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Lighting for Film: Simple not Plain

Lesson 1 of 14

Class Introduction

Bill Megalos

Lighting for Film: Simple not Plain

Bill Megalos

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:17:28
2 The Qualities of Light Duration:48:08
3 Hard Light vs. Soft Light Duration:22:54
4 Three Point Lighting Duration:12:17
6 Basic Light Safety & Gear Duration:11:48
7 Lighting a Subject Duration:15:36
8 Lighting a Room in Daylight Duration:12:55
10 Creating Drama with Light Duration:38:03
11 Lighting at Dusk Duration:18:23
12 Lighting in the Shade Duration:21:04
14 Lighting for Night Duration:11:30

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

Today we're going to be doing of course called lighting for film simple, not plain and um just a little bit of background on me I've if I look back I realized lighting has had a huge role in my life practically all my working career has really started out with lighting I started out working in the theatre as a lighting designer before that I was I was a photographer when I was in high school and then this theater lighting lead to kind of brought me into film and television and video, which is where I've I've been still working I still do some photography but lighting is there's something really ineffable about lighting it's something you know if you read if you poets and writers throughout time have have talked about you know that kind of the magical qualities of light and it's it's spiritually characteristics and you know, we still it's it's really a pleasure to be working with that as we go into this azzawi working in this very modern era we're still kind of carrying that light carry...

ing that that that thing of lighting and then obviously that doesn't apply to every single thing that we like but it's there in some level in the background um another really interesting thing about light even though that we use very modern tools in modern techniques it's one of those things that kind of connects us backto artists in earlier eras a lot of the inspiration that I take from lighting is from paintings I really connect myself to painting starting in the in the really in the renaissance the painters before that had a very different kind of relationship toe light but once the once painting got the perspective and the three dimensionality that the renaissance painters started we've a lot of filmmakers photographers have taken our inspiration from so I feel real continue the work that I'm doing going going back to that don't even start with something with a quote from a f a a sculptor from the renaissance era the reins again bertie sends a luce non survey natsuno cosa without light you don't see a single thing it's you know it's kind of like the if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it didn't make a noise if we have if if if this was if there was no light here you couldn't see me and if I weren't here there would be nothing toe light by the same token so it's really a relationship a lot of lighting is about the relationship with two what you're lighting and how you're going to light it and in the service of storytelling we are always creating world whether we're making a documentary film whether you're making a horror film whether we're making ah youtube comedy video whether we're making a romantic comedy or a tragedy we are creating this world on in our film making, we have to create with to control and create every part of the world. Um, there's, when someone is sitting down and watching a film, whether they're in the theater, whether they're watching at home, whether they're watching on a laptop, whether they're watching on the phone, they're going into this kind of dream, like state that anything can break that dream light state there's, you know, the last thing you want is something in your film to get them out of that state where they're watching, where all of a sudden there's thinking about okada forgot to pick up my dry cleaning or, uh, tomorrow I have to go to the dentist or anything like that. You want you don't want anything in your film to get toe, let them get back into the conscious world. You want to keep them down in that dream light state, obviously there's many ways that you can break that bad sound. Khun do it, uh, odd editing, but right now, today we're going to talk about how do we keep that world create that world would lighting? And how do we make sure that we don't make lighting mistakes that that caused people to to wake up and say, oh, that's a, uh, you know, that's that's not right on dh then you've lost them because once you lose someone it's really hard to get him back, uh, you know, if if you're if you're a car salesman, you know, you never let the guy off the lot, right? You never let them off the lot, he comes in, you just whatever it takes to keep him on the lot until you sell that car, will the same thing is a filmmaker, same sort of thing is happening. Um, so this lighting and all lighting really hearkens back to the real world that we know, even if even if you're watching I mean, have you guys I assume most of guys have watch some science fiction films and let's say, for to pick one out of the blue um are not out of the blue, but blade runner most people here have seen blade runner, you know, that is a futuristic world that's the world we don't understand that the world we don't live in, and yet the laws of physics in that world they create, you know, they create what that world is, but the laws of lighting in that world, they have to look right like the light came from wherever it is, you know, if you remember there's, one of the interesting things about blade runner is that it has there's really? No the exterior spaces air like interiors and the interior spaces air like exteriors it's really it's not never nothing's ever really private the outer world is very crowded like an interior theater world has things like open windows going toe outside but those the lighting in that place looks like it comes from that place and the lighting is a very big part of what makes us believe that world yes it's the actors yes it's the things the actors do yes it's the sets certainly have a lot a large part to do with it but the lighting has to be very realistic as well. So um and part of that realism and one of the things that were always struggling against as filmmakers is that film when I use the word film here I'm talking about video talking about web whatever whether it's would you watch it on your laptop or ipad or iphone or a phone or in this theater it is a two dimensional medium okay everything we see every image we see on there is two dimensional and yet it is constantly mimicking and it's the stories we tell were trying to tell people stories that make them feel like they're in the world that we know that is a three dimensional world you guys are sitting there, you have two eyes so far everybody here has two eyes and because of the stereo vision of the two eyes, you can see that I'm actually sitting in front of this not because I'm nothing I'm covering it it's not that that's the one of the ways you can tell him in front, but if you close one of your eyes, everything becomes flat. Um, well, we're going to do what we're going to use whatever skills weekend as filmmakers to make that world three dimensional some of it has to do with lens selection, someone has to do with the movement of staging how you make people someone has to do with set design, but today we're going to talk about how lighting khun do that and all my lighting decisions. Whenever I make a decision, I'm always thinking, how do I make this as three dimensional is possible? Why? Because I want to make it as realistic and believable as possible to the audience so that they follow my story so they don't think about their, uh, you know, they're dry cleaning, um, there's many ways that we create this three dimensionality, and we'll talk about them in the course of this of this class one of them is contrast, one of them is putting dark things there, light things infront of other, you know, not not putting things the blank the same way the same, the same tonal gradation in a lot of the concepts that we know about lighting were created in the early in the early days of cinema when it was black and white lighting it was you know the film was black and white so today I have very low colors but if we go toe if we go to the camera that's on you guys you guys have all different colors the different colors can differentiate you and stand you out from the background but if we were to take all the color out of this picture of you you would find that there'd be a lot less tonal gradation you wouldn't really stand out very much kayleigh your faces is lighter than anybody else's and from where I'm sitting I see your face pop out from the background but the color of your the magenta of your of your your hat and the color of your your top is very similar same thing with it's very, very close across the color of santa's well there we go we see it there you can see in here that all these colors even though when I look at you in real life you look very different they look exactly the same here there's not a lot of great ation so even though this was this was crucial in the old days in the days of doing black and white photography you really had to learn that. How do you separate people from the background all the time? How do you give it its three dimensional quality? If we use the same if we use the same techniques now with our color, even though we're taking advantage of color, we are stuff. Really? Look super great. It's really it's like a hidden trick that the really the best people, you know, learn how to do and that's. Why? One of the times when? Every day, every night, every year. So someone will come out with a black and white film. Maybe every two or three years and people just they cream over. They just can't get over the o the black and white photography so beautiful a couple years ago, it was nebraska. Uh, this year, the big all the excitement in the movies is about a polish film called pronounced ead idea. But some people call it either it's the name of the main character. So learning the skills of the old black and white photography, the basic ideas we've gotta build this contrast, we have to build it into our pictures. We yes, we use the color. Color is one of the elements of that we that we control, but let's let's work kind of beyond that, um one of the things that happens in lighting is that we by lighting we are guiding the viewer, we want the viewer to really understand what we're what we want them to see, we don't want to give them a mess and have them try to find something, so we're going to use lighting to make people really see what, what we want them to see umm if it's a product we're shooting, we certainly want to make that product looked like something you want to buy. If it's, um, we want to use that we want to use the lighting to convey emotion, to support what the actors are doing, what we don't leave actors out there on a tight rope all by themselves. We wantto make them we want to give them the support that they need the emotional support to build their story up. Um, one of the things we do very often in movies is, uh, we come up with the lighting scheme through the course of the movie, all right? Just as we would come up with a visual design, you know, most movies, um when I say movies, you know, I could we could be talking about tv shows, you understand, I'm just using the term as a movie storytelling, um, you know, most most movies have an arc kind of an arc of the story. They talk about the ark of the story and the ark usually has to do with the main character that's one way of talking about it, but, um, you know, this character starts here things bill, bill, bill excitement. And then at a certain point, you have a kind of ah it's not an anti climax, but you have a date newmont you have ah, uh finishing here. Um, but in most films, you have the character makes some sort of journey from something to something else if there's not that journey that we can follow on and we can't really we don't really identify with the character we don't really care about them that very much. Well, let's say we're starting with someone who should've come up with an example before, but just to keep it very generic someone who is it's the beginning of the film he's alienated, you know he feels alone. He doesn't have any connections with other people he's I mean, maybe it's me maybe it's the story of lebanese of scrooge or something like this he's got no connections and at the end he's warm he's got a he's got a whole you know, he's got a family around, maybe someone who's, maybe he's a father who's using drugs and then at the end he fights his way back to his family he and maybe his wife throws him out in the beginning and the end so there's that story that actor is following that story that actor is telling well, we would have to support him to make a really successful film he would be supported in the art direction but also in the lighting so for instance in a situation like this maybe in the beginning when he's alone the lighting is colder on him it's colder colors and at the end it they become warmer or maybe in the beginning the light the lighting is much more contrast e when we say contrast it that people know what I mean by that no means okay, well right now there's very little contrast in this room okay? Because I am lit evenly all around but if I were to walk over here you'll see that there's there's more contrast that I'm lit unlit from assume I'm lit from this side and not from this side is that true is more shadow over here so the contrast is the is the difference between the range the tonal range between black to white and where if black is this is the blackest this's the darkest black here and this is the lightest white they're a low contrast film might have thing's kind of in this area here in this medium gray area where is the high contrast? Film would have the blackest blacks and the widest whites. Even if I look at this shot without you see how there's very little contrast in here. There's, there's, there's, some black here but there's very there's a little, but most of the tones in here in this middle gray, right, there's more contrast between this, you know the white paper here, and but but a lot of this whole story is in this middle gray. Okay, so that's really a low contrast situation, so to talk, to get back to supporting the story in the film, the you might start this guy's story when he's alone and cold and everything's going wrong for him with cold blue, colder blue light, high contrast, shadowy. And then at the end, when he's back read back with his family who might be a little warmer and things like that. So we're everything we're doing is supporting the supporting the story and helping the viewer understand what you're trying to say. To emphasize the contrast, you'd probably dress them differently. Eat also so that the whites and the blacks would punch that would that would be one absolutely that's one that's one of you would also support him that way with the with the art direction in the beginning his house might be he might be living somewhere and it's really, really cramped and then when he gets later you know he is in a much more open and so you support him on every level the music would change too, right? You know, maybe maybe in the beginning of the film would be minor key music and then later becomes a little more major where the instrumentation would change um but really what we're going to we're going to start with this class on this class we're going to have a combination of really understanding light and looking at light thinking about light and then the practical how do you do it so right now um what we're really going to talk about is we're going to talk about learning to see you guys learning to see how do you see the world? How do you training yourself? You can't really light until you really have investigated the outside world and how it works it's like it's like saying, well, I'm going to become a writer well, if you never read any books it's going to be pretty hard for you to become a pretty good writer so most of us know we subconsciously we've picked up a lot of things but rarely do we sit out there and say, you know, how is this restaurant this restaurant looks kind of cool? How is it lit why does it look good to me? Why does it make me feel, you know, really sexy? Why doesn't make me really feel relaxed? Well, I do like what? Why would I go to my grandmother's house? Do I feel comfortable? And when I now, of course, there's, a lot of other things there, there smells there's furniture, you know, but why is this? Why does this make me feel? And what when I go to this police station, aside from the fact that I've been arrested many times before, and I know how they treat me, why does this felice station make me feel uncomfortable? So we've got to start looking at light that way.

Class Description

Young filmmakers are often taught to de-prioritize lighting. They are told that lighting takes too much time, money, and expertise to have any profound effect on their work. Lighting for Film: Simple not Plain with Bill Megalos changes that.

In Lighting for Film, Bill will show you how to light technically, instinctually, and cinematically. You will learn how to light for both interior and exterior work and how the simplest lighting techniques can produce the most dramatic effects. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Produce story-altering lighting effects with minimal equipment
  • Light for both of interior and exterior content
  • Choose instruments that suit your budget and filming goals

Bill will teach professional lighting techniques you can use on your own or with a crew that defy the everyday budget and common-wisdom of filmmakers having to tell a story "in the dark."


a Creativelive Student

This is a wonderful class with a very knowledgeable and experienced instructor. It starts with the principles you need to understand and then walks you through the process of actually doing the work on set. You can see what it takes to accomplish the work. I will be watching this over and over to let it all soak in. Thank you Bill for putting this together.

Joe Stevens

Great class, learned a lot. Would highly recommend!

Abel Riojas

great class! i've struggled with proper lighting and he broke it down in a matter of minutes. very simple and easy to understand. i would recommend this to someone that is still trying to find their "voice"