Jump to content

Anna Biller

Basic Member
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Community Reputation

-2 Poor

About Anna Biller

  • Rank

Profile Information

  • Occupation
  • Location
    Los Angeles
  1. Whoa! Russell Metty (who shot 5 episodes of Columbo plus Touch of Evil and Imitation of Life) also shot Douglas Sirk's other Technicolor films, Spartacus, Flower Drum Song, Dance Girl Dance, and Bringing up Baby! Amazing some of the talent that worked on these old TV shows!!
  2. I just looked up Columbo on IMDB and it seems that some of the cinematographers who shot some of the earlier episodes were real heavyweights in Hollywood. One of them shot Miracle on 34th St., another The Blue Dahlia, another 2001 A Space Odyssey and Cabaret, and yet another Touch of Evil and Imitation of Life.
  3. @ David Landau: While I'm sure that most people today would agree with you that a show like Columbo was overlit, it might be a stretch to say that the people who shot it would have agreed that it was overlit. In fact probably the studio work was closer to how they wanted the show to look (as opposed to the location work) because they would have had much more control over the lighting in the studio. It was a different era in which people had different tastes and liked things brighter and more colorful than they do today. Most of our eyes have adjusted to darker sets and actors in the last couple of decades, so films and TV from past eras look too bright to us. Even light meters used to be calibrated differently. I had an old Nikon from the '60s and was taking slides with it that were coming out pretty bright. But then the light meter on the camera broke, and I started using my spot meter. Suddenly the photos were about 1 stop darker than the ones taken with the older light meter. I asked around and found out that they started adjusting light meters darker at some point. I preferred the brighter photos, so I adjusted accordingly. Now I try to overexpose everything on my sets by 1 stop to make up for the difference. The other thing I want to mention in general is, artworks have their own intrinsic values. So when I watch a film, I never look at it thinking about how it could be better if it incorporated different technologies or aesthetics. I enjoy it for what it is, for what it's doing. For instance although theatrical lighting is my first love, I also love films that use only natural light, if the lighting is done well and if it's a good film. Some of my favorite films are Italian neorealist films for example, and I also like some modern festival films which use only available light. It would be terrible to impose one kind of lighting on every film. That's why sometimes I'm dismayed at value judgments about one kind of lighting being "better' than another type of lighting, especially if the lighting in both cases is done proficiently and with clear intent. Good lighting is lighting that is appropriate for a scene, a character, a certain moment in a certain script, that clarifies nature, or illuminates it or obscures it or beautifies it or leaves it neutral or attempts to produce emotions or thoughts or empty us out of them according to a specific intent. There is a strong tendency among today's filmmakers to frame the past through a contemporary viewpoint, through contemporary goals. But as Keating explains, the motivations and goals of the cinematographers who shot the classic films were different than the motivations of today. They had different parameters of what was acceptable, what was beautiful, than we do today. And within that system, there was a lot of diversity and innovation.
  4. Plus, we were discussing an excellently researched, scholarly book. Why is this suddenly about whether or not you should read it and your mistrust of words? Ridiculous.
  5. @ Greg MacPherson: Why are you so afraid of picking up a book and learning something? You remind me of Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell: "Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit. Pluck it, and the bloom is gone!"
  6. "All humans have defensive filters against the incoming information." Not me. I love to read and learn. And I would never judge something or be mistrustful of it unless I'd actually read it. "I may mistrust the way writers use words..." It's a book on lighting, not a piece of mind control or propaganda!
  7. @ David Landau: I never noticed any triple shadows on the walls with Columbo! But then again, I'm not a DP; I watch actors, not walls. Which is why I still think it can be considered good lighting even with multiple shadows. Because if the atmosphere is right, if we can get into it visually, then no one (except a cinematographer) is going to notice things like double or triple shadows. (Besides which, there are situations in life where light is coming from several directions). But your points are well taken. The only reason I objected to your comments about the lighting in Columbo is because I've been studying that series lately, and I particularly noted that I liked the way the sets were dressed and I liked the lighting. I think that was a pretty excellent series. The best things about it were the acting and the writing, but it all an all-around good and professional series and I have a feeling that the way it was lit was purely intentional and not compromised because they couldn't do better. I watch a lot of older cinema, so my eyes are adjusted to brighter lighting of faces. I prefer faces to glow and be brilliant in a comedy for instance, not so much in a more somber genre, but brighter in general than faces are lit today in movies and television. Again, "overlit" is a subjective thing. Almost all of the classic films had the faces really bright, even noir and gangster films. I like my own films lit like that. I would think of a face that looked normal and realistic to someone in the '90s or today as being underlit. In fact that's just about the time when I started to become disappointed with the ways movies look. But that's just me.
  8. "To be fair, when I read someone who I instinctively believe, say Tarkovsky (I don't read much), I read innocently, without any defences." ‚ÄčIt sounds as if you "instinctively" mistrust Keating because he is discussing something that you don't like or that doesn't interest you (Hollywood Lighting), as opposed to, say Tarkovsky, whom you "instinctively" read without defenses because you like his work. ‚ÄčIf you're not interested in a subject why would you want to read a book about it? And if you are interested in a subject, why judge the writing style and have defenses about it before you've even read it? "the sense of skeptical wonder and mistrust about the use of language" Skeptical wonder and mistrust??
  9. I would agree with David: the book is great. It's actually not really that wordy - he's an academic but he doesn't write academically. He also studied cinematography, and you can sort of tell; there's such a practical dimension to how he writes the book. It's not only to give you a history, it's also to teach you how to light period films. So if you want to know any period lighting technique, then I would say this book is indispensable. Otherwise, it's an entertaining and highly educative book for anyone who works in movies or is a cinephile.
  10. Albion, there are all sort of goals to making cinema, only one of which is getting closer to what you perceive as the truth. I for one don't believe there is such a thing as objective truth, at least not in art. Subjective experience is all we have - it's what consciousness is made of. Perhaps in your world, getting closer to the truth means no makeup, no glamour lighting. But that's only YOUR truth. Showing only one type of person on the screen - one that you find to be a "normal" person - could entail rejecting people that you find too beautiful to be "real," in which case you are making an aesthetic choice. Besides, which, using "normal" people as actors in films is hardly new. It's been a pretty mainstream practice since the '70s. I would think what types of actors, lighting, and makeup you use or don't use would have to depend on the kind of story you want to tell. For example, if you're making a period film which takes place at a time when all women wore makeup and heels, it would be historically wrong to show them wearing little to no makeup. Yet we see this all the time in modern depiction of past eras. The only time I ever tried to watch Mad Men for instance, the first thing I saw was a woman with ratty, unbrushed hair and very little makeup speaking in a low and whining tone that would have had a woman from that time fired or sent to the loony bin. The same thing with the remake of Mildred Pierce - sloppy makeup, hair, and undergarments, daytime clothes worn in the evening, all sorts of inconsistencies. These depictions of women from the '40s are far from the "truth," but they speak to a moral truth of our time that says that women who are too done-up are fake and maybe even morally bankrupt. Women at that time (not movie stars, just regular women) did their hair every day and used a lot of hairspray to make sure they didn't look untidy.
  11. @ David Landau: it's all a matter of taste and what you are trying to accomplish with the lighting. I for instance think the lighting in Columbo is very good. It's good because it accomplishes what it's setting out to accomplish - it shows the actors, the action, conveys the atmosphere. There is such a persistent idea among today's audiences and crews that darker, moodier lighting is "better" lighting. But in a theatrical drama such as Columbo, which was all about the virtuoso performances, a lot of what was happening on the actors' faces would have been lost if the sets and actors hadn't been so well-lit. I also prefer the way harder lighting separates objects and brings out color than the more modern soft lighting which tends to grey colors down and flatten things out. So it's really a matter of taste, but it's also a matter of what the show is trying to accomplish. I think that moodier lighting would have been distracting in Columbo - would have taken away from the performances.
  12. Does anyone have any opinions on whether to shoot the plates on film or digital? I was thinking to shoot them on film and transfer to digital to project, but is this the best way?
  13. I was watching the movie THE BIG KNIFE the other day, and I almost cried when I saw the pattern the windowpanes were creating on the floor, and the other shadows created by the furniture and objects. The couch had its own special personality, with each edge a different shade of grey. That sort of organization in an image is so powerful emotionally and aesthetically. The clean lines of the perfect set design and the subtle shadings of the set made it so the eye never got tired watching that same set for an hour and a half. There was always something new to look at. It's maximal visual pleasure just through design.
  14. No David, I agree that the second is more accurate. It's just that I myself prefer more overt glamour lighting techniques. But it's not just because the older techniques made women more beautiful - it's because they made objects more beautiful. In an old movie, a chair was glamorous. A frying pan was glamorous. And certainly a handbag was glamorous (look at Tippi Hedren's handbag a the beginning of MARNIE). This above all excites me, that interiors and objects can be glamorous too. Yay! Glamour for all people and objects! Glamour for walls and architectural details! Glamour for windows and window dressings!
  • Create New...