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Tiago Pimentel

Achieving this cinematography

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Hey guys,


I'm writing a new short film that I'll be directing and DP'ing. I'm in that phase of thinking where I want it to go visually as well as dramatically. And how both will interact with each other. But the reason I'm writing this post is the visual component. I'm in love with the latest PT Anderson film, Phantom Thread (not necessarily the story, but the cinematography). And that is the look that I'm after for my short film, no question about that.


I know PTA only shoots film, and that is not going to be possible for me. I will be shooting digital (Ursa Mini 4.6k from Blackmagic). But there is a distinct look to the film and I'm wondering what will I be able to do in camera to get there and what will only be possible to achieve in post (grading). For example, the color bias and texture of a specific stock will only be possible to get in a Resolve suite, I imagine. As is the grain.


What would you say is important to get in camera, during production, given this specific film? In other words, what would you take with you to shoot this look? (please bear in mind my short film will be low budget and the camera will be the one mentioned above).


For those who didn't watch the film, here are some stills (not the same thing as watching them in motion, though):








Tiago Pimentel

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I think the look of Phantom Thread had a lot to do with production design, costumes, and make-up. Perhaps more than the "film" look. I guess I'm saying you should be thinking much more about what is in front of the camera, than the technology behind the camera to achieve a "look" :)

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There are different things going on here for sure. Like Bruce said the majority of the feel of the look is derived from the wardrobe make up and production design. Look at the color palettes and communicate with your art department and wardrobe, to keep all design elements within the color scheme that you choose.


As far as things you can do with the camera, I would take a bunch of stills from scenes you like and bring them into davinci. There are tons of false color plugins that you can download. Use false color and scopes to analyze what level skin tones and black levels are exposed at for the scenes you like. Thats a start. The complication for replicating the contrast and color precisely is that you don't have people with the same exact skin tone, and you don't really know where the lighting impacted the contrast or where the contrast curve of the camera did. I would shoot tests lighting a subject and create a 2:1 4:1 8:1 16:1 contrast ratio with a very soft key and then try different contrast curves on all those tests and see which combinations you like. You can also see if the key is one stop up or one stop down, side light, rembrant lighting, top light, and see how that effects things. Once you have a contrast curve you like for the camera, test CTS CTB CTO to see what level you need to get that warm key in the second photo, who knows you might need 1/8 CTS or 1/4 CTO for the last photo too depending on your contrast curve.


As for the color thats the trickiest part. If you look at the vector scope, the color is pretty interesting. There is more purple/red in DDL then I would have expected and in general highlights of the skin are yellow and darks of the skin are red. Basically the skin is a wide array of tones between yellow and red, digital some times especially for the cheaper cameras, has a narrower array on the vector scope for skin tones. Usually its a thin line near the skin tone line, but the stills here are more like pizza slices on the vector scope. So you need to know how to separate tones a little bit. Some times that can be done just with contrast, sometimes you have to drop the luminance of colors specifically which takes a little skill.


A good colorist and some testing would be the best route on the color front, but if thats not an option, wardrobe, PD, make up, and lighting, and an appropriate contrast curve will get you close to the feel anyway.

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