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Ed Davor

low light cinematography

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Hi

 

Can someone explain to me, how do you get a nice looking exposure like this using just a ISO100 (or 125) film stock (5247, the only one available in 1980), with such low light levels. I know big cities such as NYC have a lot of light on the street at night, but still...

 

 

I guess they pushed it 2 stops? Would it still be enough? Did they have decent "beyond-f2.8" lenses back then? I know you can get very close to f1 these days with special lenses. Is this the secret?

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They probably used Zeiss Super Speeds which open up to T1.3 and pushed the film stock. Flashing the film stock either before or after shooting would also get you a bit more density in the shadows.

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Mercury Vapor street lamps were generally a bit brighter than later sodium street lamps (and now LED lamps, which are designed to match current light levels from sodium lamps.) Plus I'm sure that the blue-green bias to the older mercury vapor lamps helped with exposure (tungsten stocks have a faster blue layer to compensate for lower levels of blue in tungsten light.)

 

There was a process that one lab (TVC) in NYC used called "Chemtone" that was basically a chemical flash and push-process (perhaps combined with actual flashing) which lifted the bottom of the image into view. The idea was that the chemical fogging counteracted the increase in contrast from push-processing. "Taxi Driver" used it I think.

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If you think about it, the shadows are still pretty dark, it's the illuminations themselves that really record.

Modern stocks read much deeper into the blacks.

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Hi,

 

Thanks everyone for your answers. I really like this footage. It's beautiful.@mark: We also don't have any info here about the methodology of this transfer. A lot of older transfers seem to suffer from low dynamic range. And if I'm not mistaking, they sometimes used prints. I've seem more shots from this same reel, these are actually rushes I think, and they could well be transfered from a print. I say this because this is unused footage (for a British Airways ad I think) that never got to the interpositive stage, so it's either the original negative (which I find unlikely) or a daily-print. That's just my speculation though. I think I saw leader writings on some of these shots.

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What video format do you have them on? In any case, the clip you have up there is very clean. Lots of detail. I'm guessing you cleaned it up before putting it up. If so, nice job.

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