A Guide for Creative Collaboration

CINEMATOGRAPHY for DIRECTORS
JACQUELINE B. FROST

M I C H A E L

W I E S E

P R O D U C T I O N S

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . x

CHAPTER ONE
Creative Collaborators: the Director and the Cinematographer . . . . . . . . 1

CHAPTER TWO
The Cinematographer and the Script . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

CHAPTER THREE
The Aesthetics of Lenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39

CHAPTER FOUR
Visual References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63

CHAPTER FIVE
The Color Palette of Film . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93

CHAPTER SIX
Lighting for Genre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .127

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Tools and Aesthetics of Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .155

CHAPTER EIGHT
Various Formats: “The Canvas” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181

CHAPTER NINE
The Lab, the DI, and Achieving “the Look” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .211

CHAPTER TEN
A History of Creative Collaborators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .233 Director and Cinematographers Interviewed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .253 DVD Credits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .271 About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .277
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THE COLOR PALETTE OF FILM

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ometimes I’m at the genesis of the color palette. On The Fountain, for example, I was in on very early conversations, and the color was determined by myself, Darren, the production designer, and even the visual effects guys, and that palette was strictly adhered to by all of us. (Matthew Libatique, ASC, Frost interview, September 2007)

The color palette is a subtle way to visually enhance the emotional aspects of a film and guide the viewer to respond to it viscerally. Understanding the basic components of color — what are warm colors? what are cool colors? — and how the audience responds to these colors is essential in communicating with a specific color palette. The cinematographer’s job is to interpret the screenplay in a visual form and guide the viewer’s emotions through color, light, shots, angles, and movement. But it’s the director’s job to know what she or he envisions for the film to begin the collaborative process with the cinematographer. A conversation regarding the interpretation of the script and what the color palette and look of the film might be should come up early in preproduction. It is important that both the director and cinematographer understand the thematic elements of the story and how to enhance it through color and light. Designing a color palette is the step beyond visual references. The references provide the director, cinematographer, and production designer a starting point, a means in which to communicate a visual look. The color palette is the actual visual character of the film being created for the screen. Some films have a grainy, de-saturated color palette, others a slick, saturated palette, others a monochromatic palette, and others a brown dusty palette. The color palette begins as a direct visual interpretation of the script that makes it a reality on film, where it then takes on a subtle character of its own. The color palette can convey a mood or feeling that stays with the viewer even after the film has ended.
I When I first talked with Ridley (Scott) about this movie [American Gangster], he said he wanted it to feel gritty, he wanted the image to have the color sucked out of it, to look almost black and white. We didn’t end up going that far, but that was the catalyst for our approach. I want my photography to support the story and feel like part of the story, rather than be
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something that draws attention to itself. With American Gangster, I was concerned that a total de-saturation of color would be too much, too stylized for the material. (Harris Savides, ASC, American Cinematographer, December 2007, 48)

The production designer and the director will begin discussions about the color of the film early in preproduction, sometimes even before the cinematographer comes on to the project. Then it becomes a meeting of three minds on how the set design will look, the color of the costumes, and how the film will read these colors, and what effect they will have on the overall emotional feeling of the film. The director will articulate ideas about the color palette to the production designer, who will translate the concepts into tangible sets and props, and will present swatches of material, sample colors of paint, and a general set design to the director. The cinematographer then comes into the mix with the technical aspects of manipulating the color to capture the mood or essence of the story and capture it effectively on celluloid. If extensive special effects are being done, even more testing may be involved.
I [Color palette] is an early conversation beyond getting to know the director. The chief responsibility of the cinematographer is to have discussions with production designers, costume designers, and set dressers about how they see the film. When I work with Darren (Aronofsky) we always talk about the palette first, because it’s an element we try to limit. We enjoyed the black-and-white experience so much on Pi that when we went into Requiem for a Dream, we decided to limit the color palette in every way we could. That approach helped us to come to grips with our images, so they didn’t get confused. Once Darren sets the palette, it becomes my job — along with the production designer and costume designer — to adhere to that choice.The key colors in The Fountain are gold, representing the Mayans — a sort of fool’s gold, a false truth — and white, representing morality and truth. In Requiem For a Dream, it was a very easy delineation between summer, fall, and winter, and the color of the light delineated the moods of those time periods. (Matthew Libatique, ASC, American Cinematographer, November 2006, 53)

Requiem for a Dream

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Requiem for a Dream

The Fountain

I On some films I’ve done enormous amounts of testing. For O Brother, Where Art Thou? I did a lot of testing, because we started out trying to reproduce the look of the film photochemically and hit a wall. So then we decided to take the risk and do it digitally as a DI. So that was quite a lot of testing. I did a lot of testing on The Man Who Wasn’t There, because of the black-and-white look we wanted. I did a lot of testing with Andrew Dominik on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, because there was a specific look he wanted for the film in terms of the photographic effects of the vignetting. He wanted certain sequences where the black in the frame was actually a dark red, he wanted color introduced into the shadows and he wanted a certain kind of vibrancy to the image that wasn’t a typical photochemical process. So we mixed it photochemically and digitally to get the kind of looks that he
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wanted. When we started shooting Jesse James, I had done twenty different shots of interiors, exteriors, and night shots, and I manipulated them in the camera and then afterwards to get these specific looks that we both settled on for a template for the movie. (Roger Deakins, ASC, Frost interview, November 2007)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

COLOR TEMPERATURE
To understand how to manipulate color you should first understand the unique qualities of film emulsion and how it responds to light. These are the tools of the craft that the cinematographer will be dealing with to create the color palette of the film. Natural daylight is not the white light our eyes perceive it to be. Our eyes work more like a video camera automatically white-balancing everything we see. But film reads light much differently than the human eye does — instead interpreting the color of daylight as a bluish hue. This is reflected in the nature of daylight film stock, which has a color temperature reading of 5500 degrees Kelvin on a color temperature meter. Daylight balanced film stock is made to work without any color correction filtration outdoors and is also balanced at 5500k. The sun is actually a very bright hard light and reads quite hot on the Kelvin scale: blue is actually hotter than amber in color temperature. Film emulsion is sensitive to color temperature and reads the light as it sees it, so daylight balanced
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film is designed to absorb that light without any color correction filtration. The film reads daylight at 5500k; it absorbs the blues of daylight naturally. HMI lights are also color balanced at 5500k to match the color of natural daylight. Using HMI lights to augment daylight works well on daylight balanced film, because they are the same color temperature. Even adding a half blue CTB to a tungsten light will bring the color temperature closer to daylight. Playing with color temperature is to a cinematographer what mixing paint is to a painter — part of the craft. Tungsten film is balanced at a cooler color temperature of 3200k, which is an amber-looking light. Tungsten light is similar to what a regular incandescent light bulb in your home lamp looks like, casting a warm amber glow. Tungsten film was created to be properly color balanced with tungsten lights (3200 degrees Kelvin). It has more amber tones to it, so it naturally provides a warmer look. Cinematographers enhance and manipulate film stocks with various filters and colored gels (CTO, color temperature orange, and CTB, color temperature blue) as well as in postproduction color timing or processing to provide the visual look appropriate for the story they are telling. They know film and how it responds to light and may mix various color temperatures to achieve a specific look. These are the tools of the cinematographer’s domain, part of the craft of cinematography. Here is a basic idea of how the Kelvin color temperature meter reads light: 1700k — the light from a match 1850k — candle flame 2800-3300k — incandescent light bulb 3400k — studio lamps 4100k — moonlight and xenon arc lights 5000-5400k — direct sunlight at noon 5500-6500k — sunlight through clouds and haze 6000-7500k — overcast daylight 7000-8000k — outside in the shade on a sunny day 8000-10,000k — the sky on a partly cloudy day As the numbers increase, the light gets hotter. Although emotionally, we consider the colors blue, green, and violet to be cool colors, and orange, yellow, and red the warm colors, when reading the light on a color temperature meter, the opposite is true. A color palette is created by using the aesthetics of color in combination with the actual Kelvin readings used by the cinematographer to balance out how the color will be rendered on film. When tungsten balanced film is shot outdoors or is mixed with unfiltered daylight, it becomes quite blue. When daylight balanced film is shot under unfiltered tungsten light, it becomes quite amber. Color correction filters are used by cinematographers to convert tungsten to daylight (85B) and less frequently from daylight to tungsten (80). These are basic filters your cinematographer will use to color correct film stock to the proper color temperature. They are part of a basic package along with the neutral density filters, but unlike NDs, they do affect the color temperature of film.
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An example of where this might be used is when you are indoors shooting with tungsten balanced film. You have finished the scene and want to grab an exterior shot with the remaining 100' of film in the magazine. The cinematographer could simply pop on an 85 filter and the film is color-corrected for daylight without having to change magazines to another stock. So these filters will always be on hand in case they are needed. The 85 and the 80 simply correct color temperature in camera. There are also filters to color correct fluorescent light, but if for some reason you did not have these filters, these basic color corrections can also be done during the telecine transfer at the lab.
I With color palette you want to have some idea where you’re going. Otherwise the production designer may make the sets a different color than you and the director were expecting, and they wouldn’t necessarily react the way you may like on film. That goes for costumes as well. I find it a bit odd sometimes that so much testing is done on costumes and wallpaper and paints and stuff.You can stand and look at it, and that’s what it’s going to look like. There’s no great magic; it’s what your eye sees, basically. Film stocks these days are balanced to give you what your eyes see. It’s not like the old days when the film stocks, even the black-and-white stocks, didn’t truly reflect what was in the frame and it was a really big issue. These days a black-blue suit may look slightly more bluish, but that’s a minor thing. Now when you see someone standing there with the makeup and wardrobe on, that’s the way it’s going to look on film. The only way it’s going to vary is if you are changing the color temperature lighting to something much warmer at night with candles, but someone standing outside in normal daylight, there is no need to test that, it’s going to look the way your eye sees it. (Roger Deakins, ASC, Frost interview, November 2007)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

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I Most of the time you are coming into a color palette, then maybe you will alter it, but there is already a color palette that has been thought about, because the production designer comes on the show so much earlier than the cinematographer in preproduction, so they have already thought about palette. What I’m thinking about is the texture of the film and how colors will be rendered.Then I have to articulate to the production designer and director how those colors are going to shift based on what I’m doing to the film. (Matthew Libatique, ASC, Frost interview, September 2007)

There are many effects filters that are used to alter the color absorption through the lens, such as tobacco filters, which create a brownish haze over the image depending on the degree of density of the filter, graduated filters which cast a hue over the top of the image. There are also fog filters, diffusion filters, pro mist filters, and others. Sometimes filters are used in combination with a postproduction process such as bleach bypass to de-saturate the image, while others are used to saturate the image. There are literally hundreds of filters that Tiffen makes for numerous affects. The cinematographer will test them prior to the shoot and screen the tests with the director before committing to using them for the film. Using filters alters the way light is read on the negative, so some cinematographers prefer not to use them but instead to adjust the color saturation in postproduction and through color timing. It is a matter of choice and opinion, and the cinematographer will communicate this with the director to come up with the final decision on how they want to handle the negative. What is important for the director to understand is that there are two separate color temperatures of film: one is tungsten, the other daylight balanced. Selecting one stock over the other will affect how colors are rendered on film. Another variable is the EI (exposure index): how fast the film is, which will affect the visible grain structure. This is why cinematographers will shoot tests and screen them with the director, so a mutual decision can be made on the look of the film.
I On The Fountain I worked with certain color temperatures and how they render on film stocks. For example, taking a tungsten stock and rendering cool white fluorescents versus warm white fluorescents or something that’s 2500 degrees Kelvin versus something that’s at 5000 degrees Kelvin — how they render in the same frame together is important to me. I use a lot of color temperature readings and I use that to render specific colors. Then I’ll shift those colors. If something is 5000 degrees on tungsten film and goes a little blue, it’s also going to render a little magenta, so maybe I’ll add a little green to it, or I’ll put green on the lights and make the kinoflos 5500 degrees. It’s part of the craft, trying to keep that palette as disciplined as possible. (Matthew Libatique, ASC, Frost interview, September 2007)

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The Fountain

Some cinematographers choose to work with a color temperature meter to read the light during production, knowing that they can manipulate and mix it using certain gels to get the effect they want. The more that is done while shooting the film in terms of getting the colors you want on the negative in camera, the less has to be done in expensive color timing sessions in post. So pre-testing colors on certain film stocks with whatever lab process is going to be done is beneficial. Although color temperature on emulsion is a uniquely film-related process, the same basic concepts of color palette apply to digital films, even though they are creating the images through an electronic signal. They are still designed to read the color temperatures of light based on the Kelvin scale, interpreting both warm and cool colors through white balancing and manipulating the white balance.
I Color is essential, so a lot of the visual references I will present to the director will have to do with the color of light, the color of sets, and sometimes costumes. For example, Alexander had a lot of that, in the sense that being such a long journey, we wanted to represent that visually, to feel a difference in each place in terms of texture, grain, and color. So we separated the beginning when Alexander is young with primary colors, like white, red, blue, and as Alexander first goes into battle we go to the warmer colors (reds, oranges, yellows). Oliver responds to reds and yellows, so I used different filters, such as tobacco filters, because of the colors of the desert or a sand storm; the color of each location was enhanced by the filters. When Alexander returns to Babylon triumphant, I felt this was his golden moment, so I used 81EF filters, which are a little more yellow rather than tobaccos, which are redder — very subtle differences. When they go to the mountains, I wanted to use colder colors, because of the actual climate of the place, but I had a hard time convincing Oliver to go that way. In India we went to cyan, blue, green, and I remember when I presented those colors to Oliver he said, “don’t show me your 8 Mile green. I don’t like that color.” I convinced him we had to have a progression, it can’t be all red and yellow, and he finally accepted it. (Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, Frost interview, July 2007)
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Alexander

The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry and beautifully photographed by Seamus McGarvey, BSC, contains three separate color palettes used to delineate the three main characters and their separate story lines, which take place in different time periods. The film needed to tell the three different stories while still intertwining them, so that it felt like they were happening simultaneously. For the Virginia Woolf character, played by Nicole Kidman, the setting was England between 1923 and 194For this sequence: “Tiffen Antique suede filter in combination with the classic soft, to effect the pre-war setting. The antique suede has a very slight sepia quality. It tends to pull back the colors and put a nicotine gauze over everything.” Julianne Moore’s character was given a more yellow hue for her life that takes place in the 1950s in Los Angeles. “I wanted to give this section a pastel feel without any strong blacks, almost as if it were hand-tinted or aged.” The present day story of Meryl Streep takes place in New York City in the winter and has been given the cold blue hue of winter as she cares for her dying friend. “For me, this section of the film acts as an emotional and visual hinge. Because it’s contemporary it requires a sense of veracity.”
I The three colors intertwine perfectly to separate the storylines while subtly providing the emotional states of the characters lives and their environments. (Seamus McGarvey, American Cinematographer, January 2003, 27)
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I [In Babel] we were nervous about one story looking completely different from the other. We wanted it to be one movie, but with different feels. [Production Designer] Brigitte Broch suggested we find one color to carry through all three stories, so we chose red. It appears as umber in Morocco and as primary red in Mexico, in both cases mainly in the costumes and set dressing. In Japan, we looked for more of a pink/magenta shade, and we used that in the production design and some of the lighting, particularly in an important sequence in a nightclub. Alejandro loves film grain, and once we decided to make the grain of Super 16mm the texture of Morocco, we carried it through Mexico and Japan to different degrees. (Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, American Cinematographer, November 2006, 39)

The elements of color palette the cinematographer works with include the film stock, filters, gels, and lights that are either tungsten or daylight balanced along with the mixing of color temperature and exposure to achieve a specific look on the negative. It also has to do with what the production designer has created for the background and sets and what the wardrobe person has selected for costumes. The colors selected should have an aesthetic or thematic basis that is underscoring the mood or theme of the story or the emotional state of a character. Subtle color differences are often used to identify the separation of locations of different storylines. It is important to understand that certain colors recede while others stand out. As previously mentioned the “cooler colors” are considered the blues, greens, cyans, violet hues; these colors have a tendency to recede when placed next to warmer colors such as yellow, orange, and red. Yellow is the most prominent color to stand out when placed in sea of greens and blues. The viewer’s eye will go to the brightest area of the frame first, so the placement of yellow must be carefully considered. At times cinematographers will play off warm and cool colors to separate story lines such was done in The English Patient, shot by John Seale, ASC.
I It was a preset preproduction idea of the final film that the memories in Africa were always warm and yellow. Those times in memory were fantastic times of love and adventure in the desert. When we come back to the present in Italy, [at that point in the story] the Germans have come through and bombed everything, so Anthony would say these Mediterranean pines are so dark green, almost black, the soil has been turned over by plows and it’s black, so we have a dark countryside of post war, and we put little flames in the distance to give the feeling that this was still happening. Anthony’s fear at any given time was that he would have to put in title cards back and forth “meanwhile back in Italy,” and he didn’t want to do that, so we tried to think of a color we wanted to separate without any subtitles. I was considering de-saturating Italy, but it’s a wonderful thing, because in preproduction we thought we would de-saturate and trim a little more gold into the desert, but in hindsight it just happened. When you have already thought about it your brain is already going in that direction. (John Seale, ASC, Frost interview, October 2007)

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The English Patient: One shot from the “past,” one from the “present”

I We have a color transition [in Alexander] where there is a shot of the mountains and the camera is panning through the clouds. We start with a bluish coloration of the Hindu Kush mountains and we go to the green of India; we did a color transition from the blue to the green. So for India I did bleach bypass for extra contrast and grain and to represent the difficulty of what is going on. That movie was very particular with the color play. One of the most striking moments is in the battle in India, when Alexander almost dies, and for that moment we went for infrared color, which was a very risky decision, but it was… a moment where [the character] is near death; maybe in that moment you see things that exist, but you can’t see what your senses perceive — like infrared light. But the film stock does perceive it, so we went for it, and it was risky, and Oliver and I tested it. That movie is the most extreme example of the color scheme representing both the physical and emotional journey of the character. (Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, Frost interview, July 2007)

Janusz Kaminski, who has collaborated with Steven Spielberg on numerous films says:
I The story is always the most important aspect of my work, and it always leads me to find the visual style that works for a given movie. Sometimes cinematographers get caught up in doing lighting that looks nice but doesn’t reflect the story. For me, finding a visual approach that’s relevant to the story is the part of my work that’s the most fun. (Janusz Kaminski, American Cinematographer, July 2004)
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Alexander: Infrared scene

I For example, in the film Munich, Kaminski created a blend of looks to represent the different period locations. The semi-documentary footage of the Munich assault was treated with a lab process known as bleach bypass, which de-saturates the colors. The event unfolds in a world “full of texture, a little bit decayed, with chipping paint…then we go to full color with hard sunlight to introduce the characters who are still naive and innocent.” (Janusz Kaminski, American Cinematographer, July 2004)

As the action shifts from one city to another Kaminski chose to define each location with a specific color and texture to help orient the viewer. “…each city has a
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different color. Beirut is very blue-green, Rome is slightly warmer, Paris is less saturated, and New York City is grainy.” This color distinction orients the viewer as to a location shift while they are viewing the film, but on a more subjective level, it is also telling the viewer what to feel about each location in terms of the thematic elements of the story.

Munich

The use of cool colors such as greens, blues, and violets punctuates the cold or isolated aspect of a number of the films Kaminski shot for Spielberg such as Minority Report or A.I., which had blue hues to them enhancing the science fiction aspect of the story while creating a unwelcoming environment, a sense of isolation.

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Kaminski’s collaboration with Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan included discovering different visual textures with a mix of film stocks, lab processes, and specialized techniques such as “the deconstruction of the slickness that you usually get with modern lenses” (Spielberg). Kaminski stripped the coating off the lenses, and he also flashed the film using the Technicolor ENR process to alter contrast. Spielberg wanted deeply saturated colors, an idea he attributes to watching 16mm Signal Corps Ektachrome (reversal) footage documenting the invasion of France by the Allies. Ektachrome film has a blue hue to it, which is evident in Spielberg’s film. Without the coating on the lens the light enters and bounces all around, creating flares, which diffuses the light and colors and adds a haze to the image. This created the illusion they wanted, that there were actually several cameramen landing with the troops at Normandy.

Saving Private Ryan

This is distinctly different from the visual interpretation of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, shot by Vittorio Storaro. During the opening scenes of this epic Vietnam War film, the colors are almost monochrome. Then as the conflict moves deeper into the jungle, Storaro imposes an unnatural color (red) or a natural one (green) to visually represent the escalation of the conflict. By the end of the film, the use of color borders on surrealism.Vittorio Storaro uses colors with a subjective and philosophical interpretation of the color palette:
I There is no doubt that every color is a specific wavelength of energy that can represent or symbolize a specific time of life…the meanings of colors are universal, even if they have different cultures. Even if the audience doesn’t see the meanings of different colors, they can feel them. (Vittorio Storaro, ASC, American Cinematographer, September 2007, 56)

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Apocalypse Now

Storaro structures his use of colors on the Greek philosophers’ belief that four primary elements bring balance to our lives: water (green), fire (red), earth (ocher), and air (blue). He believes that when our lives are in balance, these colors combine to form pure energy, which is white. During his preparation for every film, Storaro writes an “ideology” that guides his use of colors to convey information and emotional subtext. In Dick Tracy, he used bold colors, including purple roads, cobalt blue skies, green reflections, and yellow shafts of light to reveal that this was a comic book on film. Heros and villains could easily be identified by color. In his most recent film, Caravaggio, which is about the life of the painter, he was greatly influenced by the colors the artist used in his work.
I I used chromatic nuances ranging from red to orange to yellow to represent the sun, and one color only for the moon: white. In analyzing Caravaggio’s paintings, I noticed he never used the color blue. He opted for black, red, orange, yellow, and, in a few paintings, green, but he stopped there. So I saw to it that there was no blue in our film. Evenings are depicted with neutral or pale lights. (Vittorio Storaro, ASC, American Cinematographer, September 2007, 64)

Generally, warmer tones such as oranges, yellows, and reds reinforce a sense of warmth in a story. In some films the warmer tones support the bonding of family, the warmth of the home, perhaps a nostalgic recollection of the past. We perceive warmer colors to be associated with memories or period piece films. In the case of the early Godfather films Gordon Willis, ASC, selected a warm amber tone to reflect the period piece aspect of the film. This warm tone was used for years to represent a period piece in stories. The color will also be affected by how bright (high key) or dark (low key) the lighting is. In The Godfather there is a great deal of shadow area to contrast the amber light. The top light used on Marlon Brando creates dark shadows in his eyes,
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The Godfather: An example of low-key lighting

without any fill light, which makes his character more mysterious and more dangerous. We cannot see what he is feeling, because we can’t see his eyes. Romantic comedies often use warmer tones mixed with bright (high key), soft light to evoke a romantic response in the viewer. The audience is comforted by their unconscious psychological response to the warm colors. The lack of shadows visible in the frame and the warm bright mood subliminally tells the audience what to feel despite what is going on in the scene. The production design is generally bright in romantic comedies and darker in dramas. Wardrobe is carefully tested and considered, as well as how much contrast is visible in the scene.
I My movies are mostly studio romantic comedies. The use of color for me is something that I try to make come out of the characters. Why do you want to have a character in a certain color? To set them apart. I also do it because I learned in film school that lack forces creativity, so when I am working on a studio film for $40 million dollars, I find that if I give the crew [direction], such as, I don’t want any blue in this movie, it forces them to go beyond their normal palette. With Grumpy Old Men, [because] these guys are in the full of their lives, in the dead of winter Jack (Lemmon) wears beiges and grays and Walter (Matthau) wears more forest greens and reds. I said, “I don’t want any blue in this movie except Ann-Margret,” who is the breath of sunshine to these guys. She was the only one allowed to wear any tone of blue. (Donald Petrie, DGA, Frost interview, December 2006)

Following the style of the Douglas Sirk melodramas from the 1950s, such as All That Heaven Allows (1955) or Written on the Wind (1957), which used bold colors in wardrobe and set design to signify the characters’ relationships, director Todd Haynes and cinematographer Edward Lachman, ASC, used color even more vibrantly in Far From Heaven, the 2002 homage to the Sirk/Metty films.
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Cinematographer Russell Metty, ASC, shot the 1950s Technicolor films with saturated and bold colors, using shadow and darkness to tell the story of repression in this conventional New England town. Because Edward Lachman didn’t have the Technicolor process to work with, he had to take current Kodak film stocks, which have different color qualities than the films of the 1950s, and re-create the look of the 1950s melodrama by using deeply saturated colors. Todd Haynes said of Sirk’s films, “Every scene in his films has a palette in which complementary warm and cool colors interact. If the scene is predominately cool, then it has warm highlights, and the interaction is subtle and complex in the way that emotions are complex.” In the beginning of Far From Heaven a warm autumn hue opens the film. But when Cathy Whittaker (Julianne Moore) receives the phone call to collect her husband Frank Whittaker (Dennis Quaid) from the police station, warm tones are replaced by cool blue-lavender tones. The police station is mixed with blues and violets on the exterior and green in the interior, all cool colors. Throughout the film whenever her husband is present, these colors are also there. His colors are used symbolically to infect her world and make their seemingly perfect marriage a sham. When we see Julianne Moore’s character with her women friends, they are all dressed in warm colors; there is a comfort and honesty in their bonding. The time she spends with Raymond (Dennis Haybert), the gardener, is mixed, with warm tones when they are together alone, but cooler tones when they are under the disapproving eye of society.
I I used different combinations of advancing and receding colors to suggest the interplay of characters’ emotions. I used cool colors against warm colors to establish the characters’ conflicts with themselves and their environments. (Edward Lachman, ASC, American Cinematographer, December 2002, 63)

When Julianne Moore’s character accidentally finds her husband in an embrace with another man, green is the predominant color. She enters his world of lies and deceit. The greens and lavenders follow his character into the streets of the city, into his home and into the gay bar.
I There are two bar scenes, one in a gay bar and the other in a bar on the black side of town. We used different greens and warm colors in both settings, but to very different effect. One scene is supposed to have a slightly disturbing otherworldliness, and the other is the site of one of the film’s peak romantic moments; the same basic colors create polar opposite moods. (Todd Haynes, American Cinematographer, December 2002, 63)

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Far From Heaven: The two bar scenes

I We wanted to show that the black bar was closer to nature, which is represented by Raymond, the gardener, whereas the gay bar was viewed at that time as an aberration. That pair of scenes is a good example of using the same colors in different chromas and hues to create the character’s emotional context and space. The gay bar is done in secondary colors of lime green against magenta, whereas the black bar is done in primary colors of nature, forest green and the yellow-orange of the sun. To suggest the emotional arc of our story, we explored different looks for night. Far From Heaven takes place over different seasons, and that’s a metaphor for what’s happening with the characters emotionally. We changed the color of ambient night-light as the seasons changed. For the fall scenes the night is a lavender or periwinkle blue; as we get into winter, and Cathy and Frank’s marriage deteriorates, night becomes more aquamarine or greenblue, less warm. (Edward Lachman, ASC, American Cinematographer, December 2002, 64)
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Far From Heaven

All That Heaven Allows

UNDERSTANDING FILM STOCK
Cinematographers know their film stocks, as a painter knows paints. They understand the chemistry of film, such as characteristic curve, sensitometry, exposure index, and enjoy pushing the boundaries of what the film was made to do. These are technical elements that directors don’t really need to know. The cinematographer will select the film stock that they feel best suits the film in terms of locations, time of day, grain structure, color saturation, and shadow detail. This could be several different stocks or just one. The selection of film stock will never be put solely into the hands of the director, just as selecting actors will never be put solely in the hands of the cinematographer.
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It is helpful to test a particular film stock prior to any shoot, based on the lighting and production design created for that specific film. Consider basic things first, such as, should the film be rich with color? Certain film stocks are more color saturated than others — more “punchy,” some might say. Some stocks are more pastel in their rendering of color; others are cooler, and yet others tend to go more amber. Each stock has its own specific characteristics. Cinematographers work with these stocks all the time and know them very well. They will shoot tests and screen them with the director and production designer to select which one best renders the look that has been decided on for the film. Exposure index (which is the speed rating of the film) affects how much light is needed for a proper exposure as well as how tight the grain structure is. Each film stock will be affected in a slightly different way from the lab process used in postproduction. As mentioned previously, there are films that are balanced for daylight (5500k) and there are films that are balanced for tungsten (3200k). Whether you are shooting the bulk of your film outdoors during the day or at night will specify to the cinematographer what stock would be best suited. If the majority of your film takes place at night, it would make sense to select a highspeed (500 EI) balanced film. Kodak has three different 500T stocks and Fuji has one 500D stock. If you are shooting the majority of the film during bright daylight hours, it would make sense to shoot Kodak’s 50EI or Fuji’s 64EI. Both are slower stocks designed for bright daylight conditions. A 500-speed tungsten-balanced film would have to be heavily corrected with color correction (85) and neutral density (ND) filters to work in a bright daylight situation, but that is exactly what John Seale, ASC, did when he shot The English Patient. There are cinematographers who like to use just one stock for the entire film and others that are happy to change out emulsions based on the location and time of day. The cinematographer may shoot tests and screen them with the director, who may respond to one stock over another, but the selection of the film stock for the project is the domain of the cinematographer. There are only two companies that make motion picture film: Kodak and Fuji. Selecting the film stock is very much an aesthetic decision and should not be an economic one. How much film you shoot is a budgetary concern and is determined by your shooting ratio, how much film you need to shoot to get the coverage needed. That is figured out in the budget, whether you are shooting a 10:1 ratio (ten times more than you will use in the film) or less. Here is a listing of Kodak’s current color negative motion picture film stocks, ranging from a slow speed 50D stock to two fast 500T stocks. The speed of the film is determined by a rating system Kodak and Fuji provide for each stock, based on extensive testing done in various lighting conditions. A slow speed film (50EI) has a tighter grain structure and needs more light for exposure; it’s designed to be used in bright lighting conditions. As the EI (exposure index) number increases, the emulsions become more light sensitive (faster) with a more
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visible grain structure. The “D” following the stock number means it is color balanced for daylight (5500k) and the “T” means it is color balanced for tungsten light (3200k). Kodak is the only company currently making black-and-white negative and black-and-white and color reversal motion picture film. Reversal stocks render a positive camera original rather than the usual negative camera original. They are sharper in contrast and more saturated in color. Kodak makes two color reversal stocks a 100D, and an Ektachrome 64T, which is the old Super 8mm home movie film that they have been making for the past forty years. KODAK Vision 2 50D 5201D / 7201D (50EI): The 5201 is the 35mm version of the film; the 7201 is the regular and Super 16mm version of the film. These numbers are for size and format. The 50D is a slow stock that needs a lot of light for exposure, but because of that has a tight grain structure. This stock is recommended for exterior shooting during the brightest time of the day. KODAK VISION 2 100T Color Negative Film 5212 / 7212 is considered the sharpest color negative motion picture film. This stock offers clean, crisp images and can be used for interior use or exterior use with an 85 filter. It is a fairly slow stock so will need a good bit of light, but because of that has a fine grain structure. This stock is also good for digital compositing. KODAK VISION2 200T Color Negative Film 5217 / 7217 is a mid-range stock, which can be used for interiors or exteriors (with a filter) and still maintain a fairly tight grain structure. 200T Film also enables you to shoot all scenes for digital compositing on the same stock. KODAK VISION2 250D Color Negative Film 5205 / 7205 is a daylight balanced stock that can be used outdoors in lower light situations, such as early in the morning or later in the afternoon, and still capture the true colors of daylight. It can also be used with artificial daylight balanced lights (HMIs) in interior situations mixed with daylight. During the brightest times of the day outside, a neutral density filter might be required to reduce overexposure. KODAK VISION2 500T Color Negative Film 5218 / 7218 is a tungsten balanced stock that is great for low light night interiors, or night exteriors. It is a fast speed film (500 exposure index) so requires less light for exposure. It still maintains a fairly tight grain structure, and can be deeply saturated with fairly high contrast. KODAK VISION 500T Color Negative Film 5229 / 7229 is also a highspeed tungsten balanced stock that has been modified to capture more accurate skin tones and slightly less contrast, providing more detail in the shadow areas. Again it has a fairly tight grain structure for its speed and is good for interior day or night shoots, or exterior night shoots. KODAK VISION 3 500T Color Negative Film is Kodak’s most recent film stock, released in 200New Advanced Dye Layering Technology (DLT) creates reduced grain in shadow areas and higher signal-to-noise ratios when scanning
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low-light scenes. The extended highlight latitude provides greater flexibility when lighting extreme situations, and more detail to be pulled out of highlights. Basically created for shooting on film and posting digitally.
I I pretty much stay with the two major Kodak stocks, 17 and I’ve shot a bit of Fuji for certain scenes because I wanted a particular look. But generally I don’t like mixing film stocks; I find it confusing. I like to know what I’ve got in the magazine and what it’s going to do so I can manipulate that stock rather than use stock to give me a different look. I’d rather do it in the lighting and the way I shoot with the same negative in the camera or manipulate the image in postproduction, digitally. I find it’s too confusing to have too many stocks on a film; the poor loader doesn’t know what he’s got with all the magazines loaded. (Roger Deakins, ASC, Frost interview, November 2007)

Any tungsten balanced film can be used outdoors, if color corrected with the 85 filter. Some may also require ND (neutral density filters on top of the 85 to control exposure); that would be an 85ND combo filter. There are some cinematographers who choose to stick to one stock for the entire film, and there are others who like to use a variety of film stocks. This is all purely subjective and is a decision made between the director and cinematographer to enhance the story being told. Very often different stocks with subtle shifts in grain structure are used for different characters or storylines. Some DPs like to use all the different stocks such as the 50D for one scene, the 200T for another, the 500T for something else, the 250D for another scene. John Seale uses 500T on everything from daylight exteriors to night scenes and that’s it.
I I’m of that school, too. Although I don’t like shooting a sunlight scene with too much heavy ND (neutral density filtration) on the lens, so I would use a slower stock for daylight exteriors. But otherwise, I agree with that. I think John and I just want to produce the cleanest, sharpest image we can. Sometimes I like to add grain. On Elah, we shot on the high-speed stock, but we still wanted more grain, so we added it digitally. On previous films I might have done that by different processing, but now I would just shoot it clean and do it digitally. (Roger Deakins, ASC, Frost interview, November 2007) I Ang Lee knows the difference between film stocks when I show him. I have never worked with a director who asked me to work with a specific film stock. It has always been up to me. On Babel we had a slew of film stocks. It was so much about the grain structure, so we chose some stocks that were being discontinued, 100 EI (exposure index) tungsten balanced with an 85 filter. Alejandro (Iñárritu) liked the particular grain of that stock. I like to play with film stocks and shoot a lot of tests and show the directors the differences. On Lust, Caution (directed by Ang Lee), [we] used both Kodak and Fuji, for different scenes. I tested many film stocks, and Ang responded to the Eterna 500 tungsten, but I wanted to differentiate the Hong Kong scenes when [the characters] are young and innocent. We found the Kodak 200 Vision 2 stock to work for those scenes. So we used just two film stocks, which was unusual for me. (Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, American Cinematographer, November 2006, 37)

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FUJI FILMS
For those wanting something a little different from what Kodak has to offer, there are the Fuji stocks. Generally speaking, Fuji is known for being a little less saturated than the Kodak stocks; some might feel their color rendition is a bit more natural. But again, testing would make that distinction. Fujicolor Eterna 64 D is a slow, daylight balanced film for exterior shooting in bright conditions. Goes toward blues and greens with delicate saturation that is realistic. Fujicolor Eterna Vivid 160T is a brand new stock that was added to the Fuji lineup in 200It is a mid-range stock, which means a tight grain structure, but it boasts the color saturation of a reversal stock. Fujicolor Eterna 250D is Fuji’s answer to Kodak’s 250D. A side-by-side test would have to be done to distinguish the difference between the two. But they are designed to perform under the same conditions; interior with either sunlight or artificial daylight or exterior without an 85 filter, for late afternoon shots. Fujicolor Eterna 250T is a mid-range tungsten stock that has a tight grain structure and absorbs warm colors nicely with natural face tones. This is similar to Kodak’s 200T. Fujicolor Eterna 400T is designed to be a tight-grained faster film with excellent shadow detail, good for interior night scenes where lower light levels are required. Fujicolor Eterna 500T is slightly faster, with a little more contrast than the 400, excellent for interior night shoots with low light or exterior night shoots with tungsten light. Similar to Kodak’s 5218/7218. Fujicolor Reala 500D is a high-speed, daylight balanced film designed for shooting in mixed lighting conditions, interior or exterior. It can be shot interior with daylight coming in for a natural unlit look or exterior nights with HMIs. It was the only stock used on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, shot by Ellen Kuras, ASC, and directed by Michel Gondry. For Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, Prieto selected both Kodak and Fuji stocks for the film to create a subtle difference between Shanghai and Hong Kong. Kodak’s Vision 2 200T 5217 was used for the day scenes in Hong Kong. Fuji’s Eterna 500T 8573 was used for all the scenes shot in Shanghai.
I Fuji captured all those blues and greens very well. Kodak’s 5217 is harder, maybe with a little more contrast, but it felt a bit more innocent — pristine, direct, and unfiltered. Fuji, being a little softer with slightly more grain, felt a little more decadent. That softness also worked well with the shallow depth of field. (Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, American Cinematographer, October 2007, 51)

There are some processes that are done in the lab that will affect the saturation of color and the contrast within the image. These lab processes are discussed in detail in Chapter 9 (The Lab, The DI, and Achieving “the Look”).
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Lust, Caution

In 21 Grams, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and director Alejandro Iñárritu wanted a raw, handheld visual style along with the de-saturation of colors created by bleach bypass.
I We were trying to get into the actors’ eyes, to feel what they were feeling…each of three narratives has a visual design that evolves as the stories progress and converge. We were separating each story with colors we felt were appropriate. We pictured Paul’s (Sean Penn’s) story in cool colors; by contrast we went for warmer colors for Jack (Benicio Del Toro). Cristina’s (Naomi Watts’) story is presented neutrally, as something in between. In general, the lighting is white, but her story mixes so much with Paul’s that they both have blue-green night exteriors. And when they finally meet Jack, all three color schemes become more red-orange.We also played with different film stocks to keep the grain structures different contrasts as the stories developed. (Rodrigo Prieto, American Cinematographer, December 2003, 41)
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I Babel was certainly another example. The most obvious would be the night club scene, where I was careful about choices of lighting and gels for the dance sequences. I did a lot of testing. For example, we decided (with director Alejandro Iñárritu) to have one color in the beginning that unifies the movie, and we would find different characteristics of that color in each place, and that color was red. If you notice in the Moroccan section there is more amber, orange, red color in the production design. In Mexico it is primarily red: her dress, the tarp over the musicians at the wedding, which is red, so the color of the light would be red. In Japan it was a purplish-pink shade of red: I used that on the club as well in terms of lighting, but it was very much in the production design and the costumes. So this is something, in collaboration with Alejandro, that we discussed in the beginning of the movie and followed through — again, it’s a funneling of ideas. (Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, Frost interview, July 2007)

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Color is such an essential part of an audience’s emotional response to a film that it can be discussed endlessly. Today’s use of digital technology, such as the digital intermediate, allows for amazing color flexibility that was not possible in the past. Today’s films are a reflection of this new technology, and they are utilizing its benefits in the creation of more stylized and color enhanced films.

Traffic uses distinctly different colors to separate the story lines. See Chapter 9 to learn more about how this effect was achieved. 1 21

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I A decade ago, many cinematographers embraced the DI process as a promising technology. My ASC colleague Roger Deakins demonstrated its potential with his work on O Brother, Where Art Thou? (American Cinematographer, October 2000). For awhile it appeared cinematographers had a second palette, but it did not take long for our collaborators to realize they, too, could “paint” in the digital suite.Then, some actors realized they could supervise digital plastic surgery. (John Bailey, ASC, American Cinematographer, June 2008, 92-93)

O Brother Where Art Thou?, photographed by Roger Deakins, was one of the first films to use a digital intermediate to achieve its color palette. (For more on the digital intermediate, see Chapter 9.)

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Thirteen, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, uses a gradually desaturating color palette as the main character becomes drained of her innocence.

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Something’s Gotta Give: Art direction and wardrobe are key ingredients in the design of a color palette. Romantic comedies portray a bright environment; notice the illumination of all source lights (lamps) in the shot.

In Far From Heaven, directed by Todd Haynes, the amber wardrobe of all the women in Cathy’s world signifies the safety and warmth of their camaraderie. This directly contrasts with the violets and greens of her husband’s world. 124

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All That Heaven Allows (1954), directed by Douglas Sirk and photographed by Russell Metty, reveals the split between the main character and her children through the use of warm and cool colors, and shadowed faces.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michel Gondry and photographed by Ellen Kuras, reveals the look of natural light coming in through a window, a slightly cooler hue.

Jarhead, directed by Sam Mendes and photographed by Roger Deakins, reveals a primarily muted color palette of tans and blacks. 125

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WHAT A DIRECTOR SHOULD KNOW ABOUT COLOR PALETTE:
1. What kind of color palette do you want for your film and why? 2. How will the color palette help to tell the story? 3. Will various colors be used for characters or locations? 4. Test film stock and lab processes that will affect the color palette of the film and screen them with the cinematographer. 5. Consider how wardrobe and set design will affect the color. Also consider how the lab processes will affect it. 6. Have a basic understanding of film stock to communicate with the cinematographer. 7. What is the difference between tungsten and daylight balanced film? 8. What are the differences in grain structure? 9. What is the difference between Kodak and Fuji film stocks? 10. How will the film stock differentiate between characters or locations in the film? What does it imply symbolically and metaphorically? 11. Understand the difference between using cool colors and warm colors and what they imply to the viewer. 12. Remember that cool colors will recede when placed next to warmer colors. For example, in a scene containing both blue and yellow, the yellow will stand out more brightly than the blue, which will fall back, becoming less noticeable. 13. Consider the genre of your film and how the color will affect it. 14. Watch films, paying attention to the use of color (in wardrobe, set design, film stock differences, and color tone) in particular locations or with particular characters. 15. Discuss your ideas of color palette with your cinematographer well in advance of production. 16. Consider how palette will be affected by any visual effects planned in the film, such as reds affected by bleach bypass.

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