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Twan Peeters

Low budget lighting for Film Noir

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Hi there,

 

This weekend I am participating in a 48 hour film competition, where my team and I have to create a short film around 5 minutes within 48 hours.

 

Now the genre we got was Film Noir. Awesome, right!? I am really excited to film this tomorrow.

 

I am the cinematographer on the project, and since I have little fiction experience and also no experience at all on film noir, I was wondering if I could get some lightning advise.

 

We are working without a budget. I am filming on a Canon 60D and we have 3 350 watt redheads and 2 dimmers.

 

I really want to make the best out of this no budget film as possible, and I think we have enough tools to archieve some great images.

 

I am doing a lot of research now online on classical film noir styles and I notice that the lightening is often very harsh, with strong backlighting and really dim fill lights.

 

I also am wondering of there are any key tips in film noir lightning, but also compositions, camera movements and frame rates.

 

I am relatively inexperienced as a cinematographer. I mostly work as a camera assistant on short films, but I'm trying to work myself up in the industry. This weekend is a good chance for me to show I can do more then slate.

 

All tips and advise are very much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

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Hi there,

 

This weekend I am participating in a 48 hour film competition, where my team and I have to create a short film around 5 minutes within 48 hours.

 

Now the genre we got was Film Noir. Awesome, right!? I am really excited to film this tomorrow.

 

I am the cinematographer on the project, and since I have little fiction experience and also no experience at all on film noir, I was wondering if I could get some lightning advise.

 

We are working without a budget. I am filming on a Canon 60D and we have 3 350 watt redheads and 2 dimmers.

 

I really want to make the best out of this no budget film as possible, and I think we have enough tools to archieve some great images.

 

I am doing a lot of research now online on classical film noir styles and I notice that the lightening is often very harsh, with strong backlighting and really dim fill lights.

 

A little 'late' for studying up on this...

 

Here is a classic on Hollywood lighting of the 1940's

http://www.amazon.com/Painting-With-Light-John-Alton/dp/0520275845

 

Apparently there's a kindle version available... for those who need 'instant' information...

 

But an element of 'noir' which seems to be often forgotten, was the subjects of 'noir' were themselves considered 'dark'.

 

The 'harsh' lighiting reenforces this 'story' concept.

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It is late, but we just heard what genre we have to shoot an hour ago. These are the rules of this 48 hour competition.

 

Thank you for the tip on this book. I will see if I can get an e-book version of it real fast and scan through it.

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Well, at least you can work in black and white, so you won't have to worry about colour temperature.

 

Equipment is of course nothing compared to what you choose to do with it. If all else fails, go down to the DIY store and get some work lights, and some bits of polystyrene insulating board to act as bounce and flags (be aware that some polyboard is flammable, so don't get them too close together....)

 

P

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The lights don't really matter as much as it is how you control them:

 

https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1422&bih=725&q=Film+Noir&oq=Film+Noir&gs_l=img.3..0l10.435.1289.0.1418.9.7.0.1.1.0.193.750.4j3.7.0....0...1ac.1.45.img..1.8.748.jU3erv0E3KA

 

Hard light; lots of shadow, lots of blinds.

 

Get Tin Foil-- you can use it as black wrap to get slashes, streaks, control of your lighting a bit:

 

Staccato.jpg

 

 

Work lights, clamp lights, etc. Stage thing with strong and controlled back lighting.

 

film-noir.jpg

 

When possible if you're shooting at night somewhere, wet down the streets:

 

peopleagainstohara-13.jpg

 

 

Also try to emphasize texture, or create it:

 

Film_Noir_by_nenov.jpg

stock-footage-a-man-in-a-fedora-typing-o

 

 

 

and of course let us all know how it goes.

 

Those open face home depot type lights will work wonders as well. Noir really is kind of antithetical to the soft look people do now a days (since you don't have chromatic separation in black and white) so you'll need to define areas to look at-- from brightest to darkest.

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Can I refer you to my reel from 39" seconds to 1'18", which is footage from a noir short we shot on Red. (http://vimeo.com/31770723) The background got a lot of hard sources and hard cuts, while the actors' keys were softer, though not nearly the industry standard large booklight. 3 open face lights is quite the challenge ...

Edited by Jon Rosenbloom

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I also am wondering of there are any key tips in film noir lightning, ...

 

Your biggest challenge in creating a noir look these days is going to be controlling light. The noir images Adrian posted were shot when B&W Film stocks were inherently high contrast and even then, quite often the noir deep shadows were actually painted onto the set. With the dynamic range of modern digital cameras you are going to have to work at creating high contrast and then crush the blacks to create deep shadows. Shoot as much as you can at night and if you can't use black garden visqueen to black out your interiors. Use inherently hard light sources (fresnels) and use black wrap and flags to control the spill of light. Use reverse key lighting and wet down pavement on night exteriors. Here are a couple links to other threads that will help:

 

http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=57832&st=0&gopid=377066&&do=findComment&comment=377066

 

http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=61155&page=2&hl=%2Bday+%2Bfor+%2Bnight&do=findComment&comment=399691

 

http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=58886

 

http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=54946&page=2&hl=%2Bjens+%2Bklein&do=findComment&comment=408423

 

http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=55922&st=0&gopid=369777&&do=findComment&comment=369777

 

Good Luck and let us know how it turns out.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rentals & Sales in Boston

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Thank you so much guys for all of the replies, all the advice I got was extremely helpful. It was a really big challenge to create something good under so much pressure, but I am really happy with the results I got.

 

I will let go how it went and post the result soon! I'm really curious for your reactions and feedback. Will open a new topic for that in the other categories. For now I am going to sleep, since I hardly slept this weekend.

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