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Separating light and darkness


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#1 joshua gallegos

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 08:45 PM

Okay, this is a very broad question, using lighting modifiers such as flags and scrims is really the heart of all cinematography, since it gives shape and emotion to the images. I should use this scene from No Country For Old Men as an example. Let's say Roger shot this scene with 500T at approximately T/3.4

There's a PAR 16 practical in the back at WF, maybe a 60W globe next to Javier Bardem, and I believe there's another practical next to the Woody Harrelson...So, when Javier is away from the lamp next to him, which is the key light, he should be just about 1 1/2 stop under the key? 

 

Anyhow, the real question is, when lighting a scene, such as this one, does the light require to be moved with each different set up? I know Roger is a master cinematographer, so I doubt he has to move the lights around, he places them in strategic areas, which would require very little modification, from set up to set up. I remember in the commentary on Fargo, he merely put a few lights up on the lamp post to augment the intensity when Buscemi kills the old guy in the parking lot, and that was all he did. I like the style of using minimal lighting equipment to help motivated lighting, but I suppose the real trick lies in the technique of using lighting modifiers and finding THE right place to put the lights, which would require very little time to tweak as the camera changes  set-ups. 

 

There are literally no books on lighting technique, which I guess is kept secret, or else everyone would be doing it, I mean everyone can turn on a lamp, but giving shape to the light with modifiers is something else, I don't have the tools to learn much about this, but I guess I could experiment with a maglite or something. Could anyone give their two cents as to how this scene was lit? Normally, when you turn on as many lights, the whole room is enveloped with light. But the way there's shadow in the far right side in the background, and the separation of light and shadow is quite remarkable!

 

Is there a very simple technique for a beginner like me? If I were to light a scene like this, what fixtures would you use and how many flags, and what sizes would you get? -- This post is not so much about how Roger did it, but how you would have done it, just to see the varying possibilities of lighting a scene. Depending on the wattage of the fixture, the beam angle, should that give you an idea as to what sized flags you will need to control spill, and highlight important parts of the scene? 

 

 

i know it's a broad question, but I need examples as to how flags and scrims are applied to lighting.

 

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#2 dan kessler

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 10:19 PM

No books on lighting technique?

Painting With Light, by John Alton.


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#3 joshua gallegos

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 11:54 PM

I should just learn this myself as opposed to asking on a forum, it's such a lazy thing for me to do. I'm certain technique can't be learned from a book. 


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 September 2013 - 12:54 AM

There are some basic, rather obvious rules regarding flags and scrims that books can teach you -- look at "Film Lighting" by Malkiewicz, for example.  How to feather a light with a series of net flags so that as a person walks and gets closer to the source, the general light level on the person can be evened out.  That sort of thing.

 

Obviously when using flags and nets on soft lights, it's more about how you are increasing the rate of fall-off on the edges, softly shaping the light.

 

But at some point, you learn grip work mainly by doing it.  Lighting usually comes first and then grip work modifies and controls that light.  So you may softly side-light a person at a desk, for example, and that's the general look you want, but once you see the effect, you may decide to shape it with flagging and nets, perhaps taking down the light falling on the side of the desk, or keeping the light from hitting too high up the wall, etc.  If lighting is like painting, then grip work is like sculpting, and that's something better learned by using your hands.

 

Joshua, I've noticed that you tend to think too much in absolutes, like "technique can't be learned from a book".  Sure, it can, you can learn a lot of things from books!  Whether you learn them well or deeply is another matter, but certainly a good book can start you on the right path. Sure, you can also learn by asking people on a forum too!

 

There is no right or wrong or single path to learning, it's something that happens on multiple fronts, on many layers, you just have to do a bit of everything -- read about how to do something, ask questions, then do something, then reflect on what you have learned, and then repeat over and over again.


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#5 Stephen Selby

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 10:24 AM

Film lighting by Malkiewicz is certainly awesome - I think scriming/nets/flags can be a problem when you have lights to close to the action and the light is hard by nature. Would you agree with me David that you need to put the lights that you are scriming a reasonable distance away from action to minimize the fall off.


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#6 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 01:18 PM

You can learn only so much from books & forums.  You need to do it to actually see what kind of effect you are having on the light.


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#7 joshua gallegos

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 07:41 PM

yes, I know that now, I posted this in September, 

 

I like what Conrad L. Hall said about lighting, to paraphrase he said,  " you put light where you want it, and you leave the area dark, where you don't want it," - seems simple enough, but it reminded me that lighting is really all about having an imagination, but at the same time books will give you that technical information to expand on those ideas to make them work I think my next film will be a major improvement from the last. 


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