Cinematography


lighting plans

G DOGG LIGHTING PLAN 2

 

G DOGG LIGHTING PLAN 1

Cinematography

Aims and Objectives:

The main objective of this cinematography module is to devise, plan, shoot and edit a two minute narrative that showcases my skills as a cinematographer. The narrative has to be told entirely through the image on screen as no dialogue is permitted. We are required to shoot the film using raw cinema DNG files that we would have to go on to colour grade before submitting. My aim for this project is to produce a piece of film that encapsulates the lighting, style and aesthetic that I hope to incorporate in my future films. Through a combination of lighting, colour, camera movements and production quality, I hope to give my two minute narrative a cinematic yet true to life aesthetic that also evokes an emotional response from the audience.

Influences and Inspiration:

My first step in achieving my aims and objectives was to draw inspiration from films that have a similar style to that which I hoped to achieve and go on to research the work of their cinematographers. The first film that inspired me was ‘Drive’, not only because it is a favourite film of mine but also because it is unique in the way it looks with the colours that are used throughout, so I began my research on Newton Thomas Sigel who was the films cinematographer. The films powerful use of light and colour, most notably blue and orange, to portray the characters emotions and moods is something I also wish to achieve in my own work. I also found myself inspired by the work of Jeremy Saulnier who was the director of photography for the film ‘Blue Ruin’. This film is unlike ‘Drive’ in that it often uses only natural light sources. This may be less to do with technique and more to do with the low budget; however it worked in favour of creating a very distinctive and aesthetically pleasing film.

‘The key thing, for me, was to have a colour palette/lighting shift from the opening to the closing… he’s returning to his stomping ground and retracing his youth, and as he gets closer and closer to this origin, his colour palette warms, his wardrobe shifts from blue and white (at the beginning) to brown and green and warm earth on his face (at the end).’ (Saulnier, J. 2014)

I will approach my cinematography project with a similar mentality to Saulnier as I too hope to connote switches in mood and atmosphere through the use of changing light and colour.

Planning and logistics:

The idea behind my cinematography piece was based around a lonely male protagonist who is reminiscing about a past relationship. The film opens on a shot of the male protagonist sat in a darkened room looking thoughtful, and as the camera tracks to a close up of his face we intercut with scenes showing memories of him and his girlfriend. As the film progresses we see his girlfriend buying a train ticket as she prepares to leave, before his failed attempts to stop her. I chose this idea because the flashback scenes gave me a chance to shoot in multiple locations, use a wide variety of light sources and experiment with camera movements. Although we had practiced using Black Magic cameras and familiarised ourselves with the workflow of shooting raw in session, I decided to take out a Black Magic Cinema Camera to experiment in my own time in order to gain confidence before shooting my planned project. Below are the test shots I created:

 

 

 

 

Doing this gave me a good indication of how difficult it would be to shoot using only available light sources such as street lights and car lights. After I finalised my shot list I created an equipment list and booked all necessary equipment for the following week. To ensure that the filming process ran smoothly I created lighting plans for each of my scenes. In order to produce a look similar to that in ‘Drive’, I planned to shoot a specific scene in my lounge which would allow me to use artificial lighting and create the look achieved by Newton Thomas Sigel. I purposely used blue and orange as these are frequently used throughout ‘Drive’ as seen in the images below:

 

The bright, vivid picture that these colours will give the scene will juxtapose the flashback scenes, which will be predominantly dark and lit using only available light sources. I chose to do this as I wanted the difference in colours between the flashback and present day scenes to be obvious in order to show the change in mood and emotion.

I consciously chose to shoot different scenes on different days. This meant there was enough time to create footage I was completely happy with and to shoot in a way that meant myself, the cast and crew did not feel rushed or pressured in any way. I found that the biggest advantages of shooting this way was that there was a comfortable amount of time to brief cast and crew, set up equipment and do multiple takes to ensure the best outcome. When it came to the grading and editing process I found that there was plenty of footage to choose from and this made the editing process quick and easy because it was shot well in-camera. During the shoot for the flashback scenes, the most common problem I faced was the lack of available light sources. However, I always managed to overcome this issue with the use of a light metre and multiple silver and gold bounce cards. There was one particular jib-shot I wanted to do which myself, Frank and Richard successfully set up after a few hours and I was extremely pleased with the outcome of the test shots. However, by the time my actor arrived we had already lost over three stops of light according to the light metre. Although the shot would have worked nicely with the narrative, I decided not to include it due to the lack of light available at the time. It was a late finish by the end of the two days, but I was pleased with the amount and quality of footage I had obtained.

 

The next step was to import all of my footage to Da Vinci Resolve to begin colour grading which is an essential part of the workflow when shooting raw. I found the colour grading process difficult to begin with as I only had a basic understanding of the program. When the footage is initially brought into the software the image appears very flat and lacks saturation. However, by following a tutorial by ‘The Curious Engine’ I was able to give my image the exact look I was aiming to achieve. I graded all of the footage I wished to use, and as the shots were light metered accurately the colour settings could often be copy and pasted. During the colour grading process I found it was very important to work using scopes as they give a very accurate reading of the image that allows you to fine-tune until you eventually have a clean looking image that you are happy with. The tutorial that I was following allowed me to work in a non-destructive workflow so that my footage would never be compressed or lose quality. Now that I had the image I wanted from Da Vinci, I exported proxies into Premier where I assembled an edit. This didn’t take long as I had a strong idea of what I wanted my film to look like beforehand. To bring the edit together I sourced some royalty free music online using www.bensound.com which offers a wide range of royalty free music that allowed me to find something that fitted well with my film. All that was left to do was take my edit back into Da Vinci and match the proxies to the original clips and export.

 

This entire project is something I have hugely enjoyed. Cinematography has always been interesting to me so to get the chance to shoot something exactly how I wanted was a great experience from start to finish. From the initial planning of the idea to assembling everything in post production, I have thoroughly enjoyed this project. I found myself inspired by other cinematographers work and I’m really pleased with how my finished video played homage to their work in their respective films. I feel as though I accomplished exactly what I was trying to achieve in that I have learned a lot about the role of a cinematographer and how important cinematography is in film. The blue and orange lighting is precisely what I wanted and I’m equally pleased with how the flashback scenes have turned out. I was pleased that the delineation between the colours I used was obvious, I think the key and fill light were separated nicely and balanced well on the characters face.

 

In order to gain objective feedback for our finished products, as a classed we arranged to come in to college and spend some time viewing each others finished projects and offering feedback and constructive criticism. The feedback for my finished film was largely positive and I was really pleased with the comments I received. I was pleased that people could clearly see how I had taken inspiration from my influences and portrayed that through my own work. The general theme of my film was also well received and I was pleased to hear that the look of my film worked well with my chosen style of cinematography.

 

Although I am very pleased with the overall feedback for my film, there are areas which could have been improved. The ending scene where the male protagonist is alone on the train platform looks a little flat compared to the other scenes, the feedback I received confirmed this. I was told that this shot needed ‘more depth’ and perhaps ‘different framing’ but because of the nature of this shot it was very difficult to get a closer shot of the male protagonist at that time. However I do think that if I had two cameras at the time then a closer shot of his reaction would have been great and really added something to the narrative. As this scene was being lit by one light source it was difficult to get the deep looking, dynamic shot I would have liked, but this could have probably been improved with Davinci Resolve and some more colour grading to make it seem less flat.

Overall, I’m really pleased with this project and I’ll definitely use the colour and lighting techniques that I learned in my future films.

Finished Video:

Cinematography: Session 6

The aim of the morning was to get a basic understanding of filters, diopters and custom lenses. In the afternoon we had a portrait lighting workshop with the media make up department.

In the morning, we split in to two small groups and went out with the Black Magic Camera, a set of filters and diopters and a selection of lenses. Pictured below are some still taken from our short filming session:

In the afternoon we began to set up the lighting and camera for the media make up workshop. We used a basic lighting set up (pictured below) and we were ready to film as soon as the make up students arrived. The purpose of this exercise was to see the difference that make up makes when filming RAW and straight away we saw the difference that silicone based make ups makes on camera compared to filming somebody not wearing make up. With students who were wearing silicone based make up we noticed that light fall off was much more natural whereas students without make up had more reflective skin that bounced more light back to camera. This made it obvious that the subject was being lit which is obviously something we want to avoid. Pictured below are a selection of stills from the media make up workshop that really showcase the difference that make up makes on camera.

 

Cinematography: Session 3, 4 & 5

Sessions 3, 4 and 5 were all centered around getting used to the post production process when dealing with RAW.

Session 3 was spent getting used to DaVinci Resolve – the software we use to colour time. Using the footage we shot the previous weeks, we all got the footage on a hard drive and attempted process the files. We learned about the best way to accurately process RAW footage for a Rec 709 colour space (HDTV, consumer projectors). We went through three different techniques for debayering our footage but I concluded that the second way was ideal for me. This process involved using a 3D LUT (look up table) to convert our footage to 709 which gave us a much more dynamic contracts and colour. Whilst the other two methods had their positives, they weren’t ideal for us. The first method we learned involved using a project level 709 conversion but because of the ‘one size fits all’ aspect of this conversion we had to compromise aspects of our footage and didn’t give us as much control as the second method. The third technique we learned gave us a great looking image with dynamic range but it was a more complicated workflow. I would only consider using this method if I wanted a very specific aesthetic to my footage that I couldn’t get any other way.

The following week, we were told to shoot a simple 5 shot sequence that we would then edit, process and deliver using the methods we learned the previous week. The idea of this exercise was to get us used to creating proxies and using DaVinci Resolve to colour time our footage. This workflow would allow us to edit and colour time our footage without it ever being compressed.

 

Notes:

Aesthetic principles: 1: Shadows toward camera – ‘lighting from upstage’. 2: Proximity – Closer the shot – More significant. 3: Light meter for accuracy and consistency.

Secondary Correction: The isolation and control of individual elements – Achieved in two ways: masks and keying (chroma and luma). ‘Looks’ – Adding a tonal hue or luminance change to the whole image.

Cinematography: Session 2

This week we were continuing what we were learning about the previous lesson – Lighting a subject using the light meter.

For this task we would be lighting a subject in the old film studio. We began by setting up the flats and creating a set that we could light using the three point lighting kits.

Time lapse of setting up:

 

After we had the set and all the equipment set up we began to light our subject. Our set was designed to look like a corner of a room with a netted curtain covering a window. We would light the set through the window using the three point lighting kit shining at a reflector that would diffuse our light to give a more natural look to it. We used something called a ‘book light’ to light our subject. This technique is called a ‘book light’ because we use an open book shape to bounce and diffuse light toward our subject.

Lighting plan and set up:

As shown in the lighting plan pictured above, we used two 650w Fresnel lights pointed toward a silver bounce card at a 45° angle to light the left side of our subjects face. The silver bounce card and netted curtain combined to diffuse the light nicely and give a very natural aesthetic to our shot. The right side of our subjects face was lit using a silver bounce card that received enough light from the reflected 650w lights to act as our fill light.

Camera settings:

F2.00 (exposed to the right to give us more lighting options), 24MM, 24FPS, 800ASA, 172.8°

After we had set the correct exposure for our shot, we double checked the readings of the light meter to make sure we had the right values for the shot we wanted. The resulting footage was really pleasing and gave us a brilliant look to a simple shot.

This was another great lesson to give us some more experience using the Black Magic camera and light meter. I think I’m getting more comfortable with the procedure of lighting a subject using the light meter but still want to get some more experience to fully understand the process.

Cinematography: Session 1

This week we were learning how to set the correct exposure using a light meter.

We watched a few videos that explained and demonstrated how important a light meter is for filming before we were given a handout containing all the useful information we would need to set up and film our own shot using a light meter and the Black Magic camera.

Note: Light is measured in exposure values (also known as EV). Each measurement is known as a stop of light, and by going down a stop you halve the light. Likewise, going up a stop you double the light.

The morning was spent looking and talking about the theory behind using a light meter. During this time, we learnt that you can use a light meter to set the correct exposure before even setting a camera up. This means you can have your shot ready to go, knowing it will be lit exactly how you want it without even having a camera on set.

In the afternoon, we split in to two groups and attempted to set up a shot for ourselves using a light meter and a Black Magic camera. To do this we had somebody sit in front of a camera and used the light meter to get the correct exposure for our subject (the person in front of camera) and the background, which would give us the settings we need for the camera. Then, to give our shot a more cinematic aesthetic, we would measure the light on each side of our subjects face. This would allow us to give our subject a lighting ratio.

By using the light meter to set the correct exposure for our shot, we are able to give a cinematic look and feel to a very simple shot. We gave our subject a 2:1 ratio, meaning the light on one side of his face is double the exposure value of the other side. We control this by adding or removing stops of light to our shot.

This was a really useful lesson that gave me my first hands on experience with the light meter and Black Magic camera. Although some of the terminology and numbers confused me, I understand the principle of using the light meter so I’m sure I’ll grow more confident with more practice.