August 30, 2013

Ven, Kenta Noler's last music video

The idea behind the lighting of this music video, that we shot in Barcelona area, was looking for flares everywhere, so we lit in a impressionist way, with light-source on a side and sometimes facing camera which hardly stood still to increase the effect of glare and flares. Hope you like it!

August 28, 2013

Film review. An analysis of the cinematography of À Perdre la Raison, directed by Joachim Lafosse

À Perdre la Raison (Our Children is the title in English) is a film by Belgian director Joachim Lafosse (Élève Libre,  Nue Propriétè) whose story was freely inspired by a tragedy  happened 5 years ago that shocked Belgium.

The plot.  Mounir (Moroccan immigrant) and Murielle fall in love, get married and have 4 children, but they share their hous and life with André a doctor who has been taking care of Mounir since he arrive to Belgium. The situation generates tensions, especially inside the fragile Murielle.

Cinematography: Jean-François Hensgens
Camera:Aaton Penelope, Arricam LT, Moviecam Compact MK2
Lenses: Cooke S4
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: 35mm
Film Stock: Kodak Vision 5219 500T, Kodak Vision 5205 250D

Jean-François Hensgens (Darktide, District 13: Ultimtum) is a young cinematographer from Belgium who already worked with director Joachim Lafosse years ago for a short-film. The approach they made to tell the story visually is very natural. The choice of film and the Cooke S4 lenses was made in this sense. Cooke lenses produce a neat and soft image, low contrast and a soft transition from focused to out-of-focus areas. But, I think that the main reason why Cooke lenses were chosen is because of their colour reproduction: they are generally warmer than other lenses; in fact, the beginning of the film is warm, with golden colours: this helps the audience to connect with the family and the story and be closer to them; later, this sense of warmth tends to disappear till the final moments of the film: when Maurielle is driving and crying alone, she is lit by the sun-light but it is not yellowish as normally it is represented: it is white and harsh, it hurts.

The way of lighting is naturalistic: windows and lamps on set are used as source lights and Hesgens' job here is so good that you can hardly say he lit the scene. He reinforced the light coming through windows but softening it with Chimeras or Softubes, achieving a light which is natural but always diffused. Light is always bright and colourful, apart from some scenes where the landscape or the sky are in the background and for compensating the exposure he tends to under-expose the actors, which doesn't really work for the approach of not making a dark look film.

The use of camera contributes to the naturalistic look too. It's always hand-held with an easyrig following the actors all around, and often they are framed with the back facing the camera, reminding a docu-film style. The shaky camera not only allows the audience to be there with the actors and experience what they do, but also reflects the instability of the three characters, particularly Maurielle's.  The focal length used barely goes under the 50mm: telephoto lenses are preferred producing shallower depth of field and constraining the camera to move back. This results in the negative space being always filled with blurred objects which most of the time is a door frame due to location space availability, a quite pretty aesthetic that also transmits the impossibility of the characters of crossing and leaving their boundaries.

À Perdre la Raison is a nice movie that tells us an horrible tragedy in a simple and elegant way with a fine cinematography that serves well to the story.

August 26, 2013

Boudoir. A colour film contrasty portrait of a girl.

When I thought of this photograph I imagined it full of contrast: the outfit of the model with the place where she is, her attitude and posing, the gun, the orange tone of the skin with the bluish tone of the background...  It was taken on Kodak Portra 400 and home processed with C-41

August 24, 2013

Sunrise at the Aneto Mountain, Pyrenees

The sunrise in the mountain can produce spectacular lighting, like the view of the Peek next to Aneto mountain, in Pyrenees, lit by the rising sun, while everything else is still in shadows. The picture was taken on Kodak TMaxx 400

August 23, 2013

Stills from films. A possible light diagram of a scene from The Last Emperor

Cinematography:Vittorio Storaro
Camera: Arriflex 35 BL
Lenses: Technovision Anamorphic
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: 35mm
Film Stock: Kodak Vision

The last emperor is a great example of fine cinematography, in which Storaro makes a perfect use of colour and its psychology reminding every photographer and cinematographer the importance of the effect of colour tones no matter how subtle it is. In the scene above, the orange colour was used: the emperor is a child and at that age life is colourful and vibrant, entirely spent with the family, all concepts strictly connected to the orange colour. The light (probably a filtered HMI) is diffused with smoke which adds mystery to the image making it more dramatic. The position of the light and the selective lighting on the emperor leaving  everything else in the shadows, obviously represents the divine blessing to the child as emperor.

August 21, 2013

Film Review. An analysis of the cinematography of Anna Karenina by Joe Wright

When summer comes outdoor cinemas open and they offer, apart the few premiers we usually have in this period, some of the best films of the season.  Anna Karenina by Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, The Soloist) is definitely one of them.

The plot. Based on the novel by Lev Tolstoj set in the Russia of the 19th century. Anna Karenina escapes the cold relationship with her husband and enters a love affair full of love and passion which will change her life.

Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
Camera: Panavision Panaflex Millenium XL2
Lenses: Panavision G Series, E-series, ATZ and AWZ2 
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Format: 36mm
Film Stock: Kodak Vision 5219 500T

Due to health problems, the former cinematographer of this project, Philippe Rousselot, abandoned three weeks before the shooting: he was replaced by Seamus McGarvey (The Hours, Avengers, High Fidelity) who already worked with director Joe Wright in Atonement and The Soloist. McGarvey didn't doubt a second at the moment of choosing the format: film was for him the right choice for the story and the period the story is set. And it really is: it works very well with the low light shots of the movie, making the shadows powerful and vibrant. The high speed film stock chosen delivers a beautiful grain structure while the high resolution of the Panasonic lenses is softened with a diffusion given by a stocking put in front of the lens, as we can see from the halo of the blurred lights in the scene (the good old Fogal Noblesse?), that gives a beautiful look to the image.

Wright is a director who uses lots of exquisite camera movements, and Anna Karenina is full of them: the camera dances with the characters, following them or going from a scene to another, revealing the set at a 360º angle; along with the camera the sets move as well (with some lights going on and others going off), creating different spaces and locations in the same area (Anna Karenina was almost entirely shot in a theatre).

With this theatrical mise-en-scène we can see the magnificent work McGarvey did. He not only had to light for the character but also for their movements and the ones of the sets, dealing with a camera moving around all the time.  So in order to hide lights he illuminated from above, like they do in theatres, achieving a light which go perfectly well with the characters and the way the story is told. When lights are placed on a side of the characters, the Irish cinematographer always tends to a an expressionist use of it. The only character to be lit in a more natural way is Levin, who is the only one who has a relationship with the outdoor world, the only one to exit the "theatre".  The 2.40 aspect ratio works really well with the story too, especially with the relationship between Anna Karenina and her husband with shots where the negative space and the distance between the two characters is emphasized by the chosen format.

Anna Karenina is a movie not everyone might like for the theatrical way it is made or for the story, too flat and shallow compared with the book. However the Seamus McGarvey's work is quite stunning, an absolute masterpiece of cinematography which well deserved much more than the nominee at this year Oscar.
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mentle
Camera: Arri Alexa, Phantom Gold, Canon Eos 1D MarkIV, Canon Eos C500, Indiecam IndiePov
Lenses: Zeiss Ultra Prime, Fujinon Alura, Hawk V-Lite, Canon, Indiecam lenses
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: ARRIRAW, Canon cinema Raw, H264, CinemaDNG
Film Stock: -
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August 19, 2013

Umbigo magazine fashion shooting

One more picture from the fashion shooting we made in Barcelona. Kodak Portra 400 film was used and home processed with C41.  All the credits here.

August 14, 2013

Film Review. An analysis of the cinematography of The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights...) directed The Master, the first film to be shot entirely on 65mm using Panavision's System 65 camera, in more than 16 years, which at a time where digital rules is quite challenging.

The plot. Freddy Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) returns from navy service in World War II with mental disturbs. After struggling to reinsert himself in the society, he ends up in a cult getting involved with them and starting a peculiar relationship with his leader.

Cinematography: Mihai Malaimare Jr.
Camera: Panavision 65 HR Camera, Panavision Panaflex Millenium XL2, Panavision Panaflex System 65
Lenses: Panavision Ultra Speed Z-series MKII, Hasselblad, Kowa, Zeiss Jena
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Format: 65mm, 35mm
Film Stock: Kodak 5203 50D, Kodak 5207 250D, Kodak 5213 200T,  Kodak 5219 500T

Surprisingly, Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't rely on his habitual cinematographer for The Master; instead he offered Mihai Malaimare the job, who DP'd last three Coppola's features, all of them shot in digital. Anyway, Malaimare wasn't totally new to film: as he said in an interview, in Romania (his country) they still learn shooting on film. Initially, the cinematographer chose to shoot on 35mm and using 65mm for some portraits; but, after reviewing the first dailies, Anderson and Malaimare were just excited with the look of 65mm and decided to shoot the entire film with large format. The choice suits perfectly the story which develops in the years after WWII, recreating the same feeling of photographies of that time, most of them taken on Medium Format. He decided though, to shoot on 35mm some scenes, the more intimates ones, like the conversation between the two main actors on the boat. To minimize the change from one format to the other, Malaimare used Zeiss Jena lenses which smoothed a lot the transition although a difference in grain structure can be noticed. To get a  crispier look he used Hasselblad lenses which were modified to fit the Panavision camera. Depth of field, organic feel, details, clarity... All the characteristics of a 65mm film are present,  but what I miss is the potential it can offer: using a 65mm film for a movie full of medium and close shots is fair but reductive.
All of Anderson´s film are full of camera movements; well, everyone of them except The Master. The camera barely moves and the shots are quite long offering the actors all the time they need to do their job. The few camera movements are remarkable tough.
Light is natural and minimalist, always justified and soft, mostly bounced and coming from the ceilings. Sometimes the light sources are in the frame creating a nice great contrast, like the scene of the boat approaching the bridge at sunset. I like the way Malaimare played with colour temperature in some scenes: he created a contrast between the ambient light with bluish tones and the characters bathed in a soft orange light.
The Master is a film that remains too distant and cold, actors do a good job but they really never connect with the audience; it looks like Anderson didn't have anything to say and the story never hooks. Unfortunately the cinematography reflects these lacks: The Master is wonderfully lit but the light rarely transmits something.

August 12, 2013

A summer Holiday Postcard

With this pic of Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro I want to wish you all a nice and relaxing summer Holiday. Charge your batteries to be ready for the surprises and challenges next months will offer us!

August 06, 2013

Film review. An analysis of the cinematography of Oblivion, by Joseph Kosinski

Oblivion is the second feature by Joseph Kosinski (his first one was Tron: Legacy) who, beside his small experience in directing, managed to take benefit from the opportunity to direct he received in Hollywood. Generally speaking, I  don't like sci-fi movies, I am not a Tom Cruise's fan neither I like the DP who worked in Oblivion, but it was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I wanted to watch something easy-going.

The plot.  Tom Cruise is a commander whose memory has been erased and assigned to protection and reparation of drones on a post war earth. He start to question his mission and the truth he is been told.

Cinematography: Claudio Miranda
Camera: Sony CineAlta F65, Red Epic
Lenses: Zeiss Master Primes, Fujinon Premier
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: F65 RAW, Redcode RAW
Film Stock: -

The man behind Oblivion`s cinematography is Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) with whom director Joseph Kosinski already worked in Tron: Legacy. He chose the brand new Sony CineAlta F65, a marvellous camera which is probably the best digital camera on the market at the moment, and the Red Epic for the aerial shots, probably for weight matters. Miranda is very good with light: Oblivion is full of beautiful images but his work in this film cannot really be considered cinematography if for cinematography we intend not only the art and technique of making a movie by the choice of camera, lenses, exposure, formats, lights, etc., but also as a way of communicating something trough light, shadows and colours.

As he did with Life of Pi (by the way, I'll repeat it one more time: his Oscar for best cinematography was disrespectful towards the brilliant job of his fellow cinematographers), he used lot of Chroma and created the light mood in post production; and he is very good at that, probably the best but there's not a single image in Oblivion lighted to visually tell the story, to enhance or contrast the emotions and psychology of characters, apart perhaps from the cold and neutral atmosphere of the scenes in the floating station. Everything is lit in a very sensationalist way, to make the audience wow for the stunning images but they are never lit with a concept behind them.

The extensive use of wide angle lenses has no other intention that showing the spectacular landscapes created in post production, while telephoto lenses are used for some scenes where the relationship between Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko emerges, and also for close shots of Andrea Risenborough which are also made with a large aperture resulting in a very small depth of field, something not quite coherent given the place where she works: a glass office in a floating station up in the sky and above the clouds... That means huge luminance: how´s the depth of field of your eyes on a very sunny day in a beach without sunglasses?

The scenes which didn't go trough an heavy post production process are really contrasty, again with no actual meaning, while the scenes of Tom Cruise's reminiscences are in black and white which is a simple, too easy and obsolete mean of lighting and treating remembrances in a film.

Claudio Miranda is a good cinematographer: he is second to none in digital cinema and I admire him for his audacity of shooting with the last camera on the market (He did it with the F65 for Oblivion and he did it with other cameras in his others features); Oblivion has stunning and beautiful images that make the general audience amaze, but specialized audience need a lot more.

August 05, 2013

Fashion shooting on film

One more pic from the editorial published in Umbigo Magazine. I used a MF camera and my favourite film, Kodak Portra 400 processed at home with C-41.

August 02, 2013

Film review. An analysis of the cinematography of Io e Te (Me and You)by Bernardo Bertolucci

Io e Te (Me and You) was one of the film I was been waiting for to watch this year because it represents Bertolucci's (Last Tango in Paris, The Last Emperor, Stealing Beauty...) come back to  directing after Dreamers, the movie he shot before the illness that kept him away from set for almost 10 years.

The plot. A problematic 14 year old boy hides himself in a basement instead of going on a school trip. His solitude is broken by the arrival of her drug-addicted-sister in law: they'll live together for a week during which they'll try to help each other.

Cinematography: Fabio Cianchetti
Camera: Arricam LT, Arricam ST
Lenses: Cooke S4
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: 35mm
Film Stock: Fuji Eterna Vivid 500 8547

Fabio Cianchetti (The Tiger and the Snow,  Terraferma, Dreamers) is an experienced Italian cinematographer who already worked with Bertolucci in his last films. As he did it with Dreamers, Cianchetti seems to have understood deeply the meaning and the atmosphere Bertolucci wanted for his last work. The story the Italian director tells in Io e Te is quite simple but the characters are like an abyss that makes you shiver every time you look into it. Cianchetti made a good job to transmit this concept visually. The choice of film combined with Cooke lenses goes in this direction: the old S4 series has less sharpness but far more organic look than every other lens, creating a natural feeling. 

The focal length used throughout the film helps to achieve this feeling too; almost the entire story develops inside a narrow basement (rebuild in a studio of course): to enhance the solitude of the characters focal lengths above the 50mm are used while wide angle lenses are used for exterior shots as for expressing the distorted reality the characters live in. The way of lighting is natural too. Light is always justified and comes from visible light sources in the scene, like the window of the basement or light bulbs in the ceiling, and scenes are lit so brilliantly well that you could hardly say that they were lit with artificial light

But, in my opinion, the best part of Cianchetti's work is the way he let the light and shadows fall into the scenes and the use of colours. Te characters of Io e Te are full of fears, doubts, sorrows, loss, darkness... The Italian cinematographer managed to project this mishmash of feeling visually trough shadows. Shadows become more than important: shadows are the unconscious, by not lighting something you deliberately want to hide it; characters have many things their unconscious  wants to keep hidden till a spill of light finally uncovers it. And the spill of light that illuminates the scene, or a part of it, often comes from the right side of the screen: most of the problems the two young characters have have their origin in their absent and  unconcerned father (who is really the third character of the film because his presence is heavily felt); a light coming from the right side of the scene symbolizes the paternal figure.

Another quite interesting way to highlight the character's emotional disturbances is the way Cianchetti combined in the same scene lights of different colour temperatures. This creates a nice visual contrast, basically between blue and orange: sometimes lighting different parts of the scene with different colours and sometimes using an orangish rim light with a bluish key light. As a colour, orange is associated to  family, to the preparation for life, to teenage years; while blue is the colour of freedom, of leaving the familiar nest, it is a colour close to stability... Again, nice way of expressing the contrast of feelings, definitely inspired by Storaro's use of colours but without his mastery (I'm thinking about the scene in the restaurant where the daylight film stock is used in interiors with tungsten lights without the 80A colour conversion filters, resulting in a scene with a strong orange cast - probably to visually contrast the dialogue mother and son are having?-).

Cianchetti`s cinematography is brilliant and interesting: he managed to express visually a story which is at the same time simple and profound, connecting perfectly with Bertolucci's ideas and the result is a film in the more pure Bertolucci's style, throughout which the director's vision and poetry can be seen and enjoyed. Welcome back maestro, the Cinema  industry missed you!

August 01, 2013

Landscape photography. A tent with a view in Spanish Pyrenees

One of the best thing to camp in the mountain is the stunning view you have when you wake up and get out from the tent, just when the sun is rising trough the peaks. It was hard climbing up to the Ibones de Villamuerta with an heavy MF camera and tripod, but definitely worth it.