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real life style vs. movie life style


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#1 Justin Hayward

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 02:53 PM

One thing I've recently noticed popping up a lot lately that seems to separate amateur directors (and DP's that can't spot the problem) from professional ones is asking for flat and nasty (although they may not use those words exactly ;) because the situation would look flat and nasty in real life.

 

Just because something looks crummy in real life doesn't mean it needs to look crummy on film for it to look like real life.  I'm not yelling at "The House of Cards" about how the White House would never be lit like that, but I'm pretty sure people in the real White House aren't constantly walking around in silhouettes.  

 

When it comes to film, you can have your cake and eat it too.

 

How do some of you handle directors that ask you to make it look "real," i.e. flat?

 

Thanks


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#2 Justin Hayward

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 03:14 PM

And I don't mean to say this is concrete.  I'm sure I can find examples where over lighting was appropriate.  Just saying it's unusual.


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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 03:17 PM

I agree entirely.  Film is not real life and should not be lit as such.  If people want to watch real life lighting they can watch the news.

 

On Against The Wild the crew lugged the big lights and generators through the woods, because the last thing I wanted was "real life" lighting.  On the website, againstthewild.com, you can see all the lights we had on some of the outdoor scenes.  It's absolutely required in my book.

 

One interesting movie they chucked out this philosophy on was Pale Rider with Clint Eastwood.  It appears they just used the natural light in each outdoor shot.  And I certainly can't say it was "bad" per se.

 

R,


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#4 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 04:38 PM

Sometimes directors who are less experienced will be confused when watching a monitor at video village and not understand why an actor may be shadowed or slightly under key in a scene which we see all the time.  It's something we're all accustomed to seeing in every movie and TV show when we're watching it on the couch at home.  An actor is a few stops over key by the window and then they walk into the center of the room and the camera tracks with them and they go darker as they move away from the window.  Well, they should go darker cause they're moving away from a light source.  Logical right?

 

However when it's an isolated incident during principal photography, a new director may call out for more light on the faces and it won't be until they see it projected that they realize it's looking a little flat and unnatural.  

"Real life" lighting actually looks a lot more like your typical 3 point movie lighting because in real life, people don't stand anywhere that a light is shining right into our eyes  We'll turn our heads to the side and be lit at an angle to avoid the glare and generally, we'll create our own key light.  You notice this a lot more when you're in the middle of a shoot. You begin to notice how similar life looks to good film lighting.


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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 06:14 PM

Well hopefully I'm working with a director who at least marginally trusts me, and in such case I'll warn them to an aside that doing so may make a less than interesting image. If all that fails, and they really want that look I will comply. It is not my call what the overall style the director wants to go for it. That's their prerogative as the director to make that choice and I will support it-- though I will always voice my own ideas. and I will normally sneak in some stuff when I can. Thankfully, it hasn't much come up recently for me, though there are times when it looks crummy by design.


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#6 Artyom Zakharenko

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 05:34 PM

I worked with a director like that last year. He insisted the whole film to be shot with 2 cameras no matter what, it had to be done with 2 running cameras. So in overshoulder situations, the light would work only for 1 camera, but that didnt matter because as he stated: 'light is not important and a waste of time'. Then i imagined what it would look like in the edit and thought, time to pack my stuff and get out, so i packed my stuff and got out. Passed the job to another DP. Looking back.. best choice of my life. Now, 14 months later, they ask the other DP how come it looks so weird.


Edited by Artyom Zakharenko, 29 March 2014 - 05:37 PM.

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#7 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 12:31 AM

That's right Artyom multiple cameras rarely saves time, and lighting for two directions at once is damn near impossible.  Obvious exceptions would be set piece stunts done in one take, etc.

 

R,


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#8 Justin Hayward

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 12:47 AM

Lighting for two cameras facing a 180 degrees the opposite direction is tough, but I've seen it work in improve situations where the lighting is second to the performances.


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#9 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 04:29 PM

There is no reality in film even in reality shows. Film is the illusion of reality. Making something look "Real" is still an artistic choice. Everything in the frame is there for a reason otherwise it should not be there. Every frame should be a composition of artistic expression for the soul purpose of evoking an emotional response from the audience, so in MY opinion, the director who wanted you to make it look "real," i.e. flat, was exercising his artistic prerogative of expression. Honestly, I think your decision to leave the shoot because you disagreed with the director's (who is God on set) artistic vision is a bit unprofessional and a better course of action would have been to do the best job you could have to give him what HE wanted from the lighting department. You, as the cinematographer, should have the right of discussion but once the decision has been made, that discussion is over and really, the discussion should be HOW you achieve his vision, not WHY he's creating a setup that looks like that. Your job is to do what you;'re asked to do to the best of your ability. The director doesn't have time to explain his decisions, nor does he (or she) have the obligation to justify his vision. If you can't understand that, you're in the wrong job.


Edited by James Steven Beverly, 02 April 2014 - 04:30 PM.

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#10 Nicholas Bedford

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 06:47 PM

The problem with things looking "real" is that not even we see people and objects the way the camera sees the same things. Our brains do a lot of masking to the imperfections that a camera will reveal. Not only that, we see far more gentle shadows and highlights than a camera does.

 

Trying explain what I mean is a little difficult...

 

I see a person for who they are. I sense the shape of their face because I have binocular vision. I notice their eyes, I notice their mouth talking, their hair style, their hands moving. Yes, as a photographer I can look at the lighting striking their face and analyse it, but my brain seems to be doing a lot of retouching on the fly. I don't tend to notice their skin flaws or the way the lighting is not doing them justice unless these things are very obvious.

 

When I take a picture of the same person, all the skin flaws, lighting conditions, expression and pose are made very plainly obvious. In the end, a camera sees a far different image than what we as humans see.

 

So when we light and compose, we are seeking a version of the beauty that we see with our own eyes through our minds because ultimately, cameras don't see what we see.

 

Am I making sense or just rambling on?


Edited by Nicholas Bedford, 02 April 2014 - 06:51 PM.

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#11 Alex Wuijts

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 02:30 AM

James you don't know whether shooting had already started. Obviously Artyom had every right to stop before he got himself into something he didn't want to do. Most of the times you find out well before shooting the director is a dumbass (or dp in your case). 

Although I do agree with your sentiment. Once you agree on working together you do your best to translate his/her vision to the screen. And if ugly is a conscious choice, than you go for ugly with all the energy you have. If it's not you better run and don't look back!


Edited by Alex Wuijts, 03 April 2014 - 02:32 AM.

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#12 Artyom Zakharenko

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 06:55 AM

@James

Please read my comment carefully and stop making things up, because i never said the director wanted a 'real' looking image and i never said i didnt support the director's vision.
I understood the director's vision pretty well and i supported it. BUT, if a director suddenly during the shoot changes his mind and says light is not important, the looks of the film dont really matter and there's no time to make a proper image, then i feel like i walked into a trap. Why am i needed then if i dont even get the chance to deliver the director what we agreed on during preproduction? During preproduction we both agreed on a particular look and workflow, everything we discussed changed all of a sudden just because he got annoyed of waiting for light set up, time was the only thing that bothered him. Now, since i care about my work and dont want my name attached to a film that looks like its shot in 1 day (if you know what i mean), i walked away. Unlike you, i prefer quality over quantity, because according to what ur saying, the director in your eyes is an all knowing wise dictating God who everyone should obey. Maybe thats how things work in the States, but in Europe we try to understand each other, and to make sure everyone is on the same page and work together towards 1 film. If you have a big ego in the film industry, perhaps ur in the wrong job.


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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 08:20 AM

To be honest I think it's great that Artyom found someone else to do the work. Clearly that other person was happy to work in that way and Artyom wasn't. Artyom said "No" and that is a good thing. People need to say no more often rather than feeling forced to do something they don't want to.

 

It would not be good for anybody on set if Artyom was there working on something he felt awful about doing and felt conned about. Instead he found someone else who was happy to be doing the work which probably at least made for a happier set, even if the results were still rubbish.

 

So finding someone who was happier to do the work was better for everybody involved. Director included.

 

Freya


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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 08:23 AM

That's right Artyom multiple cameras rarely saves time, and lighting for two directions at once is damn near impossible.  Obvious exceptions would be set piece stunts done in one take, etc.

 

R,

 

Well it can save time if you are lighting everything flat and are cranking it out, hence the traditional televison style being different than the cinema style. "Reality" shows often have loads of cameras and are happy with that way of working.

 

Freya


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#15 Artyom Zakharenko

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 09:29 AM

funny you mentioned that Freya, made me think of this part

from 4.50


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#16 Freya Black

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 10:05 AM

Heh heh! Good to see other people saying this stuff straight up.

 

I can understand why people say yes to a lot of things because they don't want to miss out but ironically sometimes when you are saying yes to something you are basically saying no to something else that could have happened, something else that might have been more important to you.

 

What's even worse is that you are possibly taking away an opportunity from someone else, and while it might not have been the right thing for you it might have been the right thing for that other person.

 

You kind of need to be making active choices about things as much as you feel you can, because when you aren't making choices you are basically letting things happen to you, which makes people feel powerless and not in control of their lives.

 

It really is especially the worst when people feel they have to do something and have no choice and feel trapped.

 

Freya


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#17 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 02:39 PM

There are times when a director can be wrong.  For example, if I'm shooting a day exterior and a director watching a monitor says it's too dark,  I will look over and If there aren't two 4x4 floppys surrounding the village, I have a large duvatine cut on the ready in my bag and I'll have them look at the monitor and I'll put it over them so that they see the image in complete darkness and then ask me to open up a stop.  Of course, once they do that and see how it actually looks, they are always fine with the exposure. But ambient daylight washing the screen will cause everyone to freak out and think it's too dark.  

 

Had I just been "agreeable" and opened up my lens, I'd have been overexposing the shot and making both myself and the director look bad.  So there are cases where you need to watch your own back.  How you handle that is the critical thing.

 

When it comes to discussing key to fill ratios, just do it in a meeting before you start shooting.  Watch clips of similar scenes and figure out the look before you get in there.  Seems like the easiest way to go.  


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#18 Justin Hayward

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 10:46 PM

The problem with things looking "real" is that not even we see people and objects the way the camera sees the same things. Our brains do a lot of masking to the imperfections that a camera will reveal. Not only that, we see far more gentle shadows and highlights than a camera does.

 

Trying explain what I mean is a little difficult...

No, that makes really good sense. 


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#19 Justin Hayward

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 10:50 PM

Sometimes directors who are less experienced will be confused when watching a monitor at video village and not understand why an actor may be shadowed or slightly under key in a scene which we see all the time.  It's something we're all accustomed to seeing in every movie and TV show when we're watching it on the couch at home.  An actor is a few stops over key by the window and then they walk into the center of the room and the camera tracks with them and they go darker as they move away from the window.  Well, they should go darker cause they're moving away from a light source.  Logical right?

 

However when it's an isolated incident during principal photography, a new director may call out for more light on the faces and it won't be until they see it projected that they realize it's looking a little flat and unnatural.  

"Real life" lighting actually looks a lot more like your typical 3 point movie lighting because in real life, people don't stand anywhere that a light is shining right into our eyes  We'll turn our heads to the side and be lit at an angle to avoid the glare and generally, we'll create our own key light.  You notice this a lot more when you're in the middle of a shoot. You begin to notice how similar life looks to good film lighting.

Really good points.


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#20 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 11:11 PM

Yes, You're right, you never did say "real" That was my mistake, been doing a lot of late night editing and am a bit worn out so I incorporated the two posts and I do apologize for that. As for your other comment, fact of the matter is I am all about quality which is why, as a director, I don't want anyone to screw with my vision on the piece at hand. Now you say you did all you could to give this guy what he wanted and he was simply unreasonable then basically berated your job as unimportant. That makes him a bad director who doesn't belong anywhere near a set and one I doubt will have much in the way of a career.

 

Having re-read your post, I don't disagree with your decision to leave the shoot and again, apologize for my misreading of what happened. Actually, you had every justification to leave under those circumstances.  There is also validity in Alex' comment that had the shoot not began, short of one leaving the camera department in the lurch, there's no reason to feel bad about quitting if you decide you can't work with a particular director. So I hope that clears up everything with regards to your post, but in general, I stand by my statements of the director being "God" and the cinematographer, his right hand.

 

Creative people want to interject their ideas and that is the nature of their work but sometimes the intrusion can derail the creative process and cause decent within the ranks which is disastrous of set where things need to move quickly so it's best to wait for an appropriate time or at least moment....and YES I do have a BIG ego. You need to have a big ego if you plan on being a director, otherwise, you'd never had the guts to take on the this kind of work, but I NEVER let my ego get in the way of a good idea or a smart way of doing things no matter WHO makes the suggestion and that there is a fact, Jack!! B)


Edited by James Steven Beverly, 03 April 2014 - 11:16 PM.

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