Monday, May 18, 2015

Cinematic Reality: What is real? PART TWELVE


Filmmakers sometimes feel the greatest impediment to the reality of a story is the "Hollywood way" of doing things.

Not surprisingly, filmmakers rebel against the polish of mainstream Hollywood movies.

Director Michael Mann

Michael Mann is a director who has made a career out of challenging the Hollywood model.

At a time when digital video was working its way into productions, "Collateral" (2004) broke the rules for how digital video was supposed to look.

Tom Cruise as hitman Vincent in "Collateral"

While many were questioning whether the new technology would conform to a "film" look, Mann and his cinematographers Paul Cameron and Dion Beebe (who replaced Cameron three weeks into the shoot) decided to use HD for its own intrinsic value.

The night exteriors were shot by upping the "gain" (increasing light sensitivity by boosting the electronic signal) of the cameras, resulting in soft, electronic "noise" in the image.

But the use of natural lighting, and the incredible sensitivity of HD cameras to low lighting conditions, allowed Mann to capture the natural look of Los Angeles at night, in a way that celluloid cameras would have been unable to do without extensive lighting set up.

These choices translated into a movie that looked more realistic to audiences, due to its unfamiliar experimental cinematography.

Mann has continued to push digital cinematography in new and startling ways:

"Miami Vice" (2006)

"Public Enemies" (2009)

"Blackhat" (2015)

Specializing its look.  Exploring its limitations.

Single-handedly ushering in a new aesthetic of digital realism.

But this realism is still Michael Mann's, and not necessarily the realism of other directors.

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