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Magic Hour/Last Tango in Paris/Stottaro


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#1 Marty McCool

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 08:45 AM

I write a movie column in Ireland called 'Magic of the Movies' and I am doing a special story on the theme of the Magic Hour. This is used is Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (lit by Vittorio Storraro). According to Mark Cousins, the Magic Hour in Last Tango in Paris and various other films can be taken as the hour when the shoplights go on in Paris. The amber shafts of Autumnal sunshine entering the room here are typical of the soft colours of the Magic Hour.
I would like to hear further opinions on the Magic Hour which is also depicted in films like Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 11:19 AM

I write a movie column in Ireland called 'Magic of the Movies' and I am doing a special story on the theme of the Magic Hour. This is used is Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (lit by Vittorio Storraro). According to Mark Cousins, the Magic Hour in Last Tango in Paris and various other films can be taken as the hour when the shoplights go on in Paris. The amber shafts of Autumnal sunshine entering the room here are typical of the soft colours of the Magic Hour.
I would like to hear further opinions on the Magic Hour which is also depicted in films like Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven.


"Magic Hour" just refers to the time right after the sun has disappeared behind the horizon when there is still light in the sky. Here in California, because we are closer to the equator, it's more like 15 minutes, not an hour -- we sometimes refer to it as "Tragic Hour" because it's so stressful to cover any scene in under 15 minutes, and the levels change radically every take. You can be at f/5.6 on Take 1 and f/1.4 by Take 4.

I did a movie in Canada last year where we had a Magic Hour sequence and I was rushing like hell to get all the shots needed... and after 45 minutes, there was still enough light to shoot! The Canadian crew was looking at me like I was crazy because I was pushing everyone so hard to get as many shots done as possible in what I thought would be a 15-minute window.

By the way "Days of Heaven" was shot in Canada, not the Texas Panhandle -- made shooting all those Magic Hour scenes a lot easier I bet.

"Magic Hour" can be depicted as quite blue-ish in some movies because DP's often pull the orange 85 correction filter normally used when shooting tungsten-balanced stock outdoors in daytime, to gain speed. You can see in "The Conformist" a lot of Paris is shot that way, with a blue-ish cast to the light in contrast to the warm lights of stores. "Last Tango in Paris" opted to let everything be on the warm side however.

I had a magic hour sequence in "The Astronaut Farmer" (shot in New Mexico). I only had time to shoot three angles, the widest shot done last because I only needed enough light to get a silhouette against the sky, not expose the faces. Also, the two closer shots were done simultaneously with two cameras shooting cross-coverage:

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#3 Marty McCool

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 11:25 AM

Thanks for a fantastic and insightful reply, David. I must find out more about that movie you were involved with.

"Magic Hour" just refers to the time right after the sun has disappeared behind the horizon when there is still light in the sky. Here in California, because we are closer to the equator, it's more like 15 minutes, not an hour -- we sometimes refer to it as "Tragic Hour" because it's so stressful to cover any scene in under 15 minutes, and the levels change radically every take. You can be at f/5.6 on Take 1 and f/1.4 by Take 4.

I did a movie in Canada last year where we had a Magic Hour sequence and I was rushing like hell to get all the shots needed... and after 45 minutes, there was still enough light to shoot! The Canadian crew was looking at me like I was crazy because I was pushing everyone so hard to get as many shots done as possible in what I thought would be a 15-minute window.

By the way "Days of Heaven" was shot in Canada, not the Texas Panhandle -- made shooting all those Magic Hour scenes a lot easier I bet.

"Magic Hour" can be depicted as quite blue-ish in some movies because DP's often pull the orange 85 correction filter normally used when shooting tungsten-balanced stock outdoors in daytime, to gain speed. You can see in "The Conformist" a lot of Paris is shot that way, with a blue-ish cast to the light in contrast to the warm lights of stores. "Last Tango in Paris" opted to let everything be on the warm side however.

I had a magic hour sequence in "The Astronaut Farmer" (shot in New Mexico). I only had time to shoot three angles, the widest shot done last because I only needed enough light to get a silhouette against the sky, not expose the faces. Also, the two closer shots were done simultaneously with two cameras shooting cross-coverage:

Posted Image

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Posted Image


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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 01:46 PM

"Magic Hour" just refers to the time right after the sun has disappeared behind the horizon when there is still light in the sky. Here in California, because we are closer to the equator, it's more like 15 minutes, not an hour -- we sometimes


See I said there were would be people complaining they weren't getting their whole hour! Always happens.

refer to it as "Tragic Hour" because it's so stressful to cover any scene in under 15 minutes, and the levels change radically every take. You can be at f/5.6 on Take 1 and f/1.4 by Take 4.


Here in the UK we occasionallly refer to Magic Hour as "sunset". Crass I know. It means that the sun is setting, ie passing ino the realm of set, the egyptian god of darkness, who is presumably the guy you should appeal to if you want your magic hour extended a bit. :)

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#5 Freya Black

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 01:51 PM

I did a movie in Canada last year where we had a Magic Hour sequence and I was rushing like hell to get all the shots needed... and after 45 minutes, there was still enough light to shoot! The Canadian crew was looking at me like I was crazy because I was pushing everyone so hard to get as many shots done as possible in what I thought would be a 15-minute window.


Wasn't this a good thing tho? I mean didn't this mean you got a lot more beautiful magic hour footage than you would have otherwise and there was less to cheat, or did you feel you compromised some stuff in the rush?
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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 02:03 PM

Heres another magic hour question. What actually causes the shift in colour temperature that takes place. I'm guessing it is something to do with the atmosphere acting as some kind of giant filter. So perhaps it is due to the angle the light is hitting the atmosphere at, or because the sun is at a lower angle it is hitting a different layer of the atmosphere or is it something else again?

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#7 Frank Kistemann

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 04:09 PM

Heres another magic hour question. What actually causes the shift in colour temperature that takes place. I'm guessing it is something to do with the atmosphere acting as some kind of giant filter. So perhaps it is due to the angle the light is hitting the atmosphere at, or because the sun is at a lower angle it is hitting a different layer of the atmosphere or is it something else again?

love

Freya



The closer the sun is to the horizon, from your point of view, the longer is the distance where the light travels through the atmosphere. While travelling the atmosphere, light loses energy which means that it becomes more reddish. So that's why the sun seems to be red when it's setting/rising, because the distance the light has to travel through atmosphere is at it's maximum. On the other side, when the sun is at it's top position, that very distance is at the minimum, so the sun seems to be less red.


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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 07:37 PM

Wasn't this a good thing tho? I mean didn't this mean you got a lot more beautiful magic hour footage than you would have otherwise and there was less to cheat, or did you feel you compromised some stuff in the rush?


It was a GREAT thing, to be able to cover a sequence all at Magic Hour, including a crane shot. Particularly since it's the final scene in the movie.
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#9 Rafael Rivera

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 12:26 PM

Heres another magic hour question. What actually causes the shift in colour temperature that takes place. I'm guessing it is something to do with the atmosphere acting as some kind of giant filter. So perhaps it is due to the angle the light is hitting the atmosphere at, or because the sun is at a lower angle it is hitting a different layer of the atmosphere or is it something else again?

love

Freya


Light scattering is the key to reddish sunsets. Lord Rayleigh showed that gas molecules (actually any molecule) can scatter light and that the scattering is related to the inverse 4th power of the incident light. Therefore, blue around 400nm is heavily scattered compared to red at around 700nm.

At Sunset, there's an "effective" thicker air atmoshepre and therefore the scattering effect is greatly amplified resulting in a red sunset. What this means is that blue light has been scattered in all directions resulting in a effective loss of blue light.
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#10 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 02:40 PM

"Magic Hour" can be depicted as quite blue-ish in some movies because DP's often pull the orange 85 correction filter normally used when shooting tungsten-balanced stock outdoors in daytime, to gain speed. 

 

Could you explain? What happens with this filter on when shooting in tungsten-lit interiors?


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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 03:28 PM

Why would you use an 85B correction filter indoors under tungsten lighting? The filter is orange and is designed to correct 5600K (daylight) to 3200K for tungsten-balanced film stocks.  So if you already had tungsten lighting indoors on tungsten stock and put an 85B filter on, the image would look fairly orange-ish.  People have used warming filters but an 85B filter is pretty strong if all you want is more warmth, I think it is close to a Coral 3 to 5 in heaviness.

 

This is why tungsten lights get used sometimes in daylight settings because of their warmth compared to daylight.


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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 03:30 PM

Light scattering is the key to reddish sunsets. Lord Rayleigh showed that gas molecules (actually any molecule) can scatter light and that the scattering is related to the inverse 4th power of the incident light. Therefore, blue around 400nm is heavily scattered compared to red at around 700nm.

At Sunset, there's an "effective" thicker air atmoshepre and therefore the scattering effect is greatly amplified resulting in a red sunset. What this means is that blue light has been scattered in all directions resulting in a effective loss of blue light.

 

The sunlight gets redder but the overhead skylight often gets bluer.


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#13 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 04:49 PM

Yes, I presumed that that would happen, one would get an even more orange image. But somehow I again didn't understand the whole thing, and here probably because of the verb "pull". I thought that you meant that DPs put the orange filter for outdoor shooting to make the image on a tungsten-balance film stock bluer. Then I thought it's the reverse, they remove it.

 

I guess the lack of a comma for that elided relative clause "normally used when shooting tungsten-balanced stock") makes me think twice. I don't know if "outdoors in daytime" goes with that or if it's a continuation of "pull the filter (outside in daytime)".


Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos, 16 December 2015 - 04:54 PM.

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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 05:33 PM

When using tungsten balanced stock, traditionally you use the orange 85B filter to correct the outside daylight to 3200K; it is common to remove it (pull it) when shooting in very low levels of daylight in order to gain another 2/3-stop of exposure, but the result is a bluer cast to the image that may or may not be timed out in post.
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