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Film look

Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 11:18 pm
by ned c
There is a lot of talk these days about the "film look". There are plug ins that allegedly give a film look to video but who cares? There is much more to the film look than the grain, the picture weaving in the gate, shallow DoF (consider the effort in the 40s/50s given to achieving great DoF - vide "Citizen Kane"). Consider all the film processes; flashing, pushing, pulling, bleach bypass, etc. and nowadays a Digital Intermediate where the on-set disasters are corrected. There are even attempts to breathe life into the corpse of Super8!!

I am glad I lived into the 4K age and will embrace when the financial director is agreeable!

Video makes it possible to practice our craft on a regular basis, no longer the 3 minutes of film, wait for the processing or the 16 mm b/w cutting copy; wonder what the colors and the effects will look like as I stagger through the checkerboard edit? (never been there ? Be relieved). Hooray for the NLE, the SDHC card, the zoom lens, the on board audio. I must assume that all the young film makers who want to use film have very limited experience with it and in any case have it digitized for post and release.

Great times!!

ned c

Re: Film look

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:02 pm
by fraught
These days, the film look is only the click of a button away. But you can't fake it that well... nothing like the real thing to be honest.

I'm glad i moved on from my old Super8. Make movies is so much easier than it used to be. Rather than having a 100 things to worry about when making a movie... i know only have 90. :)

Re: Film look

Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 3:48 pm
by Michael Slowe
The only good thing about it was very few people could make proper films then. What a job it was doing a 'cut to music piece'. Cutting up the reels of 16mm film, hanging the clips on little nails over the linen lined bin (at least they kept that name in this digital world!), syncing music (on separate mag film) with the picture reel, marking the beat of the music in chinagraph pencil, splicing the film cuts (sometimes clips of five frames) with film cement and trying to hand wind the two synchronised reels at the right speed to judge the effect. Luckily I knew professionals who let me check my rough cuts by playing them on a Steenbeck which allowed a proper check. Nothing compares today with the thrill of seeing the first print of the marriage of all the various reels of sound and picture when it came up on the viewing screen at Filmatic Laboratories. As we all know, ten year olds can do all this on an iPhone today.

Re: Film look

Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:33 pm
by Roy1
Michael. If you think that was hard you should have tried ( perhaps you did) to make a lip sync. fiction film with a standard 8mm silent camera and a tape recorder. You only had one (the original shot film to work on. If you cut a few frames off to much, you couldn't put them back. With all that uphill battle a few people managed to make presentable films.

Re: Film look

Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:55 pm
by col lamb
Film look

I really miss the scratches, the vertical lines, the spurious hair that always found its way into the gate, the fuzzy edges around the projected image, the muted colours and the whirr and clatter of the projector, not to mention the miss tracking causing sticking and burning of the film.

Oh yes those were the days

Re: Film look

Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:45 am
by Frank Maxwell
Its nice to look back at thoose days who worked with that media. Cine film revolutionist the art of film making for the family. Specially Christmas and Holiday. Even cine clubs flourished. Today we have an easy format of making films. To me it is not film it is video. The only hard part is to learn the editing software.
Even going to the cinema is digital, but cine clubs now have lost out in a big way with Computers and all other devices of recordable media.
With cine we learned how to shoot and what to shoot. Today that theory is out of the window. Editing and lip soundtracking was tricky but it looked good if done perfect.
We even had respect for our fellow friends with cine cameras and always ready to help with problems. As we wanted our material to look good on screen.
Kodak cine film was the best at that era. I used Fuji-Film and loved it.
Today i'm happy with what i use, because there is not waiting time and with the correct software one can create all effects.
I wish gardening would alter. Always the same year after year?????????????

Re: Film look

Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:28 pm
by John Roberts
Interesting thread, if veering slightly off-topic (as I will) :lol:

I was fortunate enough/unfortunate enough (delete as appropriate) not to have been involved in the use of celluloid stock when making films - I started during the heyday of analogue video tape, although I used 35mm film for stills photography. Would I go back to analogue video or the 35mm film format? No way! Would I strive for that subjective 'film-look?' Absolutely! By 'film-look' I don't mean the artificial addition of scratches, jitter and grain (unless for a specific old film effect) but in the cinematographic composition of the scene and colour grading of the final image. Having seen plenty of 'before and after' framegrabs from programs such as Magic Bullet Looks, the differences sometimes can be astounding, although with the advent of decent Full HD and now almost professional standard UHD and 4K within the financial reaches of amateurs, the perceived 'film-look' gap is narrowing.

I do take note however of the number of comments from members saying they would also not go back to any previous way of working and are happy with the NLE computer based format. It's easy to take for granted the almost limitless variations of video and audio compiling, even on budget editing systems - something unheard of 15 years ago. But one thing no editing software or computer can teach you is "how to shoot and what to shoot".

I have been involved with computers since the beginning of the '80's, and I always remember the acronym GIGO: Garbage In = Garbage Out. A computer won't do anything until you tell it what to do, but when you do - it will do that job easier than you can. I don't buy the idea that clubs have lost out because of the computer - if computers and low-cost equipment have resulted in an increase in users, why are club memberships on the decline in general? Clubs can still (and should) perform exactly the same role as they did in the 'heyday' of cine - that is, promote and teach the art of cinematography to existing and prospective members of all abilities. In other words "how to shoot and what to shoot." Those that do thrive, those that don't stagnate.

Yes, it's nice to look back, but the equipment we used to create out art is in the past, like it or not. But the core values of clubs and their members should not be referred to, as they so often are, in the 'past tense.'

Just my opinion :)


Re: Film look

Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:32 pm
by col lamb

You are getting on shaky ground, in the past when I have commented on the continued use if nostalgia in posts and been resolutely attacked.

Film is a has been media, its time to move on.

The very new members we need to recruit we born in the video era.

Re: Film look

Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 4:48 pm
by Michael Slowe
Col, I wasn't really being 'nostalgic', I welcome the fact that we can concentrate on actual film making rather than all the juggling we had to do in the old days.

Frank, "what to shoot and how to shoot" has not altered one jot these last forty years. The art of film making requires exactly the same skills as ever it did. The modern digital production process has made it a whole lot quicker but that's all. All the principles from 'photographing' to editing apply today. I am puzzled sometimes when I see posts on some other forums where video camera users are asking, for instance, how one attains a shallow depth of field. Here again, old principles - consider and utilise the relationship between focal length and aperture. Surely, anyone with a camera leaned that at their mother's knee?

Re: Film look

Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 7:13 pm
by TimStannard
Michael Slowe wrote: Frank, "what to shoot and how to shoot" has not altered one jot these last forty years. The art of film making requires exactly the same skills as ever it did.
Hear, hear! The fact that managing to produce anything at all in "the old days" required great patience and technical skills that are no longer required should be admired, however it does not mean that producing a good film today is any less of an achievement. Mastering NLE software might require some technical competence, but being able to edit together a sequence requires the same skills it always did. As Michael says it may jut be a bit quicker now and indeed compure editing software makes it possible to try things out in a non-destructive manner.

Once upon a time, producing numerous copies of books required a large workforce of people skilled in copying. The printing press removed that skill and only one person, with a different set of skills could produce thousands of copies. Later typesetting moved to computer and different skills were required again. Even later much of the media changed to online only. Anyone, today, can publish and sell a book online. I hardly need point out that the only important thing in all these manuscripts, books and ebooks is the content, and, whilst stlyes may have changed, the skills required to create the content has not.

Re: Film look

Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 9:49 pm
by John Roberts
I didn't mean my post to be in any way inflammatory, nor aimed at one person or group of people in particular - I probably spent several paragraphs trying to put my thoughts over in the same way that Michael and Tim did in a much more concise manner. All that's changed are the tools, and these should be used to our advantage in the way we can view and review instantaneously what we have shot (and re-take again if necessary) and can edit in a non-destructive way, amongst other advantages such as not having to pay for film stock, processing, replacing worn out S-VHS tapes etc. Modern day equipment now gives us more time to concentrate on being creative, once we are up to speed with our editing programs, and this can only be a good thing.

The main area that holds some filmmakers back is their imagination. I agree with Tim: a bad film is a bad film (and a bad book is a bad book) no matter when it was written or what tools were made to create it. And to that end it therefore cannot be said that using 'older' technology such as film will automatically produce a bad film. Imagine an alternative reality where digital media has been replaced by film stock, and I'll bet the same filmmaker will produce by and large roughly the same film. When I'm shooting footage I don't think for an instant what I am using to record it - all that matters to me is what I see through the viewfinder.

The point I was trying to make - as Michael touched on - is that the basics have been forgotten somewhere along the way. Maybe the increased use of modern technology has resulted in a perception that the computer or editor will be able to fix everything in post. If potential videomakers know little about depth of field et al, then this is where the club system should step forward by offering tutorials or workshops on the art of filming.

Interestingly, when I was refreshing my mind about GIGO, I came across a recent alternative: Garbage In = Gospel Out. In other words, our blind faith in the computer to create the correct outcome, even if we put a load of rubbish into it in the first place. This of course, is a sardonic acronym!

With my deepest apologies to Ned C for hijacking his thread! :D


Re: Film look

Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 11:04 pm
by Dave Watterson
I wonder if what we are really talking around is colour control?

No professional or semi-pro movie maker would consider their camera footage worth keeping without some degree of colour control. It is a subtle art and one which might be usefully tackled by clubs, since it really needs to be seen in practice. That is one of the huge factors in the "film look".

Another is centre brilliance. A function of the analogue projectors, cinema screen brilliance was always significantly greater in the centre than the corners. One effect of that was to help focus attention on what is happening in the middle of the screen. You can, of course, imitate that with subtle masking but it must be subtle.

Re: Film look

Posted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:29 pm
by Peter Copestake
Dave said -
Another is centre brilliance. A function of the analogue projectors, cinema screen brilliance was always significantly greater in the centre than the corners. One effect of that was to help focus attention on what is happening in the middle of the screen.

Really, Dave? And this is aggravated by video tended to increase contrast when copying film to video in the simplest way. I'm sure I've read of ways of avoiding this by blocking light from the centre of the lens, not that I've ever found it necessary. And why would the centre of attention necessarily be in the centre of the screen? What about the rule of thirds? I thought that sort of effect was done by lighting, a highly regarded skill in its own riight, surely?

And as for 4k, if I've got the jargon correct, being within reach of amateurs, we have at least one member, who produces thoroughly watchable and interesting films, who has to be careful about buying mini-DV tapes.

Re: Film look

Posted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:12 pm
by John Roberts
Peter Copestake wrote: And as for 4k, if I've got the jargon correct, being within reach of amateurs, we have at least one member, who produces thoroughly watchable and interesting films, who has to be careful about buying mini-DV tapes.
Hi Peter - my reference to 4K is correct in that it is within the financial reach of at least some of us, and, as prices drop, more of us, but I was talking in the context of trying to recreate the 'film look' and not whether any particular film is a watchable piece of art in itself :) 4K and UHD cameras by their very 'almost-pro' nature have facilities and processing far superior to what most of us are familiar with, and what a good deal of us will ever use or ever understand.

To create that 'film look' requires a multitude of factors, not least resolution, and never in a month of Sundays is this going to be achievable using SD formats. I recall reading somewhere when my interest in stills photography peaked, that it was pointless purchasing a film scanner with a resolution greater than 3000dpi, simply because the film grain on even the finest films (I was using Fuji Velvia 50 or 100 transparency film at the time, arguably some of the finest film stock of all time) was somewhere in that region. 4K and UHD is approaching this resolution.

As I mentioned before, it doesn't matter at all what media is used in order to create an interesting and watchable film, but to achieve a certain 'look' requires a minimum level of technology. As for the talk about centre brilliance etc, I understand (and have seen) what is being talked about, but I shall not comment - sorry guys, before my time :wink:

Best regards - John

Re: Film look

Posted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 6:06 pm
by Dave Watterson
Peter ... the physical fact of a projected image is that there is a hot-spot at screen centre. You are right that the image composition from an artistic viewpoint might well be elsewhere.