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Overuse/Bad use of haze these days

Michael Hammond

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A recent post by Karim G. about the use of underexposure in more modern films, and the ensuing discussion about whether it is planned or just a crutch for some filmmakers, got me thinking about something that's been bothering me for the last 6 months or so and wanted to get others' opinions.

Haze has been used for a long time in cinema and it adds dimension, mood, story, etc. Actors walk into an old unused house and there's haze in the air to make it feel old. Actors are in a huge building and there's haze to give a feeling of depth and dimension. It's another tool in the tool box.

But does anyone else notice newer content where haze just seems to be thrown into a scene for no reason at all? I mean, sure it looks cool to see light beams in the air, but when the scene takes place in a new house in the middle of the day and no one is smoking and no food is burning in an oven somewhere? I can see a littttttle bit of haze to add a little something-something to a scene but, man, it seems like some shows are going overkill with it.

And then there's the use of haze where it hasn't been diffused enough and you can see wisps of it floating around. That works when talent is smoking but not when someone is walking down a flight of stairs to get breakfast on a nice sunny day.

Don't mean to rant really, just want to get others' opinions. And I don't have any ready examples. These are just shows and scenes I come across and make a mental "hmmm" but I don't write them down.

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It's part of one of the contemporary "looks". 

Haze, vintage anamorphics, hundreds of really weak indoor lamps turned on in the middle of an apparently dazzlingly sunny day… 

Or—if you are the bleeding edge rad hipster—you can go the other way, with almost square ratio, lo-fi, handheld, 16mm real film, retro verité look.

I suspect both will date rather quickly.

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Seems to be common on period shows, used almost as a sort of metaphor. You even see it on shows like The Crown (although understated) where you'd expect a more pristine feel - just enough to make shafts of "sunlight" visible I suppose.

I'm starting to think the creation of a "rants" sub-forum on this board might be in order.  🙂

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Actually it reminds me of a Swedish post-WWII drama I just started watching on Netflix, The Restaurant. The opening (mostly backlit) scenes were way too hazy for my taste, but then they were intercut with clean, high contrast frontlit shots (same scene) which ruined the continuity for me.

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I agree wholeheartedly. In my view haze has to be controlled down to incredibly low levels, on the order of just being barely visible, to be appropriate unless there's a plot justification for it. Then it works well but it's amazingly difficult to maintain.


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