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DEVELOPMENT OF FILM LIGHTING IN MODERN

CINEMATOGRAPHY AFTER THE INTRODUCTION OF DIGITAL


TECHNOLOGIES

(habilitation lecture)

Film is light

F
ederico Fellini
film director

It is useless to draw the bow,


unless you have a target to aim
the arrow at.

Leon Battista Alberti


Renaissance humanist

From the film PERSONA, 1966

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Asen opov A..K. FAMU
2016

1. Film industry and digital technologies

Film has always contained certain ambivalence. From one


point of view, it is an elevating art, synthetically
developing the inheritance of older art forms literature
and drama, fine arts and photography, architecture and
music. From a different point of view, film has always been
closely linked to technological discoveries; it is the child of
the scientific, industrial and economical revolution at the
end of the 19th century. Therefore the creation of films is
also an industry and film itself is primarily a product.
Every step of technological development brings
corresponding changes in film language and artistic
stylization.
Simply put, we could say that the competition and also the
overlapping of film industry and digital technologies
started with the introduction of television after the World
War II and during the 50s.
Today, 120 years after its creation, the film industry is
almost entirely digitalized. Digitalization is applied in all
processes of preparation, the actual realization, the
postproduction and screening in a multiplex inevitably
with a serving of popcorn and coke.
The last stage of this transition is the switch from a
recording media -film negative - to a digital sensor. This
process has started with the movement Dogma 95 and
goes on until present days.
In 2000, I started to prepare the movie elary and it was
in the same year that Kodak had introduced Vision, a new
line of negatives. In this line, there was a highly sensitive
negative Vision Expresion 500 T 5284, which intrigued us
all. This negative material had two functions: it was
supposed to combine a medium for shooting films with a
result of a copy and at the same time, it was supposed to
be suitable for television transcriptions because back
then, commercials and some better projects for
television, which were not intended for screening, were

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shot on film stock. I have performed very thorough and
rigorous tests. My commentary was published in the
Incamera magazine: It was apparent already from the
results of the sensitometric test that the material has
lower gamma... This means that after Kodak had stopped
producing Kodak Primetime 640T Teleproduction Film
5620, they decided to enrich their palette of color
negatives with a softer and highly sensitive material,
suitable not only for processing on Telecine, but also for
the production of film copies.
I drafted the shooting of the tests so that I could test
primarily the reproduction of the highest contrast in color
and brightness. With a hand-held camera I looked
around an apartment in which there was a view through
three rooms in a row, each of them of different color and
intensity of lighting. I did not use any additional light
except for realistic sources, both tungsten light bulbs and
fluorescent tubes. The main source was the daylight
coming in through the windows. I used the Wratten 85
filter on the camera and I set the exposure to the center of
the brightest room.
The main thing that intrigued me while evaluating the
results were the transitions from the high brightness of the
windows to the dark shadows in the corners. They were
gradual and they came across very naturally. Still they
were able to preserve the details. Second thing was that
the rather aggressive coloring of the interior, which was
yet enhanced by local sources of different color
temperatures, was captured very accurately, without any
poignant color deformations. I consider these two qualities
to be the main advantages and specifics of the new, highly
sensitive negative material 5284.1
Because the digital postproduction of films was very
expensive and still the result was a copy, Kodak swiftly
introduced an appropriate copying material which was
harder, with brilliant white and rich black: Vision Premier
Color Print Film. This positive material was aimed at
production of copies by a standard copy process. I shot
elary on Vision 5284 and copies were produced in a
traditional way of optic copying on Premier.

1 Incamera magazine, September 2000

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From the film ELARY, 2003

From the film ELARY, 2003

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From the film ELARY, 2003

In my opinion, it was this negative material that has set


new criteria for recording media. It is a very important
moment in the process of transition from the analogue
technique of shooting to a digital one and it is a concept
which is still valid now, both for negative material and for
subsequent development of modern recording sensors:
high sensitivity combined with broad brightness and color
flexibility and very low contrast. Today, the final look for
cinemas and television is accomplished through entirely
digital postproduction. And this allows - unlike the
traditional optical copying - to delicately manipulate with
the overall coloring, brightness and color contrasts not
only of the whole shot, but also selectively.
From this point of view, the current series of negatives
Kodak Vision3 and modern digital sensors, for example in
cameras ARRI Alexa, RED Dragon, Blackmagic, SONY Cine
Alfa F 65 and so on, are the successors of this concept.
The requirements and options of achieving certain results
in the most important work of a cameraman film lighting
are derived from the setting of the whole reproduction
chain and even more from the qualities of the recording
device and characteristics of the used optics.
This means that the characteristics of the system are
getting significantly closer to those of human eye.
Photography is ever more realistic. In the past, the black
and white and later color negative -which was

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considerably less sensitive and had a higher gamma -
required much more complicated lighting. Logically, the
result came across as very stylized and from todays point
of view, even picturesque, contrived, almost unrealistic.
In the course of time, we can gradually see the effort of
great cameramen to light as simply as possible.
Today, the realistic picture comes out almost by itself. But
in this, lies the problem with the degree of stylization
and also with a noticeable devaluation of the cameraman
profession. Even among professionals, there are cases of a
director deciding that there is no need for a cameraman.
Skilful gaffer will do. In most cases these are directors who
are at the same time producers of their movies. Why not
save the money! But I am convinced that Quentin
Tarantino, unlike his friend Robert Rodriguez, knows very
well why he works with Robert Richardson - one of the
best cameramen ever!
It must be noted that current film production is carried out
mostly with digital cameras. This means that already since
the times of previously mentioned Dogma 95, there is one
incantation for all our efforts: Film look. Even if over
time, the term itself is slowly changing, in all periods there
were and there still are certain tendencies or even
fashions. But we should break away from these
stereotypes and clichs and during solving each new task
simply stay ourselves. Fortunately, each of us sees and
feels slightly differently. It is a very individual, intuitive and
Id say even intimate process. We all grew up with
different role models and we have different emotionality
and sources of inspiration, therefore we are all unique!

2. Film lighting basic tasks

There are three absolutely crucial tasks, which every


cameraman has to achieve when lighting each scene:

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a) Guarantee of the right exposition

b) Achieving three dimensional impression when


projecting on a two dimensional screen

c) Creating certain atmosphere, mood and emotions


based on the screenplay and requirements of the
director

It is necessary to start from the end. Study the screenplay


carefully and be aware of the genre characteristics. Clarify
the overall concept of the movie and the desired tone and
effect of each scene during discussions with the director. A
decision must be made whether to shoot in a real
environment or in a studio. Then choose locations
accordingly and agree on their modifications regarding the
tonality of light and color concept that were previously
agreed upon with the other art departments.
Subsequently, choose the means of recording, used optics
and grip, tests and rehearsals with actors. This all is the
base for the concept of lighting for the given material.
Certain general rules for the style of lighting in different
genres still persist but in todays postmodern times they
often mix and blend together, and with gradually greater
understanding of a movie as an entertainment for
consumer society, new genres emerge. For example,
respectable sci-fi practically doesnt exist anymore.
Instead, we have adventure, fantasy or post-apocalyptic
genres. There seems to be no rules anymore.
Nevertheless, the basic decision still stands: the
cameraman must decide on the degree of light stylization,
which should be a natural part of the whole artistic
concept of the film.
For creating a plastic picture of a certain scene (apart from
other means such as the movement of actors, objects and
camera, camera angle, low depth of field,) specific
properties of light must be used to encourage linear
perspective, to create light perspective, for accentuating
structures and volumes, highlighting elements in the
scenes which are important for the dramaturgy based on
the principle of light and color contrast.

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It is well known that all parameters in film, especially the
technical ones, are interconnected. They influence each
other and one results from another. It is impossible to
strive for High Key and underexpose at the same time. Or
vice versa: correct exposure is still very important in spite
of the current sensors reaching the dynamic range of 15
stops. I was very unpleasantly surprised to hear some of
the FAMU graduates admit that they would not dare to
shoot a feature film on negative let alone on inversion!

3. The art of lighting light concepts and schemes

Without wanting to theorize about philosophy and


aesthetics, I have to point out the following: as we can
conclude from the previous chapter, the art of lighting has
two aspects: technical and aesthetical. Technical aspect is
determined by the recording technology, the whole
reproduction chain, and also by the lighting technology
itself. Aesthetical aspect reacts to the current social and
cultural state of society and contemporary aesthetical
ideals. As mentioned above, this aspect also partially
depends on genre.
Until the invention of more sensitive and flexible negative
materials it was simply necessary to light a lot and
support it with additional lights. This was the reason why
light schemes used to be much more complicated and
light intensities the cameraman had to orientate himself
and operate in were much higher. It was a demanding and
often a lengthy process. A credible light reality had to be
created from scratch. But this meant that the result was
always - at least to a certain extend going to be a sort of
imitation of reality. And this was one of the reasons of
the formation of very distinctive, lets say expressive
genre stylizations.
Today these light intensities are lower. Picture appears
on the screen no matter that there is practically no
lighting at all. And this picture corresponds with the light
reality. It is because we dont have to interfere with the

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light reality as much, that the stylization itself is more
realistic, or rather impressionistic. These days we use
less lighting and more natural light or so called negative
in order to create the required atmosphere and mood.
With the example of several worldwide cameramen I will
try to outline the development of certain basic trends.
These trends are mostly related to the redefinition of
terms such as Realism, Stylization and Film look.

John Alton
1901 - 1996

His works include the golden era of studio films of


Hollywood in the 30s and 40s and goes on until the end
of 50s when color emerges and the television is
introduced. He has made over 90 films during his career.
Even though John Alton loved black and white material
and Low Key, in 1951, he won an Oscar for the best
camera in ballet sequence in the film An American in
2 Photography from Painting With Light

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Paris. It is the first color movie which has received an
Oscar for camera.
John Alton is one of the first people who distinguished
lighting according to genre. He claimed that each genre
requires different stylization of lighting.
According to him, there are three basic ones: comedy,
drama and mystery. The last one can be understood as all
derivations of thriller, horror and fantasy.

From The Big Combo, 1955


www.othersideofdestinv.tumblr.com

From Painting With Light www.imoptics.2ap.pl

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From Raw Deal, 1948 www.brewingdebate.kinja.com

He constructed a system of very expressively stylized,


almost decorative Low Key poetics in Film Noir in which he
was not afraid to use large contrasts and silhouette
lighting and also to use High Key poetics in comedies.
Apart from that, Alton had established principles of
glamour lighting of star actors of the golden age of
Hollywood. His method of searching for the best angle of
the main source of light through circling around the actors
face (especially in case of an actress, see picture) with a
source of small size is used basically until today.

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From Painting With Light

In his book Painting With Light (1949) he completes the


basics of cameramans craft and the art of film lighting. It
was published again in 1995. I am convinced that this
book should be in the library of every film school and it
should also be translated to Czech. It is a fundamental
piece, which over the past years hasnt lost any of its
validity, even if it is actually a historical document about
the development of the field in times when film material
was black and white, much harder and much less
sensitive. And this exactly is the reason why Altons
lighting scheme is perhaps the most complex one.

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3

It is an eight point system:

1. Fill light
2. Key light
3. Filler light (Alton warns not to mistake it for Fill light.
Filler light was a soft light placed under the Key light
with the purpose of lighting the shadow of the Key
light)
4. Clotheslight (it was supposed to ensure the correct
exposure of mostly black suits)
5. Backlight
3 From Painting With Light

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6. Kicker light
7. Eyelight
8. Background light4

Among everything else, he compares the light spectrum


from white to black to a music scale. He considers music
to be one of the main sources of his inspiration. He says
that the most beautiful music is sad, and similarly: the
most beautiful light is in Low Key. It is precisely that, he
claims, why a joyous comedy can never win an Oscar for
camera! But the truth is that a romantic comedy
Shakespeare in Love was nominated for this award in
1998. Richard Greatrex, the cameraman, said he had
never lit quite so softly

Characteristically and for that time unbelievably


thoughtfully, John Alton concludes his book with a chapter

4 From Painting With Light


5 From Painting With Light

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14: The World Is a Huge Television Studio and We Are All
Photographers.!6

Raoul Coutard
*1924

www.criterion.com

An emblematic person of the French new wave. The 60s


of the past century brought, among others, a revolutionary
attitude preaching realism and refusing affectation of
Hollywood studio cinematography of the previous years.
Liberation from studios and ateliers, filming in exteriors,
away with stuffy classicality and most of all speed and low
budget these were the main mottos of the new wave
artists. Italian neorealism was following similar ideas.
Shortly: Praise the realism!

6 From Painting With Light

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From Jules and Jim, 1962
www.refractionsfilm.wordpress.com

From the film Woman is a Woman, 1961


www.lightsinfilm.wordpress.com

Raoul Coutard was not a professional cameraman. As a


former war photo-journalist he was able to combine
practices used in reportage and documentary shooting in
a very unique way. He used minimum lighting and a hand-
held camera. Most of the lighting in a scene was achieved
by the reflection from white walls in real interiors. He
moved easily from black and white poetics to color. He did
not have a specific style: he tried to conform to the needs
of directors and screenplays. But he did have a significant
influence on the iconography of the 60s.

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A snapshot from filming Pierrot goes Wild illustrating the
way of lighting interior, 1965
www.lightsinfilm.wordpress.com

His casual style was later surpassed but for me, he still is
one of the important arcs in the spiral-like rivalry between
realism and prominent stylization. It was of course
determined also by the technological development of
lighter cameras and small lights.
Raoul Coutard once said: No one will ever go see a film
because the cinematography is magnifique.!7

Vittorio Storaro A.S.C A.I.C.


*1940

7 From Reflections twenty one cinematographers at work,


Benjamin Bergery, 2002

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www.tasteofcinema.com

He won three Oscars and other awards for his amazing


work with light and especially with color. He brought the
understanding of light to an intellectual and philosophical
level. His concepts are explained in his book Writing with
Light, Colors, and the Elements, which was published in
2010. In this book, Storaro is interested neither in light
schemes nor in color classification of light and color
according to the DISC system (that is: Direction, Intensity,
Softness and Color). The character of light and color, for
him, is crucial and he ascribes them to an existential
dimension, compares them to the symbolic of various
natural phenomena in relation to the state of human soul
or to stages of human life. He tries to define the relation
between life and light. He explores their connection
and puts them in contrasting opposites. Birth and death,
man and woman, day and night, hard and soft light,
natural and artificial. ...RED color of emotion, beginning
of life, birth of a human, ORANGE color of family warmth,
the animation for content living, YELLOW color of
consciousness, day, sun, light... through the whole color
spectrum from shadows to high brightness to the balance
of WHITE.... 8

8 From Writing with Light, Colors, and the Elements, 2010

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From Conformista, 1970 www.twitchfilm.com

Storaro doesnt concern with black and white


cinematography. He says: It is as if one had a piano with
only three keys.9
Personally, I do not agree with that; black and white
poetics is beautiful and it should not disappear completely.
One of the heroes in my favourite film - The State of
Things, 1982 - is a cameraman. When he is asked why he
shoots black and white he answers: Life is colorful but
black and white are more realistic!. I am very happy that
for example the film Ida (2013) was black and white and it
was also wonderfully lit and recorded in 4/3!
I am also glad that this film received an Oscar for the best
foreign language film and a nomination for the
contribution to cinematography!

9 From Storaro and Bulworth, American Cinematographer, July


1998

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From Apocalypse Now, 1979

Writing with Light, Colors and the Elements is richly


illustrated with reproductions of paintings of worldwide
famous artists with collages made from the shots from his
films.
His work is always thought-out in advance, based on an
idea and prepared design rather than on the already
existing lighting of the environment, windows or local
lights. It is probably quite a subjective concept. However,
it is worth the attention of professionals.
Storaro abolishes the classical schemes of lighting.
Instead, he lights the entire scene. He uses mainly side
key lights and only minimum or none additional lights and
thus somehow liberates the actors, their movement inside
the scene. This is a very important change in the
paradigm of lighting! Thanks to that, interesting effects
emerge from the movement of actors and at the same
time, it is a relatively ready and fast way of working,
allowing a fluent transition from the whole to detail or
even to an overshot.
In this respect, his method is realistic. On the other hand,
because his light atmospheres are very expressive and
carry an emotional and semantic character, they are
becoming a part of the story and are unmistakable.
I think all of his movies are very different from one
another, but all of them are very stylized in color and light.
This stylization is of a very different standard than of the

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almost picturesque poetic of Film Noir. This is another
example of the progression in the mutual relationship
between realism and stylization.

From The Last Emperor, 1987


www.pennyproductions12.wordpress.com

From a technological point of view, Storaro is both


innovative and conservative. He helped create for
example the 3perf system, invented his own series of
color foils Rosco Storaro, with his help 4 series of lights
IRIDE s.r.l. were constructed, which combine P.A.R. and
Aircraft bulbs. In themselves, they are very hard sources
but their large number allows to use them as areal light
sources therefore as soft light. Even in this, we can see the
hidden philosophy of opposites.
However, Storaro uses nothing but halogen light in
combination with his foils and a very elaborate set of
Lightboard dimmers, which allows him to change the
character of the lighting fluently during one take. He
completely ignores the gas-discharge HMI and fluorescent
Kino Flo systems their color spectrum does not suit him,
just like the fact that they cannot be dimmed.
At the same time, he is not afraid of new technologies. He
accentuates the need for connecting creativity and
technology, which arises from the essence of film art itself.
Immediately after though, he adds: ...cameraman has to

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be educated not only in technology but also in psychology,
symbolism, and in dramaturgy of visual elements... to this
day, I am a student because to have thirst for knowledge
is a great blessing.10
When Francis Ford Coppola, fascinated by digital
technologies, asks him to shoot his movie with a digital
camera, Storaro refuses and argues that these cameras
are not yet able to achieve an image good enough for a
large screen.
However, Woody Allens most recent movie Caf Society
which was released earlier this year (2016) was shot by
Storaro and produced with SONY Cine Alta F 65!11

Emmanuel Chivo Lubezki A.S.C. A.M.C.


*1964

From filming The Revenant, 2015. www.ew.com

10 Interview with Storaro, CineAlta Magazine Issue 7, wwwissuu.com


11 Interview with Storaro, CineAlta Magazine Issue 7, wwwissuu.com

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He is an unprecedented winner of three Oscars in a row in
the past three years. He has shot over thirty films of
various genres with rich and distinctive approach towards
stylization and with an extensive use of new technologies.
Many of them have fairy-like poetics constructed
completely in a studio.

From Sleepy Hollow, 1999 www.fangoria.com

The main means he uses for stylization are the choice of


optics and a way of shooting mostly in long shots often
taken by a hand-held camera. But he is not trying to
accomplish a distinctive style. Similarly to Coutard, his aim
is to adapt his style to the demands of a given director
and the screenplay.

From filming Gravity, 2013 www.yahoo.com

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Gravity is a sci-fi thriller where he had to deal with many
technical aspects of modern digital cinematography.
Except for the faces of actors everything was CG.
Moreover, the creators wanted to shoot the film in long
takes in motion so that the viewer will get the impression
of physical presence. A major part of the film takes place
in outer space on the orbit around Earth. Logically, there
are four sources of light: hard sunlight and softer
reflections from Earth, Moon and the space station.
Lubezki created a huge Light Box consisting of LED
sources which he then used to modulate countless
variations of light atmosphere with regards to the
movement of Earth and Sun against the actors and with
regards to the movement of camera which often
transitions from a subjective view through the window of a
spacesuit to an objective view from outside. Many scenes
were additionally lit in postproduction with the post-
lighting method. In an interview for American
Cinematographer Lubeczki says: If a movie has a strong
CG element, that doesnt mean the cinematographer
didnt light it or frame it!... You can call it
algorithmography or whatever you want, but there is still
a person overseeing the images.There are amazing
methods for doing what I would call post lighting, where
you shoot a face with multiple cameras at really high
speeds, and as you are shooting the actor, you are lighting
the face with thousands of different lights and hundreds of
different options for lighting....I was able to do all the
lighting for the movie, and to collaborate on the framing
and design of the shots. Who better than a
cinematographer to understand what light should be doing
in a scene?.12 The film was shot with a camera ARRI Alexa
with the exception of the final scene on the Earth for
which a negative 65mm was used.

12 Emmanuel Lubezki Ponders Virtual Cinematography


in American Cinematographer, November 2013

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From Birdman, www.pinterest.com
Film Birdman was shot as if in one take with complicated
transitions not only between various interiors with
different light atmospheres, often with 360 turns of the
camera, but also with transitions between interiors and
exteriors. This meant incredibly precise and inventive
lighting of the long sections of the film. Moreover, the
director demanded distinct colored accents for
highlighting the drama (see picture). ARRI Alexa and Alexa
plus for handheld and steadycam were used.
Regarding the lighting, Lubezki is a successor of the
concept of lighting the scene globally. He uses mainly soft
but directed diffusive light and also lets the actors be free
to move. Simultaneously, his portraits are simply lit
without the need to glamorize them in any way. With this,
he is changing the definition of the term modern glamour.

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From Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her 1999
www.cineplex.com

He is a cameraman who pushes contemporary


cinematography towards realism regarding working with
light. I would call it a way of lighting where it is almost
invisible that the scene is lit at all!

With an actress Emma Stone during filming Birdman, 2014


www.btlnews.com

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Although it is his complex approach not only the light,
Lubezki prefers widescreen lens from the series, which are
usually considered overly in focus. He even uses them for
portraits and is not afraid of relatively high T Stops.
Thanks to that, he achieves great depth of field, which,
combined with a clear picture without grain that he prefers
while working with both negative and digital shooting,
results in a magical, almost animalistic hyperrealism.

From The Revenant, 2015 www.goldderby.com

This is the impression of the film The Revenant. It too is


shown from the perspective of an insider. The long,
naturalistic, suggestive takes are unmercifully swallowing
the viewer, forcing him to feel as if he was part in the
course of events. Despite that, the movie is not missing a
very poetic dimension in the dream sections of the main
character. The scene with a levitating wife is almost a
quotation of Tarkovski!
During the preparation works for The Revenant, Lubezki
originally considered the combination of 35mm and 65mm
negative for most of the day scenes and Alex for the
evening and night scenes. In the end he decided to film
everything digitally on a recently introduced Alex 65.

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4. Film look

Finally, I would like to go back to the previously mentioned


term Film look. This term is defined by a series of
technological imperfections of cinematography. The
frequence 24 o/v itself means an imprecise reproduction
primarily of fast motions with so called motion blur.
However, this is one of the basic characteristics of film
image, which distinguishes it from television. The grain of
silver halide in film material was, for a long time, another
sign of a film. Every single one of us has surely been
tormented by our own attempts to create additional,
artificial grain with the goal to make the image - recorded
on a video - alive. We have tried to add not only the
grain but also the scratches typical for a film copy! Then
there are the optical imperfections of old lenses which
were also perceived as a signature of a film. Today,
vignetting is often added during postproduction. The
relation of sharpness and blurriness between foreground
and background is also the specifics for film optics in
relation with the size of the sensor format. Digital sensors,
for a long time, had smaller format than the classical
35mm film frame, which meant greater depth of field and
therefore lower television plasticity of the image.
However, the spatiality in 3D films today is most of all
based on binocularity! In his book, among other things,
John Alton describes in detail how to make filter from a
stocking for portraits of the stars. So called softer lenses
are up until today preferred by many. For anamorphic
lenses the ellipse blur is typical instead of a circle in
spherical ones. Personally, I still perceive this as a
characteristic element of the CinemaScope. I dont like the
modern lenses with rear, fake anamorphic element. The
absence of these scarce characteristics was at a certain
time the reason why the films of Dogma 95 were
received with hesitation. They were simply shot on video
not on film! On top of that without lighting and mostly
with poor sound!
But things change, technologies are improving,
aberrations are being eliminated, lenses are in focus and

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there are no optical deformations. And it is slowly
becoming the norm. The generation of our children can
barely remember a film copy. It is even difficult to
convince them to watch a black and white film...
Today, most of these imperfections, which once created
the inseparable flavor of the film look are slowly
disappearing. They cannot define the film look any
more. Moreover, these former characteristics of a film are
becoming stylization elements for expressing a time
period. For example in the film Steve Jobs, there is a
sequence from the 70s filmed on S16, 80s on 35mm and
the present on a digital camera. In relation to that, each
sequence is lit differently.
We can see that such cameraman as Lubezki (and not only
him) shoots fake Cinema Scope with spherical lenses
that are very sharp and with high T Stops. He does not
hesitate to use widescreen optics even for filming portraits
of actors. He prefers clear not grainy image even when he
shoots on film stock. And he lights almost invisibly!
The degree and nature of stylization are directly
influenced by the development of technologies but they
are also defined by the relationship between the director
and the cameraman.
One of my greatest role models, from whose film I took the
liberty to place a picture on the front page, Sven Nykvist
writes in his amazing book In Reverence of Light: The first
time I read the screenplay for Winter Light, (1963)...I had
thought I had an easier task ahead. The film takes place
during several hours of daylight and mostly inside a
church.
It is gonna be easy, I said to Ingmar. Three hours in a
church at midday when the light doesnt change that
much.
Ingmar almost burst out. You dont know much, do you? It
does change! And this is exactly what I am after the
gradual, barely visible change, with almost no
shadows. ...Today, I remember the film as a difficult
shooting. We had plenty of heated discussions and
irritated reactions with Ingmar. But at the same time, we
somehow fused together in a curious way and for me as
for a cameraman this film was a very important turning
point. I have learned the importance of reduction, I have

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learned to minimize unnatural light, every illogical light.
Ingmar literally forced me to be a one hundred percent
realist regarding the light. ... My pursuit of simplicity came
from the pursuit of logical light, genuine light, true light. ...
An actor is and will stay the most important tool in a film.
Cameraman has to capture reactions of this tool, focus the
attention on its character and the expressivity of the face.
That can be achieved, among other things, by different
lights for different characters. The face must not be lit
beautifully. Shadows are also a part of our life. 13 Sven
Nykvist achieved that completely already in 1982 with the
film Fanny and Alexander for which he received an Oscar.
As we can see, since the times when studios, originally
adapted for shooting with the use of daylight, closed up
and thus the artificial light came into use, cameramen
have had to deal with the problem of achieving realistic
light and the right degree of stylization. It seems that with
the development of technologies, which are getting closer
and closer to reproducing reality as it is seen by human
eye, the whole appearance of film art is becoming more
and more realistic, including film lighting which tries to be
inconspicuous and unobtrusive. Glamorizing features,
effective contour backlights, hard pojections, contrasts of
silhouettes and other similar practices are of course not
going to disappear. They will continue to be used but the
prominent area of their application is going to be genres
like fantasy, horror and post-apocalypse, where logic of
the prime reality has no importance. To be fair, I have to
note that this year, the film Mad Max: Fury Road - which
belongs to the given genre - was nominated for an Oscar
for camera. It was very effectively shot and tastefully lit.
Well, as I said at the beginning: we all see it and feel it a
bit differently. It is a very individual, intuitive and even
intimate process. We are all unique and this is the most
beautiful thing about our work and our craft.

13 Translation from cta ke svtlu (In Reverence of Light), Sven


Nykvist, 1999

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Asen opov A..K.
www.asensopov.com
FAMU
2016

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