North By Northwest Look
Published : 3rd July 2005
Doing some tests to try and achieve a North by Northwest look. Would like to go DI but having difficult time persuading producer. Clearly studio look lighting with some hard light, frontal light and shadows are things I can do in lighting, however, I'm wondering if there is anything else...film stock, filtration (apart from diffusion), processing, flashing, over/under exposure for example that I should try.
I need to narrow tests down a bit, otherwise it will be weeks! Any recent films with that type of look?
Sort of depends on how YOU remember the look of "North by Northwest".
We all have different perceptions of old movies because of the prints we've seen over the years or how it has looked on TV. This was a movie shot originally in 8-perf 35mm VistaVision on 25 ASA tungsten-balanced color negative. It may have been released in 35mm dye transfer prints. For the most part, it looks like it was shot without diffusion but some scenes look lightly Fog Filtered (although not as strongly as "Vertigo") and some close-ups are diffused (with nets probably.)
If we see new prints of these old VistaVision movies, it is often from an IN, sometimes created using B&W separations, so the contrast tends to be higher and the look a little "dupey". On the other hand, for prints made off of the o-neg of older movies, any dye fading in the negative often produces a print with bluish blacks & shadows and somewhat yellowish flesh tones.
To create the texture of an older emulsion, I tend to feel that either you should try push-processing a slower speed color negative for that somewhat dupier look, or really overexposing and printing down a fast film. "Far From Heaven" did the later approach. Older lenses help too. VistaVision movies like "North by Northwest" would naturally be finer-grained than 4-perf 35mm Eastmancolor negative movies of the day. I might consider shooting on 5248 or Fuji F-125T pushed one-stop, for example.
Otherwise, I think production design, lighting, and imitating the artistic styles of the era in terms of focal lengths used, shot coverage, camera movements, editing patterns, etc. are much more critical. Even sound design is an important element.
David Mullen, ASC
Thanks David for your thoughts.
>For the most part, it looks like it was shot without diffusion but some >scenes look lightly Fog Filtered (although not as strongly as "Vertigo") >and some close- ups are diffused (with nets probably.)
I agree - looks like nets to me.
I shall look at 'Far From Heaven' and report back.
Someone mentioned a Matt Dillon film with the same look, and a Mike Southon film. Ill check them out too
> Otherwise, I think production design, lighting, and imitating the artistic >styles of the era in terms of focal lengths used, shot coverage, camera >movements, editing patterns, etc. are much more critical.
Yup - thatâ€™s why I've asked for a style meeting with HOD's of those departments!
James Welland wrote :
>Someone mentioned a Matt Dillon film with the same look, and a Mike >Southon film. Ill check them out too
I presume you are talking about Snow White.
I used Dior 10's up front . A sumptuous look without losing definition but tough on the 1st AC both in terms of flare and maintenance on set.
CGI was less developed than now and it was an issue in that department although Ernie Farino (our CGI guru) was brilliantly tolerant of my use of them.
Mike Southon bsc