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Big Love: Season Two


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There is some grain on the 5229, no doubt, but the question is whether a little texture is a bad thing for a realistic show like "Big Love". They actually had more noise problems in Season One because of the 5218 being underexposed too much in dark scenes. So I figured that 5229 overexposed a little (400 ASA), with its greater shadow detail, would minimize that problem.

 

 

Killer stills. I agree with your grain-texture statement. Some people hate to see grain though, like it is necessarily a mistake. I love S-8 grain and will use the format anytime if I can, though it is hard to convince directors to embrace the notion of grain being beautiful. I just went to see S-8-originated Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain on 35mm. The grain is just plain awesome, but the scenes weren't lit consistently so it was a little jarring at times, besides his trademark hectic editing style didn't help either.

 

I love the pool-as-practical idea. In general, did you print down in the telecine suite, or was it just left as it came off the camera negative?

Thanks a bunch for taking the time to answer my questions!

S

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The original transfers were very low-contrast and a little murky because the dailies colorist wasn't allowed to let anything get clipped, so bright areas were always brought down. The idea was to preserve everything on the negative for a later tape-to-tape correction. Trouble is that when there were a lot of really bright highlights, like a slash of hot sunlight, then the transfer was darkish to hold that area, and when that was brought up overall, there was always the risk of noise. Though, as I said, we had fewer problems with noise this season.

 

So in general, dark scenes were transferred light and brought down later, and bright scenes were transferred dark and brought up later. It made viewing dailies somewhat confusing though. I got panicky on my first set of dailies, worried about whether everyone would like my footage. I shot a simple scene in a lobby of a school where outside the glass doors, there was a school bus parked in full sun, but I was exposing for the interior. I got back the dailies and the faces were transferred two stops dark but the bus outside looked almost normal, even though it was really overexposed on the negative. So I sent out an email explaining that I did not expose the scene like that, with the faces so dark. I didn't get any flack though; I guess they were used to seeing one-light transfers more than I was.

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I wish "Big Love" was a show I could get more in to - I don't find the basic premise very intriquing. It looks beautiful, it's got a killer cast, etc. but juggling a house full of wives just ain't my idea of paradise. I've had enough trouble figuring out one woman at a time.

 

Understandable. I've really enjoyed the series so far. There are a lot of strange writing opportunities that they've taken advantage of like the episode where Bill was cheating on his wives...with one of his wives. :huh:

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I usually used the swimming pool as a source of light in the scene too.

biglove21.jpg

Does that mean you're bouncing a light into the pool to create the water pattern on the house wall?

 

I got panicky on my first set of dailies, worried about whether everyone would like my footage... I got back the dailies and the faces were transferred two stops dark but the bus outside looked almost normal, even though it was really overexposed on the negative.

Yick, sounds terrible! I guess you never really get over that anxiety of screening the first batch of dailies, no matter how experienced you become. Have you heard anything new about the digital printer light system and would you be interested in implementing it in the future?

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I usually had aqua PAR's inside the pool but also bounced a light off of the water.

 

The digital printer light idea interests me, but it probably wouldn't have helped in this case since the transfer was dictated by what would make a good final tape-to-tape.

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I watched the first disc (episodes 1-3) of this season of Big Love and I'm sucked in already. Very compelling story and characters (I'm glad the older kids are becoming more interesting) and wonderful naturalistic photography.

 

David, I have a question about one shot in particular in the third episode. It's a 2-shot with a tilt-shift lens where Barb is at the sink on the right of frame and someone else (Margene?) is in a medium shot on the left in the background. It's tricky to recognize a focal length with this kind of shot. Do you remember the focal length? I assume it was a compromise between something wide enough to avoid ridiculous staging between characters and long enough to give a pleasing rendition for the close up.

 

I like the tilt-shift shots, by the way. It's a very economical and elegant way to cover a scene like that. Very few people seem to use them, preferring instead to bounce focus back and forth or just cover the scene a bit differently.

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It's interesting you bring up the tilt-focus lens thing. There was a shot in Episode One (the one Jim Glennon shot) where they used some sort of bellows rig (I think the Century swing-shift set-up) to get this split-focus effect when Don looks over at Wendy's empty desk. I wasn't there so I'm not sure exactly what the gear was.

 

Then I proposed using the 45mm slant-focus lens (Panavision also has a 24mm slant-focus) for a shot in Episode Two when Bill is sitting in his car watching workman fixing his billboard:

 

biglove25.jpg

 

I also used it for the wider raking 2-shots of Bill and Don in that same car scene.

 

My 1st AC, John Flinn, was used to working with those lenses because they used the 24mm slant-focus a lot on "Six Feet Under", shot by Alan Caso.

 

By coincidence, the director of Episode Three, Alan Poul, was also one of the producers (and directed some episodes) of "Six Feet Under", and he said to me "have you ever used a slant-focus lens? Because I have an idea for a shot..." The 2-shot of Barb and Margene that you mentioned:

 

biglove26.jpg

 

I usually use the 45mm version (or the 90mm anamorphic version). I don't like shooting close-ups on a 24mm.

 

I only used the lens once more on Episode Five but it didn't work as well because I was wide-open (f/2.8) -- the lens behaves the best the more you stop it down, which is why it worked so well for the car shot. That shot of Bill in his car was made at f/11 I think. The shot of Margene and Barb in the kitchen was more like f/4-4.6 split.

 

Anyway, later directors weren't interested so I sent the lens back eventually to Panavision.

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  • 1 year later...
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The DVD finally came out so I can show you some shots.

 

Technical info: 4-perf Super-35, framed for 16x9. Shot mostly on Cooke 20-100mm zooms, some Panavision "Z" series primes (Zeiss). Kodak 5212 100T outdoors, but otherwise, mostly Kodak 5229 (Expression 500T). Later episodes used a mix of light diffusion on closer shots, either #1/2 Black Diffusion-FX, #1 GlimmerGlass, or a fine net. The Expression stock has a somewhat softer, powdery look, a little like Agfa.

 

I'll begin with some frames from the backyard set, shot on a soundstage:

 

biglove1.jpg

 

biglove2.jpg

 

biglove3.jpg

 

biglove4.jpg

 

At each end of the soundstage, I have Dinos to create a backlight. Overhead are spacelights. On this last frame, though, I wanted a toppier backlight so I extended a 20K on a small condor with an articulating arm to get over the porch trellace and create that shadow pattern on the side of the house.

David,

The light on the actor's faces in these "outdoor" scenes is very soft. Were you using any key lights, or just some bounce with the spacelights as fill?

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David,

The light on the actor's faces in these "outdoor" scenes is very soft. Were you using any key lights, or just some bounce with the spacelights as fill?

 

Usually it was just the soft overhead spacelights plus some low bounce fill, or low Kinoflo fill. Sometimes I used a Day Blue bounce to keep the shadows cooler than the warm backlight.

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Out of the twelve, I shot #2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12.

 

I shot about a fifth of #1 (Jim Glennon's episode), and quite a few little pick-ups in #4 (Haskell Wexler's episode), not really whole scenes. Otherwise, in each of the later episodes starting with #7, once Bill Wages was hired to be the co-DP, there often is one scene shot by the other DP because of scheduling. We try to match each other's approach and ask each other how they would light it.

 

There is one scene in the last episode that I originally shot... but Bill Wages had to reshoot because of a dialogue change, so he matched my original lighting set-up. That creates an odd conflict about whether I can put it on my reel, since I didn't shoot it, but it's almost a perfect match to how I originally shot it...

 

I also shot two out of the three short films on the disk ("Moving Day" and "Meet the Babysitter"), made originally for the internet.

 

Bill's episodes (#7, 9, 11) were shot with his special net filter, which I borrowed for a few scenes in my episodes after that (#8, 10, 12) but I mostly stuck to the #1 GlimmerGlass in my episodes. Before #7, we shot mostly clean except for close-ups where I used the #1/2 Black Diffuson-FX, mainly starting on Episode #3, a few shots before that. Bill also preferred sticking to the Expression stock even for day exteriors, whereas I switched to the 100T stock unless I was going to lose the light.

 

Bill taught me a lot about soft bounce lighting, plus the use of Source-4's for bouncing and to create hot slashes of light. I was doing that effect on all my episodes though, with flags and PAR's mainly, but it was easier to do it with the Source-4's later. Working fast was an important consideration. In this scene, I was able to sneak some Source-4's off-camera in the wide shot to create slashes of hot light falling onto the table, and then use them in the close-ups:

 

biglove11.jpg

 

biglove12.jpg

hi David, could you explain and compare more about Source-4's use instead of HMI as a bounce lighting? I understand that it probably gives more controlled beam of light(specially in wider shots), but much less luminance power beside the temperature difference. Am i right? Thank you

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hi David, could you explain and compare more about Source-4's use instead of HMI as a bounce lighting? I understand that it probably gives more controlled beam of light(specially in wider shots), but much less luminance power beside the temperature difference. Am i right? Thank you

 

I was talking in this case about using the Source-4's with narrower lenses for a projected hard light pattern, to put a slash of light on people & furniture. I also used Source-4's for smaller bounces onto white cards using the wider lamp lenses. In the wide shot above, the hot slash on the foreground table was from a Source-4 w/ a 19 degree lens only three feet from the table, yet it feels like a slash of sunlight from a farther off-camera window.

 

In the case above, this was a tungsten-lit soundstage so I used the 575w HPL tungsten Source-4's, but if I were on location, I could have used an HMI Joker 400 or 800 Source-4. The Joker 800 Source-4 is pretty bright, good for bouncing or for a hard pattern. It's about as bright as a 1200w HMI PAR, just as the 575w tungsten Source-4 can be as bright as a 1K or 2K tungsten depending on the lens used in the fixture. Generally I use the 50 degree lens for bounces and the 19 or 26 degree lens for a hot pattern on something.

 

See:

http://www.etcconnect.com/product.overview.aspx?ID=20080

 

If I was going to do a broader bounce or use larger diffusion frames, then I'd use some other lamp than a Source-4, something with more spread and perhaps more intensity.

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  • 13 years later...
On 12/12/2007 at 8:11 AM, David Mullen ASC said:

The DVD finally came out so I can show you some shots.

 

Technical info: 4-perf Super-35, framed for 16x9. Shot mostly on Cooke 20-100mm zooms, some Panavision "Z" series primes (Zeiss). Kodak 5212 100T outdoors, but otherwise, mostly Kodak 5229 (Expression 500T). Later episodes used a mix of light diffusion on closer shots, either #1/2 Black Diffusion-FX, #1 GlimmerGlass, or a fine net. The Expression stock has a somewhat softer, powdery look, a little like Agfa.

 

I'll begin with some frames from the backyard set, shot on a soundstage:

 

http://www.davidmullenasc.com/biglove1.jpg

 

http://www.davidmullenasc.com/biglove2.jpg

 

http://www.davidmullenasc.com/biglove3.jpg

 

http://www.davidmullenasc.com/biglove4.jpg

 

At each end of the soundstage, I have Dinos to create a backlight. Overhead are spacelights. On this last frame, though, I wanted a toppier backlight so I extended a 20K on a small condor with an articulating arm to get over the porch trellace and create that shadow pattern on the side of the house.

Are the spacelights tungsten too?

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