Pre-Production for Cinematic Lighting
That kinda sets up the broad strokes. Now we're actually gonna talk a little bit more about what is probably by far the most important, most time consuming and difficult aspect of this whole thing. And I'm gonna touch on it a little bit, here just to give you kinda over all structure of what this stuff is gonna look like. And then as we get into the shoot, I'm gonna take you through what these elements look like in those shoes more specifically. So a lot of what you're gonna see in these videos, is gonna look fun and I hope easy to follow and easy to understand but when any creative, weather you be a photographer or film maker or, you know, we get it a lot with photographers but, when you're hired to create something that goes with your look, or your thing, it's not really, your look is not created on the day. Your look created by everything that goes in before it the location, the clothing, the subjects, the expressions, all of this. We gravitate toward, either a subject that fulfills...
a style that we're looking for needs to fulfill the story. And I like to make it very project specific. So in the case of the airfield which your gonna see later on it was about casting these two gentlemen that looked like the source material from the photo. I wanted them to look like a very specific part of the world and a very specific time period. And so went out of the way to try to find that. I like to be involved in all parts of the process because I am incredibly detail oriented, everyone here can attest to that. I'm very detail oriented and what I do isn't just the picture day, it's all the stuff that comes in before. And so the list of what happens in the preproduction process is pretty long and it can be pretty involved, but it's really really important. And know that the more complicated this shoot is the more moving pieces you have, the more of a nightmare it is to kinda steer it to where you want it to be. And if you've never done a big production before, you're not gonna want to start with the big production, you're gonna wanna work yourself up to the level of, probably what you're gonna see first. We're gonna take a look at two different shoots. And I don't want it to scare anybody who's watching. The first shoot is gonna be the more complicates shoot but I'm gonna show you kinda two extreams of what we're looking at. In the first one it's gonna be a lot more traditional, it's gonna use a lot lights, we have to light a huge cavernous environment. The other shoot uses one light. And so it's to show you that you can achieve this cinematic look, with a wide variety of tools but it's all about what happens before hand that's really creating what you're seeking. So let's take a look at what happens during preproduction. And this is not a definitive list but I try to average it out the best way possible. It's not necessarily like, this is the order you do it. These are just the things that I address over the preproduction process, kinda what that looks like. So for example, when I talk about this not necessarily being the order. Sometimes the model or maybe it's a celebrity, is who gets where the commission may start. Sometimes it's the location, sometimes it's the concept right, so sometimes you have to say, hey, we're shooting fill in the blank famous person and you have to develop the concept around it. Or, we're shooting this person, at this place. And you have to develop the concept. With this whole process, I had several different concepts lined up that I wanted to do, and then it was a matter of finding the locations that fit these concepts here. The concept was where it began for these projects, but know that it doesn't have to be where it starts. So cinematographers are often inspired by the production design. And when you're in complete control it can be hard to know where to start. So if you have an environment that you're coming in and the cinematographer has to light they come in and they go well the environment looks like this, I can be inspired by this to decide what the light looks like. Here it's a little bit harder because you're the end all be all of this process and there's just too man options to even know where to begin, and so I always, so when doing this I'm regularly the cinematographer the director, the stylists, the set builder, I regularly like to get in and help build sets, I help style sets, I did a lot of theater work when I was a kid so it just kind of like, something I enjoy to do and just kinda dig in there and start gettin' around. But you know we have wear a lot of hats when we do this kind of work. When you're working on the actual production. You have many many people doing this, and you have a zillion different people trying to help facilitate these ideas, so we have to make a few concessions for practicality when I'm doing this but I regularly not to scare you, and you're gonna see a big level of production on the first shoot. I do this with myself, and one ore two assistants for the really big production stuff. If I'm building a set I'll be honest, I don't want to do it myself, but when it comes to , like I'm going into an environment, maybe I only need to bring one light, or a couple of lights, I can do that myself. So know that there is a range, and you know, it's all got to start somewhere. But, it starts with this, the commission or the declaration of the work. So it's hey, let's hire you, 'kay. Or it's hey I'm gonna do this project, then it becomes developing the concept, then you put your mood boards together, then you do location scouting, set building, you build your crew, hair, makeup , wardrobe, models, miscellaneous crew, assistants, production people, whatever it is, and then lastly, you figure out what the lighting is. This is the list, I'm gonna touch on this just a little bit more, I'm gonna go through the list, a little bit more in depth. So this is where it begins, the commission or the declaration of the work. Hey, we'd like to hire you to do, whatever, let's say it's an album cover, or, we'd like you do a portrait this magazine, or you're saying hey I have this really cool idea for a photograph, I want to do it. I'm a big believer in sometimes just you just gotta do stuff 'cuz you wanna do it. And if you have to invest money into your own images, I don't see a problem with that because they can become promotional pieces for you. Now I'm not saying that if you're starting out and you've been doing this for a few months, you're like, I want to try something big, I'm gonna go spend two thousand dollars to go rent out fill in the blank location, don't do that. But, you can regularly get people to do favors for you later on down the road, and you would be surprised I'll talk about this a little bit later, what you get for locations when you just put in a little bit of elbow grease. So this is the you've got the job, this is the, sometimes you'll pitch the idea, say hey, I would like to do this particular concept or this particular concept, what do you got? Great, we like it, let's hire you for that job. Sometimes it's says hey, you've got the job, what can you come up with? So this is where it begins. So the concept gets developed. Start pitching out a few ideas. So I think for the two that you're about to see I think I pitched, I might be completely lying to you, I think I pitched, four or five separate fully, mostly fleshed out ideas. For two, so that's not uncommon, come through mood images, location scout, or whatever you can do online there's work that goes into this step. So you develop the concept, what is that concept look like? There's obviously a zillion ways, there's other classes, that will talk about how you can develop a concept and create that but this is step two, flushing that idea out. Alright I got the concept, now what, let's start getting some images together. Pinterest is my go to for this. I make a Pinterest board, I share it with my collaborators because whenever I bring a new team member on, I can say, here's the Pinterest board that we've got take a look at the inspiration. And it's all in one place, and it's already done for me. That way I'm not like, have a collection of images that I'm emailing to twenty different people. It's vary nice, vary easy, and I put everything together. Just make sure everyone's all on the same page, visually they can all be on the same page with what the images meant to, colors are supposed to look like, wardrobe needs to look like, hair and makeup like all of these different things, I put in one place, makes it nice and easy. Then, around this time I'm also doing the location scout and so if you are not in a place you can have people go location scout, or you can find places online, or maybe it's local, and you can go check it out. You would be surprised at the access that you can get if you are really nice, and you just do the leg work. So sometimes it's a timing issue, and you'll be like hey, I really like your space, but I don't have a whole lot of budget, you know, I'd really love to help ya, but we gotta show, well in two months, we're not gonna have this show, so you can use the space. And so sometimes you have to wait at that, for cheap, right. Or sometimes you've got to pay a little bit of a premium, or, it's not so much about you doing it for your personal work, but maybe a client says hey I'd like to hire you for fill in the blank, I got this great idea for a location I'd like to use, and you can pass that budget onto them. You know, you can use client work to shoot really cool stuff and stuff that you might not necessarily always have access to, I'm a big believer in, when the budget goes up, I like to amp up what the image could look like beyond what I normally would be able to do or find on my own. And these places exist, everywhere no matter where you are, there are cool locations. I showed you the hallway, that was a hallway. There's like an airplane graveyard in Tuscon, cool location to shoot, you can create amazing, cinematic stuff there, really cheap to shoot there, I mean, really cheap. Sometimes it's a little bit more expensive. There's another one we looked at here locally that was a train museum, and that would of been really cool. I would of loved to have shoot at a place like that for some cinematic images, and they do engagement shoots there all the time. So you know these places allow access to photographers you just have to look and you have to ask. And it's generally a lot easier, it's not easy, but it's easier than you think it is. It just requires you getting on the phone with people and having those conversations. Now obviously a lot of the stuff that we're doing is not run and gun, you gotta ask. So for one of the shoots, we were shooting on a active runway which was an incredibly cool thing to do, but you know, not something that you can't do without a tremendous amount of permission. So there's a lot of options out there, you just have to look into it. You gotta talk to people. And we put the crew together, what does that look like? Hair, makeup, wardrobe, props, models, crew, this is everyone that's not you. And this can be a small team, it can be a large team. So with the pictures in the hallway you saw, I had myself, I had one assistant, and I had the subject. That was it, the entire thing was put on with those three people. I had the assistant to help me set up and move lights. I brought the trench coat, I had him bring a couple of wardrobe pieces, I mean that was. That was really all there was to it. We shot it relatively simply, in a hallway, and I shot all of those images, plus a bunch of outside images you're gonna see later in like three or four hours in the afternoon. So you can get away with a little, but when you're using really big productions, it's not necessarily the worst idea in the world to have as many hands on deck as you can. I generally like to have two or three assistants when I'm using many, many lights, only because it just, it's gonna save yourself a lot of time down the road. And some people just want to be there because it's fun, and cool and you get to make pretty pictures, so. So that's the assistant you know, this stuff gets heavy sometimes it's big bulky stuff, if you're shooting outside, you're setting up big lights, you may just want someone holding the stand so it doesn't fall over and break something or hurt someone or destroy something expensive. That's always kind of a big fear that I have when I'm out I'm like you just don't move, like your job is to stand on this and hold it and not move. Okay so that's my assistance, hair stylists, makeup artists, again you can find these all over the place. Wardrobe is a little bit trickyer. With stylist but I regularly do a lot of wardrobe for myself, there's a lot of great opportunities online you can even pull from. Here in Seattle, there's a consume shop that I use quite a bit that does old timely costumes. There's Oregon Shakespeare festival which is in Oregon, and they do a lot of theater rentals and they ship all over the US, so I use them as well. There's a place in New York that I use that I have to go pull from manually which is a little bit trickyer, a little bit more time consuming but these places exist everywhere, local theater departments, I regularly will pull stuff from Amazon or, you know, you would be surprised where you can find consumes and pieces from. But also remember that with wardrobe, the more pieces you have from one place the more inauthentic it looks. So the idea to make things look really good, is to mix and match were you get different things from. Just a little side pro tip. Props as well, I always like to fill up the scenes with props, and so I spend a lot of time making sure the props are correct. So for example, in one of the shoots, there's a book prop and I found the same book that's in the source material and I had it shipped in and it's an old book and ripped it up to make it look real. So always try to think about what those can be, but you'd be surprised how effectively like going on eBay is to find old things. Like I love eBay when I have to find something really obscure I can generally find it on eBay. And as long as you've got enough of a lead out time for your project, it's great. Like I've found tons and tons on eBay people pulling it out of there grandmother's attic. All kinds of cool stuff. Keep that in mind. With the models, it depends on what I'm trying to achieve. Am I trying to do a fashion shoot, am I trying to make something that look like an actor? What am I trying to work with? And I'm always trying to cast for the project, not necessarily just because I like someone. It's all about what is appropriate to the final project. Alright so that's the crew, everyone that's not you. By the time it's all said and done, you send out call sheets and get everyone on the same page, and everyone's seen the mood board and here's where your going. You have to kind of be the job of the producer and that's a lot of just leg work as you move through the process. And the last part of this, you will see, is what this class is about. Lighting, this is the last thing. And this is the last part of the production process. That I think about. And that's because even if I do a pre scout on a location it's not necessarily going to be what I want it to be on the day, if it's inside, absolutely, if it's outside anything can change. When I was coming up to Seattle, Seattle's known for very cloudy weather. I was like great! The image I want to make has cloudy weather. And the one day we're filming outside, it's really sunny, but I turned into cloudy weather. These are things that you have to consider. Where is the sun gonna be over the course of the day, how do you plan out what that's gonna look like. And I'll show you some tips and tricks for figuring that out. When I get to the scene that's when the lighting occurs. And I always have a general idea of what I expect the lighting to look like going into it. I do, I don't figure it out when I'm there, for the most part. And that's where the pre scout days really are helpful. But things are always changing. I always make decisions on the fly, once I get the frame in place. So you're always evolving it, but I always plan it ahead, and I'm always planning extra when I'm planning ahead. So I will always bring a lot more gear than I end up using, for the fear of saying I wish I had that. And so yes, it requires a lot more effort, yes it requires bringing stuff that's heavy and cumbersome and difficult to lug around, that's what assistants are for. Young strapping assistants. I always like to prepare a little bit more just in case, because you never know what issue you might run into that you really wish you had a particular piece of gear a particular thing, it just, it's better safe than sorry. I'm a big believer in over preparing and making sure you are getting safely shots and safety lighting and safety gear, backups to your backups, just in case something happens, and you know, runs you into problems that you didn't anticipate, 'cuz there's always gonna be problems that you don't anticipate, and you have to prepare for them. Questions.
Questions, yeah, be thinking about your questions here in the studio we got some great questions from online thanks so much for asking these. Black Water Images asked, besides looking at the histogram is there another way that you meter for your light.
Yes that's a very, very good question. I look at the histogram, I look at the in camera shot if I'm shooing tether, and although I was really bad about this on these two particular shoots when I'm in studio a lot a use my light meter all the time, I use a Seconic 357, I use a light meter all all all the time, it helps me gain control, it helps me see what the light is doing, so I think a light meter is a really valuable way to learn light but I was really bad about not using it for these particular shoots. So you don't need it, but it's really helpful, and so I'm a big fan of using a light meter. The actual strobe light meter not the one on the phone.
Richard asked, Chris, can you talk a little bit about light colors and color balance.
Sure, sure, so I mentioned a little bit ago how important white balance is and how it renders out color. This is one of the first things that I, I tend to probably gravitate a little bit more toward warmer colors but every once in a while I'll throw in something that's a little bit cool just to play around. I like intentional use of color. So I believe that if there's color in the frame it should help the over all the image, not just kind of be catty wompus and hazard. Same with black and white, if the image is black and white it should be because the image is better as the black and white not just because the color was bad. So I'm always thinking about color as a consideration for production as much as wardrobe. And so when I'm picking wardrobe or I'm picking lighting things tend to go together or be complete polar opposites. I use lots analogous colors which are three to four colors side by side on the color that share the same color undertone so think of like a red, red-orange, and orange, right, almost like and expanded monochromatic. Or I'll use complementary colors to help sell contrast. So contrast can exist through tone, right, brightness and darkness, or it can exist through color. So red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow, colors that compliment each other really beautifully. And so those are definitely the things that I think about in the images in terms of color and production because, these things exist, these are other classes where they actually break down the emotional response to color and all these other things, and it's tremendously fascinating. There are people who work on movie studies, they're called colorists. And they're entire job is to just color grade movies. The traditional probably Hollywood look is the blue and orange, which is they use blue in the shadows and orange in the highlights. Because the blue makes the skin tone complement and they pop off a little bit. And so you see that quite a bit. And that kinds mirrors itself into production as well. So you'll even see blue tones, blue shirts, blue sky against the orange face. As far as, not orange, but skin tone face, and so it creates that color complement contrast that makes things pop out really nice.