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key and fill lights in wide shots


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#1 Jim Nelson

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 01:31 PM

Hi, can someone please help me out?

I never understood why in wider shots the key and fill lights were harder than desirable. Can someone please help me understand this?


Thanks :)
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#2 John Sprung

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 02:14 PM

Hardness or softness of light has to do with the shadows it casts. Imagine two lines from the shadow casting edge back to the near and far sides of the light source. The bigger the angle between them, the wider the region over which the shadow goes from full light to full dark, and the softer it is. On a tight shot, you can pull your fill in closer, making the angle bigger and the shadows softer. On a wide shot, the pain is that you want also to back the fill off far enough that it isn't too obvious that you have a big bright silk or foam core just out of frame. Sometimes on location there isn't enough room for that.




-- J.S.
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#3 Jim Nelson

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 10:48 PM

I'm sorry but it still a bit confusing to me why the key and fill are harder than desired in the wider shots :(
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 12:58 AM

Simple answer: a hard source will travel further with more "light" than a soft source at the same distance and the same wattage, because a hard light's beams travel more parallel whereas a soft light scatters light in all directions (think of it as a horse.. hard light is a nozzle which pushes all the water, or in this case, light in the same direction -v- a sprinkler which sprays the same volume of water in all directions )

Also, the further a light the harder it's shadows as it becomes more of a point source, even if it's a soft light, hence it is harder in appearance. Try some experiments with a light bulb and something which casts shadows, move the bulb closer and notice how the shadow looks (do this by 1/2 lighting say a mug). Then try it with a china ball, move it further away and you'll notice it'll produce harder shadows, just as a hard source closer makes softer shadows (not as soft as a soft light, mind you, but still).
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#5 Matthew Parnell

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 06:58 AM

I don't think it's necessarily that your light is harder than desirable in wide shots, rather it is more desirable to have softer light for your close ups. Softer light is generally harder to achieve in wider shots because your lamps and your light control has to be further from your subjects, hence it is harder.
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#6 Matteo Castelli

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 08:51 AM

The hardness or softness depends on how big and diffuse is the source and far is from the subject..
example: sun is a point source set very far, supposed infinite, so its beam is parallel everywhere it casts (I have the same exposure here and 10km. away on a sunny day)
a softbox close to the subject generates very soft shadow edges with almost no shadows on the wall near there..

I'm not perfect in english,sorry, but check this websit out and you'll understand immediately: http://www.lowel.com..._softlight.html

ciao,
Matteo
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#7 Jim Nelson

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 02:59 PM

Thank you very much everyone. This is finally clear. However I have one more questions.

When we shoot a wide shot and use a key light it'll cast shadows, so to eliminate those shadows we use a fill. Doesn't that solve the problem of those hard shadows?


Thanks :)
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 11:07 PM

Yes and no, the fill will often cast shadows of it's own (especially on a wide when it needs to be a little more powerful). Shadows aren't bad, though. Hell what's in shadow is probably more interesting that what's in light. Think of fill not so much to do with getting rid of shadows, but rather making sure the shadows are just the right "shade," of "dark."
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#9 Rick Shepardson

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 01:35 AM

Yes and no, the fill will often cast shadows of it's own (especially on a wide when it needs to be a little more powerful). Shadows aren't bad, though. Hell what's in shadow is probably more interesting that what's in light. Think of fill not so much to do with getting rid of shadows, but rather making sure the shadows are just the right "shade," of "dark."


To some degree, I don't know if hard lighting in the wide shot is something to fret over too much. There is, of course, the issue of consistancy. You don't want it to be overtly obvious that the quality of the light has changed. However, I believe you have some room to play with.
A very important thing to consider how the director is planning to use the wide. Is the director planning to use the wide shot or close ups more? If the wide shot is only going to be briefly used to establish geography, there is a degree of danger spending too much time on it. You might have sacrificed time with your close ups in order to create an amazing wide shot that will only be on screen for a few seconds. Time on a set really is a precious commodity. This is especially true if, like me, you're budget is very tight.

There is also a psychological factor. When you're looking somone in the face, you're foveal vision usually concentrates on their eyes. When you're looking for someone in a crowded room however, you're more concerned about their general form.

This is just my opinion yet, and I'm still just shooting low budget webseries. So, take it with a grain of salt.
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#10 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 03:29 PM

To some degree, I don't know if hard lighting in the wide shot is something to fret over too much. There is, of course, the issue of consistancy. You don't want it to be overtly obvious that the quality of the light has changed. However, I believe you have some room to play with.


Usually the scene it lit for the wides which are commonly shot first then you work into the closer shots. The wide often provides motivation for sources, how hard or soft the lighting in the wide maybe depends on how large the set is, how powerful your lights are and how practical it is rig the lights the way you want for a soft lighting effect. On a wide shot there's commonly more than one "key light" being used anyway.

You can get away with quite a lot, check out Ridley Scott's commentary on "The Duellists" on this.
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#11 Jim Nelson

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 09:43 PM

So basically, in the wide shot, the fact that the fill light can cast shadows of its own and the fact that we want the shadows to be the correct shade of black are reasons that the fill light doesn't always solve our problems with hard shadows. Are there any more reasons?

I have one laaaast question: If we had, for example, a 2k hard light and a 2k soft light. I understand that the 2K hard light will cast harder shadows than the soft one. But if we want even harder shadows, can we use a more intense hard light like a 4k? In other words, does having a more intense light (higher wattage) give you harder shadows?


Thank you so much everyone. you are all very very helpful :)
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#12 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 10:15 PM

Not necessarily. It will depend on how far the light is, the further away the harder the shadows. Let's say you have a 2K open face, a pretty hard light, and it's x amount away (10 ft) and you're getting a good stop. Well if you want harder shadows and can afford to open up the iris more, you can just move that light back further. So at 20 ft it'll give you a harder shadow and you'll have to compensate along the inverse square law.
Also, if we can't move lights back, in fact switching to a larger unit might not give us harder shadows, as the larger the head, the larger the lens, and as such the softer the shadows (the less of a point source the unit is). This isn't always the case, and it'll depend on what 2K v 4K light you're using etc.
This all makes a lot more sense when you start working with units on a regular basis.
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