The frames look fantastic, Chayse!
I love the rich contrast - it seems like your lighting philosophy is to expose for the highlights and ND or stop down the lens, then bring up the foreground with well-placed keys. It looks like you're working at higher footcandles than a lot of DPs these days which is refreshing. It's not that same murky, weird flat fleshtone, "capture everything but crush it in post" look that's everywhere now - I dunno exactly how to describe it but it just looks like film at its best, old-school, simple, refined, ballsy. I was watching "Braveheart" last night in HD and admiring how John Toll always seems to place his key in the perfect place and make it look simple, realistic and refined with rich contrast, all at the same time - I think you've got the same touch.
I think it's especially the midtones which look very natural. The RSX curve that you created seems to mimic that film print "roll off" curve you were talking about, whereas I think most people end up twisting the curves to try to bring back detail in the shadows/highlights after the fact because they didn't light and expose for that. That was one of the things I didn't like about some shots in "Che." Instead, you're throwing away information on the ends that you don't need to avoid clipping, and so you can do it simply for the look without losing significant detail.
That you created this look using the Red is even more impressive to me because there seems to be a great deal of confusion about how to get the best out of that camera. It seems to me that you've figured it out - instead of trying to figure out how to maximize the sensor's dynamic range with the various gamma/color space/asa settings, we should be creating LUTs in pre-pro, shooting tests, and lighting and exposing to fit within the LUT range, not the whole range of the sensor. I think we somehow got way off track in the last several years with shooting in available light and "fixing it in DI" where we ended up asking too much of the capture medium, be it film or digital. We need to start being more conservative in our fundamental approach to exposure if we want our images to look better.
Anyway, thanks again for your production diary Chayse, it's been very educational!
Thanks Satsuki, I'm defiantly influenced by John Toll. I love his work, particularly in Thin Red Line. I found the red is much better with highlights then any Digital camera I've ever shot. Even when it clips there is no chromatic aberration unless there is an abundance of saturation in the clip. I found this out during my tests when I keyed with tungsten and balanced to tungsten with the sky as a back drop. The LUT also helps with the highlights a lot. Its not easy balancing windows to the key light, I certainly think windows should be bright, but there are problems when when sunlight is coming in and flaring... but because of my test im confident when I take a reading that it will or wont work.
Next time i hope to expand my tests. I would like to create multiple custom LUTs; Day int, Day ext, Night int, and Night ext. I really hope that RED activated that look options inside the camera. I noticed that importing RSX files is an option, but its not activated yet. Thats definatly the next step, being able to view my image right on set. There are good monitors like the Cine-Tal
, but its out of my budget range right now. But I've seen it set up with multiple different luts. The DP then just puts a tag on the slate telling the colorist which custom LUT to apply for that take, but the DP is able to light with the monitor. This was on a D-21 show my mentor shoots.
My LUT didn't work with all the footage... in some situations I was forced to compromise because of time and setting. Example being Picture 13
Because of the mirrors behind him I had to have my source further back and more sidey then I wanted, I found the characters eye light not looking the way i intended, we rolled once and then I stopped the director and asked to relight (hehe you only get one of those a show). It was difficult because I had to raise the contrast of the shot and the mirrors behind him showing where I would put my light. I ended up bounce the dedo right off the wall, (which is what made me raise the contrast so that the highlight didn't clip but still tossed enough light on the characters face, this made his fill side very dark, if I added my own fill it wouldn't have been the look I wanted for the scene so I just went with it) you can see it in the mirror. I gave the dedo a naturalistic shape so it looked more like sunlight then a light bouncing off a wall... it looked great to my eye, only had two guys on my lighting and grip crew... just had to make it work. In dailies the darker half of his face turned black with the LUT. I knew it would happen but I also knew there was lots of info in there because of what I was viewing onset. I took the image into Redalert! and adjusted the curve slightly and thats the image you see there. I didn't sleep the night before because I knew the mirror was going to screw me some how... but it ended up working for the best.