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Theory of Saturation


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#1 Spencer Hutchins

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 01:15 PM

I know this hits a lot on subjectivity but i was hoping 'the experienced' could put their 2,3,5 cents worth on whether or not they can justify starting with an unsaturated look in their film and change in the next scene to a saturated look? good? bad? eh?

Thanks.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 01:22 PM

I know this hits a lot on subjectivity but i was hoping 'the experienced' could put their 2,3,5 cents worth on whether or not they can justify starting with an unsaturated look in their film and change in the next scene to a saturated look? good? bad? eh?

Thanks.


You can do anything, including mix b&w and color (the ultimate jump from desaturated to saturated) if you have a reason for it based on the needs of the story.

I often plan the style or look of a movie based on three possible structures. One is a single consistent look for the whole movie. The other is a look that moves from A to B, to match the progression of the narrative from one state to another (horror movies and thrillers, for example, often move from a state of realism to one of Expressionism, a psychological state reflecting the emotions of the characters), and then there are stories that are not A to B, but A vs. B -- one world versus another, i.e. "she's rich and happy, he's poor and unhappy", or one time period alternated with another, etc.
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#3 Simon Wyss

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 01:58 PM

If I may recommend two pictures to look at:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032143/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072684/
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#4 Spencer Hutchins

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 03:36 PM

You can do anything, including mix b&w and color (the ultimate jump from desaturated to saturated) if you have a reason for it based on the needs of the story.

I often plan the style or look of a movie based on three possible structures. One is a single consistent look for the whole movie. The other is a look that moves from A to B, to match the progression of the narrative from one state to another (horror movies and thrillers, for example, often move from a state of realism to one of Expressionism, a psychological state reflecting the emotions of the characters), and then there are stories that are not A to B, but A vs. B -- one world versus another, i.e. "she's rich and happy, he's poor and unhappy", or one time period alternated with another, etc.



So as far as "rules" to doing this or not, there are none. The only factor would play in making sure the change from A to B or A vs. B is appropriate for the change of the saturation and overall look?

Has there ever been a time where although the environment has been established with the look you have given it, you changed the look to express the feelings of the character instead? Is this justifiable?

Simon, I will check out both of those films as well. Any specifics to keep an eye on as far as the changing of the look?
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 03:49 PM

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063850/
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 04:29 PM

So as far as "rules" to doing this or not, there are none. The only factor would play in making sure the change from A to B or A vs. B is appropriate for the change of the saturation and overall look?

Has there ever been a time where although the environment has been established with the look you have given it, you changed the look to express the feelings of the character instead? Is this justifiable?

Simon, I will check out both of those films as well. Any specifics to keep an eye on as far as the changing of the look?


You generally modify the look scene by scene within the overall visual parameters you set-up to work within. You're not stuck lighting a room the same way over and over again, for example -- a moody scene may be more shadowy, a sad scene more somber, whatever you decide works for the story. But generally you wouldn't light one scene like a 1940's musical and another like a 1970's crime drama unless there was a script reason. But a sad hospital or institution scene may be monochromatic, with muted colors, and a happy scene at a night club or kindergarden may be bright or cheerful, sunny, saturated, etc. Or maybe vice-versa -- sometimes you play against expectations. David Lean once set a romantic moment on a park bench against the backdrop of a polluted river and a factory, in "Hobson's Choice".
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#7 Mike Simpson

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 04:42 PM

I would just be careful about making changes on a whim on set that arent consistent with the overall look of the film.

There are plenty of DPs that have been successful doing it, and theres plenty to be said for intuition, but dramatically noticeable shifts in style/lighting, etc. will have an effect on the audience and its a good idea to have thought out the repercussions through the rest of the script before following through with them.
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#8 Spencer Hutchins

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 04:57 PM

Awesome information guys, really benefited from it!

I'll be checking out all the films mentioned.
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 06:27 PM

Look at "JFK" and "Nixon", shot by Robert Richardson for Oliver Stone -- radical use of mixed media, most of it justified by the narrative and use of flashbacks. They are consistent within a structure of deliberate inconsistency.

But even more subtly, you can justify some shifts in contrast, saturation, and sharpness within a normal narrative if the shifts are motivated dramatically. Some directors and DP's don't do that, some do.

For example, in "Cast Away", the early desert island scenes in daytime were shot on 50D stock and the later ones on 100T stock with the correction filter -- a very subtle difference, but it makes the island seem less lush as the years wear on for the main character.

You do such small shifts in correlation sometimes with changes in focal lengths, depth of field, etc. to create the feeling of a change in the character's state. Art directors and costume designers do it all the time in design, choice of colors, etc. so why not cinematographers?
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#10 Daniel Porto

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 10:07 PM

I know this hits a lot on subjectivity but i was hoping 'the experienced' could put their 2,3,5 cents worth on whether or not they can justify starting with an unsaturated look in their film and change in the next scene to a saturated look? good? bad? eh?

Thanks.


Traffic directed by Steven Soderbergh is the perfect example for me. As long as your not cutting between de-saturated and saturated shots in the same scene, then I don't see any problem what-so-ever... but of course there are some exceptions... for example the short film that just recently made...


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#11 Jon Schweigart

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Posted 23 November 2008 - 12:15 AM

Look at Natural Born Killers. It switches between b&w, color, 35mm, and 16mm. There really are no rules as long as the look you choose drives the story and has purpose.
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#12 Spencer Hutchins

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Posted 23 November 2008 - 01:41 PM

Now that I think about it Living in Oblivion used the B&W to Color very effectively. Thanks for the suggestions.
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