Show Depth In Your Image
Now we're gonna talk about showing depth. And this is all about staggering contrast through space. And so what you want to do when you are thinking about the ways in which you can stagger depth, is to think three dimensionally. And this is one of the hardest things to grasp when it comes to cinematic lighting, how do I think about the scene in a way where I'm lighting multiple elements? And things can either work separately, or they can work together, and it's a very much more complicated way to have to consider lighting. They way I like to break it down is I think about what's in my foreground, what's in my mid-ground, and what's in my background. And sometimes you may only have two of those elements. This is basically just like, it's for the most part a foreground and a background, I don't think there is a strong maybe the safe over here is the mid-ground, but it's more or less like, there's a delineation of what's happening. And the depth of field helps sell that, right? So he's in ...
focus, everything else gets soft pretty quick. I'm sold pretty quickly on what's in the front and what's in the back. And so generally, like the most obvious way to stagger depth, to stagger contrast is to make the background darker. Like that's a really common way to do it, your attention goes to whatever is bright, that's usually the subject, and you don't want it to go to elements of the background. And so what I wanted to show you are a few different iterations of what this space could have looked like. And kind of show you why I chose to light it this way more so than how it could have ended up. There are a lot of different ways you can modify the lighting of the background. You can add lights, you can turn off lights. You can add things like gobos or cookies. And that can cast a shadow pattern. You see this a lot in film making. It's like, oh, I've got light coming into the window. Well, I can either put a light through a window or if I don't have a window I can project a pattern of a window on the back wall. Those kinds of things happen all the time, and they're very, very useful. The only particular thing about using things like gobos and cookies is you need a way to broadcast, sort of project that image appropriately. And if you want it out of focus it's relatively easy, but if you want it to be clean and sharp as it is sometimes like those hard edges to the windows, you need a specific kind of light that's going to do that. Some thing that we call 'em like a spot projector. And they're made by a lot of different brands, but that would be how you would achieve that. So, as you can see in kinda that left image none of the lights were on. And the right one, they're pretty much all on in that space, mkay? So the back one just basically says the image looks dark and there's not really a whole lot happening, it's not really particularly visually interesting. The one on the right, things are motivated. It makes sense to have the rim light 'cause in the left there's a rim light and there's no background, what's happening? It doesn't make sense, right? But I didn't necessarily have to use all those lights and I could have still achieved motivated lighting, but I didn't necessarily like it as much. So on the left image, it's one of the lights is on. And so the background seems pretty flat, but at least there's motivation to the rim light. I didn't necessarily prefer this it was just another option and kinda when I go in I start flipping lights on and off, and seeing what I can get away with, and how it changes the scene. In the right one, I thought there was a little bit of an improvement with adding the light in the back. So what I did was I put a big 'ole Pro Tungsten in that back room to put light coming out the door. And so this helps me stagger contrast. It says what's happening in the background isn't' just dark and shadowless and there's nothing happening. There is a light and a door way back there, so something back there has depth to it, and it draws the eye, but it's not necessarily was my favorite. If this were like a movie or a scene, maybe the light being on somebody comes out of because it's meant to draw your eye to that element. So that's a way to think about that consideration of depth. But for this particular image, I didn't feel like it was the most successful. Also, I wasn't a huge fan of losing that back highlight on the wall which I thought was really nice. And when I only used the one light that was closest to him I didn't get it. And so that was something else to keep in mind. Another side thing, you can't really see this but the wall, sorry the door is actually a bright red door, and it was very distracting in the shot, and so I just put up a black B flat over the front of it. And you can kinda see it as you're looking at it now, but you probably didn't see it before because it's all out of focus. And so sometimes things will be distracting in your scene, you can just kinda block it and it makes it really easy.
When you separated the subject from the background you added the light on to the hat. What did you use to do that, was it another light on a painters pole or something else?
So it was, this. It's up here. There was a doorway right here to his right which you can probably see in the next shot, right, that's the doorway. And so these were the raw files. So you can actually see the boom arm coming out a little bit there, I would obviously take that out later on. But it was just kinda, I needed it to get as far out of the shot as I could, but the angle it was just a small little thing. It's not in some of them like when I moved it over a little bit, you can't see it. But yeah, it was coming up and it's a Pro Tungsten, and they are pretty powerful hot lights. Right here with barn doors on it. The nice thing about the Pro Tungsten's is that they fit the standard Profoto modifiers, so just gives me the ability to... And they also have HMI versions that don't run as hot, these run pretty warm, but they're remarkably quiet for filming video which is nice. But the really cool thing about them is they dial down a bit lower in power than the strobe, and this compared to the modeling light this is just a B1 modeling light which is how I used it, it's not as powerful as this. So it kind of goes, modeling light, this light, strobe in terms of power. And so sometimes I just need something that's less. Or as you're gonna see in the theater shoot we had a lot of house lights to deal with of the theater that used Tungsten bulbs, and they're all very warm, and I wanted a light to feel very cohesive across, and so I used lots of gels. And so with this, all of these lights are in a much closer color temperature. Like the B1 modeling light, it's not as warm as a regular Tungsten, but it's warmer than a strobe. And so this becomes my key at a pretty low power. But everything else for the most part is running at a pretty consistent color temperature. And so it just kinda helps me mesh everything together color-wise a little bit better. With, and I'll talk about this a little bit later, but with this kind of work color is really important to me. And so you don't want the elements of your production to fight with each other. And so you don't want the lighting to be different, unless it's meant to be different, right? But also, color temperature is one of the first things that I change when I'm setting up. And I rarely, rarely use color temperature as correct. Like I rarely use white balance as correct, as neutral, rarely. Color gives you the opportunity, like white balance gives your color the opportunity to have an emotional component. We have an emotional response to different forms of color. Blue makes us feel a certain way, warm colors make us feel a certain way. And so why would you not want to utilize that if you can? And so white balance is one of the ways that I do that. And so I regularly change the white balance right off the bat to make the environment look how I want. Think of like, The Lord of the Rings and the very cool posters, they were very blueish. It's cool white balance will give you most of that effect. Think of any movie that's set in the desert is usually really warm and so it's all about the way you manipulate light. I think I remember hearing Erik Almas talk years ago about how he's a big fan of using a day light white balance for everything. And so when he's shooting in the sunrise, or he's shooting in sunset, he's still using that day light white balance. And so, or a consistent white balance. And so what that'll do is it gives you the ability and the want to work with different color temperatures of light, and appreciate different color temperatures of light because they can lend themselves differently to what the image might look like. So I'm a big fan of that.
The overhead light was obviously a warmer color Tungsten and your strobe was probably more daylight, do you, is there a way to gel that strobe with the umbrella?
There is yeah. I didn't here because I didn't use the key light, this wasn't actually firing as a strobe, I was only using the modeling light. So it was a little bit warmer than a regular strobe, but not as warm as a Tungsten because it's the B1 uses an LED. But yes, and you'll see that during the theater shoot, we CTO'd, we used warming filters on almost all of the lights to match the continuous lights, yeah. And so it's when I'm doing this kind of work that's when I will use my much more mild filters. I know a lot of people out there when they use gels they think of throwing in all of these crazy colors and making things purple, and vibrant red, and, that's cool, there's totally a place for that, and there's a place for it in this. There's a lot of filmmakers, cinematographers who use really aggressive uses of color. But the way I probably use it more often than not is as a way to correct and balance the different lights that I have. And I've got some fun ways to show you how we took a bunch of different kinds of light sources and got 'em close. I will say, we used a few more lights than we were anticipating with one of the sets, so I didn't have as much consistently colored warming gels. So like some were a little bit more red, some where a little bit less orange as I would like, but I could at least get them close enough that the correction later on was minuscule. Versus making something that was really, really way off. I could say, this is a little bit yellow, let me just tweak it a little bit so that yellow is a little bit more red or vice versa. And so it just gives me a much smaller change to make, and so it's a little bit easier. All right, good? Excellent. So again, just to kind of touch on that one more time, kinda my five simple takeaways for cinematic lighting. Make the image a little bit darker. Utilize that low-key sensibility, if you can. Don't forget that shadows are your friend. You're probably not gonna be doing lots of high-key butterfly light or broad lighting in a lot of these instances, it's gonna be using shadow a lot more aggressively. Control your fill, know what that looks like. How dark do you want your shadows to be? Separate your subject from the background. That's probably one of the bigger things. I'm a big fan of making the light work for the scene, but I also really love, this is a little bit of a departure like painterly sensibilities. And when painters would paint they'd use a window and it was one light, so I didn't use a lot of rim light in the work that's meant to feel like a paining. So when I'm doing this kind of stuff, film makers regularly use that rim light, so what I needed to do was figure out a way that I can incorporate something environmental that makes the rim light make sense for me. That's what I need, I need that association, so that's what I'm always trying to create. And then show depth. How are the ways in which I can showcase the depth across the image, separate that foreground, mid-ground, and background? And so taking all of these considerations into place, the left image would be like, how you'd come in and you'd set up that one main light and try to shoot it how maybe you're used to, photographically speaking. And the one on the right is our version that's following these more cinematic rules and helps tell that story a little bit more clearly.