Jump to content


Photo

Inception/Dark Knight lighting


  • Please log in to reply
7 replies to this topic

#1 Kirk Love

Kirk Love
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 21 posts
  • Student

Posted 29 January 2011 - 06:34 AM

I wanted to ask lighting pros.. I've noticed that in Inception/Dark Knight in a lot of scenes natural light is being used or is it that the lighting is so little that it's not very noticeable? I love cinematography of the above movies.... How the lighting is done for them?
  • 0

#2 Daniel Lynn

Daniel Lynn

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 4 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 03 March 2011 - 02:44 AM

Both those films, indeed most films, especially big action films are lit to a high degree. The goal is to make the lighting invisible and make it look natural so the audience escapes into the story and doesn't notice the light (or set design, or makeup, or sfx, etc.) Those films look natural because they are lit with great skill and care by a master of his craft, Wally Pfister, ASC.
  • 0

#3 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 03 March 2011 - 09:17 AM

With a very large budget and very talented crew.
While I don't agree that action films (Terminator Salvation comes to mind) are really super-naturally lit as a rule, they are generaly very well lit because when you're paying a few million to say, blow up a real building, you're going to cover your bases with your lighting. Now, a lot of the lighting in those two films is soft lighting, but it's controlled, it's not allowed to bounce all over the place. Also, they look good because, in the case of inception, they went all out for set-design.... as in the end, if you're stuck in a room with white walls all around, it's not very easy to make it look like anything but a white walled room....
  • 0

#4 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 03 March 2011 - 09:44 AM

Ideally, ANY lighting a Cameraman does will be "invisible." I'm often asked to "do something" to a background to make it look better, but the LAST thing I want to do is to toss in unmotivated light or color.

The idea behind a DP is to LIGHT a set and characters and not merely ILLUMINATE to get an exposure. To truly LIGHT a shot means knowing what story is being told and using light and camera movement and lens choice and focus to achieve that goal. The point isn't to just make a shot look "cool," but to tell a story in a way that isn't obvious. Just like Visual or Special Effects, the best lighting is the lighting you don't even realize is there. The only shots I can think of that are NOT lit (but "lit" with natural light") are wide Day Exteriors, where it would be essentially impossible.
  • 0

#5 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 03 March 2011 - 11:38 AM

Brian: I hope you aren't saying, then, that the lighting style of the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s was BAD because it wasn't naturalistic.



Things have changed so much since then that when they did those flashback Star Trek episodes in the '90s they STILL couldn't get the lighting from the '60s right.

I blame 500T film (and digital). When you have a film that is as sensitive, basically, as the human eye, you don't have to do any work to get the subject you're photographing to register on film. Even unlit, with a fast prime, you can get good exposure in many situations.



While the lighting in "Inception" "Dark Knight" is very SOFT and modern, I don't think it is naturalistic at all for the most part (obviously there's only so much you can do with daytime exteriors, long shots).

"Inception" takes place, for the most part, in a dream. I think the lighting (no DIs here :-) ) conveyed that so effectively to warrant it the Academy's top honor for motion picture photography ikn 2010. "Dark Knight" while not winning the top honor for 2008, SHOULD have won it.



Don't get fooled into thinking that the lighting is easy, minimal effort , naturalistic. It is stylized, very soft, very non-directional. Lighting this way, without getting a hot spot, not being able to cheat in the DI suite is no easy task, trust me.


Probably plenty of gobos, softboxes. Watch the behind the scenes for these movies, if you can, and you can find out far better even than the technical articles in ASC magazine, definitely better than idle internet speculation :-D
  • 0

#6 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19761 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 03 March 2011 - 12:09 PM

I've found that when a key light is soft, people tend to not think of where it is coming from, but when a key light is hard, it tends to call attention to what might be creating it. This is one reason why modern lighting tends to seem "naturalistic", because we tend to use soft key lighting.. but in reality, there may not be any source in the room that could be creating that key light. It just feels "plausible".

Wally Pfister's lighting is elegant, generally motivated, but leans towards creating contrast and depth. And by elegant, like with Deakins' work, it is often deceptively simple and uncluttered, even if a lot of work can go into creating that effect. Or not, if a simple soft light off-camera is enough for the shot, that's what these guys will do, they are not wedded to doing things in the most elaborate manner possible. It's all about the application of TASTE.
  • 0

#7 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 03 March 2011 - 12:54 PM

I think this is as psychological as it is cultural.


We live in a world of diffused light, in a practical modern sense. We spend most of our time, in general, working indoors, where we are "lit" by diffused, bounced daylight or skylight combined with diffused artificial lighting.


Original photography (still and then motion) was limited by dynamic range of early, slow films, so diffused skylight lent itself best to this work. It then became part of the "look."


Then as stocks, and lights evolved, and stage lighting style migrated into the movies, there was a move to hard light, both from a practical point (easier to get exposure with a focused, hard source then by throwing light away with diffusion)as well as stylistically allowing one to isolate elements in a monochrome frame.

This B&W stage influence survived into color photography. It still had to be lit with B&W television in mind, so it was, in a sense, all "backwards compatibile" with low-resolution B&W television sets.



I'd say that lighting of today with a move back to soft lighting and the HMI movement, has brought modern lighting back to the basics; in some ways it is more similar to earlier lighting techniques than to the more "high-tech" approach with B&W and early color.

I'd say hard lighting is still alive and well though, in certain genres. It is interesting how artificial lighting can somehow enhance the mood of storytelling. In reality ighting is, usually, just as cheerful when something terrible happens as it is when something funny happens. The "film noir" look supposedly bases its look on the look of the trenches in WWI, where everyone was lit dimly, often from underneath. The first "Frankenstein" movie is supposedly how that style of lighting got started according to one theory I've heard.
  • 0

#8 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19761 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 03 March 2011 - 02:03 PM

Some of the changes in style were technical as well as aesthetic -- in the 1920's, you had carbon arcs, which were great for simulating sunlight, and Cooper-Hewitt discharge lamps, which were like giant powerful racks of mercury vapor tubes, so the effect was very soft.

But with sound, arcs and Cooper-Hewitts were too noisy (arcs were eventually quieter, but Cooper-Hewitts never returned, and when color came along, they didn't have a good color look anyway unlike arcs), everything went incandescent, the light levels dropped way down, and lots of multiple spots were needed. But also, this was an age when softness was popular in photography so there was a lot of diffusion on the lens. By the 1940's, arcs were quieter, there were big tungsten fresnels, and the soft look of the 1930's was considered old-fashioned, so a crisp look was popular, which carried over into 1950's color photography. Plus b&w stocks took a big leap ahead in sensitivity in 1938, allowing cinematographers to stop shooting near wide-open all the time.
  • 0


FJS International, LLC

Aerial Filmworks

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineTape

Abel Cine

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport

Technodolly

Glidecam

Wooden Camera

Metropolis Post

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineLab

Visual Products

Willys Widgets

Tai Audio

Ritter Battery

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

FJS International, LLC

Willys Widgets

The Slider

CineTape

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Aerial Filmworks

Visual Products

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Abel Cine

rebotnix Technologies

Ritter Battery

Technodolly

Wooden Camera

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Glidecam

Opal

Metropolis Post