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A director I am working is interested in creating a similar look to the television show “Atlanta”. So I wanted to get as much information on the look. I am familiar with the show's production through various interviews with the cinematographer. Through this, I have learned they shoot with an ISO of 1280 underexpose a few stops and then push it back to normal through LUT boxes for real-time viewing. I will not have the ability to do this on set and was curious if anyone had any thoughts on another way to achieve something similar? Or at least soften my correctly exposed image in a similar way through filtration? I know this will not achieve the same effect but just throwing out ideas. Regarding lens choice, the show is shot on Kowa Spherical primes which are unavailable during my shoot. I have looked at Cooke Panchros and K35’s as alternatives and wanted to see if anyone had other suggestions.

 

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Posted (edited)

I'm relatively inexperienced compared with many here, but I believe the Alexa changes its ISO such that the gain isn't really changing, it's more like it's baking in a different curve. Hence the over/under changes (unlike Canon and Sony) between 800 ISO and 3200 ISO to increase the highlight detail at the expense of shadow detail:

 

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-S2PefWOPeWo/TzuvhYONf9I/AAAAAAAAAhU/-cqjtNT-3hs/s1600/427243_10150575080764065_592699064_8940257_1181583253_n.jpg

 

So I don't understand why someone shooting Alexa/Amira would rate at 1250 ISO and underexpose and monitor with an on-set LUT pushing it further rather than just rating at 3200 ISO and previewing with a normal LUT. With a different camera it would make sense to me, but the Alexa already pushes the image in software rather than with gain, I believe. (Or something similar.) There's probably a reason that's over my head or I'm misinterpreting what you've written, but I suspect you can achieve the same thing simply by rating the camera at 3200 ISO and metering at 3200 ISO with no custom LUTs. I worked on an Alexa show shot on 3200 ISO and part of the reason was an attempt to get more "film grain" and it worked beautifully. The over/under was closer to film, too. Just be sure to shoot like film–you don't want to underexpose further or it gets muddy fast. I didn't notice a "softening" effect so much as the over/under changing and the shadows getting grainy (with great texture; the Alexa's noise is quite nice).

 

The Panchros and K35s have significantly different rendering; the Cookes imo have a stronger vintage feel with nisen bokeh whereas the Canons are better-controlled with the only weird quality being onion-ring bokeh from the aspherical elements. Manchester by the Sea I think is K35. I love Super Speeds and B Speeds, which also have a vintage look, but that look is a little colder imo in comparison. Standard Speeds are pretty nice, too, and seem more affordable and easily available. I haven't worked with the Kowas so I have no idea what they're closest to.

 

Just a disclaimer, I'm not very experienced in this area, but have worked on shows where DPs were making similar choices. The feature I worked on where the DP rated at 1600 or 3200 ISO on the Alexa was shot on rehoused Leica primes from Panavision. I'd run your own tests because the Alexa does get noisy fast and it might not be desirable. Its over/under even at 800 ISO favors highlights more than most cameras do. In my experience, tungsten white balance also makes it noisier.

Edited by M Joel W
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Yes, I'm not sure why they don't use use a higher ISO rating if they want more noise from underexposing. Maybe however they are compensating for the rest of the underexposure in the post house is more flexible than just letting the camera do the correction.

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I am guessing they are getting a different look maybe between rating higher and compensating in post. Here is the quote from the DP I am referencing.

 

"I shot the Amira at 3.2K which is close to open gate and most of the time, set the ISO to 1280. Then we would underexpose on our meters several more stops depending on the lighting scenario. Our DIT would wirelessly LiveGrade the image via a Teradek Colr which allowed us to, in real-time, push the grossly underexposed image back up to a normal exposure. Basically, we were able to perform a push process the same way one would on a film negative, but digitally and on set, with live feedback"

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It looks like 3200 ISO is the highest you can set the camera to, so maybe that's another reason to do it in post if he wants to go "several stops" beyond 1280 ISO.

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