David Fincher and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo [Round-up]


I really enjoyed The Social Network and the original “Dragon-tattoo-trilogy” so I’ve been really looking forward to seeing it over the holidays. I’ve not managed to make it yet – tomorrow maybe, unless the new IMAX cinema is too tempting – but the online (and offline articles) have been really interesting and plentiful.

David Fincher, director

First off, we have a broad interview that discusses early Fincher, including Billy Idol music vids. Some nice honest opions in here.

Trent Reznor discusses getting into soundtracking movies and his work on TGWTDT

“I thought maybe I should call Hans Zimmer,” he says, referring to the German composer who scored Gladiator and The Dark Knight, “and see if I could hang out with him and make coffee for him for a while and take a crash course in how the fuck you score films. But instead, I sat with Fincher and said, ‘I’m not going to bullshit you. I don’t really know how to do this. What do you want?'”

Fincher Reframes in Post

Actually quite close to our last post about aspect ratios, I am going to write about reframing in post later on – so this article was right up my street.

Great Free Sound Effects for Your Productions

I’ve always struggled to find good free sounds for films. I don’t use a whole lot and the ones I do use are often random or abstract. I collect them from a variety of sources and they often have different qualities.

I was searching for a specific experimental noise yesterday and found the perfect one, hosted for free at Freesound.org:

Freesound aims to create a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, … released under Creative Commons licenses that allow their reuse.

With over 100,000 sounds, this is surely a resource you can’t afford to miss. I spent a couple of hours thinking up things to look for, listening to different samples and grabbing a bunch of inspiring bits and pieces!

Freesound

The Cinematography of Drive

Drive is probably the best film I have seen in the cinema all year. This isn’t a very original statement and even people saying “I know you’ve probably heard this a thousand times before, but go see Drive.” is somewhat cliched. Recommendations for the film are ubiquitous, which I’m actually a little surprised by – films that I rate highly often go unnoticed, produce a love-it-or-hate-it response, or have a slew of negative reviews.

The cinematography and the soundtrack are so important to Drive, they are almost characters. They are intertwined and tonally aligned and it makes for a really absorbing experience.

The street lights hitting Gosling’s face as he drives and the dimming of the light in the now-famous elevator kiss scene are particularly exciting – all mixed with a great, dark electro-synth soundtrack.

The film was DP’d by Newton Thomas Sigel and shot on ARRI Alexa – one of 2 or 3 cameras that I would love to kick the tyres on.

Find out more about the cinematography of the film in the following interviews with Sigel:

http://www.hdvideopro.com/display/features/a-boy-and-his-car.html

http://www.moviescopemag.com/insiderspov/cinematography/cinematographer-newton-thomas-sigel/

http://www.arri.com/camera/digital_cameras/news.html?article=719&cHash=097d245472

Nostalgic Shooting and Martin Scorsese

Now that we have digital cameras producing amazing quality, people are often digitally converting them into polaroid style, old-film-look, toy camera, cross processed*.

Now that we have rich, deep blacks on television sets, people are shortening the dynamic range and effectively lightening the shadows.

These may be “fad” styles and techniques, but they are ubiquitous at the moment. It might be down to nostalgia and romantacising styles from different eras but it isn’t confined to teens on their iPhones.

In The Aviator, Martin Scorsese decided to shoot the film digitally then grade half of it to look like two-strip technicolor and the other half in three-strip. Despite my reservations of the saturation of the media with this stylistic choice, Scorsese gets away with it because a) it is a narrative-led choice and b) he has a vast knowledge of cinema and the colour processes used, when and by who. Most people can cover the how, but Scorsese can cover the why.

There were different processes around back then,” Scorsese says. “Each process was different, and therefore, each film was different. That period of filmmaking and film viewing was formative for me, in a very primal way, and those images remain imprinted in my mind.

Read more about Scorsese’s homage to early colour processes.

Also: read about colour and digital production during The Departed.

These might be a bit technical and another league from what some of us are shooting, but it serves as good inspiration in areas that may affect us and we can also apply some of the theory to our own decisions. These are Scorsese’s first two features he shot digitally and he speaks openly and honestly about the switch.

*I’d like to point out that I have been known to use these “fad” styles, from time to time..

The RED ONE and The Cinematography of Winter’s Bones

If I was shooting a drama feature, a television pilot or really anything I could take my time over (soon enough), I would love to have a RED ONE. I was looking at the trailer for the upcoming film Source Code and found myself wondering what it was shot on. Turns out that they shot mainly on 35mm, with one segment using the RED – a technique that we are seeing a lot of now (this was also the case for Black Swan, albeit 16mm and Canon 5DMKiis and 7Ds). The director of Source Code, Duncan Jones, says in an interview that it was down to him seeing David Fincher’s test of Leonardo DiCaprio lit with a single match:

And Winter’s Bone: this is one that I kept hearing about but never managed to catch until the DVD release. Shot on a Red camera, with a partially inexperienced cast, this film is different and refreshing.

Here we have an interview with Michael McDonough, the cinematographer of Winter’s Bone, discussing the film.

The main benefits of the new large-sensor cameras, for me anyway, is the shallow depth of field, the ability to shoot amazing footage at low light levels and the price tag. That, along with the top-end systems available to consumers, levels the playing field and democratises filmmaking – but the content will always be king and hopefully it will result in a better range of entertainment.

UPDATE: More videos of remarkable things being done on RED cameras.

Adidas All In – Advertising Video

Sometimes ads are closer to what we, as video producers, create, than feature films. It’s nice to look at the full spectrum of media for inspiration but finding the top-level of material in our area can sometimes allow us to directly apply techniques and ideas.

Adidas have just launched their biggest campaign to date, it’s called All In and focuses on sport and music in this fast-paced 2-minute ad.

More information available at Design Taxi.

Introduction to Title Sequences

At the start of the year I had some time to research and work on some titles, something that I hadn’t done much of in the past. I often just used Final Cut to add some text and maybe some Photoshop backgrounds or similar. This is a trait I often see in video production – very basic title sequences. These are solid and work, but spending a bit of time on learning and producing something original and more dynamic is a great way to add value and interest to a project.

There are many tutorials for different styles and software but here is a link to a really great lecture by Kyle Cooper, a critically acclaimed title designer. It covers a lot of major contemporary films and the theory behind the titles and is really invaluable.

Contemporary Perspectives Lecture Series: Kyle Cooper

(I would embed, but it seems to be disabled now).

The Special Effects of ‘The Black Swan’

To complete my trifecta of The Black Swan posts (see: Cinematography and Sound Design), I bring you a demo of the SFX used in The Black Swan. These small but significant effects on a film with rich realism have more of an effect on me than all the explosions and CGI trickery of a glossy Hollywood film.

I have also been working with After Effects recently, mainly for titles, which is not an area I am skilled in. The possibilities are remarkable and, through my research, I have decided that I want to try editing a project using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. I have the production suite, so why not try it out? The things that I have been hearing about it are enough to let me leave my Final Cut Pro safety net for a spell. I’ll cover this in the future.

The Sound of ‘The Black Swan’

I thought I’d follow up on the earlier post, The Cinematography of ‘The Black Swan’, with a nice video about the sound in the same film. Sound is often overlooked in Video Production, in favour of the aims and look. And ‘sound design’ is often not even considered; a good recording on someone talking + music is sometimes all that is required.

But I am fascinated by sound designers and the art of telling a narrative audibly. It’s one of the areas that I have never got into deeply myself but I hope to change that in the future. I’m not saying that intricate, original and experimental sound design should be on everyone’s mind when making a corporate video or filming an event – but it shouldn’t be dismissed either.

I hope to post more in the future, hopefully with a real-life example.