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Recreating the Wizard of Oz


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#1 Stephen Whitehead

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 06:52 PM

Hey, I am working on a project where we are going to recreate scenes from the Wizard of Oz. Any suggestions on lighting, and colour correction? We need to achieve the 3 strip technicolor look on HD.

Cheers,

Steve
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 08:09 PM

Here are two reference frames. I would collect as many as you can for matching purposes:

Posted Image

Posted Image

3-strip was a very slow process, so lenses were often shot wide-open (around a f/2.8) and there weren't really any wide-angle lenses, so most of the movie would have been shot in the 35mm to 75mm range, medium focal lengths.

Lighting was often hard with a lot of fill, but lenses were softish, and sometimes diffusion was used on close-ups (not always). Reds were soft, making skintones softer. Bright glints of light would halate with a reddish-lavender glow.

I think Schneider Classic Softs create this halation effect the most closely.

Production design, make-up, and lighting is key. Getting the focus to be shallow enough too.
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#3 Stephen Whitehead

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 10:16 AM

Thats great man, I am gonna do a lot of tests. I'll post the final product in a month or two.

Cheers,

Steve
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 10:56 AM

What's interesting about some of the early 3-strip movies is that the close-up lighting is hard but not crisp -- it's semi-softened. Look at the close-up of Judy Garland that I posted and note the softish chin shadow.

Now considering back then, before 1938, you were talking about an effective 3 to 5 ASA probably, daylight-balanced, she is probably being lit with carbon arcs. So is the softness just due to a large fresnel lamp very close to her, or did they add some spun glass in front of the light for her close-up?

Some of the softness of the lighting is also due to the need for multiple lamps just to get enough exposure.
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#5 Ken Minehan

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 10:49 PM

Hi. How powerful are the old Carbon Arc lights. If the ASA of the film back then is 3-5 they must need an incredible amount of light. Back then did they diffuse light very much. I've seen behind the scenes photographs of film sets back then and i see a lot of lights undiffused. But looking at Judy Garlands photograph in Davids post, the shadows seem very soft.
David you mentioned that the softness is due to multiple lamps. If you increase the number of lights that are undiffused, that would still give you hard shadow lines right and also multiple shadows.

I find it incredible that they achieve lighting like this back then with such a slow stock and hard lighting.

regards
Ken minehan
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 11:01 PM

David you mentioned that the softness is due to multiple lamps. If you increase the number of lights that are undiffused, that would still give you hard shadow lines right and also multiple shadows.


Not if they were enough of them, close enough together. The soft overhead light Kubrick/Alcott created for the Dawn of Man sequence in "2001" was created by putting hundreds of photoflood globes in the ceiling. When the same subject is light from multiple directions, the shadow becomes fringy, thus less defined, giving a softer effect. But I think in the case of "Wizard of Oz" it's a combination of a lot of stages lights and spun glass in frames over the closer ones used for close-up lighting.
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#7 Ken Minehan

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Posted 04 July 2007 - 02:58 AM

The above photographs of Wizard of Oz is very saturated. Is this due to the Stock? Can somebody explain Technicolour a little bit more. Is it a special stock or processing technique?

Back in those days did they go through some kind of colour correcting process?

ken
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 July 2007 - 11:26 AM

Well, you can't really judge saturation based on a frame grab from a DVD that I took through PaintShop Pro...

Technicolor was a very rich process, but not necessarily always saturated. They could control that some extent based on how much they flashed the b&w matrices and the dyes used in the imbibation print process.

The camera used three b&w negatives through filters to record RGB separately. B&w positives called "matrices" were created from the negative; these were run through a color dye bath and then run in contact with a clear roll of film with a dye mordant to fix the dye to the surface.

See:
http://www.widescree...subtractive.htm
http://www.widescree...or/oldcolor.htm
http://www.widescree...echnicolor1.htm

Now an old dye transfer print doesn't make very good video transfers. Typically they'd use a color intermediate made from the old b&w negatives or fine grain archive elements, but now there is a digital process for scanning each b&w element and recombining them to create a full color image. Then they'd use typical modern digital color-correction to create the final look, based somewhat on the old prints.

A lot of the color saturated look is due to front lighting of things designed with large areas of color.
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#9 dan brockett

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 05:33 PM

Hi all:

I thought I might have some insight into this subject as I produced the documentary on the making of the Wizard of Oz, "The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz" that is narrated by Sidney Pollack on the three DVD Oz Collection.

I feel that watching the doc would be a lot better explanation for you than going into detail here but others who posted here are definitely on the right track. I don't have specific details about how each shot was lit but there were some details in the production stills and in the documentary that might be of interest to you. Basically, the CUs in the film were lit in a similar manner to way that George Hurrell lit his portraits, although he had the luxury of probably closer to ASA 25 film stock.

I would recommend that you do some research on the style and technique used by the DP, Harold Rosson. Rosson also was known to have lit and shot the burning of Atlanta sequence in Gone With The Wind. He was also the DP for Singin' in the Rain.

1. The three strip Technicolor process was an extremely laborious and tempermental process. Besides having to deal with the eccentric whims of Technicolor "consultant" Natalie Kalmus, the cameras and exposure process had to calibrated on a daily basis before shooting could even begin. Shooting three-strip Technicolor required very bright lighting, as the film had an extremely slow speed of ASA 5.

2. The MGM stages where the majority of the shooting for Oz were conducted were lit by entire floor-to-ceiling walls of carbon arc lights. The current draw was so intense to power the lights that MGM had to contruct their own on the studio lot power plant to power the production since initial tests had caused the power grid in Culver City to experience brown outs and too many dips and outages in the power. There are one or two impressive stills from the Warner/MGM archives in the doc of the wall of light.

3. After each two or three takes, the stage doors would have to be opened to allow enough cool air to ventilate the stage, remove heat and carbon smoke and to allow the actors to survive. Keep in mind that most of the actors were wearing costumes and makeup that would be hot in an air conditioned room. The actors all describe the process of filming as "torture", which I am sure it was. Imagine wearing a 50lb real lion skin under the gaze of hundreds of thousands of watts of carbon arcs.

4. We interviewed a couple of DPs like Allen Daviau, ASC on some of the more specific technical issues. I would advise watching the doc to really get the specifics as I interviewed these people about two and a half years ago and the specifics are fading in my memory.

5. We inlcuded some addtional, never before scene behind the scenes footage shot in 16mm, there are a few home movie views of the stages, costumes and outtakes besides the famous Jitterbug scene. There are some shots of the lighting grid in some of these shots, albeit brief, handheld shots.

When you take all of the obstacles into account, it really was one of the most challenging films ever shot. It's amazing to think that in the same year, Gone With the Wind was also made. Both films had multiple directors, writers and producers. Both had on-set ccidents, cost overruns and amazing BTS politics. Today, if a feature went through half of the challenges that both of these films went through, the studio would have never released the end product, yet both are consistently considered as classics and some of the best films Hollywood ever created.

You have a tall order in trying to re-create this look. I think it is possible but the tools and medium you will be using today are so radically different, I feel it will be difficult to do much better than to evoke but not emulate those shots.

Best of luck,

Dan Brockett
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#10 Richard Andrewski

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 07:52 PM

Very inspiring stuff. We do give up too easily nowadays when you look at all the work they had to do to get the classics like this.
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