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How to replicate lighting of Robert McNamara's face in Fog of War

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Drew Keo
How to replicate lighting of Robert McNamara's face in Fog of War
on Mar 31, 2012 at 2:13:07 am

Hello, I want to light a documentary subject's face the same way Errol Morris did in Fog of War. That is I want the light to fall off on one side of the face (see clip below). Any tips?









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Dennis Size
Re: How to replicate lighting of Robert McNamara's face in Fog of War
on Mar 31, 2012 at 2:23:26 am

Any tips?
That softlight reflection in his glasses is almost an "instruction manual" on how he was lit.

DS



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Rick Wise
Re: How to replicate lighting of Robert McNamara's face in Fog of War
on Mar 31, 2012 at 2:34:11 am

Good catch, Dennis. The key is a chimera. After that, it's all about placement. Myself I would have lifted that light to about 45ยบ above the horizontal. Here the key is at the same height as the face. None of this really matters a whole lot since Errol Morris is a master at interviewing subjects and getting them to spill their guts. It almost doesn't matter what they look like, though we of the camera persuasion always prefer a stunning image.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Rick Wise
Re: How to replicate lighting of Robert McNamara's face in Fog of War
on Mar 31, 2012 at 2:29:49 am

It's all about where you place the key light, how much fill you use (in this case none or almost none) and how you light the background. Try moving the key light (your main light) around until you get this look. Then decide on how hard or soft you want it to be (add diffusion to make the shadows softer -- in this interview the nose shadow is fairly soft) and then treat the background. In addition, we usually add a small amount of backlight, though here I think there is none. Not needed as the background is rather hot.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Bob Cole
Re: How to replicate lighting of Robert McNamara's face in Fog of War
on Apr 6, 2012 at 10:10:41 pm

You may also need "negative fill" - if the subject is close to a white wall on the shadow side, you may need to block the light which bounces back from that wall. I don't think any was used in this case, but it is impossible to tell.


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Bob Cole
Re: How to replicate lighting of Robert McNamara's face in Fog of War
on May 18, 2012 at 1:10:44 am

Just looked at this entire clip and saw something that was very striking. At the end, McNamara repeats himself: "He and I'd say I were behaving as war criminals."

McNamara is framed to the right during this bite, which ends at 3:21. Then the camera slowly zooms in on and centers his face (he's looking into the lens, actually at Morris's teleprompted face), as a line of McNamara voice-over continues until at least the end of this clip, at 3:46 - a long, long time, which makes me very curious. It SEEMS very natural because it fits so well into the editing. But anybody who's ever shot an interview knows that this is not natural at all. In fact, good interviewers use silence to "force" interviewees to fill the awkward void.

But the effect is very dramatic. I wonder (1) whether it was set up that way (did Morris ask McNamara to give him that line and then keep looking at the camera, and (2) just how it was shot - was the image zoomed in post or only with the camera?


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