28 Days of Cinematography Insights Redux – Day 19 – Lighting techniques and color details

Something to keep in mind is that light warms up every time you bounce it or diffuse it

28daysredux425 In what was essentially a combination of Scott Simmons’ #28daysofquicktips and my own AMA, I answered questions throughout the month of September last year on a daily basis. The PVC team wanted to rerun this series for our readers along with some new questions and answers, so stay tuned for a few entries at the end of the series which will take us past 28 days. Use the hashtag #28daysofinsights or email us at ask@www.provideocoalition.com if you want to help us build up some questions for a brand new series.

Any tips you can offer around specific lights or techniques to achieve specific colors?

American Cinematographer used to be a treasure trove of information. I don’t know if I’ve learned enough that it’s not anymore, or if the writing has become more focused on the sensational side of filmmaking rather than the technical side of solving creative problems. Maybe a bit of both.


The Sensation of White: Why I Set Zebras for 90% White Instead of White Clip

I remember a time when I read a lot more about gel combinations. I remember reading about a wonderful film, “Black Robe,” shot by Peter James, ACS, whose visuals stunned me when I saw them in the theater. James’s night exteriors had a wonderful silvery moonlit look that was very different to the traditional blue night look that I saw in most other movies. I remember the gel package to this day: half CTB plus White Flame Green, a yellow-green carbon arc light correction filter. I don’t have much opportunity to use that particular combination but I have used a fair amount of green in my moonlight (half CTB plus 1/4 plus green, for example) because it looks a bit more interesting to my eye than straight blue. (Blues with green in them to be prettier and more eye catching than straight blue. This may be because our eyes are much more sensitive to green than to blue, so adding a bit of green brings blue hues to life.)

If I recall correctly, Roger Deakin’s gel pack for matching the look of orange sodium vapor lighting at night on “Fargo” was full CTO plus 1/2 straw (CTS). I’ve found that full CTS also works well for this in HD: yellow has a tendency to tip into green in video, which is why I normally avoid it, but for exterior lighting this greenish vibe works quite well. (By the way, any time a hue looks a bit too yellow in video it’s because there’s too much green. For years I was baffled when my video engineers would say “There’s too much green in that light” when I clearly saw yellow, but green plus red makes yellow.)

My personal favorite is adding some minus green (magenta gel) to CTO gels when emulating sunset. 1/2 CTO plus 1/4 minus green, for example, creates a reddish, almost salmon hue that feels very much like the sun is barely above the horizon.

alexa dr header618

Arri Alexa’s Dynamic Range: It’s All in How You Use It

Something else to keep in mind is that light warms up every time you bounce it or diffuse it. Some of this has to do with the color of the diffusion or bounce material, but it also has to do with the fact that blue wavelengths, being very short, are easily absorbed or scattered. Removing blue makes lights appear warm. This is something to pay attention to when making book lights, for example: bouncing the light through diffusion may warm it up noticeably even if the diffusion and bounce materials are fairly neutral.



Art Adams | Director of Photography

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Have your own insight about what I’ve mentioned here? Feel free to comment below or send in a question by using the hashtag #28daysofinsights or emailing ask@www.provideocoalition.com


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Art Adams is a cinema lens specialist at ARRI, Inc. Before that, he was a freelance cinematographer for 26 years. You can see his work at http://www.artadamsdp.com. Art has been published in HD Video Pro,…