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Old January 9th, 2005, 07:12 PM   #1
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looking for suggestions on creating a look

ok i have a new project i'm doing with someone who has a short story and they want it to have a film noir look.

it will be in color not b&w

can i get some advice on how to best create that look?

i've been watching stuff like the man who wasn't there, l.a. confidential and i haven't watched it yet but someone mentioned mulholland drive.

i am using a dvx-100 24p etc.

do i use a lot of hard lights to get the shadows you see in the man who wasn't there?

matthew
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Old January 9th, 2005, 09:05 PM   #2
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I'd recommend that you watch some real examples of film noir, not the conceited, stylized contemporary pastiche sometimes offered as film noir. There are many fine f/n examples readily available via simple search in IMDB.

B&W was a hallmark of the style. So, against this framework you will have to first be able to describe and visualize the style for yourself before seeking a way to technically execute the style.
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Old January 9th, 2005, 09:26 PM   #3
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ok thank you.

i'll goto imdb but can you name one favorite of yours that is a great example?

matthew
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Old January 9th, 2005, 11:19 PM   #4
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You could shoot in color and turn it black and white in post production. If you shoot in color, you can use secondary color correction to adjust brightness and contrast based on color. You can also specify which channels (R, G, B) get turned into black and white.

2- Check out the trailers for Sin City. It's not film noir and you may not be able to figure out how to do it technically, but it's an amazing stylized look.
http://www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/sin_city.html

Also check out the movie Blade Runner if you can... excellent art direction and stylized look to it. Also not really film noir, but something you might be interested in nonetheless.

3- You could look at your story and see what kind of look would work best to reach your artistic goals. If you want the audience you associate your film with classic film noir films then go ahead and study the look.
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Old January 9th, 2005, 11:39 PM   #5
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Some of the 80+ f/n titles I own and re-watch regularly:
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • The Big Sleep
  • The Blue Dahlia
  • Champion
  • D.O.A.
  • Dark Passage
Film noir is not simply a visual style applied by technicians. It's a style of story-telling that permeates the entire presentation. If you just watched the few titles above you would, in fact, see notable variations in the visual presentation. But what they have in common is a sharp-elbowed style of story-telling with strong dramatic punctuations. All elements of the presentations -- dialog, acting, lighting, music, editing -- were required to create the style, not just lighting.

One suggestion that you can take or leave: Beware of making style your primary objective. Pure mimicry nearly always takes its toll on the result, resulting in inane silliness. The writers and directors of the 1940's and 1950's who produced some of the best film noir works were well versed in their craft. But they started with stories that lent themselves well to this style of presentation. Be sure that you have similarly well-suited material. Otherwise just let the story dictate the style and resist the temptation to ape.

Good luck with your project.
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Old January 13th, 2005, 02:34 PM   #6
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Ken is quite right. Another modern and excellent example of color based film noir would be 'Body Heat' made in the early 80s and with excellent use of the warm, humid climate of Southern FL. If you can find the unrated version, get it.
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Old January 13th, 2005, 10:01 PM   #7
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The feature I just shot, "A Perfect Sleep", was presented to me as a film noir project, with sort of a timeless feel--it is clearly set in modern times, yet with period elements (cars and wardrobe, etc.). We referenced several of the films mentioned above, but our primary influence was the Japanese film "Branded to Kill".

Shooting on HD, I had a new challenge; to mate that which is traditionally a film style with a digital medium. There was considerable concern that the images not look too glossy, flat or "crispy" because of the video medium. Thus was born what I dubbed "digi-noir"!

I couldn't afford the exposure loss of the PRO35 and film lenses, since we had some very large interiors and night exteriors and limited manpower. Thus I had to embrace the extended depth of field characteristic of the 2/3" chips. This came in handy a few times when we had characters in both the foreground and the background and didn't have to worry about working a split by stopping down; but honestly, I sometimes missed the ability to soften the background by choice.

My lighting approach included some of the traditional techniques of film noir, such as highly modeled backgrounds, washes of light broken up with gobos. The lead character was usually played in a half-light with just a kiss of eyelight. I rarely used backlights to separate from the background, using varying areas of light and darkness instead. Sometimes I would allow a character to fall into silhouette against a lit wall. I used harder sources than I generally do with video, often a deuce through a light diffusion frame rather than a Chimera or bounce. The female lead (Roslyn Sanchez of "Rush Hour 2") was generally given more traditional, softer lighting that just wrapped around to include both eyes. I brought in plenty of negative fill for closeups.

My favorite sequence was shot in the historic Bradbury Building in downtown LA (the toymaker's residence from "Blade Runner"). The building has a huge glass roof 5 stories up above the center foyer which I allowed to play in the background while two characters speak in the foreground which I let go almost completely dark except for a single edge light. The high contrast against the richly textured background was, to my eyes, truly film noir.
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