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Douglas Slocombe Technique and Technical Specs


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#1 Jack Williamson

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 11:31 AM

Hey everyone,

With the release of the Indiana Jones 4 teaser trailer I went back and have been watching the original trilogy. My feelings with the new film from what I have seen in the teaser it looks like they missed the mark visually.

So I went back and watched Dougie Slocombe's Indy work and it's some of the best stuff I have ever seen. I never really watched the movies and paid extremely close attention to the visuals. I always felt they looked great, but I am really in awe of how superb everything looked upon a close inspection.

I was wondering a few things.

Anyone know what Anamorphic lenses they used for the films particularly Raiders and Temple?

Anyone know what stocks?

Anyone have an idea of Douglas Slocombe's techniques?

It would appear he used a lot of hard light and stopped down a bit, right? Was it all tungsten?

Did they have HMIs in the early and mid 80s?

I am really curious about the lenses and the stocks though.

I just feel like cinematography doesn't get much better. It's so romantic and naturalistic at the same time. Sometimes I wonder if new lenses and new film stocks matter at all. There have been a lot of big budget adventure films since Indiana Jones and nothing even comes close. I would go as far as saying they get progressively worse. Look at derivatives like the recent National Treasure films. It's amazing how much has been lost through CGI, DIs, Perfect Lenses, Low Grain Stocks, etc. Sometimes I don't get the point of it all.

I saw Bridge on the River Kwai in 70mm. It was life changing. I miss the old stuff, and I'm 23 so I never even really got to experience it. I was 5 when Last Crusade came out.

Anyone else feel like besides a few great living cinematographers a lot of stuff is getting so artificial looking?

Look at the first Die Hard and then look at the most recent. Everything looks like vivid HD glossy crapola now.

Now, the other thing I am wondering is how much LUcasfilm toyed with the original trilogy in post. How much grain reduction and contrast adjustment? I think it looks great regardless, but I didn't see it in theater in the 80s and I am wondering if anyone can remember that experience and compare it to the new DVD transfers.

Thanks and sorry about all the tangents,

Jack
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 12:08 PM

The original Indiana Jones movies weren't particularly grainy -- this is anamorphic after all. The first one was entirely shot on 100 ASA stock (5247). The other two used some high-speed stock for interiors, but kept to the slow stocks outdoors. And Slocombe delivered a well-exposed negative.

And I doubt that Kaminsky of all people is going for a slick no-grain digital look -- he's the guy who keeps using the oldest grainiest stocks left on the market now, and older lenses as well. He's shot most of the interiors of Spielberg movies on 5279, the first Vision stock.

They are using old C and E Series anamorphics, as did the original series, and they aren't planning on doing a D.I., at least according to what some of the camera crew told me, so no artificial grain reduction possible. But anamorphic is the least grainy 35mm format anyway.

I think you're just seeing the difference in lighting styles of two cinematographers, plus the look of HD trailers online. Kaminsky is using a hard-light deep focus style like Slocombe did, but transposed through his own aesthetics. Basically it's the difference between a DP who comes out of an old-school hard lighting style and a modern DP trying to mimic that style. But there's no way that an iconoclast like Kaminsky is going to simply copy Slocombe without applying his own tastes, like for hot spots and flares, etc. And Kaminski is using more diffusion (Classic Softs mostly) than Slocombe did (and Slocombe had a much younger Harrison Ford to shoot...) I think the hybrid look is fascinating and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.

Even the three original Indiana Jones movies had different looks between them. The original used a lot more location work and fewer effects and matte paintings than the next two.
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#3 Max Jacoby

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 12:12 PM

I have the AC articles on all the Indiana Jones films. They don't mention the specific brand of lenses (AC hardly ever did in the 80s!), but since the anamorphic Primos are from the 90s and the Es from the late 80s early 90s (as far as I know) it is very likely that they used C-Series which at the times were the only anamorphics available. The USGs got released in 1985, but don't think Slocombe had much use for T1.4 lenses.

Indy 4 is also being shot on C-Series I read somewhere, but you can bet that they use the E135 and E180 lenses because they have great minimum focus.
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#4 Mark Dunn

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 12:19 PM

There WAS no post in the modern sense in 1981. No DI, no grain reduction (or 'smearovision' as some call it), no contrast adjustment, just colour and density grading. Apart from the special effects, which I assume were shot in Vistavision and reduced. What you saw on the screen was put there by my countryman, Douglas Slocombe.
As to what you say about his work, you're dead right. Here's his filmography: fifty years of great pictures. 'Last Crusade' was his swansong but he is still with us at 94, one of the last of his generation, a year older even than the great Jack Cardiff.
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005878/
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#5 Jack Williamson

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 12:22 PM

I have the AC articles on all the Indiana Jones films. They don't mention the specific brand of lenses (AC hardly ever did in the 80s!), but since the anamorphic Primos are from the 90s and the Es from the late 80s early 90s (as far as I know) it is very likely that they used C-Series which at the times were the only anamorphics available. The USGs got released in 1985, but don't think Slocombe had much use for T1.4 lenses.

Indy 4 is also being shot on C-Series I read somewhere, but you can bet that they use the E135 and E180 lenses because they have great minimum focus.


Thanks very much. So I would say a large portion of what gives the film its classic look is probably the older stocks then? And of course the lighting style...

If the new Indiana Jones is being shot on the same lenses, yet looks so different (again based on the trailer) it must come down to stocks and lighting style. And of course a lot of digital work.

I wish they still made older stocks. I wonder if Kodak would have if Spielberg and Kimainski asked them to. They must still have all the formulas, right?

Jack
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#6 John Holland

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:52 PM

Just out of interest has anyone seen the this projected at a cinema or just on line ? if the answer is the 2nd question the whole conversation is a waste of time !! .
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#7 Jack Williamson

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 03:01 PM

Just out of interest has anyone seen the this projected at a cinema or just on line ? if the answer is the 2nd question the whole conversation is a waste of time !! .



I am not criticizing Kaminski here, at least that is not my intention. I just feel like he has enormous shoes to fill when it comes to Doug Slocombe because I loved his work. If you notice the post was mainly to learn what Slocombe did. I am pretty sure a 720p HD trailer on my apple cinema display is enough to judge the visuals by the way. It doesn't look like it's part of the same family to me.

And it definitely is not Kaminski's fault that there are so many digital effects.

It feels different visually than the original trilogy. On its own it might be great, but in comparison to the older 3 it might not match which of course is always the problem with making sequels 20 years later.

Regardless of all this, I am really just not necessarily into a "perfect" image which is what I was also saying about modern movies. Master Primes kind of make me sick in some ways just like Vision12 Stocks which is probably where we are headed. But that is a whole nother debate.

Whatever, Kaminski is a great cinematographer. Douglas Slocombe did masterful work on the original trilogy.

I just like the look of older films sometimes and I don't know what it is. There is a lot of warmth in the Indiana Jones movies. Does anyone know if that is from the stock, or the use of all Tungsten lighting. It looks like he used really bright lights for a lot of outdoor stuff.

Thanks David for the information and everyone else,

Jack
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 05:40 PM

You can't make a judgement about the 35mm stocks on a 720P HD transfer shown online unless you are comparing to a 720P HD transfer of the old film shown online, using the same compression, noise reduction, etc. and viewed on the same computer monitor, and even then, you're just going to see how they look on a computer monitor, not how they look projected.

And the three "Indiana Jones" films used the same 5247 outdoors but the first used no fast stock, the second used 5294 (maybe 5293) and the third used 5295 indoors I believe. They looked different on the big screen too, the three movies did not match each other exactly in terms of how the stocks looked. The lab work varied, the releasing printing varied, etc.

Like I said, Kaminsky generally avoids using the newest stocks. He's probably using 5279 like he did for "Munich", "War of the Worlds", etc. instead of 5218.

And if Slocombe were shooting the newest Indiana Jones film, he'd probably be using the newest stocks.

Plus, again, if the new movie doesn't go through a D.I., then it's not going to look like the 720P HD online version, which would have been digitally color-corrected.

Don't try to make judgments on stocks and lenses until you see the movie projected in a theater.
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#9 John Holland

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 05:41 PM

I wasnt saying anything bad against Kaminski either . I think the problem if there is one is the Vision Stocks.
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#10 Alex Ellerman

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 05:52 PM

I think there's an overall tonal change in the movies as well... they seem to have gotten campier, adding secondary characters like Connery, and moving away from the matinee action style to a self-aware, jokey style... i think the visuals have followed...
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 05:58 PM

I think there's an overall tonal change in the movies as well... they seem to have gotten campier, adding secondary characters like Connery, and moving away from the matinee action style to a self-aware, jokey style... i think the visuals have followed...


And the first one was a nostalgia trip for people who remembered serials from the 1940's, now it's nostalgia for the original movies, sort of meta-nostalgia. Not sure how that is going to fly with younger audiences who are neither nostalgic for the 1940's or the 1980's...
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 06:59 PM

And the first one was a nostalgia trip for people who remembered serials from the 1940's, now it's nostalgia for the original movies, sort of meta-nostalgia. Not sure how that is going to fly with younger audiences who are neither nostalgic for the 1940's or the 1980's...


I don't think a series like Indiana Jones really needs an audience who remembers when it was being shown in theaters. Star Wars was a phenomenal success with younger kids who have only seen it on video. I am just old enough to have seen the last indiana jones at the theater (and coincidentally the Star Wars movies when they were re-released to theaters in the mid 90s) and I'm a huge fan. My bet is that it will be the largest, or one of the largest, moneymakers of the year.
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#13 Max Jacoby

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 07:01 PM

I actually have very fond childhood memories of The Last Crusade. Went to see it with my parents and sister in this gorgeous old theatre, sat on the balcony and I can still remember some of the shots. To an 11-year-old the film was very thrilling.
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#14 Tim Partridge

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 07:14 PM

My two cents:

Mr. Slocombe has the sensibilities of a black and white stills photographer, as that is where he began his career. The classical hard lighting he pretty much mastered before moving into moving image was down to his appreciation of the contrast in the image creating the excitement. Also, he very much felt responsiblity to provide a dense negative at all times, so it could withstand duping. Many of his Hollywood contemporaries speak (or spoke- quite a few are obviously nolonger with us) very highly of Mr. Slocombe. Add to this that Slocombe was very much into in camera tricks, not just lens diffusion but also in camera, original negative compositing. See KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, where he had multiple Alec Guiness' conversing with one another in the same shot! I am sure he can confirm this for us himself, but in another thread Remi Adefarasin praised Mr. Slocombe's bravery or innovation, and I believe this is the kind of stuff he was citing, rather than say lighting without a meter.

When he moved to colour, Mr. Slocombe brought with him his black and white stills sensibilities, but was doing a fair bit of anamorphic work, so he always tried to keep depth of field to usually 5.6. Again, responsibility, but he also cut time down on the set with regards metering. He told me jokingly (he's about the most ridiculously modest gentlemen you could meet) that he'd be out of his comfort zone if he ever had to go to T16 or whatever, or balance for the sky.

As regards diffusion: the quantity may be higher with Kaminski's new work, but if this trailer (and Kaminski's past body of work) are anything to go by, it's all of the relatively light promist variety and with colder colours, and quite apparent throughout. That outdoor shot of the Russians lined up in hats in the trailer, with the tops all cold white is the kind of thing I am talking about. By comparison, look at the shots of the grail (and even the guardian master) from LAST CRUSADE in the trailer, and it's a really strong net, playing with really warm, bleeding (in a great way) hues. Mr. Slocombe is either clean or all out diffused (see the ball scene from NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN). A WORLD apart from Kaminski's comparitively integrated tastes, hence an inevitable clash. It makes things more confusing when you consider that Kaminski is satisfying his own diffused tastes on this new one while also trying to mimic Slocombe (though from what I have seen in this trailer so far, it seems it looks as much like Slocombe's INDY as LOST WORLD looked like Cundey's JURRASIC PARK).

HMIs were definitely used on THE LAST CRUSADE throughout (see any behind the scenes photos/footage). The other two were still in Carbon Arc territory, as was the norm back then. Slocombe was using HMIs on other projects in the 80s. The most obvious, bold HMI work on CRUSADE has to be the scenes where the good guys are going to and from the temple on horses. Most of it is balanced natural light albeit with a 10K HMI behind the camera, but gelled incorrectly to appear turquoise. Maybe this was a decision in the art direction, as the turquoise does compliment the red rock behind it, but subtle it is not!

I seem to recall Robin Vidgeon telling me that LAST CRUSADE was shot entirely on the 400asa stock, but I may be incorrect on that. There's seemingly alot more latitude, particularly concerning shadow detail in the third movie. The contrast is lower but the lighting remains the same (it makes some of the soundstage work seem more obvious even though it was seamless in the other movies).

Lenses and camera operating should not be forgotten when looking at the visual design of these movies. The first two directorially were all very much about single camera work, lots of elaborate unbroken masters (there are only thirteen shots used in the ANYTHING GOES dance number for example, and this was all post MTV). Lots of wide lenses, flattened depth of field to the already medium-high T stops. The first two movies were operated principally by Slocombe's longtime operator Chic Waterston, who had worked with the DP since the 1940s. The third movie is noticably more of a two camera job, with lots of match on action cuts throughout, which was never really a part of the first two movies. This isn't to suggest that the third film fell into coverage territory though, and I suppose it is a more flexible way to keep continuity on those exotic location shoots. The much admired Mike Roberts operated the third INDIANA JONES by the way, so obviously it's not slack compared to the other two!

Steadicam was used only location shooting, never a part of Mr. Slocombe's arsenal (and none was undertaken at Elstree). I know they used it for the bridge shots on TEMPLE OF DOOM in Sri Lanka, as well as some of the village shots where they could not lay dolly track, (Spielberg apparently hates heights too). Allen Daviau may have been involved. LAST CRUSADE used steadicam for scenes shot in the USA by Robert Stevens. Your regular action film from about the mid 80s onwards is wall to wall freehand/steadicam operating (often on longer lenses) so this puts the INDY films back into a more classical world of composition and movement that has aged gracefully.

I mentioned in another thread that only the first INDIANA JONES movie looks consistently all the way through like Slocombe had control over nearly every image. RAIDERS of course had the lowest budget of the three, and a smaller amount of units shooting compared to the other two films. There are scenes like the car chase interiors in TEMPLE OF DOOM which are shot by Allen Daviau, quite shallow focus and with extreme contrast ratios, more in line with his own work on ET on Cronenwerth's BLADE RUNNER. There's also a very very un-Slocombe grad shot (almost Scott brothers level) of the elephant/Jones procession going alongside a river, which appears to be second unit work. These kind of noticable grad shots were very much against Slocombe's philosophy of being responsible, but who knows? The fact is that NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN looks very VERY conservative by comparison, and that was only made a year before!

Production design should also not go unmentioned. I always felt Elliott Scott's work on the latter two INDY films was alot bolder and more elaborate than Norman Reynold's more referencial work on RAIDERS. Scott's sets are literally designed for the lenses. If the new movie has any kind of direct link of consistency to the original trilogy it's in the work of art director Guy Dyas, who seems to be very much of that elaborate Elliott Scott/Ken Adam mentality.

Most importantly though, the original INDYs were made when Spielberg was a different kind of filmmaker, and was able to really engage with Slocombe, who has the highest opinion of the director. I don't think Mr. Slocombe's work, especially regarding elaborate camera operating in cinematography, had ever come close to what they did on those films, and he had forty years of experience to offer a filmmaker who did really appreciate everything, and push it further.
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#15 Saul Pincus

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 08:30 PM

My two cents:


Great post, Tim. Thanks!
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#16 Jack Williamson

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 03:56 AM

You can't make a judgement about the 35mm stocks on a 720P HD transfer shown online unless you are comparing to a 720P HD transfer of the old film shown online, using the same compression, noise reduction, etc. and viewed on the same computer monitor, and even then, you're just going to see how they look on a computer monitor, not how they look projected.

And the three "Indiana Jones" films used the same 5247 outdoors but the first used no fast stock, the second used 5294 (maybe 5293) and the third used 5295 indoors I believe. They looked different on the big screen too, the three movies did not match each other exactly in terms of how the stocks looked. The lab work varied, the releasing printing varied, etc.

Like I said, Kaminsky generally avoids using the newest stocks. He's probably using 5279 like he did for "Munich", "War of the Worlds", etc. instead of 5218.

And if Slocombe were shooting the newest Indiana Jones film, he'd probably be using the newest stocks.

Plus, again, if the new movie doesn't go through a D.I., then it's not going to look like the 720P HD online version, which would have been digitally color-corrected.

Don't try to make judgments on stocks and lenses until you see the movie projected in a theater.


Fair enough, but I urge you to take a look at the shot where the two cars are a driving along a cliff. I would say computer monitor and all there is simply some realism being lost with some of these visuals. My problem is there are a lot of shots in the trailer that have that fake feel to me. The first half of the trailer is footage from the old movies and you can see a difference the second it cuts to the American Flag shot, and then the over the head shot, and the hat on the ground etc. I can't put my finger on it but once the new footage starts it's like you get a sense that lights are everywhere in a lot of the shots (not all shots, for instance the american flag crane shot is actually promising and I think looks natural like the original films). And this sourcey feeling goes in comparison to a lot of films, not just the original trilogy. There is a sense of naturalism that is lacking. Even though Slocombe and a ton of DPs use light out doors I am noticing it in the case of the Indy 4 trailer. I am also noticing the exteriors that were done on a sound stage and lit to be daytime. And if that is not the case, the REAL exteriors were so lit they feel like a sound stage that was lit to look like day.

This is just my interpretation of the visuals, but I don't see whey a digital grade for an online trailer would cause such a misinterpretation. I have watched a lot of HD trailers and thousands of movies on TV and DVD and to tell you the truth they pretty much accurately represent the movie. Sure there are always some contrast and color difference, but you are essentially watching things how you saw them in theater. Stuff doesn't change that much in my opinion. A movie like The Bourne Ultimatum looked gritty and realistic and sure enough in theater that is what I felt as well.

That shot where Indy picks up his hat and puts it on in silhouette looks like a huge gelled HMI. Now if it they really used sunlight there and shot at Magic Hour I would say the transfer they did for the trailer IS terrible because it makes a real sunlight shot seem artificial, but my gut tells me it's a big bright light. It looks sourcey.

I have watched all 3 original films recently and I agree there are a lot of subtle differences between the movies. The Last Crusade for instance looks the most modern, mainly I feel due to the latitude and make-up of the stocks used for shooting and release prints though. The lighting style, especially the interiors were very very similar in feel. Of course that is easy when you are Doug Slocombe and you are just being yourself.

I don't expect the films to look just like the originals for all the reasons suggested. I wish they did! But I don't think the filmmakers should have been doing impersonations of past filmmakers. So maybe my original post where I wine about that is just plain wrong and not given enough thought. If I thought it looked fine though I would not have started thinking about this stuff.

I just feel like if Indy 4 had no predecessors and I didn't have the originals to compare it to, I still would have gotten the same artificial feeling during some moments in the trailer. That's all. I know it is only a minute of footage in a teaser, but it simply jumped out at me.

Perhaps my assesment on stocks and lenses are way off, as you have made me realize what an old school guy Kaminski is. So maybe it was all lighting technique, Production Design, and Computer Graphic Effect shots. I don't know.

Perhaps my computer monitor is really that misleading, but I don't think so. I just watched the Batman Trailer and it looked great. I will probably thoroughly enjoy Indy 4 and the more I watch the trailer the more I get excited to see more because what makes the films so great is the story telling in the end. Just voicing my concerns. I do apologize if my first couple posts were not well thought out and jumping to conclusions. I assumed to much when trying to decipher what makes it look different.

Thanks everyone who posted, especially Tim Partridge and his Slocombe essay! Much appreciated.

Jack
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#17 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 10:37 AM

That shot where Indy picks up his hat and puts it on in silhouette looks like a huge gelled HMI. Now if it they really used sunlight there and shot at Magic Hour I would say the transfer they did for the trailer IS terrible because it makes a real sunlight shot seem artificial, but my gut tells me it's a big bright light. It looks sourcey.


That shot looks to me like something done specifically for the trailer. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not in the film.
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#18 timHealy

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 11:33 AM

Fair enough, but I urge you to take a look at the shot where the two cars are a driving along a cliff. I would say computer monitor and all there is simply some realism being lost with some of these visuals. My problem is there are a lot of shots in the trailer that have that fake feel to me. The first half of the trailer is footage from the old movies and you can see a difference the second it cuts to the American Flag shot, and then the over the head shot, and the hat on the ground etc. I can't put my finger on it but once the new footage starts it's like you get a sense that lights are everywhere in a lot of the shots (not all shots, for instance the american flag crane shot is actually promising and I think looks natural like the original films). And this sourcey feeling goes in comparison to a lot of films, not just the original trilogy. There is a sense of naturalism that is lacking. Even though Slocombe and a ton of DPs use light out doors I am noticing it in the case of the Indy 4 trailer. I am also noticing the exteriors that were done on a sound stage and lit to be daytime. And if that is not the case, the REAL exteriors were so lit they feel like a sound stage that was lit to look like day.


I basically agree with David's sentiment that to compare a trailer on the internet with films that were made and finished years ago is well to be polite, simply ridiculous.

The trailer is a trailer and is not a finished piece of work. They are called teasers for a reason. Simply to stir some excitement up.

For example, I worked on War of the Worlds where they decided on the day that they were going to do a shot of the Bayonne bridge where it gets destroyed and cars and trucks flip off of it and use that shot as the Superbowl ad for the film. As spectacular as the shot was, it wasn't finished and if you compared it to the finished shot that made it into the film, they don't compare. One can even see curtains falling off windows inside the house that the truck crashed into in the finished film.

So before anyone gets too critical, I would certianly wait until the film comes out and see what it looks like in the theater.

When it comes to trailers, I certainly remember when TV shows use to advertise trailers of upcoming episodes that had been edited with the workprint. Then the workprint was transferred for broadcast tape splices and all.

When it comes to lighting, there is a different guy at the helm and there is no reason he can't do what he wants. Janusz has been with Spielberg for what 15 years now? If Spielberg was unhappy with his work he would have been out of the loop long ago.

Best

Tim
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#19 Matthew Buick

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 04:16 PM

Not sure how that is going to fly with younger audiences who are neither nostalgic for the 1940's or the 1980's...


Well, I'm certainly looking forward to it. :)
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#20 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 04:50 PM

Not sure how that is going to fly with younger audiences who are neither nostalgic for the 1940's or the 1980's...


I'm not sure about TV in the US, but here in the UK 'Raiders' has become a staple of family TV viewing, particularly at Christmas time.
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