A Few Words About A few words about...™ Citizen Kane -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,351
    Likes Received:
    5,288
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    If what you're suggesting is correct, that would account for the overall quality of the image. With apologies for inattentiveness, my mind is not functioning on all cylinders at the moment, as I'm spending most of my time editing into the wee hours. I presume the shot would have to be taken with a 35 or less with Bernstein not more than a foot or so from the camera, and would account for the effect of Welles coming in from the background right.

    Toland's work, what there is of it, is a master's class in cinematography. Long Voyage Home is beautifully shot, as are The Westerner, Little Foxes, Best Years of Our Lives and the magnificent Song of the South. Checking his CV, he started shooting in 1926, at the age of 22 on The Bat, and spent the next 22 years shooting great films. Had he survived, I love to think of what he might have done in large format.

    BTW, welcome to HTF. If you'll take over this thread, I can work for a bit.

    RAH
     
  2. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 1997
    Messages:
    5,547
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    DFW
    Real Name:
    Steve Tannehill
    True story....the first time I had a chance to see Citizen Kane was on AMC back in 1988, back when they showed uninterrupted movies. I set my VCR to record it, and left for my night shift at work. I got home, and excited to see the movie, I rewound it and pressed play.
    The tape ran out just before Rosebud was revealed.
    I had to buy the movie on VHS to see the ending. I did not have a laserdisc player back then.
     
  3. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2004
    Messages:
    3,527
    Likes Received:
    167
    Technical savvy and lucid thinking. I love this post.
    What you describe -- deep focus, contoured lighting, composing from back to front, choosing the focal length that's right for the composition instead of the reverse -- is the foundation of stereoscopic cinematography. Citizen Kane is a three-dimensional film shot with only one lens instead of two.
    Why is it more difficult to light for flat spherical lenses? Weren't all the great films of the 1940s and 1950s spherical? Didn't Toland work exclusively with flat spherical lenses?
     
  4. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    276
    Likes Received:
    1
    I think he wasn't referencing the use of spherical lenses, so much as the advent of the wider screen as contributing to the less favorable use of deep focus, because you had to compose wider, and light a greater area, which became intolerable, given how much light is demanded for deep focus.
     
  5. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2001
    Messages:
    3,126
    Likes Received:
    237
    Real Name:
    David
    Oh, I can't wait to get my hands on this.
     
  6. EnricoE

    EnricoE Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Messages:
    518
    Likes Received:
    5
    are the errors from the dvd gone on this blu-ray?
    there where some missing objects on the dvd due to the automated dirt removal. if so, i gladly upgrade :)
     
  7. Guest

    Yes, the objects are back.
     
  8. Hollowbrook Drive-In

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2008
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    1
    Last first: Of course Toland only worked with spherical lenses; he didn't survive into the anamorphic era, dying in 1948.
    Secondly: Although much is made of his work on KANE, Toland's eight-film association with the great William Wyler is really more notable. It was, supposedly, that work with Wyler (whose films Welles greatly admired) that led Welles to request Toland as his cinematographer on KANE.
    Third: As for "the foundation of stereoscopic cinematography," it's interesting that you should put it that way. Though I'm not blind in one eye like John Ford, Raoul Walsh or Andre de Toth (and no eye-patch), I am without depth perception (a defect not of the eyes, but the brain, which simply cannot process three-dimensional information). It may be precisely why I have my (I think) keen appreciation of the film frame not a mere up-and-down, left-and-right proscenium, but as a three-dimensional box that demands it be filled and explored just so.
    Have you ever watched a baseball game on television in which an outfielder makes a leaping catch of a long fly ball at the wall and the play-by-play announcer exclaims breathlessly that the outfielder "took away a home run?" I'd say that, oh, eighty-five percent of the time that fly ball, unimpeded, would have actually landed inside the ball park -- no home run. The problem arises when someone, like the sportscaster, has to rely on a two-dimensional image (such as on his TV monitor -- exacerbated by the TV camera's long lens -- or a pair of binoculars) and is deprived of his normal stereoscopic vision. He can't judge distances properly, so it looks to him like s home run, when it really isn't. By contrast, a person with no depth perception must always judge distances differently, via relative sizes and extrapolated movement. A two-dimensional image on a TV or movie screen is, for people like me, no different from looking at real life, where we must react and make decisions based on a somewhat different set of stimuli from those the stereoscopically-sighted enjoy (fear not: I can throw a wad of paper and have it arrive in the wastebasket, shoot a basketball or throw a baseball with precision).
    The short of it, then: the Fords, Walshes and de Toths of this world may actually be better suited to arranging the elements within that box, though I think the key attribute isn't the quality of one's eyesight, but the realization that when it's done it can maximize the medium's potential.
     
  9. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 1999
    Messages:
    17,122
    Likes Received:
    387
    Location:
    Disney World and Universal Florida
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    Avid, welcome to the HTF. Hopefully you can stick around I look forward to more informative posts.
    I've seen Kane before but once I get a hold of the blu version it will be like seeing it for the first time.
    I hope this topic continues to have info on the filming process of the movie and points out to us the things we should look for, like smaller details that us regular folks wouldn't know about.
     
  10. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2004
    Messages:
    3,527
    Likes Received:
    167
    Well, yes, that's my point.
    Your observation that today's directors think composition means to shoot groups from forty feet away with a telephoto is sadly true. They also know how to pan and track from left to right, but how much talent does that take.
    Regarding John Frankenheimer, he rarely worked with the same dp twice, but all his films in the early 1960s were shot with wide angles and deep focus in a 1.66 and 1.85 frame. He talked about his preference for deep focus, wide angles and monochrome in an address to AFI students a transcript of which I believe is on file in the library there. Frankenheimer and his dp's had the advantage of improved lenses, faster emulsions, and brighter, cooler more portable lights than Toland and Welles had in 1941. Technology changed in twenty years. With those advantages do you really think 1.66 and 1.85 needed significantly more light than the 1:33. If it were Cinemascope or Panavision, I'm sure you'd be right. The key here is that Frankenheimer and Ellsworth Fredericks are composing from back to front in Seven Days In May. They entice the eye to look into the frame and pull the drama, and the action, toward the camera. Or they start in the foreground and go in. It's not a left-right composition although there is some of that, too. There are pushes and pulls and pans and dutch angles when there needs to be.
    To my eye, the most amazing sequence in Citizen Kane starts at about 18:50 minutes in, and ends at about 22:53 minutes (on WB's two-disc Special Edition, NTSC), or from the moment of the dissolve off the white page into the snow, ending at the dissolve from snow covering the sled into the wrapping paper coming off the sled. Dramatically, a lot of information is being conveyed that is complemented with physical business in two stunning uninterrupted camera set-ups that last only 4 minutes in total. Everybody should stop what they're doing and watch this sequence.
    I see the influence of Welles and Toland on Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962) especially, Seven Days In May (1963), The Train (1964), and Seconds (1966). These would be perfect stereoscopic films, providing that blurred backgrounds could be avoided.
    Welles said Toland came to him and asked for the job. Perhaps Toland's work with Wyler is more notable, but it's not as flamboyant as his work with Orson Welles. Citizen Kane is flamboyant, so it gets noticed. It constantly startles the mind and entices the eye with its acutely visual storytelling.
    The director or cameraman who understands composition already has the tools to learn the stereoscopic discipline. It's not a steep learning curve, in any case. Ford never directed a stereoscopic film, although he worked with dp Winton C. Hoch (on The Searchers, for instance) who invented a stereoscopic camera and advocated stereoscopic cinema. Raoul Walsh and Andre de Toth may have been blind in one eye, but they worked with brilliant dp's and brilliant stereoscopic engineers who checked and balanced each other's work. In other words, the director's eye, or eyes, were not the only eye, or eyes, on the set. Impaired vision does not preclude three-dimensional staging if you know and apply the principles. You may not be able to see the results, but you can definitely direct a stereoscopic film with one eye.
     
  11. Hollowbrook Drive-In

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2008
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    1
    As I said above, the improvements in technology made it a wash between the demands deep-focus makes on widescreen images versus flat photography. If all things were equal, widescreen, even non-anamorphic, is going to require more light, because more of a set needs to be lit.
    As for the sequence in KANE you cite, you neglect to mention the contribution of composer Bernard Herrmann; the cue in that dissolve, from Thatcher's diary page to the young Kane careering down a hillside through falling snow on his sled, is one of the most sublime and indelible in film history. So much of that sequence's (and the film's) success is owed to the music. One can argue that the musical segue from tinkling syncopation to swooning strings is the dissolve, with the images playing (ahem) second fiddle.
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,351
    Likes Received:
    5,288
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    In a general sense, wider spherical productions have no need of additional light over full frame (FA or RA). The entire frame is still being exposed vertically, with the crop performed in projection or creation of dupes.

    Film stock with higher speed made deep-focus shots more viable. More light was necessitated for large format photography.

    Keep in mind that in a general sense, one is lighting a set, not the frame.
     
  13. Hollowbrook Drive-In

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2008
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    1
    Exactly, one is lighting a set.
    Let's say that the same ten-foot-high set is being photographed by two cameras -- one shooting Academy at 1:1.37, the other Super Panavision at 1:2.2, set up side-by-side, each of which is thirty feet from the back of the set.
    Each camera contains the same film stock and is fitted with comparably fast 50mm lenses.
    The director wants the whole back of the set visible and evenly lit. Taking in an angle of about 90 degrees, the Academy-ratio camera's requires that 41.1 feet, side-to-side, of the back of the set be lit to achieve what the director wants (in practice, it'd be a few feet more to either side, of course).
    Taking in an angle of 160 degrees, the Super Panavision camera needs 66 feet, left-to-right, of the back of the set (plus the inevitable few extra feet to each side) lit to achieve the same effect.
    Now, the number of lumens per square foot on the back of the set is constant for both cameras, but it requires that more square feet of the set be lit for the widescreen frame. It seems obvious, then, that the Super Panavision camera does require more total light. It's why the early CinemaScope lenses, though fitted to cameras containing monopack negatives, required immense amounts of light not seen since the earlier days of three-strip Technicolor when Technicolor Corp.'s standard exposure was a thousand foot-candles (which is almost unimaginably withering; the noonday sun under a cloudless sky in the Sahara Desert would seem dim by comparison).
    I do think one can make a very valid case for the use of more light than is necessitated by modern lenses, film stocks and digital cameras. All that light imbued films back then with a great richness of color, contrast and texture that modern technology cannot replicate (granted, the sort of theatrical look so common in films up to the late 1960's is something of a lost art, one that few directors or busybody studio executives wish to embrace). Much of that "Technicolor look" whose demise many of us lament is actually a result of these high-light photographic techniques, and not the Technicolor dye-transfer printing process (which continued to be used after Technicolor's proprietary three-strip cameras were retired in 1953).
    Even when printed on Eastman stock from monopack negatives, one can tell the difference between images made using relatively slow stocks that required a lot of light, and those recorded when film stocks allowed 35mm photography under low light.
     
  14. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    276
    Likes Received:
    1
    Man, you are preaching to this choir. I am continually amazed at what DPs did in the 30s, 40s, and 50s given the limitations of the technology. And with such big cameras! Jeez, jack Cardiff did a POV shot of a patient on a rolling gurney, using the behemoth three strip Technicolor camera! Now today when DPs like Wally Pfister bemoan how they couldn't shoot all of Dark Knight in 70mm because the cameras are too large or noisy, I can't help but say, "Bullshit. DPs in the 50s would've killed for cameras like what is around today." Most DPs, quite frankly, have lost the artistry, in favor of increasingly shallower DoF, and lighting night scenes piss yellow and teal.
    I recently was the data manager on a big doc shoot, in which a DSLR was used as a b-cam, and what a miserable camera it was. the DoF was so shallow, if an interview subject so much as leaned forward, they went soft.
    It's why I've tried to go back the old giants as much as I can in my own work. I keep my skills sharp shooting film, and always I'm planning composition not just top and bottom and side to side, but front to back, and always how I can achieve that glorious deep focus!
     
  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,351
    Likes Received:
    5,288
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    I'm counting the days until Treasure Island (Disney) finally arrives on Blu-ray. Freddie Young's work on that film is extraordinary. What keeps coming to mind are the shots of Bobby Driscoll hiding the apple barrel. What gorgeous cinematography!

    And all shot with a behemoth camera.

    RAH
     
  16. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Messages:
    1,871
    Likes Received:
    205
    ABSOLUTELY!!! I'm really sick of this obsession with "shallow depth-of-field", specifically among so many DSLR users. I find deep-focus to be a hell of a lot more impressive and interesting.
    Vincent
     
  17. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2000
    Messages:
    6,927
    Likes Received:
    756
    Location:
    Salinas, CA
    Real Name:
    Matthew
    I know, I know. I am a photographer and I agree with you. I love my DSLR, but I look at it the way Cardiff looked at the 3-strip Technicolor cameras: one of many tools with which to create art. He was very excited about the new technologies coming around at the end of his life. I'm moving soon and I will be driving across the country to get to my new home in California. Along the way I will be taking many pictures. Some of them will be digital, some will be on film. Some will be Super 8 movies! Shallow DOF has its place, but it seldom works in wide shots, unless it's to create a specific effect.

    Am I the only one who feels like "edgy" has turned into the new "ordinary"?
     
  18. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Messages:
    1,871
    Likes Received:
    205
    Indeed shallow depth-of-field has its place, but reading most DSLR forums you'd think it's the ONLY thing that matters. A lot of those folks have no sense of film history.
    Vincent
     
  19. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2004
    Messages:
    3,527
    Likes Received:
    167
    No, shallow depth of field has become the new ordinary.
     
  20. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,351
    Likes Received:
    5,288
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    The point I see being raised more often than not is about bokeh. Shallow seems to be in.
     

Share This Page