THE STUDIO

“Films are light.”

Federico Fellini

 

How should we think about light in order to use it as an expressive element in film production?  What can we learn from the countless practitioners who have preceded us, and the restrictions and challenges they have faced?

 

DESCRIPTION

This simple, three-word observation is the kind that, when de-contextualised and quoted at the start of a book or dissertation, tempts the reader to dismiss it immediately as glib, pretentious and fundamentally empty.  And, indeed, it might be just that, but for two things: it was spoken by the Maestro; and it isabsolutely, penetratingly true.  Anyone who has responded to something in a film beyond its most rudimentary narrative content will have experienced the veracity of this statement; anyone who has been responsible for capturing and giving motion picture images coherency will know that to respond to light, and perhaps to control light, is central to, if not the very essence of cinematographic practice.

This studio will involve both a historical inquiry into light in the cinema, and a practical exploration of lighting for film.  We will begin to consider the complex interrelationship between practice, technology and aesthetics; between necessities, tendencies, trends and expression.  Our studies will involve film viewing, research and practical experimentation, but we will not be making a film.  We will assist one another in that experimentation and share our ideas and discoveries.

 

AIMS OF THE STUDIO

To begin to develop a critical appreciation of film lighting and an understanding of its ongoing importance.

To employ accurate terminology and practically informed understandings in order to effectively conceptualise and communicate in future practical endeavours.

To develop a preparedness to place these understandings in the service of the higher aims of a motion picture work.

ROOM & WINDOW

Adelle Lacey

Andrew Pham

Kerry Posthoorn

Ryan Rosenberg

 

Our group decided to each produce our own individual piece, but to have some unifying aspects be present throughout each piece. As we were all producing our own individual project, we had clear roles for each person, and switched them with every project.

The main thing that was a common thread throughout all of our pieces was using the same location, and seeing how we all saw the space differently and the various ways that we wanted to utilise it. We all tried to use different parts of the house, shooting in multiple rooms. We did this as we saw how the light in each room operated differently, and wanted to take advantage of this.

Another thing that we all tried to implement in our projects was that we all included a window in our shots. There was no significant reason we chose to do this but we thought it would be a nice constraint or guideline that would help ground all our projects and help them from becoming too detached and incohesive.

As we were shooting each of our projects one after another, our iterative process was that we would observe how one person was lighting their scene and then try to build upon or take inspiration from it for whatever the next project happened to be. If we saw that one person used a Kino in a creative way, we would take it into consideration if we wanted to use it in our own product and constantly draw upon each other person’s ideas.

RUNNERS

Jianing Chen

Matthew Duong

Lance Fidler

Max Simonson

Jianbo Yang

 

For our Assignment 4 project we got together and started brainstorming lighting ideas by taking references from our favourite films. We decided on going with a science fiction theme, taking heavily from the films “Blade Runner” and “Blade Runner 2049”.

Part 1  “Matt Runner 2018”

For part one of our assignment we wanted to replicate a lighting effect used in “Blade Runner 2049”. This was the water refraction scene, aiming lights at a body of water and reflecting it onto a surface and subject. Matt wrote a short monologue for the scene which was related to the interrogation scene from the film. Now that we had the script and the lighting idea we were able to shape a narrative of shots.

We started by scouting out a few different locations for exterior and interior shots. We decided upon Building 100 for our exterior/interior shots leading up to the water reflection scene as it had a futuristic feeling to its architecture that fitted in with our narrative. We then decided on Building 16 basement floor as our main interior for the water reflection.

In the week leading up to the shoot we conducted a lighting test at Building 16 with a small tub of water and the effect was exactly what we wanted. We then decided that we would need a larger tub to cover a larger surface of the wall, so Lance went to purchase a small pond pool for the shoot date.

Because the location we had decided upon was used for storage of tables and chairs and a common walking area we had to wait for all classes to finish before we could fully set up.  We used three 1K Arri fresnel lights and two Dedo lights to bounce the large pool onto the background and then used one Dedo light to bounce the small tub of water into Matt’s Face. The hardest part of the shoot was getting the water reflection to cover the whole background, but with heaps of minor adjustments we were able to finally get the desired effect.

During the process of filming at Building 16 we decided to do ADR. What we were able to do in the edit was use Matt’s monologue now as a voiceover with the lead up shots of Matt walking through Building 100 and then come into the scene at Building 16 half way through. We also decided to use the close-up shots of Matt’s eye to cover some of the ADR. This wasn’t intentionally used to cover ADR miss matches, it was decided as it furthered the story and made you focus more on the water reflection effect.

Part 2   “Brews Runner 2018”

For our second idea we initially wanted to use a smoke machine/hazer and try to replicate a scene from the original “Blade Runner”. Unfortunately, we had to scrap that idea as the location we were using had smoke alarms and we couldn’t get them isolated and turned off by the time of our shoot. So, what the group decided upon was to have Brews sitting in a chair reading a monologue and make it look like he is sitting in a room with a mixture of street lights and neon lights coming through the venetian blinds of the window.

We used a black card as our venetian blinds by cutting slits out of the board. Then aiming our key light through the slits of the black board onto Brews. We also had two Dedo’s as backlights one with a red gel and the other with a green gel to replicate a neon sign. Finally we set up a white card as a fill on the opposite side of Brews to bounce back the light from the key.

We had Ben on the Dedo’s alternating each light on and off continuously, while Lance and Jacky were holding the black card and as the scene started, would move the card up having the blinds moving across Brews’ face as the back lights were hitting his shoulder and the left side of his face.

At first, we were using a 2K Arri fresnel light as our key but we found that the light was cancelling out all of the backlights desired effect. So, we changed the key light to a Dedo light and the effect we wanted worked perfectly.

We had decided upon a front on shot, changing focal lengths from a Mid Shot to a CU and then finish off with a bird’s eye view shot. Once we had got through our shot list we had enough time for another shot and what we had noticed during the course of filming was the white card we were using had a very interesting shadow cast from the venetian blinds effect and Brews’ shadow, so we decided to shoot that also and we liked it so much we put it in our final edit.

As a group we were really happy with our final filmed pieces, we nailed the effects we wanted to achieve and learnt a lot during the process and we think the work speaks for itself.

 

THE REVELATIONS OF LILA CRANE AND CITIZEN MIYAZAKI

Aalaa Ahmed

Duy Khuong

Yuhan Liang

 

Our purpose for Assignment 4 was to explore the use of lighting in different genres and how lighting speaks for a genre by decomposing and analyzing some lighting prototypes in representative films of their genres.

For Project 1, we recreated a scene from the famous Thriller film ‘Psycho’ by Alfred Hitchcock. The cinematographer, John L Russell, helped to create this masterpiece, indicative of the style which influenced modern Thriller films today.  Through the process of making it, we acquired a more advanced comprehension of the different effects of lighting between B&W filters and colors. Though there were many compromises we had to make while recreating the scene, we believe that we remained true to the story and its aesthetics.

For Project 2, we created a scene using an original script. We intended to make something that contrasts the previous project, so we did this one in color. The scene sits in the genre of Sci-Fi, with aesthetic inspirations from ‘Blade Runner 2049’, ‘Her’ and ‘Ex-Machina’. We hoped to utilize blue and orange lighting to portray an intense conversation with a complex backstory while accentuating the opposing powers between the two characters.

 

Through the two projects, we progressively built our understanding around the role of lighting in different genres and also in filmmaking in general. We fulfilled our original proposal by supporting and challenging one another and we are proud of what we’ve accomplished in this course.

 

NIGHT OUT

Aine Hamilton

Quinlan Li

Samantha Phelps

Darcey Taylor-Morrison

Louise Wilson

 

For our group project, we produced a short scene in two locations, outside a restaurant in the CBD called Magic Mountain Saloon, as well as the inside of a car on the street. The entire scene was shot at night, as we were really interested in experimenting with the red neon light outside of Magic Mountain. We ended up doing two shoots, the first where the only equipment we brought with us was the camera, and used the available light; and the second where we brought LED light panels and a Dedo to light the shots inside the car. We ended up using different cameras and lenses in each shoot, which also greatly impacted the final results of each shoot.  The shots outside the restaurant were fairly similar in both shoots as we didn’t introduce lights on either night. However, there is some difference between the two, as in second shoot we used a steady cam as well as a different lens and camera. We found that while our tracking shot was much smoother with the steady cam, the lens had trouble focusing as the camera moved.

The differences between the car shots however were incredibly different.  With our second shoot, we wanted to create the sense that the red neon light from Magic Mountain was close to car by using the LED light panels with red gels to make it appear as though the neon is coming through the car’s side window and spilling onto our actors faces. This creates a dramatic contrast when compared with our first shots, where we only used our camera torches to help light our actors. The LED panels gave us plenty of control over the shot, as we could easily move them, dim them or change gels to create the look we wanted.

Recreating the same scene twice with different equipment has really emphasised for our group what’s possible with both available light and equipment. The more equipment you have, the greater your options are. However, not having lights doesn’t mean you can’t control the light in your shot, and simply adding lights won’t necessarily improve your scene. What was really important for our group in this project was making sure that all of our lighting decision were considered and thoughtful more than anything else.

THE OUTSIDER

Jialu Cheng

Rachel Heng

Zhi Qiu

Wei Shen

Fan Zhang

 

We imagine our project to be the final scene of a movie as it was based on the last part of Camus’ first novel ‘The Stranger’. The protagonist Meursault has reached the very last point of his life because he has been sentenced to death for shooting a man dead on a beach. The reason he gives is that “it was because the sun was too hot.”  We have unfolded this scene by combining what is already in the book with our understanding of the last part of the novel.

Meursault is anti-social, indifferent, insensitive, uncaring and unmotivated. But his absolute passion for the truth is revealed during the second part of the book.

For one exercise, we propose to set it in an ambiguous, interior location which represents Meursault’s mental space. We intend to shoot it in one take after sunset. Throughout the scene, we may use three to two lights which may be occasionally visible in the shot. The actor will walk around in this space while the light on his face will change during his monologue. The background will be faintly lit. The light quality on his face could change from soft to hard. It depends on our final design. Our camera will follow the character during this. For the last frame, we imagine the actor to stand in front of one light so that it creates a silhouette while a bit of detail on his face can still be recognisable.

Another approach to film this monologue is a bit more realistic. We want to film it perhaps at the cemetery as the character is recalling his mother in the excerpt; or we could film it in Meursault’s apartment. We are still not quite sure about the exact type of location. We could be filming the character only from his back in one long take. Or we are also thinking to film it in separate shots, cutting between what the character is looking at. This more realistic approach is still underdeveloped.

THE DIAMOND DEALER

Michael Firus

Jake Kenner

Jeremy Nguyen

Lydia Watt

Alexander Wilson

 

Our task for Assignment 4 consisted of shooting two scenes in which we experimented with light in both the day and the night time. The fabulous Michael Firus wrote a script about a diamond dealer, who went by the name of Tony. We follow Tony into the night where we uncover his elicit activities, later his room mate questions such life choices as we proceed into the morning. After going over the script we went out to a church parking lot to shoot the night scene, and then shot the final day time scene at Michael’s grandma’s house. The whole group took turns in operating the camera, and we all collaboratively lit up the scenes with some LED’s. Our knowledge of light was put to the test as we used the limited resources that we had, which gave us an incentive to be more creative about our lighting choices.

The night time shoot gave us plenty of opportunities to light up the scene in a variety of ways. We had three LED’s at our disposal, and a smoke machine. We would use a key light to imitate the moon.  From the very diffused key light we were able to get some bounce from the pavement which gave the actors some fill. Another LED was lit in the background to create some depth and separation with the subjects.

In the day time, we mainly used one big LED in conjunction with the natural available light from the windows. Instead of a smoke machine, we opted for a spray on haze this time. Since there was no wind inside, the haze was much more consistent, thinner and not so obstructive. The big LED was bounced on the ceiling to create some fill in the scene, and the sunlight coming from the window was used as the key light. The second and final scene was a great opportunity to revisit some lighting techniques utilised on the first shoot, but also to try different lighting set-ups as well.

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