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"Closing Doors"


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#1 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 01:51 PM

"Closing Doors" is a short film I've just finished shooting using Primo Anamorphics and a Platinum Panaflex, shot on Kodak 5279, processed normaly. A handfull of shots were shot highspeed using a Pan Arri 435 using the same stock/processing.

Shot over two nights most of the piece is set indoors at night, with a few short exterior sequences set at dusk, a grocery store interior and a small night exterior.
The dusk sequences were shot day for dusk and dusk for dusk using the uncorrected 5279 with a H&H Blue/Grey#1 and a selective amount of underexposure. As the day became dusk i removed the Blue/Grey and just shot uncorrected. Thankfully nature provided us with an overcast sky and a beautiful wet down for our exteriors which really helped sell the dusk look.
Our night exterios were very contained with only one wide shot and a close up. On the frame grab shown i used a Parcan with a VNSP bulb from behind camera to rake the buildings in the distance while using 2 x Kino 4x4's off camera to backlight the actress. All the lights were gelled with Lee 102 Light Amber. No fill was used.

The interior Grocery store was shot with a Jade # 1 using the existing practical flourescents to give an extra green stain to the image. No aditional lighting was used in this location.
Our main location, an apartment interior in East London, was shot night for night. We used 4 x 5K's (gelled with Light Amber 102) outside the windows to light the window glass and bounce into the apartments white ceiling. In the center of the location there was a series of Practical lights which i had hoped to use for some interesting flares, but alas that was not to be. We used two Chinballs rigged above these practicals, fitted with 500W bulbs and gelled with Lee 730 Liberty Green to give a colder toplight to the cast. For their close ups i augmented this with toplight from a 4x4 kino again gelled with Liberty Green, a 3/4 backlight from another 4x4 kino gelled with light amber and a Lite Panel gelled with full CTO dimmed down for an eyelight.
Camera movement was selective, and our plan for coverage was kept quite simple with some scenes playing out in single takes that developed from tight close-ups to wide shots.
I found in prep that i quite liked how the 100mm Primo handled focus fall off so i tried to use that for our close ups, while the 50mm and the 75mm were our workhorse lenses.
There are some other tidbits of information about the shoot on my blog along with some lighting diagrams that i did in Omni graffle (Thanks to John Brawley for turning me on to that programme!)
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#2 Christopher Arata

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 05:42 PM

Great info, & from those frames I like the look! I would really enjoy seeing the final product.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 08:04 PM

Your lovely frames make me miss shooting anamorphic...
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#4 Mike Williamson

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 08:14 PM

The frames look great, Stephen, nice work!

Are you considering contact printing the film, or is the decision to do a 2K DI finalized? A friend of mine shot his thesis film with Panavision anamorphics and finished it traditionally, I went to Technicolor to watch the last answer print with him and it looked stunning. It would be a shame to lose a lot of resolution in the DI stage if you didn't need to do a lot of work there, maybe printing on Premiere would get you where you need to be?

Good luck finishing the film, so far so good!
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#5 Andrew Brinkhaus

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 10:47 PM

Great work, as usual Stephen. What is the length of the short?
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#6 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 12:15 AM

LOOKS AWESOME Stephen! What's the plan for post? All chemical workflow?
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#7 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 03:28 AM

Thanks everybody. The post plan at the moment is to go through a 2K DI at Framestore. The reasons for this are basicaly that the director, having come from a VFX background is more comfortable finishing in the digital realm, and that given his particular connections its cheaper to complete this particular short project via a 2K DI then to time it photochemicaly and have the neg cut. In addition there are some minor vfx we want to use through the piece, specificaly painting out a scratch that runs through a take we both like, and removing a small blemish from one of the actors in a close up. I agree that we could easily time the movie photchemicaly and achieve the same look, thats the way we shot the movie in the first place, and if it was a feature id push for a traditional finish but as its just a short piece (7 - 9 mins) thats being privately funded i think we were pretty lucky to get to shoot anamorphic and have a 2K DI so im more then happy to follow this path. We're not planning on doing anything in the DI that we wouldnt be able to achieve traditionaly, apart from the use of teh occasional power window. Obviously id prefer to be doing the DI at 4K to retain some resolution but beggars cant be choosers as they say:)
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#8 John Holland

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 11:02 AM

Hi Stephen looks good to me , normal process !!! not like you is it ? John ,
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#9 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 11:25 AM

Hi Stephen looks good to me , normal process !!! not like you is it ? John ,


Yeah thought id try something different this time:))
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#10 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 12:38 PM

Yeah thought id try something different this time:))


Beautiful Stephen, on a bit of a roll I see.

And shooting Kodak too, am I correct in remembering you were more of a Fuji fan?

Edited by Andy_Alderslade, 21 August 2008 - 12:40 PM.

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#11 Ram Shani

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 01:41 PM

beautiful work
liked your simple approach to light
look very real and yet dramatic and story telling
i all most can tell the story of the pic just by your light&composition
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#12 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 05:07 PM

And shooting Kodak too, am I correct in remembering you were more of a Fuji fan?


Hi Andy, Yeah im a big fan of Fuji just because they have stocks with character, although i still love Kodaks earlier stocks, like 79 and 45 - im not a fan of the latest trend in generic low con low saturation stocks.
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#13 Tim Partridge

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 12:30 PM

Stephen,

of all the higher end, up and coming DPs who post here, I must say that your work more than anyone else's seems the most, obviously Storaro influenced. Even more than David Mullen when he's conciously channelling Storaro (SHADOWBOXER for example). You seem to think less in terms of shadow and light and more in terms of expressive, pure colours in achieving contrast. This isn't to imply any kind of a limitation regarding your lighting ability, just that there is a clear throughline in all of your work (in my opinion at least)! Do you conciously think in terms of colour? Is this somewhat "cosmetic" approach a result of your make-up training, do you think? It seems very intellectualised.

As far as these frames go at least, I really felt it was time to comment. Again, I don't know if you were conciously controlling all of the colours, or whether it was typical "accomplished-guerilla" serendipity, but every one of those hues reoccurs in art direction (the traffic light button, the painting on the wall), filtration (the Jade in the grocery store, the day for dawn uncorrection) or light (the various gels throughout). Exclusive bold shades of yellow, blue, green and red. Even the flare in that middle shot! Was there an art director on this, and if so, did you break everything down beforehand or did you just make it up on the fly? Either way, it's an unusually unsubtle, meticulously coordinated and bold approach that might not be to everyone's tastes, but you cannot argue with the ambition and achievement.

My only armchair critic gripe is that I don't think your story/art direction accomodates anamorphic photography, or any widescreen, rectangular format. Like I said though, that's merely personal taste. However, can I honestly say that you SHOULDN'T have pursued an opportunity to shoot 35mm anamorphic on a Brit short?... ;)
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#14 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 02:31 PM

Hi Tim,
Thanks for the great post - lots of interesting points in there as always.
Its funny that you mention Storaro. Although i can see why a comparison might be made (and I'm flattered at any comparison) I personally would have seen the likes of Paul Cameron, Jan deBont or even Slawomir Idziak as more of an influence on my recent work. As much as i admire, and in some cases adore, Storaro's work, I wouldn't think of him consciously as an influence on my photography. I certainly don't intellectualize my colour work on the same level that he does, as interesting as it is, it just doesn't work for me personally.

I do love using mixed colour to create contrast though, and yes i do think some of that comes from my make up background, or more specifically from the influences i was using when i was designing prosthetics. I'm a big big fan of comic art and film concept art (specifically speed-painting) so that is a very definite influence and always has been, using bold suggestive strokes and strong colour contrast to sketch an image or mood.
I would love to shoot a movie one day with blocks of pure colour and blocks of pure black shadow with no detail, like a wood carving or the photographic equivalent of Mike Mignola's illustrations for Hellboy (hmmm....sounds a bit like Dick tracy).

In answer to your question no we didn't have an art director for this project - that was myself and the director essentially. I had a plan for the movie in terms of the colours i wanted to use in different locations but it all changed or "evolved" on the day to some degree. To tell the truth the apartment interior evolved to the point that it looked quite different to how i had initially visualized it but im still very happy with how it turned out (when god gives you lemons etc). Id love to take credit for all the art direction but some of that is just luck and some of that is us reacting (sometimes unconsciously) to what was going on around us on the set and trying to make that fit into our plan. I love the phrase "plan like daVinci but execute like picasso" - i think its quite appropriate to the way i like to work and there's some of that in the art direction too.
In terms of colour I do consciously try to pick bolder tones because i want the images to stand out, Im also learning what i like and don't like so there is a lot of experimentation in there. A lot of the work i do is on lower budget productions where I'm trying to catch peoples attention with a striking image in the hope it might stand out from the crowd to the average viewer. If i can draw them in with images perhaps they might stick around long enough to pay attention to the story? - that could be considered a bit immature on my part though.
Part of my use of colour is me reacting to the locations im shooting in - I'm essentially trying to use bold colour to make up for the lack of financial resources in the Art departments that im usually working with. If we were working in more sets and less locations id have more control over the walls etc and perhaps would use more subtle colours, although I'm not really interested in recreating what's outside on an average day in central London or central Dublin - its usually too ordinary.
I'm quite fond of using light colour filters as an under-painting to bias the blacks even on more subtle dramas, and one day i have an idea to shoot a movie on a low con stock with every scene flashed with strong colour to try and recreate a Chinese watercolour painting so perhaps bold colour is something ill always be drawn to.
I can definitely see that this isn't to everyones taste, im quite okay with that, id rather try to be a bit different (even though i feel im just ripping off loads of other DPs) and fail miserably then shoot an average image. Im sure that as I mature as a DP my tastes migth change and i might get bored of strong colour - it could be just a phase I'm going through:)!
If i had to use a word to describe what I've been trying to do with my images id use the word Graphic. Im equally in love with strong graphic black and white photography so perhaps im just taking it step by step, getting comfortable with one part of the image now (i.e colour) before i move on to try and learn another element (contrast perhaps).

Im going to have to disagree with your last statement though - for me almost all cinema should be 2.35:1 - its just the way i see things. I felt the main interior location worked well with the wide frame due to its shape and depth, but Id be very interested in hearing more about why you felt 1.85 would have been better? thanks again for the great post.
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#15 Tim Partridge

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 07:21 AM

Interesting that you cite definite Storaro disciples as your influence! :) I think there's a bit of early Stephen Goldblatt in your work too.

Thankyou for your thoughts on your process and design.

Even though it's not admittedly my thing, I have alot of respect for dominantly colour coordinated visuals, because as you say, those kind of creative tricks can really save you when time and money is thin. I say it's often not to my tastes because firstly I think like many here I am drawn dominantly to contrast and the black in an image, colour being secondary. Also, I think that often the whole colour as everything approach is done far too intrusively. While technically accomplished, I find movies like SUSPIRIA and DICK TRACY, BATMAN FOREVER or BULWORTH to be real gaudy eye sores that are just too intense. On narrative features especially it's just too much watching saturated rich colours for two hours, with everything tinted. I much prefer something subtle like the flashing done on YOUNG WINSTON or Lynch's DUNE, MCCABE AND MRS MILLER etc where the flesh tones aren't affected and there is a graduating subtley to the colour (and the contrast remains principally with the lighting).

Remember though, I am a huge fan of lens diffusion and nets, so it's not like I can judge what is and isn't intrusive! ;) I also love the Powell technicolour movies, especially TALES OF HOFFMANN, but that's a much different kind of artifice.

Tony Scott always impresses me with the way in which he can sometimes pull out contrast through colour in his art direction, especially say when he has no control over flat lighting. There are some real flat moments with the snowy Dennis Hopper exteriors on TRUE ROMANCE, the light is no good and the city is all grey. Scott has everyone dressed in dark colours aside from Christian Slater's red hoody, and he sticks a bright pink caddillac in the background, rendered impressionist through a long lens! To me that is all very clever, and I can watch alot of Scott's work over and over just to catch bits of golddust like that.

The British music video director Andrew Morahan is another great favourite of mine for colour coordination using art direction and light. He was quite a pioneer in early MTV, and never gets enough academic recognition for his work in my opinion. At some point I am going to do a thread on PROPAGANDA FILMS music videos of the late 80s and early 1990s. During that period, Morahan was doing high profile music videos for probably a lot less money than they appear to look. The series of BANANARAMA videos he did (not for PROPAGANDA as far as I know) are particularly impressive, looking very lavish , packed with colour patterns on limited sets, uber art-directed and maybe even shot on reversal (certainly some early "paintbox" post grading going on)! Just by having the talent bathed in heavy pale foundation, gloss red lipstick, standing before a billowing bright turquiose sheet (as Morahan did on BANANARAMA's I CAN'T HELP IT video), the results just look a million dollars. Morahan's work with Steven Chivers is notably impressive, as is Chivers own work as a DP (they did HIGHLANDER 3 together and Chivers also lit Richard Stanley's movies, which are very colour intensive). It leaves me aghast just how vivid and rich you can make a non-existent set or location look so long as you contrast two bold colours together through light or art direction.

Anyway, I find the stylised approach you are taking on so many of these British short films to be very very refreshing and pleasingly unsafe. There's too much of a boring, faux-kitchen sink, social realist aesthetic that's supposedly built into the way Brit shorts should be made. More than ever, this medium needs a variety of styles in order to survive. Although your styles are obviously very different, it's great to see that yourself and the likes of Stuart Brereton are showing an approach that's very much out of the box.

Regarding widescreen:

As I said before, just a taste thing. I think no-budget, real location movies have neither the control or flexibility as far as art direction is concerned to handle anamorphic properly. Too many cramped, shallow focus mediums/close ups with an excess of unfilled dead space for my tastes, which you wouldn't have to worry about with a more square frame to compose in. It's true on big budget movies too, such as THE INTERPRETER (and, sadly, a lot of John Carpenter's films). The best cinematography in the world cannot compensate for lack of art direction on a widescreen movie, in my opinion.
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#16 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 07:39 AM

Interesting that you cite definite Storaro disciples as your influence! :) I think there's a bit of early Stephen Goldblatt in your work too.


I'm a big fan of Stephen Goldblatt's work well up until the middle of his career. The Hunger is amazing and Lethal Weapon 2 is for me a highlight in 80's anamorphic photography, just as good as deBont's work on Die Hard or Red October. And i loved what he did on the Batman movies!:) Stefan Czapsky and Bo Welchs work on Batman Returns was never going to be beaten (not even by the recent Dark Knight) so i thought Goldblatts move to do something very different and use all the colour the previous movies had foresaken was very brave and technicaly brilliant, and it captured a certain period of the comic books brilliantly. I got to meet him in Camerimage last year and he seemed like a lovely guy too.

I look forward to reading that article on Propaganda Films!

S
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#17 Richard Vialet

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 03:23 PM

great work stephen

i love it when people go all out with color palette like that. I'm planning on a stylized palette for this feature im prepping. I was on your website an noticed you use a lot of those solid color filters like the blue/grey and the jade

where would be the best place to find special solid color filters like these? Does Tiffen or Schneider carry them? and are there any other kinds that you find interesting to use?
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#18 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 06:29 PM

where would be the best place to find special solid color filters like these? Does Tiffen or Schneider carry them? and are there any other kinds that you find interesting to use?


Hi Richard,
I use Tiffen, Schneider, H & H and Formatt - whatever brand gives me the effect im looking for.
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#19 Nor Domingo

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 10:59 PM

Hello!

Wonderful lighting and framing. I'm really interested in how you achieved the day for dusk. I tried ggogling the H&H Blue/Grey#1 to find out what effect it has on the neg but I couldn't find any link. Anyway, of course tungsten stock shot uncorrected will turn everything bluish, but I would like to know how you lit the woman in the 2nd framegrab. Did you use tungsten balanced lights and warmed it up a bit more?

Also, for the grocery store, what ambient reading did you get. What is very well-lit for you to be able to still gel the practicals? I've shot a grocery scene before and I had trouble getting a T1.4-2 and to support the existing lights with kinos.

Thank you for sharing.

Nor
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#20 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 27 August 2008 - 02:47 AM

I tried ggogling the H&H Blue/Grey#1 to find out what effect it has on the neg but I couldn't find any link. Anyway, of course tungsten stock shot uncorrected will turn everything bluish, but I would like to know how you lit the woman in the 2nd framegrab. Did you use tungsten balanced lights and warmed it up a bit more?

Also, for the grocery store, what ambient reading did you get. What is very well-lit for you to be able to still gel the practicals? I've shot a grocery scene before and I had trouble getting a T1.4-2 and to support the existing lights with kinos.


The Blue/Grey is a Harrison and Harrison filter that is pale blue/slate blue in colour, as the name suggests - its quite mild. I used it with the uncorrected tungsten stock and underexposed by about 1 1/2 stops for the dusk look. In the 2nd Frame Grab the actress is lit by a couple of 4x4 kinos gelled with Light amber to match the existing practicals in an off camera shop window (seen later in the movie).
In the grocery store i was shooting at T4 1/2 using the existing practicals rating the stock at 500asa - i used no additional lights and i tend not to compensate for colour effects filters of that strength. Hope that helps!
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