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Vittorio Storaro

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I thought I'd take a suggestion from Mike Williamson and dedicate a single thread so we can discuss all things related to the work of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

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Thanks again, Wendell, hopefully we can head off any cross-posting.

 

After watching my new bootleg DVD of "The Conformist" and "Last Tango In Paris", I'm curious if anyone can talk about the logistics of Storaro's lighting on those films. David Mullen mentioned that Storaro often uses Jumbos, I'm assuming that's for a large single-source coming in through a window? How large of a unit is a Jumbo? Is Storaro also using these large sources in conjunction with diffusion frames? I get the feeling the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no.

 

I guess my main question is how large a light it takes to fill the spaces he's shooting in, for example the living room in the apartment in "Last Tango", and how those sources are being set-up. Sadly, I haven't had the chance to use anything larger than a 2K on any of my own shoots, so this is all new territory for me.

 

And as far as DVD, it's continually surprising how many of these classic films that Storaro did are just not out there. You've got "The Conformist", "Reds", "1900", as well as a number of other Bertolucci collaborations from the 70's that I haven't gotten a chance to see. Are you listening Paramount? Again, that's "THE CONFORMIST"!!! I just forked out for a DVD-R, but I'll be first in line if someone can get a decent transfer out there.

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Bootleg DVD of "The Conformist"? You have my attention.................

 

I'm not one for piracy, but if you have a DVD version of it, we should talk.

 

How, what quality, etc.................

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Guest fstop

There's an absolutely amazing documentary the BBC did I think for Omnibus or something in 1992 on Storaro. You get to see his love of dimmers evolve from One from the Heart onwards but the downside is Storaro is often painted as a buffoonish, almost Clouseau-like persistent clown who overphilosiphises colour on a laughably pretentious, shallow scale. The late Richard Sylbert's comments always raise a smile! :D

 

I always found the irony with Storaro is that his proudest innovations (and on Hollywood movies where he's had full control over visuals- translites and univisum on Dune, ENR on Dick Tracy, laser light on Captain Eo) were never really praised by anyone but himself! However, stuff like The Conforomist, Apocalypse, Reds, Last Emporer, even Little Buddha is less technical or idiosyncratic and much more collaborative (and unarguably how it should be). From the reading out there, not to mention the Omnibus article, I get the impression that making the photography subtle is a chore to Storaro yet bizarrely when he has his reigns on he makes designers/directors/costume/make up artists really shine. I know folks who have worked with Storaro who have said he's a real pain in the ass when he gets all techno-philosophically obsessed (and it's apparently at the expense of everyone else), yet when he just gets on and does the job without getting self-involved and holding back the urge to go off on a photographic tangent he's right at the top.

 

It's all about personality ;)

Edited by fstop

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All I can say is that anyone that talented can talk about anything he wants to; the results are what matters. The BBC Storaro documentary interviewed Bertolucci, who is quite sympathetic to Storaro, saying that every artist needs his crutch, whether it is a joint or a bottle of wine... or Storaro's "elaborations."

 

Anyway, talking about Storaro's attitudes to hard versus soft light (or point versus broad sources in his terms), you can see it at work in "Tucker". The family is generally played in warm, late afternoon light with a lot of softness, while Tucker's dealings with the government and businessmen (like Martin Landau's character) generally take place in colder, harder light:

 

tucker6.jpg

 

tucker7.jpg

 

tucker8.jpg

 

tucker9.jpg

 

Here is an example of Storaro using tungsten Jumbos to create late afternoon light in daytime exteriors:

 

tucker10.jpg

 

tucker11.jpg

 

You can see when they track into this insert, the multiple shadows caused by a large multi-bank light:

 

tucker12.jpg

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Here is an example of Storaro using tungsten Jumbos to create late afternoon light in daytime exteriors:

 

I'm not sure I understand, Dave. You mean he shoots daylight stock, outside, and uses a huge tungsten jumbo, (allowing the color temp to go orange) to simulate a late noon look?

 

That's pretty interesting.

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  How large of a unit is a Jumbo? Is Storaro also using these large sources in conjunction with diffusion frames? I get the feeling the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no.

 

 

From the May 1999 American Cinematographer

 

"DP [Oliver] Stapleton added further dimension to the woods [in the film "A Mid Night Summer's Dream ]by using powerful Jumbo lighting units provided by the Rome-based company Iride, which is run by Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC?s longtime gaffer, Filippo Cafolla.

 

The cinematographer explains, "They?re basically aircraft landing lights?giant, 36-kilowatt lights which are very strong because they have 36 bulbs in them and they?re very spotty. They cut through atmosphere, smoke, branches, leaves and trees, and gave me highlights of leaves that are completely unique to that type of light. These lights were so strong and directional that they made 20K or 24K tungstens look like babys in comparison. Since they?re very hard lights, I used them to make the moonlight beams and the backlight. They also solved the problem of making the backlight cooler, since they were near 3400° Kelvin."

 

An excerpt from Vittorio Storaro's "Writer of Light": also found in the June 1998 American Cinematographer article on "Bulworth"

 

"Jumbos"--large, multi-globe frames with 16 28-volt landing lights each--and a whole range of "Mini-jumbos" in diminishing sizes, as well as a series of "Tornado" lights using 120-volt Fay globes. They all run on 220 volts and are always pre-rigged to be dimmable with his small, state-of-the-art digital panels.

 

"Jumbos" provide incredible punch outdoors. At great distances they become "puntiform" sources, except that, unlike conventional Fresnels, the arrays can be spread out horizontally. Vittorio's gaffer, Gary Tandrow, says, "They are only 10K each, but put out as much [light] as two or three Xenons. The bang for the buck is unbelievable."

 

Vittorio doesn't use HMIs and tries to avoid fluorescents? he doesn't like the color spectrum of either, and they aren't dimmable. He never erects forests of flags and nets and teasers. Tandrow says, "He will cut, and he likes large blacks and large silks, but if the light comes through the window, then he plays the whole scene around where that light comes from. He'll add a little fill, a little silver board to pick up the eyes. It's amazing?as if the world stood still when that perfect light came. And that's how he does the close-up, without relighting, unlike a lot of other cameramen who would turn off and start over."

 

Storaro is a wizard with dimmers. He is one of the modern pioneers of the technique, beginning years ago with relayed instructions to his genny operator. Later he used individual electricians with radios and variacs, and on One From the Heart, a big analog dimmer board to control the lighting for my perambulating camera. The hardware has continued to improve and Vittorio's mastery of it is impressive, particularly his placement of lights to accommodate successive close and wide shots, or actors moving within the set, or even the impromptu Steadicam reverse angle.

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I'm not sure I understand, Dave.  You mean he shoots daylight stock, outside, and uses a huge tungsten jumbo, (allowing the color temp to go orange) to simulate a late noon look?

 

That's pretty interesting.

 

He's either using daylight stock or tungsten stock balanced for daylight with a filter -- my point is that he's using uncorrected tungsten lights in a daylight-balanced situation.

 

A friend of mine worked on B-camera for "Little Buddha" and enjoyed the experience. He showed me some photos of Storaro lighting the Buddhist Center in Seattle and he was using very large frames of diffusion, I don't know the material but it looked like muslin or something. He also said that Storaro used an HMI for the first time for one shot because he couldn't get a carbon arc up there in the last minute -- it was some big light needed to be rigged outside of the house on the hill to match a streak of real sunlight they had the day before.

 

As for Storaro's egotism, someone I know ran into him in an elevator and blurted out, trying to think of something, "uh, I think you're like a modern Michelangelo!" to which Storaro said, laughing, "isn't that going too far?" I think he saves most of his egotism for his work, not himself. I've only talked to him twice but he was very low-key, direct, and pleasant.

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I think he saves most of his egotism for his work, not himself.  I've only talked to him twice but he was very low-key, direct, and pleasant.

 

As David knows, I worked with Vittorio on the first (Paul Schrader) version of "Exorcist the Beginning." I didn't really find him egotistical in the classic sense at all. I found him very collaborative, open, and creative. And surprisingly fast.

 

He is quite opinionated, though, as I think someone in his position is entitled to be. The only thing that might smack of egotism to some is his failure to understand why his methods (in particular, his heavy reliance on and use of a dimmer board) haven't been adopted by everyone else. To some, that is. Not necessarily to me.

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Hi,

 

> Here is an example of Storaro using tungsten Jumbos to create late afternoon light in

> daytime exteriors:

 

Now that's what I was going for on that 16 I shot; unfortunately I had to shoot from both sides.

 

Phil

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Guest fstop
As David knows, I worked with Vittorio on the first (Paul Schrader) version of "Exorcist the Beginning." I didn't really find him egotistical in the classic sense at all. I found him very collaborative, open, and creative. And surprisingly fast.

 

He is quite opinionated, though, as I think someone in his position is entitled to be.  The only thing that might smack of egotism to some is his failure to understand why his methods (in particular, his heavy reliance on and use of a dimmer board) haven't been adopted by everyone else. To some, that is. Not necessarily to me.

 

Wow!

 

Michael, is it true that Peter Levy replaced Storaro on that pic when Renny Harlin came on?

 

I read that Storaro took the picture because it was filmed near his home and on comfortable 10 hour days :D

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Hey All,

Can anyone delve into Storaros negative exposure preferences? I have read in the past he would overexpose his neg to get a rich, full negative. Is that true even while shooting for ENR, or was this a technique pre- Reds? Does anyone know how much, and if he did overexpose his neg, and on what movies?

 

He is also obviously a huge fan of Technovision lenses. Can anyone provide a timeline tree for his use of lenses. It seems to me he utilized the Cooke Speed Panchros for the majority of his earlier work up to and including Last Tango in Paris. When starting to shoot Anamorphic he chose the Technovision anamorphics ( utilizing Cooke glass), and then moved on to the newer/ 80's Technovision anamorphics made up of Zeiss and Cooke glass, utilizing both old and new within the same movie(ex. Last Emperor/ Little Buddha). And now he shoots mainly with the S4's and Technovision remodded anamorphics utilizing the same S4 glass. Is this about right? Can others add to the examples of work?

Thanks,

G

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Hey All,

    Can anyone delve into Storaros negative exposure preferences? I have read in the past he would overexpose his neg to get a rich, full negative. Is that true even while shooting for ENR, or was this a technique pre- Reds? Does anyone know how much, and if he did overexpose his neg, and on what movies?

 

    He is also obviously a huge fan of Technovision lenses. Can anyone provide a timeline tree for his use of lenses. It seems to me he utilized the Cooke Speed Panchros for the majority of his earlier work up to and including Last Tango in Paris. When starting to shoot Anamorphic he chose the Technovision anamorphics ( utilizing Cooke glass), and then moved on to the newer/ 80's Technovision anamorphics made up of Zeiss and Cooke glass, utilizing both old and new within the same movie(ex. Last Emperor/ Little Buddha). And now he  shoots mainly with the S4's and Technovision remodded anamorphics utilizing the same S4 glass. Is this about right? Can others add to the examples of work?

Thanks,

G

 

Just from looking at how fine-grained his movies are, with deep blacks, even the ones shot on 500 ASA film, I'd say that he gives his negatives a healthy exposure. He primarily has been using 200 ASA film lately though (5293, then 5274, probably 5217 these days.) Since his Univisium idea, he's been shooting in 3-perf Super-35 with spherical lenses (I don't know but probably Cooke S4's but maybe some Zeiss as well) and swears he will never go back to anamorphic again. But then, he also swore he wouldn't shoot movies in anything other than 65mm after "Little Buddha" but that didn't come true.

 

I know that on "Apocalypse Now" he mildly flashed the new (then) 5247 stock and probably pushed it for some scenes, judging from how low some of his lighting conditions were, plus pushing 5247 was somewhat the standard of the day.

 

I know that he tried out 5245 on "Sheltering Sky" which accounts for the richness of those landscape shots. I have a book on the making of the film that I found in the U.K. but never here and you can read the labels on the camera here:

 

shelteringskyphoto1.jpg

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Can anybody elaborate a bit on which dimmer boards he likes? I think they're a great idea. I'd also like to get my hands on a copy of that bootleg " The Conformist". He's phenomenal.

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Wow!

 

Michael, is it true that Peter Levy replaced Storaro on that pic when Renny Harlin came on?

 

I read that Storaro took the picture because it was filmed near his home and on comfortable 10 hour days  :D

 

No, Vittorio shot both pictures (Paul's version and Renny's version), using noticeably different photographic styles for each (Renny's was much darker, in more ways than one).

 

We did work 10 hour days (STRICTLY 10 hour days), but that is very common in Italy - and throughout continental Europe, according to what I've been told. It seems the Italians have a very strange notion about there being more to life than work - something we Americans just don't seem to comprehend. We shot Paul's picture completely at Cinecitta (no locations, at least while we were in Rome), which is not a long drive from Vittorio's home.

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Hey All,

Does anyone know Vittorio Storaros lens choices ( i.e. brand) for his 1.85: 1 pictures, mostly shot in the 80's/90's, such as The Sheltering Sky, Tucker, Reds ( I believe this was a 1.85 picture), and Dick Tracy?

Can someone comment on whether or not my assumption is correct that he utilized the older Cookes for the majority of his earlier work, pre dating and including Last Tango? Did he use re-housed Cookes for later shoots?

Mr Mullen, when we say a healthy overexposure are we talking a 2/3 stop overexposure for the neg, or possibly more.

Thank you Mr. Mullen for your original comments, I appreciate your time and effort.

Thank you to anyone else for their continued thoughts and information on these subjects

 

Best,

G

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He likes zooms actually and uses the Technovision spherical zoom quite a bit.

 

I don't know how he rates his stocks; I'm just saying that the image looks fairly rich like he's printing at some decent lights.

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He likes zooms actually and uses the Technovision spherical zoom quite a bit.

 

That's true. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing a prime lens on the camera during "Exorcist" when the camera was on a dolly.

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    Can someone comment on whether or not  my assumption is correct that he utilized the older Cookes for the majority of his earlier work, pre dating and including Last Tango? Did he use re-housed Cookes for later shoots?

   

 

Indeed he did. Both the spherical and anamorphic Cooke S3s (rehoused by Technovision). Since the quality of these lens series (especially the anamorphic ones) varies from lens to lens, it is important to test to find the really good ones (contrast, sharpness, etc.). Well at Technovision in Rome there is a locker with the

best of these lenses, reserved especially for Storaro. They do not get rented out to anybody else.

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Hey All,

    Does anyone know Vittorio Storaros lens choices ( i.e. brand) for his 1.85: 1 pictures, mostly shot in the 80's/90's, such as The Sheltering Sky, Tucker, Reds ( I believe this was a 1.85 picture), and Dick Tracy?

   

Storaro used these Technovision Cooke lenses for pretty much all his movies, including 'Apocalypse Now', 'Reds', 'The Last Emperor', 'Dick Tracy', 'Little Buddha' and 'Bulworth'.

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He likes zooms actually and uses the Technovision spherical zoom quite a bit.

 

Do you know which Techno-Cooke Zooms in particular? There are several of these Cooke Zooms that have been adapted by Technovision. They vary from regular Cooke Zooms int hat they are faster, but have slightly less good minimum focus.

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Guest fstop

Michael, thanks so much for the info! So you jumped ship from the project? Any film where the late Michael Kamen and Christopher Young turn down scoring duties for Trevor Rabin alone is clearly a stinker.

 

Well at Technovision in Rome there is a locker with the

best of these lenses, reserved especially for Storaro. They do not get rented out to anybody else.

 

 

That sounds SO deliciously ludicrous, but I LOVE it! :D I just want there to be a ceremony where Storaro glides down the corridors of Technovision dressed like Ming the Merciless, inspecting the attention paid to colour wheel balance in the building ;)

 

Ah, personality- irrreplacable. There better be a half good biography written on Storaro sitting on bookshelves when he passes on- or a biopic in the cinema (starring Robert Begnini, directed by Blake Edwards ;) ). Storaro reminds us of all the flavour, colour, inspiration, innovation, artistry, charm, accomplishment, creativity on a grandscale and ambition that we ALL romanticse about the cinema and why it's the industry we wish to pursue.

 

I urge anyone interested in Storaro who hasn't already to check out the numerous articles and interiews on the legend at ,www.cameraguild.com/. If ever you are feeling disillusioned, upset, confused or downbeat about the film industry, check the ICG writing out and your spirits will soar again- I think Storaro's work and comments have touched us all spiritually, even at their most pretentious.

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Michael, thanks so much for the info! So you jumped ship from the project?

 

No, not really. When Renny (Harlin) was hired to re-make the picture, a number of us who were hired for Paul's movie were let go. Renny wanted his own visual effects supervisor, prosthetic team, and editor. He didn't get any of his first choices, but he didn't want anyone who had worked with Paul, either. I was on Paul's picture for almost 9 months, though, so I'm not complaining.

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