In this article I’m going to give you some basic tips for lighting setup in a scene. Lighting is one of the important tools the cinematographer can use to tell the story. When lighting is made correctly, you can use it to say a lot about your characters, about the film’s theme and atmosphere, the emotional mood of the scene, and more. You can also control the colours of the set and create depth to the picture. When working on lighting for a scene, there is no time for experiments. You have to know what you want and go after it.
Study classical art
Watch some important paintings. You will be amazed how they use light to tell a story in one frame.
The first thing you need to do before you start working with the light in the scene is to color balance the colors in your camera. This is a step cinematographer can skip id they want to create a special effect, but when you aiming for realistic lighting, you should balance the colors first. Most cameras have a Color balance or White balance button. They usually will have at least two standards: One daylight (5500k) and one for indoor light (3200k).
Adjusting The Monitor
When you start planning your lighting in the location, you should make sure your monitor is adjusted. You have to make sure you see all the colors in the palette. It is very important because you are going to see how things will look with that monitor and you want to have a true picture.
Before starting the work on the scene, you need to have details about the scene (If you came prepared then you already know these answers). You do need to know stuff like what time of day is the scene happening, Where is it happening? How many actors are in the scene? How big the frame is and where the camera is going to stand? You also should watch a rehearsal, you need to see where everyone is standing and walking.
Use a Light Meter
for professional cinematography (film or video), you will need a proper light meter. The light meter will help you to measure the amount of light in the shot.
Today there are many cameras with a light meter built in them, but they are known to not be accurate many times. A hand-held light meter will give you much more details than the one in the camera will. It doesn’t cost much (shouldn’t be more than 300$) and your picture will have better pictures. I’m probably going to post about how to use a hand-held light meter, but I’m sure the guy in the store will explain it also (let me know if you want me to write about it soon)
Lighting The Scene
First look for interesting elements you can use in the scene. Stuff like candle light, lamp; window and etc. Your next step is to turn off all the lights in the location until you have a complete darkness. Then we simply light one lamp at a time and see how it helps us.
On the next cinematography course post, I’m going to write about the basic light positioning for lighting a scene. For now I advise you to exercise by shooting under different lightings- natural or indoor. Try to shoot in as many locations as you can and try to learn why each picture turned out the way it did. If it’s possible, try even different weather conditions.
The depth of field is the area in the shot where all the items in it look sharp. You can say the depth of field “decides” what is going to be sharp in the picture and what is not and by that creating depth in the picture.
The two types of depth of field
There are two types of depth in image: shallow depth and deep depth.
Shallow depth is a field in the shot where the focus area is very small. We usually use it to direct the viewer’s attention to something specific in the frame. You might also see it a lot in interviews. The DSLR cameras became very famous because of their ability to create a shallow depth of field very easily. Anyway, what you need to remember is that the closer you are to the photographed object, the shallower the depth of field is going to be. The second type is Deep depth which means that the entire frame from background to foreground is as sharp as possible.
The three factors that contribute to the depth of field
Aperture -This mechanism is in charge of the size of the lens opening that determines the amount of light entering the lens and also the angle of light rays that are hitting it. Aperture is measured in f/stops, for example, f/2 or f/16. F/2, For example, represents an aperture diameter that is 1/2 the focal length of the lens. Therefor, f/2 will be bigger than f/16.
A larger opening will decree the depth of field. If your camera has an internal neutral density (ND) filter you can dial this in.
Focal length – The longer the focal length of your lens is, the shallower the depth of field will be. In other words, the more you magnified your object the less depth of field you’ll have.
The 3rd factor is the distance of the object from the camera– The closer you are to the filmed object, the shallower the depth of focus will be, the farther the object is- the greater the depth will be.
There are many tables that can help you do calculationsneeded, but there are not always accurate and sometimes missing the new cameras and lenses out there. I recommend playing with those 3 factors until you’ll have complete control and understanding on them. If you don’t have time for playing, there are many apps that can help you to calculate the depth of field. A good one is called pCAM FILM + DIGITAL PRO – Thin Man Inc. This app not only does great calculations with a depth of field, but it also calculate exposure, running times and more. Another good app is Toland ASC Digital Assistant – Chemical Wedding which also does a lot more than just calculating depth of field
Shooting with depth of field
Using this tool needs to be considered while doing the shooting breakdown. Let’s say you are shooting a scene with a long shot, a medium shot, and a close-up, you may need to increase the light in the medium shot in order to get the depth of field you want or even to change lens.
The depth of field is a great way to make a good picture, but also good to manipulate the viewer’s emotions and concentration. Don’t use it just for the sake of using it. On the set while looking at the picture on the monitor, you should always ask yourself, is it what I want? How does it serve the theme of the scene and even the premise of the film (among other question we will learn later on in the blog)? Using this tool right will make your film look more professional and interesting.
Buying a video camera today can be hard work. There are just too many video cameras out there.and every one of them has different interesting features you can use. Just try to write camcorders on google and see what happens.
The first rule you should remember If you want to buy a video camera,is that eventually it is not the camera that matters-it’s the operator. there are many filmmakers that run to buy the best cameras out there, but don’t really know how to use it right.
Before running to buy your dream camera, you should know what are your goals for it. You should cover as many elements as you can, so you won’t fail on something silly (For example excellent camera quality, but there is no option to zoom in or bad focus). So here are some things you should be considering before buying the camera:
Buy video camera within your budget
Be realistic! Know how much you can spend on a camera, but also what camera will fit your needs. Everyone wants to shoot with the RED cameras or 4K cameras, but do you really know how to use it? Is your post ready to deal with the RED camera’s files?
When making the budget for buyi a video camera, you should also think about the accessories that come with it like extra batteries, tripod and so on (I’m going to talk about it in the next passage) If you don’t have enough money to get what you need, you can always check the used camcorder section, but you should be careful over there. You can get an older standard def camera that shoots 24p for around $500, but maybe you’ll prefer a newer HD camera. There are good new HD cameras out there, but you might need to give up the manual control as possible.
Accessories with the camera
So you buy a video camera that doesn’t cost much, but then you find out that you need to buy also special lenses and equipment that is expensive. For example, you might see a good camera, that will need a special lens to shoot in darker locations. so always check the equipment that comes with the camera. Personally I recommend buying a video camera that has the possibility to attach different lenses. That gives you more control on your shooting. If you are buying a camera that needs other lenses, you should also check if the camera accepts third party lenses too. If there are lenses or other equipment that comes with the camera, check their quality and see if that’s what you need. Can the lens cover enough wide angle? How is the zoom in? If there is a “Macro” mode, see how big it is . Different lenses have different macro sizes. How easy is it to change focus? Check the aperture ability of each lens you get (you can read about the aperture in this article about depth of field ). There are many things to check when you buy lenses so I’m starting to feel that an article about the subject will be uploaded soon.
Before you buy a video camera it’s important to see if you feel comfortable with it. Is it possible to zoom in (you’ll be surprised how many video cameras today do not have this option) and whether its movement is smooth? Is there a manual focus? If so, where is it’s button? Is the button located in a place easy to reach during shooting? The first choice you will have to deal with is am I going to buy an automatic camera or a manual one. The professional camera operators will always prefer manual because it gives them more control, on the other hand, sometimes you want to work with an automatic camera like when you are shooting sports events or documentary or when you shoot candid camera. There are cameras that offer certain effects or options or dissolve option. I strongly discouraged those features. It is best to shoot clean and then put the effects in the editing stage.
When you buy a video camera, you should check if there’s an option to attach a microphone? If so, you should check how it sounds. Connecting professional microphones usually called XLR connectors, so you should pay attention if there is such a connection. You should also check the quality of the camera’s microphone and a headphone jack is highly recommended that camera.
Talk to the Cinematographer
If you buy a video camera for the next film you are shooting, check with the cinematographer, what look you’re looking for a movie, do you intend to shoot with a Steady Cam, camera tripod or on the shoulder? What kind of shots will be in your film? For example, The Cannon Duel Pixel CMOS AF is a 70D camera, which means it has a good autofocus that is able to adjust fast while the characters are moving.
The new cameras batteries have a tendency to run out quickly.
Find out about them and how much it costs to buy a Battery that holds several hours.
LCD screen and viewfinder
The LCD screen is a small screen that flips out from the camera so you can see what is filmed. It will be better if the screen will be a removable one and that you can rotate it down (if you pick up the camera to shoot from above) and vice versa. In addition, it should be possible to watch through a viewfinder. Sometimes it is more convenient and more accurate.
The post-shooting stage
You don’t want to end up with a camera that will make your post editing stage long and expensive, that’s why, before you buy a video camera, you’ll need to check if the files that the camera produces are such that video editors can easily insert into their editing software without conversion? Conversion of the files might mean losing some quality and time. Some cameras have a convert software you can download from the website that does a good conversion for specific video editing software.
I hope this helps you. You can figure that to buy video camera is a step that has to be done carefully. Sometimes it’s the little bugs in the camera that can create an ongoing frustration later. I really recommend reading the reviews of every camera you plan to buy.
If you are just starting, I recommend buying a basic camera that can adapt other lenses and buy another lens with it, but makes sure you are buying from a reliable company.
It’s very important to understand that the way you choose to shoot can really affect your audience emotions. For example, the camera is panning through a room and suddenly stops on an object. At that point, the audience understands that there is something important about that object. Panning can also be used on two men talking and by that it will emphasize the contrast between them.
Each time your camera will change angle in the scene, it will change your audience attention, so you must know how to use the camera right.
Why knowing the camera angles and shots is important?
I know I promised that on this blog, I want to focus more on the creative part of filmmaking than the technical part, but knowing the camera angles and shots is very basic and will help us to communicate better on the next articles. The camera angles and shots are the basic language of the film production. Everybody in the production set will communicate using these shots names, so you absolutely must know them. The cameras angles are the best tool to tell a story without explaining too much.
Building relationship with camera angles
The camera angles you’ll choose will be a great tool to describe the relationships of the characters without words. POV shot (I will explain it later on) will tell the audience who is the important character in the scene (that will also be the character that get more screen time), If you’ll shoot one character closer and the other in a more open shot, the one that was shot closer will look and feel to the audience as the stronger one. Read the next shots angels I’m introducing here and you will understand what I’m saying.
so here it goes:
Long Shot(LS )
The shot shows all the body of the photographed object and some of its background. Usually, we use it the beginning of a scene, so the audience will understand where the scene is taking place. Sometimes, when the scene is long, we will use it to remind the audience where the scene is happening. This angle has no emotional strength. It simply gives us information.
A very intimate shot. What we see is only head and shoulders of photographed object. It provides a great sense of intimacy with the photographed object. This shot is used a lot in interviews and TV. In films we use it a lot on reaction shots or when we want to emphasize the drama.It is customary to put the photographed object in this shot just beyond the center of the frame, so the shot will not be too symmetrical. You should also leave some space on the side to which the character speaks or turns to. There is also a shot called Close Up which is little closer.
The advantages of this kind of shot are: They are easy to lighten and it’s also easy to connect them with other shots in the scene. This shot helps convey what the character feels with only very light expressions using mainly the eyes.
The disadvantages of this kind of shot are: Sometimes the shot has nothing to do with the spirit of the scene and can serve as a kind of invasion of subject’s privacy (especially in documentary cinema). The viewer may find himself uncomfortable when it happens.
The shot is very close to the object. For example, in a person shot, we might see only the face of the character or his hands. The feeling that the viewer gets is that what we see at the moment is very important, or with intense emotional weight. For example, a woman walking on the street at night. ECU on her eyes can convey to us a sense that she is scared.
A very popular shot angle. Also called “Waist shot”. Usually, it’s an angle that contains the top of the photographed object. It creates a sense of distance from the person that is being shot, but to such an extent that we can still see him and his body language clearly, with some level of intimacy. When you are using this kind of shot (and you are going to use it a lot), you must pay attention to the background. Also pay attention to the actor’s body posture and movements.
A shot that is being used a lot less today. Its primary use is when you want to connect the character to its location. It’s a hard shot when to edit with. especially because it reveals too much of the background. If for example we have a dialogue scene, we can see the second character in the shot of the other, and that can make it difficult for the continuity of the editing. The biggest advantage of the shot is that it allows the actor to use his body language.
The shot focuses on an object over the shoulder of another person whose face is directed to the same object. We will see the back of the shoulder and part of the head of the person who looks at the object. Directors use this shot a lot in dialogues since it is kind of a “shortcut” to see both characters at the same time.
Ok, so I understand this post is getting too long, but please bear with me and trust me, if you don’t know the jargon of the film industry, you will be in a lot of troubles. So just a few more to go and we’re done:
Point of view (POV)
The POV shot is a great film technique to make the viewer identify with your character. This is also a great way to create tense. In the POV shot, the camera transmits the point of view of an object in the scene. It basically takes the place of character that looks at something. If we are filming two people talking and we want to pass the point of view of one over the other, the camera will be in front of the photographed object in the place of the one we want to emulate his eyes. Usually, the photographed object will not look directly into the camera, but 30 degrees to the side. If the object looks directly into the camera, it’s like he is looking directly at the audience and thus breaks the magic of cinema. Of course, there are quite a few films that do this on purpose, but this should be a conscious decision.
On this shot the camera is positioned in a low angle, making the shot object look very big.