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Old September 26th, 2011, 08:08 AM   #16
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Re: Creating the Noir look

Good points, Dan. When I approached "The Perfect Sleep" I had no intention of faithfully recreating a classic noir look, simply to work within the genre.

"Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" is probably worth watching for the assets of a young Rachel Ward more than anything else...! oh lordy.
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Old September 26th, 2011, 09:50 AM   #17
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Re: Creating the Noir look

Oh yeah, every film noir needs at least one femme fatale. Yes, Rachel Ward was incredible in "Dead Men". I also love Barbara Stanwyck in Clash by Night and Marie Windsor was great in every role she did.

Another good one to check out would be "Devil in a Blue Dress", I interviewed Carl Franklin about it once and he did a nice job for a modern noir. Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) - IMDb

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Old September 26th, 2011, 04:50 PM   #18
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Re: Creating the Noir look

In our noir film, we went with a low saturation sepia, rather than a true black and white. My son directed and felt that people of his generation were turned off by black and white. Also, ours was a noir comedy, rather than a straight noir, so a bit of color seemed to make sense. BTW, I don't recommend trying noir comedy to anyone. We didn't fall into the parody trap, but the visual and aural cues are so somber that it doesn't signal the audience to laugh. Or maybe it just wasn't that funny. ;)

In general, film noir doesn't have shallow DOF. It's more medium to deep. Unless it's a real close up, when I see a shallow DOF shot in noir, it looks wrong. But with deep focus and no color, you still need to separate foreground from background. In noir, this is best done with shadows, light planes, and angles (especially angled shadows.) For instance, a character steps up near a shop window so his face is well lit. The shadow of a telephone poll cuts across the ground diagonally, but is vertical against the wall in the background. This presents a well-defined, 3D space without color or shallow focus.

Personally, I like slightly wide lenses pushed close to objects. This exaggerates perspective for more definition of 3D space. That said, traditional noir uses straightforward lenses for the most part, though Hitchcock liked to push perspectives in key shots.

Camera movement also helps define 3D space. For the most part, noir camera movement is conservative and simply follows characters and action. A dolly push to enhance and emotional response, or a pull to reveal the larger scene can be effective. Then again, there is the opening crane shot in Touch of Evil, so there's no rule about conservative camera moves.

Anyway, presenting the 3D space is one of the biggest challenges of shooting deep focus, black and white productions, but lighting planes, shadows, angles, perspective, and camera movement can bring your shots to life.
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Old September 29th, 2011, 08:38 PM   #19
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Re: Creating the Noir look

Jon Fairhurst: I'm probably close to your son's age, I'm 25, and I turned to classic films because I was disappointed with the quality/predictability of current films.


I'm really debating what I want the look of the film to be. I want my film to be contemporary but I want to avoid the campy comic book style movies like Sin City, Watchmen, and The Spirit had. And I purposely avoided any over the top narration in my script.
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Old October 4th, 2011, 05:15 PM   #20
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Re: Creating the Noir look

Yep. Nathan is 24. :)

The good news is that you can shoot in color and desaturate in post without adding noise. Also, you can adapt the matrix in post to custom mix your colors to create the Luma signal. For 601, the equation is Y = 0.587G + 0.299R + 0.114B, but you can use any combination that you would like.

One nice solution is to use more red and less green and blue. Outdoors, that helps light faces and add contrast to the sky.

A nice thing about full or near black and white is that it really simplifies your set and costume designs. You don't have to worry about teal for this and salmon for that. Just keep in mind that with a "red filter" approach, red items will appear lighter and blue items will appear darker. You can create a red filtered B&W picture style if you want to see how a scene will appear, but I still recommend shooting in color to allow flexibility in post.

Definitely shoot in a flat picture style, like CineStyle (if using a Canon DSLR). That will let you see into the shadows and keep from clipping under hard lights.You can push the contrast back up in post, if needed.

BTW, here is a nice tool for selecting a color palette.
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Old October 6th, 2011, 12:02 PM   #21
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Re: Creating the Noir look

Thankyou everyone who contributed to this thread, your input has been extremely helpful. I will try to post some production stills when I start filming.

If anyone is interested in reading my script, feel free to contact me.
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Old October 11th, 2011, 08:06 PM   #22
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Re: Creating the Noir look

I just spent a day shooting a noirish film short. We didn't have time or space to really do it right... noir lighting is more demanding of setup time than just filling in shadows for a diffuse natural lighting style. So we ended up going with mostly the practical existing lights for time reasons, so we didn't get the deep black backgrounds.

One thing that worked well was to shoot using the Monochrome picture style on the 5dMkII, and monitor the output with a USB cable to a laptop running EOS Viewer software (on the CD that comes with the camera). The black and white image coming into the lense appears on the laptop screen. That way we were able to see what it would look like without color while shooting.
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