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On older films they used hard light, rather than soft as the key. Fresnel units would be the way to go with this.


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Edited by Brian Drysdale
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Try to key with larger fresnels from far away. Don't diffuse a lot (251 or a cosmetic gel is usually enough, and often it's not diffused at all) - fill more instead. A small 216 or grid frame by the camera is the easiest as it doesn't introduce visible shadows. You can also try to fill from above with a harder source - also from camera axis, a little to the side of the key so that its shadow is "inside" the key's shadow.


DoPs in classic era used the system of "precision lighting" - at least that's how they called it in the USSR. The rules were basically...

1) everything but fill is done with spotlights

2) every spotlight lights a single object, cut spill - i.e. use 3 separate groups of spotlights for 3 main parts of a large tracking shot

3) set is lit independently from the actors, cut spill

4) first place the shodows with spotlights, then set the contrast with fill lights, not the other way around

5) there has to be key and fill

The method came from B&W cinematography where it worked really well. In color, it worked different, and DoPs developed their own systems. The great Vadim Yusov made the best adaptition of old precision lighting to color, see his work if you haven't yet.


Collaborate with art dept. and especially make-up so that your actors and sets don't look too lit and shiny.

Be bold with diffusion - try a BPM 2 or a full White Frost, for example.


Are you lucky to have a proper camera with a gate and a movement and not a crap Alexa/Red/Cinealta?

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