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      I have some general questions regarding your lighting philosophy and approaches in different situations.

      I am aware that there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration, but if you would have to break it down heavily:
      What are your thoughts when I ask the following situations more specifically.

      I often see that you use many sources horizontically to get a wrap around the face.
      When you do a closeup do you prefer concistency over “prettyness”, in a way that you wouldn´t add more bounce to wrap the light even more
      or would you just build a very large source far away in the first place?
      I often hear the tearm cove lighting in the context of your techniques. How exactly are you defining a cove light? Would you consider an array of lamps in a concave shape even if bounced a covelight or is that just an array of lamps? Does cove implicate that its bounced? What do you think about the booklight technique and when would you choose it over a cove light?
      I often see in your movies that the catchlight in the eyes are kind of an elongatet horizontical “line” wich probably comes from your preffered use of arrays of lamps or bounces to wrap the light. How do you achieve the “poppyness” of the catchlight. In some movies, where they also do a sort of soft naturalistic lighting the catchlight gets mushy and soft in the edges, but in most of your works it seems to me as if the eyes are popping because of a clean catchlight.
      With your preference of soft naturalistic lightin: how do you get so contrasty images?
      As I was reading through the “look at lighting page” of UNBROKEN, more specifically the “Omari restaurant” you said initially that you wanted to go for direct lighting. Again with an array of lamps hitting the charachter directly, but then you changed to bouncing into ultrabounces instead. What was the main point of doing that? Input from the director? The more cloudy weather effect it has when you bounce it or because it looks different on the face in that specific situation?
      How do you approach quality of light? Is the apature the most important thing to consider in the first place to have a certain depth of field? Then you think abaout the output you need,how far the lamps are away and therefore how much voltage you need to get to a certain apature? Or is it more of an artistic approach, where you think about the quality and softness of light and contrast ratios and then you bump in another light to get to the wanted level? Ecpecially this would be very interesting to me.

      Do you generally use lots of negative fill to get a specific contrast ratio? Or is it something that you get from the distance and the output of the lamps themselves? It looked super contrasty even though the light source is so big and “wrappy”.
      I see it often on different “look at lighting” pages that you put 3 to 10 and more lamps next to each other. You even specify the exact distance they should have from each other. I suppose that that comes from your disliking of doubleshadows which you mentioned in an interview and on your podcast sometimes. Would you rather go with diffusion in front of the lamps to sort of merge the singel beams together or would you rather try to bring the lamps as close together as you can?
      I heard in an interview from some dp that conrad hall used to say that he liked the lamps to be full spot because the beam looks more natural then. I suppose you know that because you talked to him? And is that something that you take into consideration as well or is it simply “what width do I need for a certain space”?

      Sometimes you say on your page that you progressively dim the lamps as they go away from the “center of the keylight” in lack of a better terminology because I know you don´t believe in the classic approach of key and fill light. Do you do the dimming to warm up the shadows or to have a different quality of light or both?
      Also how did you do it in “Empire of light”? I think I read that you used mainly leds on set. But when leds get dimmed they are not warming up as tungston does, so do you use progressively more cto?
      I recall that you said once that you like frosted bulbs on ringlights so you don’t get into the trouble of double shadows, but with practical lamps you use clear bulbs to have the “full” and no diff holding back level.

      In a lot of your works, when I import a still of the movie into photoshop, the levels almost never hit complete white. You always have some sort of a “warm” highlight wich is almost a light gray in terms of the histogram reading. Does the softness come from lots of dynamic range or from dimming light so much they never show up as white incam or is it a matter of postproduction and curves to compress the hightlights a bit?
      For example in SICARIO the histogram gravitating towards the shadows, but it still looks like a correctly exposed image.

      How do you get so dense and saturated colours even though its still kind of a bleach bypass look?

      For example in “The Valley of Elah” everything looks quite desaturated and I think the whole look of the film differs colourwise so much from the rest of your work.
      Is that the di or just lit differently?



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    • #214667
      Roger Deakins

        Those are a lot of question and a full answer would make a book.

        The reason using the bounce light for the Omori Restaurant scene in ‘Unbroken’ was to do with the restricted space I had outside the windows. A large bounce source with my lamps on stands below was a far more efficient alternative to using a grid of small lamps, which would create a similar soft source, and raising them up to the right angle.

        Quality of light, aperture and cost – in that order.

        I think the quote from Conrad was in reference to a specific use of a lamp at full spot.

        The LEDs I used on ‘Empire’ were multi color so I could dim them and warm them up to get the same effect as I would do with a tungsten source.

        A clear bulb gives a cleaner shadow. In a practical that might look ‘right’ or it might be ‘better’ with a frosted bulb.

        I do very little in the DI, other than for ‘O Brother’ that is. And I don’t look at a histogram. The white is the white but, of course, looking at a dvd is not like looking at a cinema screen and, even if I have overseen the transfer, its not ever the same. I don’t remember my approach to ‘Elah’ being that different. Obviously, every story is different so it does not look like ‘No Country’ or ‘Prisoners’, two films that look diametrically different.



          First of all, thanks a thousand times for your answers! It really helped.

          Also i would love to read a book from you where you explain your lighting approach!


          Roger Deakins

            Maybe! Some day!

            • This reply was modified 9 months, 4 weeks ago by Roger Deakins.
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