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birth - Harris Savides


Jody Lipes
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does anyone know anything about the Savides' work on birth. what stock, processing, theories behind his decisions, or how to find out this information?

 

please let me know if you have any information, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

 

thanks

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All I know is that it looks gorgeous in the trailers. Brit director Jonathan Glazer is also someone to really watch - he knows what he's doing. His commercials have all been very good and groundbreaking and his debut Sexy Beast was a frightening and good start.

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Birth is a beautiful film, probably the most beautiful yet this year!

 

I haven't found anything on the internet or magazines about this film. I love Harris Savides' work. But I can guess he probably used 500 in the interiors. The scene when Nicole walks with the birthday cake, God that was amazing, I wonder if he even used lighting besides the candle light, he probably used a Musball(chinese lantern w/Muslin) for that scene, a favorite of his. I saw on E news a behind the scene shot in the dining room and he had Musballs hung up.

 

He probably use ENR also, the blacks were very deep. The film also seems very dark, which he probably underexposed by 2-3stops, like he did in The Yards and The Game, two of my favorite films.

 

And alot of the film used overhead lighting, which reminded me of Gordon Willis. He probably put light going through muslin, a favorite diffusion of his.

 

This is all my guess.

 

 

 

 

does anyone know anything about the Savides' work on birth.  what stock, processing, theories behind his decisions, or how to find out this information?

 

please let me know if you have any information, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

 

thanks

Edited by cam
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thanks -

anyone know anything more specific?

here is the article from the Villiage Voice for anyone who wants to read it:

["Cinematographer Harris Savides on Trust, Birth, and Invisible Light
by Dennis Lim
November 2nd, 2004 12:05 PM

Related:

Sean of the Dead
About a boy: Upper East Side widow finds love with underaged object of obscure desire
By Dennis Lim

Birth Control
Light motifs: Music video pro Jonathan Glazer conducts a moody symphony of shadows
By Jessica Winter

"I light a room and let the people inhabit it, as opposed to lighting the people," says Birth cinematographer Harris Savides, explaining his philosophy of illumination. "It's more organic. You want to protect the people you're working with, and there's a constant battle between the best light for their face and the best light for the story. You don't want to get to the point where the audience notices the light."

Critics, for their part, have noticed Savides's work?he won last year's New York Film Critics Circle and Voice-poll cinematography awards. The New York?based SVA graduate describes his latest partnership, with Birth director Jonathan Glazer, as a product of trust and guesswork. "It's kind of like the Wong Kar-wai process," says Savides, who shot Wong's BMW short The Follow. "Jon's always trying to surprise himself?he told me afterwards that he'd improvised the whole thing. He showed me some films but was careful to say that we were not to take anything specific from it. I remember we watched [Robert Bresson's donkey spiritual] Au Hasard Balthazar. . . . I guess Balthazar's arc is the same as Nicole [Kidman]'s in Birth."

Savides says that even though Glazer wanted the movie to be somber, he had trouble articulating the visual style. "Finally, we saw one location photo?the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria, dark marble and warm colors. And Jon just said, 'That's it.' " Birth's otherworldly pall, Savides says, was achieved by lighting from overhead and through muslin, and "we also had to underexpose the film quite a bit."

After getting his start in the European fashion world, Savides shot a few visually striking movies (James Gray's The Yards, David Fincher's The Game) and a string of iconic music videos: Fiona Apple's "Criminal," Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," Madonna's "Bedtime Story" (all for Mark Romanek). But he's best-known for his recent Gus Van Sant collaborations: Gerry, which pays tribute to the mystical powers of the long take, and Elephant, in which the signature shot?a spectral Steadicam glide from behind?deftly conflates an eerie horror movie trope and an empathetic documentary one (familiar from verité and the Dardenne brothers). Savides also shot Van Sant's just completed Kurt Cobain movie, Last Days, and credits the director with inspiring his new "story-based" approach. "After working with Gus, I can't go back to just loving the visuals," he says. "On one level, I don't want the work to be photographic. But I'd also have trouble doing a comedy, where there's so much that needs to be delivered verbally. It's about having an opportunity to tell the story without words."]
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I think he's lighting the set just like John Cassavetes did. I presume from

above the set to create a shadowless type of lighting so the actors can move

about freely. The lighting would have to be some intensity of light without shad-

ows. I think that with John Cassavetes's work you would see some shadows like

the shadow of the actor against the wall. Although in the hollywood of yester year

those shadows were considered artsy in b&w film. Mr. Cassavetes would pre-light

the set and turn them loose without marks and start shooting. I thought about the

use of sidelight(which should give texture) does anybody know if side light can be

used in combination with lighting from above. I mean while creating a shadowless

light. I would think that marble and warm tones would create a somber mood.

I think though that Mr. Cassavetes used a harder type of lighting.

 

Greg Gross,Professional Photographer

Student Cinematographer

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Harris Savides' work is anything but 'shadowless'. What he means by lighting the room instead of the actors is that he puts the lights where they would normally be (practicals, windows), without taking the actors' positions into consideration. That approach helps to give the film a more real, organic feeling, since not every actor is always in a keylight, they do not stick out from the place they are in.

 

Dante Spinotti in his work for Michael Mann had the same approach.

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Hello audiris and fstop,

Thank you for your posts on lighting style of Savides. I understand style of

his lighting now. I don't know why I assumed shadowless lighting. Thank you

for your posts. I always make notes in my journal when I come across a new

style of lighting.

 

Greg

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There's a book I just got ahold that has a large section on Harris Savides' work, as well as a number of other interesting cinematographers including Darius Khondji, Lance Accord, Jean-Yves Escoffier, etc. It's called "New Cinematographers", I got my copy from Amazon, cost just under $30. I'd like to thank Max (audiris) for mentioning it in a previous post, wouldn't have found out about it otherwise. I haven't gotten to the Savides chapter yet, but I don't think there anything on "Birth", could be wrong though.

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Your welcome, Adam! I'm also trying to find another article I read with Director James Gray where he goes on at length about Savides contribution to "The Yards" including how Harris baked the negative for one scene in an oven for 15 minutes set at 110 degress. It's not the American Cinematographer article, which was insightful since it mentions Savides approached to his meter readings and choice of exposure in that film.

 

Hey F-stop! what's the meaning of the *snigger*? Now don't tell me you're gonna hate on Escoffier like you do on Khondji just because he loved Kinos?! :huh:

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Fstop, without seeming rude, I'd suggest and ask that you keep these types of posts to yourself. I'm certain most of us have at least one (at LEAST one) story about how so-and-so-hollywood-big-wig is a jackass, but this is a professional forum for cinematography and the artistic, business, and technical aspects of said field - speaking ill of others (whether they be widely known or the guy next door) doesn't help advance anything and typically results in just pissing someone off.

 

Not to mention that you never know who else is reading the posts.

 

Just my 2 cents on the matter. Do with it as you will.

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Back to "Birth." Basically, the entire ceiling of the studio was made into a book light; the ceiling was painted white, lots of lights bounced into it, and a fire-proof bleached muslin (studio size) was suspended above the sets. I don't know if it was 100% "shadowless," but this was the softest light I've ever seen in a studio, and quite creepy to boot. Don't know the film stock, but I'm pretty sure he exposed two stops under, and then pulled the film two stops. Chinese lanterns seemed to be in favor for key-lights. I recall for a night exterior, we rigged a small condor with ... two chinese lanterns! The coolest trick I saw was surrounding Lauren Bacall on three sides w/ 8x8 bleached-muslins. All they had to pick up was the soft top light, but it worked beautifully.

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I saw 'Birth' today. I am a huge fan of Harris Savides work, I thought 'Elephant' looked gorgeous. For 'Birth' he had a similar approach than with 'The Yards'. You can see that the film is underexposed and then printed up again. The colors become very muted, especially the green of the walls took on this really interesting hue (just like the greeen in some scenes for 'The Yards'). However while there were scenes where his approach worked beautifully, there were also scenes that didn't look good at all. Some scenes had very weak blacks and/or were excessively grainy. There were instances where the look of the film reminded me of watching an old film where the dyes have fainted and the blacks become grey. I understand that his whole approach to exposing the neg is very risky and there were definitely times where he went too far. Also 1.85 is less forgiving to underexposure mistakes than anamorphic (as used in 'The Yards') so that might have worked against him.

 

All in all a film that looked great, but only in parts.

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Speaking of Savides....has anyone seen Gerry? I really enjoyed it and thought it was beautiful, but I haven't heard many people talk about it. I know that hardly anyone saw it, so that's one of the reasons. The timing of Gerry is very slow. Sometimes achingly so. There is VERY little dialogue in the film at all. But you can see how Savides and Van Sant progressed to Elephant after Gerry.

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@ Brad, yes! I love Gerry, I think it's a magnificent piece of cinema. But you better go watch Bela Tarr's work to understand where that film came from. As awesome as Gerry is, there is not a single thing in that film that was new, cinematically. The shot of the bopping heads was lifted straight out of a Bela Tarr film.

 

Tonight I went to the NY premiere of Theo Angelopolous's The Weeping Meadow. I even got to meet Harvey Keitel, surprisingly he is very well versed in art films! This is the guy who said "what's a mook?" lol Anyway, Angelopolous is another amazing director who makes films composed of highly elaborate, expertly choreographed long takes. This film was 3 hrs and I kid you not when I say I don't think there was 100 cuts in the film.

 

~Sloan

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I saw 'Gerry' after I had seen 'Elephant'. It is good, but not as good as Elephant. But you can see that it is a stepping stone on the way to 'Elephant'. There were some shots that were fantastically beautiful, like the one with the 2 Gerrys running at dusk shot wide-open on a 100mm anamorphic lens. The background just becomes very painterly.

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Thanks for the post J-Ro

 

I assume from your post they shot in some kind of white infinity cove (pre-existing or studio made) - shooting HMIs up at angles to light each room - then over the set they hang Bleached Muslin and used chinese lanterns

 

So my questions

were the Chinese lanterns moving with the camera

What did they do for the steadicam shots

Did Harris do anything funky for the windows

was there much use of lighting from practicals

 

thanks

 

Rolfe Klement

www.creativesunshine.com

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@ Brad, yes!  I love Gerry, I think it's a magnificent piece of cinema.  But you better go watch Bela Tarr's work to understand where that film came from.  As awesome as Gerry is, there is not a single thing in that film that was new, cinematically.  The shot of the bopping heads was lifted straight out of a Bela Tarr film. 

 

~Sloan

Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.

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I saw 'Gerry' after I had seen 'Elephant'. It is good, but not as good as Elephant. But you can see that it is a stepping stone on the way to 'Elephant'. There were some shots that were fantastically beautiful, like the one with the 2 Gerrys running at dusk shot wide-open on a 100mm anamorphic lens. The background just becomes very painterly.

Also the really long crane/dolly of them walking/limping across the salt flat at the end of the film. There's some really cool behind the scenes stuff on the DVD that was shot while they were doing that shot. Funny to watch Gus and Harris being pushed on a makeshift cart behind the dolly during the shot. I read that when this film screened at Sundance a lot of the audience walked out. Personally, I was mesmerized, and couldn't have taken my eyes away from the screen if I had wanted to.

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