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What's the difference?


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#1 linda difranco

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 11:01 AM

I'm going to try to make sense -- bear with me, English is not my first language.

I was watching Mad Men, and I was really puzzled. What are the elements that make it look different from the movie shot in the sixties?

I read somewhere the DP tried to shoot like they used to shoot then, but yet, it's a total different feel.

Is it maybe the fact that colors mutate with time in the film itself? Like bread that becomes stale after few days?

Even in exterior shots, where there is not much lighting manipulation... you can see if something was shot 30 years ago or recently... why?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 11:36 AM

I'm going to try to make sense -- bear with me, English is not my first language.

I was watching Mad Men, and I was really puzzled. What are the elements that make it look different from the movie shot in the sixties?

I read somewhere the DP tried to shoot like they used to shoot then, but yet, it's a total different feel.

Is it maybe the fact that colors mutate with time in the film itself? Like bread that becomes stale after few days?

Even in exterior shots, where there is not much lighting manipulation... you can see if something was shot 30 years ago or recently... why?



A lot of the difference is lighting... movies of the 1950's and early 1960's were shot on 50 ASA color negative and needed a lot of light, so the light levels were much higher and generally the lights were harder. "Mad Men" is not lit in that style, though the lighting sometimes references that glamorous look, but subtly. It's more the restrained camera work and shot sizes that are older in style.

But technically, the lenses back then were softer and the film stocks were softer and grainier, and everything was more contrasty, the negative, the printing, and lighting had to compensate for that. So outdoors there were a lot of arcs and reflectors used to fill-in shadows but where they didn't hit, the shadows went blacker, etc.
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 11:38 AM

Well, I'd say a lot comes from how the film from that time period has aged and been transferred. When I look at some old movies, which have gone through restoration, they look totally different. Another differnce is the film itself, it's evolved, capturing more information, with greater color fidelity, and smaller grains, so it looks, generally, smoother-- or that's how I'd describe it. ON top of all of that, the actual materials used to construct many things from bygone eras, are, well gone. I don't have any specifics, but i'd guess the dyes used in clothing have changed as well as how they're manufactured (and where) which leads to subtle differences. Not to mention the lenses used to record he film, the post production path, all the way to how it's broadcast. So things have literally changed, in a physical sense. While, at the same time, the people making films have changed. I could recreated any shot from say Conrad Hall, if I had the plans etc, or enough time, but I can guarantee you it would never match a shot he actually lensed as I'll inevitably add in a bit of my own knowledge and personality to the shots just because I'm human and I'll make "mistakes," or better put judgments which are entirely mine. My 2 cents
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#4 linda difranco

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 12:11 PM

thank you so much for the answers.

call me crazy but i would like to reproduce that look for my movie.

i'm way in pre pre pre production so i don't have a DP yet therefore I can't ask him/her questions.

so, is there a chance i could reproduce similar look? are those lenses still available? the film stock? what do you suggest me to pay attention to to have that rich idyllic look?

i tried with my short film (http://www.judasthef.../06TRAILER.html) but for my feature i want to do even more.

I'd love advice.
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#5 Thomas James

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 01:13 PM

The biggest revolution in Cinematography is 2K digital projection. With a capability of digital projection at up to 48 frames per second modern digital movies even those originated on film will look more like a television soap opera or a video. Even Cinematographers that are inherently opposed to the video look will resort to shooting and projecting at 48 frames per second for their fast action sequences because they will soon realize that it is impossible to portray fast action sequences in high definition when limited to 24 frames per second. I predict that once 48 fps becomes mainstream Cinematographers will demand the projection of even higher framerates such as 120 frames per second to depict the adrenaline rush of a roller coaster ride.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 01:19 PM

Can you name a specific movie of that era you are trying to emulate the look of?
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 01:20 PM

I'd recommend paying attention to lighting more than anything else ;) Lighting and production design are 90% of a "look," in my book.
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#8 linda difranco

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 01:27 PM

Can you name a specific movie of that era you are trying to emulate the look of?


off the top of my head....


To Catch a Thief
Bonjour Tristesse
Rome Adventure
The Best Of Everything
Three Coins in a Fountain

btw -- I'll be shooting in Italy, by the lakes.


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#9 Jim Carlile

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 01:30 AM

I think one of the big differences too is the reliance these days upon extreme wide-angle lenses. By that I mean anything under about 35mm-- even that's too much for most pre-1970 movies. And use fewer closeups, to give you a greater sense of place. Try to let the scenes play out in front of the camera instead of having people just yell at each other with the camera whipping back and forth.

A nice example of the early 60s look, BTW, is Conrad Hall's work on The Outer Limits. Lots of static shots, masters, little camera movement and no zooms. It's all in the lighting and the editing.

For color, use reversal film like 100D-- it's much more old-fashioned looking than today's negative stocks.

BTW, anyone else notice lately what a fantastically shot show Highway Patrol is, with Broderick Crawford? Totally location and low budget, which makes it even more impressive.
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#10 linda difranco

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 09:45 AM

I think one of the big differences too is the reliance these days upon extreme wide-angle lenses. By that I mean anything under about 35mm-- even that's too much for most pre-1970 movies. And use fewer closeups, to give you a greater sense of place. Try to let the scenes play out in front of the camera instead of having people just yell at each other with the camera whipping back and forth.

A nice example of the early 60s look, BTW, is Conrad Hall's work on The Outer Limits. Lots of static shots, masters, little camera movement and no zooms. It's all in the lighting and the editing.

For color, use reversal film like 100D-- it's much more old-fashioned looking than today's negative stocks.

BTW, anyone else notice lately what a fantastically shot show Highway Patrol is, with Broderick Crawford? Totally location and low budget, which makes it even more impressive.




yes, thank you Jim -- I totally agree with this. (that's how i shot my short film)

I think David and Adrian are right, it may be the new film grain and the process and the harder light.

Would it be more expensive to go that route? Is it more expensive using that different film stock, harder lights, softer lenses and more "arcs" (what's that?) and reflectors? cutting negative instead of 2K?


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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 10:01 AM

Well Arc may be hard to find (and hard to power and trim anymore!) They'be been replaced for the most part by HMIs. I'd say avoid the 100D stock, while it will give you an inherent look, it may not be the best of ideas to use for a lot of reasons. If you choose to go that route, test it first! I'd go for a higher speed stock (which has more grain) perhaps under-exposed a bit, to add more in, and then do a 2K scan so you are working with information enough to "tweak" your look. even a neg cut these days can be quite difficult to get accomplished, never minding price. Your best bet also will be to hire on a competent DoP who knows what s/he is doing and giving them some time to test out what works. Also I'd keep some Vaseline around and an optical flat if you want some diffusion.

Arcs, by the way, are Carbon Arc Lights... intensely powerful beasts, which had a few issues leading to their replacement by HMIs one the technology began to mature.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 11:46 AM

100D reversal is a bit overkill for that look, and probably too "clean" looking unless you are shooting in 16mm... I'd consider Fuji Vivid 160T and 500T, it has some of the classic contrasty look.
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#13 Todd McMullen

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 07:46 AM

Definitely go with fuji stocks for this look.
I will also add that the wardrobe and production design is the big sell here. Your lighting and composition
will only take you so far to sell a period piece. You need the hardware and the eye candy to put you in that moment.
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