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It's interesting to recognize the differences in how  film sensitivities, lighting and camera movement in early noir films helped create the genre and how those  new films, processes  and new lighting instruments joined in shaping and refining the look of noir films.  Most  early films that used artificial light relied on carbon arc lamps, the first commonly used lamps for street illumination before the development of incandescent lights After they were abandoned for common purposes, they  continued to be used for specialized needs such as in movie projectors and searchlights.


 


In film, the abandonment of carbon arcs and the development of Panchromatic film stocks - film stocks that were sensitve to a wider spectrum of color - freed directors and cinematographers from mostly stationary camera positions that 'staged' the action in a less visually dynamic ways and made the camera - and especially camera movement, on dollies and cranes an active participant in defining action and character and allowed for a new spatial and temporal depth in all film styles.


 


Generally early films were visulally unexciting in terms of dynamic camera motion but together with faster Panchromatic film stocks, incandecent lights and new ways to change picture framing through movement-the camera was to bring a new dimension to the narrative.

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One thing I always look out for in these films is the layering. The beauty of light is that it's transparent and can flood a set from all different angles without being noticed...that is until someone walks through it. 

 

The effect is so subtle most people don't even notice it.  Usually occurs when a subject walks forward toward the camera. You'll see the direction of the light change from say right to left, or from a bright background  to a dark foreground.

 

Also, the use of fast wide angle lenses really lent itself to bringing the viewer into the scene. These fast lenses helped shoot in low light thus creating the mood prevalent in film noir.

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Interesting post - connections between technology and creative techniques can often be reciprocal. Do you have some classic examples of the first usages of this style of lighting? Can the same era be mimicked digitally?

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The Asphalt Jungle is full of layering. When Doc arrives at the meeting room near the beginning, the hallway has lighting coming from different directions as he walks down it. When Louis gets a call and walks from his bedroom where his wife is sleeping, to the living room, the lighting changes direction.

When the detectives arrive at Emmerich's house and all of them walk into the study, check out the layers of light they walk through. A great scene is when Doc and Dix are walking in the train depot and come across a cop. Amazing lighting.

 

The film is chock full of wide angle shots as well. The heist scene for example, Dix in the foreground, Doc in the middle and Louis in the back.  This film is really a textbook on how to photograph a film noir.

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For week one, I re-watched Out of the Past, and The Maltese Falcon and saw Dark Passage and Born To Kill for the first time. What really drew me in to Dark Passage, thanks to Daily Dose of Darkness #4, was the first person P.O.V. Little did I know at first that it would be integral to the plot.

 

I also liked the film's sense of style overall, for example when Baker stops the car to listen to the news bulletin about Parry's escape, a reading pointing to San Quentin comes into view and I got a chuckle from the line, "I'm glad you provided a towel big enough to cover my embarassment." 

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