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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Lighting


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#1 James Malamatinas

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:08 PM

I was watching The Good, The Bad and The Ugly today and was curious as to the kind of lighting/make up effects used for much of the close-ups and shots of faces. In these shots the film image looks amazingly sharp, sharper than most of the hi definition digital images I've seen recently. The lighting in the scenes is normally very bright and with a golden glow used to light the skin and show off all of the imperfections and marks on the characters face. This appears to be bought out further by using some kind of shine on the skin.

Are there any special tricks being used in terms of lighting or make-up? Is the film stock more of a contributor, or possible the colour timing? I'm not too familiar with lighting so any feedback would be really appreciated.

I couldn't find a perfect example online, but I've included a slightly soft image from the opening shot that has the kind of look I'm talking about.



I find it an amazing look which I really have noticed too much outside of westerns. If you could point me to anymore films with similar examples that would be great! Thanks in advance for any replies.

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#2 KH Martin

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:39 PM

I've always been struck by the textures and skin tones on Connery in the early Bond films shot by Ted Moore. To be honest, I figure it is just those slow stocks (ASA 50 for everything in color, I think) producing gorgeous results when there is enough light (and that means enough light for the lenses, which weren't as fast.)

If you look at the TV shows of the era on disk now, you just see a wealth of makeup on everybody instead of skin textures.

Then when you get the fast stocks in the 70s, you start not getting this amount of detail in many films, so I'd guess there is a correlation. Not to say there aren't beautiful films from later on (I think Owen Roizman's work on TRUE CONFESSIONS was almost like Willis' GODFATHER, just minus the golden in the glow), but for me few have the richness of texture and detail that you see (or seem to see) in the 60s stuff. That's going as much on my own memories of seeing stuff in the theater as re-viewing on DVD, but I'm sure when I start BluRaying I'll probably have to reassess again, at least on the films that haven't been ruined by that DNR make-faces-into-wax treatment.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:43 PM

Shiny movie make-up for men was popular in the 1950's and 60's for some reason, along with hair gel... just look at a Cary Grant movie like "To Catch a Thief", or movies with tanned male actors in general (look at Stephen Boyd in "Ben Hur"...). Combine that with hard lighting from arcs and reflector boards, and that's a lot of kick off of the skin. Having the hard light come at a raking angle accentuated the effect and all of this made up for the somewhat softer film stocks of the day (one could reductively describe classic studio photography as being hard-lit using softer stocks and lenses while modern photography is soft-lit using sharper stocks and lenses.) The higher contrast of the stocks and printing processes (like dye transfer Technicolor) helped improve the impression of sharpness in older color movies but it was primarily the use of harder lighting.
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#4 Sean Elder

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:23 AM

Shiny movie make-up for men was popular in the 1950's and 60's for some reason, along with hair gel... just look at a Cary Grant movie like "To Catch a Thief", or movies with tanned male actors in general (look at Stephen Boyd in "Ben Hur"...). Combine that with hard lighting from arcs and reflector boards, and that's a lot of kick off of the skin. Having the hard light come at a raking angle accentuated the effect and all of this made up for the somewhat softer film stocks of the day (one could reductively describe classic studio photography as being hard-lit using softer stocks and lenses while modern photography is soft-lit using sharper stocks and lenses.) The higher contrast of the stocks and printing processes (like dye transfer Technicolor) helped improve the impression of sharpness in older color movies but it was primarily the use of harder lighting.



So would it be safe to say in reproducing this type of look, softer (or older lenses) and hard lighting sources would be proper to use? Or is that dependent on the other variables like camera, format, color correction, etc.?
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:15 AM

So would it be safe to say in reproducing this type of look, softer (or older lenses) and hard lighting sources would be proper to use? Or is that dependent on the other variables like camera, format, color correction, etc.?


Everything has to be taken into account. Often we see these questions about what stocks and lenses such-and-such movie was shot on, only to find out that the person is asking about a 35mm movie but is planning on shooting in 16mm, so the same stock isn't going to have the same grain structure, nor will the sharpness be the same, no matter what the size of the negative is.

I think it is more important to recreate your perception of how these older movies were shot than actually recreate them using the same tools, unless you have access to all the same tools, not just one or two of them. But the odds of you shooting 2-perf 35mm and blowing it up to anamorphic using a direct-to-matrix dye transfer process at Technicolor is unlikely.

I think the main thing here is to match the lighting style, focal length choice, composition, make-up, costume design, etc. Yes, color correction always matters but this is not a particularly stylized-looking movie in terms of the photographic approach, it was straight-forward photography using 35mm color negative. The look is mostly a stylistic choice in front of the camera, not some sort of post-processing.
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#6 James Malamatinas

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 01:31 PM

Thank you guys for the responses, as ever I'm very impressed by the thoroughness of the answers! I'm not actually looking to recreate it for any particular project at the moment, I was just more interested in what contributes to such a look and how, most of which has been answered.

Out of curiosity what film has a look that is closest to a 'modern' version of this look? I know that's kinda vague but hopefully you know what I mean :unsure:?
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 03:17 PM

No one is going to agree since we all have different perceptions of these old stocks, but I'd probably try a Fuji Vivid stock to get some of the hardness and grain of these 1960's movies (until 1968, most of these movies would have been shot on Kodak 5251, a 50 ASA tungsten color negative stock.)
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#8 BRANDON JAMESON

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 12:54 AM

Dave, you are so cool and so generous with your time and wealth of talent..thanks.
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