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The Duchess.


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#1 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:38 PM

DP Gyula Pados HSC, delivers flawless anamorphic images throughout this period piece. He doesn't put a foot wrong once.

I especially love the way he mixes dim daylight that's trying to get in through netted curtains to penetrate the dank, candle-lit day interiors. Very impressive and very painterly.

Film as a whole isn't too bad, but that depends on if you can find costume dramas and Keira takeable - because she's in virtually every shot.

But hats off to Guyla. See it just for the cinematography. Or the costume design.
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#2 John Allen

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 12:44 AM

Arrrg, don't you just hate it when Kiera does that. She's come very close to ruining movies for me. lol
I mean I have to admit that she is a very good actress, but what I can't stand is that she sounds as if she has been to far too many acting schools and then comes off too perfect in her dialect.
Wow, totally off the subject, sorry about that. Anyway, yeah, I'll have to check that out. The trailer looked great(lighting wise).
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#3 Tim Partridge

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 05:32 AM

DP Gyula Pados delivers flawless anamorphic images throughout this period piece. He doesn't put a foot wrong once.

I especially love the way he mixes dim daylight that's trying to get in through netted curtains to penetrate the dank, candle-lit day interiors. Very impressive and very painterly.

Film as a whole isn't too bad, but that depends on if you can find costume dramas and Keira takeable - because she's in virtually every shot.

But hats off to Guyla. See it just for the cinematography. Or the costume design.


I was suprised by the masses of softlight seen in the behind the scenes footage showing on TV all the time now. Huge banks of diffusion lined in walls of black velvet. Even on exteriors. Makes a change to the minimal, sourcy and spherical Barry Lyndon/Amadeus/Phillipe Rousellot aping that has dominated period movies for the last twenty/thirty years. It has more in common with a period themed, Vanity Fair photoshoot. I noticed lots of barrel distorted extreme wides for establishing shots in the trailer, which seemed a little odd against most of the coverage being shot medium/close up in fairly shallow focus.

Did anyone see Pado's work on BASIC INSTINCT 2? I must admit, knowing London reasonably well, I found the stylised night exterior lighting to be terribly amusing (and I only saw the trailer) but fun.
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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 02:10 AM

Makes a change to the minimal, sourcy and spherical Barry Lyndon/Amadeus/Phillipe Rousellot aping ...

Hey Tim, wasn't "Amadeus" anamorphic? I remember seeing some of horizontal 'scope flares from the candles.

It has more in common with a period themed, Vanity Fair photoshoot.

I think Lance Accord went this route a couple of years ago with "Marie Antoinette." I could only get through the first 30 minutes or so before I fell asleep but I recall it being very "Vanity Fair" looking as well.
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#5 Tim Partridge

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 10:59 AM

I definitely got Lyndon-itis off of MARIE ANTOINETTE. Even the costumes were designed by Milena Canero!

You are right about Amadeus, I think I was refering more to the kind of Vermeer light and texture that has gone part and parcel with that period look for all of my lifetime. Single source softlight pouring from huge windows with that typical wraparound that comes from the pale painted drawing rooms. It's like the only way anyone lights these movies anymore. I'd love to see something more stylised, even Visconti or Fellini looking sometime.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 12:51 PM

Well, it IS how these rooms probably looked back in the day -- window-lit or candle-lit. Afterall, Vermeer used real windowlight as a basis for his paintings.

What's a bit stylized actually today is the degree of the softness of the sources being used and the amount of light and the degree to which you can see in the room. Truth is that if a room only has one 4'x4' window, then it's a bit unrealistic to key with an 8'x8' soft light, and if it has four of those windows, in reality there would be four shadows... not very pretty necessarily.

And candlelight was quite dim and used sparingly because of the costs, so interiors were probably quite dark back then at night. And only a lot of candles would produce a soft light.

The nice thing about ambient soft light is that it calls less attention to itself than a hard key light. You tend to think less about where it might be coming from than with a hard spot on something.

Most people, audiences, film students, directors, cinematographers, tend to judge cinematography by how realistic it feels unless the genre calls for obvious stylization. Most of the negative comments here on the lighting in a movie tends to be about how unrealistic something felt. We tend to be less forgiving of attempts at dramatic theatricality. Look at how much people beat Kaminsky up here on "Kingdom of the Crystal Spider" -- I bet if he had shot it all in naturalistic soft light, half the people would have not said anything.
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#7 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 01:12 PM

Well, I've tried myself many times to get away from soft lighting techniques and play more with harder lights, but no matter how much I try I just find hard sources on faces always look unpleasant. Unless they come from the back or the front.

A sharp nose shadow on either side, weather it's up or down slanted or straight, just isn't pretty to me. Now I love hard light on other objects, like backgrounds, objects and architecture etc. And this is exactly what Gyula does here - he uses hard sources behind, in front or as the occasional backlight - but never as the key on his performers. This is very close to the way I like to approach my lighting.

Now, a very stylized, harder lit feel almost always works only when it's very graphic - I don't think anyone agrees that the quadruple shadows of a hard key, hard fill, hard eyelight and a hard kick of the Technicolor days was a good look. Period or not period. Therefore I can't say I want the "old school" way of lighting back.
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#8 Tim Partridge

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 05:25 PM

Most people, audiences, film students, directors, cinematographers, tend to judge cinematography by how realistic it feels unless the genre calls for obvious stylization. Most of the negative comments here on the lighting in a movie tends to be about how unrealistic something felt. We tend to be less forgiving of attempts at dramatic theatricality. Look at how much people beat Kaminsky up here on "Kingdom of the Crystal Spider" -- I bet if he had shot it all in naturalistic soft light, half the people would have not said anything.


That's not exactly the best example in the world, given how overtly stylized Slocombe's work on that series tended to be. How come RAIDERS works without naturalisitic softlight? I think Kaminski got the criticism because the quality of the photography in KINGDOM was so below par and inconsistent compared to what we are use to in said franchise. I am not convinced by this concept of realism either. Everything from Jerry Bruckheimer movies to Wong Kar Wai these days is into hyperstylized cinematography (and editing). I'd also hardly call your work on NORTHFORK, MANURE and the Polish's latest non-attempts at dramatic theatricality. ;) I agree with the feeling that each film has to create it's own sense of verisimilitude from scratch.

I am not arguing for the "old school" style to return Adam (not in this thread at least; others perhaps), I just think that there seems to be this default approach that cinematographers use shooting these wig and ballgown period movies (based on high risk approaches from 20-30 years ago). The DUCHESS at least seems to be breaking the conventional in this sense, which it probably should be praised for (I've only seen the trailer).
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 06:01 PM

That's not exactly the best example in the world, given how overtly stylized Slocombe's work on that series tended to be. How come RAIDERS works without naturalisitic softlight? Kaminski got the criticism because the quality of the photography in KINGDOM was so below par and inconsistent compared to what we are use to in said franchise. I am not convinced by this concept of realism either. Everything from Jerry Bruckheimer movies to Wong Kar Wai these days is into hyperstylized cinematography (and editing). I'd also hardly call your work on NORTHFORK, MANURE and the Polish's latest non-attempts at dramatic theatricality. ;) I agree with the feeling that each film has to create it's own sense of verisimilitude from scratch.


Oh, I'm not convinced either, which is why I wrote that article on notions of "realism" in cinematography in Student Filmmaker magazine -- what seems realistic today is going to seem highly stylized tomorrow. However, generally soft window light in day scenes feels more realistic than hard keys unless it is obviously a simulation of direct sunlight.

I'd agree that most soft lighting techniques, when you really push a cinematographer on it, has more to due with style and personal taste than it does with really matching the natural light on location in an interior. Truth is that half the time, the real light in an interior is horrible or inappropriate for the scene (or the actors' faces...) But the other half of the time...

But generally soft lighting techniques developed as a way of approaching a more natural look to cinematography, to recreate naturally occurring soft sources like an overcast sky, etc. -- a look hard to create back in the day of painfully slow-speed film stocks. Soft light has gone on to become also a commercial style as well.

But I stand by my statement that most cinematography these days attempts some degree of motivated and logical light and often incorporates actual light from practical sources, compared to movies of the past. Partly because of high speed film, we CAN use more natural and practical light than before, so there is also a practical reason for doing this, time and cost-wise, not just for stylistic reasons. But also tastes have changed and we don't have to key every actor with a hard light over the lens (though some middle-aged actresses insist on being keyed with a soft light over the lens... so some things haven't changed.) My wife was just reading an old American Cinematographer article (I married the right girl, didn't I?) about Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" where a fellow cinematographer commented that Teresa Wright's close-up lighting in later scenes did not live up to the standards of the day for portrait lighting, but Joseph Valentine said that this was due to Hitchcock's insistence on lending the movie a more realistic feeling and how he wanted the actress to look as the story progressed (more "down".) Apparently Hitchcock would say to Valentine "this isn't looking too perfect, Joe?"
I think if you did a poll of most cinematographers, they would say that the movies of the 1940's & 50's had less realistic lighting than the movies of today, on average.

And no, I'm not making any claims of naturalism in much of my work -- like I said, the modern notion of realism are just another stylistic trend as far as I am concerned. However, it would be incorrect to claim that all use of soft light is merely an attempt at stylization -- there are times when it truly is due to the cinematographer thinking about what looks natural for the scene. Look at the scene in "Amadeus" where Salieri first meets Mozart - the big concert hall is all lit with soft window light... because the historical location did not allow him to use lights, so Ondricek basically just used the available light and hoped that the windows would not flare too much. Now is it stylized lighting when there is no lighting at all in the scene, just available light?
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#10 Tim Partridge

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 06:27 PM

No no, I totally agree with you on the softlight front. There's no argument there!

I just often get very confused when I am told how hard light is too stylised, yet shooting with an intense, green flo spike, skip bleach wash out, Bourne-cam or any other contemporary, BOLD stylisation is apparently comparitively "realistic". That makes for tiny, narrow minds all blindly chasing one tired aesthetic (whoops, I just summarised 95% of everything made today)!

I also very much take issue with the misleading, Kaminski criticism example, using hard light as the scapegoat in that instant. The problem was far beyond the use of hardlight, as we all know (having grown up on Slocombe's great work).
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#11 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 07:41 PM

Slocombe was a master at making a hard lit look slightly less soft. I honestly wish I knew how he did it. But also, many of those old geezers used zip and coop lights, and although terribly outdated and unused these days, they were soft lights. Actually, my fav light for the last year, not withstanding the Briese, is the Mole 5K Zip. It's just a fantastic old school light and so versatile. I use it on every shoot.

The other day I also got so damn frustrated when I wanted to create a toplight on a set. I asked my gaffer if we could wrangle up some coop lights to hang over the set as a soft top. But obviously, nothing like that exists today. Instead we had to go through this massive rigmarole of hanging 4 space lights and suspending a 12x12 butterfly under it and then skirt that with bolton (tarp) to get rid of the spill. Took 2,5 hours to light. Honestly, sometimes I think lighting techniques are going backwards....

It doesn't end there. Covered Wagons, which I love to use because they're so versatile, are impossible to get your hand on unless your gaffer has made some up himself. Even though rental houses could knock them up for $0.50 a piece, they don't. Drives me nuts, because the only gaffer I know that has them built is the guy who's always on some massive feature, naturally.
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#12 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 02:26 AM

Saw "The Duchess" tonight, a spectacular film! Wonderfully shot by Pados, and the performances were superb with some inspired direction. Not to mention, it has one of the best film scores I've heard in a while.
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#13 K Borowski

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 04:56 AM

I am starting to get tired of saying this, but, what the hell does a period movie such as this need to go through a DI for, especially a 2K one when the movie is shot on '01 in Anamorphic? There seems to be a conspiracy right now to make 35mm look as bad as possible so digital projection and HD cameras can come in and decimate the field with as little resistance as possible :blink:
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