» Posts Tagged ‘lighting’

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Infinite Black BackgroundHere’s a cheap, simple, and professional-looking technique to add to your arsenal — the infinite black background. Because its visuals add a level of surrealism and style, we’ve seen this used in music videos, dream sequences in narrative films, art films, you name it — and chances are if you’re not wondering how to pull it off, it’s because your curiosity has already led you to find the answer. Filmmaker Lewis McGregor shares his insight into how to create this effect inexpensively and simply by using black material, three lights, and editing software. (No need for a huge soundstage!) More »

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Eric Kress Lighting WorkshopA few weeks ago, we shared the first installment of an absolutely fantastic lighting workshop led by Danish cinematographer Eric Kress (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). In it, he took us through the beginning stages of lighting for matching closeups using just a few bounces and a well-placed fill to create some stunningly soft, yet dramatic lighting with a minimum of tools. Even though part 1 of the workshop stopped there, Kress had quite a bit more information to impart on the audience. Luckily, Benjamin B over at thefilmbook has now posted part 2 of the Gokinema-sponsored workshop, and I can’t wait to share it with you guys, because it’s even more of a masterclass in subtle lighting techniques than the first installment. More »

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12 Years a SlaveOf the many excellent films to hit theaters last year, few were as powerful (or as well shot) as the Best Picture Oscar winner, 12 Years A Slave. It’s one of those rare films that transcends its utterly brutal subject matter and makes a powerful statement about the resiliency of the human spirit. Although much of that power is derived from terrific acting and direction, Sean Bobbitt’s masterful cinematography plays a critical role in allowing the emotionality of the story and its characters to emanate from the screen. In a pair of excellent interviews with Cinefii and Time LightBox, Bobbitt explains not only how he managed to craft such a gorgeous film, but also his theories behind portraying violence through film, working with Steve McQueen, and much, much more. Stick with us for a crash course in dramatic cinematography. More »

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Igor MartinovicTelevision cinematography has come quite a ways in the past 10 years. In the arena of episodic television, where multi-camera shoots with high-key lighting were once the norm, incredibly cinematic single-camera cinematography has now taken hold. Although many of HBO’s and AMC’s offerings started the ball rolling with this delightful trend, the Netflix original drama House of Cards is the absolute epitome of dramatic cinematography in an episodic show. Igor Martinovic, the cinematographer from the second season of House of Cards, recently sat down with our friends at the GoCreative Podcast and he shared quite a bit about the cinematography of this world-class show. More »

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Lighting For CloseupsThere are few educational resources for cinematographers that are as rock-solid as the various publications, blogs, and podcasts from the American Society of Cinematographers. Last time we checked in with the ASC, we heard a podcast interview with Phedon Papamichael about his work shooting Alexander Payne’s delightful black and white road film, Nebraska. This time, accomplished Danish cinematographer Eric Kress DFF, (who shot the fantastic Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) walks us through his approach to shooting matched closeups in this excellent workshop from Gokinema & thefilmbook. More »

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FlagsLighting is complicated, to say the very least. While there a numerous things that make lighting difficult, one of the most overwhelming aspects of lighting is just how many different tools there are. Without a practical knowledge of the various tools at your disposal and how to use them to sculpt light, your lighting can never reach its full potential. However, breaking the process down into small pieces and learning one tool at a time can make it far more manageable. Today, we’ll look at one of the most underrated and under-utilized lighting tools, the flag. More »

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cleantechnica led street lighting lights lamps sodium vapor mercury clean green la los angelesAfter Michael Mann set out to direct Collateral, the story’s setting moved from New York to Los Angeles. This decision was in part motivated by the unique visual presence of the city — especially the way it looked at night. Mann shot a majority of the film in HD (this was 2004), feeling the format better captured the city’s night lighting. Even the film’s protagonist taxi needed a custom coat to pick up different sheens depending on the type of artificial lighting the cab passed beneath. That city, at least as it appears in Collateral and countless other films, will never be the same again. L.A. has made a vast change-over to LED street lights, with New York City not far behind. Read on for why Hollywood will never look the same again — on film or otherwise. More »

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NFS Reviews

Last month, I had a chance to talk with Andy Waplinger, the founder of Strahlen, about his brand new LED lighting solution, the ST-100 series of lights. Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to not only have some hands-on time with the prototype ST-100′s, but to formally review them, and shoot with them on a personal project. Needless to say, the ST-100′s and I became quite close during the few weeks that they were in my possession, and I have quite a few thoughts to share about these unique lights. So, let’s get to it. More »

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Lighting on location is almost always a challenge for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s difficult or impossible to rig lights in the places you really need them. Other times, power management and distribution prove to be problematic. More often than not, however, the most irritating part of lighting on location is that there just isn’t enough space to light with traditional studio methods, which forces you to improvise. I ran into such a situation recently when shooting a screen test for an up-and-coming Denver actress named Emma Moody. With 15 square feet of space, two high-powered LED’s, a little bit of natural light, and a MacGuyver-esque mindset, we managed to get it done. Here’s how. More »

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Grip it Good Mark VargoMark Vargo, ASC has been on a roll with his educational content recently. First he graced us with an incredibly informative short documentary called Let There Be Light, which is an excellent starting point for anyone just getting into lighting for cinema. He also has another extremely helpful piece about metering light and exposing properly. However, Vargo’s most recent short documentary is more of a personal love letter to the entirety of the grip department than it is an instructional documentary — but, it’s entirely possible that you will learn more about being a grip in the next 11 minutes than you ever have in the rest of your life. Check it out: More »

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A057C003_120515_R2C5.0137578.tifIt seems as though people can’t stop talking about Spike Jonze’s newest movie Her — and rightfully so. The film’s story overflows with a certain humanity and honesty that may be expected from Jonze, but not as much from a contemporary love story. With such a great narrative, the visual storytelling should certainly echo its sentiments — a task given to cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, who has worked on films such as Let the Right One InThe Fighterand Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy. In an in-depth piece, the International Cinematographers Guild plunges head first into the beautifully lonely world of Her and asks Van Hoytema how he built it. More »

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Airbox-light-1As much as the right camera plays a role in getting cinema/professional quality images, lighting also plays is a key factor. Getting that much desired diffusion applied to your light source to avoid harsh light and bold shadows (unless that’s what you’re looking for), means using diffusion tools, like a soft box and/or an egg crate. Enter the Airbox inflatable softbox. News Shooter has done a great review of the Model 1×1, which works with 1×1 LEDs, offering accessories, like a honeycomb grid diffuser and puncture repair kits. Continue on to check it out. More »

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Single Light With ModifiersLighting is hard. Lighting with limited resources is even harder. Therefore, using a single light to create multiple sources in order to light a subject and the background in one fell swoop should be impossible, right? Wrong. Through a combination of careful light placement and using various types of bounces, mirrors, and other light modifiers, you can create some absolutely stunning results with just a few tools and on a shoestring budget. Here are the fine folks at The Slanted Lens to show you how: More »

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Strahlen Product Shots R3-020

These days, we seem to be at the beginning of an LED lighting revolution, and the future of the technology is certainly bright (dah-dun-chhh). However, the LED lighting solutions that are currently available on the market are either cheaply built, really difficult to modify, or they’re just insanely expensive. Last year, Andy Waplinger, a freelance filmmaker out of San Diego, set out to create the perfect LED light for low-budget and professional filmmakers alike. He created Strahlen, and the company’s first product, the ST-100, a ruggedly simplistic, yet incredibly powerful LED light is now available. I recently talked with Andy about the creation of these lights. Read on to see what Strahlen’s all about. More »

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Lightstrap product photoThe iPhone 5s is slowly becoming one beast of a tool when it comes to smartphone filmmaking, and it’s not just because it now records 120fps. All of the accessories and extras, from anamorphic lens adapters to lav mics, are helping filmmakers build a decent toolbox for on-the-go/spontaneous filming, and now Oakland-based Brick & Pixel have developed an iPhone case called Lightstrap that will give you 10x more light to work with than the built-in flash, as well as control over brightness levels and color temperature. Currently on Kickstarter, Lightstrap may be a good solution to low-light problems. More »

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ArriLighting, whether we like it or not, is a highly technical craft. Even though it isn’t necessary to know the amount of footcandles or lux that a light gives off at a certain distance, or how a light’s CRI will affect the final image, in order to light a shot effectively, you can bet that the most discerning cinematographers and their gaffers are absolutely thinking about those technical characteristics when they light. Even though that type of information can be intimidating for beginning (and even intermediate) filmmakers, Arri’s new Photometrics app puts all of it right at your fingertips: More »

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Dean Semler LightingOver the past few weeks, we’ve talked about lighting a few different times. First we shared a perspective on lighting Hollywood films from renowned gaffer, John Higgins. Then we wrote up a post about methods for improving your daytime exterior lighting. All of these posts have some helpful information, but lighting is such an expansive craft that it takes constant study and practical application to improve your skills. Today’s post: a masterclass in creating artificial firelight from the Oscar-winning DP of Dances With Wolves, Dean Semler. More »

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Stillmotion Lighting OutsideIt’s one of the clear-cut signs of amateur filmmaking: daytime exteriors that look terrible. This usually manifests itself in the form of harsh, blown out areas on the face of your talent, or as overly flat images in which there’s no separation of foreground from background. Avoiding these exterior lighting maladies doesn’t require an immaculate understanding of light, however. It just takes a basic understanding of a few simple concepts that are easy to put into practice. Read on to find out what these concepts are and how to start incorporating them into your work. More »

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biggles_deakinsJust about every cinematographer will tell you the same thing: their work wouldn’t be half as good without the help of their most trusted gaffer. This can be attributed to the fact that lighting successfully for film and television is one of the most challenging aspects of production, and the larger the scale of a production becomes, the more intensive the lighting needs will be. John Higgins is one of the industry’s leading gaffers, and he has worked to light some of Hollywood’s biggest films alongside some of today’s most accomplished DP’s such as Emmanuel Lubezki and Roger Deakins. Higgins recently sat down with thecallsheet to discuss the lighting philosophies behind some of the biggest films that Hollywood has to offer: More »

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MidnightCoiterieI’m pretty sure that just as this amusing little trailer satirizing the iconic style of director Wes Anderson was made available to the public, filmmakers were asking, “How did they do that?” Many have tried to replicate Anderson’s aesthetic — and many have failed. So, what did the filmmakers of the SNL spoof trailer, The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intrudersdo in order to capture Anderson’s signature cinematic sensibilities? Alex Buono, SNL’s DP, explains just how they did it. More »