Consistency of lightening when shooting a scene (3 replies)

1 month ago
Raffa 1 month ago


When shooting a scene with multiple shots, i.e. a conversation in low key lightening between two people with a master shot and multiple close-ups. Can I change the lightening for each shot to make the close-ups more dramatic? From an aesthetics this looks better. 

Will the viewer notice it at all? Or doesn't the human brain really notice it as long the kind of lightening is not THAT different? 

Are there any "rules" for this?

Anton Strandh
1 month ago
Anton Strandh 1 month ago

I do this all the time, as long as you’re not completely changing the look. When going in to close ups i usually only make the keylight stronger, make it harder or softer or changing the angle of the keylight a tiny bit if it’s necessary. Oh and also moving around negs to shape the light better, it’s diffucult to put the negs where you want in a master and it’s not that important when you’re not seeing the face in the whole screen, but when you’re moving in you can shape the face better with more or contrast if you’d like. But it also depends on what kind of master shot you’ve done before.

David W
1 month ago
David W 1 month ago

There are no rules in filmmaking, do whatever the story demands. I personally never notice lighting inconsistencies in movies because hopefully, I'm sucked into the story. It is quite common for cinematographers to alter the lighting for a close up.

1 month ago
dmullenasc 1 month ago

It's a judgement call that every cinematographer makes, how much can they adjust the lighting compared to the wide shot.  A lot depends on if the coverage is shot from different angles compared to the wide and have a significant change in shot size.  It also depends on editing -- the worse-case scenario is when you cut from a medium to a closer shot that isn't much closer and is along the same lens axis, so there isn't a big change in the shot from the wider to hide a change in the lighting.  The best-case scenario is when the editor cuts to the reverse angle and then to the tighter shot.  There are degrees to how much you change the lighting compared to the wide.  If the face was lit fairly hard in the wide shot and the next shot isn't radically tighter, you might be fine with putting a 4'x4' frame of light diffusion between the key and the face but it would be harder to get away with lighting a slightly tighter shot with a 12'x12' diffusion and super-soft lighting.  Whereas if the wide shot was super wide and the person small in the frame, you could get away with a much more softly-lit close-up as long as the contrast felt similar.

Sometimes it is more distracting to NOT adjust the lighting when you go in tighter -- a funny shadow from the nose or a bag under the eye, etc. would be fine in a wide shot could be annoying to stare at for long in a tight shot.

So you play it by ear.  Of course, under the time constraints that most films operate under, the AD is certainly happy to hear that they can jump right into the close-up without adjustments and without the actor leaving the set for their trailer...  Sometimes all you have time for is to fly a frame of Opal or something in front of the key when you get closer (and usually you have warned the gaffer and key grip of the adjustments that will be needed before you've finished shooting the wide shot so those elements are standing by.)

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