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"Old time" look


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#1 mary allison

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Posted 19 December 2006 - 12:13 PM

The answers regarding 16mm v. 35mm were great.

My film is set in ancient Turkey. I have locations with appropriate architecture, but how can I make it look "authentic" - Is there a way to avoid having it look like it's the year 2007? Is there a particular grain or speed (color film) to use, or avoid?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 December 2006 - 12:42 PM

Well, the past probably looked like the present to one's eyes in terms of color & light -- it's just a convention of cinema that we do something to the image to signify that it is not modern.

Slightly softer color saturation might help. If you shoot 16mm, you don't really have to worry about softening the image though; it's already softer than 35mm.

For example, you could use the faster low-con stocks (Fuji Eterna 400T or Kodak Expression 500T) for any low-light work, and overexpose/pull-process a slower stock for day exterior work to achieve softer colors. Or you could stick to the slow and medium stocks but use some light diffusion filter to fog the colors and light. Or shoot clean and use smoke & dust & backlight to achieve that look.

It also depends on how you will be handling the post and what format the movie will be finished to. If all you want to do is turn down the color saturation and are planning an all-digital post, you could do that later in digital color-correction. There are also photochemical methods that involve special processing of the print stock.

You have to be more specific about the "period" look you want -- there is no right or wrong answer here, just what you want it to look like.
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 23 December 2006 - 12:35 AM

The answers regarding 16mm v. 35mm were great.

My film is set in ancient Turkey. I have locations with appropriate architecture, but how can I make it look "authentic" - Is there a way to avoid having it look like it's the year 2007? Is there a particular grain or speed (color film) to use, or avoid?


Honestly, some of my favorite movies set in some period other than now are the ones that don't do anything to date the look of the film. The 60s didn't look any different than the 600s B.C. and neither look different than now. If you feel like making your own look for ancient Turkey, you can do it.
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#4 Matthew Buick

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 01:42 PM

If you want a 60s-mid 70s look use Monopack, if you want a mid 70s to early 80s look use glorious 5247.
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 04:29 PM

I realize I am departing from cinematography some here, and this is extending into other people's areas of expertise, but I think it is important for the whole team to agree on trying to impart a movie with a realistic period look if you want it to work: I think the best way to show that it is ancient times is to really do a lot of research into the culture of the time. There are so many hollywood cliches and anachronisms in some of the modern hollywood movies it isn't even funny. You cannot be politically correct in a film about ancient times. Women were treated brutally in many ancient cultures, in some not even allowed to speak unless spoken to, discipline was harsh, there was slavery and brutality, etc. Look into some of this stuff. Also, a lot of people were in positions of power at a very young age. It was NOT like today where you were considered an adult at the age of 18 or 20 or 21. You were considered an adult at 12 or 13. People often got married before they were 15. People were, by some accounts, almost a foot shorter than the average person is today. I would try to either cast or portray this shortness photographically. Try to light realistically as well. Look to Barry Lindon for probably the best portrayal of a pre-electric community that has been done in modern color cinema. They didn't have HMIs, Mercury vapor, or tungsten lamps, they had CANDLES and TORCHES. I'd say with modern glass and some fast stock maybe pushed a stop, you could do an excellent job of lighting realistically without the need for 10,000 double-wicked candles illuminating your set.

Don't try making it exciting with things that weren't really done back then. I think your audience will really appreciate it if you and your production crew do their homework and portray the world as best as our knowledge of it permits.

Let me give you an example of a film that, in my mind, effectively portrays the realities of the past: "Master and Commander". You see that a lot of the crew of a ship of war at the time were little more than boys. You see the harshness of the discipline, the stratification of the society, and rigid class system of the time, and that makes that film all the more powerful because it is true to that time.

I think shooting it in B&W, or with bleach bypass, diffusion, or funky colors will only make the audience "suspend their belief" and see it as a fantasy world. For example, if you are watching B&W war footage, or a film that is heavily diffused or bleach bypassed, do you really see that movie as "real". It almost creates a barrier between you and the characters, in my opinion. A lot of people exagerate the nobleness of the past, turning ordinary people into faultless heroes. People were as flawed then as they are now, moreso because of their lack of understanding of what caused disease, and illiteracy and lack of education of a large percentage of the populace (wiht the exception of nobles, women were kept almost completely ignorant in many cultures). Show the human side of characters by not adopting an "epic" sort of visual storytelling.

Now all of this is said assuming you aren't telling a story like "Arabian Nights" or "The Epic of Gilgamesh". If you are, then obviously you want to do almost the exact opposite of what I've told you. If you are however trying to impart the utmost in realism to your story, try to highlight the humanity of the people against the very different cultural norms of the time. Picture your average Joe from today having to exist in a very brutal, difficult existence.
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