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Lighting for Film: Simple not Plain

Lesson 3 of 14

Hard Light vs. Soft Light

Bill Megalos

Lighting for Film: Simple not Plain

Bill Megalos

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Lesson Info

3. Hard Light vs. Soft Light


  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

Hard Light vs. Soft Light

It's very important one of the things we need to recognize is that our eyes, whereas before we talked about how we could see if we could see colors through different colored light, we still knew that the paper was white or that this like this is white light but we could recognize it the film, the film and the video doesn't really see things that way it's got to be much more specific and the same way it can't handle the same contrast ratio that we can handle. We can look at somebody outside it's very, very bright outside it's kind of dark inside and we can see details in both of them the film we have to be very careful how we expose things because the contrast, if we overexpose it, we lose everything in the shadows if we under expose that we lose things in the details over here look, we we don't even know that that there's a there's a waves here, but we have to find that medium place where things are exposed properly and the way that we do that is by this's not really class about camera...

, but we had just the iris on the lens by opening the iris and closing the iris, and so we adjust the amount of light that hits the lens, but of course we can adjust lighting when we're lighting is well so just just to recap a little bit the hard light versus the soft light um, can you can you um yeah, we can do one. Why don't you bring out the one k like, if you would and bring that out here and then you can also bring the camera out. Okay, thanks. Um basically, hard life has for the most part parallel ray's. Okay, the light rays are parallel that's why? They make good shadows shot before you called it focused and I guess that is a wayto that is a way to think of it so hard light has the rays focus this? This doesn't really show it completely. Where is soft? Light usually is a big light source. Um, you can get self like by bouncing off of a big source or you can put light through a diffusion like this, and what happens with that is the the rays are coming from all different angles and so that's why you're getting very soft shadows like this like that comes from the skies is the softest light that's why painters always used to use skylight for their for that they would have they would have ah ah studio that would have northern light because most of the painters were talking about our western european tradition where they're in the northern hemisphere, so if they had the roof or they had they had they had cut a hole in the roof and there was pointing to the north they would never get direct sunlight. They get this very soft light coming through. Um so so soft light is non parallel razor diffused, bouncing raise their moving in all directions. Um, the main light that we use to teo create hard light in the movies is called off for now. Okay. It's print it's spelled like that f r e s n e l but it's pronounced fred it's pronounced for now, but it's not pronounce fresno and I don't know you guys have probably seen lights that look like this. Um the original use of these lice was in what does anybody know? No big think big light houses. They were designed for light houses. Did you ever look at a lighthouse? The lens in the lighthouse? It looks like this here's how here's what here's what, they're really kind of fascinating the way they were designed. This is a typical lens just like the lens in your eye. This lens focuses like, but in order to mate, but that gets very heavy that's a lot of glass, especially if you have a lot of lighthouse that's got that's got that's got a lens that six feet across five or six feet across that would weigh hundreds and hundreds of pounds. It would be hard to even get there, so what they did is imagine that they sliced, they took slices out of it and they compressed it. You guys you guys ever see those camping? Uh, ever see those camping cups where it's a cup that looks like this? And then you go clock like that and compresses down into rings well, that's what they have done with this, they've taken the action part of this of this lens, which is this curvy part this curvy, this white part here, and they've pressed it back in they've cut away the other and pressed it back in so basically it's a very thin, low profile version of this lens and weighs a lot less and has better focusing capabilities that's a side view of it. So, um, what happens is there's a light source inside this lens? There's a light source inside this lens and behind it there's a reflector to gather the light that goes out the back so we don't waste any of it, okay? And I'm gonna just throw this on to the wall for a second by moving, you saw how I move that reflector in the lamp for it for the room back by by doing that, it allows me two flooded or spot it that spot that's full spot you can see it on the floor there and that's the flood okay the same amount of light comes out of this adrian, can you can you flood this and spot this while I go over there? The same amount of light comes out of it it's just that it's gets focus against brighter look at what happens we have a very hard light here. Okay that's a hard light because these light the rays are focused by the lens and they're parallel what happens when you spotted up though he gets is all an alloy spot it gets brighter but it doesn't get is hard the lens the razor not quite as parallel see the difference on the shadow from my hand on dh flooded back out again see how much sharper it is when it's flooded ok if I really wanted to um if I really wanted to have the heart of shadows I wanted in effect and I wanted to make really hard shadows what I could do here is actually take the lens off open it up and put it out here without and you'll see that again very, very hard shadows that way to write the thing to remember here is you turn that off please um the smaller the source the heart of the shadows in general small source like that flash hard shadows big source soft shadows um now using the same now that the kind of light that this is is called it's called a tungsten light also known as incandescent because the element tongue stone also known as the courts we also used the word courts and incandescent basically there's a filament inside this bulb I'm not going to turn this on if you want to get this alex I'm sure you can see it I can come a little closer to um there's ah there's a filament inside there that is covered with this element tungsten it writes up it heats up very bright the glad it looks like glass but it's actually courts so that it can handle a higher heat um and so this light is really hot and hard, hard and hot to work with when we work with the light like this when it gets hot right away we start using gloves with it okay? Because we don't want to burn ourselves, eh? So we would use gloves as we work with it. One of one of the things with this light that we'll do a little more of this in the next section but this light has different ways of changing the quality of the light. First of all we would normally put what's called we call this a barn door on here you control the white this is the first thing we would put on here the light's not really complete unless it has a barn door and these things a cz well, because you can't you really need to control the light. So with this barn door, I can just like a smaller area. Okay, I can I can shut. I can also use black paper tape here and cut it smaller. But the other thing that we use are these are these this is called scrims. This one is this one has a read on it, and this one has green on it. And the red is the the green is called a single, and the red is called a double. And when it's put in here, it changes. The intensity of the light makes it darker if that's it that's a single that's a double in a single in this one is a half so I can change half of the intensity. I could change it on one half of the side. See, I've got it right. I've got it on the right side now. No, I've got it on the bottom. Okay, so we have two actors next to each other, and one is where one is lighter than the other, darker than the other. This is something that would use this was this was definitely I don't know if you ever remember those movies that richard pryor was in like silver streak o r stir crazy with with gene hackman there's all these shots were the two of them are together they had to be lit totally differently because richard pryor is a lot darker than gene hackman and so they would do things like this in order to control the light. Um the reason we use these is that they don't change the color of the light if I was to put this on a dimmer dimmer that would give it a less electricity would darken it did light would turn warmer as you did because it wouldn't be burning the film wouldn't be burning his bright, so be warmer um so just to look at this so so these these for now lights are very there're they're very easy to control, but there are also quite inefficient in terms of the in terms of the amount of power they used for the light they put out a lot of a lot of the energy goes to the heating that filament and it's very inefficient they're not they're about as undreamed as any light you can find um and so they have been replaced first, the first replacements that people made were fluorescence that we're color corrected fluorescence like these who's fluorescence use a lot less power um and the other one's more recently people have been using led lights that are even more efficient um this is an led light we'll look at this and we'll be playing with this in a little bit, but that's the light that's got a lot of ladies. Um, but as far as if you want to get a light that you can really control and make a hard edge hard light, then you need you really need to use it for now. Um, incandescent means incandescent means well, technically incandescent when you, if you really want to get if you really want to get technical incandescent means a traditional lightbulb something that has a filament and a vacuum in it and has a glass bulb like this but basically incandescent means something that is burning something that is lighting up that's what it means, so but but we and inside, once you're in the industry, you would these lights are much more efficient. They put out a lot more light because they're tungsten, but it tungsten still falls under the category of incandescent meaning it is something that you applied there's actually a filament in there that that is lighting up as opposed to these fluorescents which don't have filaments in them. They have gas and there's a very high charge that charges of the gas yeah, you were saying earlier you might cover it uh, but the eli's means you can't provide focused light they are people who are making them but basically not I mean it's a very it's it's not it's not really conducive to it it's not going to most of the affordable they can you can get them with their extremely expensive um these are led lights here to these air led lights all these with the different colors in them I can't really take those down those air really more for effects of theatrical, but they they don't really have that ability to focus through the lens like that there are people who are making them, but they're not very satisfactory and they are very expensive um l edie's air very cheap light source to begin with that they've come a very long way, but they're not really in terms of their color temperature and they're they're having the right color they don't really look good on people quite yeah and the ones that really look good they've they've really spent a lot of money to take out green they normally have a lot of green in them and what a lot of people do is to get more efficiency out of them they give them more voltage jj and that more voltage is to make them brighter puts more green in it so it's it's still not there there still there still a developing economy anyway just to look at some of the effects of hard light here the's air hard light these air shot with hard light you can see the you can see the pinpoint in her eyes you can see the hard edge on there you can see the shyness of her of her hair this hard light this is actually not totally hard because I can see some softness in there but it's it's got a very hard feel because it's a very extreme angle this is hard light this one's not so hard but lookit what what do we know about this? What do we know about this where's the light coming from hello? What? What do we use light like this for are you a dark any hard film any time we want to show the world is upside down the clock's running backwards pigs and flying all that stuff we know we know we know when a light looks right we know that the sunlight comes from above lately we show you I showed it in the first or second picture we looked at in the afternoon it comes from there. We never see light coming from below unless we're in a bar right where they've got light in the art of disco dance floor or were on some sort of stage thing the real life we know that's why people said, well, things are really weird let's put the light from below um you know the picture of those two people in the attic that's a situates one of the few situations where you do feel like coming from below when you have maybe in an attic and the windows the windows air smaller things like that or sometimes you'll see like bouncing off of I mean I've seen situations where you're you're like on a dock and there's maybe shot the trees they're shadowing here but but there's bat light bouncing off of the ocean of the lake and hitting you from below that sort of thing but generally you know this is this is one of our this is how we decide so here just we'll just make it through the end of hard light here for now so same girl same situation hard light nose soft light actually the soft light is not coming from the same direction it's really coming from a little bit above their more of the skylight the's erhard leaves her hard light here you can see her shadow you can see the hard the sunlight on him and again soft light all right different angles this one it's almost because the sky's so big it's kind of lighting her all the way from the front here right this one where's the light coming from well there's a backlight honor this rimming her calling a rim light when you see it that way where's where's the soft light coming from I don't hear anybody like for yeah it's low it's love well look you can see in the eyes always looking if you can see it in the eyes you see where it is in her eyes it's just so is really from here, right? It's love I mean that's the sort of kind of a bedroom situation that they're building that that's a situation where you could you know, use that lower level that lower angle coming up here where is it coming from? Above? Uh like eleven o'clock yeah, maybe ten o'clock but also what they've also got a key light they've got us to fill light down here he says there's no shadows on his arms and you can see that in there too you can see that down there is multiple it's like four little lights down here. All right, the key light the brighter light is coming here he always lit from above but there's a lot of fill light on him too. Okay um this is it hard light hard shadows, hard black shadows I should say easy to control right we'll have to do is pull this barn door in and I'm cutting it off all right? We'll show some more it will show a lot more control after we come back in the next section but it is on for its really hard with it takes the skill to use hard light it's the old way of doing it. Back in the old hollywood days, everything was done with hard light because the film stocks were very they needed a lot of light that were very insensitive, so you could only use hard lights to do it. So these old guys really learned how to do it. Film noir, yes, but even before film, or like technicolor movies or or movies like casablanca or any movie anymore, any black and white movie that you can think of needed big light amounts of light because the film was not very sensitive. Then the newer guys are working with materials that are much more forgiving and much faster and soft light takes a lot more energy to get their toe light up to big levels with a soft light is almost in its very hard, very expect, you know, very lot of light making, you know, a lot of heat making, but it's but it's soto learn with hard light. It's, where you put the light is really critical, even one inch. Here, there makes a big difference. There's one there's, a couple there's, a couple of cameramen and filmmakers who work with hard light. Now, if you, uh, if you see american sniper, has anyone seen that movie? American sniper is a clint eastwood movie and his plate weighs what has worked with the same crew for over long periods of time and he's very loyal to them and his cameraman his dp guy named tom stern is very much uses hard light there's a lot of hard light in that movie you look at him in the bar the bar scenes but just everywhere a lot of hard light whereas a lot of films you see most people using soft light soft, light, soft, diffuse shadows like weaken see no shadow, no shadow or very little shadow. Um, difficult to control once you if you can't find a hard shadow, how can you stop the light from coming? You need to use really, really big things to stop it. Um, but it's very forgiving people look good out of the box with it. Yeah, maybe a little off topic, but when they're filming, possibly like in a green room and I'm assuming that, uh, remember green screen yes. Are you green screen? Okay, and I'm gonna get some they can use different life, but basically, when they, you know everybody's using more computer graphics and everything, how are they then imitating whatever those the shadows and a creator from the light that they're using and ok, there are a lot of the software the software is designed to recreate lighting you can you can make software there's movie what was that movie a couple of years ago johnny depp was in it was it called ringo or rang go it was it was an animated from what was ringo a ranga ranga ranga right? That movie was entirely you know obviously johnny depp's voice but it was entirely computer created and yet they bought they brought the greatest well one of the greatest living dp is a guy named roger deakins a british guy they hired him to oversee this the lighting in the film but the computer graphics people in the software yes, they have lighting set up so that you can say, oh, we're going to move the light over here so they can write very easily recreate the lighting that that was done on the green screen we know what the word when he was talking about was saying green screen greens and many movies these days are filmed in front of a green screen where you only see the actors and maybe some hand props and then the sets are put in afterwards like the all the lord of the rings movies were we're done that way and it's easy for them using a software it's recreated but very easy so is a jest is easy for them to just mean who knows if they messed up the lighting whatever they could just make it up themselves like in the post production and then, well, they could do it. But if it doesn't match what the real people look like it's going to look fake, it's looks fake. You know, everybody's seen all those pictures of where you're they have, they make a poster of someone like ronald reagan, and then you stand next to him. When you put your arm around him, you've seen that right, and it looks incredibly, really, doesn't it? I mean, most of the time you say, wow, it looks like he's, really with reagan or whoever it is that's, because that original picture of reagan was shot very much kind of frontal light, like sunlight front light. And so when you shoot the other thing, you do the same thing and you don't see any it's not putting any shadows on this flat figure, but the shadows that are on the face of the other person very much recreate the shadows that air there. So, yeah, they do have to match, but the software allows you to make a match.

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"