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What's your procedure?


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#1 David Calson

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 12:32 AM

New to cinematography and I'm trying to get into the mindset of a professional cinematographer, apologies if this comes across as a vague question but...

 

 

Do you have certain protocols/procedures/steps you stick to when lighting a scene? 

 

 

Pretend we're in a studio.  The set is an abandoned nightclub.  Two gentlemen meet at a table.  One of them turns out to be a hitman, but the other one doesn't know it.  Eventually, the hitman slowly screws on his silencer under the table and pops the other gentleman.  /Scene.  

 

What would be your first steps towards tackling this scene?  

 

If it were me I would decide what I think the scene should look like by...

1) Use the zone system, I would decide what the tonal values should be for the background, the parts of their faces, etc.

2) I would decide what color those tonal value should be

3)  Figure out where the light would be coming from that's motivated

4)  After positioning the lights I would use my meter to check that the values are where I want them to be, ND/scrim/flag accordingly.

 

Something like that.  Anyways, just trying to see if there's a better way of doing things.  Thanks  

 

 


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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 01:44 AM

Honestly, for me, it seems to be much more of an innate thing.

It starts well before you ever set foot on a stage/set/location, in reading the script and talking with the director. Knowing the shots they want, knowing them a bit, trying to get in their head.

Then it's helpful to see some of the blocking, to know how the actors are going to move.

From there it's down to, for me at least, keeping some kind of logic to the place, and the film as a whole, as well as exploiting every little thing I can-- a candle on the table, the concert lighting happening in the background etc etc.

It's nice to know what stop I'd like to be at, and we can of course light to that stop accordingly, but working just, but the numbers, for me at least, is much more just the technical aspects and doesn't get into really what a DoP does-- which is try to give some kind of photographic "statement," though I hate that term-- feeling, some kind of photographic feeling not just to a scene in isolation but to a whole film and/or the people and places in that scene.

 

Spit-balling-- abandoned night club.

 

I'd like to have some kind of windows through which I could motivate street lighting which will fall under the table a bit so then I can backlight the siliencer going onto the gun and filled in with a little card, since it'd probable be in a close up. I'd love if this same light slashed the two people sitting at the table, and one of  them was lit just by the embers of a cigar they are smoking-- the smoke wafting in the beam of light. Maybe, just maybe, the table itself is slightly lighter in tone, or has a semi-gloss so i get a little kick back up under there eyes. I'd use Storro Yellow gel on the streetlight, because I like it.


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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 04:30 AM

After reading a script, I try to first understand the story and pick out the important story beats. I try to find the theme and internalize the mood and tone of the story. If the script is well-written, I find this usually happens subconciously without much effort on my part.

I discuss these general notions with the director and together we scout locations. That's when I start having specific ideas on direction, quantity, quality, and color of light, as well as camera angles and blocking. I start imagining what the sources of light in each scene might be and start thinking about lighting rigs, researching gel packs, etc. So by the time I get to set, I have it mostly all worked out.

Technically, I like to work in layers with broad strokes first, starting with the background and working towards the foreground one source at a time. Usually the background is lit by the main source of light in the scene, whether it is ambient toplight, or sunlight thru a row of windows, or lightning creating sharp rain pattern shadows on the walls. I then add things like practicals, little glows on walls, skip bounces, etc in the mid-ground, and end with the key light and possibly a little fill. The nice thing is that if you do a good job on the background, you might not even need a key.

If the script is underwritten, then I find it a lot harder to come up with concrete ideas since there's nothing solid to base my ideas off of. At that point, I kind of have to fill in the blanks with my own idea of what the story is about.

To take your nightclub example, I'd question what you mean by abandoned. Is it merely closed after hours, or is it gutted? Assuming the latter, maybe the main source of light is the intermittent headlight beams from passing traffic. You'd get hard kicks from broken glass on the floor, as well as large puddle of water from a broken water pipe. There would be haze hanging in the air. Maybe there is a late nite diner or Chinese restaurant across the street with a buzzing green neon sign. That would look great reflected in the puddle on the floor.

Story-wise, the scene is missing a reversal where the target realizes who the hitman really is. And I question the logic of the hitman needing to hide his gun from the target once they are both alone. If there were more story beats, I think I would come up some kind of motivated lighting change to highlight that.
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