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Neo Noir Lighting

Three of us are collaborating and about to shoot a short (October 1st). One of us comes from a music background, one an editorial background and the other is a professional actress (she'll be casting but won't be acting in it because she is in a stage show at the moment, d@mnit - she's really good) so we have a good balance. Mind you, it might be useful if we had someone from an actual film making background but hey, everyone has to start somewhere.

Naturally, we expect the first short to be, erm, rather cr@p but we're going for it and are dealing with the usual pre-production issues.

At the moment, I'm playing with the idea of lighting. For the first short, primarily set indoors with very little movement, I am toying with the idea of a neo-noir look. I'm a fan of Bladerunner, Chinatown etc... and love the look which would fit artistically. However, this is clearly a bad idea because of the lack of flexibility it would give us in post and we should shoot as cleanly as possible and make any alterations in post but I'm tempted.

So any of you out there have any experiences with shooting with the neo noir look, how your decision-making process worked and how did this all come out? Also, any comments on the mechanics of this could be great.
 
Well, depending on what camera is available to you, you likely won't have enough latitude to really create the look mostly in post.

And even if you did, I'd still recommend lighting the scene to the look you want while ensuring good exposure throughout your latitude. Then just doing touch-ups in post.
 
Well, depending on what camera is available to you, you likely won't have enough latitude to really create the look mostly in post.

And even if you did, I'd still recommend lighting the scene to the look you want while ensuring good exposure throughout your latitude. Then just doing touch-ups in post.

The camera is OK - a VG10 and probably a guy with a z1 as a second camera. In terms of this, my MO has been to get as clean a shot as possible and then play with it in post. Also, this is neo noir rather than noir meaning going heavy on the post anyway.

But just a thought.
 
David's point is you don't have the latitude with that footage to push it as hard as you'd need to.
Post is where you clean things up a little and do things there was just no way to do live on set. Going in to a film with a "we're going to fix A,B,C,D,E in post" is good recipe for creating a really crappy film. You can take 15 minutes and light a scene correctly to begin with or you can take 15 hours and try to make it look like you want in post, and usually fail.

Of course this is coming from a guy who considers his new movie "VFX heavy" because we used 9 seconds of Warp Stabilizer on a glidecam shot.
 
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Shooting cleanly and achieving your look in post is stupid. You should go into the shoot knowing firmly what you want your look to be. You then shoot for this look, and then enhance that in post. You should know how you want the final film to look throughout every stage of production.
 
David's point is you don't have the latitude with that footage to push it as hard as you'd need to.
Post is where you clean things up a little and do things there was just no way to do live on set. Going in to a film with a "we're going to fix A,B,C,D,E in post" is good recipe for creating a really crappy film. You can take 15 minutes and light a scene correctly to begin with or you can take 15 hours and try to make it look like you want in post, and usually fail.

Of course this is coming from a guy who considers his new movie "VFX heavy" because we used 9 seconds of Warp Stabilizer on a glidecam shot.

OK.

Although I have the luxury of a post-guy who's pretty good and can change the look and 'feel' of a film. He's impressive.
 
You aren't shooting Red Raw on that camera. He's only going to be able to push it around so much before the image starts to degrade pretty badly. If you know what you want, shoot in a way that makes him have to do less.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Even the very best, most impressive post guy can only do
so much with the image. The look of Bladerunner, Chinatown
etc was not due to an impressive post guy. The lighting on
both films are exceptional.

I find it fascinating that you feel "playing" with lighting is a
bad idea because of the lack of flexibility it would give you in
post. Your team is a musician, actor and editor so I suspect
it the partner with the editorial background who feels this way.

In your experience does just doing general lighting give you
more flexibility in post? Do you have any before and after
examples? I do not ask to corner you - I am genuinely interested.
I come from the school of good lighting and getting an excellent
image in the camera. I love the availability of color correction
and grading - I have almost no experience using it.
 
Gonzo and Rik covered really well. And both of those guys have way more experience than I do.

A "clean" image doesn't meant a "flat" image. Shooting clean just means not doing things like adding heavy filtration in camera, not shooting wildly off-color temperature (which most cases Post does better), and so on. It means exposing the image throughout the range of your available latitude (not much in your case, but that's not a big deal) in order to have the maximum info to work with,

But I suppose we would be remiss without asking what style image you seek? Honestly, what is your definition of "neo-noir." Are you talking modern noir like Chinatown, Brick, The Man Who Wasn't There, The Missing Person, etc? Or more of the sci-fi side? "Cyberpunk" films if you will: Blade Runner, Dark City, Equilibrium, Johnny Mnemonic, Renaissance, The 6th Day and so on?

You'll note that there is a wide range of looks in the films I listed some with heavy post grade, others without. "Neo-Nior" does not necessarily mean "Heavy on Post."

Blade Runner looks like it does because of Cronenweth's amazing photography. I imagine he did some level of tweaking during printing, but not nearly to the degree we see now on heavily graded films.

Are you looking for Chinatown, or are you looking for Book of Eli? Both are beautiful films, but one is much more heavily post graded than the other. Even in the latter case, I can't imagine them just tossing up a couple of soft lights, giving the shot as little ratio as possible, and then doing everything in post.

Can someone make some neat looking stuff in post without putting any thought to lighting? Maybe. I've not personally seen anything done that way that IMO would not have been better had it been artistically lit first.

Light your scenes to sell your grade and the result is much much better. That's really all I was saying. You're going to do your fiddling with color temp in post, adding artifacts in post, filtration, pushing your highlights or crunching your blacks. But you have to have those highlights and blacks to work with at the beginning.

Don't misunderstand. I like a processed image; nothing wrong with a good grade, but understand that the less latitude you have the less you can push the pixels before things start to go funky. For example, if you have 8 stops available to you, then you have to pick: Save the highlights or Save the shadows? Which are more important to your plans for grading the final piece.

If you have 11 stops, you have more leeway. Of course you may still run into times where you need to choose one or the other.

That's really all was saying.

Edit:

Find Nate North's "Brass Ring" thread. I think in this section. A few pages in he posts some samples of various grades (and crops) from essentially one or two source images. (RED MX iirc)

The source shot (RAW image) does have less ratio than if you were planning on almost no post, but no different than what I would expect to see switching between View RAW and View Color on the RED anyway.

You'll notice all sorts of things going on in the original RAW that end up selling the various grades. Well that, and having a RAW source with good lighting also let Nate push the grade pretty far and have it still hold up.
 
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Shooting cleanly and achieving your look in post is stupid. You should go into the shoot knowing firmly what you want your look to be. You then shoot for this look, and then enhance that in post. You should know how you want the final film to look throughout every stage of production.

I worked on a short which is doing the festivals at the moment. They shot for a clean look and then did all the alterations in post.

That being said, the post guy was amazing - a real magician and even my wife liked the end product which is impressive as she usually hates short films.

It worked really well but clearly I am happy to bow to the weight of experience here.
 
The best post guy in the world can't make noir look as good as a decent DP with some real lights. Real light looks like real light, real shadows look like real shadows, VFX usually looks like VFX (fake).
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I worked on a short which is doing the festivals at the moment. They shot for a clean look and then did all the alterations in post.
So you already have the experience and knowledge that it works.

Which brings a question to my mind:

Since you know doing all the lighting and look and "feel" of a movie
in post, why are you playing with lighting? You have a method that
works. I'd love to see some before and after screen shots.

Congrats on the festivals. What festivals is the short doing at the
moment?
 
So you already have the experience and knowledge that it works.

Which brings a question to my mind:

Since you know doing all the lighting and look and "feel" of a movie
in post, why are you playing with lighting? You have a method that
works. I'd love to see some before and after screen shots.

Congrats on the festivals. What festivals is the short doing at the
moment?

No congrats to me - this was a different team that put this together. I just did a couple of bits and pieces. It was more a learning experience for me. However, what they did (note they did it, not me) seems to go against the grain.

I'll ask them for a list of festivals and let you know.

My first short will be my own, however...
 
Definitely, as said, you want to create the main look on set and in camera. Lighting for noir is crucial...you have to do it physically to achieve what you want.
 
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