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Acheiving "The Shining" look with Super 16mm


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#1 Johnny Whieldon

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 01:57 PM

I am in preproduction on my first short film which I plan to shoot next Winter. I wanted to get the look Kubrick/Alcott got on “The Shining” using a super wide lens and practical lighting setups. I’m considering renting or purchasing (whichever’s cheaper) a Bolex Super 16mm EBM camera, attaching a wider lens, and shooting on a Kodak 7201 stock. (I’m not a fan of video—even in HD)

I want to be completely prepared before I begin shooting with real film. In order to perfect the setups, practice the camera movements, etc, I am considering shooting a few “test runs” using digital video. My concern is that lighting for video and lighting for film are so drastically different that these “test runs” will be rendered useless.

1.Is there a cheap way to test these lighting setups before renting the Bolex? For example, can I use a 35mm Nikon FM10 film camera to test the lighting setups? If so, how different will the result be from the real thing (aside from the wide lens)?

2.Is there another camera/lens/film combo that might be better suited to obtain “The Shining” look on a tight budget?

P.S. "achieving" not "acheiving"-- was a typo :)

Edited by Johnny Whieldon, 03 May 2011 - 02:01 PM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 02:15 PM

Honestly, John, I don't think you'll achieve the shinning look cheaply. Bear in mind, though the lighting looks naturalistic, that whole hotel was a giant set! That said, they would have wired in substantial film lighting into the set to allow them to shoot the way they wanted.
For lighting testing, what one normally does is shoot a test roll on the stock you're planning to use with different ratios/styles of lighting. This is best combined with a makeup/wardrobe test before shooting on the primary actors and is pretty cheap.
As for which film stock, '01 is a Daylight stock and will require daylight lighting, which you'd have to rent. Also it's pretty damned slow... Granted it's a fine grain film, but these a days you might be much better served with '13, Kodak 200T. It's not too grainy and fast enough to get some stop with typical 100w bulbs.

Tests runs on DV for motion framing ect can be helpful, but that's about it.

I would not buy a camera, but rent a better S16mm package, such as an SR2, SR3, or Aaton, something you can throw PL lenses onto which not only will help you getting wide focal lengths, but also interface with all the acessories you'll need (follow focus, matte boxes ect) which should/could come as a package and be far outside a low-budget purchase.

Also don't forget, I'd say about 90% of the "look" of any kubrick film comes not from the cinematography, per say, but form the production design. nailing good design will get you most of the way there in terms of it "looking," though I assume you mean "feeling," like The Shinning.

Also try to get your hands on some crew who has film experience, and who can cover you when you need covering.
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 03:48 PM

Quite a lot of "The Shining" movement was Steadicam, often hard mounted on a wheel chair.
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#4 Johnny Whieldon

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 04:21 PM

Honestly, John, I don't think you'll achieve the shinning look cheaply. Bear in mind, though the lighting looks naturalistic, that whole hotel was a giant set! That said, they would have wired in substantial film lighting into the set to allow them to shoot the way they wanted.
For lighting testing, what one normally does is shoot a test roll on the stock you're planning to use with different ratios/styles of lighting. This is best combined with a makeup/wardrobe test before shooting on the primary actors and is pretty cheap.
As for which film stock, '01 is a Daylight stock and will require daylight lighting, which you'd have to rent. Also it's pretty damned slow... Granted it's a fine grain film, but these a days you might be much better served with '13, Kodak 200T. It's not too grainy and fast enough to get some stop with typical 100w bulbs.

Tests runs on DV for motion framing ect can be helpful, but that's about it.

I would not buy a camera, but rent a better S16mm package, such as an SR2, SR3, or Aaton, something you can throw PL lenses onto which not only will help you getting wide focal lengths, but also interface with all the acessories you'll need (follow focus, matte boxes ect) which should/could come as a package and be far outside a low-budget purchase.

Also don't forget, I'd say about 90% of the "look" of any kubrick film comes not from the cinematography, per say, but form the production design. nailing good design will get you most of the way there in terms of it "looking," though I assume you mean "feeling," like The Shinning.

Also try to get your hands on some crew who has film experience, and who can cover you when you need covering.


Thanks a lot Adrian. Where can one get prices on what such a package costs to rent and shoot a test roll? Is there a website?
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 04:23 PM

Test roll you could shoot on any camera. hell you could try calling up Kodak and/or Fuji and asking for a test roll, you may well get it for free. From there you'd want to send it through the post path you're going to use, so speak with your lab/post house and they might also run it for free for you to work out the kinks on their end. This is normal when you're doing a bigger thing, for a short, you have to negotiate, but that's what producers are for!

As for packages, you'd need to speak with local rental houses. I'm not sure where you're located, but there are a plethora of rental houses in both LA and NY. Failing those two markets, private owners may rent out and you should try to track down the film office for your region. they should have all the resources you need.
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#6 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 04 May 2011 - 12:04 PM

"The Shining" was shot on a 100 ASA stock (Kodak 5247) as wasn't pushed for a fine-grain look. John Alcott used Zeiss Super Speed lenses for this picture, at very wide-apertures (T/1.3 - T/2) with wide-angle lenses. The best technical approach on Super 16mm would be to rent a set of the 16mm version of these lenses and use it in conjunction with a slow-to-medium speed film stock (100 to 250 ASA EI tungsten balanced) to minimize grain and get a clean look. Shooting wide open would certainly help you to get decent exposures with these stocks.

But yes, as you have been told before, the look of "The Shining" has much more to do with the set design and lighting choices than these technical aspects.
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