Do the table or desktop lamps in shots have a particular purpose? What is the typical purpose of those lights in frame cinematographers use them for?
Once I noticed them turned on almost all the time, I now can't stop doing it.
Sometimes one or more are turned off.
I would also like to know whether DPs like to mix light, especially artificial light and daylight, and why, since this is something I thought was ugly and should be avoided. It seems it's quite the reverse.
In the end, light coming through a window and through a curtain – is it almost always filtered through something invisible in a shot behind the window or the other way around?
Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos, 18 January 2016 - 11:29 AM.
I think it all depends on the look you want to go for. There is no wrong or right, and in the end how it looks, good or bad, will depend upon not only context, but what's in the scene, as in physically there on the location.
Sometimes we turn on practicals, because, well it looks right, or makes sense in a logical way, or gives us a motivation for our film lighting. Normally we use film lighting to actually "create" the light thrown from the practical, so the light isn't blown out.
As for windows-- some people don't mind the mixed color temp, some do, some will correct the window, others the lights, some may throw up a large silk outside of it, or cover it in 1000H to make it just blow out with no detail, others will ND so you can see out the window (or raise the ambient light levels) and some will shoot a streak of hard light through-- I myself often use a Tungsten PAR to make a streak of warm sunlight through a window-- but only when it works right.
There is really no right or wrong, it's about taste, and what you and the director thing is right for the particular scene int he particular film.
'Course, once you get an idea-- it's best to stick with it through the whole film.
It’s funny how, in the end, you sometimes get the information you sought. I just thought to add these posts to Adrian’s great answer.
Another thing I see in todays movies are "thousands" of table lamps (usually witch lampshades) in interiors which are all switched on (even when the main light is on and sometimes even in full daylight). Their purpose is only decorative and it looks really weird. Have you noticed it? Nobody in real life has six table lamps switched on in every room.
I’m glad I wasn’t the only one noticing this. Which is what prompted this whole thread above, back when I didn’t know these were referred to as “practicals”.
Practical lamps are typically only something an audience notices when they're not there. I always ask anyone in charge of that to make sure that if it's a nighttime interior in a residential home that there are actual lamps in the location. Most of the time, this means that they have to go buy them as nobody has lamps anymore. Without them, you're left with an interior that looks like it's being lit by film lights or god forbid overhead lighting.
You want lamps with translucent lamp shades because the desired effect is that those lamps are lighting up the space and the talent. Not your film lights.
Reality is not as pretty as Film/TV. Nobody usually has decent window dressing in their houses. Nobody has perfectly coordinated warddrobes either. These are all artifice we bring to make the image look better.
Narrative movies are typically meant as a form entertainment escapism. So the visuals tend to be more artificial and "pretty" or "scary" etc. Whatever the genre is. It's designed to make you forget "reality".
Documentary movies are informative, investigative, educational, and they tend to reflect a more "real-life" visual aesthetic.
As for bulbs, I think that a regular incandescent 40 watt soft white bulb in a clip light through 250 produces a fantastic natural key for a static closeup. and I'll sometimes do that if a nearby practical is "motivating" the scene because they tend to match well. It's a very beautiful light source and works well on almost any skin tone.
So there's nothing wrong with it. You can light a shot with a source like that. It's hard however to light a whole location with a source that small. So you use film lights on your talent and put practicals in the frame to make it look like that's what is lighting the location.
Alan - agreed on the practicals. These days I almost make a point of turning practicals off instead. So sick of the fact they always have to be on. I much prefer the shape of the lamp shade, than the light from it.
But otherwise I'm not sure I agree. Today we have naturalism taken to an extreme level. Look at Jason Bourne etc and you'll see big night exteriors mainly lit by what's there - streetlights, cars etc. They might augment a little here and there - put a bulb on a doorway, throw a wash on a facade etc, but there are no giant Bebe-lights or big moon boxes hanging down over the set. In effect, they eschew beauty for realism. Very often I see quite ugly uncontrolled light on faces etc. I suppose you can call it real and it goes with the aesthetic of todays trends. I just prefer the look we had two trend generations back, where we emulated naturalism, but "helped" it along (I say we, as in the collective we, not myself). Slightly augmented it to make it more magical. I'm not looking for the Technicolor high key days back, or even the 70's style. But the "Brit Revolution" look that started in the 80's was firmly planted in naturalism (look at The Duellists, Alien, Flashdance, The Verdict, Angel Heart etc etc), but had that little extra push into the magical. For my taste, that is the look I've always been closest to.
Then with the advent of Jan de Bont etc in the late 80's and early 90's, the style started changing towards the more outrageous, fantastical and slick which is till evident today in Michael Bay's work etc. Teal and orange and all that.
Completely aside, Mississippi Burning was on TV yesterday and what a beautiful film that is. Completely different from the style today, yet still very naturalistic. Very "Brit revolution". Peter Biziou BSC one of the most underrated DP's. I miss those looks.