Jump to content

Basic principles of lighting interior shots


Marcel Schnellinger
 Share

Recommended Posts

Dear all,

I have a hard time setting up my lighting to create interior shots with a cinematic feel to it. Could somebody please explain to me the basic rations on the main subject, ratios between fore- and background, color temperature and how understand Arri false color. Also I would like to know how to best prepare my "negative" for color grading.

All the best,

Marcel

Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Premium Member

That's too broad a question, there are an infinite number of lighting scenarios in an infinite number of settings. The ratios of highlight to shadow, the color temperature, the brightness of the background, are all location, scene and story-dependent. And "cinematic" is a vague-enough word to be nearly useless.  A room lit for blue twilight would look different than lit for sunset, midday, night with all the lights on, night with one lamp on, night lit by moonlight only, etc.  And the room might have white walls or dark wooden panelling. It might be big or small, it might be a kitchen or a bedroom or a bathroom.  It might be 1790, 1890, or 1990 in the story.

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member

I think the background is just lit with the overhead fluorescents.  As for her face, she clearly has a single soft source on her (or two side-by-side, one to extend the first), it's reflected in her eyes. That's it.

You could go to Roger Deakins site and get the info on what particular light he used, but you shouldn't miss the main point -- it's a soft source with no fill to maintain some contrast.  The beauty of Roger Deakins' work is its elegant simplicity.

Another cinematographer perhaps would do this with a Lightmat, another with a Kinoflo through a diffusion frame. All near the ceiling so that it still felt like ceiling fluorescents. Maybe Roger used two 4'x4' white cards side by side near the ceiling and bounced a 650w tweenie into each, I don't know. Maybe he even just used the fluorescents in the room and softened them with some diffusion "bellied" under the fixture and then turned off everything on the shadow side or even setup a black flag for negative fill.

Ultimately does that matter? The principle of lighting is what matters, you might never be in the same space doing the same scene on the same face with the same type of fluorescents in the background, so it is more important to analyze what you like about the shot and then recreate it in your own way.  The main lesson here is the simplicity of the single soft light for her, sort of 3/4 top/frontal, bright enough so that the background isn't too light in comparison, and having enough fall-off on the shadow side to have some contrast.

  • Like 2
  • Upvote 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member

What's tricky with this sort of thing is what happens when you cut out to the wide. The light to camera left is, I'd have thought, close enough that you'd see it in a full length shot of Emily centred in frame. If you make the light big enough and far enough away to avoid that problem, it'd blast too much into the whole room.

Anyone can light a closeup like that. The wide is the hard part.

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

30 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

What's tricky with this sort of thing is what happens when you cut out to the wide. The light to camera left is, I'd have thought, close enough that you'd see it in a full length shot of Emily centred in frame. If you make the light big enough and far enough away to avoid that problem, it'd blast too much into the whole room.

Anyone can light a closeup like that. The wide is the hard part.

That's exactly what I wanted to say.
You'll get what a soft light is the first time you do it, at first we are not used to imagine that a light has to be soften because we don't notice how it happens in real life. After you get that you have to be able to find all kind of solution for large frames and controlling the spill, dealing with movements, having nice background separation etc.

That's why in a lot of movies nowadays you don't see large things. It's harder and also forces you to think more creativelly (or just throw money at it).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member

Doing well-lit wide shots often takes more time & money because it means better production design and set dressing so that the set is nearly self-lit for the wides with the mood you want it to have.  Then you're just cleaning up the close-ups.

I think there were some wider angles of this scene where the overhead lighting might be more clear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member

Looking at the whole scene, you see the lighting for the room she is about to walk into in the background behind her when she is waiting outside. There is a special hanging fluorescent over the table, lower than the ceiling fluorescents. I now think her lighting when she walks in is just coming from this hanging fixture (because the glass behind her is reflecting the hanging fixture and it is hitting her in that 3/4 front position) and probably some black flags to knock down any light filling her in too much.

 

sicario1.jpg

sicario2.jpg

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member

Is that a set, or a location they've comprehensively repainted, or a very carefully chosen location?

The thing that strikes me about it is that very few real locations are finished almost entirely in slate grey. The colour control is also quite striking; I don't recall Sicario as particularly being a film that aimed for the archetypal teal and gold look but the coordination between the blue in the flags and seal, her shirt, and the overall blueness in the depths of the wide, right down to the cool colour of the uncorrected video display, is quite striking.

This is why it's hard for smaller productions to achieve the same level as the very largest ones, and this is something that's constantly overlooked. It's not really about lighting. It's about having enough money to go "yes, I'd like to rent your dark grey office, thanks." Separation is easy in that situation.

I once shot a sci-fi short in which we built a (small, simple) set. It was built in a dark-walled studio and it was incredibly easy to light specifically because we had the option to paint it navy blue. Most real-world interiors are light cream or white and it does not make life easy.

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

After a couple of years grinding it out in the corporate video mines, you really start to curse the beigeness. The default response is usually to make it as dark as possible and try to find a way to get some texture onto the white walls:

But with good location choice it can be a joy.  I once shot a few scenes for a feature in the Channel 4 Building in London. Which was a joy, it was pretty much pre-lit with interesting lighting and coloured walls.  I didn't have to work very hard to get decent shots, which is rare.  The only challenge was keeping the big "4" logos that were plastered around the building out of shot.

1279166_horseferryroadc42_608471.thumb.jpg.5137fe2abee1a868e22a189050f3acc5.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
6 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Is that a set, or a location they've comprehensively repainted, or a very carefully chosen location?

 

It was shot in New Mexico, which has stages, but I suspect an industrial office location that was painted and dressed, with new ceiling fixtures, by the art department.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Is that a set, or a location they've comprehensively repainted, or a very carefully chosen location?

The thing that strikes me about it is that very few real locations are finished almost entirely in slate grey. The colour control is also quite striking; I don't recall Sicario as particularly being a film that aimed for the archetypal teal and gold look but the coordination between the blue in the flags and seal, her shirt, and the overall blueness in the depths of the wide, right down to the cool colour of the uncorrected video display, is quite striking.

This is why it's hard for smaller productions to achieve the same level as the very largest ones, and this is something that's constantly overlooked. It's not really about lighting. It's about having enough money to go "yes, I'd like to rent your dark grey office, thanks." Separation is easy in that situation.

I once shot a sci-fi short in which we built a (small, simple) set. It was built in a dark-walled studio and it was incredibly easy to light specifically because we had the option to paint it navy blue. Most real-world interiors are light cream or white and it does not make life easy.

Agreed .. I think it can be "easier" to light / or even just go with the practicals .. on a large budget production just because as you say .. you can choose great locations, re dress anything .. or ultimately  build every location exactly as you want  in a studio .. you are never stuck in a crap location that even Chris Menges couldn't make look good.. ..  but I guess the other side of the coin is you have to get to being asked to do those shoots in the first place .. and be able to handle the responsibility of not screwing it up..   when there is alot of money on the line ..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

I think that is one reason why the old Technicolor films look so amazing. The ability to art direct the color scheme of the entire set and every costume adds so much to the Technicolor look.

 

On a side note part of that was driven by certain quirks of the Technicolor process. There were limitations to the color accuracy of the process, so there was a lot of testing. Sometimes a prop, costume, makeup etc had to be the wrong color in real life to photograph 'correctly' and appear the desired color on TC. 

That is something you still experience on occasion with modern film stocks. A long time ago I shot this short with the female lead dressed in a white coat and dark lavender gloves. The gloves came out black, because the stock was blind in that part of the spectrum. We would have had to make a wedge of different colored gloves and shot tests to determine the correct real life color so it appeared the desired color once photographed.  But of course there was no money for that.... 

Anyhow...

 

 

 

Edited by Feli di Giorgio
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...