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Barry Lyndon vs Dangerous Liaisons


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#1 Scot McPhie

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 03:27 AM

I watched Barry Lyndon the other night - it's an absolute land mark in it's lighting - for everyone who hasn't seen it - and it's shot composition was beautiful too - but man I thought the camera work sucked - all those zooms and pans - a couple I thought were okay but overall I found that too obvious or contrived -- I also found the voice over didn't work for me - made me feel I was watching something rather than experiencing it.

But anyway back to the lighting (as everyone probably knows) it was shot with virtually no artifical light at all - virtually all natural light - and the candle shots were amazing and created so much mood - really giving us an idea of what things would have been like back then -- like nothing I've ever seen on film before. I think he used a lense made for NASA that worked at f0.7 I think at the time there were only 10 in the world. The effect was so great I wanted to compare it to something else (with similar settings etc) so I put on Dangerous Liaisons (and as much as I love that film) I almost couldn't watch it - it looked so fake in comaparison - the candle lit scenes there were essentially wahsed out with artificial fill and had none of the mood that Lyndon had - I truly won't be able to look at another period film in the same way again.

Does anyone know more about these candlelight shots and what asa the film was -- also what are the fastest lenses generally availalbe now - anything like the lense he used but easier to get hold of?

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 08:31 AM

F/0.7 is two stops more light than F/1.4. He pushed 100 ASA film by one stop to 200 ASA.

So F/0.7 at 200 ASA is the equivalent of F/1.4 at 800 ASA, which is certainly possible today (just push 500T stock one stop and use a super fast lens, preferably the brand-new Zeiss Master Primes.) Kubrick also used 3-wicked candles.

I would add that Phillipe Rousselot wrote about "Dangerous Liasons" that he did not want a warm, realistic candlelight look to that movie but tried to model the lighting on the character.
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#3 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 08:51 AM

The Draughtsman's Contract -Peter Greenaways first feature also has some beautiful candle lit scenes.Shot by American cinematographer Curtis Clarke

A very funny riabald-period murder mystery- the location Groombridge was the locale for a Sherlock Holmes mystery as Arthur Donan Coyle was a neighbor and frequent visitor
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#4 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 09:01 AM

F/0.7 is two stops more light than F/1.4. He pushed 100 ASA film by one stop to 200 ASA.

So F/0.7 at 200 ASA is the equivalent of F/1.4 at 800 ASA, which is certainly possible today (just push 500T stock one stop and use a super fast lens, preferably the brand-new Zeiss Master Primes.) Kubrick also used 3-wicked candles.

I would add that Phillipe Rousselot wrote about "Dangerous Liasons" that he did not want a warm, realistic candlelight look to that movie but tried to model the lighting on the character.


Kodak VISION2 500T Color Negative Film 5218 requires only 5 footcandles for full exposure at f/1.4 24fps with a 170 degree shutter opening, when rating the film EI-500T. So with a one stop push, subjects a within a few feet of multi-wicked candles would certainly have a reasonable exposure:

http://www.kodak.com...4&lc=en#exptung

Remember, a "footcandle" is essentially the light provided by a single "standard" candle on a surface one foot away. Our current standards of measurement actually date back that far, when a "foot" was literally a foot, and candles were a common light source. B)
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#5 Scot McPhie

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 04:49 PM

Thanks David, asparaco and John for your replies - it shows me that essentially the effect is easily possible today with out having to go to the lengths that Kubrick went to - which is good news - I'm going to try it one day!

I agree David re Dangerous Liaisons - it is a more heightened kind of a story and you would need a more heightened style of lighting for it - the style Barry Lyndon was lit in wouldn't suit it - so it's an unfair comparison in that sense - although it does illustrate the different lighting styles well, though with out regard to their purpose.

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#6 Max Jacoby

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 05:02 PM

There is an add in recent American Cinematogrpaher Magazines for the Master Primes which features a shot presumably lit only with candles
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 12:38 AM

Another reason why most of us don't want to shoot dialogue scenes with actors at F/1.4 (let alone F/0.7) is that focus pulling in close-ups is an absolute nightmare due to the super-shallow depth of field. So we will light a candlelight scene artificially for more stop rather than shoot wide-open, just in order to not restrict or limit the movements of the actors, even if it makes the scene look less interesting. You don't want to do some big emotional scene and have to retake a shot because of missed focus.
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#8 harryprayiv

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 11:58 PM

Another reason why most of us don't want to shoot dialogue scenes with actors at F/1.4 (let alone F/0.7) is that focus pulling in close-ups is an absolute nightmare due to the super-shallow depth of field.


I am wondering when depth of field considerations won't be an issue even at F/0.7. Didn't Panavision invent Panatape so that you can effectively measure a distance continuously and have a lense motor act upon it? If not, I will get right on it...this seems like a no-brainer for such a high-tech industry.
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#9 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 06:22 AM

That's what I've been asking for years - but the reality is that it is very, very hard to do a focusing system
that actually works with a moving subject. People have tried, but almost all have failed.

Preston has an advanced system that triangulates through a scope with crosshairs that you aim at your subject. It's mainly for sports photography and telephoto shots when you have to pull on very fast moving targets. System works well, but is bulky, expensive, not availble everywhere and doesn't allow for a moving camera.

With the new invisible lasers there is a possibility of making it happen, but once again you're going to need someone to operate it and make creative decisions as to WHERE the focus should be. And 9 times out of 10 that means focus on the eye - and lasers and eyes don't mix. So it's back to square one.

Maybe an advanced version of a SLR's IR system is the way to go - but you still need someone to select WHAT should be in focus.

Interesting side note on Barry Lyndon is that Doug Milsome, BSC, who was the focus puller on that film, set up a video camera perpendicualr to the action (profile of the actors face) and taped the monitor with marks so that he could pull focus on that. Clever, and actually still probably the only viable way to do it.
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#10 fstop

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Posted 23 October 2005 - 06:56 AM

What do you guys think of Miroslav OndrĂ­cek's work on Amadeus and Valmont? Similar period ambience bridging Alcott and Rousellot's trendsetting candle-light work, in my opinion. Valmont certainly looks more like an Alcott rendering of the Les Liaisons Dangereuses story than Dangerous Liaisons does. Definitely worth checking out.
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#11 Max Jacoby

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Posted 23 October 2005 - 08:30 AM

On 'Barry Lyndon' there was no actual focus pulling during the shot, since the low depth of field did not allow for that. They set up the system that Adam epxlained and once the focus was set, the actors couldn't move anymore.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 October 2005 - 10:54 AM

I believe there was some focus-pulling involved -- one shot has a slow dolly back I believe. Otherwise why would Milsome set-up this video camera at a right angle system?

I love the photography of "Amadeus" and "Valmont", low-light anamorphic candlelight photography. To me, it strikes a good balance between using natural light and adding artificial light without destroying the mood. When I saw "Dangerous Liasons" and "Valmont" at the same time, more or less, I preferred the look of "Valmont" even though the movie itself is somewhat bloated and toothless compared to "Dangerous Liasons". However, it was much easier to buy Colin Firth as a Casanova-type than John Malkovich.
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#13 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 23 October 2005 - 04:54 PM

I've never seen Valmont, but I love the way Amadeus looks. It's not only those small sets and close-ups lit by candlelight, there were also some big sets where Ondricek used VERY low-light levels and needed lots of camera movement with telephoto lenses (like the opera houses), so succeeding in those circunstances when shooting wide-open with anamorphic lenses is a real triumph, in my opinion. I prefer the overall look of Barry Lyndon's candlelight scenes because of the warmer colors and more contrast of the real candles, but Amadeus was gorgeus. I've never seen Amadeus theatrically though, so I don't know if the lenses' performance was OK at those apertures. Barry Lyndon's candlelight scenes looked a bit soft on the big screen, but on the other hand the entire film was pretty fine-grained when you consider that all of it was pushed one stop.

Anyway, in my opinion 1984 was one of the greatest years ever in terms of cinematography. Chris Menges won for the outstanding The Killing Fields, but Caleb Deschanel also did my favourite work of his, The Natural.
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#14 chris hoag

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 06:43 PM

didn't angenieux make lenses as fast as f.95? in fact i think ive used a 16mm one before with a c-mount but i think they made 35mm ones too.
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#15 Robert Edge

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 07:59 PM

Milos Forman says in the commentary track to the DVD version of Amadeus that the candles were made to order and had three wicks in them so that they would give off more light. Quite a clever little trick. The most important candlelight scenes in the film were shot in a theatre in Prague. If I understood Forman correctly, they did not use any artificial light, but they did use a lot of these three wick candles. It is perhaps worth noting that the theatre they were using is quite small by modern standards (I've been to a performance there - it is the same theatre in which Mozart premiered Don Giovanni) and therefore would have been a lot easier to light with candles than, say, the main theatre at Lincoln Center :)
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