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Check out this short I did and help me get better please

Eli Gray

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So I shot this short with my friend in a few hours, this is purely practice for us so we used non licensed music. This is a rough cut so I didn't perfect any of the audio. This is the beginning of my journey to learn how to light film better. I'm pretty much a noob, so I want to hear your opinions on how I could improve this, what looks bad, etc.

This was shot on a Samsung camera with the sigma 18-35 1.8. I used 2 Aputure 120Ds for the shoot, along with some gels.

Something I'm not sure about is how people shoot dark scenes. On the camera's meter, it'll show its' 1-3 stops below the center. Is this how other DPs record in, or do they shoot at the center and darken in post?

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Really not bad. I LOL'ed at the one part with the cheese puff, but the lighting and framing - not bad at all. 

Yes, it's traditional to not underexpose for dark scenes. As long as your highlights aren't clipping, expose those normally and "print down" in post. 

When using gel to wash a scene like that, might be good to have some white light on your actor. Maybe just have enough distance between talent and wall, so you can wash the wall with that color and then light talent with white light.  


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Congrats on putting something together, exporting it and actually having a product. You are leagues ahead of anyone who is "thinking" about shooting and learning, by actually having a product you can show. You've no idea how many people end up abandoning small side projects at the cutting table. 

Since you want opinions on lighting, I won't touch your camerawork (for which I honestly don't have much to add given that you're starting out - your composition is pleasing me for the most part).  You did mention this is a rough, but I'd have liked to see what you'd do for color correction to help match the first scene's look a little bit more to the rest of it, as the look is very flat and doesn't match the rest of your visuals. 

Continuity of light is a must when you are intercutting between subject and whatever is casting light on them. When she's working out, that glow that is frontal on her is cold, whereas the TV itself has a  warm backlit glow and a picture that is very warm as well - the difference is spotted immediately and whatever disbelief you want me to suspend flies out the door. Also the fact that I see your light source in the reflection behind her doesn't help any. I would have swapped your colors, so that the sidelight is a little bit colder, mimicking a moonlight or just a kitchen light or something. I would also have blocked off the spill of that light with some black foil or fabric, restricting it to only light her. As an extra tid-bit - when she turns off the TV, you could have turned off the glow of the TV to make a practical lighting effect. Once you turn that TV off, you'd see how the rest of the light is playing on her and you can draw her out of the space more. 

Brightness automatically draws your eyes, so when lighting for night, you want your focus to be expressly directed at what you want viewers to see - her working out, while not paying attention to her background.

Apart from the first scene, I enjoy what you've done with the rest of the short and your look resonates with what I'd be looking for in a night scene - more side and backlight to see shadows and contrast, edges and such. When I'm shooting night scenes, that's usually my main lighting directions, with perhaps a little directional fill light from the front if needed. I expose my edges 1.5 stops over my key light, and usually bring shots down by 1 stop in post. Note that this is a "standard" formula that I start off with and then tweak as needed for story and shot. 


On the side - what gel are you using for moonlight? Is that Peacock or a mixture of something? 


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