Alain Donio is an extremely talented Director of Photography and I will be having a conversation with him about how he lights a subject.
The basic lighting setup is composed of a key light, fill light and back light. In this configuration, the key light acts to set a mood, a softer fill light will reduce contrast and the backlight is intended to illuminate the edges of the subject separating them from the background. There are innumerable tutorials which elaborate on this standard setup, so we won’t be spending too much time on that during the podcast.
The motivation of a light goes far deeper than key, fill and back light. In lighting for a subject in a film, one first considers the sources of light. If the source of the light is not coming from an honest place, our eye has trouble believing the image. The position of light source can speak to what time of day it is, the temperature of a light can convey emotion and shadow (the absence of light) can convey a deep meaning. Even the shape of light can direct the attention of the viewer.
The position and movement of the subject and camera all play within a lightscape that has either been carefully crafted by the DP or provided by nature. When using natural light, a filmmaker may feel constrained by the light created by the sun, but reflectors and shade can be used to bend the light to our will.
A film lighting setup can be as simple or as complicated as one can imagine. Next weeks podcast promises to be an interesting one as we delve deep into the mind of DP Alain Donio. It’s going to get interesting.