February 21, 2014

Lighting for Matching Closeups: A Spectacular Lighting Workshop with Danish DP Eric Kress

There 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.

The shooting situation presented here is one that is often encountered in dramatic filmmaking: two individuals who are sitting at a table that is parallel to a window. Obviously, the window provides an easy way to motivate light in the scene, but getting it to look beautiful while maintaining a sense of naturalism takes the skilled hand of cinematographer who knows what he's doing. Here's Eric Kress to give us his take on this scenario:

The key light in this scene is relatively straightforward. A 4K HMI bounced into a 12x12 butterfly silk positioned a few feet from the window provides a soft, yet directional light that sculpts the actors' faces very nicely. However, it's the additional lighting and shaping techniques that really make this shot a beautiful one.

First, a slight illumination of the background (about 1 stop under) is accomplished through a similar technique to the one mentioned above for the key. An 800w Joker HMI outside the window was pointed in the direction of the 2nd actor, then a poly-bounce was positioned so that it would cast light directly onto the wall behind the 1st actor. This light also provides some light modeling on the shoulder of the 2nd actor and helps to define his shape.

The final light in this scene is a basic fill from a Kino Diva placed over the left shoulder of the male actor. This light has two functions here. First, it evens out the light on the actress's face, and helps to temper the overwhelming contrast in the scene. Secondly, it adds just a faint hint of an eyelight.

Eric-Kress-lighting-workshop-1-adding-fill-light-thefilmbook

One of the biggest takeaways from this workshop, other than how to create naturalistically moody lighting, is how to cut pesky reflections in objects such as picture frames. The first method with which this is accomplished is through flagging off the trouble areas. However, Kress also uses dulling spray (a must-have item for your gear bags) in order to cut the reflections from shiny surfaces.

What do you guys think of this lighting workshop and the techniques presented? What methods have you used to create naturalistic light in scenarios such as this one? What are some other ways that you've cut reflections on set? Let us know down in the comments!

Link: Eric Kress Lighting Workshop - Part 1 -- The Film Book (ASC Blog)

Your Comment

20 Comments

Nice post! More like these please!

February 21, 2014 at 8:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Alessandro

This is great. I prefer the 2nd iteration. If I added anything to it it would have been a reflector or bounce on the inside of the room to fill her face a tiny bit, rather than using the Kino. I felt the Kino made the back wall too hot. But that's just my preference.

Very helpful and informative post.

February 21, 2014 at 8:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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+1 .

February 23, 2014 at 5:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Giokristo

+1 also – love the mood in the second setup.

February 23, 2014 at 1:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Great post. Thanks.

February 21, 2014 at 10:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Daniel

Thanks for posting this. We'd like many, many more of these, please.

I remember watching the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and thinking that the gaffer (or DP) was a little too enamored with the Cyan/Orange or Blue/Straw look. This tutorial thankfully didn't have any of that look, which I think is a little too common nowadays.

February 21, 2014 at 10:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Harry Pray IV

I liked the last, lighter version ... this didn't look like a very dramatic scene that required heavy film noir type shading ... I may have even added more fill to go up to the 2/1 ratio rather than 2.5/1 ...

February 21, 2014 at 11:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

This is the best post for this week!!! Thanks Robert.

I think there is so much filmmaking or film-look by really learning the art of lighting.

February 22, 2014 at 9:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I hope I still keep my man card after saying what I'm about to say but I love u Robert hardy...I needed this post

February 22, 2014 at 12:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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thadon calico

Hi Robert,

I'm glad you liked our workshop.

I offer one correction to your post:
it was not an "ASC workshop", but a workshop hosted by Gokinema & thefilmbook.

Keep up the good work.

All the best,

Benjamin B

February 22, 2014 at 1:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Hey Benjamin! My apologies on that error. I've got it fixed now.

Also, thanks for putting this together. It's absolutely fantastic content, and our community loves it!

February 23, 2014 at 2:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4512

Lovely…. was a great little learning experience. Thanks for doing this….

February 22, 2014 at 2:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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dulling spray doesn't kill reflections, it simply changes them from typically bright hot spots to diffused wide highlights with less reflection. its not a magic kill reflection spray by any means. flagging and cheating the angle of objects that are causing problems is how you usually deal with it.

February 23, 2014 at 3:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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We need that kind of post at here. Great post. Thanks.

February 24, 2014 at 2:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Aung

Very good, thank you for this article and the videos!

It is always a pleasure to see a skilled gaffer at work. There is always something to learn, everybody has their own special little tricks.

February 27, 2014 at 5:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heiko

These are the exact posts I love to see! Thanks guys.

February 27, 2014 at 8:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tim

Great. Any idea when next parts will be coming?

March 2, 2014 at 1:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ed

Keep em coming NFS

March 8, 2014 at 12:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Love these lighting tips

July 31, 2014 at 10:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kez

More of this and less product placement!!!

August 1, 2014 at 10:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel