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White Balance and Lighting in "Gone Girl"

gone girl red white balance

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#1 Robbie Fatt

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 07:01 PM

Pretty much since "The Social Network" Jeff Cronenweth has been shooting with David Fincher on RED and he seems to really make amazing images with the camera. The thing I really struggle to understand is the colour throughout his films. What white balance does he set his cameras to? There are so many different colours throughout the film. Does he stick to the normal white balance (3200K and 5600K) or does he do something different. 

 

This shot looks like he has his white balance at like 3200K:
gone_girl_0029.jpg

 

And this shot looks like he has his white balance normal at 5600K: 
gone_girl_1917.jpg

 

But what about this? 

gone_girl_1062.jpg

 

I know that he works with kinos and emulates fluorescent light for a lot of indoor stuff so did he just change the white balance to get a different result for these two images:
gone_girl_0881.jpg

gone_girl_218.jpg

Any information would be helpful thanks!!!


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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 10:46 PM

That's not necessarily just white balance, that could just be grading, or filtration, or lighting, or a combination of the four. Production design is also an issue. It's possible that the first fluorescent shot looks warmer because everything in the scene is painted slightly yellowish hues.

 

Don't assume electronic trickery when it could just as well be what was in front of the camera.

 

P


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#3 Robbie Fatt

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 10:53 PM

Haha okay thanks!!!

I just keep seeing a similar look again and again from Cronenweth in "The Social Network", "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", "House of Cards" and "Gone Girl". It would be interesting to see how much of the look has been done in the grade and how much is in the lights/ production design/ camera.


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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 02:34 AM

Well you know too; with the red, white balance is largely irrelevant as it's just stored metadata. That said the cameras is natively 5500K or so- but it's a button push in post to change that later on.

What really matters is primarily what's in front of the lens in a lot of those shots, as Phil mentions-- design and lighting, and then all you can do in a modern DI grade, which is also pretty astounding.


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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 05:22 AM

You want to look into David Fincher's shooting methods. He has a very particular approach that informs the look of all his films. Besides Jeff Cronenweth, he has worked with such greats as Darius Khondji, Harris Savides, Claudio Miranda, and Conrad W. Hall among others and yet his films all share the same visual sensibility. Cronenweth did not work on 'House of Cards' btw, Season 1 was Eigil Bryld and Tim Ives, Season 2 was Igor Martinovic, Season 3 was Martin Ahlgren and Peter Konczal. Fincher only directed S1 Episodes 1-2, but set the look for the whole show. They have deviated a bit from his style in later seasons.

Fincher's shooting philosophy is basically heightened naturalism. He feels the camera should be an objective observer, so the camera is either locked off on sticks, moving with a character on a dolly, or revealing a wide or pushing in on a detail on a Technocrane. He has moved away from Steadicam and handheld operating over the years. Simple and elegant multi-camera coverage on moderate wide angle and moderate telephoto lenses in just a few angles, but those angles need to be perfect. Every shot is taken many times and has post-stabilization and digital effects applied to add environmental details, replace parts of the frame, makeup fx, and even splicing actor performances from different takes.

It seems like he prefers to save money by having a small nimble crew with minimal equipment, so he often shoots in low-light scenarios with nearly wide open Master Primes with only NDs, no diffusion. No DIT on set. Lots of rectilinear and centered shots with very specific lens heights. Lots of use of practicals, kinos, and fluorescents. He doesn't shy away from mixing color temperatures but they are usually not too saturated and not more than two colors at any one time. Fire is orange, overhead fluorescents are yellow-green, tungsten practicals are warm, moonlight and ambient skylight is blue. He often uses a cool daylight palette outdoors, so shooting with a white balance around 4300-4700k instead of 5600k. Night and flourescent-lit interiors are very warm and usually biased towards green, often with bluish moonlight or warm sodium vapor light from the windows. He doesn't like magenta skin tones, so everything is pushed slightly green overall. Additionally, he likes to expose for the background and let the foreground characters fall off into darkness. So the key could be a very soft bounce from one side with negative fill, or something like a Kino or overhead chimera pancake, or nothing at all. I think mostly what the audience responds to is the contrast in the image along with careful composition and production design.
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#6 Albion Hockney

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 10:46 AM

As Satsuki kinda implied I think a lot of the look comes from Fincher rather then the specfic shooters. Fincher has a pretty specific way of working. I think a lot of the look is the composition/PD as said. The other side of it is the fact he keeps thing very "Natural" lighting is never really super stylized and if it is the stylization is found in contrast ratios. IE Silhouettes or something.... Sources are very rarely shown strongly at all.

 

I also think part of the look is the RED camera itself which he seems to really show its face. I always feel you can very obviously tell his films are shot on RED. Can't really point to the specific details of why, but I know I'm not the only one to feel that way. Maybe it's just the minimal lighting and pushing the camera a bit.


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 12:17 PM

I think a lot of the look is in front of the camera, production design, lighting, lens choice, movement and composition.

He does use post tricks to enhance all of that, like shooting 6K and stabilizing a lot of his camera moves,and perfecting the headroom, etc. but I wouldn't think of that as some sort of radical alteration to the image, more like polishing a polished image further.

He also, in the past at least, has employed noise reduction to get a smooth image and then applied noise / grain to create an overall consistent texture. Again this sort of enhances his minimalist approach rather than creates a look wholesale in post.

I think a lot of these post tricks are icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Too many people get obsessed with tricks as if there is a "Fincher" button someone can install on After Effects to get that look, when they'd be better off watching all of the Gordon Willis movies from the 70's that Fincher has obviously studied.
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 03:39 PM

I also think part of the look is the RED camera itself which he seems to really show its face. I always feel you can very obviously tell his films are shot on RED. Can't really point to the specific details of why, but I know I'm not the only one to feel that way. Maybe it's just the minimal lighting and pushing the camera a bit.


Sharpness and color response maybe? They are rather distinctive.
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#9 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 03:53 PM

I think a lot of these post tricks are icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Too many people get obsessed with tricks as if there is a "Fincher" button someone can install on After Effects to get that look, when they'd be better off watching all of the Gordon Willis movies from the 70's that Fincher has obviously studied.


Definitely. I hadn't really thought about the Willis connection but now that you point it out it's really obvious. Fincher's fondness for the CinemaScope aspect ratio (if not most of the lens artifacts) probably has something to do with Willis's work as well. The subject matter he chooses to work with also seems to have a strong connection to those 70's films.
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#10 Dennis Hingsberg

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Posted 23 November 2015 - 12:21 PM

post-65277-0-97298800-1436227226.jpgpost-65277-0-97298800-1436227226.jpg

 
I'd sort of say that a lot of the "look" is coming from grading. Put the original frame with Ben Affleck on some scopes the dark side of his face is 12% IRE and bright side under 40%.
 
Screen-Shot-2015-11-23-at-12.07.jpg
 
Here's what the original shot might have looked like before grading:
 
cc-f3.jpg
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#11 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 23 November 2015 - 12:36 PM

I just keep seeing a similar look again and again from Cronenweth in "The Social Network", "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", "House of Cards" and "Gone Girl".

 

Exactly.  I've seen just about all of them and they evoke pretty much the same mood to the point where they begin to blend into one another.  From what I've read about David Fincher, he is fully in charge.  And it seems that he and Cronenweth have moved into something of a visual comfort zone.  It'd be nice to see something a bit more daring one of these days.


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#12 JJ Labritakis

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Posted 06 December 2015 - 07:55 PM

I was on that set here and there as a guest of Jeff. From what I remember, the white balance was never set to 3200K and 5600K. Jeff and Fincher would dial in their white balance for each shot.


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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 December 2015 - 08:02 PM

Crikey. Is that literally every shot, or every scene?


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#14 JJ Labritakis

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Posted 06 December 2015 - 08:27 PM

I should've said scene. Definitely each scene.


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