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50's Look!


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#1 Paul Sifakis

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 01:17 PM

Hi there!
I'm going to shoot a short film, and the director wants lighting and color palete similar to the look of the golden age of Hollywood cinema (you know Marylin's movies and others). How can someone achieve that?
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#2 Mike Panczenko

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 01:29 PM

Hi there!
I'm going to shoot a short film, and the director wants lighting and color palete similar to the look of the golden age of Hollywood cinema (you know Marylin's movies and others). How can someone achieve that?



I'd use a lot of very hard light, and a lot of it: fresnels, etc, to emulate the look of the arc lamps they used to use. They would use a lot of light since the ISO of the old stocks were considerably slower, so the greater footcandles is a large factor in the quality of the light of the older movies. Another thing to do would be to not necessarily always have motivated light. It wasn't completely out of context, but it was significantly cheated, quite often. In the Douglas Sirk films, there were often double shadows, and instead of motivating directly from a lamp, the light would often be coming from above the lamp, or a similar place, to suggest the lamp's effect, but upon examination, in a physically unreal way.

This is the American Cinematographer article on "Far From Heaven," which in many ways emulated the look and feel of the old 50's melodramas: http://www.theasc.co.../far/page2.html

Last big factor, to quote Ed Lachman "hey were much more cognizant of key-, fill- and backlight for every shot"- just going with the basic theories of lighting.

Last thing- make your leading lady look gorgeous!
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#3 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 06:56 AM

i think a big part of that look comes from the need for *lots* of makeup under such lighting. people more or less had an entire face painted on top of the real one. and make sure you use heavy diffusion for all female closeups.

/matt
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 11:35 AM

The simple way to think about it was that older movies used softer lenses and film stocks but harder lighting to create sharpness, whereas modern movies have sharper lenses and film stocks and use softer lighting. To some degree, the hard light style was not only a popular stylistic choice (made controlling everything easier, added a sculptural quality, etc.) but was due to slow speed of the stocks and the softness of the lenses and stocks (especially earlier CinemaScope lenses), so they were fighting to make the image look sharp on the big screen, except for the close-ups.
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