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how important is lighting?


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#1 justin romanos

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 11:32 AM

well i have started to make a movie, the script is done, it took a couple months, i have the JVC GY-HD110u and i have a Tungsten lighting kit, but i was wondering, how important is the lighting? can i do without one? will it look good or not? thanks in advanced
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#2 Patrick McGowan

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 02:00 PM

Are you the D.P., or are you a director?

If you are the D.P. think about this: How do you make things look strong photographically? That's another way of looking at it. What can you do to make your film/video look more professional? Lighting allows you to create moods, augment the look of your actors, or focus an audience's attention on certain aspects of the frame. Those are just a few examples. Have you ever compared the look of a photoflood to a normal incandescent bulb? You could white balance in video but there is a certain light characteristics that come from using a photoflood. There are characteristics of light that come from every type of film light you can use.
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#3 justin romanos

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 02:31 PM

i am the D.P. and my movie takes place in a school, yesterday i was testing out shots with and without lighting and i didn't see too much of a difference, but also what i noticed is that without the lighting, and with my current white balance set (3000 k - 3200 k) it has this blue look to it, which im kind of going for, its a somewhat depressing movie, so i think it captures to mood fine, its just i wanted to know if lighting is always needed, of coarse im going to be using lighting for some interior and exterior shots, but im asking if i need it all the time.
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#4 Dominic Case

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 07:53 PM

Naturally you need light. Your question simply asks whether available light will make the shot look good enough.

This depends entirely on what available light you have, and what mood you want to impart in each shot, and in the film as a whole.

For example if you are shooting interiors in a school, it's possible that the existing lighting will be very soft overhead lighting from flouros - or maybe from large windows. WHile you might have enough light to get a good exposure, does the picture look interesting? If you are doing a close-up for example, would the face look more interesting with stronger light and shade? Would that help to see the actor's expression?

If you are shooting exteriors in bright sunlight, can you see the actors' faces clearly? If they are in shade, you may need fill lighting (or just a white reflector).

You don't really need a camera to see what effect additional lighting would have (though seeing the shot on a screen or viewfinder does help). Just try putting a light on the side of someone's face, bring it round to the front, light their head from behind , move the light closer and further away, use it as a fill opposite the window. Just see what it does to the look of the entire shot.
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#5 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 08:57 PM

yesterday i was testing out shots with and without lighting and i didn't see too much of a difference...


Sounds to me you need to work on developing a more discerning eye for lighting. The differences you described would be a huge deal for most DP's who've been around a while.

Get onto some sets, and see how other DP's work. For instance, let's say a scene takes place next to a window, and available light from outside may seem quite attractive and work fine for the scene. But then, all of a sudden the DP sets up a 4-bank Kinoflo above or on the side to give the illusion that the daylight is having a more wrapping effect, and it's even more gorgeous.

Lighting is essential...by the way.
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 04:56 AM

You're going to be limited on what you can do, it's a fact and you'll just have to deal with it, BUT that doesn't mean you can't make what you CAN do look good. Make the most of what you have. Augment it with what you can get cheap, Chinese lanterns, ambient lighting fixtures, gel, bead-board and tinfoil on cardboard reflectors. AND get creative. Eventually you'll get more lights so for right now learn to use what you have, as well as you can. It'll be worth the effort. Oh and no, especially with video, you don't need to necessarily light ALL the time, sometimes you need just reflectors and sometimes God does it for you, just make sure you can see what you need to see in the frame and there is nothing distracting from that. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 12 October 2007 - 04:57 AM.

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#7 Lars Zemskih

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 04:58 AM

my current white balance set (3000 k - 3200 k) it has this blue look to it, which im kind of going for, its a somewhat depressing movie, so i think it captures to mood fine, its just i wanted to know if lighting is always needed, of coarse im going to be using lighting for some interior and exterior shots, but im asking if i need it all the time.


I'm not a D.P, but I've worked with some that really utilized and were very good with natural light, adding just a few touches with when needed. And I usually liked that, because some really overdo do it with a lot of lights and the set-ups usually take much longer when all the D.P relies on is his own lights. As Dominic also pointed out, it depends exactly what you can get, of course it wouldn't make sense to put up a small light in a bright daylight usually (but it also depends). So if you don't have many options, no, you don't need lights all the time to have a decent picture.

Light reflectors are really good outside.

The other thing is how exactly are you testing all of this? If you say there is not much difference that you see when applying lights, do you judge by camera's LCD? Because especially with an untrained eye you don't see much difference in it at first, but it might make a huge difference once you see it on the screen or proper monitor.

Also be careful with white balancing it blue, because usually want WB to be proper on white, so in post you have more control over it. As if you white balance it to a different color you can't change that much in post. Later you can just make your whites to be blue. You can pre-visualize with different WB, but shoot on a proper one.

Edited by Emile Rafael, 12 October 2007 - 05:00 AM.

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#8 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 05:05 PM

For a movie look it is one of the most important elements. For a film look its not important.
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#9 Douglas Sunlin

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 02:52 PM

For a movie look it is one of the most important elements. For a film look its not important.

What's the distinction?
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#10 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 11:03 PM

What's the distinction?


well, I know i will get lynched for saying this but:

FILM look is simply what an image would look like if it were shot on a film camera, regardless of lights or anything else except frame rate (usualy 24fps), gamma, color curves etc..

MOVIE look is what most people associate with anything that they have seen in the theatires, since it is in a controlled setting (usualy) and can be manipulated by lighting and other stuff.

Example, if your were to look some shots of a guy skiing that was shot on 16mm (i am thinking of warren miller films), you would think "that was shot on film." If you looked at a shot from a scripted drama (or anything shot on film) in a studio with lighting and such, you wuld probobly think "that was shot on film, but i wonder how they made it look so cool!!!???"

Thats my take on the whole film vs video look. I know alot of the others here will dissagree but if you think about it (and can understand how i wrote that) I think you will agree.
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#11 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 11:40 AM

To add to my previous post, if you shot something that was lit just right on regular NTSC video (say with a XL1s or GL2), it would be possible to make it look like a movie.
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#12 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 01:29 PM

Some very good points have already been made that I won't retread. If I'd add anything it would to paraphrase another DP (name escapes me at the moment...sorry).

Anyway, there is a difference between LIGHTING a shot and just ILLUMINATING the set for enough exposure. Of course having enough light is important so that your film stock is exposed or your video image isn't too dark or muddy. But light does more than just expose the recording medium. It can enhance existing light or you can use it to create a brand new reality that doesn't really exist on set that day.

Walk into any room with a window and flip on the wall switch to see what "reality" is. Now cover the window completely and kill the room light. With a completely dark room you've got a "clean slate" to light any way you'd like. You could make it dim and creepy with some dim directional and colored lights (and maybe add some smoke for effect) or you could hang a lot of industrial fluorescents to create an office look. Or maybe you want to create a romantic mood so you light up some real candles and then add a little "fill light" with a warm soft source bounced off the ceiling. Or maybe you need that "Blair Witch" single flashlight in the face look.

The possibilities and variations are endless. Instead of letting "reality" force your story into a specific look, your goal is to shape and alter reality to fit the requirements and creative desires of the Director and yourself. Do you NEED to add your own lights to an existing environment? No. Should you? Probably.
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