Lighting I Like: “Life on Mars”

This week’s edition of Lighting I Like focuses on a scene from Life on Mars, my all-time favourite TV show. Broadcast on the BBC in 2006 and 2007, this was a police procedural with a twist: John Simm’s protagonist D.I. Sam Tyler had somehow travelled back in time to the 1970s… or was he just in a coma imagining it all? Each week his politically correct noughties policing style would clash with the seventies “bang ’em up first, ask questions later” approach of Philip Glenister’s iconic Gene Hunt.

I must get around to doing a proper post on colour theory one of these days, but in the meantime, there’s a bit about colour contrast in this post. And you can read more about using practicals in this post.

I hope you enjoyed the show. The sixth and final episode goes out at the same time next week: 8pm GMT on Wednesday, and will feature perhaps the most stunning scene yet, from the Starz series Outlander. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you never miss an episode of Lighting I Like.

Lighting I Like: “Life on Mars”

Lighting I Like: “The Crown”

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for another episode of my YouTube series Lighting I Like. This one is about The Crown, one of the most beautifully shot shows of 2016.

You can read more about how the cinematography reflects the burden of the wearing the Crown in my post “How The Crown Uses Broad Key Lighting to Evoke Tradition“.

There are also examples from The Crown in my recent post on using shafts of light through windows.

I hope you enjoyed the show. Episode five goes out at the same time next week: 8pm GMT on Wednesday, and will cover a scene from my all-time favourite TV series, Life on Mars. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you never miss an episode of Lighting I Like.

Lighting I Like: “The Crown”

Lighting I Like: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”

The third episode of my YouTube cinematography series Lighting I Like is out now. This time I discuss a scene from the first instalment in the Harry Potter franchise, directed by Chris Columbus and photographed by John Seale, ACS, ASC.

 

You can find out more about the forest scene from Wolfman which I mentioned, either in the February 2010 issue of American Cinematographer if you have a subscription, or towards the bottom of this page on Cine Gleaner.

If you’re a fan of John Seale’s work, you may want to read my post “20 Facts About the Cinematography of Mad Max: Fury Road.

To read about how I’ve tackled nighttime forest scenes myself, check out “Poor Man’s Process II” (Ren: The Girl with the Mark) and Above the Clouds: Week Two”.

I hope you enjoyed the show. Episode four goes out at the same time next week: 8pm GMT on Wednesday, and will cover a scene from episode two of the lavish Netflix series The Crown. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you never miss an episode.

Lighting I Like: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”

Lighting I Like: “Ripper Street”

The second episode of Lighting I Like looks at a scene from the season four premiere of Victorian crime drama Ripper Street, available on Amazon Prime in the UK.

On closer inspection, the “tungsten fill” I mention in the video is more of a soft tungsten toplight – perhaps a Chimera Pancake – rigged to the ceiling in the centre of the room. When Jackson exits at 2:00 you can see him walk under it.

Here’s some further reading if you want to know more about using practicals, and candlelight in particular:

5 Tips for Working With Practicals

Candlelight – how I tackled multiple candlelight scenes in my first period production, The First Musketeer, including a video blog from the set.

I hope you enjoyed the show. Episode three goes out at the same time next week: 8pm GMT on Wednesday, and will cover a scene from the 2001 movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you never miss an episode.

Lighting I Like: “Ripper Street”

“Lighting I Like” Launches

The first episode of my new YouTube series is out. Lighting I Like discusses some of the best and most interesting illumination I’ve seen in film and TV, including how and why I think it’s been done. The first show is about a scene from season two episode four of Daredevil – and beware there is a spoiler.

After recording these shows, and while editing them, I spotted more things about the lighting in the clips. For example, in this Daredevil scene I noticed that there is a backlight tucked just behind the building on the right of frame. This backlight isn’t hitting the actors because a fire escape is shadowing them, but it’s giving that golden glow to the rain and street in the background. It must be gelled with something like Mustard Yellow to match the existing street lamps.

I hope you enjoyed the show. Episode two goes out at the same time next week: 8pm GMT on Wednesday, and will cover a scene from the season four premiere of Ripper Street.

“Lighting I Like” Launches

Lensing Ren – episode 5

Season one of Ren: The Girl with the Mark has come to an end, and to ease the pain a little, here’s one last video breakdown of the show’s cinematography. This week I talk about the exterior scenes from daylight through sunset to night.

Here is the lighting plan for the final scene:

Village-night-1080p

Check out the article I wrote during the shoot about the sunset scene if you’re still hungry for details. And here is an unpublished blog post I wrote during the shoot about the village night exteriors…

The 2.5K HMI backlight
The 2.5K HMI backlight. The dimmer board for the Cyclotron can be seen in the lower right.

The last two days of principal photography on Ren were actually night shoots. It was great to take the village set that I’d shot in natural light for five weeks and chuck some of my own light at it.

In his American Cinematographer interview about The Monuments Men (February 2014), Phedon Papamichael said, “My big night-exterior lighting setups usually have one source” – often a backlight, judging by the examples given in the article – “and then I use whatever practicals are in the shot.” My approach is much the same, though a big source for me is a 2.5K HMI, not an Arri T12, sadly!

One of the Urban Sodium-gelled 800W Arrilites beefing up the braziers
One of the Urban Sodium-gelled 800W Arrilites beefing up the braziers

I knew our key shot was going to be Ren’s POV looking up the street to the Kah’Nath Master flanked by several archers, with Karn and Baynon in the background. I set up my 2.5K dead in the back of the shot, its stand hidden by the furthest house facade.

Another of the Urban Sodium-gelled 800W Arrilites beefing up the braziers
One of the Urban Sodium-gelled 800W Arrilites beefing up the braziers

The plan was for the archers to light their arrows from two braziers, one either side of the street, so Chris Dane and Amanda Stekly dressed these in accordingly. I set up an Arrilite 800 near each one, choosing Urban Sodium gel to give the “firelight” a grungy colour appropriate to the bad guys. (I was shooting on a tungsten white balance to turn the HMI moonlight blue.)

The dimmers controlling the Arrilites
The dimmers controlling the Arrilites

Chris – by this time well-attuned to my lighting needs – also rigged a third brazier to act as the key light for himself (Karn) and James Malpas (Baynon), towards the back of the set. The Arrilite for this one I gelled with full CTO for a yellower, friendlier colour.

All three Arrilites were run through in-line dimmers, and various bystanders were co-opted to flicker them throughout the evening.

Bulbs
The Cyclotron

I rigged a Cyclotron behind the window of the background house – four 100W bulbs under a sheet of CTO, wired to Colin’s dimmer board so they too could be flickered, suggesting firelight inside the house.

The Celotex bounce board
The Celotex bounce board

I figured that the front of this house would still be very dark, being out of range of the Arrilites and facing away from the HMI, so I had gaffer Richard Roberts rig a Celotex board to bounce some of the HMI light back onto it. As it turned out, when it got dark and we fired everything up, there was lots of bounce off the set pieces closest to the HMI anyway. This was a nice bonus that gave us more options when blocking Karn and Baynon’s actions, without having to set up extra lamps.

A sunset view of the lighting set-up from roughly the master camera position. The LED panel on the right was used only as a work light.
A sunset view of the lighting set-up from roughly the master camera position. The LED panel on the left was used only as a work light.

When the braziers were lit and the Master and soldiers strode onto the set in their awesome costumes (courtesy of Miriam Spring Davies and stand-in wardrobe supervisor Claire Finn), we all felt we had a truly epic sequence in the can.

Ren archers

If you’ve missed any of Lensing Ren or Ren itself, here’s a playlist featuring every episode of the fantasy series, interspersed with the corresponding cinematography breakdowns:

Lensing Ren – episode 5

Lensing Ren – episode 4

On Tuesday the penultimate episode of Ren: The Girl with the Mark was released and so here’s my video breaking down the cinematography of that fourth episode. This week I cover lighting the guardroom and the prison cell, and demonstrate cross-backlighting.

Here are the lighting plans for the guardroom and the cell:

Guard-room-1080p Cell-1080p

You may also be interested to read the blog I wrote during the shoot about Lighting the Prison Cell, and my post explaining the technique of Cross-backlighting. And here is an unpublished post I wrote during the shoot about the guardroom….

33_GuardRoomWide1

The guard room shoot came at the end of a long and intense week of shooting interiors. By Sunday most of the lead actors had left, we had crested the hill and the end of principal photography was in sight. The atmosphere was even more relaxed and informal than usual, particularly as everyone’s favourite spouter of inappropriate comments, Richard “Squish” Roberts, was playing the lead jailor.

A behind-the-scenes view of the lighting set-up for the window and swords
A behind-the-scenes view of the lighting set-up for the window and swords

Ren’s bedroom had been repainted and redressed to be the Kah’Nath guard room. This meant a single, small window again, and as usual I couldn’t resist blasting a 2.5K HMI through there for a shaft of hot, smoky sunlight.

The Window Wrap in action on the swords
The Window Wrap in action on the swords

I wanted to highlight the rack of swords next to the window, which the shaft of light wasn’t catching, so I used a variant on my Window Wrap technique. I put a 2′ 4-bank kinoflo outside the window at such an angle as to light up the swords without blocking any of the HMI light.

I was interested to find that the art team had done something a bit different with the room’s candles, hanging a cluster of them from an overhead beam. I asked for the “table” (actually a barrel) – where the guards would be playing a board game – to be placed directly under that.

The Dedos (left and right of the picture) and 100W globes used to enhance the light from the candles
The Dedos (left and right of the picture) and 100W globes used to enhance the light from the candles

The candles wouldn’t shed light directly down on the game in the classic single-light-source-coming-straight-down-onto-the-poker-table style, but I felt it would give me an excuse to cross-backlight. I clamped a Dedo to the top of each side of the set, each one spotted on one of the two characters who would face each other across the barrel.

A view of the finished lighting set-up from over the dimmer boards
A view of the finished lighting set-up from over the dimmer boards. On the floor to the right can be seen the shaft of light from the LED fresnel coming through the fake door (off right).

These Dedos couldn’t be flickered, being the kind which go into a single control box with only three discreet settings for brightness. So to introduce some dynamics, and soften the light a bit, I clipped a dimmable 100W bulb to either side of the beam from which the candles hung. This would also ensure that Hunter would be lit when he stood next to the barrel.

An additional light source in the set was a small brazier on the wall next to the dungeon door. This seemed bright enough to shed plenty of light by itself, particularly as Squish would be standing right next to it for a large part of the scene.

The final touch for lighting was to re-use the fake door to create the effect of daylight spilling in as characters exited and entered from off camera. This time I placed an LED fresnel behind it.

41_GuardsHunter

Check back next Saturday for another instalment of Lensing Ren, and meanwhile watch the next episode of Ren itself from Tuesday at 8pm GMT at rentheseries.com

Lensing Ren – episode 4

Lensing Ren – episode 3

It’s the mid-point of season one of Ren: The Girl with the Mark and here’s my video breaking down the cinematography of that third episode. Topics covered this week include grip equipment, aspect ratio, smoke and faking candlelight.

Here is the lighting plan for Ren’s bedroom:

Rens-bedroom-1080p

There is more on simulating firelight in my First Musketeer blog post Candlelight.

For my thoughts on composing for the cinemascope aspect ratio, take a look at 2.39:1 Composition.

Want to know more about smoke? Check out Lighting Techniques #5: Smoke.

Check back next Saturday for another instalment of Lensing Ren, and meanwhile watch the next episode of Ren itself from Tuesday at 8pm GMT at rentheseries.com

Lensing Ren – episode 3

Lensing Ren – episode 2

Here’s my video breaking down the cinematography of episode two of Ren: The Girl with the Mark. This week I discuss lighting Ren’s house, tweaking wide-shot lighting for close-ups, and depth of field.

Here is the lighting plan for Ren’s house:

Rens-house-1080

And here is a video blog from the set of Ren’s house:

Check out the article I wrote during the shoot about lighting Ren and Dagron’s house if you’re still hungry for details.

If you want to know more about using kinoflos as indirect window light, have a look at Lighting Technique #3: The Window Wrap.

Want to know more about Depth of Field? This post will give you the basics.

Check back next Saturday for another instalment of Lensing Ren, and meanwhile watch the next episode of Ren itself from Tuesday at 8pm GMT at rentheseries.com

Lensing Ren – episode 2