A Stark Reality

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Rove, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    A recent viewing of Dallas reveals how one minor change can alter the look and feel of a series forever. Bradford May's photography in Season 7 (per DVD Release) is exceptional until there was a sudden change in Director of Photography, namely Robert Caramico. Looking at the 3 images from left to right the first two show how rich and beautifully framed Dallas was filmed. Then Bradford was released and Robert was installed. The last image is so blindingly striking I sometimes feel I have to put my sunglasses on when viewing "End Game."

    Dallas.jpg

    Does anyone know why the sudden switch?
     
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  2. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Very good observation, Rove.
    And I'll back up what you are saying from the viewpoint of somebody who lives in Texas:

    Look at the first picture-- Bradford May captures the "feel" of Texas. Notice the small details such as the lumps under the blanket. This is no studio backlot, with a perfectly smooth area to lay out the blanket. This is an actual working ranch, with imperfections such as lumps of grass under the blanket.

    Look at the second picture-- again, Bradford captures the "feel" of a wealthy Texas home. Notice the shading, the indirect light on the side of the spiral staircase, and the hardwood floor. These are things you might not notice one by one, but they combine to give the feel of a real home, with real people living in it.

    Now, on to the third picture-- this has an artificial feel to it. You can easily imagine that if they pull the camera back a few feet, it will expose the studio lighting overhead. I think if Barbara Bell Geddes lost her balance and bumped into the wall, then it would knock the wall over and you could see them filming "The Price is Right" on the other side.

    I don't know the reason for the sudden switch, but you did a fine job figuring out exactly when the changes became noticable.
     
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  3. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Artificial is an understatement. The lighting is blinding. I was aware Bradford had been let go but now it's obvious. My initial reaction was I had accidentally pressed a button on the remote thereby changing the coloring on my television...not so. What a shame he wasn't there to film Miss Ellie descend those famous stairs. The lighting is so bright she nearly blends into the wallpaper. It's too harsh.
     
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  4. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Here's how much lighting can make a difference:

    Look at the second picture, the one with J.R in it. Look at the staircase and notice that it appears strong and solid. Now look at the third picture. The same exact staircase railing looks flimsy in the harsh lighting.

    In fact, when you look at the third picture, it almost looks as if Barbara Bel Geddes is holding up the railing!
     
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  5. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Interesting observation. I am sure that the fact that they filmed the first scene outdoors helped though. But it's obvious that Bradford May had a great eye for details and depths in the image.
     
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  6. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Yes! And that's why the early years are so enjoyable. They are shot on location and you just can't reproduce that on a sound stage.
     
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  7. garry

    garry Soap Chat Member

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    D.F: BRADFORD MAY JOINED AS DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY FOR ONE YEAR, GIVING THE SHOW A VERY CINEMATIC LOOK. THE LOOK IS VERY POPULAR WITH THE DALLAS FANS TODAY. DID YOU LIKE IT?

    DP: I did. I did like it. However, that was the only year he was on the show. I liked it because of the difference and the richness that it gave. But I think Lenny Katzman was probably right on insisting that we go back to the standard, wide shot, medium and close up, because what you wanted to see were those characters. You didn't want to see a director's idea of them. You wanted to see J.R talk, Sue Ellen talk, Pamela talk. You wanted to see them. And it was an entirely different show.

    Brad could have done wonderfully on Knots Landing for example. Because there, you had a lot of freedom to pretty well do anything you wanted. You had different looks there and different styles and that was all acceptable within the context of the show. Dallas was, face it; it was a cartoon.

    David Paulsen
    Dallas Writer/Producer
     
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  8. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    In this regard Lenny was wrong. Dallas by Season 7 had grown into something else. It deserved that cinematic look because it had become event television. Bradford had given Dallas and its characters warmth. Lenny's insistence they return to the previous formula gave the series a coldness, something I personally didn't like.
     
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  9. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    And yet many of those shots were indeed on a soundstage -- yet they look "real" as if shot on location. (The exterior shots for early in the season of course were shot in Texas).

    Cinematography can be sooooo important, psychologically. The year Bradford May filmed DALLAS he rarely used the "flat lighting" which Katzman preferred (Aaron Spelling was the same way) in which studio lights flood every corner of the set, making it look exactly like what it is: a studio set.

    But Katzman saw DALLAS as a cartoon, and seemed to refuse to see what his show had matured into by 1983. What the viewers loved about the look, Katzman hated. (The actresses supposedly complained that May's realistic side-lighting was less flattering in close up).

    But May's camerawork gave the show a bigness it had earned by that point, and it's a shame not everyone agreed. It makes one wonder how DALLAS might have fared had May stayed (although he had directorial ambitions, and likely would have left anyway, if not necessarily as quickly.)

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]


    Instead, Caramico stayed for the remaining 7 years of the show, flat-lighting everything as Katzman demanded, later shooting sitcoms.

    Sometimes I wish Katzman himself had left again after ~1988.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
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  10. pete lashmar

    pete lashmar Soap Chat Fan

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    I got to Endgame today on my re-watch and it really is so distracting from the rest of the season - so bright, so bleached out and just looks dreadful.

    Seems it was another poor decision by the execs - "sod the audience, we'll do what we want".
     
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  11. Justine

    Justine Soap Chat Fan

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    Nice observations- I haven't picked up on it before, but it's one of the many reasons I'm overdue for a re-watch.
     
  12. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Funny, I started to re-watch DALLAS several weeks ago, but ceased just after 'Who Shot JR?' concluded. I just couldn't sit through all that Clint Ogden/Alex Ward/Mitch Cooper/John Scott WOMP-WOMP! stuff from the series' "biggest" season.

    Maybe I'll pick up again with the lady in the pool. I like continuity, as a rule, but nothing's ever prefekt.
     
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  13. Justine

    Justine Soap Chat Fan

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    Yeah, I understand what you mean... when I think back, I only really enjoyed the first (and last) few episodes of season 4.
     
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  14. Taylor Bennett Jr.

    Taylor Bennett Jr. Soap Chat Addict

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    it's sad, but I think Jim Davis's illness took a lot of the energy out of the season. Of course, a vital Jock wouldn't have helped with the dire Alex and Clint, etc. etc.

    I thought it was still good through the period where Bobby was president of Ewing Oil and let early success get to his head while a deeply frustrated JR schemed to regain his position, but by the time Leslie Stewart came around, it really started to get tedious.

    The WOMP-WOMP music was kind of interesting and creepy in the direct aftermath of JR's shooting, but wore out its welcome way, way before they went back to custom-written scores. Has it ever been explained somewhere why they used only *one* score during the strike? Wouldn't there have been more stock music available to choose from?
     
  15. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    I've heard other Lorimar shows like KNOTS and FLAMINGO ROAD also used it at the time in places. I don't know. I thought DALLAS shouldn't have used it passed "The Prodigal Mother".
     
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