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Reggie A Brown

Lifetime or Hallmark Movies

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Are there any cinematographers here that shoot Lifetime or Hallmark movies? I have a few questions.

 

Shooting on a super35 sensor shooting for 16x9 on spherical lenses, what are the typical focal lengths used for wide interior shots? From my examination it seems to be between 24mm & 35mm. Am I in the ballpark?

 

And what are the typical focal lengths used for close ups? To me it looks like it's anything from an 85mm to 200+mm.

 

Is there a common distance the camera is placed from the talent vs the focal length used? Ex. Camera is placed 15' when using a 135mm.

 

When lighting actresses for a flat/bright frontal lighting on those programs, how are they typically lit? Ex. A big softbox behind the camera...? And is there usually a light on the camera used for catch lights?

 

What's usually the difference in stops between the talent and the bg?

 

I have a Christmas short I'm about to start shooting and we're going for a Lifetime/Hallmark feel. I have a general idea how I'm going to shoot it, but conversations always make me think about things I hadn't thought about before. Thanks for any feedback I may get!

Edited by Reggie A Brown

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I've shot a few of those movies over the years. There's no hard and fast rules as to the focal lengths used. Wides might be done on a 25mm, mids and 2 shots on a 35 or 50, closeups on a 85 or 100mm. All depends on personal choice and the size of the location. Just make sure that you have 'Xmas' in every frame.

 

Hallmark like their lighting fairly flat, and high key. I kept the keylights much more frontal than I would usually, and exposed as per my meter. Lifetime will let you be a little more dramatic, but it's still pretty flat and bright. I tended to use large soft sources, like 6'x6' light grid on a frame, and then sometimes double break it with half soft frost for close ups. They really like backlight, usually at least a stop hotter than it needs to be.

 

Hallmark really don't like shadows, or any dark areas at all.

 

For the full experience of shooting a Hallmark movie, you should have 2 or 3 random people with no film knowledge stand by monitor at all times and make helpful suggestions about how your work could be better.

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In the mid to late 1990's, I shot several films sold to Lifetime, all domestic thrillers. There were no rules about lenses, it's just that they didn't want anything too non-traditional. No rule about flat lighting, just that with the cheaper telecine transfers of the day, you had to watch out for too many bright or dark areas because the German TV market, the main buyer, had a lot of conservative requirements -- no lens flares, no soft shots, no lens diffusion, nothing clipped, decent shadow detail, etc.

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Thanks for the feedback guys!

 

Stuart, you mentioned having someone that has nothing to do with filmmaking stand by the monitor and give feedback, what kind of feedback should I be looking to get from them?

 

David, it's interested you mentioned no filters because I always thought those programs looked "soft" and usually have a slight glow around the highlights; are those nets on the lens perhaps, or just the softness and of the glass that the DP's are using? And if you were shooting one of those movies with today's modern glass would you use any filters?

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Stuart, you mentioned having someone that has nothing to do with filmmaking stand by the monitor and give feedback, what kind of feedback should I be looking to get from them?

It's generally rather ill-informed and nonsensical. And you won't have to ask, they'll offer it all day long... ;)

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David, it's interested you mentioned no filters because I always thought those programs looked "soft" and usually have a slight glow around the highlights; are those nets on the lens perhaps, or just the softness and of the glass that the DP's are using? And if you were shooting one of those movies with today's modern glass would you use any filters?

 

 

These were shot in 35mm, not digital back then, and the no diffusion rule was really due to the requirements of German TV buyers, not Lifetime. I generally use something light on digital, like a 1/4 Hollywood Black Magic or 1/4 Pearlescence though for wider shots or shots with smoke, I'll reduce or remove the filtration.

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For the full experience of shooting a Hallmark movie, you should have 2 or 3 random people with no film knowledge stand by monitor at all times and make helpful suggestions about how your work could be better.

 

HA! Hilarious!

 

R,

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They really like backlight, usually at least a stop hotter than it needs to be.

 

Hallmark really don't like shadows, or any dark areas at all.

Damn this hit me in my brain, everything I remember on that channel has come full circle.

 

Hallmark movies are like an Apple Commercial and a brainwashing VHS tape combined.

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