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Camera "mojo" - where does it come from?


kye
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1 hour ago, AaronChicago said:

First, you have to ask yourself: is the mojo present in a single frame? Could you compare still images to find mojo? Or does the mojo kick in when it played as a video.

Above posted Image is reposted here from threads about 1DC and GH5s - because @Mkabi used it as stronge argument to ask DaveAltizer how he could leave 1DC which produce such image for GH5s. Some other members immediately thought it was shot with Alexa, etc. My answer was exactly what I'm asking for somebody else - to explain what you see. I tried as such

"Aren't these 3 images given in pretty low resolution for any comparatively fair comment? As such low-res, I see slight green or blue-veil cast in all of them and probably some sort of artistically added haze in second - indeed tender with chosen DOF angle and shadows under the girl's eyes to complete coming up of fragile face. Love this composition and its rich but mellow gamma. In full resolution it must be gorgeously 3dimensional.

Dave Altizer's sample with singer has, as I see, pretty cold graded tone, clean with unobtrusive but present details and absence of predominant veil. I like how - in globally low saturated context and not so deep focus - that lovely distinctive nuances of white color of shirt discreetly help in leading attention to subject. Fine base, expected from modern 2000+$ camera, of course could be also and different variations of look."

 

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8 hours ago, anonim said:

"To try again, this image is presented as example of mojo and ultimative cinematic. Simple question - why? What is special to look in it? Or just say - inexplicable, I cant explain, and that's ok. But please - why than exist tone of books explaining and teaching values of Rembrandt's pictures? Say thousand scholars that are searching for formula - when they teach our children why and how to distinguish portraits done by Velasquez and paintbrush on billboards.

 

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"Mojo" is different than "lighting and composition skill" And again it is all down to taste, even with the most famous of painters certain people will and wont like their work. For example I REALLY do not enjoy this frame you posted. The grade is over-the-top, with shadows pushed up. Some may love it, I don't.

Also to go even further I loved seeing The Desolation of Smaug at 48 fps, I loved it and I loved the 3D. For me high frame rate is perfect for 3D films. The majority of the moviegoing public think differently.

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21 minutes ago, Geoff CB said:

"Mojo" is different than "lighting and composition skill" And again it is all down to taste, even with the most famous of painters certain people will and wont like their work. For example I REALLY do not enjoy this frame you posted. The grade is over-the-top, with shadows pushed up. Some may love it, I don't.

Thanks, I totally agree, here and in thread where it is used as argument. As I already wrote - this was not my example.

But it, actually, doesn't matter - someone may find it as exeptional , what is perfectly ok. I just ask why it so great image. I want also to see something that makes its quality which I don't see, although I'm trying to work in the same field.

You say - grade is over-the-top, with shadows pushed up - with such exact remarks somebody could operate and discuss. (At image of Amazon girl I see many clipings at the left hand, lacks of details in the hair etc.)

But if someone just say - it must be Alexa, it is so greatly cinematic, it has moyo - it is, I think, just sign of taste, but problem for me is that it was put as irrefutable fact from authority.

If we speak and discuss what we see, I think that it might be very helpful for making broader our seeing.

Anybody, or close to anybody, didn't know what to look at in the works of Henry Moore before Herbert Read didn't start to speak about its inexplicable qualities instead of finish a job saying - it is not formula ... And now all of us understand them and can used them as an inspiration.

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I’m in agreement there - all too often, words like mojo, character and organic are bandied about, which mean all things to all people. When discussing vintage lenses, for example, rather than talking about flare, vignetting, bokeh, distortion and other aberrations and artifacts which are quantifiable, we often just hear the word character, which in and of itself means nothing. Presumably a perfect lens has no character. Or at least, that’s what we’re given to believe. Mojo has no particular meaning either as far as I can tell. And as creators, I believe it’s especially important to be able to articulate what it is about a particular image that makes it so powerful, exhilarating, bland, reprehensible or what have you. The word mojo is little different from the word suitable. Suitable in what way? I used to ask my students why they’d chosen a certain profession, and that was the one word they’d invariably use. So I’d ask them to elaborate. Was it the opportunity to interact with customers? Travel? Vacation time? Benefits? The challenge? Being able to help people? The salary?

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As I've said before.... What I like, you might not like... etc... etc...

I think that instead of over analyzing the word "mojo" and what that word refers to.... You are better off trying to replicate a scene from a movie that you specifically like.... So, pop in that DVD find that scene that you like, pause it.... Take a screenshot and try to copy that....

Now... If you feel that you are not able to copy that after your first attempt.... Don't give up... Try different settings..... Come as close as you can in-camera before moving on to post.... Adjust in post, but don't over do it. If after a hundred attempts, you are not able to copy it exactly.... See if someone with more experience and better grading capabilities can use that camera to replicate that scene and learn from that...if after all that... It's not to your expectations..... May be then you can blame it on the camera and may be try a different camera... 

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You can also define it that way - it's an image with emotional quality because of stylization and technical imperfection. A good example may be Tarkovsky's films, shot in the 1970s and 1980s with Soviet cameras, Soviet  lenses on Soviet 35mm film stock that are arguably the most intense cinema images every created - because of masterful visual composition and the impressionistic imperfections of lenses and film stock.  

There are two roads to such an image:

  1. Lens + camera/sensor + recording with the highest technical specifications and accuracy (such as: RED or Alexa with Zeiss Master Primes recording raw). This produces a high-information and thus extremely tweakable image. In post, you can downgrade its technical quality so that it becomes more impressionistic. An excellent example for this approach is Blade Runner 2049 - which btw. is one big Tarkovsky hommage. 
  2. Lens + camera/sensor + recorder with lower-grade lenses and cameras that bake-in an impressionistic look. Good examples from the past are, next to Tarkovsky, a lot of underground films shot on Bolex 16mm cameras (such as Kenneth Anger's Magic Lantern Cycle), a good recent example for doing the same with consumer/prosumer digital technology is 'Upstream Color' (shot on the GH2). 

If you go for option 2, the best way is to use prime lenses with strong character (such as old Russian/Soviet SLR and rangefinder lenses, or old 16mm lenses) and cameras that record great color even in lower-end codecs. (The GH2 with its greenish-neonish colors was perfect for a dystopian SciFi film like Upstream Color, Canon and Nikon DSLRs with the warm and organic colors are good for more emotional images.)

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  • Super Members

As a creator I never see the need to analyze or quantify what I like and dont like.

Imo Mojo isn't just some fluff word. Its a feature. I know when I see it and I definitely know when I dont. But just like everything within art its subjective. There is no point in trying to transfer it to someone elses eyes. They have to figure it out for them selves. Some like high resolution others hate it. Nothing wrong or right about it.

I often get the feeling that it scares certain people. Some people are afraid to stick their neck out and say, "I like this and thats ok". They rather have a group behind them validating their opinion (thats how the fanboy wars begin). Or they take comfort in numbers (enter the spec warriors).

I could show examples and go into detail why I think one image has more mojo than another. But I rather not. Because a great artists once said, "The problem with people that don't understand art is that they are trying to understand it". 

I try  to live by that rule.

(Ps. Im not talking about anyone particular. Just in general.)

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Yes, having a responsibility for students helps, I think, to understand importance of openly, joyfully, without prejudices, exchanging concrete artistic observations, seeing and thoughts. After all, it is so great always and forever to cherish that curiosity and inquisitiveness from the day we were students or simply young.

We are, obviously, on forum, not in the field to shoot. Replicating something will be easier if we each other make more clear and indicate at least base directions where maybe to search, and how to achieve, replicating qualities.

24 minutes ago, cantsin said:

You can also define it that way - it's an image with emotional quality because of stylization and technical imperfection. A good example may be Tarkovsky's films, shot in the 1970s and 1980s with Soviet cameras, Soviet  lenses on Soviet 35mm film stock that are arguably the most intense cinema images every created - because of masterful visual composition and the impressionistic imperfections of lenses and film stock.  

There are two roads to such an image:

  1. Lens + camera/sensor + recording with the highest technical specifications and accuracy (such as: RED or Alexa with Zeiss Master Primes recording raw). This produces a high-information and thus extremely tweakable image. In post, you can downgrade its technical quality so that it becomes more impressionistic. An excellent example for this approach is Blade Runner 2049 - which btw. is one big Tarkovsky hommage. 
  2. Lens + camera/sensor + recorder with lower-grade lenses and cameras that bake-in an impressionistic look. Good examples from the past are, next to Tarkovsky, a lot of underground films shot on Bolex 16mm cameras (such as Kenneth Anger's Magic Lantern Cycle), a good recent example for doing the same with consumer/prosumer digital technology is 'Upstream Color' (shot on the GH2). 

If you go for option 2, the best way is to use prime lenses with strong character (such as old Russian/Soviet SLR and rangefinder lenses, or old 16mm lenses) and cameras that record great color even in lower-end codecs. (The GH2 with its greenish-neonish colors was perfect for a dystopian SciFi film like Upstream Color, Canon and Nikon DSLRs with the warm and organic colors are good for more emotional images.)

Many thanks! (Not at least because I've translated and publish two books of Tarkovsky to my native language :) ) But you already gave me some valuable informations - I admit, for example, that I didn't no for Kenneth Anger... (Upstream Color, contrary, I quoted somewhere in the forum - because of Voigtlanders lenses.) Concrete suggestions of particular combination of some cameras and lenses for getting concrete and ready-to-be-show visual examples - is exactly one possible and in praxis invaluable answer about "mojo"... I've noted your remarks... if you have some more and find a time to share, please not hesitate...

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1 hour ago, Geoff CB said:

The Desolation of Smaug at 48 fps...

The Desolation of Smaug at 48 fps... as a possible way to get specific moyo - I'm noting it down also (I never before heard fo The Desolation of Smaug, nice to learn!)

edit - I google it and found it is part of modern Hobit, how funny, no I have great and special reason to see it.

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is the word mojo up for interpretation?  it already has a defintion. lets not change its etymology  in a single thread ?    

the op doesn't ask 'what' mojo is.

 to paraphrase he asks which cameras have mojo and does he need said cameras to get it.    

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On 3/2/2018 at 7:12 AM, kye said:

In terms of some mojo coming from the operator - I too suffer from creating bad output from good cameras, but it can't be that all the people that bought a 1DC or BMPCC were good operators!

A bad operator will make any camera look like crap, that's why we see so much crappy smartphone content. Good technical specs do nothing alone. But in the hands of someone with a little skill and a lot of vision, (and some ingenuity) this is where good technical specs shine. 

Give a concert violinist a crappy violin and a world class violin and she's going to make them both sound amazing. But the better violin will still sound better and bring out more annotation, resonance, dynamics and expression. 

Anyone with a basic knowledge of photography and maybe a couple hours of training can operate a cinema/video camera and probably surmise a decent exposure. But you can't teach vision. Because vision a personal process and journey. This is where most of the "mojo" exists. An operator is going to point his camera towards the talent at eye level. A visionary is going to find ways to do anything but that. 

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 @Matthew Hartman

"An operator is going to point his camera towards the talent at eye level. A visionary is going to find ways to do anything but that."

Another one concrete/operative suggestion where to, between else, search and how to maybe reach mojo as - many already here suggest - add of personality touch.

Thanks. Ask, exchange question and answers, and always say thanks for nice human answer as noble effort - (precondition for awakening truly "personal process and journey").

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1 minute ago, anonim said:

 @Matthew Hartman

"An operator is going to point his camera towards the talent at eye level. A visionary is going to find ways to do anything but that."

Another one operative suggestion where to search and how to maybe reach mojo as - many already here suggest - add of personality touch.

Thanks. Ask, exchange question and answers, and always say thanks for nice human answer as noble effort - (precondition for awakening truly "personal process and journey").

My friend, I'm not going to lie, what the hell did you just say? ?

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8 hours ago, sam said:

is the word mojo up for interpretation?  it already has a defintion. lets not change its etymology  in a single thread ?    

the op doesn't ask 'what' mojo is.

 to paraphrase he asks which cameras have mojo and does he need said cameras to get it.    

I would love to know 'what' mojo is, but I don't think anyone will be able to answer in detail, so in the absence of a detailed description I'm happy to try and approach it from a different direction, which is to ask where are the examples of it and what is it that we can describe?

My underlying motive for all this is to 'learn to see'.

I am relatively new to 'real' cinematography / editing / colour work (or compared to some of you I'm a complete noob!) and I don't yet really know what I like, and when I see something that looks nice I can stare at it but I just don't really know what I'm looking at.  Thus, all my questions.  I am also a very logical person and the inner voice that reacts to creative content is quieter, so I have to learn to listen to it, and when I do it's harder to understand the subtleties of what it is telling me.

Many people have made the very valid point that it's just a matter of putting in the work, and being organised: shoot, take notes, evaluate the result, analyse the notes; or pick something I like from a film and try and shoot it, dozens and dozens of times if necessary; and I would also add in others like find tutorials grading sample footage that is available and try to follow along.
This methodology is excellent, but it makes sense to combine the work of making your own discoveries with the wisdom and knowledge of others, which is what this thread is.  Since starting this thread I have shot, edited, and graded two ~1 minute long short films (about my fish - a well lit and reliable subject!) and done two other camera tests where I'm filming the same thing only changing one parameter then comparing the results, so I'm pushing forwards and learning things each time.

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 the word mojo is in the dictionary.... magical. sex appeal.   not to go into semantics.....but this definition is what I based my posts upon, hence the reference to Austin Powers, as this character is arguably one of the most well known examples of posessing mojo in popular culture.  your most recent post fleshes out what your looking for and where you are coming from a bit more than the original.  In light of this,  I think Oliver Daniels post most helpful.

 

i frequent eohd for the perspective and creativity that only youth + hunger brings.  for technical knowledge i would look elsewhere.  people here are still hashing out compresion, bit depth, etc... same topics were discussed and debated with sd long ago. google charles poynton for the foremost authority in regards to the technical aspect of digital imaging.  Liftgammagain is a great place to read about the thoughts,  techniques, and proper workflows of real working colorists, as well as Steve Shaw, another foremost authority.  hope this helps. 

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4 hours ago, kye said:

but I don't think anyone will be able to answer in detail

I can appreciate it that you want to get to the very bottom if this, and I wouldn’t want to dissuade you in your search. But one part of me wonders if you are forgoing the obvious?

To me, the term 'mojo', describes a kind of sexiness when it comes to images achieved via various equipment, techniques and heart described in this thread - and attached clip. And it's the kind of thing you know when you see it.

 

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