Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to Make Compelling Lighting Decisions that Support Your Story

How to Make Compelling Lighting Decisions that Support Your Story



How to Make Compelling Lighting Decisions that Support Your Story




Storytelling with Lighting Cinematography Tutorial



It's something that aspiring cinematographers hear all the time: "Make
sure your lighting supports the story you're trying to tell." But how
the hell do you actually accomplish that?
Over the past few months, Simon Cade of DSLRguide
has become one of my favorite YouTubers for cinematography tutorials.
Sure, he may be young – as people are always quick to point out in the
comments – but his understanding of advanced cinematography concepts and
techniques goes well beyond his years, and his ability to explain and
demonstrate them is excellent. Don't believe me? Just check out his
previous videos on storytelling through composition and this beautifully-executed Scrabble metaphor for filmmaking.





Simon's newest tutorial attempts to answer the question at the top of
this article. How the hell can we use light to tell better stories? It's
an incredibly difficult question – the answer to it is situational and
always shifting – but Simon has some great actionable tips for how to
think more critically about your lighting:



There are four key considerations to make when choosing how to light a character or a scene:




  • Light Placement: The angle at which the light
    hits your subject. This determines which parts and how much or how
    little of the character's face falls off into shadow.
  • Light Quality:
    The hardness or softness of the light. Soft light is the standard
    because it's more flattering and aesthetically pleasing from a
    traditional perspective, but don't shy away from hard light sources if
    it will help key the audience into a character's state of mind or
    emotion.
  • Light Intensity: The brightness (or
    lack thereof) of different lights throughout the scene. Manipulating
    intensity is a great way to create contrast in your scene and to guide
    the viewer's eye to key points in the frame. Varying intensities of
    light are also an incredibly effective way to create depth in a shot.
  • Light Color: From
    a practical standpoint, color temperature is a great way to key the
    audience into the practical motivations for your lighting choices. Light
    coming in through a window during the day will likely be a clean white
    5600K, while at night it might be cooled down a bit, maybe 6500K, in
    order to emulate moonlight. Interior lighting (with the exception of
    fluorescents) will traditionally appear warmer, usually in the
    neighborhood 3200-4000K. We also know that color can inherently affect
    the perceived mood of a scene, so it can be used as a purely
    expressionistic tool as well. But you have to be careful when using
    oddly colored light because it can be distracting depending on the type
    of film you're making.
Lighting Tutorial
For
me, there are a few key takeaways from this tutorial. First up, the
importance of eyes. There's a hokey old saying that the eyes are the
window to the soul. In filmmaking, however, whether or not someone's
eyes are illuminated or darkened can have a very profound impact on the
way an audience perceives a character. Strong eye lights can make a
character feel like they are full of life, and it can make an audience
feel an inherent sense of empathy towards that character. Not being able
to see a character's eyes, on the other hand, can have a number of
effects. It can make that character feel lifeless or emotionally-distant
or, depending on the intensity and quality of the light, dangerous and
foreboding. So when lighting a character, always think about their eyes.




Lastly, it's always important to remember that none of these rules are
set in stone. The idea here is simply that you think critically about
your lighting decisions so that they support what you're trying to
accomplish from a storytelling and emotional standpoint, not that you're
following a prescribed set of lighting rules that are applicable to
every filmmaking situation ever. No such set of rules exists, nor should
it. Lighting is a powerful tool, and its meaning constantly changes
depending on the context in which it's used.




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