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History of diffusion ?


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#1 Albion Hockney

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Posted 07 September 2014 - 12:50 AM

I was curious if anyone here can trace back the history of the use of diffusion in lighting (not on lenses).....it seems it wasn't really till into the 60's 70's you start seeing more natrualistic lighting and softer sources.

 

I wonder what cinematographers first started diffusing lights and why the initally began to do it. Seems it would be something they would do to help make women look pretty ...but I wonder what shooters started to pionner more natrualistic lighting in general.


Edited by Albion Hockney, 07 September 2014 - 12:50 AM.

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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 07 September 2014 - 01:50 AM

I suspect it goes back to the early silent film studios, when they were using sunlight through glass house type roofs. In those days it would be probably for simple practical; overall lighting from an overhead sun. I gather Billy Bitzer claimed to be the first to use a reflector for soft lighting on faces, although that seems to be open to question.

 

Soft lighting really came into it's own with colour becoming common, because you didn't need separation, but using a soft lighting style came more from Europe than the American studios..


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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 07 September 2014 - 02:41 AM

Also, more sensitive stocks made using soft lighting easier. Although, it's still surprising how many higher wattage lights are used when shooting with soft light and still have a stop of about f2.8.


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#4 John Holland

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Posted 07 September 2014 - 04:48 AM

David Watkin really started soft lighting in UK in features in the early/mid sixties with " The Knack" B/W. "Help" Eastman Colour. " The Charge of the Light Brigade" Colour/Panavision , Others then followed like Ossie Morris BSC.


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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 September 2014 - 09:34 AM

Besides the muslin-diffused ceilings of glass stages in the early silent era, later when sets started being lit, there was a soft lighting unit called a Cooper-Hewitt that was similar in effect to a large Kinoflo.  If you look at the lighting by Charles Rosher in a movie like Mary Pickford's "Sparrows" (1926), it's not that far off from contemporary work, the key light is often soft from large Cooper-Hewitts and hard sunlight is coming from carbon arcs.  People were also using spun glass as diffusers back then.

 

Sound and color killed the Cooper-Hewitts (they buzzed and they had a blue-green mercury vapor color) and even carbon arcs were banished in the earliest days of sound recording until they could be designed to be quieter, so most early sound movies were lit with incandescent lamps.  Soft lighting was still used in the 1930's but mainly for close-up work.

 

You can see some fairly soft-lit (with Cooper-Hewitts) silent era sets here, halfway down the page:

http://pstp-edison.com/thompson.html

 

They look like giant Kinoflos.


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#6 Albion Hockney

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Posted 08 September 2014 - 12:58 PM

This is great was really interested to watch some early soft lighting work. David that picture is great! looks like image 80's ...so funny does look like modern lighting!

 

 

John, I tottaly forgot about help! I always loved the photography in that film I need to return to it

 

Curious if anyone else has some recomends for early pioneer's of soft light and natrualistic work

 

thanks much


Edited by Albion Hockney, 08 September 2014 - 01:01 PM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 September 2014 - 04:20 PM

I think after soft lighting went out of vogue in the 1930's, you have to look at what Ozzie Morris was doing in the U.K. for some of his 1960's movies like "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967) and "Oliver!" (1968) where stages were lit with space lights for the first time, and what David Watkin was doing in "Help!" (1965) and "Marat/Sade" (1967) with large panels of diffusion as a source. Also look at the French New Wave, particularly Raoul Coutard's use of ceiling bounces for location work starting around "Breathless" (1960) and "Contempt" (1963).

Ozzie Morris and Geoffrey Unsworth fascinate me because their style is a transition between classic studio lighting and later soft lighting styles, though in their case, it was less about being naturalistic and more about being painterly and expressionistic. But even in their later films, there was always a mix between studio-era hard lighting and later soft lighting. In the U.S. you had people like William Fraker doing a similar mix, also Zsigmond and Kovacs.
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#8 Albion Hockney

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Posted 08 September 2014 - 07:25 PM

Oh yes Contempt! what a beautiful film I have to revist that one certaintly.

 

 

Interesting to bring up people using soft light as expressionist as well I like that idea a lot.


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