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#1 Holly Belinda Thompson

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:10 AM

Hi, I'm a film student at North Sydney TAFE in Sydney Australia and I'm doing a research topic on lighting women in film. I need some information on a history of lighting women in film, the pecking order of actresses throughout the decades and what say they have in how they are lit and how different Cinematographers choose to light actresses depending on the actress and their attitude (the actresses) etc.. Also how to make older women appear younger and more beautiful and how to do this without taking away from the drama. And one more thing, how to make them subtly pop out from the rest of a scene like was the case often with Marlena Detrick on her old films and when is this appropriate. any information would be greatly appreciated or some pointers on where to find some information would also be a huge help.

thanks
Holly
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#2 John Brawley

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 03:16 AM

Hi, I'm a film student at North Sydney TAFE in Sydney Australia and I'm doing a research topic on lighting women in film. I need some information on a history of lighting women in film, the pecking order of actresses throughout the decades and what say they have in how they are lit and how different Cinematographers choose to light actresses depending on the actress and their attitude (the actresses) etc.. Also how to make older women appear younger and more beautiful and how to do this without taking away from the drama. And one more thing, how to make them subtly pop out from the rest of a scene like was the case often with Marlena Detrick on her old films and when is this appropriate. any information would be greatly appreciated or some pointers on where to find some information would also be a huge help.

thanks
Holly


I once heard john seale tell a story about visiting a later barbera streisand shoot. He said there was an arc that started at the camera and went 90 degrees around her that was literally a wall of soft lights pointing at her. There was so many, that when doing clean CU's the offscreen actor couldn't find ane elyline for her anywhere and had to yell them to her.

She also apparently OWNED all these lights and they were always set up in the same way.

jb
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#3 Simon Wyss

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 07:09 AM

Hi, I'm a film student at North Sydney TAFE in Sydney Australia and I'm doing a research topic on lighting women in film. I need some information on a history of lighting women in film, the pecking order of actresses throughout the decades and what say they have in how they are lit and how different Cinematographers choose to light actresses depending on the actress and their attitude (the actresses) etc.. Also how to make older women appear younger and more beautiful and how to do this without taking away from the drama. And one more thing, how to make them subtly pop out from the rest of a scene like was the case often with Marlena Detrick on her old films and when is this appropriate. any information would be greatly appreciated or some pointers on where to find some information would also be a huge help.

thanks
Holly

Judging from how you cite the name of Marlene Dietrich you don't read too many books, do you ?

There are libraries. Better hang around there
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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 01:16 PM

Judging from how you cite the name of Marlene Dietrich you don't read too many books, do you ?

There are libraries. Better hang around there


Really harsh & unnecessary Simon.

The basics when lighting women (young or old) is to keep it soft and frontal, unless the script calls for her to be ugly & distraught looking. But if it's beauty lighting you're going for, the former will apply. I don't know any stories of contemporary actresses trying to control her own lighting. But Dietrich is the classic example.

I've referenced it in a previous thread, but the American Cinematographer magazine had a pretty good article a few months ago on the shooting of the "Sex and the City" movie. A movie where the women are all at that age where they're still trying to look young, but they had a DP who they knew and trusted could do that for them.
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#5 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 03:16 PM

I've got one.

My boss was lighting Ashley Judd for a PSA. He said he set up the key and she said something to the effect of, "no shadows for me, you bring that light closer to the camera!" All in a good natured way, but he did what she asked.
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#6 Simon Wyss

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 03:24 PM

Doesn't she (?) declare herself as student, don't students read books ? Maybe I'm a dinosaur, sorry, but we still learned to browse hand catalogues.

Giving in. With the white race you have four types: black, brown, red and blond. Accordingly and in respect of the eyes (where the soul shines out) we ought to adapt lighting. There is also the interplay between an actress as outer appearance and her temperament. Marlene Dietrich was a light brown fidget. Once in Hollywood she (was) turned more and more into an ice cold lady with almost blond hair. Eyebrows shifted high, melodramatic underlight, a lot of kitsch.

Marianne Koch, to stay with the Germans, is a natural brown with light blue eyes. She wears her hair darker. Shirley MacLaine is a red head. Would we light her the same way as others ? The answer lies in the spectator's eye. The closer we get the simpler can we light. Many great close-ups are made with three lights. In a long shot we won't see her eyes too well, so there's more judgment by the movements and other characters. With classic black-and-white cinema the culmination of woman and light was the moment when she surrendered, when she layed back her head for the kiss. Again sorry, I didn't invent it.

Natural blond hair shows a very special quality when counter-lit. It can become so shiny. Now with even more light, especially from high-intensity carbon arc lamps in a high-key set-up you have that irresistible glamour look. Lana Turner had to stand in for it, Marylin Monroe, and many others.

An old saying goes: The older the star the longer the focal length. That is only half the truth because there is a make-up. Today we have a pure chaos with light sources, filters, make-up, wardrobe, scenery and post-production manipulation that the human gets lost in all that. Light opens spaces, see, to show a woman light in a black sorrounding tells isolation. It's one form of sexism what is being done to women in the studios. An exception I'd like to mention here is Desert Hearts by Donna Deitch. She is really fond of women. I began to feel for women in a new way after I have seen that movie. I saw it a lot of times as projectionist back then.

Analyze women and light on movies in theaters. Stills are there for different purposes.
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#7 Matt Read

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 06:22 PM

I saw in some documentary that there was only one cinematographer that some classic Hollywood star (I want to say Greta Garbo, but it could have been Dietrich) would let shoot her. She was always lit at least one stop brighter than everyone else around her.

Another old Hollywood trick was to stretch pantyhose across the lens. You can't see it, but it softens details, like wrinkles. I've heard that a thin layer of vaseline rubbed on the lens softens the image too.

Besides that, soft light is always good. A rim light also helps make people stand out from the rest of the shot. There are also a variety of lens filters that you can use to help make images softer and make wrinkles or other age giveaways less obvious.
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#8 Tony Brown

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 03:17 PM

Besides that, soft light is always good.


Not necessarily. A direct light high enough over the line of sight axis to give a chin shadow on the neckline will compliment most women. I'd also move it a fraction to the blind side of the eyeline to bring out the cheekbone. The problem with lighting direct is restricting the movement. If they want to look 100% then it needs to be a collaboration with the director and actress.

Sometimes softlight is a just an easy way out IMO

No golden rules when it comes to beauty I'm afraid, which as they say is in the eye of...........
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 03:37 PM

Not necessarily. A direct light high enough over the line of sight axis to give a chin shadow on the neckline will compliment most women. I'd also move it a fraction to the blind side of the eyeline to bring out the cheekbone. The problem with lighting direct is restricting the movement. If they want to look 100% then it needs to be a collaboration with the director and actress.

Sometimes softlight is a just an easy way out IMO

No golden rules when it comes to beauty I'm afraid, which as they say is in the eye of...........


Yes, some women look better with a more sculptural, harder frontal key, slightly high, which gives their faces some definition and brings out a good bone structure -- sometimes super soft lighting, while hiding a lot of flaws, doesn't bring out any of their strengths either and ends up making the woman look boring and generic rather than glamorous. Also, if they have a very round face, super soft and flat lighting can make them just look like a round blob with two eyes and a mouth.

I lit one middle-aged actress for a project and had all sorts of challenges -- she looked the best with a higher frontal key light in terms of her chin and nose, cheekbones... but she had bags under her eyes. When you filled in the bags with some soft light from below, you lost the nice shape of her face, plus she had a heavy brow ridge that tended to create a soft shadow on her forehead when you used low fill.

In post, we ended up either touching up her close-ups either way -- the higher key light required us to soften the bags under her eyes and the more filled-in close-ups that had no bags under her eyes required we lighten the dark shadow on her forehead.

But looking back, I personally feel that she looked better overall with the higher key light producing the chin shadow, even though it did bring out the bags under her eyes. Plus, personally, I didn't share the obsession that the producer and actress had about eliminating the bags under her eyes because they looked fine and gave her some character. I think in the quest to hide the bags, they didn't do her overall face justice, which was quite lovely.
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#10 Matt Read

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 11:27 AM

Thanks David. That's really interesting. It's always great to get some real-world tips from the pros.

Edited by Matt Read, 08 December 2008 - 11:28 AM.

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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 11:44 AM

One issue I've noticed when shooting women is that many of them look "better" when they are happy -- smiling, laughing, etc. Especially middle-aged women.

On two different shoots, I struggled with lighting an actress in a drama, to make her look as beautiful as possible, and would be frustrated when, at the end of a take, or when they made a mistake, to see them burst out laughing and look so much more beautiful than they did during the scene when they acted concerned or depressed. On one shoot with a large cast, the character was always the worried one... but she had the most wonderful laugh and smile you ever saw, it would light up the room -- but she rarely got to act a scene like that. And on another show, some of the actress's facial expressions, like when she was dumbfounded or disgusted or in shock, created some really ugly effects on her face. But how can you tell an actress not to make certain facial expressions while acting? All you can do is hope that the lighting isn't making things worse.

If you are doing a naturalistic show, it helps to stage a scene so the actress faces a flattering source so that the lighting doesn't have to do something obviously glamorizing to help her face. For example, if she doesn't take top light well, don't have her stand right under a fluorescent overhead light in the scene.
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#12 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 08:07 PM

Hi, I'm a film student at North Sydney TAFE in Sydney Australia and I'm doing a research topic on lighting women in film. I need some information on a history of lighting women in film, the pecking order of actresses throughout the decades and what say they have in how they are lit and how different Cinematographers choose to light actresses depending on the actress and their attitude (the actresses) etc.. Also how to make older women appear younger and more beautiful and how to do this without taking away from the drama. And one more thing, how to make them subtly pop out from the rest of a scene like was the case often with Marlena Detrick on her old films and when is this appropriate. any information would be greatly appreciated or some pointers on where to find some information would also be a huge help.

thanks
Holly




A book that might be helpful is one that was often for sale in the pages of "American Cinematographer" called The Light on Her Face, which I believe
is a DP's account of his career (sorry, can't recall name, Joseph Walker maybe) and his special care in lighting women. I meant to buy it but never did; maybe it would be good for your research.
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#13 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 12 December 2008 - 09:25 PM

Found it on Amazon.


http://www.amazon.co...p...4922&sr=8-1


Quote from review on there "He was known for making women look their best on film."






Product Details
Hardcover: 284 pages
Publisher: A S C Holding Corp (1993)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0935578056
ISBN-13: 978-0935578058

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#14 Martin Hawkes

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Posted 13 December 2008 - 03:36 AM

Thanks for the link. I think that people underestimate the value of having a "hard copy" that you can pick up and look for inspiration instead of looking on line. But that´s a different discussion.

Good luck.

All the best,

M

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