Haexagon (Project)

Lately I’ve been more concentrating on the evolution of Haexagon Concepts, but nevertheless, in the past 2 months, did shoot 2 short films (and part of another).

Haexagon is the latest of those 3 projects, but the first where I can post some information.

The project was directed by Marco Sparmberg, and the story goes a little like this:

“In a near future, China‘s society has developed a critical demographic imbalance. The number of male Chinese has increased rapidly. Women become a minority. Human reproduction is taken over by scientists and cloning laboratories. A greedy subculture emerges, taking advantage of this situation. Ruled by a private conglomerate called the Hæxagon Corporation, the market for selling the pleasure of a woman for one night to desperate men is a monopoly. The price for this exquisite virtue are the men’s lives!

Set out on the remaining remote archipelago of destroyed and flooded Hong Kong, men in groups of three have to compete against each other within a brutal fight of survival. The trophy, a single woman inside a secret compound. Only the last survivor is granted access to this underground facility at a large water reservoir in the island’s center. As winner of this fierce contest he can do whatever he wants with the woman, for one night only.”

It was shot on DSLR‘s, all Canon’s, on the 60D (All the daylight imagery), 5D and 7D (night/dark scenes), due to the versatility of the cameras (lightweight, easy to command and great for run and gun), budget constraints and a tight schedule.
The project was shot in and around Hong Kong, taking advantage of the wilderness and crazy/unusual places found all over the area (for a deeper look on the locations, check this out – http://www.flickr.com/photos/medienmarco/collections/72157627674625794/).

Here follows the first teaser of the project, that will be making the festival rounds, after its completion in April.

Enjoy. 

For daily updates on Haexagon Concepts and the Project, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/haexagon

Advertisements

America’s Color Grading Mania and its Influence Over the World IX

… 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.

Homogeneity.

Movies from South East Asia started looking the same as films from European countries like Romania, Ukraine, etc.

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

America’s Color Grading Mania and its Influence Over the World VI

… continuing Color.

I will continue the analysis of very well developed Color Corrected Movies in the Asian market, concentrating in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

Detective Dee as an example is a tough sell. The movie was visually developed by one of the strongest and most prolific and esthetically consistant directors in Asia (if not the World) and had the help of not one, but two, very experienced Directors of Photography working in Hong Kong/China and as such, it would be natural to see in the movie a homogeneous and strictly planned visual style, but this, as anything in the film-making universe, has more to it.

The chromatic reality of the film is largely dependent on diffracted and blended golds and oranges, making the image, more often than not, almost glimmer with shine and glitter. The earth tones are colder and blander than usual and the blues and black, almost simultaneously converge into each other. Whites and greys are clean and controlled influences in the picture and when existent, red takes over the screen with its ultra saturated presence.

Light seems to fade in the frame and it looks effortless and shadows are almost unapparent, this makes everything look and feel as though we were inside an impressionistic pastel painting (here an amazing mastery over the “digital” look captured by the RedOne but ultimately coded into what almost seems to have been shot in film) and detach ourselves from the time and place in which the movie is portrayed, giving total confidence in the creators of the film to take us through this crazy adventure film.

Under the Hawthorne Tree also beautifully masters the control over the color and the capture used to make the film, but it is radically different to Detective Dee in terms of chromatic frames.

Hawthorne Tree, even though color is beautifully captured during the film, is extremely toned down (comparing to other Zhang Yimou films), sometimes tonally almost resembling a 40’s/50’s documentary in terms of the momentary desaturation of some scenes (this helps in following the emotional pull created between the couple and hence elevate our connections to the two main characters), yellows have a golden quality to them and the browns, when apparent, flood the screen as though they weren’t such a commonly misperceived color. Green’s, greys and dark colors (especially dark blues, greens and blacks) blend each other, making it look like even thought the fields seem fertile, something is apparently wrong with the countryside. Even though its momentarily romantic, there’s a certain irreverence under the surface and this inconspicuous color manipulation, throughout the movie, clearly presents it visually in the screen (there are fertile and arid terrains, a beautiful dichotomy for the visually guided).

As a great example of a complete overhaul of the image in a chromatic sense in Asian movies of present day filmmaking is The Stool Pigeon a 2010 Hong Kong production that even though it roots itself in present day reality (the colors, although pulled to, at times, a controlled surreality, are clearly colors that everyone sees and commonly associates to our day to day lives), the image varies and mutates all throughout the movie.

There are scenes with a washed out look, almost at a pasteled kodachrome film stock quality, making it look like something is unsafe, unfamiliar, unreal. There are moments were the lights are bright and intense, bringing a strong color profile to the characters in the screen (fluorescent lighting bring out the whiteness of the faces and in locations, the saturated blues), others are unsaturated and almost chromatically nonexistent.

Depending on the moment of the film, the color seems to shift to capture the character’s voyage but, amazingly, it is done so consistently that, at a certain point of the movie (around the 20 minute mark) it becomes apparent that the filmmaker has created a stylized heterogeneous but extremely well formatted movie.

Monga and The Man from Nowhere, in terms of the construction of the frames in their movies is clearly at a different level from the previous examples, not as weaker movies but, as examples of what filmmakers strive to present as reliable and visually rooted in reality color corrected images. Both movies make the audience follow violence, friendship, betrayal and other hard to swallow themes, but instead of going to a artistic/differentiated poetic imagery composition, they both present what is happening as real, as we see it, as it is in our daily lives.

Punctually – lights, color, shadows, darks and lighter parts of the images seem too defined and sharp and these variations make the audience feel as though they are inside the images, inside what is happening, clearly being guided into adopting if not completely assimilating the story into their own existence. We are inside the world of the moving picture. The high definition, high quality, high detail picture, every one has gotten used too from capturing real moments with their phones, cameras, etc.

The Man from Nowhere makes a voyage from very dark lighting and hard shadows to a certain more relaxed, more human imagery towards the end, and Monga cleverly does the opposite in its balanced visual composition, becoming gradually more violent, more imbued with stronger, bolder visuals (in Man, although violence becomes all that we see in the screen, the character is portrayed as going to an extreme in his reality to save his friend, making us feel connected to him, in Monga, the opposite is what is true), controlling its colors and making us watch the decay of the images in front of us (the lighting doesn’t change but its warmer coloring when yellow and cooler tones when white are gradually more noticeable).

Color Continued…

Ho Chi Minh Series

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.

Squattertown (1st Season)

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.

First Episode


Second Episode


Third Episode


Forth Episode


Roof  “short environment doc” #1


Roof  “short environment doc” #4


Premiere promo vid


Shot in HD with the Canon 60D and 7D.

Squattertown (1st Teaser)

1st Teaser for the Hong Kong based web series.

http://vimeo.com/21298487

Shot on several Hong Kong Rooftops with the 60 and the 7D.
Project Site – http://www.m-sp.net/SQT/index.html