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Michael Clayton


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#1 Saul Pincus

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 01:40 AM

I've always enjoyed Robert Elswit's work, and this is no exception. Though there were a couple of noticeably soft shots, by and large the work was tack-sharp and atmospheric ? quite a successful throwback to the paranoid thriller feel established by Willis and Roizman in the early 70s in terms of look, tone, color, and composition. And Elswit and his team always makes complex choreography seem effortless.

What a great early fall's its been thus far for anamorphic acquisition.
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#2 Max Jacoby

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 04:06 AM

While I appreciate a good anamorphic film, I really wish these people wouldn't put them through a 2K DI as that just reduces sharpness too much.
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#3 Saul Pincus

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 09:59 AM

While I appreciate a good anamorphic film, I really wish these people wouldn't put them through a 2K DI as that just reduces sharpness too much.

Agreed ? though these days I'm happy to see any anamorphic acquisition at all in mainstream North American cinema, let alone the recent batch (The Brave One, Michael Clayton) that show an exceptional command of the format.

Haven't seen Wes Anderson's latest yet.
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#4 John Holland

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:36 AM

I havent seen this yet ,but judging by the subject matter i presume a lot of CGI is not involved ? If so why do a 2K DI its really beyond me , Elswitt is a good cinematographer i am sure he doesnt need saving in a DI ,to many people being hoodwinked by Labs saying [ Ooo go the DI route its the future] and cough ,cough we can make loads of money from the time it takes to grade.
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:40 AM

I havent seen this yet ,but judging by the subject matter i presume a lot of CGI is not involved ?

Indeed a lot of CGI is not involved in 'Michael Clayton' or 'The Brave'. DI has become a standard for Hollywood films, so its use is unlikely to go down again. Looks like we'll have to wait until 4K DIs become standard to see anamorphic in all its glory again.
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#6 Saul Pincus

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 12:12 PM

I havent seen this yet ,but judging by the subject matter i presume a lot of CGI is not involved ? If so why do a 2K DI its really beyond me , Elswitt is a good cinematographer i am sure he doesnt need saving in a DI ,to many people being hoodwinked by Labs saying [ Ooo go the DI route its the future] and cough ,cough we can make loads of money from the time it takes to grade.


John, as you probably know, DIs are back-end driven. They're a source of much pleasure to studios and distributors, who can re-purpose the content much more conviently and predictably than before. DIs are a post-production tool that allows creativity on the part of the filmmakers, but even if it only allowed a measure of creativity equivalent to the RGB world of photochemical printing, it would still have been a fact of life eventually.
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#7 Dan Goulder

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 12:14 PM

Indeed a lot of CGI is not involved in 'Michael Clayton' or 'The Brave'. DI has become a standard for Hollywood films, so its use is unlikely to go down again. Looks like we'll have to wait until 4K DIs become standard to see anamorphic in all its glory again.

I'm not sure about Michael Clayton, but I believe "The Brave One" was scanned at 4K. Now, if Christopher Nolan/Wally Pfister ever go anamorphic to DI, I may hear you screaming from across the Atlantic.
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#8 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 01:13 PM

I'm not sure about Michael Clayton, but I believe "The Brave One" was scanned at 4K. Now, if Christopher Nolan/Wally Pfister ever go anamorphic to DI, I may hear you screaming from across the Atlantic.


If "The Brave One" was scanned at 4K, then it must have been downrezzed to 2K for the 35mm output. It looks sharper than most Super 35 films, but it lacks the crispness of the best anamorphic presentations. This year I still have high hopes for "There Will Be Blood", the new P.T. Anderson & Robert Elswit film. It's anamorphic, too.

If the rumors are true (it's said they're shooting 15-perf 65mm and 35mm anamorphic) we may see the first Nolan/Pfister DI with "The Dark Knight".
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#9 Shawn Martin

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 01:17 AM

If the rumors are true (it's said they're shooting 15-perf 65mm and 35mm anamorphic) we may see the first Nolan/Pfister DI with "The Dark Knight".

Back in July, somebody submitted to The Dark Knight's IMDB tech specs page that it would have a 4K DI; I emailed Pfister to see if that was true, and he said no, it would NOT (emphasis his) be going through a DI.

Not sure if anything's changed since then.
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 01:27 AM

Probably only the digital effects and the IMAX footage will go thru a D.I. and then be cut into the anamorphic negative for a traditional photo-chemical finish.
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#11 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 12:52 AM

Just saw this today after I snuck into it being slightly dissatisfied with "We Own the Night".

I thought it was a brilliant film. The Yahoo!Movies synopsis is so ridiculous when it attempts to explain the plot, I figured I'd find out for myself. But the story was brilliant, and how kickass was George Clooney, especially in that final scene?!

There were quite a few shots that were very noticeably soft, and a couple of those were static frames that were simple racks from one stationary actor to another where the puller just simply missed (obviously unintentionally)...but then there were some great shots with a lot of movement where the focus was expertly sharp.

Barry Idoine is seemingly Elswit's long-time trusted AC, so I'm guessing some of it was intentional to get that "finding focus" look that's so popular nowadays.

Technical stuff aside, I really loved the film and was deeply engaged in it emotionally. And Elswit's use of the scope frame was well done as usual :)
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 11:45 AM

Did anyone notice the dot pattern in the out-of-focus lights that suggests that Black ProMist or maybe Classic Softs were being used on the close-ups?
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#13 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 12:44 PM

Did anyone notice the dot pattern in the out-of-focus lights that suggests that Black ProMist or maybe Classic Softs were being used on the close-ups?


Didn't catch it...but I did notice a red BNC cable in the window's reflection during that final shot of George Clooney in the cab ;)

I noticed most of Swinton's closeups had a slightly softer look to them, and not just in diffused lighting. Perhaps they used the old technique of using a diffusion filter with her.
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 01:04 PM

Didn't catch it...but I did notice a red BNC cable in the window's reflection during that final shot of George Clooney in the cab ;)

I noticed most of Swinton's closeups had a slightly softer look to them, and not just in diffused lighting. Perhaps they used the old technique of using a diffusion filter with her.


I noticed diffusion on a lot more shots than just hers.
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#15 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 05:30 PM

I noticed diffusion on a lot more shots than just hers.


There definitely was, her CU's just stood out to me the most :)
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#16 Tom Lowe

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 10:46 AM

Why are these big films still doing 2K DIs? What are the cost differences between a 2K and 4K DI? Are all the 4K post houses booked up or something? It seems like if you're dropping $80 million on a film, you could spring for 4K and future-proof the DI.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 01:50 PM

Why are these big films still doing 2K DIs? What are the cost differences between a 2K and 4K DI?


I've heard guesses that it adds about $50,000 to the cost of the D.I. -- mainly it's a storage issue, since many places now scan in 4K anyway and then downrez to 2K immediately afterwards. So part of the issue is whether they save the 4K scans or just keep the 2K downsample.

There are also some time/speed issues with 4K and 2K that affects not only costs, but how fast you can get the D.I. finished and out to the labs for release printing, since the recording process back to 35mm could take four times as long in theory at 4K instead of 3K. Same for the scanning of course. So for a film with a short post-schedule, it can be an issue.

But I wouldn't necessarily attribute the softness of "Michael Clayton" just to the D.I. -- as I said, there seems to be light diffusion through much of the movie, plus seems to be older C-Series (maybe) lenses shot wide-open at times. The difference between 4K and 2K is not that extreme in terms of perceived sharpness, especially since most 2K D.I.'s employ some sharpening to compensate, so often the final 2K D.I. isn't necessarily softer-looking, though it may look a little artificially sharpened.

Things like printing off of an IP/IN, contrast of print stock, etc. all affect sharpness too.

The ideal thing would be 4K D.I. with multiple original negatives recorded out to 35mm, so all release prints were first generation.

But right now, unless you are a big movie, more than likely it's a 4K-to-2K D.I., or all-2K D.I., output to a 35mm IN, and then an IP and then IN is made off of that for release prints. Which is, for example, how "The Astronaut Farmer" was finished for release prints. Let's say it's an additional $50,000 to stick to 4K throughout, and an additional $50,000 per extra IN you record out directly from the 4K digital master. The studios could be looking at an additional half-million dollars just to do everything in 4K and make a half-dozen original printing negs.

And if you think studios don't count pennies in terms of release print costs, think again.
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#18 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 03:42 PM

But I wouldn't necessarily attribute the softness of "Michael Clayton" just to the D.I. -- as I said, there seems to be light diffusion through much of the movie, plus seems to be older C-Series (maybe) lenses shot wide-open at times.


You're indeed correct David about the C-Series lenses, but it looks like there wasn't any diffusion placed on the lenses at anytime: http://clooneynetwor...s-the-70s-look/

It's a pretty good article and interview with Elswit. Interestingly enough, I did think of a lot of 70's flicks while watching the film. Namely "Marathon Man".
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 05:15 PM

Well... you can clearly see a dot pattern in the bokeh of lights of some shots, often a side-effect of using filters like Classic Soft or Black Diffusion-FX or Black ProMist. Unless there is some other explanation for the pattern.
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#20 Tom Lowe

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 06:55 PM

I can see how half a million is significant, even for large-budget movies. But in the long run, there's a good chance these studios are going to have to go back and do it all over again at 4K some time in the future. We just saw a news report about Sony shipping a whole bunch of 4K projectors to theaters right now. It seems foolish to bottleneck yourself at 2K right now, if you shot on 35.
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