March 7, 2014

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!

Link: Eric Kress Lighting Workshop: part 2 -- thefilmbook

Your Comment

17 Comments

These lessons are great. Keep doing articles like this so we can all take a break on the never ending GH2 debates.

March 7, 2014 at 10:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene Sung

+1

March 7, 2014 at 2:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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David L

I agree whith you! Keep the good work guys!

March 7, 2014 at 2:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rafael Bem

Yeah, articles on filmmaking on a site for filmmaking are nice (and a rare find these days)

March 11, 2014 at 3:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tyler

++++

March 12, 2014 at 9:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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+++++++

March 13, 2014 at 6:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Thanks for part 2, it took the scene from good to stunning. I'll have to test the hard+soft key sometime. Got another lighting plot for this installment?

March 7, 2014 at 2:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chuck

Nevermind, found it on the filmbook website this came from:

http://www.theasc.com/asc_blog/thefilmbook/files/2014/03/Eric-Kress-ligh...

March 7, 2014 at 2:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chuck

Coming from the DIY world of indy film-making, and having never PA'ed on a professional film set its pretty mind blowing to see how much time and man-power goes into setting up the lighting or one shot. I wonder how much preparation goes into a scene like this before they arrive on set? Does Eric layout a general map of how he thinks the lighting should be beforehand and then arrives on set and adjusts from there? I also enjoyed hearing a few bits of film set vernacular like "finger" for a small piece of gaffer's tape to block light.

When I think of shows like 'House of Cards' or 'True Detective' which have complex natural/dramatic lighting set-ups for just about every scene, it makes me marvel and appreciate the effort and experience that goes into the art of cinematography. Thanks for posting!

March 7, 2014 at 4:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan McMahon

Great post. Curious, is the gaffers tape on the window really something you'd do in a production situation?

March 7, 2014 at 7:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nate

I appreciate the tutorial, its informative and helpful but I feel the lighting set up is overkill for the sake of using as many lights as possible. It'd be relatively simple to achieve the same results with a fraction of the lights used.

March 7, 2014 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Stephen

It was a beautiful result but just like you I also thought that the set up looked overwhelming, not only that, I wondered how far you could move anything, camera or cast before anything of the lighting stuff would show. It appeared to me that there were mere inches before a flag, net or light would show in some corner.

March 8, 2014 at 4:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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mariano

That reason is why many DP's hate lighting for multiple cameras at the same time. Often the best lighting leaves little wiggle room. A lot of DP's feel too compromised by Steadicam for the same reasons. A log of directors want to be able to go anywhere/everywhere because then they have no constraints...but it's a bitch to light well for multiple angles.

March 23, 2014 at 6:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

Great post like this deserves a special attention!! Thanks

March 8, 2014 at 1:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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It looks great but personally I'd want to see the master two shot to these over the shoulder shots as all the light that's being put up will be seen in a wider establishing shot, will we be able to see out of the window etc?

I'm pretty sure we are being shown the tweeks to the close up here.

March 10, 2014 at 4:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Coming from a full time film student, I have to say that this is a wonderful refresher from my own lighting classes that I've been privileged enough to be able to sit through and learn from. It's amazing work here and you can tell this cinematographer has many years under his belt to work a set up like this.

This is a relatively simple set up but you make it work so well and make it look so good. I've taken 6 months of lighting classes and I've only just now gotten to the point where I can understand what's going on in this video.

Great work!

March 14, 2014 at 10:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brad

Interesting piece - Kress' gaffer really seems to know her stuff! However, for me the issue of eyelights is never really addressed. Some people demand to see "life" in the eyes and to me, even in the completed set up the actress looks pretty "murky" in there. Anyone else feel a proper discussion on how to use or not use eyelights would be useful here?

March 16, 2014 at 2:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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