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How to achive a desaturated/soft/dusk look with filtration (see reference photo)


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Hi everybody,

I'm gonna shoot a thesis project at the end of the month and I started thinking about the look I'd like to achieve. I'm not super familiar with filtration and I wanna try to work with filters more rather than put all my trust into post production and color correction. I'm gonna shoot in the woods and the director would like to have a desaturated/soft/ dusk kind of look. I'll have to shoot day for dusk because I'll probably have access to the location during the day and not during actual dusk hours. I'll go to the filter gallery in NYC to make some tests but I'd like to hear everybody's opinion in order to make up my mind if there's a specific kind of filters I should check out. To be more clear I'm attaching a reference photo given to me. If it makes any sense I'm also planning on renting the artem exterior fogger.

Thank you so much in advance for the help!

post-68078-0-26234700-1435785626_thumb.jpgpost-68078-0-44026300-1435785638_thumb.jpgpost-68078-0-54771900-1435785659_thumb.jpg

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How about Day for Night (blue) filters, ND grads and attenuators, Colored Grads, Enhancers, Bi-color (Blue/Amber, Green/Magenta, Red/Cyan) Polarizers, Low-Cons, Fogs, and Smoques?

 

You could also try a flasher like the Arri Varicon or Panavision Panaflasher to tint the shadows. I don't know if they would work with digital, they were made for film cameras.

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I think you need to really hope for overcast skies if you are going to see the sky, else I don't think it will really be possible to be honest. I would underexpose a bit and go kinda low con as that is what you are seeing in these pictures with the exception of the 2nd one of the woods. Could also try Black Pro Mist. I have tried Ultra Con filters before and found that they just lifted the blacks with out really adding any information and that it would have been the same if I just did it in post. I think Low Con's are more stylized though.

 

to be honest filters for color are pretty worthless when shooting with a contemporary digital cinema camera (alexa/Red)....Post color is a big part of making good images now!

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I don't think camera filters are worthless for digital cameras, a mist filter works just as well on a digital camera as on a film camera if that's the look you want.

 

The thing is that a filter can't make a sunny day look like an overcast day, but you can't fix that in post either.

 

However, color saturation / chroma level is very easy to adjust in camera and in post, that's the easiest part. It's that misty low-contrast soft-light look that is harder to fake.

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No, flashing the film in camera still works from the bottom up since it is light, just like any light in the scene, it's not reversed into a positive until later in processing. Color flashing the print or I.P. would work from the top down, on the highlights first, but it would also dim the brightness of the highlights, making the whites less white, just as flashing the negative makes the blacks in the image less black.

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"Heaven's Gate" flashed both the negative and the prints but not using colored light. I can't think of any movie off the top of my head where the positive was flashed with color since most people don't want to corrupt the whites and flesh tones compared to the blacks and shadows.

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ND Grads come in Hard Edge, Soft Edge, and Attenuator. Hard Edge has a strong demarkation between the clear and the ND and is mainly meant for longer focal lengths when a Soft Edge would be too out of focus. Soft Edge is the most commonly used grad. Attenuators, as Satsuki said, don't have any defined transition area, they just gradually go from clear to dark -- they are mainly used on wide-angle lenses when even a Soft Edge is too obvious.

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Thannk you guys, tons of great advise here! One last thing, I've never shot day for night, any tips/workflow? you think it might work in the woods even on a sunny day? i know it's better to underexpose, crash the highlights, put the subject in front of the sun and adjust the white balance as much as I can to make the image cooler.

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The traditional way of shooting day for night is to use a cooler white balance, underexpose by 1.5-2 stops, and avoid shooting the sky as much as possible (the bright sky gives the game away). Some people prefer shooting in hard backlit or cross-lit sunlight, as that is technically more accurate to how moonlight really looks. Others prefer to shoot in overcast for a more subtle day for dusk look.

 

Of course with digital post tools you can do a lot more, like sky replacement or freely adjusting contrast and levels without having to underexpose to get close to the final look in-camera. On the recent 'Mad Max' film, DP John Seale said the post supervisor actually wanted him to overexpose the Alexa by 2 stops for the day for night sequence so that they could be sure to capture as much shadow detail as possible. They would then completely create the look in post. I think a lot of DPs would have a problem with a workflow that basically makes them irrelevant, but you should be aware that this is becoming more common.

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I thought the day-for-night in Mad Max looked absolutely terrible.

 

P

I second this. It really stood out to me as not being night, moreso than perhaps any day-for-night I've seen in a long time. John Seale has a funny anecdote in American Cinematographer on his method that tells you how others reacted.

 

John Seale says:

"During production, a couple of American cameramen rang me and said, 'Johnny, we hear you're doing day-for-night on digital. How are you doing it?' When I replied, 'I'm overexposing it,' all I heard was the dial tone."

 

 

Nice experiment for Mad Max, but I don't think it's going to become the new benchmark method for day-for-night by any means.

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Having grown up in the desert, I can tell you that under a full moon in the middle of nowhere with no light sources, it looks like a BAD day-for-night scene in a movie, very surreal.

 

Did anyone see this short film, shot under actual moonlight?

http://nofilmschool.com/2015/06/epic-sci-fi-short-was-lit-entirely-moonlight

 

Some of this reaction against day-for-night is just that when a night exterior is artificially lit, we know that it was shot at night no matter how good or bad the lighting is.

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Satsuki, there is an article in the July '15 ASC Magazine talking about the use of the Varicon with the Alexa Classic. Chris Manley, ASC used it on The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe to "decrease image contrast and imbue the shadows with a color bias." He chose this over doing it in post since the Varicon could create the look without increasing noise in the shadows.

 

The story covered four decades, so he used color gels such as Rosco 99 Chocolate, and 728 Steel Green in the Varicon gel holder to separate the time periods.

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You could also try a flasher like the Arri Varicon or Panavision Panaflasher to tint the shadows. I don't know if they would work with digital, they were made for film cameras.

 

The Arri Varicon will work with some digital cinema cameras. There is a an article in the July 2015 issue of American Cinematograper. It's in the Production Slate section. Chris Manley used it with the ALEXA to shoot the TV mini-series, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe .

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Good idea Phil! I was thinking of making my own 'Varicon' by grinding down the the edges of an UltraCon filter, adding dimmable RGB LEDs, and housing it in a standard Arri 4x5.65 tray. Powered off of d-tap with an inline voltage regulator.

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