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80s film look (Jaws, ET, Charlie's Angels)?


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#1 Rich wood

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 08:49 PM

Hello all. I know there are many factors in determining the final look of a film but what would you describe as THE main attribute that contributes to a look such as the original Jaws, ET, The Deep...even Charlie's Angels (TV)?

I find this soft romanticized look in many films of the period...even on old tv shows.

Im sure they were trying for the sharpest optics but wonder if they all commited to in-camera diffusion via the various filters or netting they used.

Stock, processing, optics, etc are all understood...was just anxious to inspire some talk to hear your thoughts.

Thanks!
Rich
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#2 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 08:19 AM

If I had to describe the look of the early 80's pictures, I would say that it was grainy, because of push-processing to shoot in lower light levels, or due to the use of the early high-speed negatives from Kodak, Fuji or Agfa that appeared circa 1981-82; sometimes the look was diffused or low-con, either by smoke, filters or nets, with lots of colored lighting for night exterior work after the introduction of HMI units in the late 70's (many films from the late 70's were shot using a lot of available light at night using super speed lenses). By the early 80's, you can also see a decrease in the use of the anamorphic format, as some filmakers were afraid of the pan and scan techniques employed to home video and television transfers. I think the photography of "Gremlins" is one of the best examples of the period. But then, you also had some old-school cinematographers that were still using hard-lights and color photography techniques from the 60's.

But, in my opinion, other than the beautiful camera work, there's not too much in common in the look of "Jaws" and "E.T.".

"Jaws" was shot in anamorphic using Kodak 5254 stock (100 ASA), using a more classical lighting approach, with fill lights for day exterior work and hard-lights for interiors, whereas "E.T." was shot spherically, using 5247 (125T), which was 5254's replacement, with much softer lighting, smoked sets and colored lighting at times. The only link could be the mild use of halation/diffusion (probably low-cons for "Jaws" and double-fogs for "E.T."), a trend that stopped in the early 80's around the time high-speed stocks were introduced. Of course, back then, the optics, either anamorphic or spherical, weren't as sharp as today best lenses, but some DPs preferred glass or net diffusion to counteract the fact that they were using hard-lights to obtain a more natural look (that was Chris Challis' approach to "The Deep").
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#3 Rich wood

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 08:28 AM

I agree about push processing, lighting, etc. Also agree about the differences between Jaws and ET, ...but...somehow, there is SOME similar element I am seeing. I have taken screen captures and tried studying the frames. I'm usually pretty good at communicating to my brain what my eye sees but there is something different about these period films - yet similar to each other.

One definite feeling I am experiencing is the result of anamorphic. I will have to take some more grabs and further compare. I even noticed it in a lower budget film such as Black Moon Rising.

Then I was watching Bullit and that was even MORE of this characteristic (dipping back a decade now). I will do some further research and reply.

Thanks!
Rich
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