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"Hollywood Lighting" by Patrick Keating


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 05:41 PM

Hollywood Lighting by Patrick Keating

I'm almost finished with this academic book, something I picked up last weekend in the bookstore of the Museum of the Moving Image when I saw "2001".

It's not a lighting textbook but more of a film theory book, somewhere halfway between the technical discussion of Barry Salt's "Film Style & Technology" (a must-read!) and the books of Bordwell and Thompson. Keating read a lot of the magazines of the 20's-40's, especially "American Cinematographer", to discuss the lighting approaches that developed from the beginning of film. His emphasis is on the conflict or synergy between expressiveness and invisibility of style, and how that relates to storytelling, whether style is subservient to storytelling or whether it is a vital tool of storytelling, and how cinematographers developed rules and conventions for lighting while promoting the notion of cinematography as an art form (and themselves as artists rather than technicians.) One point that Keating makes is that the conventions didn't necessarily lead to a bland homogenous look for classic movies because they were conventions of differentialities, i.e. the convention that you couldn't light a bar scene the same way as a bedroom scene, or a murder scene the same way as a love scene, etc. He also discusses how all of this sometime conflicted with the studio mandate for glamour no matter what, as opposed to glamour in support of a narrative.

The funny thing is that all of these conflicts still exist today, despite the supposedly more realistic look of modern films.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 08:14 PM

One interesting part of the book describes two different types of Hollywood cinematographers -- while they all agreed on the principles established (style in support of story, realism, technical quality, need to make actors look good, etc.) they differed in approach... the author describes the two types as "classicists" and "mannerists".

Classicists (like WIlliam Daniels, Joseph Walker, Charles Lang) were committed to the art of balancing all of the competing needs of the cinematography in a movie, to find some sort of happy compromise between, let's say, creating the right mood for the scene and making the star look beautiful. Mannerists (like Gregg Toland, Lee Garmes, John Alton, Leon Shamroy) were more likely push one stylistic aspect or need at the expense of the others -- they might sacrifice realism in pursuit of more glamour, or vice-versa, or go for pictorial effects at the expense of realism -- Keating breaks the mannerists further into descriptors like hyper-realists, expressivists, and pictorialists.

It's similar to a breakdown that I often employ to describe many modern cinematographers, the realists (or naturalists) and the impressionists (though to be more accurate, the post-impressionists... since impressionists actually were quite realistic in their portrayal of natural lighting effects). Obviously the same DP may hop back and forth depending on the project, but overall there is a consistent aesthetic they tend to pursue. Sometimes I also think of it as the realism versus theatricalism, the naturalistic versus the operatic. Roger Deakins and Gordon Willis come to mind as realists though that hasn't kept them from creating more stylized projects (the blurry vignetting in "Assassination of Jesse James" comes to mind, or the manipulated colors in "O Brother Where Art Thou?") -- and I tend to put Storaro, Richardson, and Kaminski in the group that favors theatrical effects, though again, all of them have done highly naturalistic work too that uses a lot of available light ("Snow Falling on Cedars" for example).

In fact, I just came back from a 35mm print screening of "One From the Heart" at the Museum of the Moving Image today... obviously that movie is famous for being highly stylized, being all shot on sound stages with painted backdrops. But many interiors are just lit by practical lamps and/or through windows, with no additional key lights added, throwing the actors constantly in near silhouette against these sources in the room -- Storaro doesn't just add some nice soft key light to make sure we can always see their faces. To some degree, I think this approach came out of his work with Bertolucci, who often moved his camera freely through a room, forcing Storaro to light through windows and from practicals, or from some big source quite far away like for night work. So it feels simultaneously theatrical (colored lights fading up and down through windows, along with practical lamps fading up or down) and yet naturalistic (actors lit by sources in the frame rather than one's just off-camera there for no other reason than to see their faces nicely).
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#3 F Bulgarelli

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 12:40 PM

Sounds really interesting David. What's the name of the book? Did I miss it on your post?
This is a subject that has always interest me, would love to read more about it.
Thanks
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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 02:42 PM

Fascinating stuff. I really have to read that book. I envy you having seen "One From the Heart" on the big screen projected from a 35mm print! It must have been beautiful. This is one of the things I miss about not living in L.A. anymore. Well, maybe things will change and I'll become bi-coastal...that is if you consider the Rio Grande as one of the coasts (yes I stole and paraphrased that line from "Waiting For Guffman" :D )
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#5 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 02:45 PM

Sounds really interesting David. What's the name of the book? Did I miss it on your post?
This is a subject that has always interest me, would love to read more about it.
Thanks

"Hollywood Lighting" by Patrick Keating it's in the topic title. :rolleyes:
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#6 YongLee

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 01:57 AM

hope!
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#7 Ira Goldman

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 08:37 PM

One interesting part of the book describes two different types of Hollywood cinematographers -- while they all agreed on the principles established (style in support of story, realism, technical quality, need to make actors look good, etc.) they differed in approach... the author describes the two types as "classicists" and "mannerists".

Classicists (like WIlliam Daniels, Joseph Walker, Charles Lang) were committed to the art of balancing all of the competing needs of the cinematography in a movie, to find some sort of happy compromise between, let's say, creating the right mood for the scene and making the star look beautiful. Mannerists (like Gregg Toland, Lee Garmes, John Alton, Leon Shamroy) were more likely push one stylistic aspect or need at the expense of the others -- they might sacrifice realism in pursuit of more glamour, or vice-versa, or go for pictorial effects at the expense of realism -- Keating breaks the mannerists further into descriptors like hyper-realists, expressivists, and pictorialists.

It's similar to a breakdown that I often employ to describe many modern cinematographers, the realists (or naturalists) and the impressionists (though to be more accurate, the post-impressionists... since impressionists actually were quite realistic in their portrayal of natural lighting effects). Obviously the same DP may hop back and forth depending on the project, but overall there is a consistent aesthetic they tend to pursue. Sometimes I also think of it as the realism versus theatricalism, the naturalistic versus the operatic. Roger Deakins and Gordon Willis come to mind as realists though that hasn't kept them from creating more stylized projects (the blurry vignetting in "Assassination of Jesse James" comes to mind, or the manipulated colors in "O Brother Where Art Thou?") -- and I tend to put Storaro, Richardson, and Kaminski in the group that favors theatrical effects, though again, all of them have done highly naturalistic work too that uses a lot of available light ("Snow Falling on Cedars" for example).

In fact, I just came back from a 35mm print screening of "One From the Heart" at the Museum of the Moving Image today... obviously that movie is famous for being highly stylized, being all shot on sound stages with painted backdrops. But many interiors are just lit by practical lamps and/or through windows, with no additional key lights added, throwing the actors constantly in near silhouette against these sources in the room -- Storaro doesn't just add some nice soft key light to make sure we can always see their faces. To some degree, I think this approach came out of his work with Bertolucci, who often moved his camera freely through a room, forcing Storaro to light through windows and from practicals, or from some big source quite far away like for night work. So it feels simultaneously theatrical (colored lights fading up and down through windows, along with practical lamps fading up or down) and yet naturalistic (actors lit by sources in the frame rather than one's just off-camera there for no other reason than to see their faces nicely).


just picked up a copy, thank you!!!!!!
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#8 Miguel Angel

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Posted 07 October 2013 - 07:44 PM

Thanks for the recommendation, I got it today.

 

Kindest regards.


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Cadrage Directors Viewfinder

System Associates

Visual Products

CineLab

Abel Cine

Pro 8mm

Lemo Connectors

Cinelicious

The Slider

NIBL

Ritter Battery

K5600 Lighting

Glidecam

Robert Starling

CineTape

Paralinx LLC

Zylight

rebotnix Technologies

Aerial Filmworks