AFC Filmmakers Updates | "The Eighth Day" Film @ Shoman | Article: Misconceptions in Lighting
- Amman Filmmakers Cooperative (AFC)
January 6, 2004
1) Cooperative Filmmakers Updates.
2) "The Eighth Day" Film @ Shoman.
3) Article: Misconceptions in Lighting.
1) Cooperative Filmmakers Updates.
Aseel Mansour: We had the opportunity to screen the rough cut of
Aseel's latest short film "Alert Guns" and it was truely a
defining moment for the Cooperative. The system works. We shall
keep the exciting details for an upcoming interview with Aseel.
Dalia Alkury: After running into post-production difficulties,
Dalia is now set to wrap up her film production by the end of
the week. Congratulations Dalia.
Suhad Khatib: It's official. Suhad will start production on her
first film "Suwar" (Photos) this upcoming Friday.
Laith Majali: He came across the Cooperative via the web. Since
then, Laith has corresponded with us via email while pursuing
his media studies at Elon University in the US. Laith is
spending his winter break in Amman with friends and family.
During his stay, he will assist in a number of ongoing
Cooperative film projects both as an editor and a member of the
Stay tuned for the screening of the latest round of AFC films.
2) Film @ Shoman
WHAT: Screening of Award Winning French Film "The Eighth Day"
WHEN: Tuesday January 6, 2004 - 6:30pm
WHERE: Shoman Film Center
Art/Foreign and Drama
1 hr. 54 min. An unusual tale about the cathartic friendship
between two men from radically different worlds. Harry is a
salesman extraordinaire seemingly in control of his professional
life. Yet, outside the confines of his office, Harry's world is
deeply chaotic and he is trapped by his own emotional inertia.
One day Harry meets George, a young man with Down Syndrome who
has just escaped from the facility into which he has been
assigned. Me Mongol, says George by way of an introduction...
When Harry wants to return George to his home, he can't get rid
of him. These two men with nothing in common become inseparable
and together embark on an unpredictable, sometimes delirious and
deeply moving journey of self-discovery.
Release Date: March 7, 1997.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated.
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Pascal Duquenne
Directed by: Jaco Van Dormael
3) Article: Misconceptions in Lighting
By Wendell Scot Greene
Wendell Scot Greene (Director of Photography) is a native of Los
Angeles, California. He recently completed filming a Rock Corps
PSA for acclaimed music video director Chris Robinson.
After working in the music industry and he enrolled in the
Cinema program at Los Angeles City College where he studied
Cinematography with Bill Dill, A.S.C., and later he served as
Dill�s teaching assistant at the American Film Institute. Greene
gained valuable set experience working as an electrician and
assistant cameraman on various independent productions and which
led to his working on crews for acclaimed Directors of
Photography Daniel C. Pearl and Malik Hassan Sayeed, both of
whom encouraged and supported him in pursuing his goal of
becoming a cinematographer.
Greene�s second feature as a DP �Sweet Oranges,� is now
available on DVD via Tri-Destined Media Entertainment.
�There is no more worthy, more glorious or more potent work,
than to work with light.� - Omraam Mikha�l A�vanhov
Similar to the problems one encounters when starting to learn a
new language; our first attempts at expressing ourselves through
light may seem quite awkward and fall far short of our initial
expectations. In this article, we�ll discuss several of the
mistakes people make when they begin lighting and how to avoid
them on your next project.
This article is by no means meant to be comprehensive, nor
should it be as the final word on the matter.
1) Failing to properly set the Key Light
The �key light� or �key� is the main or primary light on a
subject. It is the most important light source affecting the
exposure of the shot and it establishes the directionality and
source motivation for the lighting and the placement of shadows.
Where we place our key light affects the shape, form and
definition of our subject�s face. In short, it establishes the
overall mood of the scene. Because actors move in music videos,
commercials and films a number of lights may be used to
establish the key light source, but in order to maintain the
overall motivation of our lighting we place them in such a way
to make it appear as if they are all coming from a single
The most natural key light position is viewed as 45 degrees
above and to one side of a subject. This position throws the
shadow of the nose across the opposite side of the face leaving
a patch of light, commonly known as the �Rembrandt patch�, named
after the famous Dutch painter who lived in the 17th Century.
For the most part this angle places light in both of the actor�s
eyes and gives nice shape to the nose, lips, chin and cheeks. On
music videos, where the major concern is making the star look
beautiful, the key is usually a very soft light, placed at
camera level (or slightly above) in front of the actor,
minimizing facial blemishes, lines or marks.
But are these the only two positions for setting your key for
your subjects? Should you follow them blindly? What if the
subject has a very wide face, or a chin that sags? How about if
they have a larger than average nose, deep sunken eyes, or has a
hairstyle that would make Bob Marley proud?
Different faces demand different lighting positions. You�ll have
to study the face of the individual and test various lighting
positions to determine where to set your key so it comes from
the direction that will best serve the features of that person�s
particular face and/or the mood you are trying to create. �If
you can light a face, you can light anything� - Roger Deakins,
A.S.C. B.S.C (�Shawshank Redemption�, �House of Sand and Fog�)
The final placement of the key might be from high overhead and
high to the side, from three quarters back, behind them, or even
Darius Khondji, A.S.C., A.F.C. (�Se7en,� �City of Lost
Children�, Madonna�s �Frozen�) was quoted as saying, �the
direction of the light counts more with me that its hardness or
softness� This emphasizes how important the placement of the key
and the angle of the light becomes in helping us to light the
subject�s face, and how much of that face we chose to reveal.
2) Viewing three-point lighting as a rule, instead of a starting
In the glamour era of Hollywood, camera men adhered strictly to
the rules of three-point lighting: a hard key light place 45
degrees above and to the side of an actor creating the
�Rembrandt patch.� Opposite side of the key, and the from the
direction of camera the Fill light, softer and diffused to
reduce the shadow created by the key, and backlight which came
from above and behind the actor shining upon their head and
The three-point lighting style is still taught today in film
schools and lighting workshops. Like many other aspects of
filmmaking, it gives the beginner a starting point, a foundation
of knowledge to build upon. But as you light for your videos,
commercials and films you should realize that you are in no way
chained to this technique. You don�t have to follow it blindly.
You can light a scene with a single lighting source. You can
choose to expose a scene so you will need little or no fill
light. You may use several different sources as fill, and place
them in positions other than opposite the key. You can create
separation in scene by use of not only by using color, but also
by lighting the planes of the foreground, middle and background
to different levels of brightness.
3) � If you want it to look dark, you have to photograph it in
The common mistake that people make is thinking that a dark
scene needs to be shot at low light levels. �It doesn�t have to
look dark to photograph dark� - is a something Bill Dill, A.S.C
used to say repeatedly to his students. Some cinematographers
like to use very big lighting units and a great deal of light,
and still others use small lighting units and a small amount of
light. But here�s the thing. The light levels have little to do
with it; more importantly its how they chose to EXPOSE the
scene�s brightness range so that it would fit the curve of the
film they were using that really matters. Understanding this
concept will allow a cinematographer to expose a low light scene
to look bright and over lit, and to make daylight look like
If you�re using a digital camera to shoot, don�t believe the
myth that you don�t need to use lights. You�ll need to raise the
light levels in the scene so you�ll be able to shoot at 0 db at
a wide aperture. What you don�t want to do is boost the gain on
the camera, which results in added noise. Use a monitor on set
and it�s WYSIWYG.
4) Using Soft light, but not cleaning up the spill
Soft light sources are used on music videos to create broad,
even areas of light. They�re the commonly used to light faces.
Let�s face it; most of us love soft light. It�s beautiful. And
there are so many ways to make light soft. You can bounce it off
a wall or piece of bead board, foam core, show card, griffolyn,
or by sending the light through various forms of diffusion
material like muslin, grid cloth. You can use bulbs of various
wattages inside different size China Balls and attach them to
dimmers. Commercially available units like Chimera can be placed
on Fresnel, Par, and open face lights to give off soft light.
You can even build your own homemade soft box. On the film,
�Frida", DP Rodrigo Prieto, A.S.C., A.M.C. had his gaffer Benito
Aguilar make custom soft boxes they dubbed �Sputniks� to fit
over their 2K juniors and open face lights.
The larger the source, and closer the source to the subject, the
softer the light becomes. But the softer the light, the harder
it is to control, you�ll need large flags to control the light
at the source and keep it from spilling all over the place. We
don�t want light all over the frame, we want to use it to direct
the viewer�s eyes to what we feel is important.
The thing to remember when controlling these soft sources is
that all flags and scrims used to control the light must be
positioned in FRONT of the diffusion frames and NOT between the
lamp and screen. This is because the frame of diffusion or
bounce board becomes the source of light for the scene. Soft Egg
Crates by Light Tools are very popular tools in controlling soft
light. They come in various sizes and can be attach to the front
of your existing lights, or rigged on butterfly and overhead
frames. It�s amazing the number of ways that a talented grip can
rig duvetyn to flag off the spill from lights
5) Being Afraid of �Hard Light�
Hard light from a source such as the noon Sun or a focused
Fresnel gives light that is directional and casts a sharp,
clearly defined shadow. When hard light is used to illuminate a
face, imperfections in the skin can stand out.
This is not to say you should avoid using �hard light� on a
face, because if you overexpose the hard light on a face the
look can be quite unique and beautiful. Veteran music video and
feature film Cinematographer Ericson Core (�The Fast and the
Furious� and �Payback�) loves to light with hard light. He used
it effectively to light the sets and buildings in the night
exteriors of �Daredevil� and to bring out the texture of the
character�s leather costume.
Hard light needs to be controlled and requires the use of
multiple flags, nets and other light modifiers to control and
shape the light falling on the scene. You�ll also need to place
your lighting units the proper distance from your subject and
use some form of light diffusion like Hampshire Frost to help
take the edge off.
The late, great cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, A.S.C.
combined soft frontal lighting with hard backlight to great
effect in the film �Blade Runner� which has influenced dozens of
cinematographers working in music videos, commercials and
6) Too Much Light on Night Exteriors
��nothing can ruin the atmosphere as easily as too much light�-
Sven Nykvist A.S.C.
Unless the story is set at the 50 yard line of a Monday Night
Football Game, you won�t want it to light it to look like that.
The question to consider is �what does night look like to you?
How does it relate to the mood of story? It�s okay to allow let
things go drop off by several stop down to complete blackness.
For reference watch any night scene in a David Fincher movie.
7) Lighting with Super Saturated Color Gels
Another thing to watch out for is the using heavy saturated
color gels on your lights. Red is probably the worst offender.
It�s really an exciting color but on film it loses resolution
and looks soft. Red is difficult for your meter to read and
films are less sensitive to the color, so if it�s the only color
you�re using in the scene you�ll need to overexpose it about by
On DV, red�s noisy frequency makes it hard to transmit cleanly
and the color bleeds and smears when transferred. Try to avoid
8) Double Shadows
A double nose shadow on the actor�s face is unflattering and
distracting. It comes as a result of the key and fill light
being set at the same exact angle, (usually 45 degrees to the
side of the actor) and at the same intensity.
It has been said that each time you add another light you create
another problem. And yet no matter how many lights you use to
light an actor, that actor should still only cast one shadow.
The chance of even seeing the cast of a single shadow from an
actor can be reduced by using soft light sources, or flagging
hard sources and by avoiding staging scenes next to plain white
9) Allowing a practical lamp to cast it�s own shadow
If the only light in the room is supposed to come from the
practical lamps then what is casting the shadow of the lamps on
the wall? Since a light in the real world shouldn�t cast it�s
own shadow, this immediately tells the viewer that the source
illuminating the scene is artificial. You�ll need to balance
your lights to match the direction of the practical lamps and
use flags and nets control the spill.
10) Forgetting that your lighting is affected by other variables
The art of lighting extends far beyond turning on a few lights.
You have to understand the effect of set design, location,
costume, time of day, placement of the action, filters, the film
stock, the lab and the colorist contribute toward making the
One of my favorite cinematographers told me, � I can light a set
better with a bucket of black paint.� Now while he admitted to
that being a slight exaggeration, his point was very clear. If
the walls and backgrounds of your set or location are lighter
than the skin tones of your actors then they will always seem
darker by comparison.
Try to keep the walls down in value by at least 25% in relation
to your actors or you spend too much time trying to take light
off the wall. The same thing applies to doors, and dark skin
toned actors in white t-shirts standing against walls.
Robert Richardson, A.S.C. (�Kill Bill� �J.F.K� �Snow Falling on
Cedars�) observed �For me the [color] timer and the lab are two
most important choices for a director of photography�. Only by
shooting a variety of tests will you learn about the film
negative�s ability to give you the results you want when you
11) Being Afraid to Mixing Color Temperatures
Another principle taught in film schools and lighting textbooks
is correcting lights of various color temperatures within a
scene so they match one source (or adjusting the white balance
on your digital camera to the most dominant lighting source).
Take a look around at what you see in real life and you realize
this is another rule that begs to be broken. Mixing color
temperatures when you�re shooting on film will actually give the
colorist more to work with in post which can lead to some really
12) Murky or Washed out Images
When you under expose all areas of a scene the results are
images that are murky and flat from being placed too low on the
toe of the negative. This image lack contrast and fails to give
the eye comparative areas of highlights and shadows. If you
overexpose all areas of a scene placing them too high on the
shoulder of the negative, the result are images washed out,
without contrast. Without shadow detail the eye is once again
denied comparative areas of highlights and shadows.
13) Becoming a slave to your light meter.
When lighting a scene a common practice is to try and meter
every thing in the scene. That�s a mistake because your meter
can�t answer the most important questions, which is �How do I
want this to look?� �How do I want to expose this? Put your
meter away, take a look at the scene and then light it the way
you think it should look. When you�re finished then read the
meter. Learn to trust your eyes.
14) DV Lighting vs. Film Lighting
Good lighting is good lighting, regardless of the medium and
that takes time. Granted it�s harder to light DV and make it
look good than if you were shooting film. This is due to film's
greater exposure latitude and tonal range. The exposure
tolerance is DV has a narrower exposure tolerance is unforgiving
towards over-exposed highlights or crushed blacks. Of course,
this is all the more reason for you to use a matte box, neutral
density filters, and to light carefully.
15) Ignoring the rule: Block, Light, Rehearse, (Adjust) Shoot
DV shot films are especially guilty of ignoring this rule. Not
following this on set will not only waste time but also it can
completely demoralize your crew. If you set your lights before
the scene is blocked you may discover that your lights are in
the frame line. Or you learn that the blocking requires you to
re light the entire scene. Watch as the director blocks the
scene with the actors, light the set, watch the rehearsal, make
any minor adjustments and then shoot.
� 2003 MVWire and contributors.
4) Royal Wings takes off with the Cooperative
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