Five Roles Of Light
(Cinematic Lighting Lesson 02)
Summary: Every light you use should fulfill one of five roles: key, fill, backlight, set, effects. If it isn’t, turn it off. In this video Ryan covers what those five roles are, shows how they’re used to create cinematic images, offers tips on placement of each light, and gives you questions to think about when placing a light.
Length: 8:17 minutes
In the last video we covered the three functions that a light has: casting shadow, creating fill, or creating separation. In this video we’re going to cover the five roles that a light can have, whether it is a key light, a fill light, a backlight, a set light, or an effects light. I’ll offer you tips on where to place those lights and how best to use each one.
The dominate source of light for a scene or for the talent is called the key light. Because the key light is the main source of light, there may actually be more than one key light in a scene.
For example, the talent may move from the back of the room and then sit at a couch. In that case, there are actually two key lights.
The first one is when the talent is at the back of the room; at that position the key is the light coming from the lamp. And then as the talent sits at the couch, the key becomes the lamp next to the couch. Or, if you only wanted one key light in the scene, you could turn off the lamp next to the couch, and now the lamp in the back is the key, since it’s dominant light source in the scene.
While the key light can come from any direction and there can be multiple keys in a scene, there are some basic guidelines for where to place your key light. The most flattering place to put your key light is 45 degrees off axis from the camera and 45 degrees above the talent.
By placing the light in this position, the shadows fall toward the camera and it usually creates a triangularly shaped shadow on the talent’s face. And speaking of shadows, another best practice is…
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Camera / Audio
- Sony Alpha a7S Mirrorless Digital Camera
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
- Fotodiox Lens Mount Adapter – Canon EOS (EF / EF-s) to Sony E-Mount
- Bright Tangerine Misfit Matte Box
- Tilta FF-T03 15mm Follow Focus with Hard Stops
- Sachtler Panorama 7+7 Head 100mm (similar head: 1006 DV 10 SB Fluid Head)
- Sachtler Carbon Fiber Tripod (similar tripod: Carbon Fiber HD Tripod Legs)
- MYT Works 4′ Medium slider w/ HiHat
- Hollywood Beefy Baby Stand (8.5′) (two, to raise the MYT Works slider)
- Movcam Cage for Sony A7S
- Sekonic L-758Cine DigitalMaster Light Meter
- Sekonic C-700 SpectroMaster Color Meter
- Wooden Camera A/B Gold-Mount Plate for Sony A7, A7r and A7s
- Audio Technica AT835b Shotgun Microphone (similar microphone: Audio Technica BP4071 Shotgun Microphone)
- Wooden Camera DSLR A-Box
- Delkin Devices 64GB SDXC Memory Card 600x UHS-I
- DSC Labs One Shot Reference Chart (Matte Finish)
Behind the Scenes (BTS) Cameras
- GoPro Hero3 Black (similar camera: GoPro HERO4 Black)
- Sony Alpha SLT-A57
- Filmcity DSLR Camera Cage Shoulder Rig kit (FC-03)
Lighting / Grip Gear
- Fill-Lite 200
- 650 Watt Fresnel Tungsten Light
- LED (900) (Bestlight®)
- #216 White Diffusion (21×24″ Sheet)
- 1/4 CTO Orange Cine Filter (24×198″ Roll)
- 1/2 Color Temperature Orange (CTO) Filter (24×198″ Roll)
- Matthews 24×36″ Solid Black Flag
- Matthews Century C Stand Grip Arm Kit – 10.5′ (3.2m)
- PBL Sandbags x4 bags