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Suffragette

Super-16 + Alexa

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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 03:03 PM

Saw this movie on Sunday at the Landmark Theater in the Westside Pavilion...

 

I've always liked the use of Super-16 for color period movies set around the turn of the last century, even though there really wasn't a true 3-color process back then.  The grain and softness create an organic "filter" for the image that removes it from the contemporary and evokes older processes like 1940's Agfacolor, autochrome photographs, etc.  Some movies have achieved this with push-processed 35mm and older optics -- I've always loved the Little Italy scenes in "The Godfather Part II" for this reason, especially the shots made near dusk on the streets.

 

"Suffragette" was shot in Super-16 cropped to 2.40, with low-light night scenes shot on the Alexa on softer optics and with grain added in post.  Day interiors were still shot in Super-16, even some large ones and some low-light ones.  The combination worked rather well, though a trained cinematographer can spot the differences.

 

The Super-16 was timed on the pastel side, soft blacks and colors, suiting the period, and in general there is sort of a bleakness and somber cool tone to almost everything.  Only occasionally did I feel that the widest shots of the city streets in daytime looked a bit too lacking in resolution (particularly the first time the film cuts wide), otherwise the softness was pleasant in tighter shots, again evoking older film processes without resorting to diffusion filters.  There is a race track scene at the end which is a bit sharper and less grainy than the earlier scenes, I assume either because the sunlight helped with overexposure or perhaps they switched to a slower stock.

 

It's funny because I never used to notice this until digital photography became more prominent, but one clue that you are looking at film is that bright edges often have a reddish fringe to them.  Now perhaps this is an optics issue as well because I've noticed this effect with Cooke lenses, but in general, overexposed edges around lights and windows often have this warm fringe with film.

 

The night scenes had a very realistic look, shot in very low light levels on the Alexa.  Your first clue that it was shot on the Alexa is mainly that the depth of field is much shallower being a 35mm sensor rather than Super-16, but considering the low light levels, my eye accepted it as typical of the results of using fast lenses in such situations.  And despite the softer lenses used, the shallow focus, and the grain added, sometimes the Alexa images are still sharper than the Super-16 ones, but in general, it blends pretty well, helped by the fact that the two formats are shot in such different circumstances -- cool daylight versus flame-lit dark interiors.

 

The movie is shot in a semi-documentary style, deliberate roughness in the moves, sometimes "grabbed" moments, but it is consistent.

 

The movie shows that Super-16 is alive and well, and perfectly valid for productions of this scale.


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#2 Miguel Angel

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 04:00 PM

I can't wait to see what Edu did this time!
I watched the trailer a while back and I was sold instantly so I'm very happy reading that you liked it!

Have a good day!
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#3 Kalle Folke

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 04:55 PM

David: This is from this article http://www.definitionmagazine.com/journal/2015/10/21/l0yjl91mt9dsl72264mhm85691o4zu:  (The main lenses used were the Angenieux zooms, the three short new ones 15-40, 28-76 and 45-150.)


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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 05:31 PM

I've always liked the use of Super-16 for color period movies set around the turn of the last century, even though there really wasn't a true 3-color process back then.  The grain and softness create an organic "filter" for the image that removes it from the contemporary and evokes older processes like 1940's Agfacolor, autochrome photographs, etc.  Some movies have achieved this with push-processed 35mm and older optics -- I've always loved the Little Italy scenes in "The Godfather Part II" for this reason, especially the shots made near dusk on the streets.


Interesting observation. I think also reducing the color purity that you get with modern lens coatings and sensor dyes, and also strictly controlling the overall color palette in conjunction with the production designer helps so much to transport the audience into another time period as well. Willis has said that everyone started copying his 'brassy yellow' look for period films after the Godfather films, not understanding that the color treatment was only a single element of the overall look.

It's funny because I never used to notice this until digital photography became more prominent, but one clue that you are looking at film is that bright edges often have a reddish fringe to them.  Now perhaps this is an optics issue as well because I've noticed this effect with Cooke lenses, but in general, overexposed edges around lights and windows often have this warm fringe with film.


Absolutely. I believe this is mostly due to the red-sensitive layer on the film being inherently faster and thus saturating and blooming earlier than the blue and green layers. Also possibly being slightly out of focus at the film plane compared to the blue and green layers. Could also be the anti-halation backing failing due to extreme overexposure of some highlights. I know that with Cinestill 800T (5219) negative film where the backing has been removed in a pre-wash before exposure, highlights tend to have an extreme red halo that is like an extreme version of the usual effect we are discussing.

Yet another factor could be due to specific lens coatings. I also have noticed this effect more with Cookes, Standard and Super Speeds, and occasionally Ultra Primes. Less so with more modern glass. Larry Thorpe at Canon had an interesting discussion online where I believe he mentioned that the Canon Cine Zooms had coatings designed to slightly diffuse and scatter the color red, thus rendering softer skin tones (mostly red and green) with digital sensors. I'll see if I can find a link. Will have to test that out to see if it holds up, but I've generally found the Canon Cine Zooms to look their best under warm to neutral light, cool skylight scenes tends to look washed out unless underexposed a bit.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 27 October 2015 - 06:51 PM

Usually I'd have assumed it was a case of too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash, but they're well at the budget level where they could have done anything they wanted - I mean, it's a Meryl Streep film.

 

P


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