Friday, March 7, 2008

Old wasn't old back then

I'm currently trying to make myself a set of Premiere filters that turn Moviestorm footage into something that actually looks like 1940s tinted monochrome stock. It's getting there. I've got one which is mostly green/gray tints (outdoor shots), and another which is magenta/navy tints (night shots and dark rooms), and I've nearly got the sepia/yellow tints right (normally lit rooms). But it's not right yet, and I think I finally figured out why.

This reminds me of something that always bugs me in sets for period movies. When they set something in an authentic location, the problem is that the buildings and so on look old, because they are. Weatherworn, stained, mossy, whatever. But of course it wouldn't have been old when it was new. In this pic, the steps should be pristine, with no staining on the parapet, the columns should look freshly sandblasted, and so on. OTOH, if you do make it all nice and new, it looks wrong because we're not used to seeing brand new old buildings, and we expect to see aging, so it looks like a set. You can't win.

It's the same with film stock. I've made something which looks more or less like it would have done back then when it was shot, but it looks wrong and fake, because we're used to seeing crappy reprints of 50-year old copies, and we expect to see loss of quality, even with modern digital restorations. So I'm trying to decide whether to artifically "age" the stock, which I don't want to do, or to find some other way of making it look less "fake". I don't want it to look "fake old" and add dust and scratches and all that jazz.

What I may well end up doing is play with the tinting a bit and try and come up with something hugely desaturated that has its own retro look, but isn't actually authentic - like the opening sequence of Sky Captain. I might have to go and watch that again now.