Roger Deakins

I stumbled on a fantastic article tonight with some great advice form one of the best cinematographers in the world, Roger Deakins. Check out this post.



One of my favorite videos

Here’s a short that I absolutely love. It was done over 2 years ago, and shot on the 5d. The Cinematography is wonderful. Its a great example of using practicals and simple lighting that can be beautiful.

Be Realistic

I see this all the time; People try to light up large areas with tiny lights, and it just doesn’t work- especially at night. So what do you do when you need to light up areas at night and you’ve got but a few lights? Be realistic, and cut out the major wide shots. Shoot in a much smaller area, and bring whatever lights you got in. Go with tighter shots, and then you can use an extra light to hit some background or as a nice kicker or something. This will give the appearance that the whole area is lit well, even if its not. Just a thought.

Lighting Outdoors

For extreme wide shots, you can pretty much plan on not doing anything to light. Theres already plenty of it outside. What you can do for wider shots, is pick the best time of day and the direction of the sunlight you want to face. If the sun is behind the actor, they will be very backlit, and you may or may not get great exposure on their face. This can be an okay thing in direct sunlight because at least they won’t be harshly lit. One of the things you can do when you come in for tighter shots, is simply have a bounce board or two, ready to reflect some of that back light into there faces. By doing so, you are creating multiple light sources that bring the facial exposure within the dynamic range of the camera. If theres is not a lot of walking around, its a little easier. In a shoot I did recently, the actress is hanging off a cliff, and is completely backlit. I chose the time of day I wanted to shoot, because if made the background prettier and it would be easier to control the light on her face as far as softness goes. I could have chosen to use bounce, but I didn’t have enough crew to keep adjusting it as the sun moved faster and faster. What I chose instead, was to use an hmi, which is already daylight balanced, and shoot it through some diffusion, and that became her key light.

I did have to bring a generator on set, and run cable very far away, but at least my key light didn’t constantly move around. There are many other ways to light in the outdoors, but this particular way worked for my situation. It really depends on what you have to work with, but the principles remain the same.

Using Practical Lighting to Save Time and Money

Often, when you are short budget and time, never underestimate the use of practical lights that exist on location. An example of this is a project I shot with a buddy of mine earlier this year. We had very little time to shoot 4 different scenes in 2 different houses, in only a few hours each location. The initial setup took much longer than expected, so I had to save time somewhere. In this scene with the little girl, I used 2 lights. A simple china ball to light her, and a small HMI in the background to act as moonlight coming through a window. The rest of the scene and fill light comes from practical lamps already in the house that were slightly repositioned to speed things up for us.

Mind you, these are simple frame grabs off of the youtube videos. As you can see the lighting is pretty, and took only minimal time to set up. Looking for simple things such as practical lights in a location can really help you when its crunch time. Remember, beautiful Cinematography doesn’t need to be expensive.

Understanding the Capabilities of your camera

One of the most important parts of being able to light, is understanding the camera you are shooting with. Unlike film, which does not vary, no matter what camera you use, digital sensors are all distinctly different. Dynamic range, sensor size, sensitivity, noise, etc., can, and will absolutely change per any given camera. Here is a link to a great resource that I have found to help understand multiple cameras.

May I also suggest watching all of the webisodes related to this one. It will be time well spent!

The Best Camera

Once upon a time, I asked a wise person what the best camera was, and he responded, the one you have on you! Okay, I didn’t really ask someone that, I heard the story from a teacher. My point is, you can practice your composition even taking silly pictures with your iPhone. That’s why I feel justified spending almost 600 bones on the new iPhone 4S. 8 megapixel camera, new optics, max aperture of 2.4, and 1080p video. It’s all the equipment I need to practice making beautiful images and its in my pocket at all times. So, don’t be afraid to take even the silliest picture seriously, and compose and light it as you would on a professional project.