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"Hollywood Lighting" by Patrick Keating


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#21 Anna Biller

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 06:08 PM

Besides which: I looked at 500 DP reels recently, and almost none of them had anything you would call actually call "lighting" in them except on television commercials. The reels were dark, dark dark. No one, nothing was that visible. The range was light shadow to deep shadow. No key lights EVER. These DPs and directors obviously think that "dark" is going to provide them with a cool and interesting dark and deep and meaningful movie, just by virtue of the fact hat you can't see anything. So if you're complaining about using shadows as a gimmick, then complain about today's photography!


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#22 Albion Hockney

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 06:42 PM

Oh wow, so much to say!

 

David I really appreciate the practical side of the conversation you bring to the table, but I think much of these things need to be questioned....I understand there is a business at hand and that has implications, but it seems a good idea to ask "why is the business the way it is and is it problematic?". in this case with both points I think the bussiness is super problematic in both limiting artistic creativity and being inherently sexist

 

Gender Issues

I understand this is a big conversation so not to go to far down the road....Personally I think the whole of society is pretty **(obscenity removed)**ed up in this area and your right Anna,  I'm sure women ask to be lit that way... and I think your also right in saying its not sexist to treat women differnt from men....Women and Men will never be the same of course. But you have to question the root of why someone wants to be lit a certain way and why we do these things. It's hard to get away from the fact that this stuff has a root in thousands of years of a patriarchy and even if Women find agency in being sexy on camera....it still can be problematic. Anyways with that all said yea I think beauty lighting a women is super sexist and the film industry is super sexist and again agree with you Anna things seems to have gotten worse in a lot of ways.

 

In terms of diffusion David, yea we still use diffusion but 1/4 black pro mist is a lot differnt then the heavy diffusion of other times where could literally see a change shot to shot on screen when a pretty women was there.

 

Soft Lighting

Think of the word soft.....the lighting is litterally touching people softer its more subtle in appearance by its nature. Again bringing up Savides .....Harris knew how to use soft light to make images appear more realistic while still retaining stylistic charector (I suggest watching Birth, that is a well shot film!). As someone who shoots and spends a good amount of time thinking about light literally every day I walk around Anna I would say that the sun is not the "Most" natural source of light....it is one of many. When your inside your house in the day and the sun is not coming through the window the interior is being lit by sky light which is a huge soft source. I think in the real world people are often not in situations where a light is hitting them directly and because of the increased Dynamic range of our eyes we see them still as lit.....when you are looking at someone .....lets say in a lamp lit room and they are facing away from the lamp that light on there face is super super soft because its lit being bounced of adjacent walls.  Soft light is everywhere and I think very natural. No more or less then hard sources.

 

 

...on to this nervous system thing. You tottaly can change the meaning of archetypes ....we invented them and they are up for question! haha we will have to agree to disagree on this point I'm sure. I say question everything.....language is the most constructed thing of everything ...and even language is tied up with all sorts of political, gender, class  etc etc etcissues. you know Gondry made a really nice movie about Noam Chomsky with animation and such and does a really good job taking about how language is constructed I really recomend that. you may tottaly disagree but I think its a good watch either way.

 

 

ahh and the dark lighting. Dark is definitely in and trendy right now...I'm for sure guilty of it too I love to light dark.....and again I'd say that its use is usually intersting and not just to scare people in this classical sense. That said darkness in photography today I think has a lot to do with the fact for a long time hollywood and out technology told us we need to use a lot of light to make a movie so people are rebeling now that they can and trying to find new ways to make images. Also it should be said that realistic darkness is being better used in films then ever before.... sometimes in real life its dark man! you can't see much.....why shouldn't films try to repersent that reality.....and so often it can be used in beautiful meaninful ways.


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#23 Anna Biller

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 06:59 PM

Albion, I'm going to have to disagree with you here again and say that I am a woman and I  LOVE glamour and most of the other people I know who love glamour are WOMEN and GAY MEN, not straight men. There is a value to aesthetics outside of sexism, and this is where I depart from radical feminists. Straight men like to watch women with MAKEUP SMEARED, CRYING, SICK and SAD and UGLY and MAIMED and DECAPITATED and GROVELING and DIRTY if we look at how men like to depict women today in films (horror, porn, etc.) A face is where the soul is. Lighting  a woman's eyes and face is showing her as a subject. Having her fade into the background is taking away her importance as a subject, and subordinating it to the environment, which is how men today prefer to see women (subordinated). People with no historical context often think that lighting women for glamour was only about pleasing men, whereas in fact women used to be regarded as having a superior soul to men and men were often inspired by the beauty and placidity of a woman's features, which were allied with saintliness and goodness. 

 

The love of darkness is a MALE OBSESSION. Most of the modern techniques of lighting and cinematography feature MALE interests. Much cinematography today is sexist in its own way, in that's it's become so technical and special-effects-oriented and lame, and not about human subjects and stories. 

 

And no, you CAN'T change the meaning of archetypes. Any psychologist will tell you that. You can play with language but you can't change the way a person's body reacts to archetypal stimuli. 


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#24 Anna Biller

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 07:01 PM

Beautiful women were and are marketed just as much to women as to men, by the way. And it's not pathetic in any way for women to want to be beautiful. It's only pathetic in a world in which only MALE values and virtues are considered important. 


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#25 Albion Hockney

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 07:20 PM

its all constructed though! why don't men like glamour? because it wasnt sold to them and a part of there life since they were born ....and for a men to like glamour is to be feminint which is thought of as a negative....historically women have both been evil and saintly but in both roles they are objectified and stereotyped.

 

To say the darkness is intrinsically male is like saying black/darkness is intrinsically sinsiter and evil and white/light is intrinsically pure and good. Tell that to a person of color!

 

I don't think its pathetic for a women to want to be beautiful at all.....but I think it should be questioned....what is this beauty that is being looked for and why socially do I want it. In film it should really be considered because most of the times actresse's are commodities


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#26 Anna Biller

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 07:31 PM

Yes and actors are commodities too, and most filmmakers are male, and sexism and objectification are just as bad as they ever were, and just because women are lit to look less glamorous that changes nothing. If you like sports, should that be questioned? No, and neither should a woman liking glamour (or sports). Blackness and darkness are not intrinsically male, but males are the ones who seem obsessed with creating darkness in cinema (and all conventions in cinema). I'm going to engage in a stereotype and a bit of essentialism here: if women like to be lit and like to make movies where others are lit, it's because women respond to faces. That's not sexist, it's biological and has to do with a woman needing to read the expressions on her baby's face. A love of NOT seeing another person's face excites the limbic part of a man's brain that responds to the possibility of enemies or prey hiding in the shadows that he can overpower and kill.


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#27 Anna Biller

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 07:46 PM

Also you can take this "everything is constructed" thing too far. If you're going to question why a woman does anything, you have to question why men do anything, and that doesn't solve the problem either. Radical feminists try to even the score by insisting that gender is SO highly constructed that they actually believe that men wouldn't like looking at naked women unless they were shown pictures of naked women from childhood. So they discredit biology totally, and suggest that we don't share survival mechanisms intrinsic to very other species. 


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#28 Vadim Joy

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 04:00 PM

Great article, David. Thank you. 


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#29 Albion Hockney

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 10:35 PM

I think an interest in sports should be questioned.....male aggression and interest in sports is also a marketing game.  I think the Bio stuff is really interesting and I'm looking forward to learning more about that. From what I have read of evolutionary theory though alot of this stuff is very prelim ....alot was founded by men and just rreinforces stereotype so it all seems a little iffy... I'm in know means well read enough to say much more though.  As for the "radical feminists" I understand that you disagree with much of these ideas but not all "radical feminists" believe men are trained to like naked female bodies.... Getting back to movies though I think you can make a nice argument the thriller stuff and the crime films etc are a male thing of course ....but just the act of using darkness as a tool ....I donno about that.

 

As for glamour I think there is nothing intrinsically shallow or wrong about going after that and using it in films ...but you should be aware of all the baggage it comes with in using it I think. Which is why I personally like to try to redefine it a little hence the interest in the work of lubezki or someone who is trying to approach it differently then the status quo..... As someone who has shot commericals you gotta understand its a pretty big turn off to hear someone over your shoulder with no creative understanding of whats going on say "we really need more light on her face". I couldn't imagine lighting some scene with the script and collaberation with the director perfectly in line and then have to know that you need to make a womens face look a certain way for no reason other then that she is famous and has an image to uphold. Is that not a little silly?


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#30 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 01:35 AM

I understand the need to flatter an actress -- after all, it's not my face up there on the big screen (the audience should be thankful) -- I only object when I feel it is unnecessary.  

 

I recall having to light one actress in her 50's with a frontal key light to be flattering, and story and character-wise, it was justified too, her character had to be somewhat glamorous... only to have another actress in the same movie who was in her early 20's and had flawless skin and a beautiful face complain (mildly) that she wasn't getting the same lighting treatment as the older actress, which was a bit silly.  She could have held a flashlight under her chin for lighting and she still would have been gorgeous!  Her beauty allowed me to take a more naturalistic approach, which was also in keeping with the character and story, because she was meant to have that "girl-next-door" kind of attractiveness, not look like a model in a magazine.

 

Lighting women is a pleasant challenge and really the bread-and-butter work of the cinematographer, so I don't resent it, I enjoy it, as long as I feel that the lighting isn't working against the intent of the scene or that it doesn't feel completely illogical.  You see in movies all the time how cinematographers are flattering certain actresses with their lighting while still maintaining a natural look, it's only clear what they are doing to someone who knows what to look for.  Even Lubezki will use a soft frontal key light on an actress -- look at "Gravity", Sandra Bullock seems to be in rather soft frontal lighting more often than not, whether she is in space, in the space station while it explodes around her, or in a tiny capsule.  The skill comes in making that lighting seem logical and natural for the setting, but the general rules have always applied for lighting faces, raking light emphasizes skin texture, frontal light minimizes it, different directions of key light change the shape of the face, etc.


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#31 Anna Biller

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 10:42 AM

I watch A LOT of old movies, and the best roles ever made for women were in the 1930s. Those movies were glamorous, and they held those women up as goddesses - not in an icky way, but in the most respectful way. Those actresses were not only glamorous and beautiful, they were strong, proud, clever, resourceful, human, funny, and deeply good even when they were also wicked. Because of those movies I have come to associate glamour with everything a woman could ever want. Glamour was like a fantasy for women, where they could escape their difficult lives and watch these girls get to dress in satin and meet impossibly handsome men and outwit and charm everyone and go to the best places and eat the best food and learn hard life lessons at the same time. Those scripts were written by the best writers with great humanity, and the best lighting directors lit them and the best directors molded their acting, and they became something that no one ever gets to be except in a high glamour Hollywood movie. I think the world  lost something when women were toppled from their throne of glamour sometime in the 1960s. Of course I'm generalizing when I say that men are more aroused by darkness, but it's a terribly silly thing to say that glamour must be questioned as if there's something wrong with it, when glamour is an art, and art is all that's worth living for. But I just wanted to point out that some things are more visceral than cultural, and that to me a woman in white satin, beautifully  lit in black in white nitrate film is one of the most beautiful images in the world. I don't think that because of trendy politically correct notions that I should have to question that. Those women were like beautiful mothers to me, ideal mothers. Then when I grew up they were like ideal sisters. There are no female role models like that anymore.


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#32 Anna Biller

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 10:46 AM

Albion, you talk abut the "status quo" as if it were the status quo to light for glamour. I hardly think so! The status quo (outside of the largest commercial films) is to use as little light as possible to illuminate a subject.


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#33 Albion Hockney

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 12:30 PM

the status quo in all industries is to make women look beautiful in a classical sense. The most hilarious example is doves "real beauty" campagin which focus's attention on more "regular" looking people who are 1. still classically pretty just not glamorous models and 2. still emphasising a need to use beauty products. Do you not see what I mean by understanding the baggage that comes with "glamour" ....I mean you have to admit the industry as awhole (movies, fashion, beauty) is pretty **(obscenity removed)**ed up right now no? ....and creating idealzed images in cinema of beautfiful women only goes to support that right now. Your in a sense setting up this world where we value the beautfiul actress more then other's just because her body is such a way. What do you say to someone who is born looking "ugly" ....are they automatically a step behind? I mean that is terribly **(obscenity removed)**ed up. Sure I think some level of this is part of our world....if your a handsome guy you have a leg up....but men are valued very differently the level that exists of this for women is crazy. I do some documentary work and I have heard these stories from women with ED I mean something is just a little off in our society right now and I think some of this glamour stuff needs to be knocked down because it is harmful.

 

back to the deconstructionist thought...

The very concept of beauty and glamour is not one that can be locked down. that is to say people have been trying to define beauty since the begining of time and it is not a concept that can really be defined. Therefore it is very much worth questioning why we think certain things are beautiful today because much of the reason we think certain women are beautfiful has no biological end ....it is simply because society has taught us. For example in the 50s 60s women were much larger and today are much more skiny. So to say this kinda light that removes skin texture, this kinda women who looks like way, etc is beautful ....that is problematic and very exclusive .....only a certain group of skinny, mostly white, probably rich, etc, etc women are "glamorous"  and that is very very problematic....and to be straightforward ....bad for the world.


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#34 Anna Biller

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 12:55 PM

Well the beauty industry is an industry. Blame capitalism for it. I'm not too concerned with it though and I don't think it promotes too much harm. Taking away the beauty industry does not take away peoples' judgments about women and what they think they should look like. If you want to talk about harm, talk about the sex industry. My problem is in people making a big deal about glamorous images of women when there are so many images out there of women being raped and mutilated, that no one complains about.

 

I don't know where you get your statistics about women in the '50s and '60s. Women in the past were much thinner than today, as was the entire population. That was before the obesity epidemic.  The average size of women has gone from a size 8 to a size 14. People are bigger now because of another harmful industry, the fast food industry. That's also an industry that's much more harmful than the beauty industry. 

 

Most people like to look their best in a photograph - young, old, male, female, smooth, rough, white, black. That's not problematic. That's not sexist, racist, classist. That's just people wanting to be captured in the best possible way. If you're going to blame anyone, blame casting directors for their narrow choice of actresses and advertisers for their narrow choice of models. 

 

You go on and on with your deconstructionist thought, having no idea what the real issues for women are. Most women have no problem with glamour. 


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#35 Anna Biller

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 01:00 PM

But this thread is getting weighted down with anti-classical lighting approaches, when really it is a thread attempting to honor the diverse work of the greatest masters of cinema lighting that are detailed in Patrick Keating's wonderful book. 


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#36 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 01:04 PM

I tend to think of "glamour" as a specific form of beauty lighting, or flattering lighting, more slick & glossy.  

 

Flattering light for actors is very commonplace today, more in TV shows than features, and more with big name talent with power than average actors, so I'd agree that pretty people on the screen is and has always been the status quo, even in art films.  It's not like Terrence Malick cast average or ugly people to be his leads in "Tree of Life" or "To The Wonder" and he certainly put them often in very flattering light, albeit natural.  Or look at 1960's Swedish, French or Italian art movies, plenty of pretty faces there.  Audiences have always liked looking at attractive people, and there are many tricks to make them look more attractive that don't require all-out glamorization techniques.

 

It's sometimes annoying, contrary or distracting to the narrative, but for the most part, taking pleasure in viewing beauty has always been an aspect of art, whether it is a beautiful landscape, sunset, costume, or human face.

 

However, old-fashioned glamour is not the status quo in movies, not like in the classic studio system at least, because audience tastes & expectations require a slightly more realistic approach for many stories, you have to be a lot more subtle in how you are prettifying things.  If anything it has put even more pressure to hire attractive young actresses for things like historical dramas because you can't get away with always putting a strong key light over the lens, nor heavy diffusion.

 

Take a look at how a historical drama like "El Cid" was shot in the early 1960's by Robery Krasker ("The Third Man") -- Sophie Loren is almost consistently lit the same way throughout the film:

 

In a dungeon:

elcid4.jpg

 

In a crypt:

elcid5.jpg

 

Outdoors in sunlight:

elcid6.jpg

 

In a barn:

elcid7.jpg

 

At least there wasn't much diffusion applied, if any, unlike Jean Simmon's close-ups in "Spartacus".

 

Now we can argue over definitions and either say that that type of glamorization is no longer the status quo, or we can say that it merely has been modified to appear more believable but the goals are the same, to present actors in a manner that makes them more attractive than in real life or compared to other people.  I suspect that Anna would say the first and Albion would say the second.


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#37 Anna Biller

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 01:06 PM

I disagree that only skinny white women can be glamorous. ANYONE can be glamorous if dressed and lit properly, and everyone has the right to be glamorous if they desire. People also have the right to choose not to be glamorous, and in today's world that is a woman's choice, whereas it used to be a mandate. In the '50s a woman without makeup would be seen as crazy, but over half of the women I see on the streets are not wearing makeup and no one judges them for it.


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#38 Anna Biller

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 01:13 PM

No David, I agree that the second is more accurate. It's just that I myself prefer more overt glamour lighting techniques. But it's not just because the older techniques made women more beautiful  -  it's because they made objects more beautiful. In an old movie, a chair was glamorous. A frying pan was glamorous. And certainly a handbag was glamorous (look at Tippi Hedren's handbag a the beginning of MARNIE). This above all excites me, that interiors and  objects can be glamorous too. Yay! Glamour for all people and objects! Glamour for walls and architectural details! Glamour for windows and window dressings!


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#39 Anna Biller

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 01:18 PM

I was watching the movie THE BIG KNIFE the other day, and I almost cried when I saw the pattern the windowpanes were creating on the floor, and the other shadows created by the furniture and objects. The couch had its own special personality, with each edge a different shade of grey. That sort of organization in an image is so powerful emotionally and aesthetically. The clean lines of the perfect set design and the subtle shadings of the set made it so the eye never got tired watching that same set for an hour and a half. There was always something new to look at. It's maximal visual pleasure just through design. 


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#40 David Landau

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Posted 23 November 2014 - 11:39 PM

Great conversation here. I read the book as well, as well as Alton's, and Freddie Young's "Work of the Motion Picture Cameraman". There is a lot to be learned from the grand masters. Painters study the work of those that came centuries before them. Playwrights read Shakespeare. So it does seem odd that sometimes people who want to shoot films don't take stock in the wonderful work done by the great cinematographer's of the past. While the units and capture mediums have changed the concepts and ideas behind the work hasn't. What the audiences, directors and producers will accept has. What is also interesting is how far TV has come in its lighting and cinematography. I've been watching reruns of Columbo, and they aren't really lit that well compared to more modern shows like "Newsroom", "Breaking Bad", "Fargo" and of course David's wonderful work on "Smash". These are all different, but all have the feature film quality that old TV wasn't able to achieve. However, there have been a number of successful feature films that look almost more TV than they do movie in recent times. One can also see the influences of the old masters in movies such as "Hugo" and "War Horse". While digital capture has come a long way, it has reverted back to the way film was treated. We change lenses so we have to keep the "gate" clean and clean the lenses. The footage is raw and sent to a "lab". Everything old is new again.


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