3 Lighting Setups for Narrative Filmmaking

3 Lighting Setups for Narrative Filmmaking

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Being able to completely change the lighting in a location is one of the fundamental skills needed in cinematography. Sometimes you need to use lighting to hide part of a location or make it look like a different space altogether. Having a few basic lighting setups to start from will help you better shape the lighting of a location to suit your story. Today, director of photography Dave Cortez teaches us how to create three different looks with one setup, using different light modifiers and color temperature.

In this video, Dave shows us how to create three different narrative looks in one setup. For the first look, he motivates light from the window in frame, creating a cool evening look. For the second look, he adds a soft key light to create a higher key scene. For the third look, he uses warmer light to create a golden hour setting.

The main techniques we will be discussing today are for lighting for your background, motivating light from practicals, and using white balance to adjust your lighting. Lighting for your background is when you expose for the background first, and then light your subject. This way you can have the most control over the light separation between foreground and background. Motivating light from practicals is when you use things like lamps and windows in your scene to determine where light is coming from. Using white balance to adjust your lighting is when you use the settings in the camera to help make a scene feel warmer or colder overall, without having to gel your lights.

Ultimately, as filmmakers we are constantly creating illusions. Lighting is a big way you can make these illusions more believable. Different stories call for different lighting effects, and being able to create a number of different effects in the same location will make you a better storyteller. The best way to do this is to find a location and try lighting it as many different ways as you can. That way you can learn through practice, and it might just inspire your next film.

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