The Look of Butterfly Effect – thematic black and white cinematography

black and white cinematography in 'The Butterfly Effect'

When entering discussions with The Human Example about his music video for Butterfly Effect, he shared with me his perspective on climate change, concluding with, “What we do today affects their world of tomorrow.” And he was referring to our children.

He wanted to invoke a sense of missing, of gone, of what’s left is only in our dreams and imagination, but even that is limited because as children, their experience is limited. 

He shared his love for black and white cinematography with me and suggested we chart a course to achieve a look that is both authentic and thematic. I agreed immediately. We shared references and did some tests. And I created a black and white LUT that we used on set to make sure our lighting ratios and exposure were within the parameters of our final look.

Our primary lighting sources were large and soft. We dropped 12×12 rags of diffusion in front of 2K tungsten fresnels—which were often pulled back up to 20 feet behind the diffusion to enhance the softness. We used 4×4 floppy flags and 12×12 black rags to help control the spread of the soft light. Haze was used to envelop the themes of missing, gone, neglected, polluted, dreamt, remembered, and imagined.    

In post, I used the LUT as a starting point for the color grade and overlayed some 4K scans of 35mm film grain. With a scan of just one type of film stock, I was able to fine-tune the final result to further augment the themes and authenticity of a black and white look.

“The Human Example” is an emerging LA-based artist. Butterfly Effect was produced and released pre-pandemic as part of a compilation of LA based label/collective—Tone and Manor.

black and white cinematography in 'Butterfly Effect' black and white music video frame grab 'Butterfly Effect' black and white music video frame grab 'Butterfly Effect' black and white music video frame grab 'Butterfly Effect' black and white music video frame grab 'Butterfly Effect'

Related:

The Look of Harmonia; making an experimental film
The look of Separated, a miniature short film about adventure and romance
The Big Meet – a film noir short film

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