Lighting – Studio 1

I am glad I have reached my final piece of assignment for my Studio 1 unit. So this time it about LIGHTING! In my previous blog post, I had given a brief outline of Lighting for videos and what is its significance. As a continuation, I came up with a 30 seconds trailer for my future short film “BoingHero 2 – Superman with Transformers Mask”. Sounds interesting doesn’t it? Well I once again had a lot of fun on this project…

Similar to “BoingHero”, this trailer too will feature a little unique concept in terms of the making of film. I decided on a static shot with a blacked background and an exclusively lit foreground. The interesting fact about the foreground is that, we would realise it’s been lit only when we have a subject present in it. If there is no subject on the foreground, the area would be looking as dark as the background. In this situation, if we have the subject moving from the background to the foreground, it is simply going to give us an awesome result!

Shooting such a scene as above in a non studio environment can actually be quite tedious. I actually achieved the exact effect I wanted in an ordinary living room with white walls on four sides. This might be quite surprising to hear, but the fact is, there not much of a surprise in it. I realised it is just another simple lighting technique that you can master with practice and experience.

Though this technique can be achieved by a trial and error method, there is still a fair amount of prior knowledge required to even be eligible to conduct the experiment. Not to worry, I am putting it down in very simple words.

– Directional Lighting (make sure you learn about 3 point lighting from my previous blog!)

When I say direction, it refers to the direction of the light beam. In order to blackout our original background, we have to make sure, we never hit it hard with lights. Hence when we light up the foreground, we direct the light beam (key light) towards a different angle, for example 45 degrees from left to right. This might in return cause shadows and lines on the subject. To get rid of them, we strike another light (fill light) about 45 degrees from right to left with a lower intensity or just simply close the barn doors! Now we can have the backlight facing about 45 degrees towards the camera to have contrasty foreground. If not don’t worry about. You looking good with just two lights.

– ISO / Shutter Speed

By setting up the lights we are just halfway through our task. Now comes the tweaking of camera functions such as the ISO and Shutter speed. ISO is basically light sensitivity measure and Shutter speed is the opening of the aperture. When we have very little, light like our case, (light directed away from the path of the camera is equivalent to less light) it is a must that we reduce ISO in order to reduce grains. Now its up to reducing the the shutter speed until our subject is lit only in the foreground. For my own scene, I set my ISO to 200 and shutter speed to 30.

– Distance from camera

After tweaking for a while now, if we still can’t get the desired result, then its time that we change our distance between the lens and the subject in the foreground. The distance between the camera and the foreground is directly proportional to the intensity of the background. In other words, The lesser the distance from the camera to the foreground, the darker the background is going to appear, and vice versa.

Hence these are the three major steps required to light up a scene similar to the one discussed above. I would once again like to stress the fact that cinematography and lighting goes hand in hand. To achieve a good shot, both of these elements should look good and not just one. Practice makes it perfect! I am really happy to share my experiences and techniques of shooting the trailer for my upcoming short film. Before I finish, please don’t ask me for references. It was all from my brain…


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