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Marcos Cooper

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Everything posted by Marcos Cooper

  1. The danger of sacrificing consistency in trying to get perfect exposure is a real danger. Bearing that in mind, here's what Gerald Hirschfeld, A.S.C. has this to say in his article on Exposure Meters and The Cinematographer. Using a Spot Meter, the Final Exposure Check Hirschfeldonmeters.pdf
  2. Inset shots make editors and audiences very happy but they seem to drive directors, actors abd everyone else crazy. I try to group them so that I’m shooting A bunch of them at one time but I always feel like I’m ruining the party.. Is there a better or worst time in the day to shoot them? Is it better to shoot them in the morning when people are in good moods? Or wait until the end of the day when everyone is too exhausted to fight with you about it? Does someone have an optimal strategy for this?
  3. The purpose of light in motion pictures is to create and sustain the illusion that the audience is looking into a three-dimensional world. Any use of lighting instruments, shadow, and color that contributes to that illusion is good lighting. Unless it is intentional, any use of light that shatters the illusion is bad lighting
  4. Reflected meters are like kangaroos with ADHD, powerful but all over the place and hard to work with. Incident meters are like an old friend who will always tell you the truth even if it hurts. An incident meter cannot be fooled by extra dark or extra bright objects in the scene. With reflective meters it happens all the time and you have to learn to work around that weakness which takes time and experience. The classic example is a Caucasian bride in a white dress standing next to a Black groom in a black tuxedo. If use a reflected meter neither will be correctly exposed. Scenes with big areas of white sky also fool reflected meters. The problem with spot meters is that you’re depending on the easily fooled human eye to choose what to point the meter at. It works well if, like Ansel Adams, you shoot outdoors in locations you’re familiar with or in studios. Incident meters just tell you what is happening without any interpretation. Then it’s up to you to adjust the lights, prop colors, makeup tones, and scenery colors to create the tonal relationships you want.
  5. If I understand correctly, you send out color bars from the camera so you can adjust your monitor to show a fairly accurate representation of what the camera is seeing. Yes? Or is there more to it? The next question becomes: do the color bars being output from my camera reflect the adjustments I've made to settings like knee and pedestal. And how about custom picture profiles or LUTs in use, will those be reflected in the color bar output? Or are bars generated entirely separately from the sensor?
  6. Fantastic info. And thanks for sharing the shot from "The Love Witch." Beautiful work. Given that it was the 80s, what lighting instruments would they have used as key lights for their stars? (And what was used on "Love Witch"?) A closeup of Michelle Pfeiffer, for instance. Would she be with something like a single fresnel? For reference, "Scarface" was shot on Eastman 250T 5293, according to IMDB. And can we assume that the makeup was chosen to eliminate shine?
  7. How do you make women look beautiful with hard light in the Steve Burum/John Alonzo/Brian DePalma style? Watching movies like Scarface, the shadows are incredibly hard when they appear but the women look like goddesses. What technique is being used. On the Alec Baldwin podcast Brian DePalma was complaining that no one lights women properly and then he said this: "What I think is terrible now with all these streaming movies where they all shoot digitally where it's all with this bounced light and everybody looks like, excuse the expression, (a word that rhymes with quit), it's very dispiriting." So I'm tossing all my silks and muslin and scrimmery but what do I do now?
  8. The CineMeter II app for iPhone will give you a fairly accurate reading of the color temp of lights. Maybe not accurate enough to use for setting your camera but it can definitely tell you the color of the lights.
  9. The Parallax View is an extraordinary film, of course, but a lot of the shots are stately, grand, geometric, still, and long in a way that seems very different from what we see today. So the question is: If someone were to remake The Parallax View with new actors and updated costumes, sets, and lighting but followed Gordon Willis shot list, would audiences would enjoy or understand the extraordinarily wide shots, long takes, and mostly static camera? And would a studio release it? The wides look like this. The semiotics are all about tiny human figures being overwhelmed by the immense buildings and natural world that holds them prisoner.
  10. In the thrift stores and garage sales of the United States you can usually find discarded dish antennas from the satellite TV companies. They are definitely parabolic and usually still have the bracket. The big users of parabolics are the solar cooking enthusiasts... if I recall correctly they sell fairly inexpensive dishes. The other shape you might try is the giant plastic salad bowl; they come in a variety of shapes and if you're really into it you could put one in the oven at a temp that's just hot enough to make it pliable again and shape it over a true parabola.
  11. How did Roger Deakins keep the scene and the characters so organized and easy to follow during the chase scene in the last act of 1917? The chase begins just after George MacKay strangles the German soldier (about page 91 in the script). It seems like an impossible cinematographic challenge—low, shadowy lighting, constantly moving camera, all the characters about the same size and shape; yet it's clear the whole time who is doing what. Were there any particular techniques used? You can watch the sequence here: https://www.youtube.com/embed/wlbJZQQJ528
  12. Mel and David: "Polished" is a much better word. I was watching the show on Amazon so the quality is what it is, but even so the images had a much more elegant look than a lot of current fare. The specular highlights are nicely defined and edges are sharp yet the actors look sensational, the light isn't highlighting their skin texture or lines. So when you say "lit in a polished way" are you saying that the show (and others like it) are created with complicated lighting plots? Or are there some techniques used by Mr. Burgess that might work for those of us shooting on smaller budgets?
  13. Watching "What Lies Beneath" I was struck by how clean the image is. I'm wondering what this look is called and how to achieve it. Is it all just in the lighting? What is going on here? Cinematographer Don Burgess shot the film on shot on 35 mm (Kodak Vision 500T 5279, Eastman EXR 200T 5293, SFX 200T) with a Panavision Panaflex Platinum and Panavision C-Series Lenses. It was a popular style in the late 1990s, I believe but I also think of it as the Blake Edwards/Mike Nichols/Nora Ephron look. The stills are definitely not as clean as the moving picture, but here they are. w
  14. I hope you realize from these stories that there are lots of ways to get where you want to go. An undergraduate degree is a great achievement for a lot of reasons—it means you are a person who values knowledge, isn't afraid of difficult subjects, and is capable of pursuing a long-term goal. You also have a head full of information which is always valuable on a film set. This is also an opportunity to learn the lesson that you can't compare your path to anyone else. Yes, a few kids from your school are going to MFA programs but the reasons they're going probably has little to do with career success. Yes, some of them have a clear idea of how they'll make an MFA into a stepping stone. But instead they might be going because their parents want the social prestige of a kid in grad school. They could be going because they really love school and plan to teach some day. They could be going because they just don't know what else to do or they feel they need a little more time in the oven before they're fully cooked.
  15. Your brain is just a big filing cabinet and the reason you watch old movies is because it's a very efficient way to fill your brain files with techniques. How to get actors gracefully through a crowded set, how to frame a scene with a million things going on at once, how to do a tracking shot when there's barely room for a camera; that kind of thing. Once you get to a certain level in filmmaking it's all about knowing how to get shots into the can efficiently and safely no matter what wild hare has climbed up your or the director's backside.
  16. Great info. And I understand why color consultants might be needed in the early years, color gremlins are not easy to tame all by yourself. The need to plan out your color is kind of a surprise, but the human eye adapts to color so quickly that if you just keep hitting the audience with color, color, color they’re going to ignore it after a few minutes. Sounds like Technicolor was as much an approach to filmmaking as it was a technology.
  17. The super-saturated look of classic Technicolor, was that all done in the lab? Or did the art and wardrobe departments contribute by using very brightly colored paints and fabrics? Was there a ratio of how much of the effect was practical and how much chemical? And, if at least some of the effect was created by using vivid costumes, sets, and props how on earth did they deal with the skin tones? Was there specific Technicolor pancake?
  18. Bad things can happen to cameras, it's much cheaper to get some kind of legitimate insurance than to have to come up with $30,000 when the PA backs over the camera in his car.
  19. The method I use is to lay down half the amount of diffusion using a filter on the lens and add the rest in post (I think I read about that trick on this forum). I use Tiffen Warm Soft FX 1/2 and Digital Diffusion 1/4 filters for my base layer and then add more diffusion in Photoshop. If you want to use silk stockings, I believe Noblesse No. 110 from Fogal of Switzerland was the other preferred hosiery, but I've looked for them in the States and haven't found the exact model that people have mentioned. I've also read that cinematographers stretched the stocking over the rear element of the lens and held it on with AGT (snot) tape. You've probably seen this video of diffusion tests, yes? In America some camera stores have cardboard boxes full of old filters laying around that they sell for $5 or $10 each and you can usually find a few vintage diffusion filters among them (but it might take half an hour of digging to find them). When I've read interviews with earlier photographers many times they say that their unique look came from improvising on set. They will say something like "I didn't have anything with me so I crinkled up the cellophane from my cigarette pack and held it over the lens." Other diffusers I've read about include: a section of window screen, loosely woven rattan, a piece of broken glass, the lens from their sunglasses, and chandelier crystals. Finally, legend has it that to get a soft effect Edward Steichen would open the shutter and then give the tripod a little kick. But I've read the story told about other photographers as well.
  20. In looking up the 2707 I learned that in the silent era cinematographers sometimes varied the frame rate based on the scene unfolding before them. If they felt an audience might be bored by a scene, they cranked more slowly to speed up the action. If the scene deserved more attention they would crank faster to give it a less rushed pace.
  21. Relationships. The book is instructive on the key role that relationships play in moviemaking. Nothing about how fast to turn the crank on your Bell & Howell 2709.
  22. The advice on how to light bathrooms is worth $32.75 all by itself. Consider the other 13 chapters of advice, schematics, and anecdotes as a free bonus My favorite tidbit: Plug your cable into the power and then connect it it to the lighting instrument, not the other way around.
  23. Just finished Don Coscarelli's True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking and it is indispensable for the budding filmmaker. While he reveals some of the special effects from his masterpieces like Phantasm, the important lesson in this book is his explanation on how to build the relationships that will pave the way to a more enriching filmmaking career. Coscarelli was the typical indie success story. He grew up in Long Beach in the 60s and 70s, began building his base of collaborators in elementary school, and like others of that era, he continued to live with his parents long past the point of embarrassment. But the main lesson from the book is how maintaining childhood friendships turned into a network of collaborators that sustain him to this day. It's a fun read as an audiobook and overall is a much better guide into thinking like a filmmaker than, say, Robert Evans' The Kid Stays In The Picture: A Notorious Life.
  24. Shooting in public: I don’t know how it works in the UK but in the U.S. you can often make your life easier by talking to the local authorities a day or two beforehand, let them know what you’re doing and what hours. Police are very respectful of rank so get the name of the watch commander or sergeant in charge. That way, if you get hassled you can say “Sgt. Smith gave us his approval yesterday” If you want to be a filmmaker you have to learn as much as you can about human psychology. For instance, even though it’s legal to shoot, most police officers have a zillion laws and policies to keep team of as well as their personal lives, so laws regarding filmmaking in public may have slipped to the bottom of their mental inventory.
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