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Old August 6th, 2011, 08:41 PM   #1
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Sanity check

Friend of mine showed me some 5D footage he shot with a 50mm 1.4 and I told him it looked dark, flat and the actors were moving in and out of focus.
He said he was working with a couple of "digital film guys" that had him set his camera at iso100 and f1.4
There was very little natural light and no extra lighting. The "film guys" said to adjust the look in post using grading software. I laughed (which upset him a bit) and told him they were nuts and he could have been at iso400 or higher and that he should be using f4 or even a little higher so the actors could actually move and stay in focus! And even though the desired look was a dimly lit dorm room, extra lighting should be used to separate the actors from the background. Subtle lighting!

His response was "that's what I thought but these guys were adamant about the setting and lighting and said we would lose the film look if we changed the settings"

I laughed again and explained to the best of my knowledge that forgetting the lighting for a moment, at f1.4 on a 5D with a 50mm lens from about 5 feet, his DOF is about half an inch. Actors have to move a little more than that. You can't possibly focus manually with those settings.

Adding to that, at iso100 there's so little light being allowed in you're locked into using f1.4. The 5D is clean up to iso800 and useable way above that!

And to not light a scene? Rely on post to set the look?

So, since I'm a corporate/commercial "videographer" who uses dslrs occasionally, am I missing some magic that the "digital film guys" are getting out of their rig or are they just full of BS?
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Last edited by Robert Turchick; August 6th, 2011 at 09:37 PM.
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Old August 6th, 2011, 10:36 PM   #2
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Re: Sanity check

I think you should ask for the names of these "digital film guys" so that you'll always know to avoid them in the future.

The key to making someplace look dark is to use a lot of light, but to use it selectively. You light the actors faces. You might light some interesting background feature a few points below that. you might use some soft, textured lighting to create a background. Then you can let everything else go dark.

And you can't really fix that in post. I know, because I've tried very hard to do it. It will cost you much more to have a decent online editor or colorist spend a lot of time fixing stuff in post that should have been done on set (and would typically have taken minutes to fix). And it will never look anywhere near as good.
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Old August 6th, 2011, 10:48 PM   #3
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Re: Sanity check

YESSSSSS! (love your signature quote!)
I know of these guys but have never seen their work. They are an indie film company so I probably won't cross paths with them. My only connection is my friend who's running Steadicam for them. He's bartering that for their crew helping with a commercial production I may end up being the poor guy dealing with grading!
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Old August 6th, 2011, 11:12 PM   #4
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Re: Sanity check

Hi Robert,

With the 50mm, F1.4 at 5 feet the DOF is actually about 4". Not bad if you're doing ECU but you won't get that with a 50mm at 5'. As far as the settings I actually don't like the 5D MK2 at ISO 100. would rather shoot it at iso160. It yields a cleaner picture.

Most likely what the "digital film guys" were going for is a very look. Only guessing here as I don't know the scene and the motivation for the lighting, but I have shot scenes where it was almost hard to see. The director wanted the audience to feel like they were straining and felt that it helped to heighten their emotions. I've shot these two ways, one is to shoot it dark and make slight adjustments in post, the that I've done is actually shoot the scene brightly and evenly lit and they take it down in post.

If they are going to be grading in post the raw footage will look down right ugly to most people, flat and almost under saturated (especially if you compare it to the over saturated default settings). Then in post when they grade the footage they can get a lot more dynamic range. If you want to see how far they can push it take a look at s-log footage from the Sony F3. Whenever using the Canon DSLRs I turn the sharpening all the way down, drop the contrast as low as I can and drop the saturation. The raw footage looks pretty unimpressive but after the colorist gets done it looks incredible.

I'm just wrapping a short where we shot with a combination of Sony EX3, Canon 7D, and Canon 5D Mk2. We used the 5D in one particular scene where the scene was a person locked in the trunk of a car and the only light they had was an iPhone. So yes, we were both stuck inside the closed trunk with a feed to the video village. The director didn't like the look of anything except an actual iPhone as lighting. I used the EF 24mm shot at f1.4, ISO 1250 at about 2.5' (DOF about 2"). It turned out looking really good but we had keep telling the actor to not move when he delivered his lines.

Arnie, if I'm reading your lighting scheme correctly you'll end up with more of a noir scene which may not have been the look the "digital film guys" were going for.

Again, this is all speculation as I don't have enough information to know what the director was going for.
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Old August 6th, 2011, 11:37 PM   #5
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Re: Sanity check

Thanks for the input!
So there may be a reason is what I'm hearing. Ive done a fair amount of grading and It just seems like this is going to be a bigger pain than it needs to be. I'll just have to be patient and bill by the hour! Ha ha!

And as for the DOF, my bad on the numbers but literally the actors would lean forward or back and be out of focus. Just seems they needed more space to move in. The bokeh can still be nice with higher f-stops. Just seems silly to have to box in the actors since they had no space restrictions...like the trunk of a car! Ha ha!

Keep it coming folks! This is how we all get better at our jobs!
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Old August 7th, 2011, 12:12 AM   #6
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Re: Sanity check

Hi Robert,

If you're going to be the colorist you'll have your work cut out. I'm pretty lucky in that I've got a couple of really good colorists that I get to work with every now and then. The best part is when they are on set and they can guide us on minor tweaks that will give them footage that they can best work to give the look we're after.

I'm actually not a big fan of shallow DOF. In general I like to try to focus audience attention with other techniques but it is what a lot of people now a days associate with the "film look".

Getting stuck in the trunk wasn't my first choice but a pretty big trunk became available. So, to save production costs we shot it that way instead of building a trunk. It wouldn't have been so bad if I were stuck in there with a great looking lady.

There are a number of ways to shoot any one scene and achieve the desired look so this discussion is a great one. Some work better than others and some cost more than others to get to the same end.

-Garrett
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Old August 7th, 2011, 01:51 AM   #7
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Re: Sanity check

A "film look" has nothing to do with a shallow DOF. I suspect a 2/3" RED Scarlet using RAW looks more like film than a 5d MkII, it's more of a style thing.

You don't need a shallow DOF. either to direct attention, the eye will naturally go to whoever is talking or to where there is movement. Perhaps it's more useful in directing the eye to things within the frame that run counter to where it would be naturally attracted. Unfortunately, people have come to believe that it's the only method.
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