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Overlit Set becomes Perfectly Lit Shot?


Alejandro Gonzalez
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Hey guys,

 

I am not a cinematographer, Im just curious about it. I've noticed in behind the scenes footage that a scene will look so lit up, but then after post the shot is dark with shadows and back lighting, beautifully lit.

 

I have an intuitive theory why...Makes it easier to tune the exposure, shadow detail, highlights etc...Gives the color grader everything he needs to make the shot look awesome. And its done by calculating the power of each light relative to each other. But this could be completely wrong ha.

 

Anyway, please educate me, I would appreciate it.

 

btw, can anyone recommend a good book on the phycological use of color in filmmaking? If there is any.. Thanks

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I don't think of it as over-lighting in order to give the colorist the enough material to create the effect, generally the light levels and balance in the original should be close to the effect.

 

But it does show you that the same lighting if brightened by a mis-exposed camera shooting behind-the-scenes footage can make things look over-lit because now the fill light becomes more prominent than intended once the scene is brought down to the desired level. But behind-the-scenes videos often want to show-off everything happening on the set, they aren't interested in creating moody images.

 

Yes, there are gamma / contrast issues involved too, perhaps the cinematographer is lighting for a higher-contrast look built into the monitor output to reproduce what will happen in the final grade, but the behind-the-scenes camera is using a flatter contrast, particularly in the shadows. In order to keep noise down in the shadows, it is not unusual to work around a LUT for the monitor that has fairly strong black levels so that you light the set with this in mind, with the idea to apply the same slightly crushed shadow timing in the final grade, so in a sense, you are lighting for the grade so to speak, but not in some sort of open-ended manner of giving a colorist a ton of information and letting them create a look from it after-the-fact. It's more akin to lighting film negative for being printed on a higher-contrast print stock, you are compensating for some loss of shadow detail that the higher-contrast print stock will be giving you.

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It actually takes a ton of lighting and grip equipment to make it look like nothing's on. Most behind the scenes cameras are not limiting their exposure of the set either.

 

Videographers change their camera settings to match what the environment and available light looks like. Cinematographers on the other hand, change the environment and light up locations to suit the camera settings they have chosen.

 

So it often takes a lot of lighting equipment to accomplish that.

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I think this effect has a lot to do with BTS shot from the "wrong" angle. If a scene is back lit and dark to the movie camera it will look bright and over lit when filmed from the side.

 

This is why I sometimes cringe when a director asks to add a second camera...shooting from the "dumb" side of the lighting setup...but, sometimes, you have to do it anyway and try to match the looks in the color grade :(

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It actually takes a ton of lighting and grip equipment to make it look like nothing's on. Most behind the scenes cameras are not limiting their exposure of the set either.

 

Videographers change their camera settings to match what the environment and available light looks like. Cinematographers on the other hand, change the environment and light up locations to suit the camera settings they have chosen.

 

So it often takes a lot of lighting equipment to accomplish that.

 

this actually is not always true...sometimes its true but there are plenty of very simply light scenes in films.... Roger deakins being a good example of someone working now on big budget stuff that is often done simple especially his night interior work.

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I'm always at a bit of a loss as to why on set stills people so rarely ask me what my exposure settings are. So I often go out of my way to tell them the settings to use (adjusting the aperture to compensate for a 100/sec photo-friendly shutter). Even more oddly, I find I often have to tell them where to put their cameras in order to catch the light we've just spent 30-45 minutes setting up (surprise surprise - it's on the same angle as our motion camera).

 

It's one of the reliefs of shooting 4K these days IMO - you know that the producer will be able to pull useful stills from the motion images for marketing.

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