Sponsored By

Lighting Basics Series I: Where to place your KEY LIGHT

We got wonderful feedback from our survey and wanted to write a post based on your wishes ASAP.  One of the most popular requests was for lighting instruction.  In the HD world and film, lighting is king.  Knowing how to light and not just rely on available light is what being a cinematographer is all about.  I thought I would do a series of posts that will address the basics in lighting and use my film “The Greatest Game Ever Played” as an example for all of them.  Key light, back light, and fill light.

The key light is the most important light you can place. It lights the actor’s faces and brings out their emotions.  I like to study the features in an actor’s face. You can quickly see if one side is better to key from. This information is always in the back of my mind  so when you are blocking scenes, you can make suggestions that would aid in getting the key from the correct side. Sometimes it is not possible because of the location or the blocking will not allow it, but at least it is a starting point.

Once you block the scene with the actors, it’s time to think about the best way to light the scene, and where the key light should come from.  Prior to this, you have been on location scouts, talked with the director, even possibly blocked it with the talent in a rehearsal and probably already have a good idea.  Right???? or Wrong????  Right, in the sense that you have thought all of it through. Wrong, in the sense that you should not be locked into that if the actors take the scene in a different direction.  Keep yourself nimble; be able to react to a curve ball. They are usually brilliant and well worth the re-think whether it lands on the correct side for their face.

I look at the actors blocking and how best to let them move within a space when deciding where that key light should go.  My best advice is to light an area, but many times when you light an area, this creates a flatter look.  I don’t do flat.  Try to figure out a way to hold nice contrast with the use of flags to shape the light or practicals in the space that can key your actors, windows, doors, etc.

Marking actors is a great idea to get them in the ball park for camera line ups but after that, I try to lose them so that they feel natural and organic in a space and not worry about the marks. It is my job to move the camera to adjust, not the actors. This is one of my most important objectives.  Back in the day, with the camera being so heavy and focus being so critical, marks were king and it was the actor’s job to hit their marks, as well as give an amazing performance.  Things change: the cameras are now 2.5 lbs in some cases and the focus pullers have to be ZEN MASTERs.  Try to always roll out with a slider on the camera so that you can adjust and not ruin a performance because the camera was not able to be in the right place at the right time.  Handheld will give you this ability if the scene warrants it, or you could use a Steadicam.  It can be the most beautifully lit scene, but if the performance isn’t there, it really doesn’t matter, does it?

Let’s take the end scene of “The Greatest Game Ever Played” as an example.  I wanted this to feel like the golden boy, the new champion bathed in beautiful late afternoon sun. His moment, in a shaft of light.  We actually blocked this scene several times with Shia LaBeauf sitting, then with him standing, discussing how to bring Stephen Dillane our Harry Vardon character in at the perfect time.  The director, Bill Paxton,  wanted a western feel at the end, where the old gunslinger surrenders and walks through the swinging saloon doors at the end to leave the new champion.

Once we decided that Shia would start seated, how was I going to key his face?  He was sitting very close to the lockers that surrounded him in a big U shape.  I saw all of the lockers. Where should the key light come from?  If I brought it from behind camera, that would be very flat. I knew I wanted him in a golden shaft, so this would be my starting point.  I set that hot 3/4 backlight coming through the window, using a Mole Richardson 20K Fresnel full spot dimmed down to 50 percent.  I let what naturally would happen take over.  If a bright shaft was blasting through a window and hitting his head and shoulders, it  would bounce off of the lockers and floor, so that would be his key light.  But would that be enough light? Not really, plus it was very warm bouncing off of the brown lockers, so I hid a bounce card in the bottom of the locker, the sunlight shaft hit the bounce card and illuminated his face.

When Shia stood up to put his jacket on the hot light exploded off of his left arm and lit his face, this was a happy accident and looked awesome, but when he put the jacket on he didn’t have enough light on him, I wanted to see that small smile. It was so important.  To help this along I hung a white towel at the top of the locker so he would get a little love from that.  I wanted this moment to feel very personal and intimate. He had just won the 1913 U.S. Open. This was his time, the lone gunslinger, after he shot the other cowboy dead in the streets. Keeping the contrast fairly heavy so that Shia separated from the background was paramount.  This would create the world going dark around him with him in this spotlight/shaft of light. Once I lit the scene, it seemed very monochromatic.  Something was needed, COLOR CONTRAST.  What is color contrast?   When a scene takes on only one or two tones, I feel that it lacks depth and dimension.  A way to bring that back is to add a different color than the one or two colors that are in the scene and usually one that goes 180 degrees in the opposite direction.  Shia had brown pants on and a tea stained shirt. We had brown lockers and golden light coming through the window.  It needed blue undertones in the shadows to give us that contrast.

To add the color contrast, I used 2-4 x 8 foam core bounces behind camera with two 5500 Kelvin 1200 LTM HMI Par lights with half CTB bouncing into them to mimic north light coming through the windows on the other side of the locker room.  What is NORTH LIGHT?  This is ambient light that has a very creamy feel, soft, diffused, coming from the north, that is usually slightly cool in tone from it reflecting all of the blue skylight.

My lighting technique is to start with what naturally would happen and then choose to change or alter it, depending on the look and feel of the project.  Greatest Game wanted to feel like a painting so my tones and colors were saturated with a higher contrast range.  My inspiration for this film came from a book that I bought called Bound for Glory “America in Color.”  It was a photography book that showcased 1100 Kodachrome prints that had been found in an attic in the Midwest, dating back to 1939. These were FSA prints that were thought to have been lost and the first color prints ever shot.  They had an extreme contrast in the blacks, with a chalky mid tone, and deep saturated blues, oranges, and reds. 

Both Bill and I thought this would be the perfect look for this film.  No one had ever delivered this cinematic expression before and we were excited to try it.  Many hair, make up and wardrobe tests were done to make sure that the colors that were chosen for the golfers and cast to wear would handle the deep contrast.  The costume designer originally had Harry Vardon in an olive colored suit.  With our test, the suit dissolved into the green grass and tree background.  So we opted for a yellow suit to contrast this, which worked out beautifully.  A funny note –when you shoot the hundredth roll of film, you always crack a bottle of Champagne for everyone on the crew to enjoy. We cracked it on the film test.

Never stop looking at light.  Put the images of light in your memory bank to pull from.  Travel, ingest imagery, photo reference books are so important for creativity.  Arcana in Santa Monica is an amazing resource.

Next episode — we will go into the use of backlight and how light separation is your best friend.

Author: Shane

Share This Post On
468 ad


  1. Great stuff once again. I’m shooting my 4th feature in August and prepping my 5th, 6th, and 7th afterwards. Reading your stuff helps me to see light in new ways; especially when I get bigger G&E budgets for each flick I shoot.

    Post a Reply
    • Alex Walker, Thank you so much for your wonderful words and support. Good luck on your upcoming features.

      Post a Reply
  2. Thanks Shane, this has been the most inspiring post I’ve read on your blog. As a guy with no film school training, trying to glean this stuff from the pros can be tough. Thanks for sharing so much!

    Post a Reply
    • Nels Chick, You are so welcome and thank you for your kind words and support.

      Post a Reply
  3. Gold, Shane. Loved this post and look forward to more like it. Learning to use colors, contrast, etc to enhance the story is such a great tool to know and learning from the pros like you is a gift. Its why I keep coming back to this site and passing on the information to anyone who will hear me.


    Post a Reply
    • mel haynes, thank you so much for your awesome words and support.

      Post a Reply
  4. This is incredible, articles like these feed my soul. I really appreciate your attention to detail and your reference links about the look. Aesthetics>technology was my reported interest on the survey and I’m thrilled to see another lighting post. The film looks beautiful, I just added it to my Netflix que. I assume you used a hazer for the locker room as well? What stops/focal lengths were used? Thank you.

    Post a Reply
    • Bill Walsh, Thank you so much for these kind words. Yes Hazer in the locker room. Wide shot on a 29mm and CU’s on 100mm. Vardon walking away on a 29mm. Technology, got it.

      Post a Reply
  5. Thanks for sharing Shane. Beautiful work as always. It’s interesting to see examples where the key is several stops less than the hair light. I love the look!

    Post a Reply
    • Tony Reale, You are welcome and thank you for your kind words of support. I felt that this is what naturally would happen if sun was blasting through a window.

      Post a Reply
  6. Shane,

    Great post as always. I too am an amateur trying to improve my skills and these posts help immeasurably. It’s not often that someone of your level of experience and talent takes time to help others. Kudos!!

    I noticed that the key light for the two character closeups come from different directions. Shia’s comes from his left side and Harry’s comes from Shia’s right side. Would’ve never noticed if I wasn’t watching this clip specifically for the lighting. I gather that you and the directors don’t worry about such a continuity issue but rather lighting each shot for its maximum effect?

    Post a Reply
    • Tom Miller, thank you so much for your kind words and support. I am trying to remember why I keyed Stephen from the opposite side. It was probably a blocking thing. We always go for “what looks good, looks good.” When you are in the film and engaged you don’t think about whether he was keyed from the same side, right unless we are taking it apart like this. This is a great rule to go by.

      Post a Reply
  7. Thanks for much for this! I can’t tell you how much this helps as a burgeoning filmmaker. Seeing how it’s done step by step on a larger scale is invaluable. This reminds me of the book Reflections, which up to this point has been my bible. Thanks again, I hope you continue this!

    Post a Reply
    • Chris, thank you so much with your kind words of support. I am glad you are all loving it.

      Post a Reply
  8. Thanks Shane for going into depth on how you lit this scene. The hidden bounce card is perfect nugget of information that will help out in future shoots.


    Post a Reply
  9. That was a fresh air! Love different technics!
    In that particular scene, how much time it took you to set the lights after the blocking?
    Thanks Shane again! You are a great man!

    Post a Reply
    • Alex, the exterior backdrop and bounce were already lit from the previous scene. I had to make a couple adjustments and added half blue to the 18k’s. Probably 1 hour to light after the blocking. Thank you so much for you kind words.

      Post a Reply
  10. Thanks for the post, very informative and enjoyable.

    Until you mentioned the “North Light” I didn’t notice it, but once I saw what was going on I thought it was brilliant. It is great to hear the decisions made on set and see how that effects the finished film.


    Post a Reply
  11. This is what makes you stand out amongst your peers, Shane. Your willingness to share your thought process is so refreshing. I’ve always said it’s not about the “how” but rather the “why.”

    Thanks for sharing … looking forward to your next post.


    Post a Reply
    • Dave Wowchuk, Thank you so much for you wonderful kind words. I love what I do. You are very welcome.

      Post a Reply
  12. Reading this really makes me want to visit a set to see all this great kit, experience and skill being put into practise – thanks for the help Shane.

    Post a Reply
  13. Amazing, I could read these posts all day. Thanks, looking forward to more.

    Post a Reply
    • Oli Kember, thank you so much for you kind words and continued support my friend.

      Post a Reply
  14. I am really intresting for sharing your experiences with us Shane.
    I thank you.

    Post a Reply
  15. Great stuff.
    Q. In the diagram you have 12×60 Bleached Muslin (Painted backing of Golf Course)… What are you referring to and is that in any of the shots?


    Post a Reply
    • Thad, you can’t really see it in this sequence. The bounce is what was bringing all of the cyan blue light through the windows and playing on all of the brown wood. The backdrop was there for other scenes when we looked directly into the windows.

      Post a Reply
  16. Enjoyed the information and It opened my eyes to things that would normaly be ignored.

    Thanks again.


    Post a Reply
    • Molefi Clive Mohale, It is so great to hear from you my friend. I hope things are well. Your comments always inspire me.

      Post a Reply
  17. Hi Shane, I was from film editing background. In those days, editors were meant to stay in the editing suite. Although I tried, I regret I didn’t find out more about how the DOPs light up their scenes.

    Since then, I have taken up videography and recently HDSLR. This post and your blog has been helping me a lot as I struggle with lighting. Although some of your terms are a bit technical and some of the equipment you use are not available to me, I still find myself learning a lot. I only just found out what’s a LTM HMI Par…

    I’d like to do more homework to improve myself, any further advice?

    Post a Reply
  18. Shane.

    Thanks for your generosity and time taken to write your tutorials. This side of the equator, ( Perth, Western Australia ), I guess your “north” light would be called “south” light. If you have time, look in on http://www.indieclub.com.

    There’s an Iraqi indie director making a low-budget feature with Canon DSLRs who has been seeking advice there. I have referred him to your blog but they are already deep intp production right now, so will likely not have time or maybe bandwidth to do it anyway.

    Regards from here in the west.

    Post a Reply
  19. Hi Shane,
    A quick thought:
    We are all guys here really admire your professionalism and want to learn more, soaking up every bit of information. What if you have some interactive stuff with us, type of a homework. Let’s say you pick up any scene in any movie you like, post it and ask all of us to figure out how it was lighted. Basically, before sharing how it was done, we all try to figure it out and after that you tell us how it was done. I’m sure it’s going to be fun to brainstorm and some might come up with great technics and ideas.
    Anyway, just a thought.

    Post a Reply
  20. Shane! Any DP who sees that an actor needs a little “love light” and hangs a towel to goose him……are you effin’ me? That just shows how much you care about making a shot sing. Those last minute tweaks will make or break a shot…and you never cease to amaze me. Amazing post and thanks for pulling back the curtain on how you make magic happen and for sharing it with us. Keep slaying it….!

    Vashi (appreciative editor)

    Post a Reply
  21. A huge pleasure to watch!
    Like Tom Miller I saw the right / left issue. But hard to say whether I would see it if I was not watching this clip specifically for the lighting, as Miller also said. My brain would think that the light from the right (on the second actor) comes through a door opening which he entered. The viewer does not notice it or can not reconstruct it while watching.
    Most important, the light is breathtaking!!
    I had to think about it, a few seconds, but the cautious crane movement creates the sun effect through the trees. Just in time between the end of the dialogue, and the beginning of the title. And the audience think, WOW! how do they do that? Magic is second nature for film makers, I suspect.
    Thanks for all the information.

    Post a Reply
    • Charles, thank you so much for your wonderful words of support. That crane shot at the end was one of those moments that you slam into your memory banks. I felt that this was one of my best works as an artist and I will be sharing 3 more posts just on this film. Stay tuned.

      Post a Reply
      • Hi! Have to say, I love your work on this film. Stands out as one of my favorites, acting, directing, awsome, but the lighting and shots really make the piece! So cool to see your blog, coming across this is a huge highlight for a noob like me.

        Post a Reply
  22. Hi Shane,
    Firstly can I say that, you truly are a big inspiration to all budding cinematographers out there, it is a very rare thing for someone with your caliber to give away his or her tricks of the trade.
    Can I ask, where do you get your inspiration from, I find myself always looking at how a light hits a subject, and how shadows react to different sources, but I am always looking for new ways to improve my knowledge.

    Post a Reply
  23. Shane,
    I’m amazed at how generous you are with your talent and knowledge. Your blog, this post are wonderful, wonderful. Thank you so much for taking care and time to share your experience with folks who can learn so much from you!

    Post a Reply
  24. Thank you Shane.

    Very grateful and excited that you are doing this Lighting Basics series.


    Post a Reply
    • Lliam Worthington, you are very welcome, much more to come. Backlighting is next.

      Post a Reply
  25. hi.

    thank you for sharing, i was just wondering, when stephen dillane was talking to shia, why was his face lit from the left side(locker side) while shia’s close up talking shot was lit from the right side where the key light was. what was the reason behind this. thanks


    Post a Reply
    • mohamed, I wanted to show that the two were different, even though they were in the same space. Shia won. Subtle light shift.

      Post a Reply
  26. Wonderfully written example; precisely the type of post I search for and share with my classmates (just finishing up an MFA in Cinematography). The diagram was a welcome addition to the piece and your notes about color contrast were an excellent tip that I look forward to implementing in my last semester on campus.

    Post a Reply
    • Dylan Glockler, Thank you so much for those wonderful words, I am so glad that I could help. The next series is Backlighting.

      Post a Reply
    • Jim Bachalo, thank you so much Jim, yes I checked that sight out. Amazing. I love the look and feel of these early photos, yes it is great inspiration.

      Post a Reply
  27. Hi Shane,

    Very informative, as always! I love hearing the specifics of how you chose to shoot a scene. :D

    I always have to ask a cinematographer what their “desert island” lens would be– your absolute favorite lens to shoot on. If you can’t choose one length, what are your two or three favorites and for what kind of shots?

    Thanks for taking the time to interact with everyone!


    Post a Reply
    • Aron, thank you so much for your kind words. Desert Island lens package. 27mm, 50mm, 100mm Panavision Primo Primes

      Post a Reply
  28. Hey Shane! First thing i noticed from the video above, before i go into the details of the making, is that the sun light hits on Shia’s left cheek, while next take the sun light hits Stephen’s left cheek as well, giving the direction they were at in the film, it should be on his right, then when Stephen is about to walk away, he turns around then the sun light is on his right cheek. Thats continuity error or its just me that don’t see the right place?

    Post a Reply
    • John Novotny, Again thank you John for your continued support and wonderful words.

      Post a Reply
  29. Absolutely loved it, this citation will stay with me: “It is my job to move the camera to adjust, not the actors.

    Post a Reply
    • Pedro Sttau, thanks for the support. I believe this a very important part of our job.

      Post a Reply
  30. Great Work, I work as a stage manager at Sun center studios in Philly, want to be a DP and work around to absorb as much as I can from them. I love how size isn’t what you work from but more what really works. I become more and more inspired each day, thank you for some of your knowledge.

    Post a Reply
    • Frank Apollonio, thank you so much for all of those kind words. All of these toys are tools, what tool tells your story best? That’s what you go with.

      Post a Reply
  31. The video is no longer available, Vimeo says that is a private video content,
    could you be so nice to cut again the restriction? :)))
    I’ll be delihted to see it if you could do that.

    :)) thank you again

    Post a Reply
  32. Hi Shane,

    I would like some advice on a short film I have coming up.

    I have been filming a no-budget horror series http://www.bloodycuts.co.uk, I am managing to to borrow kit and get favors to film these.

    We are coming up to filming of 5th episode. Which I have imagined will look along the lines of something like Edward Scissorhands/Women in Black/Nosferatu type movie. Lots of harsh shadows and blue colours very ‘gothic’.

    There are 2 scenes I need help with because of the restrictions of the location, I imagine the scene to be lit essentially by moonlight or fire in most cases. This is where your expertise really comes in!

    I have good relationships with camera rental companies and lighting companies, that usually support me and give me equipment for free. I feel this movie might push those boundaries.

    I have been shooting on 5D/7D or most recently the Epic, but I felt because of the lighting and the low light the cameras might not hold up well because of their rolling shutter. I felt the Alexa might be the best camera to use because of its global shutter and low light capabilities? I will also be using Super Speeds

    The location is a castle with a moat that is about 16 foot wide and filled with water. The water goes right up to the wall of the castle.

    So there are 2 rooms that are causing me the most issues. The 1st is there is a shot on a stairwell, there is only one window which is very large, on the exterior of this window there is the moat filled with water.

    Because of this, I feel that I am left with only one option providing I can convince the lighting company to give me the lights and a generator. This would be to put and 18K PAR HMI outside, this would hopefully give me enough power from the distance I am restricted to and also because I would be using a PAR I would get the hard shadows that I require.

    I would then if I can get it either use a 15KW Hungaro Flash or a 40KW Lightning Strike placed in a similar possition as the 18K PAT for the lighting effect.

    The scene is meant to be at night, but because of the size and the location of the window, I have now way of blacking it out, so I have requested to shoot this part at night.

    I would have liked to use smaller light units to avoid the larger lights and generator, but because of the moat and the size of the window I am struggling to think of other ways to go about it to get the desired effects.

    Another issue is that the walls surround the staircase are all white, which I can change, so I might have to put up Blackout drapes out of shot to try and control the bounce.

    Do you think this is the right way to go about this situation?

    The second area, the Living Room is not so bad as I can light from the ground using smaller lamps, again my main issue is the white walls. I could potentially stop down a lot to really darken the room, then use 3 x 2.5KW HMI PAR’s on outside of the house through the 3 windows. Then the only other source of light in the living room is a fire, I though that maybe put 3 or 4 Lowel 800w Tota-lights that are on a series of flicker generators to replicate fire. I would then use a mixture of small units like 2ft4 Bank Tungsten Kinos, and a few small Tungsten heads if I needed to add any more light for any close up work.

    How does this sound to you Shane, am going along the right lines or am I completely off the mark?



    Post a Reply
    • Jonny Franklin, got it, yes I can help, thanks for posting the question on the blog. The room with the window, you will have to make sure that you put that light on a high condor so that your moonlight is high enough and looks realistic. Pars do not give hard shadows, go with a 18K fresnel, probably Arri over or a Superlight LTM 18K, they give the hardest shadows. Pars will give you multiple shadows and not look good. This might be overkill a 4k Fresnel might be bright enough. The lightning strike is a great idea. I love those units, from that distance I would use a 70K, then use a 40K inside and bounce it off of a 12x or an 8x Ultra bounce, so it echos other lightning thru other windows that the audience doesn’t see. This will give you a shutter effect and make sure you put the controller on undulating. That gives you the best lightning effect. Yes put up some blacks to heightened your contrast, but try to embrace this feel. Play it very dark, so when the lightning hits it has a punch and a reason.

      Room two, use as much blackout as you can to bring you level’s down. In general your moonlight should be grey not blue. I never use HMI’s for moonlight. I use tungsten lights with 1/4 CTB on them. Moonlight is a grey source, not a blue one. You can save cash that way as well. Off the track, back on, The fire light I think you should build one of my favorite fire lights and it is cheap as shit. Go out and buy goose neck lamps and pull the hoods off of them, mount like 12 on a board. Go to Rosco and buy the bulb dipping solution. You can actually dip bulbs so that they are full cts r half cts, it is very cool, swing those heads all over the place on the board. What is a fire? Multiple sources from all over that add up to fire light. I call it the Medusa. The hook it up to 2 Magic Gadget shadow makers that have 3 inputs. This will work like a million bucks. I did this effect on the Greatest Game Ever Played. I hope this helps, good luck.

      Post a Reply
      • Hi Shane, first of all thank you for the response and all of the great advice you have given me. I like your method of using Tungsten lights with 1/4 CTB on them to recreate the moons source. If I were to go down this route would you advise that I also use a Tungsten source for the main large window, something like a Arri 5K or 12K to keep continuity? I will certainly try and get 2 Lightning Strikes, I will just have to see if the budget allows for it.
        I really like your Medusa light (Great Name!), in the UK they seem to be either 5W peanut bulbs (12V) or LED’s. Do you remember the sort of Wattage the ones you used on the ‘Greatest Game Ever Played’ were?
        Once again, thanks for all of your advice Shane, not many DOP’s spend the time and also give away their secrets like you do, you are an invaluable source to all aspiring cinematographers.
        Ill let you know how the film goes!

        Post a Reply
        • Jonny Franklin, You are very welcome, what is the distance to the window? That is something you should look at a photometric chart to see if the 5K will be enough. Maybe a T12K will be the best, you can always scrim it down. The bulbs could be household 220volt, do you guys have 220 volt 211, 212, 213 like in the states? I would use a household socket and dip those globes in the Rosco gel concoction. Hopefully by going with Tungsten you will save the money for the other Lightning Strike.

          Post a Reply
          • Hi Shane, no we don’t seem to have the 211, 212, 213 like you suggested in the UK, I googled them in the US and it seems to be coming up with 75W, 150W, 250W projector bulbs. Do these sound right to you. When you created your Medusa, did you use bulbs with a variation of Wattage or did you just use one Wattage and coat them with different thicknesses of the Rosco Colorine?
            The Rosco Colorine has actually been discontinued in the UK but I luckily managed to get the last couple of bottles from Rosco.
            Im looking into the photometric data as we speak, I might have to go with the T12K as you said and scrim it down if I need to. Now I have the task of convincing production I need 2 Lighting Strikes, which will be a fun conversation!

          • Jonny Franklin, I would go with whatever you have that looks like a 211,212,213. Then absolutely mix them up, that is what a fire feels like some hotter areas then others. Make sure they are not spots but soft 360 degrees of illumination. That is great you found the Rosco Colorine, you will be very happy with that. I still have bulbs dyed from 2004 that still work.

  33. Hi Shane, I have started building the Medusa, it is coming along quite nicely. Just a quick question, when dealing with a lightning effect. I am effectively using the lighting as my key light and the moon light as a fill in between the lightning flashes.

    I am currently thinking that I would have my fill at around 750FC and my lightning at 1410FC which would mean I when shooting on the Alexa 800ASA with a 0.3ND I would be at around F8 so that my lighting would not be over exposed, and in between my lighting my lighting would hover between F4 and F5.6, this would give me a more striking image.

    My question is, when you use have used a lightning effect in the past, how many stops difference would you have between your lightning and your fill light?

    Post a Reply
    • Jonny Franklin, You want to shoot with your ALexa at around a 2.8, this will give you the shallow depth of field and make it look cinematic. The fire light could be around a 2.8, then your moon light should be about 2-3 stops under exposed if it is a backlight or edge light. If it is fill light then 5 stops under. The lightning should be at least 4 to 5 stops over, so that it gives a huge punch in there, then your bounce lightning could be just on exposure maybe. Make sure you look at the shutter angle of you Alexa because when using Lighting it tends to create bands of lightning across your image, like just a third of the rolling shutter will see the effect. When using the Lightning strike strobes make sure you are on fast undulate. I created this system back in my younger years for lightning strikes, this fast undulating function that I created makes the lightning feel real and also helps with the rolling shutter issue.

      Post a Reply
  34. Thanks , Great Help!!

    Post a Reply
    • Manoj Narula, thank you for the support and kind words

      Post a Reply
  35. You are the best Shane ,thanks for sharing with us,i feel so inspired to be a cinematographer now more than ever!!

    Post a Reply
    • Carlos Diaz, you are very welcome. Thank you for your support of our blog

      Post a Reply
  36. What an insight – Shane, thanks for helping us laymen understand the magic behind shots like these!

    Starting on a feature next month and have learned so much from your posts. They are greatly appreciated!

    Post a Reply
    • Andrew Gooi. Thank you for the kind words and support.

      Post a Reply
  37. Thanks ….helped a lot…love the lighting…..

    Post a Reply
  38. GREAT words Shane is all i can say, Sir could you please elaborate on the thing you said about when the frame becomes monochromatic it loses its depth and you add contrasting colors to deal with that .. i kind loved the concept, i can feel its one of the biggest cinematography secret i just came about, i kind of got the point but could you further say a few words about it. Thank you.

    Post a Reply
  39. Sir could also let me know what could bring my micro budget short film closer to film , a 5D with full sensor with the advantage of Shallow D.O.F and wide lens or a 4k Black Magic camera with better dynamic range ? Thanks

    Post a Reply


  1. Great post on lighting for video | Who Is Dan - [...] http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2011/07/08/lighting-basics-series-i-where-to-place-your-key-light... [...]
  2. Where to place your Key Light « Cinema House - [...] problem on the film set: where are you supposed to place your key light? Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut walks us through …
  3. For a different kind of filmmaking blog | Arnar Sigurðsson - [...] Video tutorial on the effects of the direction of your keylight from Light Film school Lighting Basics Series I: …
  4. Lighting needs - Lighting needs... [...]Lighting Basics Series I: Where to place your KEY LIGHT | Hurlbut Visuals[...]...

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>