Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall as a world-class cinematographer set up a shot? (Who hasn't, right?)
Well, now you can be! In this video from Eyes on Cinema, DP Robby Müller (Paris, Texas, Down By Law, Breaking the Waves) walks you through what it takes to set up one of his shots -- every track, every light, every filter, step by step. So, get ready for 23 minutes of top-notch lighting education from one of the masters.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqaL9so8CHQ
Did anyone else thank their lucky stars that they're a no-budget filmmaker who works with barebones setups after watching that video? (I'm -- extravagantly lazy.) So, not all of us are going to be setting up shots in studios or working with a veritable army of lights, but there is still so much wisdom to glean from Müller.
For instance, it's important to take stock of what you have and make it work for the mood you're trying to create, like Müller did when his shot called for daylight, but he only had one HMI and a bunch of tungsten lights. Instead of opting for the HMI, he went for the tungsten -- probably because more lights gave him more freedom and latitude to shape the lighting of the scene, even though HMIs tend to be much brighter than tungsten.
Creative decisions like this, as well as professional and interpersonal ones, like taking on the challenge of a director's vision even if it makes your life a living hell, is what being a cinematographer is all about. You're part artist, part technician, and part magician -- making shots look so good that they don't call attention to themselves.