In the end of 2012, the Haexagon team worked on linking the Premiere of the Philippino film “The Grave Bandits” at the Metro Manila Film Festival and I shot this little promo video to accompany the press releases and other promo information for the film in the months to come.
This was a small ambiance video developed to accompany the piece “The People” by Cornelia Erdmann, presented at the Legco building HK.
It was one of the first projects under the banner of Haexagon Concepts ltd.
The video and installation were created in the end of 2011.
It was shot on the 60D.
… continuing Color.
(This post will be text only, to “clean your eyes” over what is said, and the images presented in previous posts)
As a conclusion, I’d like to do something different (or at least think it that way).
A general consensus among filmmakers, film viewers and critics is that, even if the image may not be pristine, look professional, or even make any sense, we tend to give more importance to sound and the story of what is being shown than to the image itself. In a way, this is due to our inherent human ability of trying to find logic in everything that is presented to us (or even a meaning).
Very seldom is the image in a film something that the general public is really fixated on. Of course this isn’t an extreme reality where everyone isn’t looking at the screen but rather a byproduct of the basis in which Film is based – the moving image, an immediate perception of something, a momentary glimpse of something that repeated constantly and in order makes us see something more, something in time, something that moves in front of our eyes so, something constructed in our brains rather than static and motionless for repeated and concentrated study (a painting can be studied hours upon end while a film has to be seen numerous times, played, stopped, replayed, fast forwarded, slow motioned playing, so as to garner its complete and total potential/message).
There’s a reason great filmmakers, when talking about how they started enjoying and studying film say that they started doing it without sound, just focusing on the image and the directors ability to cut and garner the audience’s visual attention. Sound trumps Image in the medium.
Myself, as a foreigner working in Asia, was initially taught to watch animated and soft films coming from the US in the 80’s and had always thought that whatever came from that country was exuberant, extremely visually attractive and almost KO’d everything else in the world. As I grew older, I started eating everything with moving images in it, from movies from primordial cinema to recondite indie pieces coming from India and Sri Lanka, with a lot of trash, pseudo-porn and glorified amateur glossy stuff in the middle.
Everything was different, everything was strange and new and everything was thoroughly entertaining. In my eyes, American filmmaking started loosing weight compared to the originality and strangeness of everything coming outside of that continent.
But then color grading happened…
Something weird started appearing from the four corners of the World.
Comedies from the US were visually (color and palette wise) almost exactly the same as Action thrillers, if not Horror porn movies coming from South America, then Hong Kong and now everything coming out from everywhere.
Everything became the same although geographically distant. Very seldom are movies getting out of the norm and actually showcasing themselves as visually differentiated or original between each other.
If a Sci-fi doesn’t look like a genre film, everyone is afraid no one will see it. The same goes to any other genre that garners to a niche audience.
Mainstream movies all tend to look the same, everyone afraid to break the mold of a standardized color correction, manipulation, “evolution”.
So, what I’d like to do as my conclusion is, to ask you the reader, a favor.
The next time you see a new contemporary movie you love, turn the sound down a little bit (not entirely so you don’t miss the story, but just enough that the image gets just a fraction more importance in your living room/cinema/computer than everything else). Turn it down and focus on the characters faces/skin color. Focus on the color of the sun, the moon and the sea. Try to see where greens appear. Try to focus on where red is floating along the screen. Enjoy the dance of blues in front of your eyes.
Now, after you’ve finished the movie, try to watch the last film you loved too. Preferably from the same year (or two). It can be from the same country, or a different one, doesn’t matter. If its from the same genre you love, or from the same director, it doesn’t matter, just watch it after the new one.
Watch it and concentrate on the image.
You will see what I’m talking about. Maybe not in a large scale or in an obvious way, but just enough that you start seeing frames that look the same. Colors that are coming from the same places. Images that are painted with the same brush.
In the past, filmmakers tried to, even though they might use their same inherent style, be different, from themselves, from everyone else. Of course there were copies and inspirations and a lot of the same people working in different films but, there was a sense of variety between everything that was made.
It is true that now there are a lot more movies coming out, from everywhere, all the time, and that tends to standardize and mechanize the images they show. Pop Art pushed it into the art world and cheap production/manufacturing costs have pushed it into filmmaking.
Watch the movies you love, over and over again. Talk about them with your friends and colleagues but, concentrate on more than the story. Watch the image. Watch the color. Watch the Medium.
Watch them and then tell me if there isn’t a Mania traveling around.
Finished… 4 Now
… continuing Color.
Through recent examples of good and bad (of course as everything, the term bad is relative to each and everyone’s sense of taste, but I’ll use it, hence forth, as a reference to the use of color correction in a way that doesn’t help increase the viewers or retain a well balanced movie, not making it a memorable or enjoyable piece of art/product), I will further demonstrate the U.S.’s influence over what has been done in Asia, and how, sometimes, that influence isn’t always beneficial to the receiving party.
Starting with good examples of how appropriate and how color correction increases some movies appeal on an audience, I have chosen the movies – Aftershock, Love in a Puff, Detective Dee, Under the Hawthorne Tree, The Stool Pigeon and Monga, The Man from Nowhere and 13 Assassins.
All of these movies are from the last 3 years (production and release) and are all from several countries from Asia (Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong). All have been shot on film or digital (with the Red, the Alexa or Panavision cameras, etc), and all have been shot by very different Directors and Cinematographers. Some are technically groundbreaking, others help the Asian market fight with its American and European counterparts at a level playing field for an enthusiastic but growingly judgmental audience.
The movie is set during the Great Tangshan Earthquake of 1976 to the “present day”, so, even thought its set in the recent past, the collective memory of the public is still highly influenced by photographic and video depictions (here by the quality of cameras existing in China at the time and not in the rest of the world) of that single event.
The movie is shot in an extremely somber grey/brown color palette with its main focus, the destruction evidenced by a catastrophic movement on the earth’s core and the somber reality lived by the family after the earthquake and the choices made during it.
This visual choice makes the image and story on the screen become stronger and more appealing to the public as they are not being visually manipulated into feeling excited or vulnerable or tired over seeing a devastating event and ensuing suffering through manipulative color aberrations.
Using earth tones and softer graded greys even helps the filmmakers in some scenes (where some of the effects or time transitions may feel artificial) get away with pretty much anything throughout the more dramatic/death infused scenes. This monotonic color scheme ends up hiding some otherwise evident mistakes as the audience isn’t being blasted by vibrant and distracting colors (if an explosion happens with vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, but isn’t to the liking of the audience, their attention is easily lost in unnecessary effects shots, or even necessary but unattainably better shots).
There isn’t any doubt why Aftershock did so well in the box office and dvd sales in Asia, as it is a very solidly constructed film, from its incisive story line to the evident control of every detail in color, cinematography and tone and its team’s decisions to make the movie more event grounded over visually “vibrantly” appealing.
At the other side of the box office success pool we have Love in a Puff. The movie was in all accounts a disaster when it came out but, through very good word of mouth and reviews, the movie ended up making its fair amount of money to support its makers, becoming a weird conundrum in the Hong Kong internal movie market.
One of the most common reviews and criticisms (from professionals and viewers alike) was that the movie, even though it had its faults, it “spoke real” to people. This term is widely used when talking about documentaries and extremely visceral, dramatic movies, but Love in a Puff is a somewhat quirky comedy where smoke and the relationships ensuing over its, now recent, social persecution, takes the center stage.
The creators nonetheless, instead of adding immense quantities of smoke and making the image bland and with a small color differential (here maybe realizing that a flat approach on the color spectrum would surely repel the viewers, as the Hong Kong smog is itself already abundantly evident on a day by day basis), went in a different direction, and tried to make the movie color intuitive with a palette closer to the Technicolor scheme of the Kodak years, but toned slightly down (exuberant highlights but a color scheme that appreciates the colors instead of blowing them).
This decision, makes for simple, calm and perfectly lit scenes on the outside (here the white color of the sunlight and the clean darks of the city, make for a beautifully romantic city, where its main characters find companionship even in the supposed dark corners of the streets), and vibrant and soft coloring/lighting on the inside scenes (the purple, blue, black and grey, aren’t excessively contoured or selected in the frames, but are evidently apparent during the scenes, and make for a very appealing mise en scène).
These two examples, even though coming from different sides of the production reel, and from two “largely” different markets, showcase how a carefully controlled and decided color scheme/cinematography, further increase a movies possibilities over its fledgling although highly competitive markets.
Series of 4 Run and Gun Videos, shot in Ho Chi Minh and around the city.
Sweet & Salty
Clarity & Dust
Luxury & Survival
Warm & Soggy
Shot with the 60D on location, in HD with available light conditions.
This is a project spanning the period of a year in pre, prod and post production, created by the Hong Kong based director Marco Sparmberg @ http://www.m-sp.net/.
It’s a Dim Sum Western and the shooting was undertaken in the rooftops around the city of Hong Kong.
Roof “short environment doc” #1
Roof “short environment doc” #4
Premiere promo vid
Shot in HD with the Canon 60D and 7D.
for this week, I chose Conrad L. Hall and his last motion picture before he left us in 2003 – Road to Perdition.
This scene is the final confrontation between Michael Sullivan and John Rooney (an assassin and his boss).
The unseen figure firing (and his silhouette slowly being defined by the muzzle flashes) , the slow track with Rooney in the center (with the bullets catching everyone but him), the beautiful fall off of light on the shoulders and the face of Rooney and Michael and the amazing reflections and sparkle of the drops of rain, this scene is a perfect example of a cinematographer at the top of his game.
There’s a spoiler in the scene so for those who haven’t watched the film, be warned.
Short Narrative Film of a conversation between Man and God.
(Winner of the Best Sound Design Award at the Sound&Image Challenge 2011)
Shot in studio (Tungsten and HMI lights), with white cyclorama and little or no image post-production.
HD on the 60D.
Fake public announcement.
Shot in HD, with horizontal and vertical versions for mobile and internet viewing.
Director – Marco Sparmberg
20 Min Short Action Film on the “Adventures of making a movie”.
Shot on location with the 5D in HD.
Director – Neo Xiang