Pardon my sort of stream of consciousness post, this was something I was talking to my wife last night.
I was sitting watching Raiders of the Lost Ark the other day and thinking about how the theatrical lighting setups of the past seem to have been lost. It made me wonder what has happened to that "look". I have been trying to put my finger on exactly what created the look of the movies of the past. One thing I have noticed was the hard edge and eye level lighting. Today it almost feels like everything has gotten soft. I also noticed that there was much more backlight, hard and intense backlight at that. I miss the look of those older films. There is something warm and intrinsic about them. They invite you in to a time when the movie experience was something special and valued.
After Raiders was on, the new Crystal Skull one was on. I felt like they tried to somewhat reproduce the look of the old ones without much success. Aside from the overuse of CG, I felt that the lighting was almost distractingly wrong.
So with that in mind, I am curious what else was involved in creating the look of the older films. What am I missing and is it still possible to create a film that looks like they do? If so, why has everyone abandoned the techniques of the past. Maybe someone can point me to something new that could pass as a film from 1981.
One again, sorry about the rant, I just has to express what was rattling around in my head.
Results 1 to 10 of 49
07-23-2012 02:11 PMBen Coleman
- Join Date
- Sep 2009
- Harrisburg, PA
Premier Production Services, Inc.
Sugar Leaf Films
IA Local 98
07-23-2012 02:38 PM
I'm with you on the preference. We use hard light almost exclusively. Once in a while the roll of 216 will come out, but you'll never see a soft box or a fluoro on our set, ever. Logistics of the shot means sometimes to can't use a rim light, but if there is any way to rig it (and the time) we always use one.
The diffused look has become very popular. I don't know if it's what they teach in film school now or not, but personally I don't care for it.
07-23-2012 04:36 PM
soft light (quite often) = zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..
I'm raised on a steady diet of Hammer films- to me, hard light is what makes movies look like movies. The worst part of the soft light look is the low contrast look of many night scenes. Wally Pfister and the big hollywood boys can pull it off, since they often add edge light and light the background to create contrast (white areas, basically) in the frame, but when I see a short film with that dull, muddy, boring, low-contrast night look (often just with blue added), I want to scream- its such a lost opportunity to create atmosphere. In hard light, night scenes really POP.
ill say it again: I hate hate hate this look, since its so clearly a huge loss of art in the supposed service of "realism"
The trend towards naturalism in movies (especially horror movies) needs to die a little death, the genius of Nolan notwithstanding. Thank goodness Sam Raimi came back with Drag Me To Hell to remind us how important expressionism is to horror movies.
The horror movies ROOTS are in german expressionism!
So yeah, join the club, and make it fake with us, at least it'll be interesting!
Last edited by nycineaste; 07-23-2012 at 04:42 PM.
07-23-2012 04:52 PM
Blame it on digital cameras, At least I do. I have ranted on this subject like crazy in the past. I see lots of people telling guys that are buying their first cam to get a dslr, and to me, with going that route, they dont learn to light because they dont need much light to get exposure. And thats the problem, they only light for exposure, and not for motivation of the scene. I learned to light more working on a camcorder with a dof adapter because it eats tons of light, and that made me really think about how to light a scene in a way to get exposure, but with motivation as well. I'm so glad dslrs wern't out when I started, because I just might be one of the many that dont have a clue as to how to light a scene for mood, ambience, motivation, ect... The other plus, was I needed hard light, I couldn't really get the look, and lumens I was going for with soft boxes, although I do on occasion mix the two. But I agree, I love a 2k fresnel with a tungston lamp. It's so warm and inviting compared to these blueish greenish kinos and leds. I only will us them if I have to. I prefer tungston.
07-23-2012 04:57 PM
- Join Date
- May 2005
I personally have never liked 'hard light' relative to my own image formation, and accept it as a 'style of yore' for films. The only exception is if someone is trying for a 'vintage' look, then I'll evaluate it relative to the vintage antecedents...
For example, I think "Chinatown"(1974) sort of 'fails' relative to B&W Film Noir, but not so much as to be a total failure... but it doesn't quite get there... And it's not just because the use of 'color' film... most of the sets are lit way above 'film noir' levels...
But anyway... for me the 'softer' lights tend to be more realistic... which I think is a dominant element of the current aesthetic.
"Sin City"(2005) had quite a bit of sharp stylized hard lighting, but that 'style' has not been carried by many other 'major' films... In that regard, "The Spirit"(2008) did not do so well...
07-23-2012 05:24 PM
- Join Date
- May 2010
Big studio fresnels, this one is 24KW tungsten with a 2 ft diameter lens. Nothing else looks quite like them. Hard and soft qualities to the light depending on how you use it. I love fresnels. They are like big optical paint brushes.
Those 70's and 80's negative stocks were not all that fast. Typically 100 ASA or so and maybe 9 stops or so of usable DR.
07-23-2012 06:54 PM
- Join Date
- Mar 2010
That's the problem with lighting for realism... it isn't particularly romantic. Realism is boring... just look around you...
07-23-2012 07:19 PM
Clearly though, each quality of light has its strengths and drawbacks, its pretty silly to say one is overall better than the other.
I mean, who wouldn't want to make something like this:
I still haven't figured out how to make hard light work for me, as mentioned in another thread- I can make a room look pretty atmospheric (using a dappled key), but I haven't figured out how to light my dames yet. So I might, for my next short, end up using my small softbox and just trying to get some contrast in there. I do truly hate that super-low contrast night look.
07-23-2012 09:04 PM
In "Rider's" times the look you speak off wasn't really a look yet but a way of lighting drama comedy adventures. You however trying to get the same look in 2012 will be making it into a "look" - meaning something artificial and imitating the past. Although you are partially right that "Skull's" lighting was wrong - if they were simply trying to replicate the past they too would be doing something wrong mostly because of the "look" comment above. As always when you try to do something new - and here the new of the "Skulls" was simply trying to avoid the past - you risk failing.
07-23-2012 11:05 PM
- Join Date
- Oct 2008
- cornwall UK
Im a soft light man but thats just taste (and practicality)
I think a low ISO stock, (and therefore the need to use lots of light) would tend to create the look you are after, or a lot of ND to create low ISO stock
Its an expensive approach however!