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The Love Witch


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David, thank you for posting this. I looked at the film and I really wish the trailer looked more like it. I know the trailer was pulled from dailies at ProRes LT and doesn't show all the effort that went into giving it its final look.

When you say you "rated it at 100", do you mean that you lit for 100 ASA or that you metered for 100 ASA? Would the push-processing have been in addition to this? I think the Kim Novak screengrab looks great, it would have been interesting to see how it would've affected "The Love Witch". But even as it stands it reminds me of Amicus productions.

There's a scene some 15 minutes in where she mesmerises a man who is talking to a woman who reminded me of Elizabeth Montgomery, a nice subtle touch. ;-)

 

What would the repercussions have been, had you shot on 50D?

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I just treated the 200T stock as if it were 100 ASA, processed normally, so I ended up with a dense overexposed negative that printed in very high printer light numbers, giving me a snappy look with deep blacks and strong colors. A few times, because for some shots I was also overexposing skin tones a bit more to make them pop, I went so far that some of my printer light values were hitting 50, which is the limit. That's a problem because once you hit 50 in one of the three colors (RGB) you can't shift the color in some directions. It worked out fine but maybe I should have rated 200T at 125 ASA instead of 100 ASA.

 

I was worried that 50D, being so clean, would look too modern, plus old movies didn't have the option to switch to a finer-grained stock outside, it was the same grain throughout. But the main reason I wanted to avoid daylight stocks for interiors unless necessary because I couldn't gel windows was that it is difficult to do a hard light style with HMI PAR's. When I did shoot my Super-16 feature years ago (I think that was around 1997), I did shoot some day interiors on 50D with HMI's and it turned out well... but that's because I was doing more of a modern soft light style mixed with hard sun, I wasn't doing fresnel portrait lighting on faces. HMI's are very finicky too, shutting off when they overheat, not restriking if they are too hot, shifting color, not matching each other, flickering, etc. They are fine when you just need the power, a big light, but for detail work, they are unwieldy. But now there are decent LED hard lights that can do that sort of small stuff.

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Thank you, David!

 

I was rewatching some scenes this morning and I think I know how to describe it now.

 

I would say it's like a Hammer or Amicus film that suddenly found extremely sharp lenses. The period lighting and art direction is spot on, but the amount of detail and edge sharpness is much higher.

 

I think that if I were to use those techniques on 16mm, the inherent lack of sharpness of the format would change that.

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I was using 70s era lenses but Zeiss Super Speeds are rather sharp (until you open up to f/2) and hard light makes things look sharp which is one reason I used net diffusion plus Classic Soft filters. I actually prefer it that way, using sharp lenses + diffusion because I can get the glamour from diffusion without getting too mushy.

 

But I think modern 16mm is still a bit softer than old 35mm unless you go back to b&w films of the 30s. And the depth of field is higher than the average color movie of the past.

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My biggest problem with 16mm tends to be that I find the reduction in clarity to be a bit of a visual wall that makes the image seem flatter, less dimensional and for most movies, I want to feel like Im experiencing a location, a space. But for some projects, that flatter, softer, grainier look adds an interesting graphic quality.

 

However unless I have a project where I can embrace the look of 16mm, I worry that most people viewing the movie will just think they are looking at mediocre 35mm photography.

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My biggest problem with 16mm tends to be that I find the reduction in clarity to be a bit of a visual wall that makes the image seem flatter, less dimensional and for most movies, I want to feel like Im experiencing a location, a space. But for some projects, that flatter, softer, grainier look adds an interesting graphic quality.

 

However unless I have a project where I can embrace the look of 16mm, I worry that most people viewing the movie will just think they are looking at mediocre 35mm photography.

 

I feel that that loss of dimensionality is one of the things that distinguish film from video, if we're talking about the same thing.

When I watch a movie that is shot digitally I don't feel like I'm experiencing a space or a location, I feel like I'm looking inside someone's Macintosh.

 

I am curious about what you mean by embracing the look of 16mm and what you would do with it. I've been reduced (pun intended) to 16mm as an option in part because of the excessive sharpness of 35mm. But after looking at the Gerald Perry Finnerman-esque look of "The Love Witch" I'm not so sure. Maybe I gave up too quickly.

 

Do you know if the dialogue was looped? Just curious.

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Isn't it all about context as to whether 35mm is "excessively sharp" or not? Was the sharpness of 65mm movies like "2001" excessive or correct for the story? And clearly Sergio Leone wanted sharp images, he didn't shoot in Techniscope as a way of softening the image, he wanted as much crispness as he could get at the time.

 

But if your tastes lean towards more softness, there's nothing wrong with that. Look at all the fog-filtered movies of the 70's like "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" or "Cabaret", softness was desired at the time.

 

You've honestly shot 35mm tests, projected them on a big screen, and decided that they were too sharp and there was no way of softening them other than to shoot in 16mm???

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My biggest problem with 16mm tends to be that I find the reduction in clarity to be a bit of a visual wall that makes the image seem flatter, less dimensional and for most movies, I want to feel like Im experiencing a location, a space. But for some projects, that flatter, softer, grainier look adds an interesting graphic quality..

 

Yes Yes this is the right word i been looking for ''dimensional''. When i wrote movies shot on film and photochemically done looks so ''deep'' i meant ''dimensional''.

That's why i say even the low budget, independent, not a nice looking movies from 90s,early 00s looking more cinematic,filmic than every movie come out nowadays. When the ''dimensional'' thing is lost i couldn't find images cinematic. Nowadays every movie looking flat for me even it was shot on film(a few exceptions) or digital.This thing not about the lens choice or stylistic choice....

Edited by fatih yıkar
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Isn't it all about context as to whether 35mm is "excessively sharp" or not? Was the sharpness of 65mm movies like "2001" excessive or correct for the story? And clearly Sergio Leone wanted sharp images, he didn't shoot in Techniscope as a way of softening the image, he wanted as much crispness as he could get at the time.

 

But if your tastes lean towards more softness, there's nothing wrong with that. Look at all the fog-filtered movies of the 70's like "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" or "Cabaret", softness was desired at the time.

 

You've honestly shot 35mm tests, projected them on a big screen, and decided that they were too sharp and there was no way of softening them other than to shoot in 16mm???

 

But 2001 was sharp in a filmic manner. Modern stocks seem a lot like digital to the naked eye, at least in Blu-ray transfers. With all its sharpness, 2001 would never pass as digital. The "dawn of man" sequence, the reflections on the helmets, the diffused blinking lights of the control panels, the details of Keir Dullea's eyes, all giveaways that film is at work here.

 

You are right, I haven't shot tests and projected them. I probably should. I watched Kodak's own videos demonstrating their current stocks and then I watched that side-by-side comparison of film and digital shot by Boris Yeltsin (or something like that....not good with names). They didn't look like LA CAGE AUX FOLLES or anything Unsworth would shoot.

 

Of course, comparing myself to Unsworth would be beyond ridiculous but there has to be a point of reference as a goal. ;-)

 

SUPERMAN, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, BILITIS, CABARET, TESS, the Fiona Fullerton ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935, I have no idea what they put in front of the lenses there but it worked wonders), all those films have the otherworldly qualities I like. IRON MAN does not, although it looks a lot better than its sequels.

Edited by Samuel Berger
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This discussion is so interesting because I have never found anything shot on film excessively sharp no matter the format or lenses. I have found digital excessively sharp.

 

My thoughts exactly. But then again, perhaps I do think of 65 mm stock as sharper in theory.

Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos
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How much detail a viewers eyes crave varies with shot size... often when we look at a face in a close-up, we want to see sharp eyes but we dont want a lot of skin texture. But for wide shots, particularly of landscapes, our eyes tend to want to see a lot of fine detail. This is where Ive had a problem with some movies shot in Super-16 the wide shots look a bit blurry. I dont mind the grain and for faces, there is enough detail.

 

City of God and The Constant Gardener got around this by shooting their wide shots in 35mm and the rest in Super-16, which worked well.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-news/the-critics-have-spoken-dublin-film-critics-circle-awards-announced-for-2017-36405841.html

 

Best Cinematography for The Love Witch from the Dublin Film Critics Circle (amongst other 9 people) ;)

 

Congrats!!!

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You've honestly shot 35mm tests, projected them on a big screen, and decided that they were too sharp and there was no way of softening them other than to shoot in 16mm???

Hi David, I came back to this because I'll be shooting my first 35mm test rolls in two weeks and I had a question, if you were to do "The Love Witch" all over again, or a sequel or anything with the exact same look as that film, would you use 200T all over again, or would you go for 250D next time? Thanks.

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The look is based around hard studio lighting using classic fresnel lamps, which means tungsten, so I'd still use 200T.

I actually just rewatched the film. The scene in the burlesque club when Barbara and her husband are talking to the twins, by means of looking straight into the camera, reminded me of the Black Panthers scene in MEDIUM COOL with the militants teaching the audience instead of the person they should be talking to. It made me wonder if it was a deliberate/subconscious homage to Wexler of some kind. Loved it. The whole thing looks amazing.

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I think the only thing that I didn't like was the sound mix. It was without enough ambient sound and the exterior scenes lacked diegetic sound.

 

I think Ms. Biller should have listened to you about the grain, and my reasoning is, grain is much finer nowadays. Even the jump from Vision2 to Vision3 made the size of the grain about 25% smaller.

 

I'm going to do some tests on 16mm with similar lighting and colour schemes and see what it looks like. I might as well pull out the trusty old Sylvania Sun Guns, those things are BRIGHT!

 

Thanks again, David!

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  • 4 months later...

Just wanted to say I really enjoyed the movie and loved the look of it and found it to be one of the best movies of the previous year and sure to become a cult classic as I think it is already. Is Mr. Mullen going to be working with Anna on her new project?

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