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Effective Use of Warming Filters and Cinematographers Who Love Filters

filters warming filter coral straw antique suede tobacco gold yellow red orange

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#1 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 06:32 AM

So I’d like to know this: are there any particular scenes or films which in your view effectively used warming filters? But not only the warming ones, like 81 or 85, but also straw, antique suede, gold, coral, tobacco, or similar. And it also doesn’t have to be a particularly effective, but just something that you liked.

 

Two, are there any cinematographers today who really like the filter look and use them even though you can do a lot in postproduction? Or any cinematographers of the past who loved to use them. Or a cinematographer who is particularly associated with a filter or liked to use a certain kind.

 

And three, I was reading one of David Mullen’s posts yesterday where he says that what he does sometimes to achieve a warming effect is to use a blue filter, shoot a greyscale with it, then drop it for the scene, and then send a note to the colourist with a “pale yellow/golden look” message. So I was wondering, David – or anybody else who does a similar kind of thing – have you compared that look with a look of a filter the use of which would give a similar result? What’s the difference (apart from it, obviously, not being possible to remove the filter effect in postproduction)?

 

P. S. I only saw a Cokin gold filter, and that’s for still photography. Any other producers?

 

P. P. S. This might sound baffling, but would it be a terrible thing if there were a CTO lens filter? It would look awful? I was just thinking if, say, I was shooting something at 6500 K natural lighting, would it be possible to turn such a light into a 3000 K-ish sunset light with the use of such filter. It would probably kill a lot of other colours or something...


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#2 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 09:01 AM

A Wratten 85 Filter is basically the same color as CTO gel. It's used to convert 5600K to 3200K when shooting tungsten film in daylight, but can also be used as an effect filter.


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 11:01 AM

"Amelie" is a good example of the use of warming filters, Antique Suedes I think.

 

It's hard to talk about an "effective" use of warming filters since warm can be added in timing as well, in post, and is just as effective or not, so you might as well be asking about movies that have a warm bias to the image and whether that works or not -- the fact that a filter was used instead of post to get the warmth matters less.

 

Most warming filters of the same heaviness just vary by hue, some are more yellow-orange, some are more magenta-orange.  When the only way to finish a movie was photochemically using RGB printer light values, some cinematographers swore up and down on certain warming filters, finding it too hard to match that hue if doing it just with printer lights. William Fraker, ASC used to claim that the color of a Coral filter couldn't be created in print timing.  I'm not sure I agree but maybe I'm just less sensitive to the finer degrees of hue (color shift along the green-magenta axis).

 

Pale warming filters were all the rage in the 1980's and 1990's, particularly the 1/4 Coral.

 

I started out using them too but dropped after awhile, for various reasons. 

 

I was working as 2nd Unit on a low-budget movie where the DP used a 1/2 Coral filter on everything, as well as the 85 correction filter (to correct tungsten stock for daylight shooting), plus a Pola and a Color Enhancer --- I think there was at least a 3-stop light loss from all of these filters, plus that's a lot of glass to stack in front of the lens.  But he never shot grey scales at the head of his rolls, unlike me, who always shot a grey scale without the warming filter added yet, so that the filter effect would not get timed out in dailies.  So his dailies all were neutral, there was no warming effect of the Coral because the dailies colorist always just neutralized the first shot on the roll.  I told him that colorists weren't mind-readers, the grey scale was there to tell them what neutral was so that when a warm filtered shot followed it, it was clearly intentional.

 

Anyway in doing the final answer print, they put the warmth back in.

 

But even on my own movies as DP's, where I shot grey scales and then put in the 1/4 Coral to get warm-toned dailies, I found that when I went to start answer printing, the first thing the timer did was make the first answer print neutral as a starting point, so it was in the second answer print that we added the warmth back in -- and I was sitting there in the theater saying "another point of red" or "a little more yellow" just to get a print with the warm color cast I wanted.

 

At this point, I realized that if warmth could so easily be taken away or added by both the dailies colorist and the print timer, then why was I wasting the time shooting with a warming filter?  It was just an extra piece of glass on the lens that could cause a flare or a double reflection, plus it had a light loss.

 

So I changed tactics and started carrying pale cooling filters, light blue filters, and I shot my grey scales with that filter on and then pulled it for the scene.  Now with dailies, the timer neutralized the blue filtered grey scale and then the following unfiltered scene had a warm bias to it.  I also shot a sign after the grey scale to tell him that the warm bias was intentional. So I got my warm dailies.  Inside, instead of a blue filter on the lens, I could use a light blue gel on the light used for the grey scale, like a 1/4 CTB.

 

Then in post, making the answer print, we created a shade of warmth using the printer lights.

 

Now if I wanted a much more extreme color bias to the image, like for a sepia-toned flashback, I'd still use filters because I didn't want to make extreme changes to the printer light values -- in this case, a heavy filter was biasing the negative so heavily away from neutral that it was affecting the density of the color layers enough that simply doing the effect in post wouldn't quite give you the same results.  For example, if I used a Coral 5 or a heavy Chocolate filter, I'd be cancelling so much blue information on the negative that it would be hard to restore it in post, so the effect caused a little bit of desaturation, which was useful for doing a western or period piece.  Now today, I'd still probably do it in post because digital color-correction tools are so good, but it just depends on the amount of footage I needed to have with that heavy effect.  If a brief flashback or dream, I might do it on set with filters on the camera because it is a quick way of getting the effect and I can deal with the inconvenience of the light loss and the extra glass for just a few shots.  But if it were an entire movie, I'd probably figure out a way of getting that look in post, particularly for interiors.  Even in the case of "Amelie" I think they only used the Antique Suede filters outdoors.


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#4 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 12:52 AM

I'm using 85 filters for Day scenes on the movie I'm shooting currently. Normally, I would set my white balance to around 7000K for a warming effect in daylight, but we're shooting with Sony F55s in Cine EI mode, so I'm restricted to 3 preset white balances in camera. Basically, with the exception of night exteriors, we are shooting the whole movie with the camera set at 4300K. All daylight scenes are shot with the 85 Filters, which give a lovely warm glow to our LA set movie. Night interiors, and our stage work is lit with tungsten lamps, still with the cameras balanced for 4300K, but without the 85.

 

This is a look that evolved while we were shooting, so there is some material from the first few days of the shoot that will have to be color-timed to match what we are doing now. If we had started the movie with this in mind, I may well have tested other filters, like Chocolate or Antique Suede. As it is, for convenience we are using 85 filters and I will make some other corrections in post


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#5 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 01:50 AM

According to Sony.. the pre set only WB in Cine EI mode is to insure maximum dynamic range... something to do with the color channels I guess.. just out of interest is there a reason you decided to filter in camera rather than do it in post.. (this is not NOT questioning your choice at all.. Im just trying to learn )

 

Thanks


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#6 aapo lettinen

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 08:46 AM

one thing to take into account is that with filters you may change color channel exposure and compression to technically worse balance compared to making the look in timing. 

for example, by using heavy warming filters you are intentionally underexposing the blue channel which may, depending on situation, lead to more compression artefacts and noise compared to shooting neutral and adding the look in post. 

 

That said, it may be useful to make the look "halfway through" with in-camera filters and enhance it in post with additional filtering. that way you don't compromise the technical quality as much and may even enhance it quite a bit.

For example, if you are shooting a warm-toned scene in dim overcast weather or in shade (very cold ambience) then it would be very useful to use warming filters in camera to lower the blue channel exposure--->open the iris a bit--->get better red channel exposure, better signal/noise ratio with the final look, less compression artefacts and better use of the camera's dynamic range. doesn't matter if it's raw, compressed video or film, it always enhances image quality


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#7 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 10:30 AM

According to Sony.. the pre set only WB in Cine EI mode is to insure maximum dynamic range... something to do with the color channels I guess.. just out of interest is there a reason you decided to filter in camera rather than do it in post.. (this is not NOT questioning your choice at all.. Im just trying to learn )

 

Thanks

I always like my dailies to look as they are intended to look. That way, everyone gets used to the look, and there are no surprised producers further down the line when we color-time. As I said, usually I'd do the warming with the WB control, but as I can't on this project, and as I'm not sure that I'll be at the timing sessions, I'm doing it with filtration.


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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 06:38 PM

I'd like to add a note of caution here.

All this talk of using whatever technique to add warmth or coolness to the image is of course very straightforward and effective. The problem is as Stuart mentions the issue of people being surprised by it. Even when people have looked at monitors on the day and been very happy, even congratulatory, where these techniques have been used, it's not unusual to hear complaints a week later when we're all looking at it on Vimeo. I've had requests for cold, blue "New York Cop Drama" stuff and done it, or requests for "warm African sunset" stuff and done that, and I've had those same people complain "it's all blue" or "it's all orange", despite having signed off on tests and so forth.

There can be an incredible degree of retroactive conservatism at play, and just because people claim to like it one day doesn't mean they'll defend you if their boss takes a contrary view.

As such I would strongly encourage new or inexperienced people to treat the information in this thread with extreme caution. At the high end, people can be assumed to have some sort of taste, which is why they're involved in high end stuff to begin with. Anywhere else, extreme caution is required.

I don't know if this is particularly a UK thing, but it's certainly visible in the output of, say, the BBC, which obviously looks well below average. The point is that if you bounce a blonde is the ceiling and white balance carefully, nobody can tell you you're wrong.

P
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 07:25 PM

What Stuart points out is that today we don't generally have color-corrected dailies made, it's a straight conversion to Rec.709 from log usually, so a warm or cool cast has to be done in camera if you want to see it in dailies. And as Phil points out, an inherent technical conservatism comes into play, but this is one argument for getting the color right in dailies because after editing the image for weeks or months, they get used to it and often if they are looking at neutral dailies it's near-impossible to get them to allow you to add a color cast later even that was what everyone agreed on in prep. Yes, they also end up backing things off to neutral in post, that's also a danger... but it's easier to get them to just back off a little while keeping the color bias compared to getting them to add a color bias to footage that has been neutral during editing.

Now occasionally it's the cinematographer who is the voice of restraint -- I've had producers panic about the commercial possibilities of some horror movie, for example, and suddenly they think that if everything is turned cyan and desaturated in the final grade, the movie is going to be scarier.
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#10 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 08:11 PM

I always like my dailies to look as they are intended to look. That way, everyone gets used to the look, and there are no surprised producers further down the line when we color-time. As I said, usually I'd do the warming with the WB control, but as I can't on this project, and as I'm not sure that I'll be at the timing sessions, I'm doing it with filtration.

 

 

Ok thanks Stuart.. makes sense.. I remember the days or Corals, pro mists and filter sandwiches .. now I just have an optical flat protection basically..I have directors who don't want me to even use subtle ND grads..  this is the corp world though,not features..


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#11 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 18 August 2016 - 09:42 PM

There can be an incredible degree of retroactive conservatism at play, and just because people claim to like it one day doesn't mean they'll defend you if their boss takes a contrary view.

While I wouldn't disagree with Phil, I would add that using an 85 filter on top of a 4300K white balance is a fairly mild effect, and is something that a lot of people (producers) wouldn't consciously notice. It's certainly well within the limits of what is correctable.


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#12 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 02:36 AM

Has any one of you had experiences with the Color Finesse plugin from Synthetic Aperture, which can simulate the effect of various filters?


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#13 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 02:44 AM

I think this is the Web page:

 

https://www.syntheti...-3-0-pi-for-mac


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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 03:52 AM

The problem with that sort of thing is that it depends very much on your supplying it with material that's exposed as the people who designed the filter would have exposed it. Some of them have had a degree of adaptability based on analysis of the input material, but in general it's a bit flaky.

 

They don't - they can't - do anything you can't do on most NLE timelines. 

 

P


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