As a new cinematographer, you learn from your mentors, experiment and find your style – your brush strokes, so to speak. I learned to replicate all aspects of light. Using natural light outside was possible, but the natural light inside a space during the day or night needed to be created. The natural light on streets at night always needed to be augmented to expose the film. We were constantly asking Kodak and Fuji for faster film stock, as well as asking lighting manufacturers to build bigger lights.
Now, we are at a wonderful crossroad, where we can do what we have done for decades or try a new way to light, a new way to create. Both roads are valid, but I do find pushing the limit and trying new things exciting. I find that any time I get comfortable, I need to challenge myself. On this film, the lighting was a challenge because we used natural, available light and shaped it. I turned lights off, then added accent lights to bring out the depth of a location.
At the Northridge Medical Center, we were able to use all the available lights that were in the ceiling, which were 4’ cool white flo’s. Po and I wanted to go for a very sterile, antiseptic feel. So I baked in the look with a Neutral picture style with the color temp set at 2700 degrees. This gave us the starting point with this cold, minty green feel. Po described the hallway as cold and representative of death because this is what Vince was expecting after the intense car accident. I loved that idea, but I said what if we make the rooms feel alive. So, I purposedly lit them with Kino Flo Tegra units and pushed warm white flos out of the rooms and into the hallways.
Lighting the actors in the hallway was done with a single 4’ Kino Flo Tegra, which I absolutely love. It dims down perfectly and gives you that ability to adjust without gels, which saves time and money. In front of this light was a 4 x 4 Rosco 1/2 tough white diffusion frame, and for close ups, Rosco full white diffusion. On the lens for Emma’s coverage, I used digital diffusion to help smooth the skin and help with this 4K capture. The result was a beautiful light that glowed in Emma’s eyes when Vince hugs her for the first time. We were able to shoot the whole scene at 400 ISO because there was plenty of light. It gave us a very clean look at this location.
When Vince and Emma exit, I wanted to use color contrast to help tell the story of them leaving that cold world and moving into the warm light. We did not want to inject a lot of color, just cool and warm so when they hit the streets that multi-color feel would be that much more powerful visually. We used the existing flo’s in the ceiling to light them as they came around the corner and headed out the door. They were immediately basked in two Kino Flo Celeb 200 LED lights that we rigged on a speedrail goal post just out of frame. The rest of the warm light was existing from can lights built into the ER overhang.
Shooting in cars at night is always difficult, but in this scene, I wanted to use the 1DC’s sensitive sensor to bring the outside light in. A perfect example of this was on Crazy Beautiful, which had a scene where Kirsten Dunst picked up Jay Hernandez in their Bronco, but without a top and driving around the streets of LA. I had to put the Bronco up on a process trailer and pull this with a camera car and a generator. I created this pulley system to have overhead light sources like the street lights that they would drive under. I pushed the film stock one stop to try and bring up the ambient light that existed. This was a massive lighting gag that looked very cool but not as real as what I was able to do on the Ticket, which was inside an enclosed Prius. Using one single Rosco light panel, I was able to shoot at a 1.3 on the Canon 24mm cinema prime. Driving on Sunset Blvd gave us the natural light to expose inside the car. You need to check out these light panels. They are amazing, so soft and tungsten or daylight balanced. All on battery and use hardly any power.
The Taxi Cab Pull Up
Po’s vision was for the camera to slide from our Cab Driver, who is giving Vince advice to get out because it will be faster. This image was one of those movie poster moments. You look through the lens, and you know this is it. So we catch the Cabbie, and he is bathed in red/orange light from the brake lights of the cars in front of them in this traffic jam. I achieved this look by setting up 3 Celeb 200 with Rosco medium red color on them. This infused this wonderful soft light into the car and all the way to Emma and Vince in the back seat. Derek Johnson was on a 650 watt Fresnel that wiped across Vincent when he checks his watch. This was to wash the interior with white light to color contrast against the red. The blue light was my plan to shift Emma’s focus from that stare out of the window to her looking in the direction of the moving blue light that is the Boutique. You can see that reflection in the bottom of the frame in her close up. I loved the way the multi color collage looked and felt.
The Store Front Window
One of my favorite shots was when Emma exits the car. She looks so beautiful, the moving blue light playing on her face. She looks like a little kid in a candy shot. I wanted to light this section with an urban feel. I embraced the orange sodium vapor lights on Sunset Blvd. and flagged a couple off of her so that the light came from one direction and that was from the right side as a back light. Lumisys Systems supplied the 400 watt High Pressure Sodium that we put on a Mambo combo. Then, I used 3-200 Celeb’s at 5000 degrees on a goal post above the window to create cool soft light that felt like it was emanating from the window so that the spinning pattern contrast wasn’t so stark. I felt that the side angle shot looked very cool with the light falling off on Vince until he walks into the pool of light that comes from the window. The Canon 50mm Cinema Prime did an amazing job bringing the out of focus lights in the background forward.