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hard/atmospheric light style? Am I allowed?


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#1 Joseph Nunez

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 06:02 PM

Ive always had an interest in expressionistic/stylilzed lighting, and found myself prefering the boldness of hard light while practicing setups (I'm a total beginner).

Now, I found an textbook that outlines a technique for what the author refers to as an atmospheric (rather than a motivated) approach, where (largely unmotivated) pools of hard light are used to selectively light areas of the set. I am noticing the style in my favorite 70's movies, and most notably in Pulp Fiction. I love this look, and am wondering if it would be a waste of time to pursue; I know audiences today respond best to softer more apparently natural light. Am i just going to circle back after practicing this technique, and realize that noone "buys" this look anymore?
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#2 Joseph Nunez

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 06:19 PM

some pics....

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  • pulp-fiction-arqette-stolz.jpg
  • pulp-fiction-marsellus-&-butch.jpg

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 08:00 PM

Hard light is great sometimes, if you can do it well. Trouble is that if you do it badly, it looks cheap, if you do it well, it looks classy. It's a fine line and to some degree, production design is also a factor because all of that hard light is going to make everything pop out more -- cheap make-up, bad colors, badly constructed and painted sets, etc.

But I think everyone should master hard lighting as a part of basic cinematographer skills, whether one uses it or not.

Some hard-lit frames that happen to be on my computer right now:

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#4 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:47 AM

David, wasn't hard light the preferred way to light in the b/w days to get that hard contrast and separation in particular?

I can see how it works in Black Narcissus very well though, do you have any great examples of modern usage?
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#5 Joseph Nunez

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:49 PM

Thanks immensely, David. I've been studying the work of Andrzej Sekula and am quite excited about it. Check out his work if you want to see modern examples, Marcus - here's a frame from "Vacancy" from 2007:

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  • VAC002.jpg

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#6 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 01:12 AM

That is nice, I should check that movie out. Another reason I've thought of to use hard lighting would be when it's crucial to control the light, specifically when shooting limbo, but it can indeed cheapen the look if not done right.
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