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"Outland"


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#1 George Ebersole

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 01:37 PM

I've been going through AC's mag archive looking for a writeup on Stephen Goldblatt's work on "Outland" back in 1981, but I can't find anything.

 

Does anyone have any production references for this movie?  I really like the look, in particular the medium two shots, and want to see if I can duplicate that kind of look.

 

Some sample shots;

 

http://www.heavymeta...landshot05l.jpg

 

http://www.heavymeta...landshot04l.jpg


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#2 Samuel Berger

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 02:02 PM

Just so you know, your images don't load unless one copies the link and pastes it into the url field in their browsers.

Let me try to attach.

outlandshot04l.jpg

outlandshot05l.jpg

Edited by Samuel Berger, 30 October 2017 - 02:08 PM.

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#3 KH Martin

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 03:02 PM

It may be Hyams' lighting rather than Goldblatt's.

 

According to CINEFEX (issue 4 or 5, I forget which), when the model unit got underway (concurrent with production), Goldblatt took over miniature shooting and Hyams did all the main unit stuff (this was the film right before Hyams starting DPing his own shows, starting with 2010.)

 

OUTLAND looks a lot like 2010 to me ... maybe a bit less smoke, but both seem very Louma-based in terms of movement, and often lit just with in-frame practicals (usually creating a very unflattering look for actors, but Connery kind of transcends that.)

 

For fans of THE WIRE, the guy who played Freamon on that show is one of Connery's deputies in OUTLAND, though you'd barely recognize him.

 

I don't know that it would be any more useful than the blu-ray, but there was a large-format Fotonovel for OUTLAND, same as the ALIEN one in size, if you want to put some physical images together. I think it goes for ten bucks or so on ebay most of the time.

 

Back at the time of release, there were a few genre mags covering OUTLAND ... Cinefantastique,  Starlog and Fantastic Films ... but none of them gave it the mega-treatment that THE THING, THE BLACK HOLE, WRATH OF KHAN, BLADE RUNNER, TRON and others received. They all covered the IntroVision process, but not a whole lot about the live-action that I can recall (guess Hyams should have hired Syd Mead earlier!)


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 03:05 PM

Most of the sets were lit with fluorescent practical fixtures, which is something Peter Hyams also did on "2010". Supposedly Hyams actually photographed "Outland" himself and assigned Goldblatt to shoot the miniature work, at least that's what I gathered, I never asked Stephen myself.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 03:20 PM

Do quite like this film. It's been repeatedly mentioned how much it exists in the universe of Alien.

 

It has something that I very much like, and envy the ability to do: it doesn't look overtly lit, but it does look very cool.

 

Compare something else - a feeble film, but one I very much like from a photography point of view:

 

vlcsnap-2017-10-30-20h24m55s876.png

 

Great to look at, but very overtly lit, very overtly graded, far less objectively realistic.


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#6 George Ebersole

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 09:10 PM

I'm not a big fan of smoke, but it does add a layer of depth, especially on older films (I'm guessing it's partially because of older and slower film stocks).  

 

I did not know Hyams did the live action.  I really like the relationship between the foreground and background.  I'm just curious how you achieve that.

 

I remember the SFX write up and short shown on TV about Outland's effects.


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#7 George Ebersole

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 10:09 PM

Most of the sets were lit with fluorescent practical fixtures, which is something Peter Hyams also did on "2010". Supposedly Hyams actually photographed "Outland" himself and assigned Goldblatt to shoot the miniature work, at least that's what I gathered, I never asked Stephen myself.

 

The lighting does look understated and very surreal as well as creating a lot of soft shadows.  I really like that.


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#8 George Ebersole

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 11:26 PM

I just saw it on bluray, with a very crisp color corrected print.  Wow.  

 

Some personal thoughts before I get into the camera stuff,... I remember after Star Wars how the scifi fans were expecting more good stuff, but it was paltry offerings from the majors.  A lot of space movies came out, but a good chunk of them were bad.  But this was one of the really good ones, and I'm sorry we didn't get more of the same; i.e. serious scifi that was adult, plausible, and had a gritty realism to it but didn't rely on pre-teen gags and "save the universe" kind of junk.

 

To me this film holds up, even though the characters are using CRT technology for Skype like video mail.    When I saw this film I really wanted to create something like this, perhaps with a bit more energy ... but I got sidetracked.  Enough of that.

 

The SFX, particularly the IntroVision really look fantastic.  For models and pre-CGI practical effects, this film looks damn good.  When I was in my twenties and gripping a lot I liked the Star Wars feel (which in many ways resembles Outland, particularly in the darker shots), but I was hoping to master the "Outland" look, and hoping beyond hope that I could bring that to a kind of monthly or bimonthly "movie of the week" kind of series of films.

 

And yeah, there's not as much smoke in this film as in Alien or other scifi films with similar looks ("Superman" has a similar look).  And I like the practical fluorescent lighting.  Toning down the light, to me, always brings that level of intimacy out in a shot.  It makes a film more tactile for the eyes--or so I think.  

 

Scifi films that throw a lot of light on a subject ... I don't know ... like the Bab-5 TV series, or even the Star Trek reboots by Abrams, just look really comic-bookish to me.  

 

I'm just sorry there weren't more films like "Outland", and I'm sorry I didn't stick with the industry to try and make and bring my imitation of the "Outland" look to other stories.  

 

I just wish there was a shot log of this in the public domain somewhere.  I hate having to reverse engineer a shot.


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#9 Samuel Berger

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 11:54 PM

George, you've inspired me to rewatch this soon. Adding  to queue.


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#10 George Ebersole

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 07:52 AM

Cool.  It's a good film.  I'm sorry we didn't get more like it back in the day.


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#11 KH Martin

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 08:33 AM

George, you've inspired me to rewatch this soon. Adding  to queue.

Well, don't get your hopes up TOO high. For me it is a guilty pleasure, eased somewhat by Connery's presence (and relative daring - he actually shows a lot more softness here than he ever had previously, especially in a scene on a handball court, while mostly being a tough SOB.)

 

But the plot is absolutely rubbish, because transposing HIGH NOON to a rough-n-tumble mining colony doesn't play. As Harlan Ellison pointed out in his lengthy and devastating critique on this one, the kinds of folks in this environment would hardly all be the 'we don't want to get involved' meek townsfolk of the Zinneman film. And that's not getting into any of the science errors and other messups.

 

I still watch this every couple years, mainly because of Connery and because I like a lot of the modelwork and some of the sets. But that's in spite of its many flaws, and one of those I have to watch alone, because even though my wife likes Connery a lot, and can even watch a few other Hyams pics like STAR CHAMBER and even 2010 (but not CAPRICORN ONE, damnit!), she can't overlook all the problems in this one. 


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#12 George Ebersole

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 11:17 AM

It's not rubbish at all.  It's an old story that predates Beowulf.  What would you have shot?

 

I like science fiction, but I get really sick and tired of it being hijacked by the mental health community and political diatribes who want to push their own agenda.  This is a good basic story that has a really good look to it.

 

As a scifi fan I got tired of "save the universe" or "kill the deathstar"-like story concepts being rehashed.  This was a good basic script that didn't rely on aliens, super weapons, or some of the other crap that some scifi film makers rely on.


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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 11:26 AM

On the other hand, there's an argument that if you could have told the story without the sci-fi trappings (as you could here) then what's the point.

 

I find that a bit reductionist (you could have said that about more or less anything, including Alien) but it's an interesting thought.


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#14 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 03:11 PM

Hyams is a solid DP, in my opinion. 2010 looks great, with lots of big smoky single source lighting in the earth part. Outland also looks good as do most of his work: Running Scared (great buddy cop movie), Narrow Margin, The Presidio, The Musketeer etc.


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#15 George Ebersole

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 03:36 PM

On the other hand, there's an argument that if you could have told the story without the sci-fi trappings (as you could here) then what's the point.

 

I find that a bit reductionist (you could have said that about more or less anything, including Alien) but it's an interesting thought.

 

That's true with any tale.  To quote Lucas "A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing."  All major mass release features have the agenda of needing to inspire audiences.  That wasn't always the case, but has been post 1960s.  There was a time when you shot something and if it was a good story and if the audience got something out of it, then that was a bonus.

 

Nowadays there's so much sh_t being written and shot in terms of stories (junk stories that you guys have made look good, but the stories are still crap) largely because of post mid 1970's market research project development.  Stuff like the Emoji Movie, or Guardians of the Galaxy 2, or name your superhero film, all go through that marketing research process.  That verse something out of the early 70's or before, where a studio grabbed a popular book and just produced the thing.

 

A timeless story can be shot in any setting.  You could have taken "Outland", that is its core story, and set it in prehistoric times with a bunch of cavemen, or in the Roman Empire or medieval Japan.  

 

But nobody does that anymore.  Whatever.  My dreams are crushed, but I still come here because I'm a hobbyist, and optimistic enough to think that anything I shoot and post on YouTube or vimeo might entertain someone.  And if I can tell a scifi story without giant death rays or alien invaders, then cool.


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#16 Chris Burke

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 04:36 PM

I really enjoyed the more understated performance from Connery. Sort of like the OK corral  except in space. I am a big fan of the film and argue that it is one of the more underrated sci fi films of the era. 


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#17 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 04:31 AM

I can't remember where I read it, but some very successful filmmaker/storyteller once said something along the lines that a lot of really good, entertaining movies actually have a very simple, and when you sit back and think about it, pretty dumb or at least very basic premise. You know, think about The Thing - some scientists stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a monster. An inevitable series of events. Or think about Alien - some hapless company employees stuck out on floating hulk on the edges of the known part of the universe, with this truly creepy monster hiding in the shadows. I really think that a good location that a movie is set in is part of the trick to entice the audience in to the fun of the whole story. Some movies just start and you sink back in your chair, and think, yes, this is going to be fun. The location itself is just so interesting - and creates its own set of problems and challenges so much that it sort of defines the story and the characters and what they do, and how entertaining the whole thing turns out to be. But it's also a big challenge for a script writer. How many Ice Station Zebras and The Things can be shot? Maybe lots - just keep on churning 'em out. The enduring fascination comes from a need to be entertained.


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#18 George Ebersole

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 09:18 AM

Well, one of the reasons I had a writing emphasis instead of a production emphasis in film school was because I was freelancing a lot while trying to earn my degree, and as robust as Dean Coppola's program was (ranked 3rd in the nation at the time behind USC and UCLA, which also included the writing/lit dept at the opposite end of campus) I was learning on the job about divisions of labor, set operations, gear and so forth.

 

What I didn't learn was the corporate shift that took place in the 70's that took the old traditional way of making films, and trying to fix the method until it was broke.  If you have an idea about ... I don't know ... anything ... a store keeper in the midwest whose daughter wants to marry a farmer's son, then the marketing division would try to find out who the target audience was for that film, and hire writers to change the story accordingly.  And if there wasn't a large enough market, then the story would be tweaked so that it could seemingly appeal to a mass audience.  

 

So you get absolute sh_t stories being filmed because of that process, because the marketers want those films to appeal to the largest swath of people possible.  

 

A good story is a good story and doesn't need tweaking.  And all the mass marketing in the world isn't going to improve on it, whatever that story is.  There's a few exceptions, but those are largely artistic interpretations ... I think "The Natural" originally had a downer of an ending, but it was changed so that Redford's Hobbes' character hits a homer instead of striking out.  You could argue that that's a kind of marketing, and that that's what today's corporate studio marketers are trying to do, but it really isn't.

 

If I had known way back in 1985 the direction of major motion pictures today in 2016 (post-2000s), I'm not sure I would've gone into the local industry ... I might've given aerospace engineering another shot.  But I'm stupid and idiotic enough to believe that now that the technology has caught up to where it was promised 20 years ago, that I can take a second crack at this bull-sh_t.

 

Superhero films are junk, Guardians of the Galaxy is made for 12 year old boys who like fart jokes, and the new Ghostbusters was shot to try and inspire women to get more involved in science and law enforcement (uncovering fraud).  And all those films have mega-budgets, didn't do as well as they could have (or maybe flopped), and only appeal to the audience that they're custom tailored for.  

 

But, films are making more money, so maybe I'm just out of my mind and talking crazy here.  But I think old fashioned stories have a place, and are not only better stories, but will make better films.  

 

Thanks for reading.


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#19 Samuel Berger

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 11:46 AM

Two words: "Hollywood Accounting"


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#20 KH Martin

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 04:14 PM

It's not rubbish at all.  It's an old story that predates Beowulf.  What would you have shot?

 

I like science fiction, but I get really sick and tired of it being hijacked by the mental health community and political diatribes who want to push their own agenda.  This is a good basic story that has a really good look to it.

 

As a scifi fan I got tired of "save the universe" or "kill the deathstar"-like story concepts being rehashed.  This was a good basic script that didn't rely on aliens, super weapons, or some of the other crap that some scifi film makers rely on.

Not getting the 'what would you have shot?' line. Do you mean what story I'd have chosen to tell instead?

 

I agree with you wholeheartedly about avoiding the default 'universe at stake' stuff, but it seems to me that if you're going to retell a good solid story, you have to support what works about said story ... and by changing the environment and thus the populace, OUTLAND largely invalidated the premise. Instead of a town full of sheep, you've got a rowdy bunch, and yet none of these folks will step up? Really?

 

You could have modified it just slightly to show Con-Am as having some monstrous hold on all parties (like some threat to turn off the air on the masses if they supported Connery, to suggest one right off the top of my head, which became the ticking clock they finally applied to get TOTAL RECALL's third act to the point Arnold would sign off on it), and that might be enough to hang the moment when Connery goes to Io's council elders and gets the expected non-response from them. In fact, it could have thrown some blame onto Connery's Marshall, if Con-Am had already punished somebody to set an example, so he should maybe feel guilty for even ASKING for help.

 

I remember reading that The Ladd Company had Hyams rewrite the thing five or seven times before they green-lit this, and it makes me wonder if the rewrites dumbed it down (sort of a tradition with SF movies, from what I've read about MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN, SUPERNOVA and MISSION TO MARS, to name a few that went through 35-45 rewrites), or if it always had these sorts of idiocies in it.

 

None of this should invalidate one's enjoyment, just call into question how worthwhile the whole enterprise is. I mean, I absolutely LOVE the movie ACTION JACKSON, but there is almost nothing in the whole movie that withstands any scrutiny at all. The moonlight is so bright that you have a shaft of smokey light coming down via a skylight into a house at night, the lead character can defy gravity like THE MATRIX or as if he is channeling Tom Cruise, and ... well, there's nothing defensible in the whole movie, but I still watch it at least a couple times a year, and I laugh myself silly at it (NOT with it.)

 

So I'm not knocking OUTLAND as an attack on anybody, just pointing out that when you make a science fiction film, you should have the same respect for the audience that any other picture SHOULD demonstrate, and not just dismiss complaints with, 'go along with it, it is sci-fi.' (which is also what I remember people dismissing complaints about the 06 CASINO ROYALE with, saying you have to go with it, it isn't supposed to be it is Bond -- even though the movie's alleged grace was that it was playing straight, which means you shouldn't be able to play THAT particular card as a defense.) That's the surest way to guarantee more dumb crap, and we already get SO much dumb crap. 


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