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Lighting for Noir (B&W):


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#1 Michael Reed

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 12:09 PM

Hey guys.

I'm going to be working on a project that plans to go B&W noir. I'm not only going to be acting in this production, but I'll also be heavily involved in the production side--this will include working on the lighting at times.

Now, I'm not a lighting designer, but I've been doing film long enough, and have done lights on a few features in my time, so I'm comfortable with the way lighting works in terms of three-point systems, background fill, gels, lighting concepts, etc...however, I've never done a B&W noir peice, and I was wondering if you guys had any links or references I might be able to check out online.

I understand noir consists of high contrast, lots of shadows, point of interest lighting, etc...but I'd love to check out any stylistic breakdowns of the lighting genre...know what I mean?

Any help?

(I'd love the lighting of Mercury Men and would like to do something similar: http://www.mercuryseries.com/)


Thanks.
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#2 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 12:26 PM

I just watched a DVD called "Film Noir Bringing Darkness to Light" that I rented from Mike's Movies
in Boston. It's not technical but it's pretty good and shows lots of examples of noir lighting, art direction
or the lack of sets and need for lighting to compensate.

I'm pretty close to Providence. Send me a message if you want and we can talk on phone.
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#3 Michael Reed

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 12:42 PM

Thanks Tim. I'll see if any vid stores around here have that (or Netflix even).

I'll send you a PM sometime--I'd love to chat on the phone and get some pointers or ideas.

BTW, I found this link, which is a good breakdown of the genre: http://www.videomake.../article/13548/

It would be nice, however, to see some actual schematics...I know that's asking a alot...but it would be ideal.

Thanks.
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#4 Manuel Canales

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 07:08 PM

I would think not only on the quantity of shadows but on the size of them too. I mean, a loooong shadow across the floor and growing by the wall will give you a different atmosphere than a short vertical shadow.

Good luck.

PS: Something great about shooting on B&W is that you will not have to be worried about CT, balance, etc.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 08:42 PM

Color is VERY important for black and white. Most importantly, how colors will register on a grey scale and the tricks to it (such as red filters for skies etc.)
I would recommend grabbig some B/w stills film and firing off a few exposures.

I would say that when I think of Noir, I think a lot of hard lighting approaches. I would forget diffusion for the most part, and really try to emphasize smoke in rooms. Some of the scenes from Casablanca in the bar are textbook to me, such as this one:

http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

Point of light in darkness. Darkness is your friend. Only show what is necessary to show. Or, to go a bit of another direction, look at Fargo which is almost an inversion of the typical noir style.

Good luck, and don't forget that B/w stock has different ratings based upon whether it's exposed under daylight or tungsten. It's always faster in daylight and slower in tungsten.
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#6 Steve McBride

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 08:29 PM

As Adrian suggested, lots of hard light. You said "lots of shadows," this is not true all of the time. Even in situations where you have two shadows this can be very ugly. Especially with hard lights, you have to be careful where you're putting your shadows.

To me noir isn't (entirely) about what you see, a lot (if not most) of the story is told in what you do not see. Try and keep that in mind.
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#7 Karel Bata

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 11:38 AM

You haven't made it clear if you're shooting on film or video. Some very different tips for either of those.

Ironically, depending on where you are in the world, stock and processing on B&W film can be more expensive than the equivalent in colour!


.

Edited by Karel Bata, 29 November 2009 - 11:39 AM.

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#8 RobertRaey

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 09:06 PM

I did a film noir style of project not too long ago and I found that I could create some great looks with background shadows. I made a lot of great cucoloris effects with my Shadowfoils kit. Background breakup patterns and all of those deep shadows really made a difference.
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