Jump to content
David Mullen ASC

The Love Witch

Recommended Posts

Crikey, that's clever. I'd have sworn it was shot in the early 60s.

 

Some of it, that last shot in particularl, almost looks technicolor-esque.

 

P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's true that most people trying to simulate an old movie style end up shying away from hard key lighting. I just saw "Mr. Holmes", beautifully photographed on the Alexa, and there is a scene where Holmes goes to see a Sherlock Holmes movie in a theater, something made just after WW2 -- it was clever in that Sherlock Holmes was played in the fake movie by Nicholas Rowe, who as a young man played the same character in "Young Sherlock Holmes" -- but the b&w film print did not quite look authentic, the lighting was too soft for the 1940's and there wasn't enough grain or contrast for a b&w print of the time. And it seemed that some of the lenses were more wide-angle than were typically used at the time.

 

I'd say our main references were "Marnie" and "The Birds", early 60's Hitchcock, but also British horror films such as "Horror Hotel", "Dracula: Prince of Darkness", etc. We watched a lot of Elizabeth Taylor melodramas from that time, up until the early 1970's, like "Secret Ceremony", "X, Y, and Z". Though soft lighting had crept into movies around that time, even "Marnie" has some semi-soft lighting at times, we stuck to more of a 1950's approach. I tried to use colored lighting in backgrounds when I could to enhance the color of the sets, but keep the key lights white on the faces.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the advantages of an all hard lighting approach is how easy it is to flag and shape a light. For example, in this bar/nightclub scene I keyed these two actresses with a 1K fresnel and to put a shadow across their white dresses, I just put a strip of 1" black paper tape across the barndoors on the 1K:

 

lovewitch10.jpg

 

Same here on this close-up -- I used some 1" back tape on the barndoors to shadow her neck:

lovewitch11.jpg
This shot is also an example of the typical diffusion on the lens -- my black tule material (creating the X-shaped glints & kicks) + 1/8 Classic Soft. 65mm Zeiss Super Speed at f/2.8.
It was interesting to light a whole nightclub space to 100 ASA, mostly with a lot of 2K Juniors rigged to the ceiling, plus 1K ParCan spots. Some of the 2K's had red gel on them for high backlights, and for the coverage, I sometimes had to add a red-gelled Source-4 Leko backlight on a stand to get more intensity, especially for the brunettes.
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It was interesting to light a whole nightclub space to 100 ASA, mostly with a lot of 2K Juniors rigged to the ceiling...

 

How bright is it to work in these conditions, with all those 2 and 1k's? Does that amount of light affect performance of people? Maybe I'm overly sensitive to bright lights.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most effects are done in-camera -- for example, I used a kaleidoscope lens for this shot:

 

lovewitch5.jpg

 

 

I created a red grad effect by cutting a slit in a red party gel taped to the matte box, about six inches away from the lens to control how sharp-edged the effect was. You can see the star-type flare from the Dior net on the lens in the reflection in her eye:

 

lovewitch6.jpg

 

The deep blue moonlight is my little homage to Douglas Sirk / Russell Metty and "Written on the Wind"...

lovewitch7.jpg

 

lovewitch8.jpg

 

A good example of the effect of using 200 ASA stock rated at 100 ASA and the high light levels involved -- I had 150w light bulbs in these practicals and they are barely reading as being on! This shot, like most, was lit to an f/2.8 and shot on Zeiss Super Speeds. Generally key lights for a scene like this would be a direct 2K fresnel, or a 1K fresnel for closer shots:

lovewitch9.jpg

 

 

Amazing work, David. The red lighting immediately reminded me of Suspiria and the other shots look like Technicolor prints. Gorgeous stuff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How much of a relight did that entail, for reverses?

 

For that bar location, it mainly just meant moving the key and red edge light around (we covered about five people in a circle around a table, then other people by the bar and on the stage, etc.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

How bright is it to work in these conditions, with all those 2 and 1k's? Does that amount of light affect performance of people? Maybe I'm overly sensitive to bright lights.

 

It's very bright -- and hot. It certainly makes the actors feel like they are in a spot light, but you'd have to ask if standing on a theatrical stage under hard spotlights affected an actor's performance. The stage is not a "natural" environment either. Some actors are more sensitive than others to the brightness. It was mainly a problem though when doing macro shots of faces -- we had a number of ECU's of eyes in the movie and using a macro lens at f/5.6 at 100 ASA with a bright light right next to the matte box was fairly uncomfortable. We had a similar issue outdoors in sunlight when we had to fill with big HMI's or reflectors, but I've always had problems with actors squinting outdoors in bright sun even if I didn't use any lights. But I'd say the actors found that stuff the hardest to deal with, bright sun + bright hard fill light.

 

I once worked with a classic movie actress where I had the opposite problem, she got distracted if she felt there wasn't enough light hitting her. She felt she had become used to acting towards a bright key light.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great work David, way to stick to your guns and go for it! I second what satuski said, I think a lot of shooters would be afraid to dive in this far. It really feels authentic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lovely! To my eye, the look is familiar but doesn't stick out as a particular emulsion. I like the range of DOF. What's the grain like?

 

So, how'd you settle on overexposed medium speed film and Super-Speeds and why would EXR and 2393 have been better?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Keep in mind that these frames are from an HD transfer and then are shrunk from 1920 across to 900 pixels across and slightly noise reduced and compressed for web display, so the grain is hard to see. In projection from a straight 2383 Vision print, there is visible grain structure, though very tight, even with 200T Vision 3 5213 printed down from being rated at 100 ASA (the printer lights are in the low 40's).

 

Here is a frame from dailies of a green screen shot made with no diffusion on the lens -- I just cropped it from 1920 pixels to around 900 pixels so you can see the noise / grain of the HD transfer a little better without having to post a 1920 x 1080 frame. Dailies were delivered as ProRes 422 LT files but these frames were grabbed by the colorist before being recorded (meaning I don't think this is ProRes LT compression you are seeing) -- I don't know his JPEG compression level but the original JPEG is 795 KB.

 

Also we had the image slightly reduced for the HD transfer in order to get keycode / timecode window burn-ins within 1920 x 1080 but outside of the 1.85 picture frame.

 

So here is the cropped image so you can see a little of the film grain + telecine noise + JPEG artifacts + edge enhancement:

lovewitch12.jpg

 

Vision Premier 2393 print stock would have been great for the Technicolor look, it's too bad Kodak discontinued it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I looked at a range of old 1950's movies on blu-ray in HD to get a sense of 35mm color grain levels back then -- the truth is that they vary quite a bit, partially due to whatever the quality was of the source but also whether the movie was shot in 3-strip Technicolor or Kodak Eastmancolor negative and whether the Eastmancolor was regular 4-perf 35mm or 8-perf VistaVision. As you can imagine, the regular 4-perf 35mm color negative stuff from the 1950's was the grainiest. The VistaVision movies Hitchcock made like "Vertigo" and "North By Northwest" though are pretty fine-grained compared to "Marnie" or "The Birds".

 

I also saw a blu-ray of "Bell, Book, and Candle" (shot by James Wong Howe) which was quite grainy but not atypical for regular 4-perf 35mm of the late 1950's.

 

Here are some frames from the two movies on blu-ray, cropped to 900 pixels rather than reduced from 1920 pixels, just so the grain is easier to see:

 

"Bell, Book, and Candle" (4-perf 35mm) CROPPED

novak1.jpg

 

"Vertigo" (8-perf 35mm) CROPPED

novak2.jpg

 

Now I know this is an unscientific comparison because I have no idea of the source materials used ("Bell, Book, and Candle" looks like it was reconstructed from b&w separations, whereas most of "Vertigo" was restored from original negative when possible) but I looked at these movies in HD just to get a sense of what "old" color movies look like, quality-wise.

 

At the same time, I saw a 4K restoration of the 3-strip Technicolor movie "Tales of Hoffman" digitally projected at CineFamily (Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax) and it was incredibly sharp and fine-grained.

 

So at first I thought that perhaps 500T stock would get me closer to the graininess of 1950's 35mm Kodak stock, but for the director, it was more important to get closer to the color saturation of these older movies, she wasn't interested in a grainy image.

 

She also believes that by using slow film and adding a lot of artificial light, you cause colors to stand out more. Now while in theory all of the Kodak Vision 3 stocks from 50D to 500T match in contrast and saturation (for better or worse), and thus if I had used just as much light for Vision 3 500T stock and just stopped down the lens more, I should have gotten the same color saturation as 200T but what's nice about using the slower stocks is that you can't really cheat, you have to use the high light levels. And by using a lot of light, particularly from the front, you sort of obliterate a lot of natural ambience that sort of robs the contrast, and what you get back has more punch to it. So the slow film sort of forces your hand in terms of being more direct with the light.

 

Because she didn't want grain, my other thought to rate 200T normally at 200 ASA and push one stop for more contrast and 1-stop extra density, then print down, was dropped too -- if 100T stock had existed, this might have been a good idea though. Of course, we would have spent more money push-processing the whole movie. But I have found in the past that pushing Vision 3 stocks does make them a bit more saturated. So the best solution was to overexpose 200T for more density in the negative.

 

If Fuji still existed with their "Vivid" 250D and 500T stocks, that might have been worth investigating but unfortunately I probably would have needed a 250T Vivid stock, which they never made.

 

The best stocks probably would have been Kodak EXR 100T 5248 or EXR 200T 5293 -- the EXR stocks in general had a nice snap to them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anna and I talked about older lenses, i.e. older than the mid-1970's Zeiss Super Speeds, but for her previous movie made seven years ago, she had looked at older Cooke Pancros and probably B&L Baltars and didn't like the loss of contrast and the yellowness (from the aging of the coatings).

 

So Zeiss Super-Speeds were about as far back in time as I wanted to go, plus I intended to use lens diffusion and didn't want to be limited by overly old optics where I might be forced to shoot clean just to get a semi-sharp image. The Super-Speeds are pretty sharp, sharper than I remembered actually, though the sharpness drops off quickly below f/2.8. I could have considered shooting most of the movie on a Cooke 20-100mm, which dates back to the early 1970's, but then I'd be limited to an f/3.5 or so, almost an f/4, and I had a hard enough time getting to an f/2.8. Plus many color movies from the beginning of Technicolor were shot at f/2.8 so that type of depth of field seemed ideal in terms of matching that look.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't know his JPEG compression level but the original JPEG is 795 KB.

 

That's fairly harsh. Assuming HD frames, 1920*1080*3/1024 = 6075 KB.

 

6095/795 = 7.67:1

 

When MJPEG compression was used for broadcast, compression of no more than 3:1 was considered reasonable. Slightly smarter codecs, such as ProRes and DNxHD, which use broadly similar mathematics, can look good at higher ratios.

 

P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The JPEGS I usually post are only around 70 KB... but one reason is that I store so many frames on my website so I can link them to forum posts, plus I don't want them to load too slowly on a page.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your thorough postings on this, David. Did you happen to do exposure tests for saturation before production? If so, how extensive?

 

The nightclub scenes remind me a bit of Geoffrey Unsworth’s work on “Cabaret”. It’s refreshing to see this done in todays age, but also a stark reminder of how much contemporary cinematography has departed from this style.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, I've shot film for so long that I know that the higher the printer lights, the deeper the blacks, which in turn means more saturation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This extraordinary picture might get me back to the cinema after 7 years, but only if a print makes it to the UK.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This past week, after a hiatus of a couple of weeks, we regathered to finish the movie, shooting four days. The main thing we owed was the opening and the closing of the movie -- the opening was a driving sequence with rear-projection on a stage, and the closing was to be shot on our Renaissance Faire set, but due to heavy rain the week we shot, we never got to shoot the ending, which required a horse and it was too muddy on a hillside to safely shoot horses that day. So we had to reconstruct our Faire set in Griffith Park.

 

Monday was spent in a Victorian home in the historic Angelino Heights district. We had day scenes shot with small HMI's and Mole-Richardson Daylight LED fresnels and then we tented the house and shot night scenes with tungsten units, mostly 1K fresnels:

 

lovewitch13.jpg

 

lovewitch14.jpg

 

On Wednesday and Thursday we shot in Griffith Park. We had some close-ups shot on a stage outside in the sun, but when we got to them, the sun was directly overhead -- on a modern film, I'd usually soften it with a light silk, but for this old-school style, I decided to knock out most of the overhead light with a full silk combined with a Double Net scrim, and then light the faces with a M90 (9K) HMI. Diffusion on the lens was a Black Net + 1/4 Classic Soft:

 

lovewitch15.jpg

 

For a flashback scene, I was able to use a heavier Dior net on the lens. It was overcast in the morning, so I had to create sunlight with the M90 and key with an M18 (1.8K) HMI:

 

lovewitch16.jpg

 

The last day we were on a small stage shooting driving scenes with a 15K Lumens LCD projector playing QuickTimes from my laptop of background plates shot with my little Sony NEX6 camera. We had shots in woods, along the coast, on a mountaintop, and in town:

 

lovewitch17.jpg

 

Since the projector was daylight (Xenon source), I used the 250D stock. Even with 15,000 lumens, I only got a f/2.0 at 160 ASA from the screen. I had tested a 3-chip DLP projector at VER, the rental house, the week before we shot, but I got odd banding/flickering with my 24P Sony camera shooting the test (we didn't have to budget to drag in a 35mm movie camera to test the projector that way). I just read Phil on CML saying that this was due to the rolling shutter of my 24P camera, but when I tested an LCD projector, the problem went away and I figured if it worked for my little Sony camera running at 24P, it would work with a 24 fps film camera.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great stuff David, the car shot is so reminiscent of the Hitchcock films, I love it! :)

 

Interesting discussing the rear projection situation, for sure something to think about in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I should mention that we rented a 12'x6' rear projection screen and the projector was about 12 feet behind it.

 

Most of the plates were shot with a 20mm lens on my Sony NEX6 camera, but I also tried a 35mm lens and a zoom set to 25mm-ish. Ultimately, it seemed that the wider focal lengths were better because our close-ups in the foreground cropped the background plate naturally to a tighter shot as if shot with a longer focal length. The medium shot of her driving (above) was done with a 50mm lens and the close-up with an 85mm lens.

 

I didn't really attempt to recreate natural light on the car but even if I did, the problem with a Mustang turns out is that the top of the windshield frame leans back only a foot or so from the forehead of the driver, so there is no way to get a high frontal key light without a big shadow from the windshield top + sun visors, if you try to key above that, the light is almost right over the top of the head, so you have to lower the key light way, way down - you can see here that the key light, a 2K daylight Mole LED fresnel, was at the bottom of the baby stand and I barely could clear the shadow of the window off of her eyes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.



  • Wooden Camera



    Visual Products



    Paralinx LLC



    CineLab



    Glidecam



    Metropolis Post



    FJS International



    New Pro Video - New and Used Equipment



    Ritter Battery



    Just Cinema Gear



    Rig Wheels Passport



    Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS



    Tai Audio



    Abel Cine



    Serious Gear



    Broadcast Solutions Inc



    Gamma Ray Digital Inc



    G-Force Grips


    Cinematography Books and Gear
×
×
  • Create New...