View Full Version : The Asia-noir look
2007 December 5th, 17:07
While reading the Mann-look thread I came to think of a look I have been thinking about for quite some time now. And the trigger was the Chinese Criminal-saga Dog Bite Dog... And the thing is...
Asian crime-films has it's own look... and I love it... I really don't know what makes it nice to look at... so I'll start up the discussion here and a tiny asking about how to go about doing something in that manner with a HV20...
I did see some common marks on them, though. They often press the negative some stops to go deeper into the darkness, they are abundant with smog, they often use colored on-the spot lights, And of course... they are dark, and the characters are if possible even darker...
At first I thought that it was due to poor DVD-transfers but it's just something that's always there... I like it, and I want to emulate it...
So, short of getting a chinese DoP and some Asian actors... what's your thoughts?
2007 December 5th, 17:42
How about putting a clip with the nice look on your computer and trying to match it with color correction?
2007 December 5th, 18:02
Can you take a screen shot of exactly what you are talking about ?
2007 December 5th, 20:10
Yeah....now I'm intersted.
2007 December 6th, 04:16
I am good with color grading I can give it a go. But I need real examples of how that look looks like so I can emulate it for you.
2007 December 6th, 10:44
I wasn't able to find any stills from Dog Bite Dog, nor have I seen it personally, but I think the look jmalmsten is describing is not dissimilar to 2046 (http://www.imdb.com/gallery/ss/0212712/5.jpg.html?path=gallery&path_key=0212712&seq=7) or other (IMHO extremely beautiful) Wong Kar Wai films.
Hopefully jmalmsten will correct me if this isn't what he meant!
2007 December 6th, 13:07
I'm a newb at this, but it seems to me that the look is composed of complementary greens and oranges in hi-contrast. I'm at work right now so I can't test, but I suggest you to boost the contrast, desaturate a little bit, apply green to the darks and orange to the lights (or vice-versa, depending on the scene), and then saturate again everything. It's a great look btw.
Let's see what Eugenia thinks, she's a goddess in this field.
2007 December 6th, 16:19
Here is a quick effort, attached. In order to get that look you MUST shoot with orange lights and you must intelligently plant green colors everywhere. I found this CC-BY licensed image on flickr ( http://flickr.com/photos/59953599@N00/1808000334/ ), but the light was not much favorable to create the exact look.
On Vegas I used Aav6cc to push the yellows and greens, Color Corrector to boost saturation/gamma and Highs/Mids towards yellow and Lows towards green, and the Magic Bullet template of "Red Light".
2007 December 6th, 16:41
There is a lot more to achieving this look than color grading. You need to light and expose properly first. (Otherwise you'll be spending half you life rotoscoping and making "power windows" and it will still not look right.)
A lot of the look is in the art direction also. I'm talkign about the choice of colors for wardrobe etc. It's also totally normal on feature films to repaint an entire room or set if it isn't "cooperating" in creating a certain look.
2007 December 6th, 16:47
This is what I said above, that you need to shoot this way. You need to "plant" certain colors that stand out from the rest so you can push them on post, and have the right kind of light at all times.
2007 December 6th, 19:00
I wasn't knocking you Eugenia. Actually, I skimmed over you post and didn't catch the whole drift of it.
Mostly the point I was trying to make wasy about lighting and exposure. The art direction statements were an after thought.
My point about lighting is that you need to bake a lot of the look in to the image with the lighting. One thing you can't change much with color grading is "ratio". And noir is ALL about lighting ratio. Basically, you want little to no fill.
Christopher Doyle is the DP behind a lot of Wong Kar-wais films. Doyle is a master of "noir". IMHO, the man is one of the greatest living cinematographers today.
2007 December 6th, 20:46
Hmmm... Eugenia... not exactly... but since I now need to provide visual references I'll have to go through my limited DVD-collection for examples... And realizing that I haven't bought almost any of the films I am now starting to want to graphically dissect... But at least I'll run up a couple of Johnny To and one or two John Woo... I think...
Or not... I found the Dog Bite Dog trailer on youtube and since it was the one that made me think about the style as "Asian Noir" or film... ehhh... whatever black is called in cantonese...film... "mak"? ( http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/scripts/wordsearch.php?level=0 )... it'll do just as well...
clip from the ending (spoilers ahoy BTW): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33fVsvhe6A8
One other trade mark I noticed is that the sky is almost always blown out white when it's day... almost like the camera isn't used to the brightness like a gamer leaving the computer and goes outside to buy some energy-drinks...;) ...
Hmmm... and sometimes yes... Doyle does fit the mark... allthough I'm more after the more rough and ready style as opposed to the more "perfect" studio-lighting and smooth moves look on his more expensive features... he just looks a bit expensive most of the time compared to what I'm referring to...
I guess I really just wanted to discuss the look of the sub-genre more than anything else after seeing Dog Bite Dog and it's effect on having it all "click" for me... Because... really... all those films that I think of as Asian Noir really lack a Femme Fatale and voice-overs. But that still doesn't keep them from being an extremely interesting branching. Especially since these pics are often done on a relatively cheap level...
I really also think that the low budgets have created the look just as much out of necessity just as it gave the american Noirs its look. And since the asian flicks show of a great deal of visual flair I think it's a great inspirational source since they are done on a low budget with little to no lighting needs...
Now that last bit may be only what's apparent though... I'm sure that as time has gone on, these crime-flicks have been done with a lot more visual detail than is readily seen on the first casual note. But that doesn't mean I aren't attracted to the rough and ready look they often exhibit. Since I too seldom are "blessed" with even a budget at all...
Now... that became long winding and all... but I just got the urge to discuss the look with someone when I saw the film... And maybe I'm a bit off by naming the wrong kind of films as "noir". Maybe I are referring to films that's more on the "exploitational" end of the scale;)
2007 December 6th, 21:03
For my color grading test I used the "2046" pictures on imdb as a guidance btw, not "dog bite dog".
2007 December 6th, 21:26
Watching the trailer, The first thing that pops at me is that half the frame seems to be filled with black, even when it's day time. Every scene only ever has one obvious source of "key" even when there are millions of practicals in the BG. There is almost no fill in any shot.
If that isn't "noir" I don't know what to call it.
The way to create this is to light your scenes with just one light. (or what LOOKS like one light) No fill. and try to keep the key light from hitting anything in the background. (I'm talking about interiors here) Basically your goal is to keep the environment dark, but only light selected things with key light. That will give you the most contrast. You could maybe hit the BG with some stabs of light from another source. Or put a very slight bit of fill on the bg (if might get it naturally from spill) The slight fill on the bg will pop the actors off the BG where they are pure black. They seem to be using smoke in a lot of scenes also.
You also want the light always coming from the side or back, never the front, unless it just makes no sense geographically in the scene. At worse you should only let the light creep around 3/4 to the front. ("cheat" it around if you must) that will still give everything shape and let it still have some black in it.
This is all good if you are zero budget! You only need one light ;-) (Joking BTW)
The day time exterior stuff you can grade to push down the blacks. But to get that really high-contrast look, you will want to shoot with minimal fill. Don't use bounce cards to beautify the actors in the harsh sun. go with it instead. It also looks like they try to keep them back-lit and side lit. (anything but front lit. then they would not be dark)
I don't care for the way over the top color grading on the clip from the end. But if you insist on doing that, it could be achieved by intentionally white balancing for too cool a color, or with filters on the camera. Wow. yeah... that effect is so heavy handed it could be filters.
I'm doing a noir type project myself in a couple of weeks. If the director is OK with it, maybe I can share some stills. It's not going to be as harsh as this Dog Eat Dog stuff though. We are definitely shooting for something more "pretty".
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