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    What F stop are Hollywood movies generally shot at?
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    I want to emphasize GENERALLY. Obviously every movie is going to be different - as is every D.P. and director. But what is the normal aperture range for shooting an outdoor scene? What about an indoor scene?

    The reason I ask is because I've been trying to shoot around 1.4 to 2.8 for that shallow DOF (which everybody raves about). But lately I've been thinking I don't really know what I'm doing and there are probably better options.


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    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    Most of the DPs that I've worked with on large commercial projects seem to spend most of their time between f4 and f5.6. I doubt there's been a single shoot I can think of where I didn't hear someone say the actual phrase "4/5.6 split" at one point.

    But it's impossible to answer your question with any degree of certainty. Every DP has their own preference.
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    Senior Member KyleProhaska's Avatar
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    The only reason why lower F stops became so popular is because of the explosion in DOF love surrounding DSLR's. It's a nice look now and then, but in general it looks nothing like a typical feature film. I think Stephen is right in his assessment. We normally see far less DOF in normal movies then we might be conditioned to assume. I actually notice more and more just how deep the DOF is in most movies in my Top 10. Very long lenses are also used sparingly.

    However, when you're working on lower budgets you don't always have the luxury of seeing more of the environment whether by FOV or DOF. We try to hide our small locations and lack of production design lol. It's a dead giveaway that you're a low budget movie...but it helps most of us get by with something decent to show.

    One movie I can think of where the look was specifically utilizing wide open lenses is The Social Network where they were at F2.8 or less at all times pretty much. That gave the movie a very digital and milky look (along with the color / light) but that was what Fincher was going for. It suited the film, but definitely wouldn't look right for a lot of movies.


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    F/2.8-f/4 is very common.

    If you're interested in the subject, subscribe to American Cinematographer. They always have interviews with top cinematographers on what they do, how they got certain shots, what their goals were and how they met them, etc.


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    Fincher shoots wide open on master primes a lot I believe


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    It seems from most articles i've read in American Cinematographer (fantastic magazine, absolutely get a subscription to it), the majority of films shoot somewhere between f4 and f8.
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    Cinematography/Lighting Mod Ryan Patrick O'Hara's Avatar
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    Trick question! They are shot at T-stops.

    Just kidding. Agree with most of the above.

    If cinematography wasn't infinite, I'm sure I would have found the end by now.


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    Most lenses perform at their best between f/2.8 and f/5.6, the reason this range is so widely used.


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    Quote Originally Posted by KyleProhaska View Post
    However, when you're working on lower budgets you don't always have the luxury of seeing more of the environment whether by FOV or DOF. We try to hide our small locations and lack of production design lol. It's a dead giveaway that you're a low budget movie...but it helps most of us get by with something decent to show.
    I once was at a seminar for Wedding photographers and the presenter was trying to 'justify' shallow DoF, beyond the 'yuck' dreamy look... the example was 'suppose you had a bridal couple at some venue and there were trash cans in the background'... my thought was... 'move the couple, move yourself, buy why take a shot with trashcans in the background'... that's not to say a grab shot couldn't have unwanted detail in the background... but then having a shallow DoF is problematic for a 'grab shot'...

    Anyway, for stills I have mostly shot at F/5.6 or F/8 on 35mm cameras.


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    Quote Originally Posted by j1clark@ucsd.edu View Post
    I once was at a seminar for Wedding photographers and the presenter was trying to 'justify' shallow DoF, beyond the 'yuck' dreamy look... the example was 'suppose you had a bridal couple at some venue and there were trash cans in the background'... my thought was... 'move the couple, move yourself, buy why take a shot with trashcans in the background'... that's not to say a grab shot couldn't have unwanted detail in the background... but then having a shallow DoF is problematic for a 'grab shot'...
    Now THAT'S funny.
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