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most influencial DP???


Jon Tubb
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I have such a broad interest in the history of movies that I'm just as likely to pull some idea from a Jack Cardiff movie of the 1940's as I am from a Darius Khondji movie of recent years.

 

But I'd have to say that Vittorio Storaro has probably been my most major influence, mostly in the idea of equating color with the emotional and psychological state of the scene. And the strong use of chiaroscuro. Ever since I saw "Apocalypse Now" I've been striving to create images that captivated me as much as those dark scenes in the temple. Obviously it depends on the script -- the high-key glamour look of "D.E.B.S." isn't particularly Storaro-esque.

 

The first DP that ever inspired me was Geoffrey Unsworth though, after I saw "Superman" as a teenager, and also "2001" and "Cabaret." Zsigmond's work in "Close Encounters", Van Lint's work in "Alien", were also major early influences. I saw "Alien" in my senior year of high school.

 

Maybe that's why I'm always hoping to shoot a dark movie in 35mm anamorphic...

 

But the look is so dependent ultimately on the script and the input of the director that you can't just sort of trowell-over a Storaro-style on everything. "Northfork", for example, owes more to the 1970's work of Unsworth and Zsigmond, especially "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and "Heaven's Gate" (although I am loathe to even compare my work to photographic masterpeices like those...)

 

If I could be like anyone these days, it would be Roger Deakins -- I love his style and his choice of material.

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If I would choose one, it would be Janusz Kaminsky.

 

I tried to emulate some scenes on my last short based on his work.

 

I liked his style in Schindlers's List, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report and AI.

 

But as David, I really can't just pick one. Conrad Hall's work on Road To Perdition and Amercian Beuty is incredible. I am trying to find any excuse to shoot something like the raining flower's scene on American Beauty. Gordon Willis's work on the Godfather, and Storaro's work on Apocalypse Now....

 

C.-

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Too many to list, but here's a top ten list in no particular order.

 

Gordon Willis

Jeffrey L. Kimball

Vittorio Storaro

Michael Seresin

Dante Spinotti

Darius Khondji

Harris Savides

Peter Biziou

John Toll

Emanuel Lubezki

Owen Roizman

Slawomir Idziak

 

Oops, that was twelve! But there's so many brilliant DP's. It would actually be easier

to name the very few who are not very good - but that's not the spirit of this board.

I'll keep that to myself.

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I tend to look at individual films and the dp that shot them as suppose to just the dp himself.

In other words,it is usually the overall quality of the film that makes the biggest impresion on me and the photography is definetely a great part of it.

 

Midnight Cowboy- Holender

Touch of Evil- Metty

Elizabeth- Aderafasin

Requien for a dream- Libatique

Thin Red Line- Toll

The Deer hunter- Zsigmond

Days of Heaven- Almendros

Persona- Nikvyst

Blade Runner- Cronenweth

I am Cuba- Urusevsky

Godfather I and II- Willis

Cold Mountain- Seale

Raging Bull- Chapman

The Man who wasn't there- Deakins

 

Well, this list could go on and on...

 

Francisco Bugarelli

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IMHO this question is dumb.

There have been scores and scores of genius DP's from Henri Alekan (Google this one gang! His book which is unfortunately only available in French is a film school in itself.) to Vilmos Zsigmond.

Look at James Wong Howe! and Billy Bitzer before him. These guys were INVENTING everyday.

Why try to make a Billboard chart out of an art form!

The 5 most influential writers? IMPOSSIBLE!

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There have been scores and scores of genius DP's from Henri Alekan (Google this one gang! His book which is unfortunately only available in French is a film school in itself.)

Sad to say, all I can do is stare at his amazing images, which more than suffices at the present time for this mere mortal. An acquaintance offered to translate the text for me, but the gleam in her eyes told me if I let the book go I'd never see it again. Interesting article about the battles between Cocteau and Alekan on Beauty and the Beast in the September 1997 issue of AC.

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That's why the original question was which DP was most PERSONALLY influential, not who was the best DP ever, which is an impossible question to answer. It's like asking who was the best painter ever. How do you compare Leonardo to Van Gough? So how can you compare Greg Toland to Jack Cardiff to Conrad Hall, etc.? Some were the equivalents of impressionists, some post-impressionists, some classicists, some modernists...

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I'm a big Watkin fan but I wouldn't describe him as a stylistic jack-of-all-trades. Like Roger Deakins, he had a core belief in recreating naturalistic lighting effects. Even more than Deakins, however, Watkin was more interested in lighting spaces, not faces -- he rarely altered his lighting for close-ups unless absolutely necessary. This goes counter the whole glamorization of the movie star attitude that prevails in Hollywood (even today.) Even his fantasy films like "Return to Oz" were rather naturalistic.

 

To some degree, all successful DP's tend to repeat certain stylistic and technical approaches (for example, Watkin preferred using Zeiss lenses combined with Agfa film) partly because they get hired based on some previous work and are asked to deliver that look.

 

I just watched "Charge of the Light Brigade" (1968) and it is "classic Watkin" so to speak, other than being shot in 35mm anamorphic, which was rare for him (he hated anamorphic lenses.)

 

One reason I saw the movie was because Geoffrey Unsworth felt it was one of the best photographed period movies ever. I just watched Unsworth's "Cromwell" (1970), also 35mm anamorphic, and it is interesting to compare it to later Unsworth and to "Charge of the Light Brigade." Unsworth was trained as a studio cameraman in the 1940's and his 1970's work represents a transitional approach between an old-fashioned studio style and the more realistic look of movies made in the 1970's. A classic example is "Cabaret", a non-traditional musical that is both glossy and glamorous at times, yet uses smoke and fog filters to create a "degraded" decadent look to the Kit Kat Club. He started using Fog Filters around this time and after this film, was generally using a #2 Fog on most projects like "Zardoz", "Bridge Too Far". "Murder on the Orient Express", "Superman", and "Lucky Lady" (that may have even been a #3 Fog!) Looking at his credits, I guess his transition to a very fog-filtered look started with "Cabaret" (1972) and "Zardoz" (1974).

 

"Cromwell" (1970) however, is generally shot without diffusion filtration. The lighting alternates between that hard, sculptural look of the 1950's/60's and a softer approach that is more modern. A few shots look like Dutch masters paintings in terms of composition and light (although not as soft-lit with a single source -- but almost there...) Other shots look more like an early 1960's movie like "A Man For All Seasons." There is the beginnings of Unsworth's interest in telephoto anamorphic lenses, which is given full-flower in "Bridge Too Far". You see classic wide-angle anamorphic masters but outdoors, you occasionally have many shots made with really long lenses in more natural lighting.

 

Watkin's work two years earlier on "Charge of the Light Brigade" however is much more "modern." Most interiors are lit with a single soft light, often a bounce off of the ceiling. Outdoor scenes are hardly lit at all. Light levels are quite low, resulting in a very shallow-focus look with some distortion from using anamorphic lenses at wide-open apertures (compared to "Cromwell" which looks to have been shot at a normal f-stop range, more like F/4.0).

 

But anyway, despite the wide range of types of movies that Watkin photographed, I can't really say that his stylistic tendencies did not show-up again and again. You can see some of the same lighting approaches in "Hamlet" as you can "Gloria" (which I only saw because Watkin photographed it...)

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In Order:

 

CHINATOWN- Roman Polanski/John Alonzo

Beautiful cinematography,great camera work,beautiful whites.

 

APOCALYPSE NOW- Francis Coppola/Vittorio Stoaro

Great camera work,a war photographed beautifully,extraordinary

use of color.

 

BARTON FINK- Cohen Brothers/Roger Deakins

I like Mr. Deakin's use of "low lux" ! He can light a room with a few

candles and tell a story! To me the color in this film,contrast was beau-

tiful.

 

NORTHFORK- Michael Polish/David Mullen

The light is just simply so beautiful,the color,use of the camera make

it one of my favorite films.

 

THE NOTEBOOK- Nick Cassavetes/Robert Fraisse

Beautiful cinematography and great use of the camera,boy and girl on street.

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I go through different periods idolizing different cinematographers depending on what I'm trying to achieve at the time. Generally me attempting to ward off some highly targeted insecurity from my last project. (I'm my own worst critic) DP's that I find myself continuously returning to study and admire are:

 

Robby Mueller (Paris Texas, Wings of Desire, Barfly)

Ted McCord (Johnnie Belinda, Tresure of the Sierra Madres, Sound of Music, Flamingo Road...)

Vittorio Storaro (Conformist, Reds, Last Emperor, Apocolype Now...)

Conrad Hall (Cold Blood, Butch Cassidy, Rd. 2Perdition, American Beauty...)

John Alton (Big Combo, T-men, American in Paris...)

Gordon Willis (All the Woody stuff, All the Godfathers...)

Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Detail ...)

George Barnes (Rebecca, Bells of St. Mary's,Spellbound)

Freddie Young (Lawrence of Arabia)

John Cassavetes (Faces, Shadows, ...Unmarried Woman)

Greg Toland (Long Journey home, Citizen Kane, Wuthering Heights)

Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Deerhunter...)

James Wong Howe (Sweet Smell of Success, Picnic)

Darius Khonji (Se7en, Delicatessen)

Sven Nykvist(7th Seal, Postman Rings 2X, Sleepless in Seattle, Unbearable Lightness of Being)

John Alonso (Chinatown)

Jordon Cronenworth (Blade Runner)

Geoffery Unsworth (Cabaret, Tess)

Dante Spinotti (LA Confidential, The Insider, Heat..)

 

You're right. I can't do this. So many more... No way to be subjective without establishing the very borders that we train ourselves to avoid. Oh well, that's my two cents worth.

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I'd have to say I try to strive to create images as good as those in movies I saw as a kid. My very earliest memories are of movies my parents took me too as a baby. I probably cried and pissed off the audience. Of course as a kid you don't even know that cinematographers exist, but the images mark you forever.

 

Oswald Morris

Gordon Willis

Haskel Wexler

Bill Butler

John Alonzo

Caleb Deschanel

Ernest Laszlo

Philip Lathrop

Nestor Almendros - Look in the dictionary under style.

Robert Hauser - for the Combat series in reruns.

 

Others include

Storaro

Janusz Kaminski

Raoul Coutard

John Lindley

Jack Green

Roger Deakins

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I didn't mean to denigrate Watkin in my comment that he lights the sets more than the faces -- his close-ups look great -- but he is well-known for his approach that you light the sets, not the stars. Sidney Pollack has talked about how he had to practially force Watkin to come back on the set and adjust the lighting for Streep's and Redford's close-ups. Other people have told me stories about Watkin napping in his trailer, someone knocking on the door and saying "we've shooting the close-up now!" and Watkin replying "it's still lit!" and later "we've doing the turnaround!" and Watkin replying "it's STILL lit!"

 

I only meant that you implyed he had no style at all when you and I both can point out plenty examples of a Watkin style. I've seen so many day interior scenes lit by Watkin with a big soft source just above the window frames creating a soft backlit look but the light coming from within the room. I saw it on "Charge of the Light Brigade", "White Nights", and "Night Falls on Manhatten".

 

"Yentyl" is gorgeous but a little atypical in the use of diffusion filters.

 

I'm not so much of a fan of Paynter's work on the Superman sequels. You just have to compare some of Unsworth's shots leftover in "Superman II" -- Unsworth was a master at lighting women. There was a wonderfully-lit close-up of Sara Douglas on the moon sequence that is obviously by Unsworth / Donnor because it still uses the whiter make-up style for her, it uses Fog Filters, and Douglas plays the part very cold, unlike the more vixen-like performance that Lester got out of her. Part of the difference is due not only to Unsworth but to Donnor; you look at another of their sequences, the one where Zod forces the President to kneel before them, and you have some dramatic high-angle and low-angle shots, whereas Lester preferred shooting with multiple cameras on longer lenses. And "Superman III" was just too grainy for my tastes. Unsworth & Donnor seemed more interested in keeping a certain "epic" quality to the movie, using wide-angle lenses and crane shots, for example, while also adding a glamorous romantic twist to the Metropolis scenes; the Lester / Paynter approach falls more into a realistic comedic style.

 

Probably my favorite work by Paynter was "Little Shop of Horrors" but more for the camera work than the lighting.

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How could I forget Nestor Almendros on my list.... :blink:

 

Interesting posts about Watkin. For me he is a DP that hasn't really registered on

my radar, but after reading this I realise he's shot a lot of movies I watched

when I was young and my DP-to-be-mind wasn't yet fully developed. Definitely

have to look into him. I always did like White Nights for instance - good film lit very well.

Have seen Yentl, but it's all a blur - my mum dragged me along to it. Have a

faint memory of Masquerade being quite nicely shot. Haven't seen Out of Africa.

 

But there are a lot of guys like that - for some reason they don't enter your head

although they're many times extremely good. One extremely nicely shot movie is

Pacific Heights lensed by Amir Mokri. It's such a creamy, rich, "white" movie with real

noir touches here and there. Amir is always good, yet you don't really register him.

Don't think he's even in the ASC yet, which frankly, is criminal.

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Adam, I'd take a look at "Out of Africa", "The Three Musketeers" and "The Four Musketeers", "Yentyl" for starters. And "Chariots of Fire" of course. "Robin and Marian"...

 

I also love his work with Zeffirelli, especially "Jesus of Nazareth" (Watkin shot only part of the mini-series and you can tell what scenes he did) and "Hamlet".

 

"Help!" is interesting for some scenes in terms of being more "modern" in how they are lit (single soft source during one musical number.)

 

I also liked his work in "Memphis Belle." Agfa stock worked great with the Army khaki & olive greens.

 

Trademark Watkin technique is a big soft light, coming from above or through a window, and overexposure to cause a lot of ambient bounce back into the shadows. You'll often see a hot soft top key light and no fill, but a wonderful glow to the image from the overexposure. I loved the first scene in "Hamlet" in the crypt vault with the single soft light over the casket. Watkin often tried to make day interior scenes look unlit even though they were. This is more common now but he was ahead of most people when he was doing it in the late 1960's.

 

A few years ago I got to see a projected print of "Out of Africa" and I had forgotten how wonderfully creamy the day exterior work was using overexposed Agfa XT-320 -- not particularly grainy either compared to other people's work with Agfa, but Watkin was practically overexposing it a full stop and printing down.

 

I'm not so fond of some of his work on modern films like "Milk Money", "Critical Care" or the remake of "Gloria" -- it started to get a bit too flat-looking. I prefer the low-key quality of "Hamlet" or his other period movies.

 

Surprised to see that there was one more film shot by him, made in 2000, after he supposedly retired -- "Lover's Prayer" (aka "All Forgotten"). I should rent the DVD and check it out.

 

Watkin hated anamorphic but he did some interesting work in that format: "Charge of the Light Brigade", "Catch 22", "Hanover Street", "This Boy's Life", "The Boy Friend"...

 

His rare autobiography is fun to read, "Why is There Only One Word for Thesaurus?"

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  • 8 months later...
Watkin's work two years earlier on "Charge of the Light Brigade" however is much more "modern." Most interiors are lit with a single soft light, often a bounce off of the ceiling. Outdoor scenes are hardly lit at all. Light levels are quite low, resulting in a very shallow-focus look with some distortion from using anamorphic lenses at wide-open apertures

 

I just watched it and I was blown away by the low-light interiors Watkin did on this film considering the anamorphic lenses and the slow film stock of that time (Kodak 5251 50 ASA or 5254 100 ASA). He took a lot of risks considering it was a high budget production with some stars on it.

 

The shallow focus look was amazing and very rare for that time and even the exteriors seemed to have been shot wide open. My only complaint would be that in some exterior shots the faces remain too underexposed because the lack of fill light and some extreme artifacts from that old anamorphics working wide-open. Though I love the anamorphic format, I can see why Watkin called it "an optical catastrophe". The second unit cinematography is credited to Peter Suschitzky.

 

I believe that the other Watkin's anamorphic films I've seen to date (Catch 22 and Hanover Street) were shot at least at f/4.0 and didn't have so many artifacts.

Edited by Ignacio Aguilar
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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

I like a lot of Dick Popes work, just seems so simple but it really portrays the story well. It's really interesting to disect some of his scenes.

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Guest hoytevanhoytema
I go through different periods idolizing different cinematographers depending on what I'm trying to achieve at the time.  Generally me attempting to ward off some highly targeted insecurity from my last project. (I'm my own worst critic) DP's that I find myself continuously returning to study and admire are:

 

Robby Mueller (Paris Texas, Wings of Desire, Barfly)

Ted McCord  (Johnnie Belinda, Tresure of the Sierra Madres, Sound of Music, Flamingo Road...)

Vittorio Storaro (Conformist, Reds, Last Emperor, Apocolype Now...)

Conrad Hall (Cold Blood, Butch Cassidy, Rd. 2Perdition, American Beauty...)

John Alton (Big Combo, T-men, American in Paris...)

Gordon Willis (All the Woody stuff, All the Godfathers...)

Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Detail ...)

George Barnes (Rebecca, Bells of St. Mary's,Spellbound)

Freddie Young (Lawrence of Arabia)

John Cassavetes (Faces, Shadows, ...Unmarried Woman)

Greg Toland (Long Journey home, Citizen Kane, Wuthering Heights)

Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Deerhunter...)

James Wong Howe (Sweet Smell of Success, Picnic)

Darius Khonji (Se7en, Delicatessen)

Sven Nykvist(7th Seal, Postman Rings 2X, Sleepless in Seattle, Unbearable Lightness of Being)

John Alonso (Chinatown)

Jordon Cronenworth (Blade Runner)

Geoffery Unsworth (Cabaret, Tess)

Dante Spinotti (LA Confidential, The Insider, Heat..)

 

You're right. I can't do this.  So many more...  No way to be subjective without establishing the very borders that we train ourselves to avoid.  Oh well, that's my two cents worth.

 

your number one Robby Muller is one of my favourites too... but, he did not shoot "wings of desire", this was shot by Alekan. I really like that film...

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I'm pretty sure now Watkin didn't shoot Lester's Superman sequels because of the animorphic clause (because stuff had already been shot for S2 by Donner and Unsworth in animorphic).

 

It may be true, but remember that Watkin shot in anamorphic Hanover Street for Peter Hyams around the same time and later, as David mentioned, used it for "Boy's Life"... I still don't understand why if he hated the format kept using it. In 1993 he could have used Super 35 if the wider frame was an issue for that film. Today, lots of cinematographers shoot all his 2.35:1 stuff in Super 35 and sometimes even studios or producers or directors push hard to avoid anamorphic lenses.

 

I thought that was Roger Deakins?

 

Yes, according to The Internet Enciclopedia of Cinematographers. It's funny, because as far as I know Deakins has never shot an anamorphic film. Like Watkin or even the late John Alcott he seems to prefer Zeiss lenses, now that we're taking about naturalistic lighting...

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Deakins prefers spherical lenses, but not particularly Zeiss -- for the past few years, he's been a big fan of the Cooke S4's.

 

Unlike Watkin, who shot several anamorphic features, I can't think of any that Deakins shot.

 

What Watkin, Deakins, Alcott all share is a love of low-key naturalistic lighting often at low-levels (Deakins once said that he shoots almost everything at f/2.8), which is problematic in anamorphic. I'm sure they didn't like the distortions from using anamorphic lenses at wide apertures and didn't want to compromise by working at higher light levels. Although, personally I think Watkin's anamorphic features look great.

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