Go craaaaazy: fill from the key side!

Lighting isn't a formula--unless you find one that works. Like this one.
Art Adams
By Art Adams 07.29.08

In a recent article I wrote about how I like to fill from the key side, and I've since received a couple of requests for an explanation of what I'm talking about.



I first became aware of this practice about 12 years ago when I worked with a disgruntled gaffer. He'd been to LA for a few jobs and he wanted to do everything "the right way." We ended up on a job together that was horrendously understaffed and his need to do everything "the right way" cost me a lot of lighting time, and him a lot of energy. One of the things he wanted to do "the right way" was to fill from the key side--and about this one thing I should have listened.

A few years later I day-played as an operator on the TV series "Nash Bridges", then shot by DP Victor Goss, ASC. I noticed that he filled most of his setups from the same side that the rest of the light in the scene was coming from; for example, if the main lighting was coming through the windows to camera right, the fill would be a light through a frame of diffusion just above and to the right of my matte box. I couldn't help but notice that the blending of the light sources was both beautiful and very practical, because he could soften and extend the wrap of any source this way. It seemed not only to be a beautiful way to fill a shot but also a fantastic method of damage control, because just about any kind of light could be made more palatable on a face using this method.

But enough talk. Time to draw pictures. Read on...


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