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Lighting and skin tones on French TV


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#1 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 11:25 AM

Has anyone here watched French TV news bulletins?

 

No matter which channel you pick, TF1, France2, or any of the news channels, such as BFM TV or i>Télé, they all beautifully light the newsreaders and guests in the studio so that the skin looks great. I’ve never really seen any other TV channels anywhere else do it that way. (Perhaps in Belgium, but I’m not sure.)

 

I was wondering if anyone could tell me how do they do it?

 

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#2 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 13 July 2015 - 04:14 PM

I now see these images above don't exactly do the phenomenon justice.

 

Don't you just love it? The glow around Claire Chazal is magnificent.

 

Here are a few recent screen captures:

 

Claire.png
Laurent_1.png
Laurent_2.png


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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 13 July 2015 - 06:28 PM

I see a hard, high frontal key from maybe 15-20ft away (see the shadow of the table mics on her blouse) with some lower frontal fill and a semi-soft toppy backlight that is hitting her left hand as well as her hair and shoulders. She's also probably getting some low ambient fill from her white blouse. Possibly a slight amount of lens diffusion, not unusual for an older tv presenter. It all looks like pretty standard tv studio stuff to me...
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 July 2015 - 07:49 PM

It's hard to get around the fact that a slightly high frontal key is often the most attractive on faces, even if it's a bit boring dramatically and lacks mood.  It's like what Charles Lang, ASC says in "Visions of Light" about what the studio kept telling him "You can put shadows anywhere you want, just not on the faces!"

 

I was just watching the new blu-ray of "State of Grace", a 1990 crime drama set in NYC, shot by Jordan Cronenweth -- great mood lighting, often gritty, but Robin Wright's early close-up in a bar when she meets Sean Penn is a classic frontal soft key, slightly above the eyes, and she looks gorgeous.

 

Here are the three close-ups from that scene:

 

stateofgrace1.jpg


stateofgrace2.jpg

stateofgrace3.jpg

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#5 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 14 July 2015 - 07:48 AM

Funny what you can get away with.. she,s standing right next to Penn.. but quite different lighting on her face.. I prefer his TBH..  the lighting that is.. 


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#6 Mark Dunn

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Posted 14 July 2015 - 08:15 AM

Funny what you can get away with.. she,s standing right next to Penn.. but quite different lighting on her face.. I prefer his TBH..  the lighting that is.. 

Not next to, opposite.  The lighting can be different for each. The lights don't have to stay put for the reverse.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 14 July 2015 - 08:16 AM.

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#7 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 14 July 2015 - 07:11 PM

well they are standing next to each over.. with their bodies facing each other are they not.. at a bar.. he has very high key lighting with a lot of shadow  and she has very flat lighting.. where ever that soft fill light  on her is coming from would be hitting him too..    but yes of course nothing is set in stone.. and there is often pressure to light actresses without shadow..  

 

His key is obviously coming from camera right..  hers is flat on from slightly above.. if it were another male actor I doubt it would be light that way..   


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 14 July 2015 - 07:12 PM.

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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 July 2015 - 07:35 PM

She is facing Sean Penn from across the table with the main bar window behind her, so in theory the two men are facing the light and she is sitting with it behind her, but Cronenweth created a key light for her from the opposite direction of the window end of the bar. There is some odd window behind Penn that I guess is a motivation for her light although obviously she could be lit as if by an overhead practical.

 

I could have included the wide masters if you wanted to see the lighting more clearly.  The thing with Penn's close-up is that even though he is facing the window, his key has been moved more to the side and he's been given a soft edge light.  Since Robin Wright was so young when this movie was made, it wasn't necessary to key her so frontally other than the fact that this is her character introduction as the love interest so I think Cronenweth wanted to make sure she was presented in as flattering a light as possible.  

 

Of course most cinematographers prefer it when the key can be moved to one side to create some shadow and contrast, my original point was that if you are going to make a career out of lighting women, it is hard to get around the fact that most women look best with a frontal key slightly high to create a shadow under the chin.  The only problem with this technique is if the actress has bags under her eyes, requiring more low fill which unfortunately tends to light up the neck.  The solution is generally to get the key right above the lens so that there is a minimal shadow under the eyes and keep it soft.  In more extreme cases, you have to key from each side of the lens at eye level, or completely surround the lens with light as with a ring light.  It's too bad because while doing this will help eliminate wrinkles and bags, it also weakens the sculptural structure of the face, whereas the high frontal key helps bring this out, especially if it is a bit higher ala Marlena Deitrich's lighting.


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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 July 2015 - 07:47 PM

Even though we've drifted off of the point, here are the wider angles of the scene to show more clearly the lighting motivation:

 

stateofgrace4.jpg

 

stateofgrace5.jpg

 

As you can see, even though Penn is facing dead on to the window light, in his close-up, it has been cheated more to the side to create some contrast.

 

Having filmed in NYC, a constant problem are what are called "railroad apartments" though the issue is the same for stores -- they only have windows at one end of the room, so for day scenes, you can have issues motivating light from other directions unless some room lights are on.  I don't know how they found a bar in NYC with a side window in the back near the men's room. Maybe it's a set or maybe they just looked very hard until they found a building like this.


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#10 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 04:37 AM

Thanks for the extra info David..I thought they were both standing at a bar with the motivated light coming from his camera right and her left for the reverse .. yes understood.. shooting actresses can be like that.. Ive had exactly that shooting Beyonce and Glenn Close..   NOT for movies I must add straight away.. but both very demanding .. with entourage ! .. bags under eyes was a big deal.. and on both occasions I think it was some of the worst lighting Ive ever done..well forced to do..  totally and utterly flat.. big Kino,s and diffusion .. I was forced to move closer and closer to the lens axis.. and yes basically the end result was a massive ring light of Kino,s.. !..  Crap lighting .. but they were happy .. and the check didnt bounce.. 


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 15 July 2015 - 04:42 AM.

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#11 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 24 August 2015 - 03:01 AM

I see a hard, high frontal key from maybe 15-20ft away (see the shadow of the table mics on her blouse) with some lower frontal fill and a semi-soft toppy backlight that is hitting her left hand as well as her hair and shoulders. She's also probably getting some low ambient fill from her white blouse. Possibly a slight amount of lens diffusion, not unusual for an older tv presenter. It all looks like pretty standard tv studio stuff to me...

 

:)

 

Thank you, Satsuki.

 

Key discovery is lens diffusion for me. I saw that there was some fair amount of blur, but didn't know what it was. Strange that it's used for a news programme.

 

 

 

It's hard to get around the fact that a slightly high frontal key is often the most attractive on faces, even if it's a bit boring dramatically and lacks mood.  It's like what Charles Lang, ASC says in "Visions of Light" about what the studio kept telling him "You can put shadows anywhere you want, just not on the faces!"

Sounds like something I would say or mandate.

 

I'm actually quite surprised that women look best with a chin shadow.  :blink: I actually hate that.

 

But while we're at it, I might as well use this opportunity to ask: why is it that so many people prefer actors and models to be backlit? Why is that of higher artistic value than frontal light?


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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 August 2015 - 09:21 AM

Mood is the short answer.  Front lighting has the least mood of all the angles since it creates so few shadows.

 

At least a strong backlight on an actor allows you to have a frontal dimmer key light while still having some contrast in the frame by having hot highlights from the backlight as opposed to deep shadows -- you need contrast somewhere.  Plus backlighting separates the object from the background, and often it looks pretty.

 

Why would you hate a chin shadow on a face???

 

A newscast isn't interested in mood, they supposedly aren't telling fiction.

 

Besides mood, modeled lighting creates a more three dimension feeling in a two dimensional image.  It also helps direct the eye within the frame.


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#13 John Holland

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Posted 24 August 2015 - 12:34 PM

As being maybe the biggest David Watkin fan back light rules !


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#14 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 24 August 2015 - 04:00 PM

Chin shadow hides and slims the neck. You don't see the wrinkles, spots, fat rolls, etc. It also defines the jawline, so it makes someone with a weak jaw appear stronger. For those reasons, soft light is not always the most attractive light on a subject with blemishes (which is basically everyone). Well-placed shadows are key to a well-lit shot.
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#15 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 02:28 AM

I guess, David, that I have a fundamental problem in that I like brightness and so much mood is accomplished with opposite means. I also have the impression that backlighting is so ubiquitous that I sometimes feel people need to try something else. Everybody's doing it. It's everywhere.

 

I feel it darkens the frame.

 

Can't you, for example, have a shot of two people lit by direct sunlight filtered through a big canvas of some fabric, muslin or silk or any other?

 

Satsuki says chin shadow slims the neck and hides flaws. I kind of always thought it gives you a negative feature, a double chin. It never looked pretty to me. I must pay closer attention now to reconsider my viewpoint.

 

I did reconsider my stance on shadows, and now I'm OK with them. I was rewatching quickly some scenes from To Rome with Love given what Darius Khondji talked about in his interview about the film how he hates bad lighting on actors faces to see what kind of lighting he likes, and I was expecting light, airy shadows, with soft contours, and I have to look again, since I pretty much bumped only onto uniformly lit faces, with diffused light or something like that, with no shadows. I loved it when he splashed frontal sunlight all across a scene – I didn't expect that, and I found that it created the mood marvellously.

 

http://s12.postimg.o...ap_error712.jpg

 

As for

 

 

 

A newscast isn't interested in mood, they supposedly aren't telling fiction.

 

 

Yes, precisely. That's why I was so surprised there was lens diffusion on a TV news programme. I thought everything was supposed to be neutral.

 

 

Besides mood, modeled lighting creates a more three dimension feeling in a two dimensional image.  It also helps direct the eye within the frame.

 

I felt that some of that was lacking on shadowless faces in To Rome with Love, the three-dimensional feeling.


Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos, 31 August 2015 - 02:43 AM.

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#16 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 01:17 AM

Note that all those studio shots that you provided has backlight, you can see it in the hair. It's unlikey they'd use lens diffusion in a news or current affairs studio, it's more likely they turned dowm the detail or edge shrapness on the camera.


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#17 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 02:34 AM

The lens diffusion was just a guess, but I have seen it used in these situations before. It's intended to help reduce the appearance of skin blemishes in as subtle a manner as possible. Not to create a look, style, or mood. You're not supposed to notice that it's being used.
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#18 Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos

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Posted 08 September 2015 - 01:55 PM

I was just watching one TV interview that reminded me that I think I don't have a problem with chin shadow if the shadow is small. If it covers the whole neck, it is awful. It creates new problems and solves a few mentioned above.


Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos, 08 September 2015 - 01:55 PM.

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