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When Do We Eat?


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 12:50 AM

This small 24P HDCAM feature I shot finally came out on DVD last week (and "Akeelah and the Bee" comes out next week.) And the 24P HDCAM feature I shot called "The Quiet" opened theatrically on Friday, to mostly negative reviews unfortunately.

Anyway, I pulled some frames to discuss some of the use of filters and exposure, etc. I used for the movie.

For the most part, the movie was shot sharp and clean. For example, here is an exterior scene:

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For some of the more romantic or "happy" scenes, I used a 1/8 ProMist; on the tighter shot in this case, I added a 1/2 Soft-FX to the 1/8 ProMist. She was keyed with some 2K's going through a row of 4x4 frames of Bleached Muslin (there was a row because she walks across the room into a close-up):

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The characters end up in a tent decorated in rich fabrics. Because we saw the entire room in this shot, it was lit only by the hanging practicals. I used a 1/8 ProMist for the early dinner scenes but as the night wears on, I went back to an unfiltered look.

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The flashbacks during the dinner were stylized; I used a 1/2 ProMist, pulled the color down in post, and played with overexposure & clipping to make them look a little surreal:

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#2 JA Tadena

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 01:35 AM

Looks very nice. I wonder if its going to be released here in Asia? BTW, its sad to say but I recently was walking around here and saw a pirated DVD of "Akeelah and the Bee". I guess its released even before the orignal DVD is out. I remember I attended a small film festival locally with Fernando Meirelles attending for his film City of God. At the end of the awarding ceremony, someone asked to have a signature on the City of God DVD. Fernando Meirelles was shocked to see a DVD of his film before it was even released in his country. Each DVD copy is sold for about 75 pesos(about a dolloar and a half). I know its killing the film industry but DVD piracy is just everywhere here. Thats really sad for the film industry but happy for all the film dvd buffs locally.
Anyway, I hope to see "the Quiet" in cinemas around here? What lenses did you use?

Edited by jatadena, 27 August 2006 - 01:36 AM.

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#3 Matthew Buick

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 02:02 AM

That cinematography rocks, David, they should put you in the ASC or something, HA HA.
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#4 Jonathan Bryant

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 03:13 AM

Funny this came up. I just picked this movie up this weekend at Blockbuster thinking it had been there all along. Really funny movie that has a great mix of characters with some sexy scenes. I liked the the bleachers scene and the cell phone tease scene. David I would never have guessed that you used 4x4 muslins on that scene it was very low key looking. I would be interested in seeing a diagram of how that scene was lit (where each lit was in the room). I love the look of HDCAM on DVD but I wish it didn't clip hair backlights so much. Lots of times I am scared to light a scene with to high of a ratio and some stuff turns out looking flat. It was nice to practicals in shots and high contrast lighting look good on HD. It has been said before to many of us worry about making HD and Video look like film when we should harness the medium to use its best attributes. David did that on this film.

Edited by johnhollywood, 27 August 2006 - 03:15 AM.

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#5 G. Stephen Bruno

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 03:23 AM

Man David, two DVD's and a theatrical release all in the same two week period... crazy stuff.

I definitly will have those two on my netflix list for next mailing. It a shame that Akeela never reached my small podunk area, I would of loved to see a print of it.
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#6 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 04:29 AM

Hi David,

I've been reading your posts on this forum for quite some time now (and learning quite a bit), but have only recently begun posting myself. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for consistently and generously sharing your knowledge and experience with those of us who are just starting our careers in the biz. Your production diaries have been especially inspirational - I think it might be a nice idea for the AC's and gaffers on the forum to post their diaries as well (if they want); it would be great to read and learn about the craft from their unique perspective. I'm surprised that you have the energy to do it, though; I've only been crewing for the last year or so, and I'm usually wiped out at the end of the day!

Looking at the still frames, I'm especially struck by your 'scope compositions - the exterior under the bleachers looks like it's from "2001: A Space Odessey" (shot by one of your heroes, I know). I've noticed your flair for 'scope framing in "Northfork" as well; I wish that more DP's would compose in depth with greater depth-of-field, even deep focus. Of the many directors that you've worked with, are there some that "think" in deep focus, imagine their film looking like it was shot by one of the deep-focus masters (Toland, Miller, Urusevsky, etc.)? In this day and age, could you give such a look to them, given shortened production schedules, stretched budgets, and money men wary of anything "new" and different?

I realize this thread is about filtration and lighting more than composition, so I'll stop here. Again, thank you David for being so generous and gentlemanly with your time.

Cheers,
Satsuki
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 11:58 AM

Yes, the clippiness of digital is a problem, but I don't always like the solution of just lowering everything down to a level that the camera can handle because then the image feels too "safe" and flat. It's just a judgement call. In terms of the flashbacks, I just decided to go for broke and overexpose them along with the ProMist diffusion. For the regular scenes, the clippiness was mostly just the backlights and some practicals, which I can live with. Sometimes I overdo the backlighting, I know, and for this movie, I probably should have used less of it, or taken it down a notch. But in general, my feeling is that sometimes a backlight should just be nuclear-hot if it's supposed to be sunlight coming through a window -- it should look out-of-control. But for some of these interior scenes, I was backlighting more for a glamour look. Anyway, it's easy to overdo it.

I've shot most of my HD features on the 8-72mm Digital Primo, which is a nice sized zoom, not too large, so I'm willing to live with the fact that it is not as sharp or fast as the Optimo HD zoom, for example. I usually shoot it at an f/2.8 inside. The extra depth of field of HD is sort of inevitable on wider-angled shots, so you might as well take advantage of it compositionally.

I like compositions in depth but so many directors these days tell me it's old-fashioned and would rather go for a long-lensed "fishing for a shot" look, ala "24", because it feels "real". Just depends on the project though, but sometimes I think people don't spend enough effort composing a shot, arranging elements & people in the frame for the camera. I mean, I can do the "fishing around for a frame" type of photography but deep-down I tend to feel it is too easy. Some people are real artists at it though.
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#8 Justin Hayward

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 02:31 PM

(and "Akeelah and the Bee" comes out next week.)


I saw three copies on the shelf at Lion Video two days ago. I just assumed it came out last week. I didn't rent it, because they were all full screen. Would they put pirated copies on the shelf of a video rental chain? They must have gotten the copies in and just put them out early or something. Now I got to go back and make sure I'm not crazy.
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#9 Justin Hayward

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 03:37 PM

Now I got to go back and make sure I'm not crazy.


I am crazy. It's just the boxes, no copies. I just saw "full screen" and moved on.
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#10 David Sweetman

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 04:32 PM

I mean, I can do the "fishing around for a frame" type of photography but deep-down I tend to feel it is too easy. Some people are real artists at it though.


Right, I get annoyed when people use telephoto, zooms, whips, shaky camera etc. just because it's easier. (and I've fallen into it myself.) I do have an idea for a wide-agle "fishing for a shot" look, but that's one of my favorite ideas so I won't reveal it over the internet :ph34r:

BTW, that fist frame grab is really incredible. What was your setup like? Was it tricky to grab the shot at the right time with changing daylight?

Edited by David Sweetman, 27 August 2006 - 04:36 PM.

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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 07:27 PM

"Akeelah and the Bee" is supposed to come out in stores on Tuesday.

The only issue with that first shot was that the director really wanted the pattern from the sunlight under the bleachers, so we went out there at the right time of day but the sun was hazy and going in and out of clouds, ruining the effect. I had some big lights but there was no way I could really recreate that effect, so I HAD to get the wide shot and close-up in that correct natural sunlight, just augmented with some soft light.

There was a reverse angle close-up that I could light when the hard sun went away because it didn't look down the length of bleachers.
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#12 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 08:03 AM

Sometimes I overdo the backlighting, I know, and for this movie, I probably should have used less of it, or taken it down a notch. But in general, my feeling is that sometimes a backlight should just be nuclear-hot if it's supposed to be sunlight coming through a window -- it should look out-of-control. But for some of these interior scenes, I was backlighting more for a glamour look. Anyway, it's easy to overdo it.


It's funny how taste change - I used to be the biggest backlighter in the world - I was s**t-hot for that. All my early stuff is full of it. I had a good DP friend who was a bit ahead of me in his career who hated backlight at that time. Now, it's completely the opposite - I rarely backlight these days and he's just dicovered how great backlight can be!

But I must say that this no backlight style has been with me for a couple of years now, so I might not snap out of it. My main beef with backlight is that I find it cheapens scenes many times. Makes them look lit and artifical somehow. I just find it classier not to, most of the time.

When I do edge-light, I make sure I do it on the same side as the key. An unflattering light to me personally is a face where the key is keyed 3/4 side, then they go dark on the other side of the key, only to meet up with a s**t-hot rim at the edge of the face. Preferrably spilling a bit on the nose, too.

Another thing with very rim-my light is that it appears to be cooler than they main key light, athough they're exactly the same temperature. Often because it's higher in intensity, but it's not only that - it has something to do with the angle of bounce, as well. This also can add to the feeling of 'being lit', in my opinion.

Another dislike for me is the double-rim a la Men In Black-poster. Two hot rims edgeing the face but letting the middle of it go dark - Matrix is full of that, too. Don't know why this bothers me so much, but it does.

But that's just MY taste - not right or wrong in any way, of course.

Rant over! :D
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#13 John Holland

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 10:39 AM

Well far has i am concerned ,back light rules and some nice soft fill , i have spent my whole life only shooting , be it stills, movies ,tv progs that i have lit , always well almost was the large back light as a key , and then just sort out c.u.s with soft fill . bounce from the back light . interior or ext . i know i am not normal , but it works ,has for years for me . think its my David Watkin influence . john.
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#14 Justin Hayward

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 11:06 AM

The only time backlights really bother me is when they?re used outdoors when the sun is obviously coming from some other direction and a mirror or some diffused HMI is providing a very unnatural edge light.

I?m thinking of playing this next project I?m doing entirely in silhouettes as opposed to heavy backlighting. I?m going to used practicals (and supplements) to light the walls but let the actors go totally dark with one or two hot ?sunlight? hits for them to walk through occasionally. With a little smoke, I think it could be really interesting.
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#15 Mitch Gross

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 12:51 PM

So that makes four features released in as many months? Akeelah, Shadowboxer. The Quiet and now this one on DVD. Must be some kind of record!
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#16 Stephen Williams

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 01:11 PM

always well almost was the large back light as a key , and then just sort out c.u.s with soft fill . bounce from the back light . interior or ext .


John,

I saw Geoff Boyle do exactly that on a HD (Viper) shoot recently.

Stephen
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 09:09 PM

So that makes four features released in as many months? Akeelah, Shadowboxer. The Quiet and now this one on DVD. Must be some kind of record!


Yes, and there is still a small chance that "The Astronaut Farmer" will get to theaters this year -- they are starting the D.I. in a week (I'll only have time to check-over the timed reels and make adjustments, not sit on the whole thing.)
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#18 Tim Partridge

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 06:32 AM

I found this on-line:



Photography (and production design) seem very impressive- I love the soft front lighting, which is a refreshing approach. the film itself looks dreadful though. How do these movies get made? :huh:
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#19 Jonathan Bryant

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 11:31 PM

When I do edge-light, I make sure I do it on the same side as the key. An unflattering light to me personally is a face where the key is keyed 3/4 side, then they go dark on the other side of the key, only to meet up with a s**t-hot rim at the edge of the face. Preferrably spilling a bit on the nose, too.

Another thing with very rim-my light is that it appears to be cooler than they main key light, athough they're exactly the same temperature. Often because it's higher in intensity, but it's not only that - it has something to do with the angle of bounce, as well. This also can add to the feeling of 'being lit', in my opinion.

Another dislike for me is the double-rim a la Men In Black-poster. Two hot rims edgeing the face but letting the middle of it go dark - Matrix is full of that, too. Don't know why this bothers me so much, but it does.

But that's just MY taste - not right or wrong in any way, of course.

Rant over! :D

I agree I like for the backlight to look natural. To much from the opposite side of the key looks very staged to me.
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#20 Josh Bass

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 12:26 AM

David, I swear I saw "The Quiet" on DVD at Blockbuster last time I was there. This time of course, I didn't see it. I know it just came out in theaters, but I swear I've seen (legal) DVDs somewhere. I thought maybe it was one of those weird cases like Left Behind where it was on both formats simultaneously, for a little while.

I've lost my mind, haven't I?
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