Jump to content
Tiago Pimentel

Creating the perfect sharp backlight

Recommended Posts

Hey guys,

 

So what motivated to start this topic was the fact that most interviews I see online (even tutorials) don't quite nail the backlight effect that they mention in those videos. Most of the tutorials I find, the backlight seems to fall short from effectively making the talent pop from the background. Most of the times, I feel the backlight wraps around the key/fill light too much.

 

I'm looking for those razor sharp, beautiful cinematic Conrad Hall kind of backlight. So, I was wondering what is usually your approach to get this kind of backlight when shooting a cinematic interview? My feeling is that most people are using soft light as back light and then point it at the talent as if it was a hard light. And that makes it wrap too much for my taste. So, I would say hard directional light as backlight is the way to go. Also, maybe using a warmer color temperature might also help with color contrast against key. And definitely more intense than key.

 

As for positioning the light, that's always where I struggle most. Where and how high do you usually place it, without making the light spill too much to the top/front of the talent while avoiding veiling flares and other stuff like that?

 

Here are two examples of what I mean (second example is over the top, but it's great to really highlight what I mean):

 

murder_on_the_orient_express_scene1_jd.j

Backlight_1.jpg

 

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think here it's more about the contrast than the type of lamp.  For an interview, a small fresnel lamp will give you sharp shadows, or even a dedo light would work well for a backlight.  Even a smallish soft LED lamp can work... if it is set bright enough to create the contrast that you desire.

Also note that in the two examples you've posted, the background is quite dark.  Creating a dark background for this effect will help the most to get the effect you like.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I dun lit this with 2 red heads, sorry for the low res, I never kept a copy, this is grab off youtube. The back light just had a bit of ND and was backed well off to get the level down.

Key was a red head through 216 and a lastolite on the side bringing a bit of fill.

Creating a crisp backlight is easy, the trick is to not have it OTT. I don't like it drawing attention to itself

pegg.jpeg

Full video here - quite happy with the lighting on Chris Hopewell as well, same deal 2 x red heads for the interview, but I got to leave the lights in the set on: 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back light placement often has as much to do with space as it does with where you ideally want it to be. That is, it's gotta be high enough to be above the frame (most of the time) and not cause flare. Using a larger source as a top back light may not even be possible depending upon ceiling height. As for the look, if you want a hard rim of light, the source would be further behind the subject. Generally, you don't want that kind of light to spill onto the forehead or nose or cheek bones. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are many degrees of backlight, both in softness and in intensity. I tend to reserve a very strong hard backlight for situations where it is motivated, like from sunlight.

Here are three examples from work I did last year, from dailies. First is a hard backlight from a 1K tungsten parcan, motivated by the high window on the set (though the backlight was rigged inside the room), the second is a soft backlight motivated by a chandelier, using a Litemat LED, the third is from a 20K outside the set window.

BBCB23F9-9454-4296-AD4D-8C2CF933F2A1.jpeg

E4F84D2A-1ECD-48FA-A741-2BD9A8CD1D45.jpeg

E2A2C24C-5488-475C-A943-AA0287099A73.jpeg

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hot hard backlights usually look better when shooting on film (as in the examples posted by Tiago above), where you get some natural halation in the bright highlights. You can use diffusion filters with digital cameras to get a similar effect. 

Also, it works better on bigger budget projects when you have a dedicated hair person on set. On lower budget projects, and especially on long interviews where you have to be very selective of when to pause for hair and makeup adjustments, flyaways can be a real problem. This often makes the hard backlight more trouble than it’s worth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/17/2019 at 1:34 AM, Tiago Pimentel said:

I'm looking for those razor sharp, beautiful cinematic Conrad Hall kind of backlight. So, I was wondering what is usually your approach to get this kind of backlight when shooting a cinematic interview? My feeling is that most people are using soft light as back light and then point it at the talent as if it was a hard light. And that makes it wrap too much for my taste. So, I would say hard directional light as backlight is the way to go. Also, maybe using a warmer color temperature might also help with color contrast against key. And definitely more intense than key.

As for positioning the light, that's always where I struggle most. Where and how high do you usually place it, without making the light spill too much to the top/front of the talent while avoiding veiling flares and other stuff like that?

Sounds like you already figured it out!

Backlight and edge light is all about ratio's. How bright your background, key, and edge/back will determine the edge/back's effectiveness.

Quality of light will only determine if the edge/back will have a hotspot or not. Soft edge/back lights have no hotspots while hard edge/back lights have a hotspot. (Also, if you're hard light edge/back is too bright, putting diffusion on it will actually slow it down faster than dimming it)

The still you posted from Shutter Island was shot by Robert Richardson who often uses a strong backlight and bounce card combo (I believe known as a fire starter?). He uses a really bright backlight and bounces in the key from the backlight. I did this on a feature recently and it turned out great:

EArVxWAU0AEjk3N?format=jpg&name=large

---

I agree with Satsuki that halation makes these punchy backlights look great. Some lenses naturally have halation like vintage or uncoated lenses.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
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.



  • Abel Cine



    Broadcast Solutions Inc



    New Pro Video - New and Used Equipment



    Just Cinema Gear



    Tai Audio



    CineLab



    Serious Gear



    Metropolis Post



    Glidecam



    Gamma Ray Digital Inc



    Paralinx LLC



    Visual Products



    Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS



    Rig Wheels Passport



    G-Force Grips



    FJS International



    Wooden Camera



    The Original Slider



    Ritter Battery


    Cinematography Books and Gear
×
×
  • Create New...