Don't you think is time directors stop the filter madness?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Luis Gabriel Gerena, Aug 18, 2001.

  1. Luis Gabriel Gerena

    Luis Gabriel Gerena Second Unit

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    I just can't see why a movie like Traffic, for example, needs the many annoying filters to make it better...to me it makes it look like crap. If a director need filters as a delivery vehicle of emotions or to set a mood maybe he is not that good after all. There are many movies considered classics that didn't use weird filters and yet delivered everything the director wanted to. Some times filters do have some use but is the abuse what bothers me and in my book hampers what could be a good movie. I know I am going to be hated for this but I also know that there are others that feel the same.
    Sorry for the typo in the topic's title but I couldn't edit it...
    [Edited last by Luis Gabriel Gerena on August 19, 2001 at 12:05 AM]
    (edited the header for you)

    [Edited last by Cees Alons on August 19, 2001 at 03:45 AM]
     
  2. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    Do you mean the gels (the things that make the screen blueish or yellowish)? Those are used for continuity. Some scenes could take place in Mexico but look like they took place in DC, so in order to prevent that, they use gels. Its an interesting technique and can actually arouse some feelings in a person to get them in the mindset for a scene (such as making Mexico feel hot, and DC feel more like a city).
     
  3. Luis Gabriel Gerena

    Luis Gabriel Gerena Second Unit

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    But you don't need that at all. Besides I have never seen a place that looks like the blueish scenes in Traffic. Making a place look like another is a valid reason to use them but to show heat you don't need to make every freaking thing red...it just makes thins look like Mars. A good use of filter IMHO is the Kripton scenes in Superman because it gives the planet kind of a surreal look. And how about making movies look older, the horrible picture quality of Shadow of the Vampire comes to mind. Even my Nosferatu remake looks better no kidding! There are other things that can be used to convey feelings...
    PS (did I use "convey" in a right way?)
     
  4. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    Yes, you did.
    I still see no problem with its use. What movies have used this effect besides Traffic? I think its a neat idea. I haven't heard anyone besides you complain about it.
     
  5. Scott H

    Scott H Supporting Actor

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    A few points:
    Filters are used by cinematographers (not directors) on all films, both to achieve what you would consider a normal image as well as achieve a specific artistic appearance. In fact, we often rely heavily on filters to achieve a 'normal' image, or to achieve a viable density (color correction/polarizers/neutral density/neutral density grads/color grads/black and white pro mists are all essential tools).
    The geographical/story delineating looks in Traffic may not have been achived with filters but with color timing.
    Unless purposefully/overtly drawing attention to themselves, it is not likely that you are aware of +90% of filtration use.
    One could argue that if film looked exactly how you saw the world, what would be the point. But alas, it's a medium for artistic expression and entertainment.
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  6. Mitty

    Mitty Supporting Actor

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    The question sort of reminds me of a Roger Ebert answer man column in which he was asked if there would ever come a day when directors would stop the insidious, unrealistic practice of always wetting the streets for exterior night shots.
    Ebert said that it would happen once directors started asking their DPs, "Is there any way we could make this shot less interesting?"
    [Edited last by Mitty on August 19, 2001 at 03:15 AM]
     
  7. Luis Gabriel Gerena

    Luis Gabriel Gerena Second Unit

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    "Unless purposefully/overtly drawing attention to themselves, it is not likely that you are aware of +90% of filtration use"
    Then this should be my point. As long as the effect doens't become distracting it is been rightly used. Its like surrounds, they should enhance sound not distract people from the main audio. The problem is that is some times hard to be immerse (suspension of disbelief?) in a movie when things are looking like another world.
    Regards
     
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Luis, you remind me of Sidney Lumet's statement that he hates "style that shows". Lumet believes that lighting effects and other tricks of the trade should register without the viewer becoming aware of it. If the viewer focuses on the style, it's a distraction. (You can find this philosophy in his book Making Movies and in his interviews.)
    It's certainly a valid approach, and it appears to be implemented throughout Lumet's body of work. OTOH, I'm glad that no one ever gave Lumet the power to decree that every filmmaker had to do likewise. If so, we'd have been deprived of such intriguing stylistic experiments as Janusz Kaminski's documentary look for Saving Private Ryan, or Newton Thomas Siegel's hurt-your-eyes desert look for Three Kings, or Adam Greenberg's cold cyan-filtered photography for Terminator 2, or Gordon Willis's sinister shadows in the first two Godfather films, or Robert Richardson's award-winning experiments with different film formats in JFK.
    As for Traffic, which seems to be the main film that inspired this thread, I found the separate color schemes helpful in creating visual demarcations between the various storylines. The different looks didn't bother or distract me; rather, they contributed to the storytelling. The look of film is always artificial even when it appears to be "natural". (Ask any cameraman how much work goes into lighting a shot to make it seem "natural" on film.) Why shouldn't filmmakers be free to manipulate that artificiality in any way they think will help them tell their story?
    M.
     
  9. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

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    I compare a director using different color schemes akin to an author's voice in novels. Would you prefer every author use the same 'matter of fact' tone you get in most newspaper articles? That's sort of what you are asking for when you want direcotrs and their DP's to use the same realistic color scheme for every movie. Every film should have its own unique 'vision' of how that story is told. That's what makes movies interesting.
     
  10. Mark Palermo

    Mark Palermo Second Unit

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    While I certainly have no problem with "style that shows", Soderbergh's decision to color-code Traffic was insulting. It was a hamfisted device--"oohh check out how each of the story threads has a different look"--without thematic purpose, but instigated only to help less intelligent viewers follow the action. The response to Traffic represents much of what's wrong with contemporary film criticism: praised only for tackling big issues despite the clunkiness of the artistry.
    Mark
     
  11. Mark Palermo

    Mark Palermo Second Unit

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    Reading through Michael's thread, he raises a good point that Soderbergh's use of filters may also be for tonal reasons. But I feel the device is too omnipresent and masturbatory to not have a deeper thread within the thematics.
    Mark
     
  12. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  13. Scott H

    Scott H Supporting Actor

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  14. Bruce Hedtke

    Bruce Hedtke Cinematographer

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    There is a reason why directors try to make London look like London or New Hampshire all colorful...it's because that is the way those places look. Making the shots of Mexico yellowish and gritty conveys the truth-that is what the Mexican landscape resembles. Same for Washinton, with it's concrete and urban blue look. I don't have problems with that. If someone were to photograph New York City and try to make it look like Miami, then we have problems.
    Bruce
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  15. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Wait a second...it's still art, right?
    If so, then there are things that work for you and others that don't, but there are few, if any, things in cinematography that are inherently "wrong". I mean forget coloring, what about SOFTNING the picture using gel. Happens A LOT.
    I also take exception to the claim that critics praised the theme more than the style. Soderburgh style brought that theme to life, if his coloring techiniques were such a wreck then you should expect the story/theme to not come across.
    If you understand the film and get the story flow, then something must be said for the director's effort, even if it is mundane. In the case of Traffic I think it was important to set a mood for each story thread as they each came from very different directions to the same point. Also, his technique helped clarify the multiple threads/worlds that the audiance was being moved between.
    But this touches upon something more insidious, should we dictate which techniques are allowed or not? I believe you will find that Dogme already does this. And yet even within something like Dancer in the Dark we have amplified color for the dream/musical sequences to contrast against the gritty reality of the rest of the film.
    Should we disallow that?
    Hell, now you need to take a look at Wizard of Oz if we are going to pursue it.
    Then what do you do with something like Cook, Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover? Rather than "filter" the scenes, sets and costumes were color coded instead. That is also cheap I suppose?
    I just don't understand why anyone would want to disable the palette that artists are allowed to work within. And we must remember that film is unique in that it is truly a blending of several other art mediums.
    We can easily see both painting and still photography arts being practiced in film, each with their own artistic techniques for conveying emotion. We have theater (acting, costumes, etc), we have music, we have writing. All of those also have their own techniques and OBJECTIVES.
    Then on top of all this we make the whole process dynamic. Truly amazing. So why would we want to eliminate any of those aspects from the process? If it's okay for a painter to work in shades then I don't see how it's wrong for a DoP to do the same.
    Again I refer to OBJECTIVES. Perhaps the perceived objective for coloring those scenes is more than "Desert is hot". I for one saw the colors representing the moods/culture for each of the characters.
    Mexico was a bleak, dangerous place for Del Toro. His prospects for survival were little. It was more than "hot". It was a harsh environment.
    Cincy is somber, formal. It was stoic. It represented the "untouchable" security of a well-off upper-class culture, which was shattered of course.
    San Diego was pretty, like a post card. It was this perfect environment that was being taken from Zeta-Jones.
    Also, it's part of Soderburgh's ESTABLISHED style. Look at Out of Sight for another great example of his wide ranging use of colors.
    If others rip him off, or if other artists use a similar style, that does not make him a hack for following his own consistent style.
    Asking Soderburgh to "cut it out" is like asking when we will see an end to the "voice over" technique that Altman hides behind all the time, enough is enough, right? I just don't see why we would WANT to take that from him, let alone having the right to do so.
     
  16. Mark Palermo

    Mark Palermo Second Unit

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    I'm not intending to deny Soderbergh of anything; I'm merely stating that I think Traffic could be improved without the omnipresent reliance on color filtering. It would be absurd to impose a dictatorship on art, but that doesn't mean that I have to blindly swallow everything an artist decides to do. For instance, I feel that all of Terence Malick's works would benefit greatly without the voice-overs, but I'd never wish to deny him that artistic freedom.
    As for the critics-on-Traffic issue, it seems clear to me that subject matter takes precedence in their judgment of the film's importance. By tackling big issues, Traffic conveniently places itself atop the hierarchy of genre (eg: how the Oscars normally value dramas more than action films or comedies). I agree that this means Soderbergh's narrative skills work effectively for a great number of people, but reading through many of the four-star reviews his technique is rarely mentioned. Sure they'll briefly praise the color-coding and interweaving of storylines (having read many of the reviews, I'm still clueless as to what's groundbreaking about these things), but it's generally his politics that are discussed. Reviewers fall in line with Traffic's political agenda enough that it managed to become one of the most lauded films of 2000. To me this is a sad testament to the present state of film criticism.
    Mark
     
  17. Nate Anderson

    Nate Anderson Screenwriter

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    I'm just going to touch on Traffic for a second...
    The movie was basically a docu-drama, and it was intended to look like a documentry. I think Soderburgh was trying to go for a look of "Shot on the moment" feel, and not the perfectly lit Hollywood movie. Also, I will agree that the different colors helped me to more quickly recognize where we were. There were three different story lines and they were all jumping around pretty quick, if I remember.
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  18. Luis Gabriel Gerena

    Luis Gabriel Gerena Second Unit

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    "What I believe you are conveying is that it is hard for YOU to be immersed in a film that appears unlike YOUR ideals and preferences."
    Well you are completely off...ideals and preferences has nothing to do with reality. I just want it to look real not faked. Since my point of view is the same as Mike Palermo's I rather let him discuss the matter since he explains it way better than I. My point is not to eliminate filters or different filming technics but to control them so they don't break the magic spell that makes you really experience a movie. I found it odd that so many people are pissed off by over active surrounds cause they are as they say "distracting" yet they don't mind the abuse of filters or "technics" which can be as distracting or even more.
    Up to this moment nobody mentioned that I may lack knowledge or that I can't appreciate art ...thanks all for discussing this the right way, respecting each others points of views.
     
  19. Agee Bassett

    Agee Bassett Supporting Actor

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    quote: Originally posted by Luis Gabriel Gerena:
    I just can't see why a movie like Traffic, for example, needs the many annoying filters to make it better...to me it makes it look like crap. If a director need filters as a delivery vehicle of emotions or to set a mood maybe he is not that good after all. There are many movies considered classics that didn't use weird filters and yet delivered everything the director wanted to.[/quote]Bravo, I am in complete agreement with you! Use of overstrong filters in movie cinematography is, to my mind, offensive to both eye and brain. Visual tedium and violated brain cells seems to be all that is yielded from this dull, hamfisted approach. Of course, harsh and ugly visuals in general are "in" these days. [​IMG] quote: Originally posted by Morgan Jolley:
    What movies have used this effect besides Traffic?[/quote]Have we forgotten Traffic's main competitor for that year's coveted little golden statuettes, Gladiator? [​IMG] A similar filter scheme was employed by DP John Mathieson: Wintry, depressing blue for Germanic settings; sun-drenched, garish yellow for scenes in Rome. Once again, an unnecessarily severe and disagreeable effect.quote: Originally posted by Seth Paxton:
    So why would we want to eliminate any of those aspects from the process? If it's okay for a painter to work in shades then I don't see how it's wrong for a DoP to do the same.[/quote]This is not an issue of eliminating or limiting anything. Simply expressing one's distasteful response to another's means of artistic expression does not constitute suppressing that person's artistic freedom. [​IMG]
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    [Edited last by Agee Bassett on August 19, 2001 at 06:12 PM]
     
  20. Ben_S

    Ben_S Agent

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    It's a style and design decision. That particular style doesn't suit you? OK move on and find other movies that fit your style. Director's weren't born to suit your particular tastes. Asking directors to not use a particular style is rediculous. Do you want all of the music being made today to not do particular effects so it won't irritate you too?
     

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