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The looks of se7en


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#1 DrZhivago

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Posted 16 September 2005 - 09:24 PM

I am a student and am about to shoot a super 16mm film. The director wants a look similar to the film Se7en shot by Darius Khondji. I was wondering if anyone could offer me any advice in terms of film stock, and any processing techniques that would render such a look and feel. once again, any advice would be wonderful. Thanks guys.

Chris Baker
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#2 Hamid Khozouie

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 03:25 AM

Hi Chris

You can read many good ideas in these books

* Reflections
* New cinematographers
* Cinematography Screencraft

Thanks
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#3 Mike Williamson

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 04:09 AM

And when Hamid says "good ideas", he means that each of those books has an interview or article written by Darius Khondji about shooting the film. I also recommend the article in "American Cinematographer" October 1995 and the commentary with Darius and Arthur Max, Fincher, etc. on the special edition DVD.

The DVD commentary was very important for me on a previous movie that I did, as I was also looking at "Se7en" with the director as our primary visual reference. On the commentary, Khondji talks about two things that I grabbed onto, the first being that he feels many movies are too pretty. Obviouosly, "Se7en" is a beautiful movie in its own way, but you can see what he's saying about avoiding making it superficially glamorous. Even more important, he talks about not being afraid and not letting fear dictate how you shoot. For me, that meant not being afraid of underexposure and constantly reminding myself to take chances. Additionally, I was also trying to supplement the light sources provided by my locations, another idea borrowed from the film. So get the DVD and see what grabs you.

In terms of the film itself, there are few things that are probably different than your initial impression of the film. It's not as grainy as you think, and it's got more color than you think. The stock won't mean much, as all the stocks they used have (I think) been discontinued and you'll be shooting S16 where they shot 35, so I'd recommend concentrating on the approach more than the technical aspects, although the silver retention techniques used were very important to the look. Also, dig into the references that Khondji used when shooting the film, especially Robert Frank's book of photos "The Americans" and Gordon Willis' work on "Klute".

Let us know how it goes, good luck!
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#4 Jayson Crothers

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 05:48 PM

Another vital thing to consider is the production design of that film - really fantastic work by Arthur Max and essential to the look of the film. The greatest cinematography in the world isn't going to make a good looking movie out of a poor looking set.

A cinematographer I use to work for was fond of saying "80% of my job is what's in front of the camera when I show up - I just have to get a decent exposure." He's oversimplifying of course (and partially kidding), but you can hopefully see what he meant - if your sets and art direction and constumes, etc aren't up to par, you'll be doing a lot of work to hide those short-comings.

I presume since you're shooting S16 that you'll be going straight to tape and not worrying about a blow-up? You might also look into how much of the desaturated silver-retention look you can do in color timing if your budget won't allow an actual silver-retention process at the lab.
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