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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old October 21st, 2003, 07:54 PM   #1
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Fog

I've tried this method on a couple of my shoots. Fog works. But, I don't know why it helps to create a look of film? Is it because it diffuses the light source? Why does black apeears richer when fog is used? Please help!
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Old October 22nd, 2003, 01:25 AM   #2
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Particulate matter in the air, be it mist or artificial fog, can help with the "filmlook" in various ways. One, it lowers contrast overall. Two, it creates the appearance of depth because the further from the camera, the less contrast (the lighter the blacks). It's almost like a faux depth-of-field approximation, reducing the clarity in the background by removing the contrast. So the blacks in the foreground appear richer because they stand out more.
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Old October 22nd, 2003, 09:45 AM   #3
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FOG

Thank you very much for the response.
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Old October 23rd, 2003, 06:08 PM   #4
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HOLD THE PHONE

Hmm, interesting. So am I doing something wrong when I am INCREASING the contrast very noticebly in most of my work!?

THANKS!
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Old October 23rd, 2003, 08:17 PM   #5
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Charles' explanation is a good one. This is also one of the reasons that people smoke in many movies... it just looks "good" on film... and it gives the actor's hands something to do. I still think smoking is stupid, though, but the explanation is sound.
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Old October 23rd, 2003, 08:26 PM   #6
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Re: HOLD THE PHONE

<<<-- Originally posted by Matt McDermitt : am I doing something wrong when I am INCREASING the contrast -->>>

There is no "right" or "wrong". If you like the way it looks then go for it! Personally I try to avoid situations with too much contrast, unless going for some specific effect. I generally dislike that overly contrasty "video look". I turn the sharpness all the way down and reduce color saturation using a custom preset on the camera. I also like to use the "Joe's Diffusion" filter with FCP in many cases.

But that's a look that I like. We all have our own styles, and that's what makes things interesting!
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Old October 23rd, 2003, 11:06 PM   #7
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<<<-- This is also one of the reasons that people smoke in many movies... it just looks "good" on film... and it gives the actor's hands something to do. I still think smoking is stupid, though, but the explanation is sound. -->>>

I gotta disagree with you on this one. I have never heard or seen an actor smoke onscreen for aesthetic (spell?) purposes or that it 'just looks good'. I think any character that smokes is doing so for character reasons NOT because it helps the look of the film.

Sorry to disagree, but I read this and was like "What?"

I smoke and YES, it is stupid. :(
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Old October 24th, 2003, 12:45 AM   #8
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TONS of movie characters smoke for no reason. If it was based purely on character, then why do so many people still smoke in movies these days? People hate smoke nowadays... and lots of "good guys" and supposedly "hot" women smoke in movies. Sometimes it has to do with the character, but I think you should talk to some directors of commercially released movies and listen to what they have to say on the subject.
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Old October 24th, 2003, 12:59 AM   #9
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Ted, for what it's worth, I've never heard of a specific character being required to smoke on-screen because it will add smoke to the scene, thus lowering contrast (is this what's being suggested??!). It's always a character choice, one than is set up in the script, suggested by the director or by the actor.

There are many instances of scenes being fogged because of the look, even though the smoking laws have created a different reality. It's extremely rare to shoot a bar or club scene without calling to "smoke it up" for the look. I imagine in a few years this will slowly change.

Fog has gone through various trendy periods; look at films from the early 80's to see its use and abuse!

Regarding the contrast issue: as Boyd suggested, it's a matter of taste. I like to keep the contrast down while shooting to capture the widest range of latitude possible, then restore the contrast ("snap") in post. Smoke can help with this a bit, but I really like it for the multi-layered effect it can create as I described earlier.

However, it requires quite a bit of attention to maintain your desired level of smoke, and a bit of know-how to achieve and maintain the proper density of atmosphere.
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Old October 26th, 2003, 01:44 PM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Charles Papert : Ted, for what it's worth, I've never heard of a specific character being required to smoke on-screen because it will add smoke to the scene, thus lowering contrast (is this what's being suggested??!). It's always a character choice, one than is set up in the script, suggested by the director or by the actor.-->>>

That is what I 'read into it'. Unfortnatley, I cannot call SPIELBERG right now to discuss it with him (he's on location - ;)

But, having an actor smoke to make it look good on film or to give the hands something to do sounds, well, you know...

You are right about films in the 80's. Smoke is very abused (Spielberg is one of them!).
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Old October 27th, 2003, 01:00 PM   #11
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Gotcha. Yeah, I can think of a few movies that this would be applicable to--thinking of the smoke lazily drifting up with blues music on the soundtrack, etc.
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Old October 27th, 2003, 01:26 PM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Ted Springer : Yeah, it does sound stupid, but I've heard commentaries on DVDs and LaserDiscs from directors who say they have their actors smoke to give them something to do and they like the way the smoke "flows" on screen.... not to lower contrast. -->>>

I didn't say stupid! Bottom line, it's up to the individual director. Me? I'll keep it for character development.

A smoke machine is cool though.
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