is allowed time to do anything other than a bland all-angles Steadicam-lite setup. Unless they actually choose to have them look like that. Urgh.
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#10 fstop

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 02:33 PM

Sweeney shot on 35mm??? What about Minder? That stuff always looked pulpy as hell. Even on DVD today they look like one light 16mm jobs. Are they just using the original murky video transfers?

I worked with someone once who was on The Sweeney, and he said the lighting camermen on that were working faster than anyone in TV or music promos/commercials today (during another video vs. film debate).
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#11 John Holland

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 03:44 PM

I don't agree. Most modern British stuff isn't a patch on the well-crafted , atmospheric work on the likes of Euston Films' shows (admittedly 35mm) such as The Sweeney, Out, Danger UXB and so on. Even the 16mm shows such as Brideshead Revisited (Granada) or The Voyage of Charles Darwin (BBC) were beautifully done. More recently we've had Central's Inspecor Morse. Nowadays no-one is allowed time to do anything other than a bland all-angles Steadicam-lite setup. Unless they actually choose to have them look like that. Urgh.

All the earlier tv films above were shot on 100asa 7254 ecn1. later ones super 16 and newer stocks . nothing on 35 mm . i like the older gritty look of The Sweeney and Minder . Danger UXB . Reversal only ever used on news in this country . john holland .
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#12 fstop

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 03:54 PM

If that's the case, some of the film sections of JUST GOOD FRIENDS from around 1985 are indistinguishable from reversal.
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#13 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 03:43 AM

Wasn't the fantasy mini-series Gormenghast shot on 35mm?

That didn't look like typical UK tv, slightly more vibrant and explicit colours, but I remember that looking like it was shot entirely in a studio, and the design was very eclectic.

What about british feature films viewed on DVD, the weather doesn't seem to have that greyish haze so unilaterally over every scene like in TV dramas.
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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 04:38 AM

Neither Prime Suspect or Cracker were BBC- both were Granada for ITV.


True enough, I expect that means they would have been transfered on the Ursa in Leeds, or possibly on an older Rank machine somewhere. Perhaps even the Rank at the BBC as they rent it out, so who knows! :)

There doesn't tend to be too much in the way of advanced telecine in England, although I've started to notice the spirits are creeping in slowly.

love

Freya
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#15 Stephen Williams

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 04:48 AM

True enough, I expect that means they would have been transfered on the Ursa in Leeds, or possibly on an older Rank machine somewhere. Perhaps even the Rank at the BBC as they rent it out, so who knows! :)

There doesn't tend to be too much in the way of advanced telecine in England, although I've started to notice the spirits are creeping in slowly.

love

Freya


Hi,

London has many great telecines. BBC resources has had some top kit for a few years now.

Stephen
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#16 John Holland

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 06:41 AM

If that's the case, some of the film sections of JUST GOOD FRIENDS from around 1985 are indistinguishable from reversal.

Yep, no doubt about it ,would have been neg , prob. 7247 . 100asa . john holland.
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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 08:15 AM

Hi,

London has many great telecines. BBC resources has had some top kit for a few years now.

Stephen


Really? Can you suggest some places. I know of BBC resources and Rushes, The Farm, and Technicolour, who else is out there ?

Also if you know of anyone in the u.k. with a shadow or spirit with a S8 gate, I'd also love to hear about it.

Thanks for your help!

love

Freya
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#18 Mark Dunn

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 11:41 AM

Faulty memory with 'Sweeney', I expect. I didn't claim any of the others I mentioned were 35mm- I'm well aware they were 7254 and '47. But there was plenty on 35mm- The Professionals, Quatermass.
It was never mushy or 'pulpy' over here- you must have had second generation over there or something.
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#19 John Holland

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 12:02 PM

Faulty memory with 'Sweeney', I expect. I didn't claim any of the others I mentioned were 35mm- I'm well aware they were 7254 and '47. But there was plenty on 35mm- The Professionals, Quatermass.
It was never mushy or 'pulpy' over here- you must have had second generation over there or something.

Sorry, but ,The Professionals was 16mm , Quatermass , dont remember a remake of that ,when was that ? john holland.
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#20 fstop

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 05:36 PM

Many thanks for the negative correction, John- you seem to know your TV! :)

Quatermass was a miniseries shot on 35mm by Ian Wilson in 1979- it was actually pretty decent, and the photography was very good. I forget who did the special effects, but it was some notable company (no trivia tonight, I'm afraid)! ;)

Faulty memory with 'Sweeney', I expect. I didn't claim any of the others I mentioned were 35mm- I'm well aware they were 7254 and '47. But there was plenty on 35mm- The Professionals, Quatermass.
It was never mushy or 'pulpy' over here- you must have had second generation over there or something.


I ws brought up on all of this in the 80s and 90s (I'm from the UK)- I vividly remember seeing Sweeney repeats back in 1988 and thinking they appeared incredibly old and coarse. I'm not badmouthing the actual look in terms of photography, which I think was spot on, but I think the harder look was only inherent given the overall, gritty asethetic with the post industrial UK locations, smaller negative area of 16mm and the more primitive film to video transfers of the time (which always looked like multiple generation loss). The lighting was generally invisible and contributed to the miserable, drab London feel and it always felt like someone had grabbed an Aaton and followed the police around guerilla style (albeit with an unidentifiable oldschool slickness that seperated it from newsreel footage). SO refreshing at the time, and miles ahead of all of the flat hard lighting in Starkskey and Hutch, Kojak, Columbo, Ironside and whatever else was happening Stateside. Makes me proud to be British (as an aside I remember also around 1988 seeing an episode of The A Team and asking my Dad if it was filmed in the 70s)!

Something like THE NEW AVENGERS I'd consider to be completely slick, but seeing as it was shot on 35mm by feature DPs, is there any wonder? However, a friend of mine showed me Sweeney the movie shot on 35mm (and it's sequel!) on DVD not that long ago (photographed by the series DP Dusty Miller), and that seemed like a pretty good transfer but still had that look- perhaps "pulpy" implies something too derogatory- gritty, warts and all is more like it.
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