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The Peter Hyams approach


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#1 fstop

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Posted 24 May 2006 - 06:41 PM

I saw this review and I thought it might spark off an interesting debate here:

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The reviewer makes valid points but I'd love to hear where you all stand on his observations regarding Hyams photography.
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 01:16 AM

I've given my thoughts on Hyams here before. Some of his low-key, practically lit scenes are downright beautiful in their naturalism, and he's got a very sharp eye for composition. End of Days is a particularly good-looking film full of risky lighting that suceeds very well photographically (even if the movie itself doesn't).

The Musketeer didn't measure up though, I'm afraid. Torches just blew out white and color temperature went to hell, and I recall some grain. It's tough to do practical light when there are too few sources; you really need that buildup of ambience from multiple sources to reduce the extremes of incident light and the luminance of the sources.

The other trade-off you get from exposing by practicals is filter reflections galore. It's just unavoidable without angled filter stages and such bright lights in the frame. Hyams' stuff has this often, but in an odd way it can add to the "realism" of the scene, at least sometimes.

Hyams is of course notable for being one of the few major feature film director/DP's. One trick he does that I don't really care for is putting two cameras on the same dolly; one wide and one tight. I don't really care for that kind of "punch-in," I prefer the tight to be from a slightly different angle.

I've tried to sample most of his work after being impressed by some of it; leading up to the most recent A Sound of Thunder. Cough. That one's worthy of the aforementioned reviewer's line, "causing one to wonder how hard was the substance Mr. Hyams hit his head on."
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#3 Max Jacoby

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 02:50 AM

I have friends who worked on 'The Musketeer'. Peter Hyams shoots mostly with 3 cameras, all in a row, wide, medium and long.
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#4 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 05:57 PM

I must defend Peter Hyams. Just watch Outland (which he pretty much lit) - beautiful film. 2010 is fantastically lit, especially the stuff on earth. Running Scared is a great little buddy film that delivers the Michael Mann/Tony Scott smoked-up-interior-with-telephoto-lens look in a beautiful way. Narrow Margin is another well lit film.
Didn't much care for Relic as a film (and it was grainy as hell), but nobody can deny that that was some gutsy low light, single source work. Presidio is nicely lit - the list goes on and on.

I think the man deserves some respect - he's shot a lot better looking films than many big name DP's have.
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#5 fstop

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 06:56 PM

I must defend Peter Hyams. Just watch Outland (which he pretty much lit) - beautiful film.


I found the Cinefex that covered OUTLAND from 1981. It confirms that Hyams did shoot the whole film and Stephen Goldblatt was only ever present on the model unit, for which Hyams supervised the photography anyway, with contributions by the late Bob Kindred (Tony Brown confirmed this a long time ago here). Sounds like Goldblatt (who at that point only had one feature under his belt: a low budget punk movie) was only on hand to keep the union or whoever happy. Quite like the whole "Peter Andrews" Soderbergh thing I'm guessing, however in Goldblatt's situation it must have been winning lottery being used as a pawn on a big budget feature- no doubt he could have lit OUTLAND himself just as competently as Hyams, but just getting credited THRUST him into the limelight overnight! VERY lucky, it seems, and not a common way to get a big break!
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#6 Alan Lasky

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 08:54 PM

I have worked on two films with Peter Hyams (END OF DAYS, A SOUND OF THUNDER). He's a really smart, very funny, genuinely nice man.

When I first started working on END OF DAYS my initial reaction was: "What on earth are all these cameras doing here?" I couldn't figure out why so many set-ups were done multi-camera. "Why do we need 8 cameras for this?" However after talking with the editors and the studio people and watching carefully the way he blocked action it was clear that he knew what he was doing. The people 'paying the bills' were very happy with all the coverage he got and we never heard: "You're not making your days!"

His style of working took a bit of getting used to but I can honestly say I learned a great deal from him. He definitely knows how to get big movies made. He also has an enormous collection of bad Hawaiian shirts, wich he wears religously.

Alan Lasky
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#7 Bob Hayes

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 09:42 PM

As a DP who has written and directed two films the though of working as a Director/DP has always intrigued me. Although I like Peter's work quite a bit I find that the DP part of the team tends to be quite conservative. He tends to design simple easy to accomplish shots which are often just master, overs, and singles kind of stuff. One of the reasons I've entertained the idea is to try something a little edgier. I think I enjoy Steven Soderbergh's style more.
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#8 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 04:47 PM

The DVD of "Hanover Street" (1979) contains an interesting audiocomentary by Hyams in which he talks about David Watkin's photography -GORGEUS, in my opinion- and how he would have approached those shots if he had been the cinematographer ("too much light", "too much smoke", etc, etc). If it's true that "Outland" was mostly shot by Hyams himself then "Hanover Street" would be the last film on which he used another DP. It's also one of the few anamorphic films shot by Watkin, since he disliked anamorphic lenses. Perhaps the format was a director's choice (he also talks about why he likes 2.35 compositions and describes a conversation with Spielberg asking him why "Jurassic Park" was standard 1.85 instead of 2.35).
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#9 Max Jacoby

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 05:45 PM

I have worked on two films with Peter Hyams (END OF DAYS, A SOUND OF THUNDER).


Do you know what happened to 'A Sound of Thunder'? It got shot Summer of 2002 and is still not released as far as I know.
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#10 Michael Nash

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 06:58 PM

Do you know what happened to 'A Sound of Thunder'? It got shot Summer of 2002 and is still not released as far as I know.


It's on the shelves here in the US. I rented it maybe a month ago.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 01:13 AM

It's on the shelves here in the US. I rented it maybe a month ago.


No, it got a brief theatrical release -- I think I saw it in Sante Fe, NM last fall. Dumb movie but somewhat amusing if you had low expectations. Hyams has this thing about having some motor-mouth nervous talkative character in all his movies, for "comic relief". I think the worst was in "Hanover Street" but he does it in all of his movies.
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#12 Alan Lasky

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 02:39 PM

Do you know what happened to 'A Sound of Thunder'? It got shot Summer of 2002 and is still not released as far as I know.


Yeah, I worked on it in Prague that summer of 2002. That was the year that the Czech Republic had the enormous floods...many of our sets and locations got water-damage. It was a bit of a nightmare.

Nonetheless after principal photography wrapped there were some issues with the visual effects and the "digital intermediate." Several companies were involved and it took a very, very long time to sort it all out. A SOUND OF THUNDER did have a limited theatrical release, albeit very short. I did manage to catch it in the theater. Yikes.

With all the dinosaurs and mutant ape/lizards the most frightening thing in the movie turned out to be Ben Kingsely's hair.
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#13 STEPHEN GOLDBLATT

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 07:09 PM

I found the Cinefex that covered OUTLAND from 1981. It confirms that Hyams did shoot the whole film and Stephen Goldblatt was only ever present on the model unit, for which Hyams supervised the photography anyway, with contributions by the late Bob Kindred (Tony Brown confirmed this a long time ago here). Sounds like Goldblatt (who at that point only had one feature under his belt: a low budget punk movie) was only on hand to keep the union or whoever happy. Quite like the whole "Peter Andrews" Soderbergh thing I'm guessing, however in Goldblatt's situation it must have been winning lottery being used as a pawn on a big budget feature- no doubt he could have lit OUTLAND himself just as competently as Hyams, but just getting credited THRUST him into the limelight overnight! VERY lucky, it seems, and not a common way to get a big break!


July 25th 2006
Paramount Studios
Los Angeles

stephengoldblatt@mac.com

I was idly browsing today in the forum and I saw this post and speculation on my involvement with Peter Hyams on the movie "Outland" It was indeed only my second feature and the problem for me was that when I was interviewed by Peter Hyams he neglected to mention that what he really wanted was a kickabout DP to sit idly by and then be offered as a sacrificial lamb to the Ladd company when anything went wrong with the new Introvision process which was a vital means by which the Space station sequences were to be photographed. It was not in my nature then or now to suffer an ignomonious role and I could have quit immediately I realized the true nature of my employment but for a young DP to leave a film was a career breaker in England at that time. I was so angry at the deception that had been practiced on me that I was determined to make the whole situation work, and to cut a long story short, I learned the Introvision process with the great assistance of Bill Mesa who remains my friend to this day, collaborated with Peter Hyams on many of the sets and although I did not enjoy the full glory of being the main eye behind the camera I learned a great deal both politically and technically and ended the picture having had a positive experience. It was not however a happy one and of all the films I have worked on it is the only film whose wrap party I did not attend. Nevertheless I went on to work with many from the unit on other projects particularly Stuart Baird who was the masterful editor of Lethal Weapon One and Two for Richard Donner.There are many ways to make a career and there are many cinematographers who have had at one time or another to bow to the greater power and influence of their director. Stanley Kubrick was certainly more interested in the camera than in the acting of most of his films and there are others... The trick for me after "Outland" was to ensure that I would work as the Director of Photography without question on my films and to refuse any work where this might be a problem. I have been fortunate to be able to do this over the years and I am now preparing to photograph "Charlie Wilson's War" for Mike Nichols in Morocco and Los Angeles. I hope this is helpful to you and others,

Sincerely,

Stephen Goldblatt ASC BSC
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#14 Larry Fong

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Posted 13 August 2006 - 07:50 PM

Thanks for setting the record straight Stephen! That's one of the great things about this forum!

BTW I recently worked in Montreal with some crew that shot with you in the past and they had nothing but great things to say about you...
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#15 Tony Brown

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 05:35 AM

I found the Cinefex that covered OUTLAND from 1981. It confirms that Hyams did shoot the whole film and Stephen Goldblatt was only ever present on the model unit,


Thats not true. Goldblatt was always present on the main unit.
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#16 Arni Heimir

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 07:44 AM

I have friends who worked on 'The Musketeer'. Peter Hyams shoots mostly with 3 cameras, all in a row, wide, medium and long.


Sounds like an interesting set up for editors to work with. What is the max camera set up at once. Does anyone shoot with more than three cameras at once?
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#17 Max Jacoby

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 09:23 AM

That entirely depends on the kind of scenes. Apparently Tony Scott runs up to five cameras on dialogue scenes, but I'd be surprise dif he knew where to put them at all times or even has enough space.
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#18 STEPHEN GOLDBLATT

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 01:46 PM

Thats not true. Goldblatt was always present on the main unit.


Thanks Tony.

As I remember, through a 25 year memory filter, by the time we were half way through the picture there were so many stages filled with all kinds of sets, models, blue screen and gags that between Peter Hyams and myself we could hardly service the show. An example was the bar scene on the space station. I had finished my first film, a punk rock musical "Breaking Glass", in which I used what were then revolutionary lasers (very powerful and quite dangerous) that were designed by a group out of Shepperton studios including my friend from art school, Anton Furst who later won himself an Oscar for Batman. I suggested to Peter that we should incorporate these effects into the set, he loved the look, Anton brought his lasers and there we were. This whole topic of who shot what where and when is one that can vary from one film to the next. David Watkin generously and famously credited his second unit when he won the Oscar for "Out of Africa". Does this mean his work and career are diminished. Not at all. A career as a cinematographer (or an editor for that matter) is created over many years and many projects and I would suggest that the good the bad and the indifferent must be seen in the context of an entire body of work. Was I happy on "Outland" Absolutely not. Did I do my best in the circumstances. I think so. Was I able to use what I learned on my next and many other films. Without doubt.

Sincerely

Stephen Goldblatt ASC BSC
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#19 Tony Brown

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 02:03 PM

a punk rock musical "Breaking Glass",


I'd forgotton Breaking Glass. I did the test with Hazel O'Conner up at the ill fated Production Village, cant remember why I didn't do the film..... money probably :D

Long time ago....
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#20 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 02:04 PM

That entirely depends on the kind of scenes. Apparently Tony Scott runs up to five cameras on dialogue scenes, but I'd be surprise dif he knew where to put them at all times or even has enough space.


It's hard enough finding space for two cameras, let alone five! There may sometimes be situations where you could get a wide shot as well as cross shoot mediums and C/Us at the same time, but these are few and far between. The rest of the time you are compromising the lighting, and frequently the actors performance, as what works for a wide is far too big for a C/U and vice versa. I've been on shoots where we've wasted 20 minutes squeezing in a 2nd camera, when it would have only taken 10 minutes to just shoot it again with a longer lens. it's a false economy a lot of the time.
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