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Old September 21st, 2003, 09:39 PM   #1
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Once Upon a Time in Mexico short DOF died...

Just came back from seeing the latest RR 24p flick. There are some reallly glorious deep focus shots in the film that bring the background on the frame as a character. Plus creating some awesome senses of depth and height.

But I think there is a lot more room for people to explore the possibilities that that HD sharpness and deep focus provides.

But of course, a lot of people seem hung up on short DOF = film look. But, why try to make stuff look like what's already been done a bizzillion times before?

Why not do something new?
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 12:57 AM   #2
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<<Why not do something new?>>

This young filmmaker felt the same way!

Good point Stephen, I agree. It's a shame that small format video doesn't offer the inherent choice of deep or shallow depth of field, but I agree that a fine cinematic experience can be had with deep focus. Good composition, lighting and editing may be more elusive to achieve because they aren't based on a mathematical formula as depth-of-field is, but I consider them to be more important to "selling" a film look (or, more importantly, a film feel.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 01:34 AM   #3
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As I become more well-read on the history of filmmaking I've found it interesting that a common complaint of cinematographers of yore tended to be shallow depth of field. Just this weekend, for example, I watched Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief" on dvd. In the making-of feature on the disc one of the fellows that worked on the film noted that they had to use rear-projected scenery (of the French Riviera) behind the actors in some scenes because the studio insisted that the scenery not drop out of focus during close-ups.

I've read about other cinematographers who have gone to similar heroic gymnastics to increase apparent DOF for particular shots.

As has been noted here elsewhere, and by Charles, manipulation of DOF is really a matter of appropriateness to the scene and shot. Emulation of the characteristics of 35mm prime lenses is not the only way to skin a cat.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 09:24 AM   #4
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Short dof is not done just for the sake of it. In most cases it's to maintain the audiences attention on the subject during a particular moment. It's also done if it looks pretty :) Citizen Kane used deep focus for the effect it gave.

We just finished a 16mm short for my son (1st time director!) and used it for the same effect.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 10:46 AM   #5
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Good points all. Of course, I've used the Citizen Kane argument myself (since the collectors DVD sits on my shelf :).

I've used short DOF myself (as is used in OUATIM as well), but withall the proliferation of products and threads about getting short DOF and the abuse of the shallow focus on commercials, I think the art of:

(1) Letting the audience choose more what to focus on
(2) Background and ambience as character.

I agree that it would be convient if small format camera gave you the choice (I suppose mini35 is a choice of sorts for the well-funded), but why not play to strength of the medium you chose rather than constantly fighting it's weaknesses.

Before 24p or frame mode was widely available, Blair Witch used the "real" feeling of interlaced video to great effect. As pointed it, 35mm, especially anamorphic shooters, are often fighting for deep DOF, even with faster stocks and lenses of today.

If you're shooting anamorphic 70mm, go short. If you're shooting microDV, go deep.

Of course, for narrative driven projects, story is critical. But sometimes there's more to a story than just he said, she said.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 02:59 PM   #6
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Sigh of Relief

Did everybody hear that whoosh of air that escaped my lungs? Thanks for the open mindedness. It's liberating to hear that shallow depth of field doesn't have to be a must, all the time, in mini dv projects. I, too, just saw Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico and found the colors rich and the textures almost velvety. But, I suspect the projecter lamp wasn't at it's brightest because the screen picture seemed dark. Also, I could tell it originated on HD 24p because, well, something just didn't seem totally filmic. I welcome the day movies are projected directly from the HD 24p source and not converted to film. THAT. my friends, is when cinema really becomes exciting.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 03:07 PM   #7
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I did hear your whoosh....:)

The lamp must have been dark. The shadow detail was excellent on the print I saw.

I was quite interested in the "non filmic' sections. They didn't seem "videoish" but they certainly did not seem just like 35mm either.

It was more pronounced (and better looking) than Lucasfilms efforts. Though I noticed Lucasfilm/ILM did the filmout.

I guess it's called "HDish"...
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Old September 26th, 2003, 04:31 PM   #8
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I too have just came from watching the Film and it seemed interesting to watch. Some of the scenes looked real nice and looked like the Mexico I know and love. But some times throughout the film there came bits where it seemed like a whole camera change or format, like the quality was more video like than film. They did seem a little odd like when the documentaries switch to the Roaming camera of a little inferior quality as opposed to the central camera to let you know, its a different angle. The bit that stands out the most of these shots, is when Los Mariachi are storming the Federal Building and the President is on the stairs, with them shooting men from the balcony and stairs. Especially one explosion looked very artificial with the camera type looking more video-ish. I dont know why these shots were done that way, as throughout you can tell the difference due to a slightly more "flickery" effect in motion, especially explosions. Perhaps it was for effect, I don't know, but if you watch the film you will see what I mean, as they do just stand out! Any one seen articles explaining why these were used? I would be interested to know!

But none the less its a good flick and I'm a big Robert Rodriquez fan, but I still love the original "El Mariachi" for what it did and how it was made. It had a very mexican feel to it that helped create the 'authentic' feel. "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" does not really have that as the main actors are not even mexican at all. And I'm glad Enrique Iglesias only says one or two lines in Spanish cos he's fake Mexican accent is terrible he still pronunciates the words like a spaniard, brings back memories of Dick Van Dyke's dreadful fake cockney (London) accent in Mary Poppins.
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Old September 26th, 2003, 04:34 PM   #9
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But its a good film to see even for just a few little glimses of that Veracruz beauty - Salma Hayak....Que Mamacita Chula!!!
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Old September 26th, 2003, 06:00 PM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Christopher Hughes : Especially one explosion looked very artificial with the camera type looking more video-ish. -->>>

The explosions on the buildings looked quite fake, straight out of AlamDV or something. I would suspect that they didn't have permission to actually blow stuff up on those stairs, so they went with post-production explosions, but it really showed.

There were some color issues and some significant focus issues, but overall this was by far the best-looking HD movie I've seen on the big screen, much much clearer and better than SWEPII. HD might not match 35mm yet, but it's getting to the point where it's close enough for some uses.

I was watching it with two cinematographers, and one leaned over and said "did you catch the jaggies on the staircase?" and I said "dude, think back to '28 Days Later'..." No contest whatsoever!
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Old September 26th, 2003, 08:00 PM   #11
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Yeah I noticed the Jaggies too. At one point for a moment it even seemed like a case of interlaced footage. I think its perhaps just fast movement that the cam still needs a little tweaking....but time and technology will soon conquer that one. But I agree with you, it is the best HD film I have seen! The opening sequence really showed off the full potential, I guess its just action bits where its let down. perhaps faster shutter and fast pans are still a bit shaky for processors. But I'm not real up on the techno side of processors and all with HD.
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Old September 27th, 2003, 01:11 AM   #12
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Quote:
The explosions on the buildings looked quite fake, straight out of AlamDV or something. I would suspect that they didn't have permission to actually blow stuff up on those stairs, so they went with post-production explosions, but it really showed.
Well, even if they were real, they were just gasoline bombs, since anything you would want to kill large amounts of people with usually doesn't have a fireball. Since all you would need to do to make those is aim gasoline upwards and ignite, they could easily have been real... just not anything close to what a tank or rocket launcher would do, which is why they would look fake. But then, a pistol bullet doesn't send someone sliding 30 feet across the floor either. <g>

Quote:
There were some color issues and some significant focus issues, but overall this was by far the best-looking HD movie I've seen on the big screen, much much clearer and better than SWEPII. HD might not match 35mm yet, but it's getting to the point where it's close enough for some uses.
The first time I saw it I didn't know it was digital... except for the fight on the staircase. I don't know what it was... the sparks (which also don't really happen), the fast motion, or what... but it looked *VERY* video to me. Although the second time I saw it, it was still the only time I really saw it and said "That's video".

As for the best looking digital movie I've seen? That would have to be Burning Annie. From what I can get out of the writer's roommate, it was shot on HD, but that's all he will (or can?) tell me.

Although, in SWEP2's defense, I saw it on both digital and film-transfer, and I think they made the film transfer purposely crappy so the digital would look a lot cleaner (which it did).
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Old September 27th, 2003, 01:33 AM   #13
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jon Yurek :
Although, in SWEP2's defense, I saw it on both digital and film-transfer, and I think they made the film transfer purposely crappy so the digital would look a lot cleaner (which it did). -->>>

I agree completely -- I thought the film transfer must have been purposely degraded, or they just did a lousy job with it. The digital projection was much cleaner, more vibrant, more detail, but very "bitty" - the screen door effect was way too prevalent for my tastes. 1280x720 digital projection isn't quite ready for bigscreen theatrical projection yet!
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Old September 27th, 2003, 10:43 AM   #14
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I totally agree with you Steven. While I do see the advantage of short DOF for pinpointing audience attention, I tend to think that a wide DOF offers more composition possibilities then a short one. Wide DOF also allows a low budget movie maker the freedom of not having to higher a focus-puller.
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Old September 27th, 2003, 11:23 AM   #15
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Digital does not transfer well to film. It would be incredibly stupid for a multi-million dollar production to intentionally have a bad transfer when they are trying to get their money made back.
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