How to get the look of Midnight in Paris and To Rome With Love?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by atina_de_greffuhle, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. How can one achieve the look of Woody Allen's films Midnight in Paris and To Rome With Love, in which cinematography was the work of Darius Khondji?

    Both have a yellowish, orange, ocher look with saturated colour. I've read that both Woody Allen and Darius Khondji prefer overcast skies and indirect light, which, I would say, they used much more in Paris then in Rome. In Rome it seems that the majority of the exterior scene were shot in late afternoon. I would also say that Rome is much more orange than Paris, which is yellowish. Darius Khondji described the look of the Rome film as "Kodacolor".
    What does one do from choosing the time of day to picking the correct choiced in postproduction to achieve this look and are there any other films with similar visual identity?
     
  2. If you can find a library that has back issues of American Cinematographer magazine (or you might be able to find back issues on their website), they run a detailed story about almost every major movie that is made. Their stories go into amazing detail on the film stock (or type of digital camera and its settings), lenses, filters, lighting, postprocessing, etc.

    The big thing about trying to duplicate the look of a movie, of course, is that it is far more complex that using the same film and same settings. Everthing on a movie set is controlled down to the color of paint on the walls, and the resources in terms of lighting equiupment and people are almost unlimited. Even if you know exactly what they did, being able to replicate it without a Hollywood budget can be challenging.
     
  3. I would think it is the time of day that gives the different colors and look you are talking about. However, Craig is correct that it would be extremely difficult to duplicate.
     
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    There was a lot of detail work with lighting, and equipment that isn't generally available to the random photographer. For example, here's a bit on the Rome movie:
    Both he (Darius Khondji) and Mr. Allen dislike bright sunlight, so they commissioned a company in Milan to make giant helium-filled mattresses that they hoisted 40 feet in the air to block out the harsh midday light. Sometimes they would throw on a layer of black netting or silk on the mattresses to filter out even more.​
    In the Paris movie, light bulbs for interiors and street lamps were carefully chosen.
     
  5. I read your post and the responses with interest because in 1999 I posted a very similar question here on photo.net:
    http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?topic_id=23&msg_id=000h1J

    You would probably like to read my old thread too. :)
     
  6. I got quite unexpected responses!
    I, of course, do know that everything is super controlled and that there are a million of lights and various other pieces of equipment behind the camera, which then get into postprocessing and get changed to achieve the look a director wants.
    However, I was more referring to outdoor shots.
    Here are some examples – first link shows you the screenshots from the three-minute opening of Midnight in Paris and the second is a link with fewer shots from To Rome With Love:
    http://www.thecinetourist.net/an-american-tourist-in-paris.html

    http://movie-tourist.blogspot.com/2013/01/to-rome-with-love-2012.html

    So I was referring to how to imitate the look by choosing the time of day, for example. Then I wanted to know does one use warming filters, or something like Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue polarizer, or LB Warming Polarizer from the same manufacturer, or does one just change white balance and if just chaning it, does one doit in-camera or in post-production? Are filters effective with digital cameras? Which warming ones to chose? Do they affect sharpness?

    I just wanted to see if it was possible to do with different equipment, to see if it is possible to make it seems quite similar, but done differently, obviously, because of various reasons such as budget and difference in technology.

    Thank you, Craig, for that tip! I had no idea, even though I've heard about the magazine and considered subscribing just the other day!

    Jeff, yes, that's the same article I got the info about dislike of direct sunlight I put in the thread opening about.

    Henry, thank you, I will go and read it now!

    Ed, which time of day would you choose? Some of these shots, obviously, look like either early morning or late afternoon, and there is probably a way to find out which particular time of day was chosen for each shot knowing the orientation, but some look deceivingly so. It's funny how the person writing that Cinetourist article thinks that the first half of images of Paris have been shot "in bright sunlight".
     
  7. I think this edition of American Cinematographer might have the information Craig was talking about:
    http://www.theasc.com/ac_magazine/August2012/toc.php
     
  8. The level of specificity outlined in a movie production in order to arrive at a final look in the film as related in a magazine or online suggests the parties involved that included more than just the director and cinematographer's input, acquired this level of specific information from learned knowledge developed in the past.
    How did the parties involved acquire this knowledge and know this knowledge would result in the look of the film? The cinetourist screengrabs show a look I've never seen in a movie which appears to discount the possibility they knew at the outset they were going for a "specific look" that has been seen before.
    Or was a learned process employed from past experience but only aided in a process that unfolded by accident that surprised the director and cinematographer where the final decision to keep, alter or discard and start over was decided at the end.
    Just try to attempt reverse engineering a series of happy accidents. Not easy. We will never know specifically how the final look was achieved because you'ld have to be far more detailed than what can be related in a magazine article.
     
  9. So, Tim, you wouldn't be able to paint a photo to make it look like the ones seen in Cinetourist's screencaps?
     
  10. Not sure if I understand your question, Atina.
    Yes, I could attempt to use Photoshop to copy the look. This is how I'ld do it.
    I'ld shoot a similar overcast scene in Raw and adjust white balance and HSL panel to get the yellowish cast, the candy apple reds and vibrant greens. That's it.
    Can't guarantee it would look the same though.
     
  11. Yes, Tim, that's what I asked and I pretty much had the same idea. I wonder if it'll work – I could try. I was expecting someone to tell me something about the possibility of using those warming and polarizing filters, but so far the silence is a bit surprising.
     
  12. Atina, here's my attempt at getting the look in those screengrabs in ACR 6.7. I have only one image that includes overcast and red & green elements. I'll post the edits afterward.
    00d8oM-555111984.jpg
     
  13. Here's the screengrabs showing the WB and color edits. It's a starting point where Split Tone Balance slider can make the image more yellow. WB hardly made a dent. I used Adobe Standard camera profile which made a big difference in getting the deep reds.
    00d8oP-555112084.jpg
     
  14. These settings work pretty good on scenes totally in shade which I found one in my Raw collection. I changed the WB to 8000K/0 and cranked up the saturation in the Split Tone panel to +80 and Balance set to +100.
    00d8ob-555112284.jpg
     
  15. I hadn't seen either of those movies, but coincidentally I'd developed Lightroom presets to emulate the look of some of my faded family color photos from the 1960s. The look is also emulated to some extent by the in-camera JPEG settings available in the Ricoh GRD4, using the cross processing and bleach bypass options.
    Tim has chattered a bit over the years about cinematography effects, which whetted my appetite for emulating some movie effects in still photography. I've picked up lots of tips from reading online forums frequented by cinematographers - pros who are remarkably open about sharing their techniques. In some respects I've learned more about custom color effects from movie oriented websites than from still photography sites. Still photographers who haunt discussion forums tend to be rather hidebound, stiffnecked and conventional, whereas cinematographers are more open minded and ready to explore effects and share what they know.
    I use these to get a particular nostalgic look for snapshots I take while riding the bus. A bright overcast sky is ideal for the look I want, but I don't have any control over actual conditions. Fortunately, shooting through bus windows helps. The windows are slightly filtered to reduce sun glare. And the slightly dirty windows, distortion and interior reflections soften the images enough to mimic older snapshots, which were never as sharp and contrasty as most digital photos. I also prefer horizontals for this theme, usually 16:9 or 16:10, although occasionally I'll keep the in-camera standard 3:2 or 4:3 aspect ratios.
    *[​IMG]
    The look I'm trying to emulate digitally. This was a snapshot of some of my junior high school friends from around 1970 or '71. It's the classic look of faded, color shifted prints from Kodak color films and papers of that era. Some of my color prints from the 1960s have held up a bit better, while others have faded and color shifted more than I'd like.
    *[​IMG]
    One of the Ricoh GRD4 in-camera JPEG effects, although I don't remember whether it's cross processing or bleach bypass. It offers plenty of customizability, including saturation, tint bias, sharpness, contrast, etc. Great looks for folks who don't want to mess with post processing. However there's no raw backup, so you're committed to the JPEG look. The GRD4 does offer 3-photo image bracketing mode, however, which lets you copy the same exposure simultaneously three ways, so if one look doesn't work out chances are the others will.
    *[​IMG]
    *[​IMG]
    *
    My Lightroom presets for emulating the nostalgic look of faded, color shifted snaps. The winter sky was a bit brighter than I'd have liked but reducing the clarity, vibrance and highlight/brightness sliders helped.
    *[​IMG]
    This photo needed a lot of work to get the look I wanted. The surrounding buildings reflected a lot of light, which overwhelmed the bright strip of low angle, late day sunlight. It's very stylized and obviously manipulated, but it's what I wanted for this particular photo.
     
  16. I've picked up lots of tips from reading online forums frequented by cinematographers - pros who are remarkably open about sharing their techniques.​
    Lex, could you provide a link to such forum discussions that aided you in the looks you've demonstrated here and other color styles? I've had trouble finding ones that gave enough detail to get me started.
    I like your LR Golden Cast presets but I'm at a loss on the look you were going for on the first and last one. I don't see a lot of manipulation or it's not as obvious to me as you've stated.
    One aspect about these type of post processing discussions I keep forgetting to touch upon is that after attempting to copy from the OP's posted samples I end up hating the original edit that I put quite a bit of effort into to look perfectly normal and aesthetically correct looking as I remembered the scene. It's like you can't put the color gene back in the bottle by attempting to un-see the new color style. Going back and forth between Before/After comparisons are downright gut wrenching.
    And one other weird thing is that I wasn't particularly fond of the color style from the "Paris" screengrabs to begin with. They're so unnatural looking. I wonder if there's such a thing as a photography therapist to rid me of photo fickle?
    Now I have two images I no longer like unless I leave them with the new color appearance. Thanks, Anita. At least I now have a new color preset in my tool box.
    Still photographers who haunt discussion forums tend to be rather hidebound, stiffnecked and conventional,​
    Uh...How about just lazy? Guilty as charged!
     
  17. Tim, how interesting that you chose exactly the greens-and-reds photo to demonstrate trying to go for the look! Your description of reds from Midnight in Paris as "candy apple" keeps going through my head, because that's exactly it. I presume you were thinking about the colour of the Fouquet's awnings, which are in that sort of red?
    One aspect about these type of post processing discussions I keep forgetting to touch upon is that after attempting to copy from the OP's posted samples I end up hating the original edit that I put quite a bit of effort into to look perfectly normal and aesthetically correct looking as I remembered the scene. It's like you can't put the color gene back in the bottle by attempting to un-see the new color style. Going back and forth between Before/After comparisons are downright gut wrenching.​
    I didn't quite get this?
    And one other weird thing is that I wasn't particularly fond of the color style from the "Paris" screengrabs to begin with. They're so unnatural looking. I wonder if there's such a thing as a photography therapist to rid me of photo fickle?​
    I remember hating the look when I first saw the film. I remember thinking: Paris isn't that yellow! Who had the idea of colouring it like that? Who got Then I came back to it a few days ago, mainly through those screencaps, and I loved it. I especially hated how Versailles looked all yellow.
    Now I keep thinking of what kind of colours would Woody Allen and Darius Khondji pick to depict Greece, say those white houses with azure roofs of Santorini or the Navagio Beach in Zakynthos...
    Now I have two images I no longer like unless I leave them with the new color appearance. Thanks, Anita. At least I now have a new color preset in my tool box.​
    These two ones you've posted?
    Lex, I'm not sure those were the looks I was going for, but there is something there and I've certainly learnt a lot of new stuff.
    Still photographers who haunt discussion forums tend to be rather hidebound, stiffnecked and conventional, whereas cinematographers are more open minded and ready to explore effects and share what they know.​
    I had the same impression about cinematographers!
    Uh...How about just lazy? Guilty as charged!​
    Ha-ha!
     
  18. I remember thinking: Paris isn't that yellow!​
    Agreed, but I think it's a slightly inaccurate hue interpretation by the colorist in an attempt to emulate a weather condition I was lucky enough to capture several years ago. (See below).
    That color is usually present at dawn or dusk or after a rain in the late afternoon depending on the particulates in the clouds that act as a kind of gold colored lens filter. What bugs me about the Paris color interpretation is that hue doesn't fit the time of day or rain condition. Movies I've seen usually use that hue of color cast in dream sequences but without distorting the red/green color tables.
    The first thing I asked myself when I saw the Paris screengrabs is what time of day they were taken. There's no reason for it in the movie unless Paris has a lot of polluted air.
    I didn't quite get this?​
    My eyes had adapted and grown attached to how my edits conveyed a reflection of my style of seeing things much like picking out my own wardrobe, it's an ego thing.
    The new edit sourced from copying someone else's way of seeing things felt like someone dressed me with a more interesting set of clothes I hadn't been aware before and my ego had to do some adapting from the separation from the old POV I had grown attached to.
    Adapting to something different but more interesting can bring up mixed feelings about one's own abilities, tastes and good judgement.
    00d8tX-555127984.jpg
     
  19. Extremes in color grading usually aren't an
    attempt to recreate how the scene looks in real
    life. Rather, it's to recreate a sense memory.
    Scientific studies show human memory is very
    fallible.

    Getting into someone else's memories requires
    suspension of disbelief, turning off that inner
    critic that scoffs "MY Paris doesn't look like
    THAT!"

    But I'll admit that extremes on color grading can
    be a turnoff. I can't get into the TV series
    Flashpoint for two reasons: the cross processing
    tint effect serves no purpose and doesn't create
    a mood that's congruent with the show; and, on a
    political tangent, I dislike all TV shows that
    glorify militarization of civilian police and use
    of violence to resolve every problem. The tinted
    color only serves to contribute to the sense of a
    false premise and obvious attempt at manipulating
    the viewer.

    With Woody Allen movies, I find the main problem
    isn't the cinematography, but Allen himself. He
    casts great actors, creates good stories, chooses
    interesting ways to film the movies... and then
    spoils the mood by continually interjecting
    himself. The bumbling, charming, neurotic
    character rarely suits the movie. It was perfect
    for Mighty Aphrodite. It's terrible in most other
    Allen movies.

    Incidentally, you might enjoy the anecdotes about
    the cinematography choices for McCabe and Mrs
    Miller, and The Assassination of Jesse James by
    the Coward Robert Ford. Lots of info online.
     
  20. Just saw McCabe and Mrs Miller last night on TCM where Robert Osborne mention's Altman's insistence on retaining the "flashing" that lifted the shadows in the final look of the movie. He had to employ some timing and maneuvering of where and when the final cut was processed as to not go against the executives and make it look like it was caused by the processing lab location and scheduling or something to that effect.
    I remember seeing the movie in the '70's or '80's on TV and getting annoyed at trying to see past the flat foggy look of the interiors and dim, grainy exteriors which I took to be caused by 2nd, 3rd generation degraded print processing.
    Had to look up "flashing" online to see what effect it has on the film so I could tell when it was implemented because what I saw last night was far better looking except for the reddish cast of some interior shots.
     
  21. McCabe and Mrs Miller looked great in the theater
    during the first run. But I've seen it on TV a
    few times and it suffers. The gorgeous, subtle
    tonality becomes murky and dull. If you enjoyed
    the story and might watch it again dig around for
    a remastered version on DVD or BluRay.<p>

    Other movies worth watching for the
    cinematography include Coppola's version of
    Dracula (hokey and melodramatic, but beautifully
    crafted); the original Swedish version of Let the
    Right One In; and last year's Under the Skin
    (some critics found it slow; I found it
    mesmerizing). There are some fascinating stories
    about the making of Under the Skin, available
    online. The in-vehicle shots are impressive, considering the jerry-rigged stealth cameras needed. The lighting inside the predatory woman's lair are conventionally dramatic. But the real eye-catcher, for me, was the movie's turning point, when the main character is in a figurative fog and the scene is set in a foggy landscape. Gorgeous stuff.<p>
     
  22. Lex, don't forget to tell us, if you could, what are those cinematography message boards you were mentioning.
    Speaking of films with destroyed colours, how about The Hobbit? That was atrocious.
     
  23. Atina, I saw The Hobbit at a Sony 4K digital projection theater when it first came out and can't remember what it looked like so I did a Google Image search entering the title with "Blu Ray screenshots" & "Large" image size and wouldn't describe this as atrocious...
    http://heirsofdurin.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/thehobbit-p1_8420.jpg
    Don't like the cyan blues in this one that I see they're using in a lot of new movies.
    I can say that quite a few movies shown at big screen theaters don't always show the same colors or as good as what I'm seeing on the Blu Ray version and the same applies to HDTV cable broadcast as well.
    I take pictures with my DSLR of classic Technicolor movies playing on my HDTV Time Warner Cable TCM channel and compare to the Blu Ray screenshots posted online and they're sometimes worlds apart and never exactly the same.
    The most current James Bond's From Russia With Love Blu Ray restoration makes skin tones appear a bit reddish but very detailed and sharp where as HDTV BBC broadcast of the Blu Ray version shows a bit more pleasant looking tan skin but hue shifts in yellow (see below). That could be caused by a color space issue and/or my eyeball calibration of my HDTV but I don't think it's enough to distort color tables that much but I also don't think color management technology would fix it either. It could be cause by all sorts of electronic based issues.
    00d91R-555153584.jpg
     

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