Read an enhanced version of this blog post inside Shane’s Inner Circle – or you can purchase the post in the store.
When Rob Cohen asked me to shoot his next feature after we finished "The Rat Pack," I was ecstatic....
How to create DIY fire light to shape and manicure available light and make the ordinary look extraordinary.
Shaping light can add a 3D quality to your image. In this video, I will show you how...
A few weeks ago, I shot a run and gun style web series and the generous team over at...
21 months ago I never could have predicted the direction of my life. With the invention of the...
Welcome to our gallery of Illumination Experience photos.
In mid-October, I got a call from McG to see if I was available to do a Mountain
Using the right filtration to impose a mood, create a style, encapsulate a time period or just to cream...
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.
Alex Walker, Thank you so much for your wonderful words and support. Good luck on your upcoming features.
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!
Nels Chick, You are so welcome and thank you for your kind words and support.
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.
mel haynes, thank you so much for your awesome words and support.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
Thank you for sharing this information. I love your work.
Victor Ponce, you are very welcome.
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!
Chris, thank you so much with your kind words of support. I am glad you are all loving it.
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.
Michael, you are very welcome.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Dave Wowchuk, Thank you so much for you wonderful kind words. I love what I do. You are very welcome.
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.
Amazing, I could read these posts all day. Thanks, looking forward to more.
Oli Kember, thank you so much for you kind words and continued support my friend.
I am really intresting for sharing your experiences with us Shane.
I thank you.
Metoo, you are so welcome, it is my pleasure.
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?
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.
Enjoyed the information and It opened my eyes to things that would normaly be ignored.
Molefi Clive Mohale, It is so great to hear from you my friend. I hope things are well. Your comments always inspire me.
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?
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
I can’t wait!
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.
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.
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!
Thank you Shane.
Very grateful and excited that you are doing this Lighting Basics series.
Lliam Worthington, you are very welcome, much more to come. Backlighting is next.
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
mohamed, I wanted to show that the two were different, even though they were in the same space. Shia won. Subtle light shift.
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.
Dylan Glockler, Thank you so much for those wonderful words, I am so glad that I could help. The next series is Backlighting.
Wondered if you are familiar with the incredible Library of Congress archive viewable on flickr. Some of the same images as in the Bound for Glory “America in Color” book. Great reference! http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/sets/72157603671370361/
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.
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!
Aron, thank you so much for your kind words. Desert Island lens package. 27mm, 50mm, 100mm Panavision Primo Primes
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?
Again, thanks for your insights.
John Novotny, Again thank you John for your continued support and wonderful words.
Absolutely loved it, this citation will stay with me: “It is my job to move the camera to adjust, not the actors.
Pedro Sttau, thanks for the support. I believe this a very important part of our job.
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.
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.
Most helpful. Thank you so much. Can’t wait to read more on lighting.
Where are you on these new, small, portable LED lights?
Just got a couple of these. I love ’em.)
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
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
Thanks , Great Help!!
Manoj Narula, thank you for the support and kind words
You are the best Shane ,thanks for sharing with us,i feel so inspired to be a cinematographer now more than ever!!
Carlos Diaz, you are very welcome. Thank you for your support of our blog
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!
Andrew Gooi. Thank you for the kind words and support.
Thanks ….helped a lot…love the lighting…..
jerkin james, you bet, glad I could help
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.
Atiq john GRDE, when the whole frame is warm, their is not much depth in the cinema graphic image. I always try to throw cool light into the shadows or use different colored lights to continue to create color contrast. Check out this blog http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2013/02/using-color-temp-hd-video/
Thank you Sir Shane, you are not just a blog, YOU ARE A BLESSING FOR ALL NON FILM SCHOOL FILMMAKERS who just believe quality is possible even in the lowest budget if the artist knows his tools and their proper use ..
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
Atiq john GRDE, go with the 5D MK III, it will be much more cinematic. The color space feels like Kodak film out of the 5D. Canon has been working on emulating film emulsions for over 30 years, they design their own sensors. I think that is reason enough. I know that many of you are looking for latitude and you want more and more of it, the 4K BMCC give you 13 stops, the 5D will give you about 9.5 stops. I would take the colorspace of Canon over the latitude and false color space of the 4K BMC
Thanks Sir, My doubts about 5D have eroded away for Good !!! it feels good to be working with no doubts about your tool … thanks a lot Sir Shane.
Hi, I’ve been a lurker around your blog for a few months. I love this article and your entire site!
Michale Baldo, thank you so much for your kind words and welcome to the HurlBlog. I just looked at this post and realized I did not finish the series, so stay tuned for part 2 on Backlight and part 3 on fill light.
Hi Shane, new reader and fan of the blog. Fantastic post. Just wondering where more to this series (EG. the separation light one that is mentioned at the end). Would love to read what you have to say about that.
Matthew Chen, thank you for you kind words, OMG, I forgot to finish that series. Alright I will be doing this part 2 on Backlight then a third on fill light. So sorry, been a little busy my friend. Thanks for catching that.
When will this post be back up?
Veldstra – Read an enhanced version of this blog post inside Shane’s Inner Circle – or you can purchase the post in the store. http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/product/where-to-place-your-key-light/
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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>