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Old November 25th, 2005, 02:22 AM   #1
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Where/How did you learn lighting

I suppose this question is aimed at those who are competent to professional lighters/ cinematographers. Im 18, and very interested in movie production. I want to gain skills in lighting and ultimately cinematography. However, lighting seems like such a complex and expensive skill to learn. I mean, I could go and buy some amazing lighting kit, but I wouldnt know how to use it. And even if I did, all I could do is shoot with my gs400. To get a proper camera would cost thousands more. On the other hand Im presently using the cheapest light setup which moeny can buy (work lights etc). Results seem ok, but I can only go so far with this.

So I feel Im sort of a bit stuck, and somewhat daunted, at the moment regarding lighting. And apart from the equipment itself, Im also at odds to know how Ill ever gain sufficient skills using it - Im going to uni to do film, but classes are only a few hours a week; how can I learn decent lighting skills in that time?!

So basically what Im wondering is; how did all you ppl who "know your stuff" when it comes to lighting, start out, and how did you build up your skills to gain a high level of competence?

Thanks very much

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Old November 25th, 2005, 04:45 AM   #2
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One gains high level skills in any profession by two routes. Often they can and SHOULD be pursued simultaneously.

1) Educational setting (University or trade school)
2) Professional setting (Apprentice and internships to start)

Your classes at school will teach you the basics. You will also be 'required' to crew in film school. Having deadlines for class projects and papers is a TINY bit like the real world... where missing a deadline has consequences. This is the advantage of school and business over simply 'fooling around on your own'.
Schools will often have equipment for use that you can't afford to buy. You will get a chance to check it out, take it home and use it.

If you can intern on a working set, you'll gain more knowledge in a day than a week of class work. IF you get on a working set (I'm talking pro here) then keep your eyes open, LISTEN to everything that's going on. Don't be afraid to ask questions, but don't interrupt someone who is working to ask.

Depending on where you are located, local rental houses will often rent gear to film students. It will cost money, but less than buying the gear.

Read books... and keep 'fooling around on your own.'
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Old November 25th, 2005, 10:31 AM   #3
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As a leaning resource, I'd really recommend reading the cinematography.com boards. You'll learn tons just lurking around for a month there.

More importantly is that practical experience, so get some friends and make some films. Find someone to direct, and allow yourself to focus on lighting and camera control.

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Old November 27th, 2005, 08:41 AM   #4
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once you learn all the technical stuff through a book or at school with lights handy... then its all practice from there. lighting is an art, just like any other aspect of movie making... you have to develop your own style. the professional lighting handbook is good for technical information and to carry around on set (bulb types, wattages, mostly electrical information and what not, but has other stuff as well). i hear writing with light or something like that is a good book as well. hands on is the only way you're going to learn this stuff, even if its just work lights from home depot and some foam board for reflectors and what not... its still lighting.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 05:54 PM   #5
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As an occasional PA on "real" sets, I can recommend this as a good way to learn. Probably better on a video shoot (as oppposed to film), where you see the output on a production monitor (if the crew allows you near it), which is essentially how it'll look when recorded (minus any color correction/effects applied to the footage), whereas with film, you can see the video tap, I guess, but it's not really representative of the "real thing" when all is said and done, what with film's super duper lattitude and all. Anyway, a minor point.

The fascinating thing is to see all these lights, bounce boards, flags, and all this other crap all over the place, and then look to the monitor and see how it makes the image look.

Try to figure out what each light is doing, it's purpose. Depending on what you're doing as a PA, you may or may not have much free time on your hands on a set. If you do, and you're so inclined. Make diagrams of the lighting setups on a little notepad or something. Maybe try to recreate them later and see if your results look the same.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 07:18 PM   #6
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Agreed. I learned all of the basics and some of the intricacies of lighting from my PA days, by keeping my eyes open and asking questions (when appropriate!) of the camera dept., the gaffer etc.
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Old December 10th, 2005, 09:24 PM   #7
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more on lighting

I'm new as you are, but maybe this will help anyway.. I started with a book called "Lighting: Science and Magic" by Fil Hunter and Paul Fuqua, and I've found it to be really helpful. i'm not that great at lighting scenes, yet, but at least I am starting to understand the basics of reflection and how to control light on my subject.

Austin, Tx
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Old December 11th, 2005, 06:46 AM   #8
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Believe it or not, I learned mostly from using a 3D program doing modeling. Then I adjusted a bit for real life. Not quite Pro Hollywood, but better than nothing.
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Old December 26th, 2005, 10:49 AM   #9
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In my lighting seminars I always teach that lighting is no different than picking up a brush and oil paint and creating a painting. School can teach you the mechanics of the art, and real world experience can show you the subtleties of the art, but the ability at the art must be inherently in you. Not every one can light just as not everyone can paint. And while you can learn to paint, the final result is about how your brain thinks and your ability to translate a picture in your mind properly to canvas just as lighting is about translating a picture in your head to film or video.

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Old December 26th, 2005, 08:38 PM   #10
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Hi Josef,

Here is a link to training dvd which I found was very good.



I am just a customer of EliteVideo and bought a lot of training dvd from them in the past.

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Old December 26th, 2005, 11:41 PM   #11
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I learned a lot of valuable fundamentals from a series of instructional books written by Dean Collins.

Collins passed away this February but he published a wealth of material on how to deal with a wide range of subjects: from models, to wristwatches and cars.

While he specialized in lighting for still photography, the basics apply to any type of visual arts.
Dean Sensui
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Old January 1st, 2006, 10:14 AM   #12
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I am not an expert at lighting. Iím just learning like yourself but I did buy three training DVDís that helped a lot. They are (in the order I got them):

Light It Right Ė VASST
The Head Shot Ė Walter Graff
Digital Lighting Magic Ė Elite Video

I work for VASST so I didnít pay for that one ;-) but if you need a general overview of lighting with specifics on interview lighting, product lighting, board room lighting, podium speaker lighting, greenscreen lighting, etc. this is an outstanding DVD for the money. Vic Milt has eons of experience to draw on and he gives a lot of insight into why he uses each light and places his lights where he does. Walterís DVD is excellent too if all you need is to learn interview lighting (which is what I primarily do). You get to watch him work, which for me is the real value. Watching a master at work is the only way to learn the howís and whyís not just the whatís. Finally, Elite Videoís DVD kind of fills in the rest. They take a very particle approach and show you how to get great lighting with a minimal investment in lights. They take you behind the scenes of the set so you can see how the lights are set up and then view the final shot. Lots of value for the money there.

Iím sure there are other good lighting DVDís around but I found all of these to be excellent. Each one added a little more to my knowledge but as Walter points out, you will not learn anything until you try it for yourself. You may THINK you got it, but then you try it and it doesnít look quite right and you pull out the DVD and watch it again and see things you didnít see the first time (because you were focused on a general understanding and not particulars the first time you watched it). So having training DVDís that you can go back to and watch again are an invaluable way of increasing your knowledge on a topic. Watch it, try it, watching again, try it again, repeat!

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Old January 3rd, 2006, 07:02 PM   #13
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hey John, what is meant by Nano Lighting? the one dvd comes with plans to build a Nano light kit.
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 07:41 PM   #14
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Nano lights are Vicís invention and they are about $75 to make. There is a complete assembly tutorial on the DVD and they give the equivalent of a 600w softbox. He uses them throughout the video so you can see them in action. Quite impressive. Vic actually uses two stacks of them to light a greenscreen for chroma key and the light is very consistent across the screen.

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Old January 3rd, 2006, 08:01 PM   #15
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The other nano light is a bunch of dimmable fluorescents inside a chinese lantern. Because fluorescents run cool, you can put a bunch of them inside the lantern (which you can't do with incandescents).
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