Jump to content


Photo

THe Importance of Lighting


  • Please log in to reply
4 replies to this topic

#1 Lee Maisel

Lee Maisel
  • Sustaining Members
  • 67 posts
  • Student

Posted 02 June 2006 - 10:01 PM

Hi!

So, other than film, and maybe setting moods. or for "effect" what is the importance or purpose of artificial lighting? I mean why not just use natural light for a natural look? I notice I'll see something in production with huge-ass lights, and then the final product looks like natural light! What the heck??
  • 0

#2 Stuart McCammon

Stuart McCammon
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 139 posts
  • Producer
  • 95010

Posted 02 June 2006 - 10:35 PM

Hi!

So, other than film, and maybe setting moods. or for "effect" what is the importance or purpose of artificial lighting? I mean why not just use natural light for a natural look? I notice I'll see something in production with huge-ass lights, and then the final product looks like natural light! What the heck??


Short question with a big answer - perhaps the most sensible thing would be to test your theory and shoot some natural light and see if you think it looks like the natural light you see on the screen. If you can get good results using natural light, you may just revolutionize the film industry)
  • 0

#3 Chris Cooke

Chris Cooke
  • Sustaining Members
  • 246 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Lethbridge, AB Canada

Posted 03 June 2006 - 12:03 AM

Filmmaking is illusion. Lighting is at the forefront of that illusion. The cinematographers job is to visually support or enhance any particular story. Lighting can create mood, it can hide things and reveal things, it can make a woman more beautiful or an antagonist more ominous. Shaping, moulding and enhancing light should be a passion of every cinematographer.
These are some examples of the importance of lighting:

A man walks up some old rickety stairs into an attic. As he enters he sees a box, everything in the room is dark, the man is silhouted against a window where a slash of moonlight enters and strikes the box.

A man walks up some old rickety stairs into an attic. As he enters he flicks on a light switch. The room is flooded with light as we see boxes, old chairs and paintings.
This is the exact same scene as the previous one, the only thing that changed was the lighting but did you notice how it made you feel completely different than the previous scene?

What if you want a particular T-stop and use a particular film stock when shooting a night scene lit only by moonlight. Let's say it's T4 on 200t film (because of DOF and apparent grainyness). You're not gonna get that with moonlight alone or even a 1000w open face light from home depot. You're gonna need an 18k HMI on a condor from 100 feet away for your establishing wide shot and then maybe use a 5k HMI for the closeups.

What if you don't want that harsh toppy sunlight for a day exterior when your at the pinacle of a love story and your lead characters are about to have their big moment of realizing that their meant for each other (I know, cheesy but you get the point). You're going to need a big 20'x20' butterfly to diffuse the sunlight and then use that as your backlight. Bring in an 18k HMI to fill out another 20'x20' frame to key your lead actress and then your going to have to switch everything around to get the reverse angle of your lead actor. This will look more natural than if you shot it with just sunlight because the sun is always changing.

There are many variables that a cinematographer has to think about for every camera, lens, lighting package, operator, focus puller, director and most importantly story. To me, great lighting can make nearly any format look good but a good format (35mm, etc.) can not make poor lighting look great.
  • 0

#4 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 15943 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 03 June 2006 - 02:51 AM

The main reason DP's will recreate natural lighting on a massive scale using big lights is that natural light doesn't stay the same all day long -- indoors, the sun can move off of a window within several minutes, or a cloud can pass in front of the sun.

Often we are shooting a multi-page scene with coverage that will take several hours to shoot, maybe even into the evening, yet it all has to look like it was shot at the same time of day. So you need to create a natural look that is "frozen" in time at the moment you like the way it looks.

Also, we may be creating a natural look that is not actually how the location really looks at that time, mainly because we need to create a mood that is correct for the scene, but it can also be because some scenes are time-of-day specific in the script. We have to make a dreary overcast day look warm and sunny, or make it look like sunset at noon or midnight.

On my last film, I tried to use more natural light but it was a nightmare to deal with because it constantly changed on me while I was trying to cover the scene, and then it would die on me completely. Right now I'm in Scandinavia on my last day here and the sunset light hangs around for hours -- but on my last shoot in New Orleans, I couldn't even shoot three takes of the same shot and have the sunset light last, let alone get any more coverage in that light -- because when you are closer to the Equator, the sun drops like a rock.

The other time when using natural light is impossible is stage work, or shooting an interior at night for a day scene. So you need to learn how to recreate natural light.

You also seem to dismiss the importance of creating the right mood with lighting, which is a cinematographer's PRIMARY job in the first place, whether that means using natural light, recreating natural light, or creating a more artificial theatrical look.
  • 0

#5 Stuart McCammon

Stuart McCammon
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 139 posts
  • Producer
  • 95010

Posted 04 June 2006 - 07:59 PM

I think this guy is on to something, I mean, why even use cameras or film? We have all heard the phrase, "Truth is stranger than fiction," and people have events in their ordinary lives that are just as dramatic as anything in a film. This kind of fresh outlook could really change the world)
  • 0




The Slider

rebotnix Technologies

CineTape

CineLab

Cadrage Directors Viewfinder

K5600 Lighting

Lemo Connectors

NIBL

Visual Products

System Associates

Robert Starling

Ritter Battery

Zylight

Rig Wheels Passport

Abel Cine

Aerial Filmworks

Paralinx LLC

Pro 8mm

Glidecam

Cinelicious

CineTape

Robert Starling

Lemo Connectors

Aerial Filmworks

The Slider

NIBL

Pro 8mm

Ritter Battery

Glidecam

System Associates

CineLab

K5600 Lighting

Zylight

Abel Cine

Rig Wheels Passport

Cadrage Directors Viewfinder

Paralinx LLC

Cinelicious

rebotnix Technologies

Visual Products