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The Quiet


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 12:48 AM

That low-budget (under 1 mil.) feature I did in Austin, TX in conjunction with some UT Austin students on the crew, came out today on DVD. It was shot in 24P HDCAM on a Panavised F900 through Panavision Dallas, 8-72mm Digital Primo zoom.

We smoked a lot of the movie and aimed for a stylized cold, blue-ish look, somewhat desaturated. It was not intended to look realistic. Many scenes indoors were shot in "moonlight" for example. Scenes that were not smoked used a #1/8 ProMist, sometimes combined with a #1/2 Soft-FX on close-ups. I pulled some sample frames that give you an idea of the approach. We tried to shoot in silhouette a lot.

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Here is an ordinary dinner scene, the people lit by the real bulb in the overhead practical.

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For a later dinner scene with the same lighting in the wide shot, I decided to replace the bare bulb for a Chinese Lantern on the close-ups:

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I discovered that I could backlight the shiny tiled hallway in the school at night with a single vertical Kinoflo tube outside of the glass doors. That single tube got reflected down the length of the hallway. Here I played the scene in silhouette:

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In this later scene, I added an overhead Chinese Lantern:

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Here is a day scene in the school hallway:

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#2 David Sweetman

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 01:11 AM

Looks great! I've been fascinated by silhouettes lately, but I've had trouble trying to create them on set. What are some keys to getting a proper silhouette - or what kind of a exposure value difference did you go for between the dark subject and the background?

Also what do you think of the contention that blue is the most distracting and "amatuer" color of light to put in the frame? It appears you've handily avoided whatever pitfall that may be, but I've read DP's who are so decisively against it that I wanted to get your take on it.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 01:22 AM

Figuring out the exposure for silhouettes is the easy part when you're shooting digitally -- you can see the results right there. The tricky part is to try and get the black object framed against something bright to create a good silhouette. What the frame grabs don't show you is the movement of the actors and camera, which can help in creating separation from the background too.

Smoke helps too in that it creates a lower-contrast background with an overall wash/haze that makes a dark foreground object standout more clearly.

Blue is just like any other color -- what matters is if it is motivated by the story and hopefully can be logically motivated as well. Warmth and coldness are probably the two color effects that are easiest to justify since there are many real life sources that naturally create warm or cold lighting. Odd colored lighting like red or green is harder to justify unless motivated by a source that color.

Whenever I do a cold-looking movie, one of the films I look at is "Blue" by Kieslowski.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 01:54 AM

Just looking at the extras on the DVD, I'm featured heavily in the "shooting on HD" segment. It's the first time I've seen so much footage of myself talking and at work. It's clear that I belong behind a camera, not in front of one!
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#5 Daniel Carruthers

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 09:41 PM

I just watched the trailer. Looks creepy,and disturbing. I cant wait to see it.
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#6 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 11:02 AM

David,

- Just wondering what kind of settings you used to get your blue look - desaturizing colour with a lower ct preset, gelling lights with blues and contrasting this with warmer gels on face/character key lights? etc...

... interested to hear more from you...

Cheers.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 12:51 PM

I turned the Color Matrix and Rec 709 off, which gives you a somewhat softer color pallette. Rec 709 (ITU 709) gives you somewhat punchier colors and boosted red chroma.

Day scenes were shot with the "C" filter (sort of a halfway balance) or the "A" filter (an 85 filter) but never the "D" filter (Sony's orange filter that makes day scenes warmish.)

Night interiors used half-blue light for moonlight (1/2 CTO on HMI's or 1/2 CTB on tungsten.)

I learned the hard way on a day-for-night shot in "D.E.B.S." to never use full blue on HD, unless I want the image to go completely monochrome with just blue overlaid heavily. You need to record a little info in the other channels.

Sometimes when I have a night exterior entirely lit for moonlight, it's easier to leave the HMI's ungelled and use the "C" filter setting in the camera (sort of an 81EF correction.)

Because of some noisy blues I had in the film-out, I probably shouldn't have used the +3db boost in low-light for some shots, but just boosted the light level, perhaps even enough to use -3db. Or exposed my night scenes a little more brightly and brought it down in post to keep the noise down. It was tricky because this was a movie where the director pushed me to make scenes darker; maybe I should have just darkened the video monitor... I should have remembered Eric Adkin's advice regarding using bluescreen on "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and predicted the blue noise problem. However, it was not enough to see on a 22" HD CRT monitor, and I didn't really see it much on a 50" HD CRT monitor in post, mostly in the film-out to 35mm where it really popped in some shots. Luckily, it kinda looked like grainier film stock...
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#8 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 11:41 AM

... Thanks David.
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#9 Michael Nash

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 06:56 PM

David,

First off, great work. You've proven again that you can take a small budget and make it look much bigger, consistently throughout. Whatever compromises you may have faced were certainly well worked out.

A couple questions:

1) During the basketball game scene, did you also shoot with the ITU 709 Matrix "off?" Aside from being normally color balanced compared the rest of the film, the colors still seemed more naturalistic and without the annoying oversaturation in skin tones you often get with the F-900. It looked nice.

2) How did you do the slow motion shots? Did you shoot those shots 60i? Or did they take 24P scenes and use a post technique to create the "tweener" frames? And was it just me, or was there just a slight increase in noise in those shots (on the DVD)?

I'll have to go back and read your journal for "Dot."

http://www.cinematog...n...c=2679&st=0
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#10 Rob.m.Neilson

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 08:11 PM

I loved But Im a Cheerleader...but man this movie was horrible! However it did look bigger than its budget. David who were the UT students? I was surprised to see Jamie Babbit directing a burnt orange film!
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 08:49 PM

Yes, ITU-709 was always left off. The basketball game was lit by a grid of Parcans or Source-4's (can't recall) pointed down with a piece of 216 on the end -- the next day, the 216 was replaced by party gels for the school dance scene. Probably the basketball game looks more saturated because it's lit up more than most of the movie, plus it's not biased towards the blue, so skintones look more natural. Unless you want a poppy color look, I've come to the conclusion that it looks more natural to leave the ITU-709 off and let it be slightly desaturated. The big problem with ITU-709 is the red chroma boost, which leaves things like red lips or blood looking really cartoonish.

The slo-mo was created by switching the camera to 60i mode and converting that to 60 fps in post.



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I had some issues with the screenplay and I think that Jamie came to similar conclusions while editing, but at some point, when Sony bought it after the Toronto Film Festival premiere, they wanted to return the cut back to an earlier version that matched the original script, including the voice-over, which I thought was a bad idea (to have a movie narrated by a deaf-mute yet keep it a surprise that she was not really a deaf-mute until late in the movie.)

This was a film where the chance to work with Jamie Babbit and to shoot in Austin, TX sort of trumped my misgivings regarding the screenplay.
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#12 Michael Nash

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 09:07 PM

Probably the basketball game looks more saturated because it's lit up more than most of the movie, plus it's not biased towards the blue, so skintones look more natural. Unless you want a poppy color look, I've come to the conclusion that it looks more natural to leave the ITU-709 off and let it be slightly desaturated. The big problem with ITU-709 is the red chroma boost, which leaves things like red lips or blood looking really cartoonish.


Thanks. That's what I meant, that it looks more naturalistic compared to the "709" look. Was the camera original less saturated looking than the DVD?
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 09:17 PM

Thanks. That's what I meant, that it looks more naturalistic compared to the "709" look. Was the camera original less saturated looking than the DVD?


I think it's pretty close to the original. You have to remember that there is a psychological effect that after looking at blue-lit desaturated scenes, a normal scene will look more saturated in comparison.
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#14 Michael Nash

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 02:43 AM

I think it's pretty close to the original. You have to remember that there is a psychological effect that after looking at blue-lit desaturated scenes, a normal scene will look more saturated in comparison.


Yes, I agree. I meant that the basketball scene looked really good, and less saturated, compared to other F900-originated movies. I've always found the Sony to be too warm in the reds/oranges, and the 709 matrix seems to be a large part of that. Thanks!
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#15 Mike Williamson

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:08 AM

This may be a weird question, but how would you describe the color space that the camera is working in when you turn off the ITU-709 color matrix?

I just shot my thesis film using an F-900R with the 709 matrix on, but then going in and dialing the saturation to something like -25 to get it looking "normal" to my eye. Was the desaturation just undoing the matrix? Do you guys have a guess as to what the difference would have been if I'd just left the matrix off?

Looking forwards to checking out "The Quiet" DVD, the stills look great, David.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 10:11 AM

ITU-709 is just a set of color space parameters for the image to look a certain way on an HDTV monitor. People find it useful when shooting HDTV because it looks more colorful than turning it off. There are some other pre-set color space matrices that are an option but no one ever uses them (like "NTSC" is an option.) You can cycle through them and see if you like any of them. Truth is that you undo a lot of the color parameters as soon as you color-correct in post or play with the Multi-Matrix in the camera anyway, so ITU-709 is just a starting point.
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#17 Michael Nash

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 09:18 PM

Hi David,

Do you recall what detail settings you may have used? I just came off an F-900 shoot (I was gaffing) and we played around a bit with the detail, starting with it "off" but ended up using -35 or so, and I'm not sure where the frequency or limiters were set (although I suspect they were at "Clairmont" default).

I'm always playing around with detail on all the cameras I use, but I always feel that detail "off" is just way too soft looking even on the F-900. Since I've never filmed out any HD stuff, I can never test the settings under the most critical viewing conditions. On a 20" HD CRT detail "on" but in sufficiently negative values doesn't show any artificial-looking artifacts, and much sharper than detail "off." I scrutinized small specular highlights (where detail usually shows up the worst-looking) and was hard-pressed to see anything artificial looking.

I'm just curious what others are using for detail settings, and why detail "off" seems to be so popular.

Oh and BTW, we turned the 709 matrix "off" and with further Master Desaturation got a beautiful, smooth, "pulled" look in camera.
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#18 Galen Carter-Jeffrey

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 09:41 PM

That's pretty cool. I go to UT. But some of the reviews for this movie...

:(

I'm not sure how much longer Burnt Orange will be around.
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 11:37 PM

Galen, it's time to go to My Controls and update your Display Name to a real first and last name, as per the forum rules.

Michael, I usually alternate between using the Detail at around -60 or just turning it off (I think in this case, it was at -60). -35 is a bit borderline becoming visible on the big screen, especially if you crop to 2.35. I found than when cropping to scope, where you'd think you'd want more sharpening, actually the edge artifacts and noise are more visible due to the loss of vertical pixel resolution, so you want to use less Detail.

Since you can add more Detail in the color-correction or the Arrilaser film-out, there is an argument to made for turning it off in camera -- or using it at a less-strong setting than you feel you need.
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#20 Galen Carter-Jeffrey

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 11:46 PM

That is my real name. I guess i'll add a last name, but i'm a little skeptical of putting information on the internet.

I'm going to check out the DVD for your extra feature alone.

Can I ask you what it was like working for Burnt Orange?

Edited by Galen Carter-Jeffrey, 16 March 2007 - 11:50 PM.

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