The Moving Pictures pt 2

Feb 13 2010

Last week I have introduced you to viewing movies from a different perspective. While the article was highly theoretical, I encouraged you to take a look at movies as a huge bunch of frames that can inspire us in probably every possible way.

Today and next week I would like to show you a bit more direct approach. I will present you two, completely different movies. We will go through them and acquire loads of inspiration in the process.

The Fountain, Rachel Weisz

Let’s begin with promised The Fountain. It’s a highly artistic movie, presenting us three corresponding stories. Each of them has it’s own rules, perspective and reality. Basically we can describe them as a historical fantasy story, a nearest future story and a cosmic fantasy story. To understand what I mean you would need to watch the movie. It is worth a try! Main characters are played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.

But even if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t worry. We don’t need a whole storyline to analyze the frame’s structure.

Do you see it? Yes, these are straightforward portraits. Lighting is just plain easy. The first one uses probably only one source over the camera. The second has 2 sources that we can easily identify by the eyes’ reflection and a 3rd that’s almost not visible. You could ask now if it’s so easy then why bother? Well, the important thing about those frames is the mood. The atmosphere and feel. Obviously you can like it or not, it’s a matter of taste. What is important is those two shots could have been taken in exactly same location, only with a slightly changed lighting, providing two completely different portraits.

Below we have another pair. As you can see I paired them according to the subjects look so the mood differences are even more exaggerated. One would say it is harder to change the mood then the subject looks the same, however, it’s the light that is responsible for it.

Would you be happy with such portraits? Would you know how to achieve them? If yes, then there isn’t much I can tell you, just go and watch more movies… or get working on those amazing shots!

However, if you aren’t sure what is going on in here, let’s take a closer look. Check the first from this pair. There are several possible scenarios to create such lighting. The easies approach would rely on two lights and a reflector. Main light would go from the right in a big soft-box. Reflector on the left. Second light would give that little highlight on hair from left back. Thou, we can see there is another light from the front, below the camera, probably a kicker to even the shadows or a little light for just the catch light, depending on the chosen setup. There are also a million other ways to lighten that portrait.

The second one is actually easier. There are two scenarios, either the subject is lighted with natural light or he is completely in a shadow so the visible highlights would be created by an artificial source from left, behind and over the subject.

The actual goal of this exercise is not only learning how to recreate the lighting on any chosen movie scene. In my opinion, far more important than lighting patterns are abilities to change the mood according to the scene.

When you imagine the scene you would like to photograph you probably think about the subjects look, clothes, posture, gestures, mimic, eyes, skin… But these are all details! Details are not what attracts our attention in the first place. The two main features are composition and lighting, and they usually work in pair (especially in portraits where the composition can depend on what parts we highlight and which we leave in shadow).

The next time when you are up to creating a portrait, think for a second if the lighting is corresponding with the actual idea of the frame. Is it a happy portrait? Moody? Sad? Horror? Think what colors represent those emotions. If you don’t use color, think about hardness, harshness and texture of light. Think about the spill, maybe reduce the light from certain areas? Take a moment and check those things. When all those elements are creating the mood you are opting for then you are ready to create that strong, self-explanatory image both for yours and ours pleasure!

Next week I will go through Mr. Brooks and the incredible characters created by Kevin Costner and Demi Moore. Have fun watching movies and see you on Monday!

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