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Late 1960s and Early 1970s Filters


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#1 Joe Taylor

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 02:03 PM

During the late 60's and early-mid 1970's, what were the most common glass filters (excluding the obvious-polas,nds) used in-camera?

This era produced some of the most innovated filmmakers who actually got their hands dirty instead of relying on CG. Filtration would be one of the key ingredients in achieving a desired look. I understand that it still is, but more and more all of this being done with digital intermediates-- a great tool, but I find it far more interesting when a filmmaker tells their story about in-camera effects. I'm bored silly when the story goes to explain how a look was achieved through DI. Again, a great and effective tool, but not very interesting. When I know something was done in-camera, much more attention is paid to that film's results. For example, "The Illusionist." When I first saw that film, all I could think was, "ho-hum. Nice digital effect." But when reading how much of those some f/x where done through good, old fashioned smoke and mirrors, I was floored. But post has strayed, so back to my intentions.

I'm really interested in what kinds of filters the cinematographers would have used. For example, what sort of diffusion was used in-camera? Back then there was no Promist or BPM. Where would a guy be able to find these vintage filters?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 04:56 PM

The most common diffusion-type filters (and an overall diffused look didn't really start to become popular until the early 1970's, unless you count Ozzie Morris' work in the 1960's) were Fogs, Low-Cons, and Double-Fogs.

All of which are still made and sold.

You also had Mitchell-type diffusers back then, and black nets of course.

Classic Soft, in some ways, is a throwback to some of the diffusion filters of the 1940's.

Low-Cons, Fogs, and Double-Fogs were all similar, just varied in terms of degree of halation vs. overall haziness, and softening. Double-Fogs really are Low-Cons and Fogs combined.

Good examples of Fog filters are found in Geoffrey Unsworth's films, particularly "Murder on the Orient Express", "Bridge Too Far", "Superman", "The Great Train Robbery", and "Cabaret". Parts of "Tess" (the parts he shot before he died.)

"1941" was shot with a Fog filter too. William Fraker did a lot of that sort of filtration back then.

Vilmos Zsigmond used Double-Fogs a lot, like for night work in "Close Encounters", and for "McCabe and Mrs. Miller". A Tiffen add from back in 1978 quotes Zsigmond as saying he used Low-Cons for parts of "Close Encounters", which he now tells me he doesn't remember using -- but when you pulli some day exterior work off of the DVD (like the driving scenes through Wyoming) you can see something is on the lens, probably Low-Cons but maybe Double-Fogs.

Much of "E.T." was shot with light Double-Fogs.

An example of a Low-Con would be "Barry Lyndon".

"Bound For Glory" used different filters, from Low-Cons to Fogs to Brown Nets (pantyhose).

"Fiddler on the Roof" was shot mostly with a brown pantyhose over the front of the lens.

Here's some Fog-filtered shots from "Tess":

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 05:04 PM

Signs of filtration, Low-Cons or Double-Fogs, in "Close Encounters":

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#4 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 05:31 PM

An interesting variation of this question, is how the interaction of filters, lenses and stocks of the era produced those images? One must remember that the era optics were used throughout the entire of optical process, from principal photography to theatrical release.

Were a movie production use ONLY lenses and filtering from the 70's for principal photography be able to achieve the look of, say, Days of Heaven or In the Heat of the Nigh today without the use of computers? Today's stock being radically different than the one used then, not to mention current lens optical and coating advancements.

Alternatively, is it possible to use older lenses with current stock and not get a "vintage-y" look without digitally altering the image?
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#5 Joe Taylor

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 07:28 PM

An interesting variation of this question, is how the interaction of filters, lenses and stocks of the era produced those images? One must remember that the era optics were used throughout the entire of optical process, from principal photography to theatrical release.

Were a movie production use ONLY lenses and filtering from the 70's for principal photography be able to achieve the look of, say, Days of Heaven or In the Heat of the Nigh today without the use of computers? Today's stock being radically different than the one used then, not to mention current lens optical and coating advancements.

Alternatively, is it possible to use older lenses with current stock and not get a "vintage-y" look without digitally altering the image?



An ironic answer to this questions is tht "yes," since I can only afford to shoot this way-- or anybody operating on a budget of -$5. Hollywood could not shoot this way simply because it would confuse the hell out of them. Anymore they have to insert CGI work simply because it is cheaper today to CGI a shot than to actually film it. One of the most fantasic shots/sequences that I play/rewind/play over and over is a magnificint shot of a huge thunder storm/head in "Days of Heaven." It is so majesetic and awesome because it is real. That is a real thunderhead with realistic distant thunder. It makes us feel how puny the characters we love in the movie are compared to nature. Today they would probably shitcan that shot and insert a big noisy turdfloater with all sorts of fake crashy thunder and make is abombastic as possible and it would just piss me off. They simply can not make things seem real anymore and it is depressing.
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