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Key light on which side


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#1 Malik Sajid

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 05:37 AM

Though sounds childish, but being a student i have to ask this:

While you are on a CS or a CU, which side of the face would you put the key light, or would try to create? Would you put the key on the side where you've given the nose/looking room or on the opposite side? I know that depends on the situation or the setting but what i want to know is one's personal choice?

Hope you've got what i am trying to say.
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#2 Bob Hayes

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 07:45 AM

It doesn?t really matter although each side creates a different look. If an actor looks left to right and you light the right side it creates more shadow on the side facing the camera and less light on the background. It is easy to control and easier to create darker images and it makes the talent look thinner. Many DPs, my self included, try to light this side. I call it the thin side because you see less of the lit face. If you light the ?thick? side it gives the face a fuller look. If you use a soft source it can look more natural and realistic. It is also easier to light complex moves.

In most classic art the light comes from the artists left side. Why? Because most of the artists were right handed and since they used natural light the artist wanted light coming from his left to light the canvass with out the shadow of his hand.
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#3 Malik Sajid

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 07:53 AM

to tell you the truth.............i couldn't understand what you said.
I'll be grateful if you explain a bit
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#4 Paul Bruening

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 08:19 AM

It doesn't seem to matter as much as it once did. In the classic days of Hollywood there was the term, "dumb side." Dumb side is when your subject's quartered face is towards the camera and the key light is on the same side- the dumb side. The idea is that it is better to allow shadows to fall across the features of the face to better define it from the camera's perspective. It's really more of a hold over from the B&W days where gradations of black were all you had to work with to achieve everything in an image. Aesthetically, I agree with the dumb side rule. Though, I've seen this rule broken pretty often even in some otherwise great and big-deal movies.

Here's an illustration of the idea:

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  • Dumb_side_smart_side.jpg

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#5 David Rakoczy

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 09:14 AM

For me it usually depends on what is in the background (or off screen) to motivate the direction...
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#6 Daniel Sheehy

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 09:32 AM

I always knew it as the 'on' side and the 'off' side... same side as camera being the 'on' side (or dumb side as Paul described), and the opposite side to camera being the 'off'.

Personally I prefer the key light on the 'off' side, but that might just because I think it looks less like news footage lit with a sun-gun. ;)
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 11:31 AM

I personally tend to motivate my keys by what's in the room, given the shot the director and I have decided upon. For interview, though, thinking back on it; I have tended to keep the key on the left, though I can't say why.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 11:45 AM

Unless I have a logical reason, I tend to key from the direction the actor is looking, the "smart" side in that illustration -- because then the eyes catch the light better. Keying from the opposite side is OK but it depends on how much it makes it feel like the actor is staring into the dark instead of the light. Some faces look better keyed from that side though.
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#9 Kiarash Sadigh

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 12:38 PM

Though it's not a rule , I like the "smart side" better, and I always tend to find myself a way to light from the "smart side" or the "far side" (as still photographers put it)...I like the modeling better and I believe it enhances the features. Depending on the age, gender and the features of the actors, I bring the "far side" light closer or farther from the camera axis, then I fill from the "dumb side" or I simply don't.
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#10 David Rakoczy

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 01:02 PM

Kiarash,

Filling from the 'Key' side of Camera is a great way to accentuate what you are doing.. We often run the Key and Fill lights on the same side of the Camera... ;)
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#11 Kiarash Sadigh

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 03:07 PM

Kiarash,

Filling from the 'Key' side of Camera is a great way to accentuate what you are doing.. We often run the Key and Fill lights on the same side of the Camera... ;)

Unless one of the 15 people surrounding the client monitor thinks the shadows are " a bit too dark" <_<
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#12 David Rakoczy

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 03:49 PM

Ughh.. that doesn't sound like any fun :blink: .

Maybe you could send them all off to an afternoon Matinee so you can get some work done...
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#13 Chris Keth

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 08:49 PM

It's strange that the smart/dumb side of camera thing is opposite of the smart and dumb side of the camera itself.
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#14 Malik Sajid

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 05:39 AM

The dumb and smart side notions are kool.

Well, i agree that this all depends on whats available in the room. It usually happens with me that i place the camera and talent first(roughly and tweak a little bit afterwards) and then set the light. Is that a fine approach.

Well, for a fiction or drama or something like that one can think of using the available light source or use the side which is motivated, whatever side it is dumb or smart, which i think is more dramatic and appropriate. But for interview stuff i guess putting the key on the dumb side is better, as shadows will be fall on the other side which is off camera and will not look bad on the image.

Edited by Malik Sajid, 31 October 2008 - 05:41 AM.

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#15 John Brawley

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 10:03 AM

Though it's not a rule , I like the "smart side" better, and I always tend to find myself a way to light from the "smart side" or the "far side" (as still photographers put it)...I like the modeling better and I believe it enhances the features.



I would say that 90% of the time, i would key from the offside / far side.

It looks better. My thinking is this.

Perceptually, we are very attuned to depth cues, not just because we have two eyes, but because we can get a sense of the shape of something by observing (almost unconsciously) how the shadows fall. You can tell what the texture of something will feel like, usually because of the way the light falls on it (combines with other factors like sense memory)

So when looking at a 2D image like a cinema screen or a TV, if you put those depth cues back in, you end up with a more dynamic image for the viewer. It's also why I think camera movement works so well, It *almost* creates a sense of parallax, another important depth cue.

It all combines to make things that are 2D seem 3D.

So I tend to light this way, in order to infer a sense of depth because you are helping to model someone's face.

jb
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#16 Josh Bass

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 03:12 PM

Doesn't this mean then that you'd have to block all your shooting so that the motivating sources for your movie lights always favor lighting from the off-cam side? And find some new reason for it to work if you cross the axis? Seems like an insane headache.
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#17 John Brawley

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 03:56 PM

Doesn't this mean then that you'd have to block all your shooting so that the motivating sources for your movie lights always favor lighting from the off-cam side? And find some new reason for it to work if you cross the axis? Seems like an insane headache.


Yes but you usually establish a line of shooting anyway for editing, so it's a mater of trying to take that into account when youre looking at your blocking. I don't know about you, but I rarely find myself crossing the line within a scene....

jb
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#18 Chris Keth

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 04:38 PM

It's really not that bad. In simplest terms of motivation, it just means that there needs to be a light source on the far side of the talent from camera. I can't think of all that many real-world situations where that can't easily occur.
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#19 Josh Bass

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 03:59 AM

I understand the line of action for editing, I'm saying that to light the way you guys talk about, you would always have to arrange camera and talent to take advantage of where the light sources are. I guess it really isn't a huge deal most of the time. . .I think of on-location shooting and how if there's only a window on this side and not that side. . or if the background is ugly when you turn that way, it would cause issues, etc. etc. The kind of stuff I work on , it's probably more of problem than in the professional arena. If I ever do anything narrative again, I'll keep it in mind. So, never mind I guess.
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#20 Simon Wyss

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 06:40 AM

Malik and everybody: For me light opens space(s). In the dark (of the cinema, finally) I feel closed in. That is probably the main theme with photography and cinematography. So, the key light might give the character her/his forward space or room to look in, to move, to talk. It's the sun. All life, all action on earth directs towards the sun, our key light, if you want. In artificial lighting we only imitate this primordial fact. The rest is reflections, bounce light, filling in, softening or spicing up for contrast. When you revert the natural relation between light and life, let me say, you give the scene a night twist. We humans master the fire and use it also in the night. I think we should keep this in mind for our pictorial light-dark concept. Of course, I'm speaking of the presented scenery in cinema and on television/video set, not of the light situation itself which is artificial: projection or back-lit displays.
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