One of the biggest mistakes a filmmaker can make is to throw more light at a problem. Seasoned cinematographers understand that subtraction is often the better solution. As digital cameras dramatically improve their low light performance, it’s time filmmakers rediscover the art of shaping light.
Set illumination is really about contrast rather than intensity. As long as your scene isn’t so dim that the noise levels are crazy or so bright that your actors are squinting awkwardly (or sneezing), the camera and associated software can pretty much peg exposure anywhere desired. However the relative brightness of items in the scene needs to be carefully sculpted to achieve a pleasing final image. It’s this ability to shape the lighting that so often affects the production value of an image.
As part of the cinema fundamentals series of courses, moviola.com offers a comprehensive overview of the light shaping process, from leveraging barn doors and louvers to using flags, silks, nets, cookies, and gobos to articulate lighting effects. It also demonstrates the use of passive lighting sources like reflectors to “fill in” lighting detail without adding additional hotspot sources.
So if you’ve never been trained in light shaping techniques, or if it’s just been a while, head over to the site and check out the series. The course is completely free, just like all the other content at moviola.com.
For more Moviola fundamentals, visit moviola.com