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A recent HP commercial which I'm extremely impressed with


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13 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

On image character: I reject poorly exposed images, or images with rubbish colour or lighting. That is not character. I suggest that CA and distortion are not character either. They are aberrations, and distracting ones.

‘Poorly exposed’ and ‘rubbish’ are rather broad and meaningless judgements without context though.

Some might think Gordon Willis’s work in ‘The Godfather’ or ‘All the President’s Men’ is ‘poorly exposed’ from a technical point of view. And perhaps ‘rubbish’ from a aesthetic point of view. Same with Conrad Hall’s work in ‘Fat City’, Roger Deakins in ‘Jarhead’, Harris Savides in ‘Birth.’

But if you look at the context of the films and the emotions they were trying to elicit in the audience, their choices make sense. You might not agree with the choices aesthetically, but I don’t think you can say the work is ‘poorly exposed’ or ‘rubbish.’ They lensed, lit, and exposed what was intended. It’s a choice meant to evoke an emotional response in the audience on a subconscious level. 

I think that’s the difference between ‘character’ and an aberration. The former is an intentional choice based on the selection of equipment and how it’s used. The latter is simply a physical property of that equipment.

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On 9/26/2020 at 12:11 AM, Karim D. Ghantous said:

I watched this all the way through. That's not something I would usually say about commercials, especially those which are over 5 minutes long. This is an excellent commercial not just because it made me watch it to the end, but because it was very well lit.

I really love the style here - I'd describe it as a whole bunch of small lights in the scene as opposed to just one large light. I love the mix of sources - probably because mixed lighting vaguely resembles Christmas lights. And I love the amount of (apparent) practicals, which IMHO are the most interesting and important part of lighting. I think you could almost light entirely with practicals these days. (Don't send me hate mail!).

It's obviously digital, but the image manages to remain rich nonetheless. And it's so close that some people will call it a win for digital. The post processing was very well done, and it doesn't draw attention to itself. I do not like low contrast, washed out images, which seems to be in vogue these days for some reason. Anyway, from what I'm seeing, digital hasn't caught up yet. Maybe that will change, but right now, film is still king.

The lenses that they used for interiors could have been anamorphics, but I don't know. Selective focus was used responsibly and allows the viewer to appreciate the background, instead of obscuring it in a defocused fog. There's noticeable pincushion in some shots which I would have corrected, but at least the image is pleasant and the bokeh has character which isn't too obvious. I wonder though why people spend time in the colouring suite and not actually, you know, correct stuff. At the end of the day, the image isn't clinical, which is the main thing.

I don't think that ads can make you buy something you don't already want to buy, but that doesn't matter. This ad is terrific.

 

That’s not a commercial it’s a short film. I thought the purpose of a commercial was to get an idea out in seconds, it’s a real waste of money. 

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4 hours ago, Josh Gallegos said:

That’s not a commercial it’s a short film. I thought the purpose of a commercial was to get an idea out in seconds, it’s a real waste of money. 

For broadcast, yes. Usually 30sec or 1min. The internet has really opened up the commercial genre in the last decade or so. But yes, I’d consider it more of a brand film than a commercial spot.

As for a waste of money, anytime you can get a large corporation to pay for something artistic on a larger scale, I’d consider that a win. It would certainly be a fun type of job to shoot, if you can land it.

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Here’s another long commercial done in the short film style that I really like: 

There are 30s and 60s cuts that were broadcast, but I think it works really well as a longer piece.

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1 hour ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

For broadcast, yes. Usually 30sec or 1min. The internet has really opened up the commercial genre in the last decade or so. But yes, I’d consider it more of a brand film than a commercial spot.

As for a waste of money, anytime you can get a large corporation to pay for something artistic on a larger scale, I’d consider that a win. It would certainly be a fun type of job to shoot, if you can land it.

The whole thing is about how they made the company more money, wouldn’t exactly call that art. Just because it looks shiny and vibrant it doesn’t necessarily make it great cinematography, it feels like something Edgar Wright would make, all flash no heart. ♥️ 

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3 hours ago, Josh Gallegos said:

The whole thing is about how they made the company more money, wouldn’t exactly call that art. Just because it looks shiny and vibrant it doesn’t necessarily make it great cinematography, it feels like something Edgar Wright would make, all flash no heart. ♥️ 


The whole ‘art’ vs ‘ART’ argument is a whole other topic really. I suppose if you’re judging on that curve, then the number of projects that meet those lofty standards might be less than five per year. You can’t really sustain a film industry on those kinds of numbers. I think there’s enough room for all sorts of entertainment. And really, it’s films like ‘The Avengers’ and Star Wars’ that makes a project like ‘Marriage Story’ viable.

Anyway, what did you think of the ‘Mayo Clinic’ commercial? 

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10 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:


The whole ‘art’ vs ‘ART’ argument is a whole other topic really. I suppose if you’re judging on that curve, then the number of projects that meet those lofty standards might be less than five per year. You can’t really sustain a film industry on those kinds of numbers. I think there’s enough room for all sorts of entertainment. And really, it’s films like ‘The Avengers’ and Star Wars’ that makes a project like ‘Marriage Story’ viable.

Anyway, what did you think of the ‘Mayo Clinic’ commercial? 

Most of the blockbuster films are made for China and most of the films you see in theaters are these huge Disney movies. They’re entertaining, but I think the world has changed so drastically. I enjoy watching TCM classic anniversaries on the big screen but no one really  goes to the movies anymore, everyone’s streaming or watching the newest shows on FX or HBO, especially with the COVID outbreak, most people probably bought 4K TVs and entertainment systems. I’m not sure movie theaters will fully recover, but I hope “Hollywood” movies die completely, all we ever see is Disney and Pixar movies taking up all the screens. I’d rather stream movies from indie filmmakers on Amazon or wherever they stream. 

I want to discover new artists like the next Wim Wenders or a Bergman. I’m sure they’re out there somewhere, I’m getting old, I just don’t see myself paying $10 to watch Spider-Man sling around New York City for 2 hours. I think a younger generation of filmmakers will rise up and take cinema to a different place just like Scorsese, Coppola did in the 70s. I know I’m not the only one who feels the same. And they’re remaking Ghostbusters.... AGAIN! 
 

I saw the Mayo Clinic short film, it’s just familiar. Father and son road diary, they share looks that say “I love you”, but it’s not real. In real life people are internally unhappy and afraid, there’s nothing compelling happening. 

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2 hours ago, Josh Gallegos said:

I saw the Mayo Clinic short film, it’s just familiar. Father and son road diary, they share looks that say “I love you”, but it’s not real. In real life people are internally unhappy and afraid, there’s nothing compelling happening. 

That’s interesting, I think there’s a lot of stuff happening - to me, right away you get the sense that something’s not right with the son, but the reveal that his dad has been driving him to the Mayo Clinic for probably cancer treatment puts it all into perspective.

I like the little moments they have alone, when they don’t have to hide their emotions from each other - the dad in the diner bathroom taking a moment has that feeling like when the full weight of grief falls upon you suddenly and you can’t breathe. Or when he comes out and sees his son is gone and has a moment of panic. I feel like the the film builds to where when they’re at the river together and the son screams, it feels real and not forced because of the carefully withheld emotions that came before. My take is that I think it’s a really good short film that also works as a commercial with a real narrative drive, rather than just evocative images strung together as so many ‘films’ now are.

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On 10/3/2020 at 3:58 AM, Satsuki Murashige said:


I guess I’m not seeing the distinction you’re drawing truth and authenticity. Is sounds to me like we are both talking about a representation of objective reality, one that’s widely accepted enough to be used as evidence in a court of law. Can you clarify? 

Re: frame averaging/image correction

I guess you are getting at a kind of essentialism, beyond the capture device or medium. However, at least when it comes to motion pictures I think you are disregarding temporal ‘authenticity’ - if you remove or interpolated frames or alter the frame rate, isn’t that also now ‘a work of art based on a recording’? Why do some types of manipulation increase authenticity while other types remove it?

AFAIK, truth and fact are different things. Cameras, to the best of their ability, deliver facts as their output. It's up to us to determine truth. For example, an autopsy photo is a fact, but what is the truth as to what happened to the victim, and by whom?

Altering the frame rate is no more manipulation than capturing a single moment at 1/8000 sec. But I'm happy to listen to debates about this. At the worst, people must be allowed their views. I only insist that people be straightforward with what they're doing. If you manipulated a photo, you have to declare it.

By definition, manipulation cannot increase authenticity. So to me, frame averaging is not manipulation, it is quite the opposite. I'm looking at this from the other direction: What does frame averaging do? I think about the answers, then I decide whether it's manipulation. I know, I'm being very semantic here. 

On 10/3/2020 at 4:13 AM, Satsuki Murashige said:

‘Poorly exposed’ and ‘rubbish’ are rather broad and meaningless judgements without context though.

You know it when you see it. When I say underexposed, I mean when the photographer **(obscenity removed)**ed up. That's not 'character'. Neither is an unfocused subject - that's just annoying. When I say rubbish lighting, I mean, that crappy, anaemic lighting you get from cheap LEDs. Horrible.

15 hours ago, Josh Gallegos said:

I want to discover new artists like the next Wim Wenders or a Bergman. I’m sure they’re out there somewhere, I’m getting old, I just don’t see myself paying $10 to watch Spider-Man sling around New York City for 2 hours. I think a younger generation of filmmakers will rise up and take cinema to a different place just like Scorsese, Coppola did in the 70s. I know I’m not the only one who feels the same. And they’re remaking Ghostbusters.... AGAIN! 

You make a good point there. Another point, along similar lines, is that we don't need new movies at all. There are 100 years of cinema that most people haven't seen or heard of. Personally I'm slowly making my way through a collection of film noir.

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But Movies are not reality , by definition almost they are the opposite ,..  they tell a story and the DoP makes the mood.. I guess thats the job at the most basic  ..  the early impressionist painters had the same criticism aimed at them.. for not being "real"..   do you like Monets pictures of the Thames ..  it didn't look like that when he was standing there painting it..   but it had that "mood"

 

PS Film is dead , digital is better .. lets get back to discussing interesting stuff again..    🙂 

 

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7 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

But Movies are not reality , by definition almost they are the opposite ,..  they tell a story and the DoP makes the mood.. I guess thats the job at the most basic  ..  the early impressionist painters had the same criticism aimed at them.. for not being "real"..   do you like Monets pictures of the Thames ..  it didn't look like that when he was standing there painting it..   but it had that "mood"


Yes, that’s more or less what I’m getting at. Maybe this is a major difference in how we’re trained to think about photography vs narrative cinematography? 

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10 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

You know it when you see it. When I say underexposed, I mean when the photographer **(obscenity removed)**ed up. That's not 'character'. Neither is an unfocused subject - that's just annoying. When I say rubbish lighting, I mean, that crappy, anaemic lighting you get from cheap LEDs. Horrible.

I think there needs to be a distinction made between an artist’s mistake and a deliberate choice for imperfection that extends beyond the viewer’s conditioned visceral response. What was the artist trying to communicate, were they successful? That sort of thing.

I guess we are talking about two different things - you are talking about (it seems to me) poor or mediocre work that fails on a technical level. I am (I think) talking about good to great work that is intentionally ugly. I guess I’m wondering if you also see a place for ‘ugly’ art, or not? 

I stand by what I said earlier: 

On 10/2/2020 at 11:13 AM, Satsuki Murashige said:

They lensed, lit, and exposed what was intended. It’s a choice meant to evoke an emotional response in the audience on a subconscious level. 

I think that’s the difference between ‘character’ and an aberration. The former is an intentional choice based on the selection of equipment and how it’s used. The latter is simply a physical property of that equipment.


Re: authenticity vs truth

I understand the distinction you’re making now, thanks for the explanation.

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Personally, I'd rather the subject do the expressing. I don't think it's tasteful to impose expression on a subject. But, as I said, there's nothing wrong with distinguishing different states of a character, such as using CA for memories or dreams. It's not compulsory but it's useful.

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19 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:


Yes, that’s more or less what I’m getting at. Maybe this is a major difference in how we’re trained to think about photography vs narrative cinematography? 

"authenticity vs truth"

Well, I come from a photography background and one of the things that distinguish great photographers from average ones is that they are able to capture a story in one single frame while being truthful about it. 

As an example, if we take a look at the work of Sebastiao Salgado (especially in portraits) we can feel the authenticity, honesty and truth  of the photo, we also feel that there is a story in the photo and around the subjects. 
However, the photographer deliberately chose to take a photo from that angle so he made a choice in order to tell a story. 

Hence, we have a photo that is authentic, it is true (as it has been taken in a true non-modified environment) but it is also an alteration of the truth because the photographer has decided to focus on X instead of Y. 

https://huxleyparlour.com/works/mother-and-child-at-the-korem-camp-ethiopia-1984/

I kind of think that maybe there should be a distinction in filmmaking regarding genres. 
Usually when you are shooting a documentary you are documenting the reality that is happening at that particular time and most of the time you're just capturing a set of images in a certain medium. 

However, when you are making a movie, you are altering reality to fit a purpose and in that case you are using all the tools that you have available to do so consciously. 

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15 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

Personally, I'd rather the subject do the expressing. I don't think it's tasteful to impose expression on a subject. But, as I said, there's nothing wrong with distinguishing different states of a character, such as using CA for memories or dreams. It's not compulsory but it's useful.


Sure, that’s reasonable. Though it should be noted that cinema by its temporal nature can’t help but impose on the subject. Kuleshov effect, etc.

Also, there’s the concept of cheating in filmmaking - how much can you change the eyeline, the lighting, move walls, shoot over multiple days and locations to fake a single location, use stunt doubles, etc - in order to achieve a seamless effect. 

This is why I suggested there that may be a difference in how we are taught photography and cinematography. I think in cinema, the cheating ultimately services a central idea which one might call the film’s authenticity. It’s not done for its own sake, but to keep the viewer engaged in the story. 

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I wouldn't call it cheating - I would appeal to the notion that cinema has a language. Editing is a huge, huge part of that. Camera movements are, IMHO, secondary. FWIW. This  applies to documentaries, too, of course.

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3 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

I wouldn't call it cheating - I would appeal to the notion that cinema has a language. Editing is a huge, huge part of that. Camera movements are, IMHO, secondary. FWIW. This  applies to documentaries, too, of course.

That’s the term we use on set - ‘cheat that mark over a bit’, ‘let’s cheat that table out’, ‘cheat your eyeline closer to lens’, etc.

I was listening to a recent Team Deakins podcast episode with the script supervisor from ‘1917’ today, which was quite interesting. She said often she has to consider how critical to be about continuity depending on how much she thinks the audience will notice - that sometimes a cut will be less distracting if a better frame is prioritized over set dressing continuity. 

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22 hours ago, Miguel Angel said:

Well, I come from a photography background and one of the things that distinguish great photographers from average ones is that they are able to capture a story in one single frame while being truthful about it. 

As an example, if we take a look at the work of Sebastiao Salgado (especially in portraits) we can feel the authenticity, honesty and truth  of the photo, we also feel that there is a story in the photo and around the subjects. 
However, the photographer deliberately chose to take a photo from that angle so he made a choice in order to tell a story. 

Hence, we have a photo that is authentic, it is true (as it has been taken in a true non-modified environment) but it is also an alteration of the truth because the photographer has decided to focus on X instead of Y. 

https://huxleyparlour.com/works/mother-and-child-at-the-korem-camp-ethiopia-1984/

I kind of think that maybe there should be a distinction in filmmaking regarding genres. 
Usually when you are shooting a documentary you are documenting the reality that is happening at that particular time and most of the time you're just capturing a set of images in a certain medium. 

However, when you are making a movie, you are altering reality to fit a purpose and in that case you are using all the tools that you have available to do so consciously. 

Thanks Miguel, 

I thought I had replied to you earlier, dunno what happened to that post. 

Re: Salgado

I think he is an interesting case, since prints of his work have so much drama in them, contrast-wise. I’m sure his frames as far as composition is concerned are un-manipulated, but there is so much burning and dodging going on (to beautiful effect) that I don’t think the final prints really represent the reality of what was on the negative. Is that still authenticity? I’m not sure. 

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22 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

I’m sure his frames as far as composition is concerned are un-manipulated, but there is so much burning and dodging going on (to beautiful effect) that I don’t think the final prints really represent the reality of what was on the negative. Is that still authenticity? I’m not sure. 

It's not manipulation, it's clarification. Nobody changed the order of the elements in the scene. Nobody added or took away anything. Frame averaging clarifies details in shadow areas - I would not say, personally, that this is manipulation. In fact, I suspect that every single scientist and forensic photographer would agree with me on both points.

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On 10/2/2020 at 8:42 AM, Satsuki Murashige said:


‘Photography is truth. The cinema is truth 24 times per second.’ Jean-Luc Goddard

‘The camera lies all the time. It lies 24 times a second.’ Brian DePalma

Surely vignetting and lens distortion is just another type of ‘image character’ or abstraction though? Just like black and white, film grain, lens diffusion or spherical aberration, and contrast/saturation manipulation (whether thru flashing, silver retention, or color grading techniques)? 

If photography is authentic and altering it is inauthentic, then surely fixing lens aberrations like vignetting and distortions in post is the latter?

I don’t see how these attributes (or we could think of them as effects) of lenses could be described as ‘lazy’ or ‘dumb’ - unless you simply mean that the people who employ them are. These are value judgements, but they still don’t explain why you think they’re aesthetically wrong. That’s what I’m curious about. Surely it’s how the effects are applied in the work itself that is the difference between ‘sublime’ and ‘dumb’? 

My feeling is that all photography is an act of interpretation, not authenticity. By necessity you choose to edit by creating a frame. You’re translating 3D space into a 2D image, using focal length and subject distance to compress or foreshorten perspective. You’re selecting a moment in time, and deciding how that moment is rendered with your choice of shutter speed, exposure, film stock, processing. There’s nothing essential or authentic about that, it’s all manufactured reality.

I'm with Brian DePalma there. To me the camera lies. A creative writer 'lies' too, but creative written compositions have been called "the most beautiful lies." Not really lies at all, that's being sort of tongue in cheek. But creative people are in the business of deception to some degree. Just think of live theatre. We want to sit back and be told a story and not care about how it was cobbled together. The camera routinely conceals authenticity and truth a lot of the time, a simple example being framing a shot 'way out in the remote countryside' that avoids showing the busy metropolitan motorway just out of frame (and with dubbed sound of course). We live in a time that likes to believe in hard scientific fact that everyone agrees on. Of course such a thing as objective fact and truth actually exists but which expert do we listen to? So often what is presented as fact is heavily influenced by how we interpret what we see, and what we believe to be true. Images are easily misinterpreted too. Two people can see the same scene and see different things. Well, a lot of words maybe to get a bit philosophical about an aspect of creativity.

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