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#1 Michael Ryan

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 08:45 AM

Hello All,

Last night I watched Woody Allen's STARDUST MEMORIES. It's a film that most Allen fans don't rate very highly, but I just love it. As I was watching it last night, I couldn't help but notice how INCREDIBLE the cinematography was.

Shot in black and white, with great long shots, scenes where the characters would walk out of frame, but the shot would still hold and you would only hear their voices. I really loved his use of shallow depth of field. God, it was refreshing. There were lots of exterior, daytime shots where all of the background was out of focus. It was simply spectacular. If you are into black and white I would highly recommend this film. Excellent. Like a feast for the eyes.

After the film I really thought about Gordon's use of film and space and focus. As the world wants to move faster and faster into HD filmmaking, and everyone's goal seems to be having the highest resolution and the sharpest overall image. I couldn't help notice how completely effective it was to have lots of STARDUST MEMORIES out of focus!

Where does it say that everything has to be in sharp focus in every scene?

In any event, please check out his work in STARDUST MEMORIES, and in fact, all of the films he has shot for Woody Allen. What a DP!

Mike
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#2 Max Jacoby

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 09:12 AM

As the world wants to move faster and faster into HD filmmaking, and everyone's goal seems to be having the highest resolution and the sharpest overall image. I couldn't help notice how completely effective it was to have lots of STARDUST MEMORIES out of focus!

Resolution has nothing to do with out-of-focus really. In fact the higher the resolution, the bigger the difference between in-focus and out-of-focus, so the more you can use it for creative purposes.
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#3 Dan Goulder

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 11:25 AM

Last night I watched Woody Allen's STARDUST MEMORIES. It's a film that most Allen fans don't rate very highly

Believe it or not, even Woody Allen considered that movie to be one of his most deficient. Personally, I think it's THE quintessential Woody Allen movie...one of my all time favorite movies, period. Maybe sometimes we get too close to our own work to judge.
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#4 Hal Smith

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 11:43 AM

Gordon Willis is famous for using a style of Cinematography that I would call the "Fly on a Wall" technique. He frames the picture and lets things happen within it, he doesn't wave the camera around like is the current fad. With a great director like Woody this really works IMHO. As a result people do come in and out of focus with a very shallow DOF but always under Woody's direction. The overall shallow DOF is something I think most cinematographers working in 35mm and 65mm use a lot but Gordon's static camera does seem to make it more noticeable.

Doug Hart, 1st AC on "Stardust Memories" and five other Woody Allen films ("Manhattan", "Annie Hall", etc) with Gordon Willis hangs out on another forum. I'll post over there and see if Doug has any comments on Woody Allen films and focus control.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 11:55 AM

In the "Masters of Light" interview, Willis mentions that he shot this movie on Plus-X after shooting "Manhatten" on Double-X. Don't know if this was due to being disappointed by the graininess of Double-X or that now that he was shooting in 1.85 instead of anamorphic (as with "Manhatten") he was more concerned with grain, or simply that the higher contrast of Plus-X suited the look he wanted.

But considering that Plus-X is around 80 ASA, it's not surprising that most of the movie was probably shot at T/2.8.
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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 12:45 PM

In the "Masters of Light" interview, Willis mentions that he shot this movie on Plus-X after....

David,
I think if I had thought about the fact that you're apt to be reading this thread, I'd have been a little less "catty" about waving the camera around and current fads. Forgive me for letting the "author" take over "common courtesy". I do very much like the tableau's in Woody's films shot by Gordon, but I also am in awe of your contemporary styled work.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 12:49 PM

Doug Hart, 1st AC on "Stardust Memories" and five other Woody Allen films ("Manhattan", "Annie Hall", etc) with Gordon Willis hangs out on another forum. I'll post over there and see if Doug has any comments on Woody Allen films and focus control.



I recently went to an AC workshop taught by Doug and he had quite a lot of great stories about his time with Gordon. I'm sure he'll have something good to tell you.
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#8 Tony Miller

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 06:43 PM

I just recently joined this forum so let me begin by saying hello to everyone. The reason I joined was because I have been racking my brain trying to think of the name of a doc I saw about ten years ago about cinematographers throughout the history of film. I could have sworn it was "Masters of Light" but thought I must be wrong because I couldn't find a single reference to the film anywhere on the internet. Nothing on Google, nothing on any of the major film sites, nada.

In desperation I came here to "cinematography.com" figuring someone here would know the name of the film, and bang, there it is mentioned on the first thread I come onto. LOL I KNEW it was "Masters of Light". Funny how I can't find any reference to it on the net. I'm looking for it on DVD.

Anyway, one of my favorite parts in the film was Gordon explaining how he was sometimes referred to as "The Prince of Darkness" for his underlit scenes and how he admitted that he really did go to far in Godfather II in a scene where Michael was talking to his mother.

If anyone can tell me where I can get a DVD or VHS tape of the film it would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by Tony Miller, 13 July 2006 - 06:45 PM.

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#9 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 06:49 PM

I'm pretty sure you're referring to Visions of Light, not Masters of Light. Check it out on IMDB. And you can buy it on Amazon.
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#10 Hal Smith

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 06:57 PM

I'm pretty sure you're referring to Visions of Light, not Masters of Light. Check it out on [

It's also in the ASC's webstore.

http://www.theasc.co...catalogno=50500
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#11 Tony Miller

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 07:41 PM

Yup, that's it... "Visions of Light".

Thanks, guys...

I knew this was the place to come.

Edited by Tony Miller, 13 July 2006 - 07:42 PM.

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#12 Hal Smith

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 08:46 PM

Hello All,
Last night I watched Woody Allen's STARDUST MEMORIES......... but the shot would still hold and you would only hear their voices. I really loved his use of shallow depth of field. God, it was refreshing. There were lots of exterior, daytime shots where all of the background was out of focus. It was simply spectacular.
.........In any event, please check out his work in STARDUST MEMORIES, and in fact, all of the films he has shot for Woody Allen. What a DP!
Mike

Doug Hart was very kind to reply to my question and gave me permission to quote him over here: Here's a couple from him about the art of follow focus and his and Gordon Willis' filming of "Stardust Memories".

(quote) ....As for focus and Depth-of-Field, 99.99% of the time there is no question
where the focus should be. I teach my AC students the three basic
questions and rules of "Who Should Be In Focus: 1. Who has the dialogue? 2. Who
is facing the camera? and most important, 3. Who is getting the bigger
paycheck?"
Another DP I work with is fond of the quote: "Stay with the lowest
number on the Call Sheet!" (On most call sheets the actors are numbered in
the order of their "Star" status, and therefore generally in "size of paycheck"
order.)
If these three questions don't solve the problem for the 1AC, I would
ask Gordon where he wants the focus. If the positioning of the actors is
pushing our D-of-F to the limit, I will check my trusty SamCine Calculator
("Prayer Wheel"), and inform Gordon, and he will solve the problem, by
telling me who should be in focus for which parts of the shot, or maybe by moving the
actors' marks, or by moving the camera (rarely), or by removing some ND
filter so I can stop down. I don't think we ever widened a shot he had blocked just
to increase D-of-F, and only very rarely will he add light to stop down.
Gordon would tell me at the beginning of a film, "This will be a T4
picture," or a "T2.8 picture," and rarely will he vary that for lit
interiors. For day exteriors he likes to work within a stop or two of the interior
stops, so we often use a lot of ND filtering outdoors. Pulling out some ND for a
particular shot is OK, but it goes back in for the next shot.
But usually his instructions to me were something like, "If you can't
hold all three of them, stay with actor "A" for the beginning until actor
"B" starts to speak, then stay with "B" to the end." He doesn't like changing
the blocking once we start shooting. Obviously, if there are other factors or elements that need to be in
focus, such as props being handled or actors turning to look somewhere else
in the frame, this will be discussed also. "Stay with the revolver as it
comes out of the drawer until Jack points it at Ralph, then stay with Ralph," or
"Stay with Phyllis until she turns to the door and then rack to Paul," etc. Sometimes a dialogue cue or someone entering the frame or doing a bit of business with a prop, would provide a focus rack cue that would be less obvious than a straight rack......

.......In your question you mentioned "Stardust Memories," my first complete
film with Gordon and Woody - one of my all time favorite shots is in
"Stardust."
The scene starts in total darkness, and we hear dialogue off screen.
Then a door opens and Woody and Charlotte Rampling enter Woody's apartment.
The characters split in different directions, switching lights on as they
walk through the apartment having their conversation, often with only one of
them in frame, and sometimes with no one in frame, but the lights keep switching
on and off as they move through the apartment, often with the characters
crossing completely through the frame and out the other side. The camera
dollies back and forth to follow first one then the other. About two minutes later
the shot ends in close profiles of the two, silhouetted against an antique
brass lamp (actually a ship's searchlight, as I recall). One shot, no cuts.
One of my all time favorite shots. Probably about an hour's blocking, two hours lighting, an hour rehearsing, and an hour shooting, and two great minutes of screen time in the can.
On one film I did with Gordon (not one of Woody's) we were doing our usual lengthy and very precise blocking, spending quite a bit of time. One of the score of producers showed up at about 11 AM and was dismayed and upset that we hadn't shot anything yet, but we had hundreds of bits of colored tape on the floor.
Gordon got him calmed down finally, and told him to "Go away and come back about 5PM," which the producer did, just as we were finishing our "AbbySinger" (next to the last shot). Only one more set-up to go, and we were done in an another hour.
The super-precise blocking may take more time at first, but the shooting goes much faster afterwards, because everyone knows exactly what is happening next and can be ready for it.
I guess you could call this method the "No Surprise" Blocking. I'm sorry more DPs don't use this method. (end quote).
Doug Hart
1AC, NYC
(for 10 films with Gordon Willis, and hundreds of commercials)


Hal Smith
Edmond, OK
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#13 Doug Hart

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 09:08 PM

Doug Hart, 1st AC on "Stardust Memories" and five other Woody Allen films ("Manhattan", "Annie Hall", etc) with Gordon Willis hangs out on another forum. I'll post over there and see if Doug has any comments on Woody Allen films and focus control.
[/quote]


Hi everybody - I've just jolined this forum.
Some comments from me on "Stardust Memories" have already been posted.
Unfortunately I cannot claim to have worked on "Annie Hall" at all, and I only worked on a few days of "B" Camera work on "Manhattan," but I have been Gordon Willis' First Camera Assistant on 10 films and 100+ commericals.
My 5 Woody Allen/ Gordon Willis films were: "Stardust Memories," "Zelig," "Broadway Danny Rose," "Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy," and "Purple Rose of Cairo," and one Woody Allen film without Gordon, "Hannah and Her Sisters" (with DP Carlo DiPalma).
I also did "Presumed Innocent," "Pickup Artist," "Bright Lights, Big City," "Money Pit," and a TV movie called "The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck" with Gordon Willis.
If anyone has any questions about my films with Gordon, I'll be happy to try and answer.
Doug Hart
1AC, NYC


I'm pretty sure you're referring to Visions of Light, not Masters of Light. Check it out on IMDB. And you can buy it on Amazon.
[/quote]


"Visions of Light" is a documentary on DVFD.
"Masters of Light" is a book containing interviews with 20 or so top DPs.
I recommend them both.
I also suggest eBay for looking for both.
I found my DVD of "Visions of Light" on eBay for about $10. + shipping.

Doug Hart
1AC, NYC
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 10:00 PM

What f-stop did he favor for spherical 1.85 shooting on interiors? Did he try and shoot his day exteriors at the same stop? What types of prime lenses did he generally use? What zooms did he like, if any?

Did he shoot grey scales or color charts at the head of rolls as a guide for dailies timing? Or did he just print the dailies at a set of printer light numbers determined during prep?

I know he mostly used Plus-X b&w neg on "Stardust Memories" but did he go back to Double-X for the interiors in "Broadway Danny Rose"?
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#15 Tony Miller

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 08:02 AM

I have one more question regarding "Visions of Light".

From a review...

It?s a minor irritant when a comment in voiceover is unidentified. What?s worse is to see something startling and not be told where it?s from. Right after the discussion of the 1930s "studio look"?the gloss of Paramount, the harder edges of Warner Brothers, the glamour associated with MGM?there?s a dynamite sequence of a man seated next to a flapper and singing "in the shadows when I come and sing?" and then they kiss. A white rose in her hand gets tossed toward the camera, splashes and ripples, distorting the couple in mid-embrace, and you realize that all along, you?ve been watching them in an amazingly sharp reflection, and the camera must have been shooting upside down to make them look right side up. What?s that from?!

I remember that scene, and I'd also like to know where it's from.

Anyone...?
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#16 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 10:05 AM

Keep your eyes open for screenings of a new documentary, featuring over 100 noted cinematographers, including Mr. Mullen. It's called "Cinematographer Style", and was produced by Jon Fauer:

http://www.icommag.c...uly-page-9.html

http://www.uemedia.n...cle_14985.shtml

Kodak supplied the film, Arriflex provided funding and equipment, Technicolor provided the lab work, and 110 cinematographers provided the talent. B)

Posted Image

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I saw "Cinematographer Style" at a special June 27 35mm screening for Kodak people in Rochester. Very well done, and really shows the creative process followed by noted cinematographers.
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#17 Doug Hart

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 11:38 PM

What f-stop did he favor for spherical 1.85 shooting on interiors? Did he try and shoot his day exteriors at the same stop? What types of prime lenses did he generally use? What zooms did he like, if any?

Did he shoot grey scales or color charts at the head of rolls as a guide for dailies timing? Or did he just print the dailies at a set of printer light numbers determined during prep?

I know he mostly used Plus-X b&w neg on "Stardust Memories" but did he go back to Double-X for the interiors in "Broadway Danny Rose"?



Hi David -

Gordon favored either T2.8 or T4 for most interiors for spherical 1.85:1, and day exteriors generally a stop or stop-and-a-half higher. I never did a complete anamorphic film with him, only a few days of "B" camera on "Manhattan."
The ten films I did with him, we used the older Panavision Super Speed lenses, from 20mm to 150mm, even though towards the end of my time with him the Primos were available. I can't recall ever using anything wider than 20mm. He had a set of Super Speed lenses he liked, and Panavision kept them together and reserved for him (along with 2 camera bodies), since he shot often enough, between features and commercials, for them to justify doing so. I still have that list of serial numbers.
We rarely used zooms, though we always had a 5:1 and 10:1 with us. They rarely came off the truck. On those rare occasions when we used a zoom, the actual zoom was always hidden in a dolly move or a pan, so it was rarely noticed. We used the 10:1 mostly for a fixed long lens for those rare instances when we needed one, and didn't have a chance to pre-order a 200mm or 300mm prime, which we did not normally carry.
Gordon's favorite lens by far was the 40mm (serial #23) - probably half of "Stardust Memories" and much of the other films was done on the 40mm. He was also partial to the Mitchell Difusion filters, "A" though "D" densities (instead of numbers like Tiffen). We even had additional filters made by Panchro, a "1/2 A" lighter than "A," and a "B and a Half" between "B" and "C" (he felt the gap between "B" and "C" was too great). The Mitchell Diffusions are hard to find now, but the Tiffen Soft FX series are very similar, and made the same way, textured glass on one side.
We rarely used gray scales or cards, except for rear or front projection plates or some other special purpose - Gordon was a "printer lights" DP, after much emulsion testing during prep. We would have a specific set of lights for each stock being used, separate sets for interiors and exteriors, and the instructions on the camera reports simply said "print at 28-41-32" or whatever the numbers were for that stock, interior or exterior. We never mixed interior and exterior on the same roll.
There is a longer discussion of this in my book, THE CAMERA ASSISTANT: A COMPLETE PROFESSIONAL HANDBOOK, Focal Press, 1996.
Gordon just wanted the lab to do the same thing every day, never to try and "help."
I don't recall about "Broadway Danny Rose," but you are probably right - Double-X, since Plus-X is so slow. I remember that for "Stardust Memories" we also had both Plus-X and Double-X, and that for "Zelig," we used Plus-X, Double-X and Four-X negative, and Gordon would try to match the newsreel footage that our footage would intercut with, as well as trying to match the frame rate. We would constantly be changing from 16 to 18 to 20 fps to match the stock footage.
Here's a trivia question for the group - in "Zelig," there are ONLY TWO blue screen shots in all those scenes of Woody placed into historic events. Who can find the 2 shots where we used blue screen?
Students from my Assistants Workshops in Maine are not eligible, since we talked about this and often screen the film!

Doug Hart
1AC, NYC
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 01:00 AM

Here's a trivia question for the group - in "Zelig," there are ONLY TWO blue screen shots in all those scenes of Woody placed into historic events. Who can find the 2 shots where we used blue screen?


I seem to recall a shot of Zelig standing in Times Square and a shot of him wandering in the middle of a Yankees baseball game (with Babe Ruth?) where he was pasted into archival footage. It's been over a decade since I last watched the movie so I'm not sure.

Thnaks for all the cool info on Willis!
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#19 Chris Keth

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 02:19 AM

Students from my Assistants Workshops in Maine are not eligible, since we talked about this and often screen the film!



Bah! :P :D
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#20 Logan Schneider

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 03:17 AM

I did much of the transcription of the interviews on Cinematographer Style, including the final two interviews with Vittorio Storaro and Gordon Willis (there will eventually be a book with the complete transcripts). Both interviews were about an hour and a half, and it was like getting a one on one masterclass in cinematography. Willis talked about what being a 'visual psychiatrist' and how, most of the time, problems are caused by adding too much instead of taking away. He also talked about the importance of the word 'no'.

I hope everyone gets a chance to see the film, especially on the big screen. It was the first film to use the Arriscanner (which deserves it's own thread. it's amazing) and went through a 2K DI (downrezzed from 3K) at Goldcrest media with colorist John Dowdell III. I was fortunate enough to attend the premier at the Samual Goldwyn theater at the Academy, which most of the people attended thought had the best projection in the world. During test screenings, John went within two feet of the screen and still couldn't see any pixelation or artifacting.

Anyway, I was sidetracked, but for anyone who wants to learn more about Willis, watch out for the book so that you can read the full transcript, not to mention the 109 other DPs (including David Mullen, who has a very good interview).

When Jon Fauer got to Willis's house to shoot the interview, they had a huge truck with big lights so that they could light from outside becuase Willis didn't want any equipment in his house. Willis just told him to bring in one 4'x4 kino flo, and that's all they used. At one point he tells them to turn off the Kino and says, 'see, that's better'. Master of Darkness indeed...

Logan Schneider
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