Mastering the Subtleties of Dramatic Lighting: The Eric Kress Lighting Workshop (Pt.2)
A 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.
First and foremost, just in case you guys haven't seen the first part of this workshop, I will embed it below. It is most certainly required viewing if you want to get the most out of part two.
Essentially, the first installment left us with this, a softly-lit face with a slight fill and a bit of bounced light to illuminate the background to 2-3 stops underexposure:
In part two of the workshop, Kress adds a few additional lights and modifiers which have a dramatic impact on the quality of lighting on the scene (not that it wasn't already fantastic). So here's part two:
As Kress continues to build upon the lighting that he established in part one, he does a few things which are quite interesting. First and foremost, the decision to add an additional key light to mimic the sun is something which I haven't seen before. However, since the idea here is to replicate the aesthetic of natural light (which is incredibly complex), having both a hard source and a soft source makes sense, because it adds a level of complexity to the light that would be impossible with only a single source. And frankly, the scene comes alive with the addition of the hard key.
Here's what the scene looks like with the original setup and the simple addition of a 1600w HMI with CTS (color temperature straw) gel:
Next, Kress does his best to take care of the pesky black mass which is the second actor on frame left (I mean that in the nicest way possible). There are several routes that could be taken here to help cut the second actor out from the background and add depth to the scene. Kress opts to kill two birds with one stone by placing another warm Kino over the actress's shoulder on camera right. This light serves as a very slight rim light/ kicker for the actress and as a rim light for the actor's right arm.
This light completes the lighting setup and provides the following result:
Glorious. Just glorious.
Kress also attempts another method for evening out the light in the scene, the toplight. For some situations, toplighting might provide a more balanced aesthetic, and it will certainly help cut your characters from the backgrounds, but in this instance, the above example with the various side-lighting techniques is the gold standard.
Be sure to head on over to thefilmbook to see the rest of Benjamin B's excellent cinematography and general filmmaking content, and keep your eyes out for future installments of the Eric Kress lighting workshops. I have no doubt that they will be exceedingly enlightening (bah dum chhh).
What do you guys think of the additions that Kress made to the original setup in part two of this lighting workshop? And how do you feel about the technique of using two key lights, one soft and one hard, in order to replicate natural sunlight? Let's hear those thoughts down in the comments!