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Lighting tips for kissing


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#1 Laffrey Witbrod

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 03:57 PM

Hi,

 

I'm shooting a short film soon that involves several kissing scenes. I just wanted to see what tips or suggestions people had for lighting kisses. I want it to look beautiful more then sexy, as this is a film about young people. And one of the kisses should be awkward and humorous.

 

Also what are some of your favorite cinema kisses?

 

Thanks for your thoughts!


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#2 Albion Hockney

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 05:29 PM

what does "beautiful more than sexy" mean exactly? I would really recomend trying to be more specfic cinematography is a subtle art and depending on context of the scene and a million other things the same lighting can be beautful, sexy, dark, happy, sad w/e the lighting.

 

 

the approach most people take for the classic kiss is to light from the rear if shooting profile of two people kissing. having each face light from the rear 3rd so near faces casts a shadow on the other and the fill from the front with a really soft source.


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#3 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 05:55 PM

what does "beautiful more than sexy" mean exactly?

 

I take it to mean elegant as opposed objectifying the characters in the typical sexual manner so many films do.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 06:24 PM

The general approach in romantic scenes has been to cross-backlight, today with soft light.  I did a scene in "Twin Falls Idaho" like that -- I hung a 4-bank Kino over the bed as a soft backlight and then put a small Kino on the floor to get a little light back up on the actress' face:

 

tfi9.jpg

 

I did a similar thing here for a love scene in "Jennifer's Body" except without the light coming back up on the actor facing down:

jb45.jpg

 

Here is an ECU of lips from another kissing scene in the movie, both actors were sitting up so the cross backlighting was coming from each side rather than above and below:

jb46.jpg

 

In some movies where the actors are horizontal, the top backlight is bright enough to bounce back up onto the face of the actor facing down.

 

The problem with this traditional approach is that it looks best at the moment before the kiss because once the actors get close enough, they shadow each other.  Which at that point, either you go with a silhouette or very dim fill light. But once two faces are locked in a kiss, there isn't really an angle to get light on them other than frontally, which is a bit boring, hence why you often let them go dark at that point.


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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 08:19 PM

Some screen kisses in film history.

 

"Gone with the Wind", again crosslit, him in red, her in white:

kiss1.jpg

 

"Cabaret" -- there's a crosslight here, meaning that Michael York is edge lit by a tiny lamp on the floor:

kiss2.jpg

 

"The Duellists":

kiss3.jpg

 

"Dick Tracy":

kiss4.jpg

You see the shadowing as people get closer:

kiss5.jpg

 

"Blade Runner" -- Harrison Ford isn't even lit, just silhouetted by some background area that is lit:

kiss6.jpg

 

Of course, most of these examples are profile 2-shots, i.e. 50/50's, which works not just because it's the only way to see the lips during a kiss, but it gives equal dramatic weight to both characters, creating a connection.  You can shoot kissing in over-the-shoulders too, it's just that at some point, the person leaning in will block the face of the person they are kissing. In this shot, it works because he's kissing the side of her face so we can still see her expression:

kiss7.jpg


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#6 Miguel Angel

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 09:18 PM

That's a fantastic post! :) 

 

Thanks!


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#7 John Miguel King

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 03:12 AM

David, if I may use your first name, an interesting thought crossed my mind whilst looking at the stills you've attached as examples.

 

The cross backlight approach results on characters that are less "persons" and more "symbols". With their facial features getting just enough light to describe the action the viewer does not see person A kissing Person B but two figures kissing. This has, I think, some consequences in how the shot is read by the viewer. I like to think that cinema very often oscillates between two narrative modes, a representational one where the story is displayed in front of us, the viewer; and an experiential one where we, the viewer, are immersed in the narrative. It is a parallel with the difference between a third and a first person narration in literature.

With this in mind, it seems to me that the examples you have shown make the viewer experience the kissing rather than making him/her a witness of the event.


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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 10:00 AM

In theory the 50/50 angle which allows you to see the kiss isn't any character's perspective (unless there is a third character in the scene) so it becomes less subjective in one literal sense.  Trouble is that to shoot a kiss from one character's perspective, once the person leans close enough, you have no view of the person nor the kiss itself.  One of the more subjective kisses in cinema was Grace Kelly's first close-up in "Rear Window", where she leans right towards the camera (Jimmy Stewart's POV) but then Hitchcock cuts to the profile angle to see the kiss itself.

 

Kissing scenes can become very technical to shoot, other than the shadowing problem, there is the issue that usually one actor has to tilt their head to one side or the other, which again can affect the over-the-shoulders, there can be focusing issues, etc.  You start to learn though that you want to stretch out the moments before and after the kiss when the actors are making eye contact because at the moment of the kiss, you can hardly see anything.


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