lighting for cinema





What is 3-point lighting? This is the basic lighting starting point for all creative manipulations of lighting >> 3PointLighting

And here is information about Lighting Basics and about Lighting Safety >> LightingBasics

And below are videos that go over some of what we did in our Lighting Lab, and a few additional pointers about lighting a scene.

1. Video Lighting Technique: Turning a Hard Light into a Soft Light
Izzy Video by Israel Hyman – this guy is good!
This is about modifying your light quality using the Lowel DP, which is one of the kits you can check out at the Cage.

2. Videography: Lighting for Video

3. Filmmaking 101 – 3-Point Lighting Tutorial
with Steve DiCasa


City Streets

Basic rules of urban outdoor shooting take into account a number of factors that will influence the lighting quality of your shoot. You are shooting either in full daylight, or on a cloudy day when the sunlight is alternatingly bright or diffused. Or you may be shooting on an overcast day, or in the early morning, or near sunset.

Besides amount of light and quality of light – hard or soft, for example – outdoor lighting also presents different color temperatures with different conditions (bright, cloudy, overcast etc.) and at different times of day.

DPs tend to prefer to shoot on the shady side of the street, avoiding hard light and deep shadows falling on the subject.  Buildings, windows, and even passing cars will reflect daylight. The ground itself bounces light back up into the atmosphere. All of this lighting can be used or avoided, depending on what you need for your shot.

When lighting close-ups outside, you can have a crew member (grip) flag off (block with a black board) any top sun or sunlight from hitting the subject to allow other light to fill in the face and thus the sun is used to provide a backlight.  By cutting the top light, the light hitting the face becomes more modeled.

Shooting your subjects in the shade whenever possible is a standard practice in the industry when shooting outside because it allows more control over the exposure.

Controlling Exposure

Bounce Light occurs when the sun is behind the subject, you can easily bounce or reflect light from the sun back into the scene and onto the subject’s face, which will bring the subject’s luminance up higher than the background. If you have two subjects in the same shot, you may need two smaller bounce cards to create an even lighting effect.

Bouncecards are cards that often have black on one side and white on the other. These are available in art stores and are usually 24” x 36” and are very flexible and lightweight. They are also inexpensive. Have your crew member walk beside your subject, out of frame, with this card angled at the subject, providing a reliable tracking light.

Foam core is also available from art supply stores and come in a number of sizes. It can easily be cut to size, is very lightweight, and is still rather than flexible. It easily reflects an amount of light in relation to its size – a large piece of foam core can easily bounce enough light for two or more people in the same shot.

Beadboard (we haven’t used this in class, but it’s good to know about) is insulation made from pressed white Styrofoam with a sheet of silver paper on one side. The white side of the board is textured, slighted beaded, which creates much softer bounce light. You can find beadboard at home and building supply stores.

Flexfills/Reflectors were originally meant for still photography. They are large circular frames with a variety of lightweight fabric materials that can be collapsed into a small round bag for easy transport. Flexfills fabrics can be translucent for use as a soft bounce card or as a diffusion filter in front of the lens, silver for bouncing cold light, gold for bouncing warm light, white for bouncing a soft light, or black for blocking light.

Aluminum foil can be wrapped around a card to make an excellent light reflector for bound light

Things to Take into Account

  • Anything can bounce light – the street, walls, cars, windows – they all bounce sunlight
  • The angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence. This means that the angle that the light will bounce from an object is equal to the angle of the sunlight hitting the object. You don’t need math, but you just want to consider that light travels in a straight line and that getting the bounce light where you want it to be on your subject is dependent on the angle at which you are holding your bounce card or flexfill in relation to the direction that the sunlight is coming into the scene
  • The sun moves all day long, so the angle of light changes throughout the day
  • The sun will either be your key light, providing a hard light, which means it produces shadows with clean definitive edges, or it will be a back light, which means you can bounce sunlight coming from behind your subject back into the scene or onto your subject’s face
  • Shoot with the sun behind your subject whenever possible
  • The larger the surface you are using to bounce light, the larger the area of reflected light will be
  • Bounce light is for close-ups and medium shots, not for long shots or establishing shots
  • An overcast day will produce the most beautiful natural light, and unless your subjects are in a darker shadowy outdoor area, you may not need any bounce/fill light at all
  • Different times of day produce different qualities and color temperatures of natural light. Always white balance.