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Samuel Berger

What's wrong with the lighting in Robert Randall's YAP movies?

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YAP (Young Actors Project) from Canada regularly outputs content on Youtube shot on a Canon C200 with Canon lenses, mostly a 70-200 2.8 and a 24-70 2.8.

Latest from them is this:

 

 

 

I can't help but feel there is something wrong with the lighting, that doesn't quite measure up to what they're trying to do, which is Disney Channel style sitcoms. It could just be there's too much contrast.

Maybe not enough fill?

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If anything I think there's probably not enough money to light the backgrounds and that's what's making it look more like a drama show.

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You know, that might be it. The shows they're trying to emulate are usually shot on 2/3"  broadcast cameras and have deeper DOF.
Shooting wide open is giving it too somber a look for comedy.

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Clipped highlights, drastic focus issues, and just generally poor lighting, is what stands out for me. They're using the overheads and keying with small sources, it looks like. I'd guess they had a very small lighting package for this. 

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On 5/8/2019 at 6:19 PM, Christopher Santucci said:

Clipped highlights, drastic focus issues, and just generally poor lighting, is what stands out for me. They're using the overheads and keying with small sources, it looks like. I'd guess they had a very small lighting package for this. 

Definitely this. I shoot a lot of run and gun low budget stuff for local school boards; interview and b-roll kind of thing. My options are usually all the overheads on, or all off to use window light, with two small LED panels to split between key/fill/back light. This show looks... painfully familiar.

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The background keeps changing from too bright to borderline dim and almost never matches the color temp of the main lights. 

The key light isn't soft enough so you're getting those ugly forehead highlights. The kicker/rimlight is too bright and it's burning out the sides of the actor's faces. 

The DOF being too shallow didn't bother me until you pointed it out but it's one of the many little things that ruins the effect.

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I think everyone is being far too critical. For one thing, this is a real location and not a set, unlike many of those Disney Channel shows. Second, it’s a cliche that comedy has to be lit brighter and flatter. Third, it’s not easy to make a real fluorescent-lit high school look interesting. Having a bigger lighting package doesn’t solve the problem that if you see the ceiling in the background then the background is mainly going to have to be lit by those ceiling fixtures and all you can do is play with the foreground.

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I'd like to second Mr Mullen's comments here - shooting stuff on a studio set (not that I've done much of it) is orders of magnitude easier than achieving that same look on location. You're never at the mercy of the weather. The gear is all right there. You can remove walls and ceilings. You can rig anywhere, quickly. There's loads of power. Every angle of every room looks good. Much of it is probably prelit in a way that took lots of time to set up.

It's not in the same universe as walking onto a location.

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I used to shoot similar projects at I worked at the East 15 Drama school in London for 2 years doing this, the priority was never the cinematography but giving the trainee actors experience acting in front of the camera. More time spent lighting means less time for the students to practice acting. 

The quality looks similar to what we would achieve, e.g that of a small crew working very quickly.  Also working with inexperienced actors  means they are going to miss their marks, make mistakes - this can result in buzzed focus and mistimed camera moves. I got in the habit of shooting to quite deep stops, because I couldn't be confident I'd nail the focus on the one take the acting was kind of ok. 

This kind of work isn't the sort of thing you should be critiquing in the context of cinematography, its more of a teaching exercise - the production values just need to be "good enough" to give the actors a realistic "on set" experience.   

From my own experience doing this, I was often aware of the problems with the lighting - but if your shooting a 45 min drama in 4/5 days with a crew of 2 people and trainee actors, just having something that vaguely cuts together is a good achievement. 

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