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Softness Vs Wrap (5 replies and 8 comments)

MattBendo
2 months ago
MattBendo 2 months ago

Hey Roger,

     I hope you and James are well!  Thank you for taking the time to answer all of these questions on the forum.  I might have a bit of difficulty explaining/asking this question as I'm still figuring out the exact relationship between softness/wrap.

     Can a source only become so "soft" before the perceived softness of a key light on an actor's face becomes a matter of "wrap"?

     I've attached an image from a short film I DP'd last year.  I had a wrapping unbleached muslin bounce source with some lights bouncing into it, with negative fill on the opposite side.  I assume the perceived "softness" of the key source in my image is due to the amount of wrap of the source and less to do with the actual softness of each section of bounced light.  I can't seem to imagine what the visual difference would be if I had the same type of wrapping source, but attempted to diffuse it further (maybe by putting more diffusion on the sources or turning it into a large wrapping bounced booklight.)  Although I'm happy with the look that was achieved, I can't help but tangle with the concept in my head. 

     Does diffusing a source become redundant after a while?  Let's say you had a very powerful source that you are transmitting through a series of 6x6 diffusion frames.  After a while, will the diffusion reach its most possible diffused state?  If so, then I believe it would just become redundant causing light loss (if the source size stayed the same and didn't get bigger).  Can a source only become so "soft" before the perceived softness of a key light can only be visually communicated further through wrapping the source around the character's face?

     Again, this is difficult for me to put into words, but it has been a concept that I have been thinking a great deal about.  Thank you! 🙂

https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Screen-Shot-2020-10-18-at-1.26.46-AM.png
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Screen-Shot-2020-10-18-at-1.22.57-AM.png
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Screen-Shot-2020-10-18-at-1.22.31-AM.png
dmullenasc
2 months ago
dmullenasc 2 months ago

Softness is determined by the size of the source relative to the size of the subject. So once a diffusion frame or bounce surface is filled perfectly evenly from corner to corner, it cannot get any softer because it cannot get any larger. Wrapping a subject with multiple soft sources makes it a larger source, so softer... the main difference from just using one larger source is that if you vary the intensity of each wrapping source you can create some textural differences on the face.

Tony
2 months ago

Both the question and answer here are super interesting and do a fantastic job articulating a subject ive been trying to understand myself. many thanks!

This might be a silly question but is there a difference between bounced and diffused soft light beyond say the color temp of the bounce material? Is there noticeable differences between say the scattering effects of the bounced surface and diffusion - What Im wondering is whats your general thought process choosing between the two when shooting an actors face?

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

Yes, as David says, once a diffusion or bounce frame is evenly lit from edge to edge it can only become 'softer' by moving it closer to the subject. One confusion some people have is in adding diffusion to the front of a lamp. Diffusion might be added to a lamp to spread the light, that is to widen the beam, but the light on a subject will not become softer as the size of the source does not change.

Similarly, light will only 'wrap' depending on the size of the source. When I refer to wrap I am not always considering an evenly lit source. More often I will have a series of bounce or diffusion frames, from which the light falls off toward the edges. The light at the extremes of the source might be quite dim but serves to 'wrap' the light into what would otherwise be shadow areas.

The images you post look really good, BTW.

MattBendo
2 months ago

Hi Roger and David,

Thank you very much for taking the time to go over that. Your responses have solidified my understanding of the relationship between softness and wrap. Hopefully some other young cinematographers see this post too as I know it is a misunderstood concept for many.

As for the compliment about the look of the images. Thank you very much! A lot of these lightning concepts/approaches are ones I’ve learned through studying your work and by reading forum. I am very lucky to be able to share my images with you!

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

A diffused source is still projected light and, it seems to me, that is always a little different to a bounce source. The light is still 'directed' and does not spread as widely from a diffusion frame as would a light bounced on material of the same size. That said, you might not notice any difference on an object placed directly in from of the diffusion frame or similarly sized bounce source, the difference is seen more to the sides and in the way the light 'drops off'. A bounce is always the light's source relative to the object being lit but distance of the light from a diffused source is a mix between the position of the diffusion and the position of the lamp.

This has been discussed before and it is a tricky point. The density of a diffusion will change the way the light will fall off, as will the distance of the lamp from that diffusion. Try setting a small Fresnel lamp behind a 4' x 4' frame of 216. Then move that lamp back and forth to see how the light will change on your subject and how it will fall off in depth. Place the lamp far away from your 216 frame and spot the lamp. Then place it closer in and flood the lamp. Then fit a layer of 216 to the front of your lamp and see how the spread will increase but the light on the subject will essentially stay the same. So many combinations!

Tony
2 months ago

Many thanks for the thoughtful explanation - really appreciate it and the other inputs above from everyone. l'm going to experiment this weekend and do some diffusion tests. cheers!

Vanniyan
2 months ago
Vanniyan 2 months ago

Master roger every cinematographer knows very well about softness theory. Softness is determined by the size of the source relative to the size of the subject. But the quality of the soft light vary from one cinematographer ti another whether they were use bounce source or projected through diffusion. The result vary lot. What is the tricky!

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

That is what I was alluding to. Projected light, however densely diffused, will not be the same as bounced light.

Vanniyan
2 months ago

I wasn't asking about bounce light vs diffused light. Generally the quality of the soft light varying depends the cinematographer. But everybody knows the softness theory!

Jacob W.
2 months ago

I don't know the softness theory... I'm assuming I should?

Vanniyan
2 months ago

Mr.jacob you have to read master roger and david answers.

Jacob W.
2 months ago

I am Mr Vanniyan. This thread seems to have very important, very foundational information. I want to soak it all in.

Vanniyan
2 months ago

Yeah Jacob

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