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Case Study: Why is this lighting so bad?


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#1 Samuel Berger

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 01:15 PM

I was looking at Ultra 16mm productions and ran into this little comedy:

 

 

I realise it's meant to spoof low-budget JD (Juvenile Delinquent) flicks of the 50's but that lighting throughout the whole thing....

 

Like, look at that guy at 1:18 in the red jacket. He has three shadows. This would have looked a lot better in black and white.

 

When they introduce the Brad character, it's like they put a clamp light right into his face.

 

I don't want to make the same mistakes. So why is this like this? Is it just a lack of diffusion?

 

By the way, I mean no criticism of the writing or acting, I think it's great that they got together and made a film, specially in Ultra 16, in fact it's one I'd love to watch because these are right up my alley, but I think the lighting is lacking and I would like to know what is up.

 

 


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#2 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 04 November 2017 - 07:07 PM

Yea it's just a lot of hard lighting. I've used this trick recently on a feature where we needed a section to look like a home movie.

I mean it's for sure what the filmmakers were after for a "look".

Diffusion helps, but honestly it's a lot of lamp placement as well. Ya gotta really understand placement as a gaffer so as to not let actors too close.
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#3 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 04 November 2017 - 07:14 PM

Diffusion helps, but honestly it's a lot of lamp placement as well. Ya gotta really understand placement as a gaffer so as to not let actors too close.

It's generally the DP who decides lamp placement, not the gaffer.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 November 2017 - 07:43 PM

It's obviously not meant to be well-photographed by contemporary standards -- it's a parody of color b-movies and industrials shot on a low-budget. If anything, it did not go far enough with that 50s overlit multiple-shadow look of those sorts of films. It should have looked like they had 25 ASA film and had to light it with some hard 1Ks plugged into the wall and spotted in on the actors. Go to YouTube and watch some 1950's color educational movies if you like to see multiple shadows.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 November 2017 - 07:51 PM

Hard lighting is not contemporary and it is hard to do well on a low-budget with a short schedule because it can quickly go from looking like a classy Technicolor movie to a cheesy 60's color TV show just because it can get crude and harsh, and that is magnified by cheap art direction because now you are shiny so much light on everything that every flaw will pop out.

But multiple shadows are a part of that older style, it's just that the better cinemagraphers learned to hide them better, balance the lighting more, and avoid a distracting "bad" shadow.

If you really want to avoid multiple shadows, use only one hard or strong light for the key and then make sure other lights are very soft and generally frontal for fill, and knocked down in intensity. The eye should be aware of one main light and all other lights are secondary to that.
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#6 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 04 November 2017 - 09:26 PM

The film itself looks very funny.. an example in one sense of that even if this lighting was not "hard light in cheek" and just bad lighting.. the final production would be alot better use of 90 mins or so of your time.. than sitting through a $100m plus film that was beautifully shot, but a crappy script..


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#7 Samuel Berger

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Posted 04 November 2017 - 10:15 PM

The film itself looks very funny..

 

Not going to dispute that, I'd like very much to see it.

 


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#8 fatih yıkar

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Posted 05 November 2017 - 06:09 AM

This is one the things i really don't understand about hard lighting, sometimes hard lighting looks so well but sometimes looks so cheap,lack and amateur...

E.g. when i looked behind the scenes footage of original evil dead (1981) so many scenes they use hard lighting inside the cabin  but ıt's look so well on movie. I guess for using one strong key light make it image more balanced.

interviews_richard_de_manincor_(hal_delrich)_01.jpg

3203_17_large-min.jpg

 

This is most probably belonging to evil dead 2

BTS_Evil_Dead_7-min-min.jpg

 

 

e.g.
 

Edited by fatih yıkar, 05 November 2017 - 06:10 AM.

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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 November 2017 - 11:26 AM

The only thing "wrong" with hard lighting is that it is hard to do well -- it takes skill -- and it doesn't fit into modern notions of realism in lighting.  This is one reason why it works better in more stylized genres like horror, with its emphasis on shadows and darkness.  It is not forgiving, either in placement or in how it interacts with objects, though it can be glamorizing for faces.

 

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mildred_pierce_joan_crawford.jpg?resize=

 

Most of "The Love Witch" is hard-lit and at times when I was rushed and/or dealing with a location that was less-than-ideal in terms of budget, my consolation was just that the look would still be correct for the period, but it would occasionally look like a lower-budgeted movie of the period trying to follow the norms of a big-budget Hollywood movie.  I think the semi-period design helped in that regards because hard-lighting on modern settings and costumes is even more unexpected for an audience.


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#10 J. Winfield Heckert

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Posted 05 November 2017 - 02:04 PM

Hello, I shot Rockabilly High School while at film school. I was inspired by the lighting of the 1950's 16mm educational films. It wasn't meant to look realistic by contemporary standards. I wanted the audience to see the lighting.  

 

I was going for a highly stylized look, on NO budget. I paid for the film stock, a car to wreck and equipment everything else was free. I bought some cheap Arri knock offs, most were broken in one way or another through out the production. The 650 type Arri's with a fresnel lens lit most shots. I also used some Sylvania open faced 1k's from the 1960's. Film's not like video I had to shoot 200ASA Vision 2 film indoors at F4 to keep the grain to a minimum and the Image quality from the 12-120 acceptable. I used the Arri BL with a blimped lens modified by Bernie for Ultra16.

 

It looks amateur because it was. I didn't have a crew mainly just me and a sound guy, occasionally the director would show up. it was fun to make and I learned alot. I'll include the link below. 

 

I've just completed shooting my first feature on Super16mm "In the House of Madness, a 90min horror comedy. It's a send off to European/American horror films of the 1980's. It's by far a superior production. 

 

 

https://www.youtube...._id=Fy7q17-F-mw


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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 November 2017 - 05:09 PM

Thanks for chiming in!


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#12 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 05 November 2017 - 07:42 PM

Hello, I shot Rockabilly High School while at film school. I was inspired by the lighting of the 1950's 16mm educational films. It wasn't meant to look realistic by contemporary standards. I wanted the audience to see the lighting.  

 

I was going for a highly stylized look, on NO budget. I paid for the film stock, a car to wreck and equipment everything else was free. I bought some cheap Arri knock offs, most were broken in one way or another through out the production. The 650 type Arri's with a fresnel lens lit most shots. I also used some Sylvania open faced 1k's from the 1960's. Film's not like video I had to shoot 200ASA Vision 2 film indoors at F4 to keep the grain to a minimum and the Image quality from the 12-120 acceptable. I used the Arri BL with a blimped lens modified by Bernie for Ultra16.

 

It looks amateur because it was. I didn't have a crew mainly just me and a sound guy, occasionally the director would show up. it was fun to make and I learned alot. I'll include the link below. 

 

I've just completed shooting my first feature on Super16mm "In the House of Madness, a 90min horror comedy. It's a send off to European/American horror films of the 1980's. It's by far a superior production. 

 

 

https://www.youtube...._id=Fy7q17-F-mw

 

 

Wow then its really an amazing feat what you managed to achieve .. as I said before the film itself.. regardless of the budget limitations looks very funny.. and way above alot of film school films.. or large budget professional ones too for that matter


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#13 Samuel Berger

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Posted 05 November 2017 - 08:05 PM

Yes, thanks for chiming in!

 

Here's the fixed URL:

 


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#14 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 06 November 2017 - 12:10 AM

Look at Night of the Hunter for some really amazing hard light work by Stanley Cortez, ASC. It's noir lighting, but expertly done.

 

Also, in beauty-lighting, hard light is common. The trick is to keep it very close to camera and shape a shadow that compliments the features (normally light ends up above camera). It's when hard sources move towards being side or top-lights that they get much harder to do well.

 

Here's an example hard light for beauty that's been cut/gobo-ed/charlie-bar'd to create interest.

 

4d9457bb6be6b585fb753649e670ef43.jpg

 

When I used to do beauty work (I don't get those kind of jobs very often anymore), I often hung a Big Eye 10K right above lens. The Mole Big Eye 10K's were old units that had a huge fresnel front lens, they worked really well for beauty. They can be hard to find at rental houses (as I don't think they're produced anymore), but the good ones hang on to the old ones. They're hard enough to shape a shadow, but big enough to be a little pleasing to the eye when you go off axis. They create a nice round shape in the eye reflection. And they're pretty inefficient, so won't blind the talent too much. Here's one I used years ago:

 

beaty10k.jpg


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