What's the best correct height for a key light?
Posted 14 August 2006 - 07:03 PM
about 12 feet high. When they do a location shoot they put their Lowell lights on stands up about
8 feet or so. They ddidn't seem to have any opinion on the height question but I know that height
matters- nose shadows and dark eye sockets - and they seem pretty sure about the key being 45
degrees to the talent.
Also, I saw a film director interviewed on the Charlie Rose show and because he used to do theater
lighting and D.P., Charlie jovially asked him what he thought of the show's lighting and the director
said well, his (the director's) key light could be a little higher.
Is there a most desirable height for a key light?
Posted 14 August 2006 - 08:02 PM
From a creative point of view, it just depends on the face and the mood you want to create. Some women look better with a higher key light because it throws their neck and underside of the chin into shadow, but others don't look good that way. Some people have such deep-set eyes that the lights have to be fairly eye-level or lower, unless the skull-like lighting effect works dramatically (that's how James Wong Howe lit Burt Lancaster in "Sweet Smell of Success" -- Lancaster wore eyeglasses and the key light was very toppy to make his face more skull-like and menacing because you couldn't see his eyes as well.)
Posted 14 August 2006 - 10:24 PM
Also keep in mind that along with height, distance matters. In other words, to keep the same shadow angles you need to go higher with the light as you go farther away with it (and vice versa).
Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:08 PM
For interviews I find that, like a movie, there is not and should be not be a set formula for lighting. One of our competing stations has taught all their photogs that they should take 2 omnis, put tuff-spun on the barn doors and then put those as far away as possible (sometimes more than 10 feet on 300-500 watt bulbs) Then they place the subject just below a bank of overhead floros in the ceiling. One of their photogs asked me once why I was placing a light behind the subject. Formula lighting could only work adequatley if there is no natural light in the rooms.
The best aproach to lighting is to work with what you get naturally. If you have only 1000-1500 watts of light you can throw, you really can't overpower natural light. 9 times out of 10 if I am in an office, I end up gelling CTB or 1/2 CTB and use the windows as either a key or backlight, depending on the frame I am after. Light placement is usually a reaction to the shape of the face combined with the look you are going for. Some faces are softer, allowing for harder light to be used, meaning that the window can be a backlight because you can get enough punch from lightly diffused light. With a harder face you would have to diffuse the light more, meaning less output. You can't usually up the wattage, since most shooters only have a small kit with them, and popping a circut breaker is no fun (I blew one in a computer lab at a job fair. very embarrasing. I forgot to account for the 10 computers running off the same circut.)
I like to spend a few seconds looking at and walking around a room before I light it. What lights are in the room? Are there any problem lights that need to be turned off. What is the best background availible, given the light? What do I want my lights to do. Somtimes I set only a key, sometimes only fill. Sometimes I set a key, fill and backlight. Also you can find objects in the room to help shape lighting. I am a huge fan of bouncing light of a finnished wood surface for fill. Something about the color looks very natural and apealing, moreso than 1/2 CTO.
If you walk the scene a bit, you can get a sense of the 3-D space you need to translate into 2D. With enough practice you can look at a scene and use your minds eye to project several different lighting methods before you start to set up. Once you get a rough placement then you fine tune each light to get the specific effect you want. Just placing a light 45 to talent doesnt mean its the right lighting for that person and location, and teaching people that leads to the many misconceptions that most ENG shooters I know have.
Posted 15 August 2006 - 03:24 AM
Posted 15 August 2006 - 04:10 PM
I think the 'rules' you listed are only aplicable to they 'typical' individual. By which I mean woman tend to have softer faces and men tend to have harder jaw structers. But if you come upon a man who has a more femenine face (or you want to play up their feminine facial features) you can light acordingly. I dont think that light can ever be to gender specific. As steven tyler said 'Dude looks like a lady, so light him like a lady' (well I made that last part up)
Posted 15 August 2006 - 06:13 PM
some and people just seem to throw them up on the stands and then the D.p. comes over and shoots.
I've never heard anybody talk about the height.
I'm going to check out that Burt Lancaster movie.
Posted 15 August 2006 - 09:31 PM
I'm going to check out that Burt Lancaster movie.
Here's a really tiny frame I found online:
Posted 15 August 2006 - 10:20 PM
For men, I try to pull the key around to maybe 45 degrees from the lens depending on how "moody" I want to make it. If they are wearing glasses that reflect, the light goes higher on the stand. Otherwise, having it just slightly higher than lens height seems to work out for most generic situations.
For women, I drag the light around so that they are essentially looking in line with the stand. That evens the light out across the face. With younger women, I pull the light up slightly higher...maybe 12 inches over the lens height. For older women, I lower it to just over the lens height.
I use Chimeras whenever I can, but if I have a very difficult situation where I have to control the light off the background completely, I'll just drop some 216 or Opal on the unit and maybe fill in with something smaller on a dimmer to take the curse off the harder light.
I flag the key off the background as much as possible so I can hopefully do what I want back there. It's not always easy, but I try.
That's my formula anyway. It works.