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How Cinematography Affects Production Design.


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#1 Bianca Davies

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 01:23 PM

Hello,

I'm currently designing my independent project for my cinematography class that's basically one big film test to see how cinematography affects production design. I want to understand how different formats (Standard def, High def, Film - different stocks) as well as processing techniques and such affect the image. So I'm going to build some kind of test set with various objects and colours and patterns, and then compare all the results.

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions as to what I should test in my film test? Suggestions on what to test (as in the physical objects) as well as formats or processing techniques are all welcome!

Thanks!
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#2 Jim Keller

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 01:53 PM

One thing that I find perpetually confuses directors and producers (and therefore you must be an expert in as the cinematographer) is what will and will not look "real" on camera. To that end, I'd suggest getting as many objects/pieces/etc. that have both a real and a "fake" counterpart. e.g. get a wax apple, a wooden apple, and a real apple. Get a real wood door, a doors painted with several different wood treatments. Having a good sense of how different objects "read" on camera (and it's not always intuitive -- often you have to use something fake to convince an audience it's real) will be essential in your career, and it's ultimately the cinematographer's job to know -- ahead of time -- if what the art department is preparing is right or not.
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 02:54 AM

Hey Bianca, cool to see you on here!

One idea would be to build a large board with big easy to see and labeled swatches of different colors on different types of materials with different textures. Then you can shoot some tests on different formats to see how certain colors, textures and materials show up at different levels of detail and color sampling.

Shoot the board so it fills the entire frame, with an 18% gray card as correct exposure reference. Then do what's called a barrel test, by shooting the boards at normal exposure, then underexposing and overexposing at various densities. Then process the film normal, and do a one light print, and a corrected print.

It should be easy to see when shooting in HD with a calibrated monitor. But if you're shooting film too, you really shouldn't need to roll too much. Just a few seconds each take.

Doing it this way won't take as much effort as building a set, and won't be as creative, but it should be very effective. Then once you've seen the test, maybe then you could build a set, using what you've learned from the test. Doing it this way MIGHT impress you teacher, as he/she will definitely see that you went through a learning process while shooting the tests :)

Edited by Jonathan Bowerbank, 14 March 2009 - 02:55 AM.

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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 03:12 AM

Hey Bianca,

What's your budget?

I would probably avoid trying film processing tricks in your test since that can start to get very expensive. I think if you stick with normal processing, you will still be able to get a good handle on how film will render art versus video. Also remember that to have a fair test comparing film to HD, the film formats would ideally be telecined to an HD format, which will be expensive. Spypost in SF will do HD telecines to HDCAM (tape) for student rates but they will only do direct-to-hard drive at their full rate (something like $900/hr!!) because that is a "premium service" (their quotes, not mine).

The problem is that in order to digitize HDCAM into Final Cut, you would need to find/rent an HDCAM deck that has the proper outputs to do this, which again is expensive. With direct-to-hard drive, as long as you specify which format you would like the footage to be in, you should be able to start editing right away (after making a backup copy of course).

But if you're still gung-ho about including film in your test, then I would suggest testing the following formats: 1.78 Super 35, 1.78 Super 16, 16:9 Red 4K, 16:9 2/3" HD (like one of the Panasonic P2 cams: HPX500, Varicam 2700), 16:9 1/2" or 1/3" HD (like Sony EX1 or HVX200). These are the most likely formats you'll be working with in the future. I also recommend posting everything at 1920x1080 23.98P. Final Cut Pro 6 should let you drop all these formats together on the same timeline (well, you may need to render out a Quicktime Pro-res 1080P downconversion of the Red 4K footage first before editing).

Also, not sure how you're required to show your final project, but I think if you output a 1080P Pro-res HQ Quicktime file out of Final Cut and hooked up your laptop to an HD projector or a 1080P monitor (23" Apple Cinema Display would work), then you would be able to show your final project in full HD only mildly compressed.

The Red and all the HD cameras I mentioned record onto solid state media and not tape, so that will save you some money when you go to post your test. Again, Final Cut should be able to handle all those formats if you download the proper plug-ins (which are free online). It shouldn't be too hard to find those cams either, I know a few people who might be willing to donate their gear for a one day test. The film gear is another story. I guess you could get a Super 16 cam from SFSU, but 35mm will be tough. You could skip it if it's too much hassle since you have some 35mm experience already.

BTW, all the Panasonic cameras I mentioned above are 720P native, but I believe they all have a scaled 1080i output in camera. True 1080P cameras (except the EX1) will probably cost you too much to rent, though maybe Videofax would let you stop by on a slow day and shoot a quick test in their space with an F35 or F23 to their P2 recorder.

I think Jim's idea is a good one. You've got all those fake fruits and meats left over from "Gweilo" so you could start there I guess. ;)
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#5 Chris Millar

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 03:13 AM

Aspect ratios have a bearing on production deisgn...

Perhaps more of a practical concern than artistic, but not exclusive if you really want to go to town on your project - good luck ;)
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#6 Will Earl

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 11:37 AM

Aspect ratios have a bearing on production deisgn...


Could you expand on this?
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#7 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 02:48 AM

Could you expand on this?


Production design pertains to almost everything that appears in the frame...so obviously what shape your frame is and how much of a set you see (+/-) is going to effect prod. design. Also, format, lenses, depth of field will influence how much detail needs to be invested.
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