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Philip Ulanowsky

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    northern VA
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    Vixia HF200 and HF-S200
  1. Speaking as one of the least experienced on the board here, I would nonetheless caution you about looking for a formula. The mind is more complicated than that, thank goodness, as is life in general. Such thoughtful editors as Walter Murch have spoken about remaking a cut repeatedly to decide exactly which frame (on both sides) is the right place in a given instance. The rhythm the development, the content of the images, and other factors, all play a part in the editor's choice. While cutting of frames of a film involve an inherently "mechanical" aspect, thinking of musical performance may be helpful. In Classical music, for example, in which there this an idea being presented by the composer, often as an initially stated musical irony or conundrum that is resolved in the course of the piece's development, the performance requires innumerable decisions in order to faithfully convey the composer's intention, but none of these can be formulaic. Of course, each musical performance will be slightly different anyway, unlike the screening of a film. But the principle of fine-tuning a moment in a process of development of an idea can never be reduced to a formula. Ansel Adams, who was a professionally accomplished pianist, for the same reason liked to refer to the negative as the score, the print as the performance.
  2. Nice quality. The only comment I would make on the lighting per se, is that the strong, very warm backlight connotes morning or afternoon direct sunlight. I think it might have enhanced the ambiance overall had some of this also appeared, judiciously, in the background, to complete the implication, so to speak. Keep up the good work!
  3. My apologies for the acronymious mystery -- EWA: Extreme Wide Angle. ECU is Extreme Close-Up. I haven't come across an EN -- Extreme Normal yet, but one never knows these days; it would probably be spelled XN, though. In any event, as one who disparages acronym-laced writing and speech, I should practice what I preach. Cheers. Phillp Sine scientia, ars nihil est. (Without science [or, knowledge], art is nothing.
  4. How fortunate we are to have eyes and voices such as David Mullen's here! I enjoyed the warmth of some of the shots, and the shot of the two hands coming together against the corrugated in the background worked very nicely. For my part, I would have wished for seeig some of the shots longers; the editing was too jumpy in places for me. I EWA running in the field shots -- again, a matter of taste -- are overly wide. I had the benefit many years ago of getting some still photography counsel from Walter Rosenblum. He told me once that the way to use wide angle is to keep it from looking wide angle, particularly with regard to distortion. (This was, as I recall, in the late '60s, when wide-angle distortion was seeing a meteoric rise inpopularity, for reasons including new lens designs and the rise of the drug counterculture.) Today, it has been pervasive for many years already, and our lenses are phenomenal, but it is, in my view, essential to remain sensitive to the perspectives we use and consider their effects.
  5. Translating storyboard images or shot-lists into actual shooting is a creative process, with all the variables that entails. Creating a working flow from juxtapositions in the editing room requires one to work from the footage in hand. In my admittedly limited experience in taking video from start to finish, I have found that what I had hoped would cut well from a medium to close-up, often suffers a compositional awkwardness as a result of secondary elements in one or the other shot. For instance, even if both backgrounds have a soft, similar diagonal pattern, the cut from one shot to the next seems less smooth than pre-visualized, due to the displacement of the visual elements from one to the next. (I leave aside, in this consideration, cuts for which a high-precision match involves lining up a transparent template on the monitor for framing the second shot to work with the first.) Even with Walter Murch’s six-element priority list in mind, I wonder if anyone would care to comment on this issue, approaches to filming adn editing, the role of experience, or other observations or advice.
  6. Gee, 151 views and no written response. I must have said something wrong. Perhaps someone would let me know if I have addressed the wrong question, the wrong forum, or what. I will certainly appreciate it.
  7. I'm a classical man and was particularly struck by one of the images in the Sept. 2011 issue of American Cinematographer (http://www.theasc.com/ac_magazine/September2011/Anonymous/page1.php), the third one down on the right, of Oxford seated at his desk. This is a superb composition is every respect, and the lighting is something I'd like to try to replicate as a learning exercise. My guess is that a tall, fairly narrow softbox created the highlight on the pewter vessel and was either egg-crated or carefully flagged to control horizontal spill; a hard light of some kind, possibly a Source4, created the shaft of key light on the subject and the glare-angle highlight on the chair back. Anyone know or have further insights to share?
  8. The 18% is partly a result of a geometric, not arithmetical increase in light intensity; this is something you can look up in in-depth Zone System explanations or the first of Adams' series of books on photography. As for the intensity of illumination of black and white, these depend in part on the medium and its processing. however, all other things being equal, the revised, 10-Zone System will tell you that black is Zone O (zone one being an untextured value just appreciably above this), hence, 5 stops less than Zone 5. If Zone 5 is reflecting, say, 1000 lux, 500 will yield Zone IV, 250 Zone III, etc.., so that about 32 lux will yield Zone 0, though anything much below 60 will, too. Sensitometry involves measurement of the effect of light; densitometry involves measurement of the density, or relative opacity, of, in this case, the developed film negative.
  9. I had the pleasure of seeing this film this past week, and am so grateful for those who recommended it to me. I, in turn, would like to recommend it to anyone looking for something beyond the gratuitous sex and violence, whiz-bang special effects, exploding sound tracks, and whatever else permeates so much of our various media experiences today. If I sound like a dinosaur, I'm unrepentant. Raise the Red Lantern, directed by Yimou Zhang with cinematography by Lun Yang and Fei Zhao, is more than just a captivating film. In my view, it fits the requirements of a true Classical tragedy in the definition of Friederich Schiller adn others. There is no hero, nor is there simply one person with a fatal flaw, as tragedy is so often taught these days. It is the society as a whole which has characteristic flaws, as represented in microcosm in the drama, and the hero, potentially, sits in the audience -- someone who, seeing this play out before him or her, and recognizing the truth therein, determines to do something to change it, even if by only becoming a better person. I could compare this with any number of other films which fail in this regard, though they might appear to be similar. I walked away from one half-way through, recently. I had thought to watch it because Kevin Costener is a good actor. But it turned out to be, in my opinion, a meaningless portrayal of decadence. Maybe I missed something. In any case, it had none of the cinematic elegance of Raise the Red Lantern. In the latter, everything has a carefully chosen purpose; each composition is designed with exceptional care, with visual metaphor used not only here and there but thematically and coherently throughout; the use of color is striking. This is a quiet film, that draws the viewer into the treacherous world within the walls of the rich man's "family traditions." For any serious film student, anyone interested in the potentials of the medium, it deserves a place high on the list.
  10. Gents, I appreciate your replies, which I'm just getting back to now. Certainly, the "forensic detail" approach might be compared with examining a Mozart concerto as a sequence of note changes, or even extracting the key or modality changes; or, similarly extracting a particular moment in a particular performance of same -- hardly the way to understand the ideas of composition. I have read Walter Murch's In the Blink of an Eye twice, and find his priority list of places to cut compellingly cogent. In that light, there remains, I think, a subsumed place for seeing how a cut, perhaps an unexpected one in some way, works, if one keeps it properly in the full context you indicate. Murch's list does, after all, include the matter of where the eye is in the frames on either side of a cut, though it hardly tops the list. Leaving frame-specificity aside, broader scrubbing can be instructive in reviewing line-of-action changes, pacing, and other issues, which is cumbersome and inaccurate using typical DVD controls. Cordially, Philip
  11. Though I am a film student by hobby only, I do try to study various aspects of films on my own. The question I am about to raise will undoubtedly mark me as an old-timer ignorant of current technology. A recent post somewhere posed the question to me, how do today's students study film details, for example, cuts? That is, if I purchase a given DVD, is there a simple way, or a program, allowing me to stop the movie and study a cut, jogging back and forth across the two adjacent frames, to study it, and, perhaps, even capture the two frames to paste into a document?
  12. Brian, you are right, and I understand what you are saying more than you could guess from my sketchy comments; I could not agree more, in principle. This is not the place to offer a long response. I will say, simply, that as a photographer, I immersed myself--I breathed it. In the past decade, my circumstances have not permit that, as I have had not only (in addition,more recently, to a day job with 3 hours of commuting) family with special needs, but also other obligations to the mentioned association. Thus, to do as much as I am doing in video is a stretch. Nonetheless, it is something I am committed to doing as well as I can, knowing that I can not immerse myself as I once did in the medium of choice. So, that means grasping fundamental principles of the language by reading, then studying how they are applied in practice, and trying to apply them in my own work. My request for a few films was one dictated by necessity. Best wishes to all. I learn much from these forums.
  13. As scarce time in a very busy life permits, I try to study cinematography, both to increase my appreciation of the art, and so that the documentary work I do from time to time, recording lives in the political-philosophical association with which I work, may benefit. As a former pro photographer, I recall the explosion of erotic and frankly pornographic photography books in the ‘80s. Not my interest. Likewise, in recent books and some DVDs on cinematography, I often find more references and homage to films with graphic sex, violence and horror than I would care to spend my time with. I’m not saying there’s nothing to be learned, just that I prefer to learn it through other “courses.” I have studied so far perhaps two dozen books and DVD’s on various aspects of cinematography and video, covering both technical and aesthetic aspects, from classics such as The Five Cs to recent ones. I’m not interested in adrenalin-pumping special effects, and my hot-blooded adolescence is decades past. The work to which I have dedicated my adult life, is concerned with starting a renaissance in economics and culture. I hope to leave some record, in video, of what my associates and I have done, and are doing, as a documentary reference for some truly talented filmmaker in some future decade, who decides to tell the story in some way. WHAT WOULD HELP ME, given my time limitations, is the ability to study, in detail, just a few films, not necessarily documentary, though that would be beneficial, but examples of masterfully handled lighting and camera work not dependent on Hollywood budgets and crews and equipment such as maxi-brutes and sky cranes that I will never use. Good storytelling, elegantly presented, enhanced by superb editing. If anyone would care to offer a suggestion or two of films that I can get my hands on without a significant investment, I would be most grateful.
  14. I, too, will be interested in replies to that. I recently set up an interview with a bounced light as key in a living room. There was table lamp with a transluscent white shade next to and slightly behind the subject. I had the lamp on a dimmer, but quickly learned that the key falling on the shade made the dimmer meaningless. I would have had to flag off the lamp, but was not equipped to do so.
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