Bruce Dorn

Show Notes from “The Ten Commandments Of Theatrical Lighting” at Photoshop World

Show Notes:  The Ten Commandments of Cinematic Lighting

Blog pic21.    Don’t Overwhelm, Enhance!

  • Tastefully supplement ambient light with the simplest of tools.
  • Try reflectors, Sun-Guns, and color-correct Edison-based globes in any existing practical fixtures.

2.    Understand and Manage Intensity…

  • Use the minimum light required to create your desired effect.
  • If your interior spaces are relatively dim, use low intensity sources for the best possible blend of ambient and supplemental sources.
  • Take advantage of elevated ISOs for speed and efficiency.

3.    Carefully Consider your Light’s Quality…

  • Is the ambient light Soft or Hard? You establish this by looking at the shadows…
  • Is the light Direct or Indirect? Is it coming directly from the source or bouncing off of a reflective surface?
  • What Color is the light?
  • Is the lighting Quality consistent?
  • Are there multiple and conflicting types of light sources?
  • What is the Nature and Quality of the dominant or “Key” light source?

4.    Control your Light’s Direction…

  • Is the scene illuminated from within or does the dominant source come from outside of the shooting space?
  • Consider the psychological effects of the lighting’s Direction.  Using “up-light” on a face is generally considered to be “spooky”, for example…
  • Consider the “geographical” effect of the lighting’s Direction.  Men’s features can generally handle more angular lighting than women’s faces.  Light that comes from near the lens axis is generally more flattering to women as it fills in imperfections in the facial complexion….

5.    Always Accommodate Action…

  • Try to understand a scene’s intent and action before beginning to light…
  • People move and scene “blocking” evolves; light in a manner that can accommodate unexpected changes in staging…
  • Consider using mobile lighting instruments such as wheeled light stands or handheld battery-powered lights…

6.    Guide the Viewer’s Eye…

  • The intelligent use of shadow is equally important as the use of light.  Study the Dutch Master painters for inspiration…
  • Prioritize and conceptualize where you will spill your pools of light within the frame…
  • Establish a baseline level of illumination that will softly create a sense of place then accent the critical areas with directional light…

7.    Optimize Practical Fixtures…

  • Carry a variety of Edison-based bulbs in different wattages.  Try Sylvania’s “reveal” bulbs for an inexpensive “near full spectrum” solution.  Consider the new-gen LED and CFL full-spectrum lamps as well…
  • For industrial interiors, go the “DIY” route.  Acquire an inexpensive portable fluorescent fixture that will accept the same fluorescent tubes that you find at your location…

8.    Embrace Serendipity…

  • With an appropriate “go with the flow” attitude, almost any light-emitting source cab be used to good effect.  Candles, flashlights, torches, road flares, automobile headlamps, and even glow-sticks can be useful in the hands of a Lighting Master…
  • Always keep an open mind but never forget the overall goal and theme of your project.  Remember; your “Story” must always drive the “Look”…

9.  Pre-light then Refine

  • Even “Big Budget” productions work under the constraint of limited time and money.  Indie Filmmakers much more so.  Learn to work quickly!
  • Use “Stand-Ins” to get your set 80-90% lit as quickly as possible.  Refine your lighting once your Principal Talent is actually “On-Set”.  This procedure is critical with harried CEOs and other “Super Star” talent.

10.  Don’t Enhance, Overwhelm!

  • Sometimes the existing ambient light sucks so bad that simple “enhancement” is virtually impossible.  This is the time to build your lighting scheme from scratch…
  • Include large sheets of black foam-core or black sound blankets in your kit to “subtract” as much ambient light as possible..
  • Experiment with “Day for Night” and “Night for Night” techniques when you’re feeling ambitious!

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