(How) Vintage 70s Low Light
This weekend I am shooting a music video featuring characters playing poker in a bar. The video is inspired by the Steve McQueen movie "The Cincinnati Kid" I'd like to have a low-light, dark tone just like the movie itself.
I'm shooting with a Canon 7D and using three 1500 lights. I'm not that experienced in lighting so any tips, tricks, etc you can share with me to help acheive this effect will be greatly appreciated.
Really, what you would be well off looking into is a china ball for the card table, and bunches of small instruments you can hide aroud the room for different angles. That way you are lighting the game table well, and getting a(n incomplete) falloff out into the rest of the room.
This look is also not just from the lighting, but additionally from the processing of the film in the color grading step. It all inter-relates.
Ok, I'm gunna try and use this light hanging from the ceiling at the bar I'm shooting at. I also figured color correction would play into how I want it to look so I'm probably going to rely on that heavy.
I'm sorry to have to deliver the bad news, but there is NOTHING simple about the lighting you're referring to. This is GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD full-scale studio lighting.
Take the very first scene. It may appear that everything is being lit by the practical (the over table tiffany style fixture) but look closer. You'll see rim light kickers in the hair of not only Edward G. Robertson at stage left - but ALSO on the waiter at stage right center. The background level is also PERFECT. Giving dimension to the scene without calling attention to itself. I'll wager that at LEAST a dozen instruments are involved in this. Flown, positioned, modified and cut to the LD's specifications.
Next look at the following close up of McQueen. Another PERFECT rim light defining the back of his hair. Another perfectly placed light bringing up the white sleeve of the background character. The wood doorway has PRECISELY enough light to read but not conflict. The table is flawlessly grey with no shadows or imperfections. (Almost surely, this particular shade of GREY for the tabletop was SPECIFIED in consultation with the LD so that it read at the proper level - white would have blown out - too dark and it supresses reflectivity.
The next scene. Again light for the face, the smoke, the picture, and not just "some light" PERFECT light. I don't recognize the actor in the last frame - but the LIGHTING by itself tells me he's the freeking ENEMY.
And god in heaven - look at the WOMEN in the clips. They have lovingly deployed EYE SPECIALS just so the viewers eyes are DRAWN to their eyes.
You're looking at movie lighting as an ART.
Maybe, possibly you could pull lighting like this off for a ONE PERSON head and shoulders shot working with 3 or 4 fixtures if you happen to have an OSCAR for film lighting.
But to light a whole movie like this with less than a big crew and access to more than one grip truck?
Sorry, just ain't gonna happen.
BTW, it's excellent that you understand the look of great lighting. You've already taken the BIG first step to learning how to do it by wondering how it's done.
Keep learning, and some day you WILL learn all the secrets if you keep working at it and accept that those lessons will come one at a time.
Wow, that is an incredibly complex setup. I love the shots of the woman with the shadows on falling across her face, no wonder it came out so good with all the effort put into that shot.
Fortunately, I was able to achieve close to what I wanted with the low key lighting. The bar we were shooting at let use these lights hanging over a pool table. I moved the pool table and put the poker table under there and that basically solved all of the close up shots. Everything I else I used a cheap 500w smith-victor light. I'll touch up the color in the editing process to try and boost that vintage look.
I will post up some of the footage when I get thru some of the editing.
Thanks for all your help.
Also of note along with Bill's excellent observations... is that virtually all of the lights used were hard instruments (as was most of the "Hollywood-style" lighting of the day). Probably hardly any soft instruments at all, if any.
If this scene were shot today and lit more like things are these days you'd probably see a lot more soft instruments.
I think it took a lot more skill back in the "olden days" when hard instruments were the norm. Today's soft lights are so much more forgiving... but certainly give a different look and not at all the high-drama look like those in the scene from that movie.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
I agree with Todd. It's a shame, but lighting design has gotten a whole lot "lazier" due to the easier and more forgiving nature of softlight technology.
By the way Bill -- that was a SUPERB analysis!!!!!
Great link. A whole tutorial in lighting (and shadowing) here.
[Bill Davis] "And god in heaven - look at the WOMEN in the clips. They have lovingly deployed EYE SPECIALS just so the viewers eyes are DRAWN to their eyes. "
Please explain more about the use of Eye Specials. What instrument (positioned how) do you like to use for this? I've been trying to use them more, but it's been tricky creating the glint while not "polluting" the rest of the lighting. It's easiest when the motivation if a light right in the middle of the room, as in this scene. The CU of the man at 4:53 -- the terrific eyelight is the source for the slash across the top of the face, right?
The WS at 2:15 is incredible. Are there lighting diagrams for such scenes published somewhere? The Tiffany-ish lamp over the table is a source, but I'm damned if I can figure out the grid for the whole room.
This isn't the place to do a complex lighting tutorial.
I'll just simply note that lighting is seldom about one light - it's about a mixture of light - or more accurately the RATIO of the lights working with and against each other.
If you're setting this kind of specific eye light, you need to understand how much light is on the general scene in order to understand how much "pop" you'll get from the instrument directly highlighting the eyes.
For example, let's say you've lit the overall scene/background to that a meter reads F8. Then you put an eyelight on a character and that reads at F5.6. That's a ONE stop difference. If you decide you want a TWO stop difference, you can EITHER increase the eyelight by a stop - OR DECREASE the background by a stop.
This is the point of a controlled studio setting. You turn the lights off and it's PITCH BLACK.That's the BASE for control over how much light goes where. The next huge factor is controlling spill, because if you turn a light on anywhere in the scene, it's going to SPILL on everything. Something intuitive if you think about standing in a dark room and turning on a flashlight and looking at the spill on the hand holding it.
Contrast is about CONTROL. A strong eyelight, is about having the ability to control the ambient light in the overall scene while placing RELATIVELY stronger light in the shape you want - where you want.
Hope this helps.
Thanks for all the insightful posts.
Everything you guys posted is way beyond my skill level. Throughout my young career of filming, lighting has never been one of my skills so I was kinda trying to do this the most basic way possible.
I am pretty much done with the video and will post it to see what you guys think but I can guarantee it's nowhere near the level of professional lighting you all have been discussing.
Ok here is the video for all of you who responded that might be curious.
The lighting in question doesn't start until 20 seconds in. Basically, I used these three lights hanging from the ceiling over a pool table for pretty much all the close up bar shots. I moved the pool table out, set the poker table underneath the lights, turned off all the lights in the room except the ones hanging over the table. I was surprised at how good a job they did low-lighting features of the face while keeping everything in the background dark. That was the main thing I was going for, definitely not as complex as the things you guys have mentioned (though it woulda been great to have a DP on board who has this know-how). Everything else I used the lightkit as somewhat of a spotlight but found that I barely had to use those. All the lighting in the hotel room is terrible, I know. But beyond that, I'm pretty satisfied with how it came considering I have little to know experience with lighting my own projects.
Let me know what yas think.