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lighting a face... advices ?


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#1 pascal Boyer

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 01:33 PM

Hello ,
can you give me some advices for lighting this actor face? I am looking for a flattering and glamorous feeling. Where should the key light come from ? I'll be using classic soft for diffusion .

http://i95.photobuck...rt/DSC01653.jpg
http://i95.photobuck...rt/DSC01665.jpg

Thank you
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#2 Christopher Arata

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 01:48 PM

It all depends, there are many variables. We don't know what your camera angle will be, what kind of scene it is, is it interior or exterior, day or night? Just lighting a face is more of a still photography thing. For Cinematography we want to light thee entire scene. You should incorporate your actors lighting accordingly.
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#3 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:19 PM

For Cinematography we want to light thee entire scene. You should incorporate your actors lighting accordingly.

This all depends on your technique. Especially if you're using shallow DOF, there is no need to light for the scene...only the subject. I will agree that there is no hard fast rule to lighting actors, you should at least give some pointers. I will give a stab at some basic lighting techniques in my (albeit crude) windows paint diagrams below. (These are techniques I have used and liked the results.)

light_tutorial_1.jpg

light_tutorial_2.jpg

light_tutorial_3.jpg

Hope this gives you some ideas.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:24 PM

With a face that good who needs diffusion!


Seriously, though, lighting should be based on scene content, IMHO. For her, something soft and subtle for a key, and a nice harder back for seperation might just do the trick.


Forget filters on the lens unless you want the whole shot diffused.
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#5 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:27 PM

Seriously, though, lighting should be based on scene content, IMHO.


Adrian, I love to have these debates with you...remember the shallow DOF one? I will bring that back and ask you...if you use shallow DOF, what is the purpose of lighting for the scene when you just blur it out? I've always wondered this but never asked so here is your chance to enlighten me... :lol:
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:32 PM

Well, the point being is what type of "blob," you want. Now not all out of focus areas are un-recognizable. Often you'll be meshing that in with wides in which there is better focus on the BG, so you need to carry continuity.
Other times perhaps you want to suggest a time, or a place with a color splash on the wall.
There are a lot of variables, of course, and sometimes you're using shallow DoF for story and budget reasons in which case you might not light the background.
or often you'll be de-lighting the background to keep it from distracting, like a bright lamp right behand a pretty girl on shallow DoF is now a bright ball of "what the F is that!" so we dim it down, or switch wattages, so it's still there, and gives a nice gradation to the scene or the like.


Im always thrilled to talk with you Mat.

Any more super-8 footage on the way? Always enjoy seeing it though don't always comment. I was thinking about getting a S8 cam one of these days; if i have enough $$ left over from the HD camera this fall, I might just do it!
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#7 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:42 PM

Im always thrilled to talk with you Mat.


The pleasure is all mine, Adrian.

Any more super-8 footage on the way? Always enjoy seeing it though don't always comment. I was thinking about getting a S8 cam one of these days; if i have enough $$ left over from the HD camera this fall, I might just do it!

I shot my test roll for my upcoming short, the one I mentioned got the 85 Wratten turned on before the shoot. I'm not going to pay for transfer on that one (even though some color correction will take care of it.) I'm going to shoot the short film on July 26th, mail off for processing the next day, and as soon as I get the film back, I'm shipping it off to Debenham film transfer as soon as I get the stock back. I'm going to do the rush processing so I should have everything back by hopefully the first week of August. I will be posting some grabs of the shoot, although I won't be putting up any footy since some of the fest I'm going to try to enter have probs with that.

Don't quote me on this but I MAY possibly have some things in the works for a feature funding for next year. I have a feature script that might just lock in some local investors. If so, I really want to shoot on Super 16. I was thinking about asking you to DP if that does come to fruitation...you have a S16 camera right? For my current project, Jason Joseffer is my DP. If I like his work, I may ask him back but I don't think he has S16 gear and I'm going to be on a thin budget for the feature if I get the funding. If you want to talk more about rates, etc, we can get that out of the way now just on the chance I get funding.
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:46 PM

Mat, I'd be thrilled to come out and shoot for you. And i'm also looking forward to the grabs. Good luck with the feature. I do have a S16mm package, Arri SR3 with prime lens set and matte box/trimmings.
Don't worry about rate and the like, we can figure that all out when the time comes.
Drop me an e mail whenever you'd like. Adrian.Sierkowski at yahoo dot com!

Best of luck. I suppose my answer fulfilled your question.
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#9 pascal Boyer

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 06:11 AM

Thanks , my concern is her chickbones can i light fom above ?
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 06:22 AM

I try to keep her key, for her close up, a little above, but not too much. give a nice soft glow to her face. But that's just me.

It depends on if you want to highlight her bones, hide them, hide wrinkles, exaggerate them.
Normally, for a woman beauty shot, your key should be as close to camera axis as possible, giving a flat light on the face, then use a bit of fill/rim.

Edited by Adrian Sierkowski, 14 July 2008 - 06:24 AM.

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#11 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 09:58 AM

She's gorgeous - you can light here anyway you want and it'll look good.

I would try to pick out that wonderful nose she has by being just slightly off angle to get the shape - it looks very regal and greek godess-y.
Also, don't be afraid to shoot slightly from low - there's a "rule" or myth that you can't shoot women from low angles and get good results. This is completely untrue. Many female stars/models gave gotten this into their head, so you need to fight this paranoia.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 10:54 AM

It's a great nose...

A young face like that, not much you can do wrong. Keeping the key a little higher to get a nose & chin shadow would be nice, since she doesn't have bags under her eyes to worry about.
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#13 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 04:02 PM

BTW - that wide is taken in Montmartre, Paris isn't it?
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#14 pascal Boyer

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 06:24 AM

BTW - that wide is taken in Montmartre, Paris isn't it?


Correct ;) , so if i understood i can light freely and should put the key high . What exactly did you meant with :
"I would try to pick out that wonderful nose she has by being just slightly off angle to get the shape ."
No frontal lightning ?
What is the best way to enhance her hair ? Direct fresnel light ? Readhead with chimera ? Or a fresnel bounced & another one direct?
Thank you for all these advices !!
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#15 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 08:50 PM

Off angle with your composition for the nose, not necessarily the light. But for beauty light, frontal always works. This is also a good thing for hair - backlighting hair with hard sources can make it look frizzy and unkept. Reflecting nice big soft sources into the hair from the sides or top can work, but it's a bit more elaborate.

As for what front light to use it's entirely up to you. A harder source creates a more flashlight, fashion look (look up Helmut Newton). A bold statement, but normally not very filmic. A softer front light is less in your face. But if you want to emulate a more filmic light, front light should probably be avoided altogether.
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#16 Walter Graff

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 10:32 AM

The old-school gaffers who taught me my trade always taught me that women deserve to be lit as soft as possible and from as head on as possible, not dissimilar to how still portraits for women are often done. Looking at some of the films these guys lit with some of the great female actors I can see it's true. Having taken on that attitude I can see from my experience that it is generally true. For me an obie, bounce card, large source hea don is about nirvana when it comes to a women.

As I've linked to before, this is my take on making women look glamorous:

http://www.bluesky-web.com/soft.html
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 10:50 AM

It's true and it isn't... some faces become "boring" when lit frontally. Now maybe some women want to look generic and boring, all their features reduced to two eyes and a mouth... but I prefer lighting, when possible, that allows some of the individual character of the face to get through.

It's pretty basic. Frontal lighting reduces shadows, and shadows reveal lines in the skin and bone structure. If the light is frontal enough, it starts to matter less and less if it is soft or not (a ring light around the lens is not a particularly large source, but it is so frontal as to make the light shadowless even if it isn't the softest of sources.) A softer light has the advantage of producing softer shadows on the face, so if the light can't be dead-frontal, it matters less due to the soft nature of the light.

The question is whether you want to reduce shadows on the face or not. As a woman gets older and her skin is less than perfect, and she gets bags under her eyes, a sagging neckline, etc. then generally they prefer frontal lighting to hide all of that. If the face is young, the skin is good, then you have more leeway for off-angle or harder lighting that emphasizes some features over others.

For example, if a face is very round, then side-lighting can make it look thinner. Conversely, if the face is very long, then frontal light can make it look rounder. Some faces look nicer when the light is eye level or even a little lower while others look nicer when the key light is slightly higher than the eyes (Marlene Deitrich's famous lighting was fairly high, to emphasize her cheekbones. Lillian Gish always wanted a low key light to get rid of the bags under her eyes -- she always told the cameraman: "Raise the camera and lower the key!")

Some faces also look nicer when the light is high enough so that the chin shadows part of the neck.

But generally, the more "problematic" a face, the more and more frontal the key has to be.

The main problem with that approach, while flattering, it's also BORING. There are few things more boring-looking than actor's headshots. They show no personality, they make everyone look like everyone else. The faces look like a lightbulb with two eyes painted on it.

So while it is important to know the tricks for flattering an actor's face, it's also important to not be generic about your approach, to always pull the same tricks out of your bag regardless of the particular face. I've worked with plenty of actresses, some middle-aged, who look better side-lit than front-lit. I've worked with some actresses who look good in profile, and some who have terrible profile angles.

Take a look at some of Hurrell's classic portraits. Some have higher key lights than others, some even have a low key light.

http://www.hurrellph...udygarland.html
http://www.hurrellph...riondavies.html
http://www.hurrellph...l_home.asp?ID=2
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#18 Walter Graff

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 11:16 AM

I have no rules in lighting except a guide for women and for me I have found I start with head on and see where it goes. What I have found over the years is that men can handle much more than women when it comes to angles, etc, but women just seem to shine with softer flatter lightning, or head on harder lighitng, when the purpose to is make a 'beauty shot'. There are about 1000 examples of this being true in some of the best films made in the last 50 years with the leading ladies of Hollywood so I don't look at it as a rule but definitely more than just a fluke. Of course I am only referring to 'beauty type' shots, not general cinematography. I've lit the biggest names in film and TV and funny thing is all those that have there 'light me this way" where that way is some sort of 'this side only' or 'this way' like Maria Shriver or Barbara Streisand always end up looking like crap because they wanted me to do something other than lighting them soft and mostly head on.

I think the still world is a good template for having many years of experience with this. Some of the best still guys I know who do 'beauty portraits' always say that the source is never far from center.

Of course there is no wrong or right to this question because it is a artist choice question.
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 11:40 AM

You're right of course, the more frontal the light, the more flattering it tends to be in general, since it hides more than it reveals in terms of texture of skin and facial structure. So it's a good place to start (or end up at...) especially if you are not familiar with that face.

After doing a TV series where you light the same faces for seven months, you start to learn the individual quirks that each face needs, really subtle stuff, like whether they benefit from soft low fill or a hard eyelight or not, whether they look better on one side more than the other, whether they can take backlights or edge lights, etc.

I worked with one actress where it was tricky because her face look better with a slightly high key, but she had bags under her eyes, and when you lowered the fill or key, her brow was heavy enough to create a dark shadow on her forehead. But if you lowered the key to improve her eyes, then her face looked less pretty. So it was a constant struggle to decide whether to live with the bags under her eyes or the brow shadow on her forehead. Truth was, in post, we ended up retouching one or the other depending on the light, either erasing the bags or lightening the brow shadow. But in the end, for her face, I think it was better overall when the key was higher rather than lower, even if it meant some bags under the eyes. Worked better for her chin, cheekbones, nose, etc. Just not her eyes. And just to be clear, I'm talking about subtle problems, she was a gorgeous woman in real life...
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#20 John Sprung

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 12:31 PM

can you give me some advices for lighting this actor face?

First, read carefully everything that David said in posts 17 and 19.

Then, get an inky, set it full flood, and attach it to the end of a C-stand arm. With your gaffer by your side, stand maybe 4-6 feet from the actress, and light her with this. Move it around to see where the various good and bad angles are for your key light. The idea is to test all possibilities quickly and easily, and then reproduce the good ones with bigger lights at greater distances.




-- J.S.
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