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Lighting for Mood: Another SMAPP Lighting Tutorial from Stillmotion

We’ve covered plenty of tutorials before, but most recently, we featured a particularly useful interview lighting demonstration from stillmotion, which is designed to be a complement to their SMAPP iPhone application. This application was conceived to teach new filmmakers about all of the creative choices that going to making different types of videos. Embedded below we’ve got another tutorial, but this time instead of interview lighting, we are introduced to a deconstruction of creative film lighting and how different lighting setups can be used to enhance the mood of a scene.

SMAPP Tutorial – Deconstructing Lighting A Scene:

One important point to note about the CTB (color temperature blue) gel, if you are using a full CTB, it will cut the power of the Tungsten light by about two-thirds, so if you are trying to use Tungsten lights indoors and match them to daylight, keep in mind that they have to be much more powerful in order compensate for the light lost. This is one of the big reasons why HMIs can be so important, because their natural daylight balance not only prevents you from having to gel Tungsten lights, but they are also more power efficient than Tungsten lights, and the penalty for gelling the opposite way – HMI with CTO (color temperature orange) – is a lot less.

If you’re interested in what the SMAPP application is all about, here’s a video with explaining one of the key features, Get Creative:

Links: stillmotion & SMAPP


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 25 COMMENTS

  • This is really great – thanks so much for sharing!

  • Ben Incahutz on 05.25.12 @ 2:36AM

    Great instructional video but I cant help but be unimpressed by the video and its lighting. Considering how expensive HMI lights are(and especially Profoto ones!) I was expecting ..more punch to the video?

    Maybe its an issue of color correction or something else but considering the camera used(Red) and Profoto lights I expected more. Much more.

    Just my two scents.

    • I feel exactly the same. Normally I love the stuff from these guys but this one was just really underwhelming.

      The sound was awful as well. Really noisy and they didn’t even bother to fade it up to make it less obvious!

      • Tough crowd… At the moment this is free, but when the SMAPP iPhone application is released it will be $3 for 30 tutorials – and they will be updating frequently with more tutorials for no cost.

    • Just goes to show that without proper lighting, the camera still won’t make a shot look good.

      • Amen brother, wish more people understood that.

        Lighting was alright in the end, the shot of him sitting down was awful, could have been done better.

  • I like what Stillmotion does but this was a commercial for Profoto lights right? Did Profoto sponsor their app?
    If they did they need to be upfront about this. There needs to be more transparency with bloggers and their relationships with companies. There was an interesting ‘discussion’ about this on EOS recently.

    • Thats my problem with stillmotion, they are extremely talented folks, but they are always selling someone’s product too hard. Its hard to find cinematography tutorial resources that are only teaching and no buyers guide stuff

    • As long as the ‘net is built around the idea of FREE info, than you are stuck with (thinly disguised) Advertorials posing as FREE info.

      If you are USA based, there is a Federal Law, that requires you to disclose your relationship to a company whose product you are pimping.

      • i may be wrong but I doubt this app will be free, I’m just hoping you wont have to pay to be advertised to.

        • It’s not free, $3 for 30 tutorials that will be updated regularly. I’m sure part of the reason they released this one for free before the app has been released is because of the Profoto advertisement, but if it means someone will learn something, I’m not sure what the problem is. Doing anything on the web is not free, even if the service you’re using doesn’t cost you anything. At the very least it costs time, which can be lost money if you could have been working rather than creating something for the web. You should go to their website to see all the tutorials they will be offering, as many of them have nothing to do with products.

          • I feel like first its important to reiterate that I think these guys are really good at what they do, but the problem I have is, will you learn the right thing or the wrong thing? If I followed the stillmotion advice I’ve seen in videos, I would own tilt shift lenses and photography lights for video. I don’t agree with the equipment that they either openly or subtlety influence beginners to buy and I think its a little exploitive coupling it with beginner tutorials to cinematography. Yes there is a time and a place to use photography fixtures to light video, but they are uncommon on film sets. To work with DP’s on regular projects its much more valuable to learn how to operate and modify Arri and Mole Richardson fixtures, the knowledge you develop about operating Profoto fixtures will not transfer completely, so its not as useful. Not to mention new guys should be careful about which DP you decide to suggest using these fixtures to.

          • I met some of the Stillmotion people at a Camera Show in Toronto. I even attended one of their free lectures on shooting video and the importance of sound. I don’t have a fancy Video Camera (Canon XA10) and I have a Canon 7D. I will pay the three dollars for their app because I need to know what it says. I do not know everything and have no desire to work on a set.

            What I need to know is what they tell me about shooting video. I have been shooting stills for ??years and will evaluate their info against what I know about film and video.

            It’s just a tool, and if they need someone else to helps pay for it then fine. It is no different from Crowd Souce or looking for investors, or angels. It’s only money and it’s only media. Glean from it what you can, or ignore it.

            Freewill is really great.


  • Not a very good video.

    1. Still modifiers, like beauty dishes, aren’t very useful on a motion shoot.
    2. Profoto lights are built to be used with still modifiers like beauty dishes. Motion picture lighting from Arri, Mole Richardson and K5600 are vastly superior for motion work. Disclaimer – I use Profoto lighting (that I either own or rent) for my still work.
    3. The rapidly waving branches on the back wall were distracting. Nothing wrong with using something to break-up the lighting, but they need to be still. If the scene were taking place during a hurricane, than rapidly waving palm fronds, illuminated by lighting flashes, would be appropriate.
    4. No-one in Hollywood calls a _back light_ a _hair light_ . Hair light is a portrait photographer term. Words are very important, learn the right ones, if you want to taken seriously.

    • I don’t care to defend them since I don’t use their lights (and I’ve only used Speedotron in still photography), but what’s the difference once you use the barn door attachment for the Profoto HMI? It becomes just as versatile as any other HMI. Build quality is a whole other matter, but there is essentially no difference once you’ve got the barn door attachment on the head.

      I know what you’re saying about the back light, but you’re nitpicking with the terms – especially for a team that was just nominated for 8 Emmys and won 3. I guess this guy, Michael Negrin, shouldn’t be taken seriously then:

      “You have to silk things much more. On the shot I described, I would have had to wet down the driveway with water to make it darker, but with the Viper, I didn’t have to worry about it. I exposed as I would for film. The whites didn’t clip. People’s hair light looked good. The Viper’s definitely better [than the F900] for outdoor work.”

    • Hair light is not essentially a backlight. A hair light comes from the back, but often tends to be more soft and “toppy.” Moreover, the term back light indicates nothing about the subject the light is falling on, whereas the term hair light is more specific. Anything can have a back light. A person can be backlit. A cactus can be back lit, but only one of those things has hair for light to fall upon.
      I don’t really like this video either, but you are arguing over the wrong points.

      • I have heard the term “hair light” for video more than once. Maybe they don’t use it in Hollywood (which I don’t know) but in an interview situation, the hair light commonly refers to a soft light illuminating the hair, while a back light is a harder light to illuminate the edges.
        I didn’t even know still photographers use the term “hair light”. I have only heard it from people lighting tv interviews.

      • Daniel Mimura on 06.7.12 @ 3:47PM

        I’ve noticed people using the term “hairlight” as this video does this way a lot lately (and I hate it).

        Kyle is right on. A hair light *can* be a backlight (a backlit hair light), or it can be a top light (a top lit hair light)…but a hair light is not a backlight. (A backlight can and often does work great to simultaneously act as a hair light).

        It’s all just semantics (to-MAY-toe, to-MAH-to)…but it’s nice when people can all be on the same page so that terms don’t get mixed up and waste everybody’s time on set b/c people are no longer talking about the same thing anymore.

  • I would be much more excited about this if they showed you how to do this with Home Depot lights. I actually didn’t like the way they lit the scenes IMO.

  • H.L. Fitzpatrick on 05.31.12 @ 5:39PM

    I’m usually the type of person who believes in the maxim: “If you don’t have anything good to say don’t say it”, but since these are going to end up being tutorials that people are eventually going to be asked to pay for I will offer my two cents as constructive feedback for improvement.

    It was a half decent product demonstration video but there are a few things when lighting a scene one must keep in mind. The biggest one: the sun cannot be in more than one place at a time.

    Please take a look at 02:45. You have the shadow from the shaking leaves in 56K, indicating that sunlight is causing that shadow. This is coming from the left side of the screen (your talent’s right). But looking through the window, seeing the outside leaves are lit from the right side of the screen (your talent’s left).

    There are other technical issues. But I’ll stop here. My suggestion is that any courses you place behind a pay wall in the future be at least technically correct. If you’re going to produce instructional videos, they need to be conveying accurate instructions. ASC and DCS are excellent sources of educational content that is accessible and in some case free of charge. You could also consider bringing a lighting technician or DoP onto your set for videos involving lighting, and other knowledgeable people for videos about other topics (sound, shooting etc). Two heads are better than one and being accurate is important if you want to avoid angry buyers.

    and BTW @Ryan, Home Depot light are totally usable. I’ve done it. And you have a good eye. The scenes weren’t lit well at all.

  • hi like to receive posts on lighting

  • Sorry to be negative but this looked really bad. The lighting was awful.