The Three Functions of Light
(Cinematic Lighting Lesson 01)
Summary: Ryan covers the three functions that light plays in the creation of your images: separation, shadow, and fill.
Length: 4:02 minutes
Without light, all we are doing is creating a radio program.
Talented filmmakers use light to do more than just create an exposure. They use it to really craft their story and shape how they want their audience to feel. It’s about creating mood and tone, and about telling your audience what they should see and what they shouldn’t see. Every light that you use should be doing one of three things: it should be creating separation, it should be casting a shadow, or it should be adding fill.
Despite the on again and off again hype of 3-D films over the years, film and video is a two dimensional medium. We work with a flat image. In order to make our images come to life and engage our viewers in the world in front of them we need to create the illusion of depth.
We create depth in our images by creating separation in our image. One of the ways we create separation is through the placement of foreground, mid-ground, and background elements in our scene. But an even more powerful tool we have at our disposal is lighting.
We create separation in lighting by placing light against dark, or dark against light. This combination automatically creates separation between different layers in an image and we can do this on as many planes or layers as we want.
For example, we can have a dark silhouette against a bright slash on a wall, which would be two plains.
Or in the classic interview setup, when we place a rim light on someone with dark hair, or a dark background, we are creating three planes of separation: the dark hair, the bright edge light, and the dark background.
As you light, think about…
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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)
- Canon EOS 60D DSLR Camera w/ Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS Lens
Lighting / Grip Gear
- Fill-Lite 200
- 575W HMI Fresnel Light w/ Electronic Ballast (Queenshiny®)
- LED (900) (Bestlight®)
- Cucoloris – 24 x 36″ – Wood
- 24×36″ – Black Double Net
- 1/8 Color Temperature Orange (CTO) Filter (24×198″ Roll)
- 1/2 Color Temperature Orange (CTO) Filter (24×198″ Roll)
- Foam Core Bounce (White)
- Floppy – 48×48″ (1.2×1.2m)
- Matthews Century C Stand Grip Arm Kit – 10.5′ (3.2m)
- PBL Sandbags x4 bags