Jump to content


Photo

soft light


  • Please log in to reply
16 replies to this topic

#1 Filip Plesha

Filip Plesha
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1267 posts
  • Other
  • Croatia

Posted 12 August 2005 - 08:19 PM

It seems to me that most movies I see these days are based on more or less softened light. Is this a misjudgement or am I right?
And why is that so?
  • 0

#2 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 12 August 2005 - 10:55 PM

It seems to me that most movies I see these days are based on more or less softened light. Is this a misjudgement or am I right?
And why is that so?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



It seems fairly true, anyway. My guess would be perhaps it's because of great pressure to make the big-name stars that, like it or not, sell the movies look as good as possible.
  • 0

#3 Greg Gross

Greg Gross
  • Sustaining Members
  • 869 posts
  • Harrisburg,PA

Posted 12 August 2005 - 11:35 PM

1. Script/Story

2. Mood/Look

3. Quality of Light

4. Direction of Light

5. Quanity of Light

If your up to it, model (modeling) your actors with light. Give them a 3-D look.
Its one thing to light though and stiill another thing to capture it on film. I am not
an expert! This is my own personal agenda.

Greg Gross/Photographer
  • 0

#4 Michael Nash

Michael Nash
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3330 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Pasadena, CA

Posted 13 August 2005 - 12:24 AM

We've talked about this before, and it's the result of lots of different contributing factors. For the most part it's probably just the style or trend that audiences are used to seeing, and that filmmakers are used to working with (it wasn't always this way). Another contributor is the development of faster film stocks and newer lighting tools that enable soft lighting under a wider variety of conditions than were possible say 50 years ago. When you look at things like early Technicolor which required ridiculous light levels, or B&W which thrived on contrast, you can see why they DIDN'T use soft light in the mid 20th century.

But there are a few modern DP's who use hard light; Ericson Core (Daredevil, Fast and the Furious) comes to mind. I finally caught Million Dollar Baby recently and enjoyed the high-contrast, harder light approach that Tom Stern used. It was very stylized and hardly could be called naturalistic; more like looking at a painting. But for the purposes of telling this story, I felt it was a refreshing change to the trend in modern filmmaking.

As a DP I personally like the subtlties that you can get with soft light, and it appears more naturalistic unless the light is specifically motivated from a hard source. When you start using hard light, it can quickly become artificial or stylized looking. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but the more stylized you become the more careful you have to be in applying that style, lest you take the audience out of the story. I think audiences these days are used to seeing a more naturalistic view of things on screen, and can spot an unnatural or stylized look.

Not that it stops filmmakers from stretching the bounds, nor should it. For example, there's also been a trend to radically alter the image quality with things like silver retention, cross-processing and now DI. The tolerance for "naturalism" seems to have shifted from image quality to lighting. Personally I think audiences are ready to start seeing some more un-real things on screen; I'd love to see a resurgance of out-and-out expressionism like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary.
  • 0

#5 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 13 August 2005 - 06:15 AM

Yeah, just look at older hard lit films - you'd see double shadows, even triple shadows from multiple hard units very often. That's considered a sin in todays cinematography - nobody would do that! They were also quite harshly and flatly lit at times - just look at any TV series from that era like Streets of San Francisco and others..

I love a combination of soft and hard light. Often a hard "zing" that makes the image pop and adds some dynamics is what makes a scene look good. The Assasination of Richard Nixon shot by Lubezki is a very good recent example of this. His usual softlight style mixed up with some harsh hard light, often frontal, makes it very pretty.
  • 0

#6 Filip Plesha

Filip Plesha
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1267 posts
  • Other
  • Croatia

Posted 13 August 2005 - 06:30 AM

It seems fairly true, anyway. My guess would be perhaps it's because of great pressure to make the big-name stars that, like it or not, sell the movies look as good as possible.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



But isn't "looking good" subjective?
Or am I wrong about this, does majority of people like to see soft light?
  • 0

#7 Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4708 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Europe

Posted 13 August 2005 - 10:56 AM

But isn't "looking good" subjective?
Or am I wrong about this, does majority of people like to see soft light?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Hi,

Sometimes soft light can be boring! its more difficult to break up!

Stephen
  • 0

#8 Filip Plesha

Filip Plesha
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1267 posts
  • Other
  • Croatia

Posted 13 August 2005 - 10:58 AM

tell me about it, I'm really bored with soft light
  • 0

#9 Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4708 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Europe

Posted 13 August 2005 - 11:10 AM

tell me about it, I'm really bored with soft light

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Hi,

Great for cosmetics commercials, I prefer more moody lighting myself.

Stephen
  • 0

#10 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 13 August 2005 - 12:48 PM

Most modern cinematography is concerned with creating the illusion of naturalism (as opposed to being realistic.) In the real world, we encounter a mix of hard and soft light, but often a hard light happens because of a specific hard source (the sun, a bare light bulb, other point sources) whereas soft light not only comes from soft sources but also ambient bounce.

Therefore a hard key light often calls more attention to itself because your eye wonders that light in coming from, whereas a very soft source is sort of indirect and you tend to think it could be coming from anything, ambient bounce, off-camera window, etc.

Plus a hard light, unless completely frontal, creates a hard shadow, which in turn can be more obvious and maybe distracting.

In narrative cinematography, it's not always a good idea for the lighting to stand out.

Plus in modern acting, an actor is allowed more freedom in moving about a room, and softer sources give them more freedom to miss marks yet still be lit.

I tend to mix hard and soft lighting, but my preference for faces tends to be a soft but contrasty light with a lot of fall-off to create a black reference on the shadow side. If I use a hard light, I tend to have a justification as to what is creating that light (sunlight, moonlight, track lighting, bare light bulb, etc.) The only exception may be a very snooted hard spot, usually frontal, to bring out a small area in the frame, like an eye light, etc.

It's can be very hard to do an all-hard-lit movie and make it look classy instead of cheesey -- it's the fine line between something looking like a classic 40's movie versus a cheap 70's TV series. I did "D.E.B.S." mostly in harder, frontal key lighting but I'm not completely happy with the way it turned out. For one thing, I was shooting in HD which is already a bit "edgier" than film, so hard lighting tends to exaggerate that feeling, plus when you shine very hard light on the scene, the art direction, make-up, and wardrobe better be top-notch. A bad paint job on a set wall will really stand out (especially when combined with deeper focus.)
  • 0

#11 Greg Gross

Greg Gross
  • Sustaining Members
  • 869 posts
  • Harrisburg,PA

Posted 13 August 2005 - 01:19 PM

Some time ago I read an article in AC about the film "The Interpeter". Directed
by Sydney Pollack and photographed by Darius Khondji. Essentially Mr. Pollack
was quoted in AC as saying that he chose Mr. Khondji because he had the ability
to light the actors with a modeling type of light. I expect that this refers to a hard-
er key light,directional with a softer fill or harder fill(less intense). However each to
their own as to what they want to use. Of the look of Madonna in the film "Evita",Mr.
Khondji said, "I wanted to reflect the character's incredible aura through the energy
of the lighting on her face". Of Juan Peron Khondji said, "He was a much more com-
plex character than Eva. He had a dual personality-apparently very sympathetic and
generous,but also very devious. "I found myself lighting him so that he was often
half in darkness". I find myself getting bored with just a constant large source of soft
light also. I'm less bored if the film has a strong script/story. I subscribe to the line
of thinking that each scene has a central event. A central event may be- The first
time Scarlett Johannson and Ewan Mcgregor step out of Silo # 3 into the real world.
Keep in mind that as clones they did not know there was a real world outside of the
one thay had been living in. The events of a scene tell us the story.If they are strong
I can concentrate on the action/story, be less effected by that big old source of soft
light. Having said all this one can light to model but then its another thing to get that
look on film. If someone moves out of their modeling light there goes your look and
the thought of a big old large soft light source, may be very attractive in the back of
your mind.

Greg Gross
  • 0

#12 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 13 August 2005 - 08:58 PM

I find myself getting bored with just a constant large source of soft
light also.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Obviously Vermeer didn't get tired of that look...

It's just about style, which is cyclical, although I don't forsee a widespread return to a 1940's type of baroque hard lighting.

Both types of lighting, hard and soft, are hard to do WELL. That big soft source with a lot of fall-off like you see in Roger Deakins work isn't as easy as you'd think. It's not always possible to put a big soft light in a set or location and keep it off-camera, and it's hard to control it with big flags, etc.

A real master of soft lighting was Piotr Sobochinsky, who died young unfortunately. When I saw "Twilight" and "Red", I was amazed at how controlled his soft sources were, even with nice shadow cuts along walls or foreheads, despite the soft source.
  • 0

#13 Glenn Hanns

Glenn Hanns
  • Sustaining Members
  • 160 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 16 August 2005 - 03:54 AM

Obviously Vermeer didn't get tired of that look...

It's just about style, which is cyclical, although I don't forsee a widespread return to a 1940's type of baroque hard lighting.

Both types of lighting, hard and soft, are hard to do WELL.  That big soft source with a lot of fall-off like you see in Roger Deakins work isn't as easy as you'd think.  It's not always possible to put a big soft light in a set or location and keep it off-camera, and it's hard to control it with big flags, etc.

A real master of soft lighting was Piotr Sobochinsky, who died young unfortunately. When I saw "Twilight" and "Red", I was amazed at how controlled his soft sources were, even with nice shadow cuts along walls or foreheads, despite the soft source.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hi David,
I must agree Piotr was a master, I read he used PAR 9 lights alot. Do you know any other info?
Cheers Glenn
  • 0

#14 shane grace

shane grace
  • Guests

Posted 16 August 2005 - 02:07 PM

sorry, whats a Par-9?

is it tungsten? HMI? 1 big globe with lenses or 9 globes in a grid? - who normally makes them Arri? Mole Richardson?

Thanks in advance,

Shane
  • 0

#15 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 16 August 2005 - 04:45 PM

sorry, whats a Par-9?

is it tungsten? HMI? 1 big globe with lenses or 9 globes in a grid? - who normally makes them Arri? Mole Richardson?

Thanks in advance,

Shane

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I think he's referring to 9-lights, generally made by Mole Richardson. I'm not fluent in 'Molespeak', but they exist in a daylight version and are then called Fay-lights, I believe. Often with the narrower PAR 36 beam.

Don't think Arri makes any 9-lites but they do make a 7-light called the Ruby, but that's pretty much it as far as PARs go for them. Italy on the other hand has tons of small companies that make a lot of big PAR lights like the Dino's and Wendy's. Firms like Ianiro, DeSisti and so on. Italians are big on PAR's. Maybe because Storaro uses them all:-)

The Wendy light is incidentally named after David Watkin, BSC, who's nickname is Wendy (for reasons I'll let you deduct for yourself :rolleyes: ). It was first developed inhouse by Lee Lighting in London. A Wendy is basically a huge number of 650w PAR's in an array (a full Wendy has 224 PARs and 145K!!) and packs a monstrous punch. In fact, I don't think you can get a brighter source for its size than that.

Dino lights are basically bigger 9- and 12-lights and thus have the 1000w PAR globes. Anything with more globes than a 12-light is often referred to as a Dino - they often have 24-36 globes. Also a very powerful lights.

What would one call a daylight Dino? A Dino-Fay? Or is that referred to as a dalight Wendy in the US?
  • 0

#16 Mario C. Jackson

Mario C. Jackson
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 138 posts
  • Student

Posted 19 August 2005 - 09:12 AM

I think that more people are beginning to use soft likes because it looks more suttle and believable. Especially for interiors, you hardly ever see hard lighting. Most lighting in a house is practical, which is soft and textural and at the same time realistic.
  • 0

#17 shane grace

shane grace
  • Guests

Posted 21 August 2005 - 05:14 AM

Thanks Adam for the info - that was my next question actually (what are dino's and wendy's?). I shoot here in Indonesia and we only have arri lighting and cameras - i just checked the mole-richardson and Lee lighting UK websites - they have them all pictured! - you guys are very lucky to have access to all those sources.

thanks again

Shane
  • 0


Broadcast Solutions Inc

Visual Products

FJS International, LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

The Slider

Aerial Filmworks

CineTape

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

Willys Widgets

Opal

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

CineLab

Metropolis Post

Glidecam

Technodolly

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

Wooden Camera

Willys Widgets

Opal

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineTape

Visual Products

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

rebotnix Technologies

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Paralinx LLC

Metropolis Post

FJS International, LLC

Tai Audio

Aerial Filmworks

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

CineLab

The Slider

Glidecam

Rig Wheels Passport

Technodolly