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Mike Chops

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Hello everyone,

My goal for writing this post is to get a better understanding of what goes into achieving a "well balanced" shot. For clarity, I'll lay out the main factors which I believe contribute to the composition of a shot. These are:

  • Physical camera and lens: The desired look and feel of any shot is obviously constrained by the physical tools in use (to an extent). Shooting with different settings on the camera can also either add or take away from a certain look that may be desired.
  • Lighting: I'm under the impression that lighting can make or break a shot, regardless of how expensive the camera used to shoot is.
  • Post: Everything that comes in the editing stage. It seems like a well lit, clean shot is crucial here if the goal is to get the most out of color correcting, and otherwise processing, the footage.
How heavily do each of these factors impact the final composition? For example, by percentage, my intuition would be that it's something like:

  • Physical camera and lens (50%)
  • Lighting (40%)
  • Post (10%)
Is this about right, or am I way off? I'm guessing this would vary based on the type of shot I was trying to achieve, so for the sake of this post, let's say that I'm specifically talking about achieving a look and feel similar to the screenshot below:


This is an image from a film titled The Raid 2. I chose this scene from the movie because I particularly struggle with setting up lighting for night shots. It looks like they did a pretty good job here, without losing any detail or overexposing the image and making it look unnatural.

Considering the screenshot above, how much of the look and feel would you say is due to having "the right equipment" vs. having talented and experienced individuals with an in-depth understanding of cinematography.

Any input is appreciated!

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I don't think it's an either-or situation because if you hire a talented and experienced cinematographer, they wouldn't use the wrong equipment...


Like anything else, lighting night scenes is both an artistic challenge and a logistical/technical/financial one. If you talking about a small shot like the close-up above, then most lighting equipment can achieve this look and it's mainly an artistic question of contrast, color, hardness, etc. of the light and the desired effect. It becomes more of a logistical, technical, financial issue when you try to scale this up for bigger and bigger spaces -- but you still have to have an artistic vision for the look you want before you can answer all the other questions.


In other words, equipment isn't much use if you put it into the hands of someone who has no ideas and no clue as to how to use it. On the other hand, a person with ideas and experience needs something to work with because he can't negate the laws of physics, at some minimal level, you need x amount of light to create x amount of exposure.


I don't think you can break down a whole project in terms of percentages of how much the camera, lens, lighting, or post contributes to the final effect. Even on a shot by shot basis, it will vary quite a bit.

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