Charles Lang, ASC
Posted 26 July 2005 - 12:59 AM
First of all, it must be borne in mind that the physical nature of cinematographic film effectively precludes recourse to the still photographer's expedient of retouching. None the less, recourse to some means of attaining a similar end is often desired, and sometimes highly necessary. Owing to the development of the art and technique of lighting, a great deal of this pre-exposure "retouching" can often be done in this manner; a great deal, I repeat: but by no means all that should be done. Here, however, we find that we can usually attain the desired end through the intelligent introduction of a slight degree of diffusion.
Again, it must be remembered that dramatic cinematography is perpetually forced to strive for emotional as well as visual effects. Here, too, diffusion can aid in inducing the desired emotional response.
However, it must also be remembered that cinematography, as used in the production of photoplays, is essentially a dramatic, narrative Art; accordingly, it must be at once consistent and unobstrusive. In reading a printed story, we are offended when the writer falls back on the obviously mechanical tricks of his craft -- or the printers -- to gain emphasis. <skip> If an actor employs obvious mannerisms or vocal tricks for the same purpose, we are again irritated by his patent attempt to emphasize things mechanically; our attention is drawn from the story -- from the characterization of the player -- to the actor himself and to the mechanics of his performance. As some great actor (I think it was George Arliss) once remarked, the secret of art is not being natural, but being unnatural -- without getting caught at it. The same is doubly true of dramatic cinematography...
Anyway, he goes on to talk about matching wide and close shots using diffusion, bad use of diffusion, etc. But I think his point about art not being natural, but being unnatural without being caught doing it, is very true even today.
Posted 04 August 2005 - 09:46 PM
Posted 06 August 2005 - 02:20 PM
First of all, it must be borne in mind that the physical nature of cinematographic film effectively precludes recourse to the still photographer's expedient of retouching. None the less, recourse to some means of attaining a similar end is often desired, and sometimes highly necessary. Owing to the development of the art and technique of lighting, a great deal of this pre-exposure "retouching" can often be done in this manner; a great deal, I repeat: but by no means all that should be done.
Very interesting, and makes you appreciate a time long before DIs, CGI digital compositing or even colour! To think these were the wise words from a cinematographer who must have been about 30 at the time!
A young Geoffrey Unsworth (then a teaboy) clearly didn't see any worth in Lang's comments.
Posted 11 August 2005 - 07:38 PM
But your closing thoughts brought up something that I have been juggling in my mind for a while and have never really drawn a conclusion on...
When using diffusion on the camera (and asuming that you are trying to have a consistant and evenly diffused look), is it necessary to switch intensities when you switch lenses?
For example, does a black pro mist 1/2 have the same apparent effect on an 18mm as it does on a 135mm? Or is the 1/2 bpm more pronounced on the 135mm and so when using the 18mm is it necessary to switch to a bpm 1 to get the same apparent effect?
Just a question I've never heard a clear answer to...
Posted 11 August 2005 - 11:52 PM
This is the reason why lower-then-35mm formats like HD or Super-16 on the big screen look soft in the wide shots but sometimes razor sharp in the close-ups. It's not because the lens used for the close-up was sharper, but that we get more than enough detail in the tighter view.
So there's no answer here other than gut instinct and what looks correct to your eye in terms of how much diffusion to use. Remember also that shots with a lot of edgy lighting (backlit, hard-lit, contrasty) look sharper than shots in a lot of soft lighting. So even if you match the sharpness of each lens perfectly, it does not follow that each shot looks equally sharp. Hence why it's always a judgement call.