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MEETING REVIEW: SoCal Pros March 2018


Veteran Producer-Director, John W. Coleman, presented his demonstration of "5 Important Lighting Concepts for Professional johncoleman thumbFilmmakers and Video Creators" to the SoCal Media Pros March gathering at the Digital Media Center in Santa Ana.

Coleman, who has taught a lighting class at local colleges for over a decade, pointed out that the concepts were all well accepted by top DPs and Cinematographers, even if they were such second nature they rarely needed to be mentioned. To demonstrate he used small tungsten lights from a classic Lowell kit along with some new portable, low-lumen LEDs. SoCal President, Larry Stimson, captured the very simple presentation on video.

 With nothing more than a grey backdrop to hide a reflective white-board in the classroom-turned-demonstration area, Coleman started with a revealing comparison between the ambient available light (a combination of ceiling flourescents and recessed can down-spots) and what adding a single small, directable fixture can deliver.

light LED PanelThe image of the volunteer subject was much improved with the ability to provide a small key light (reducing eye shadow, adding some highlighting and the ability to change mood with different angles), making Coleman's first point, AMBIENT LIGHT IS RARELY ENOUGH.

His second concept was to LIGHT FOR THE CAMERA and not for the eye, which as he explained means you need to know your camera reasonably well. Even the newer very sensitive cameras do not have the dynamic range of the human eye/brain. He then displayed with the very simple lighting tools available in the limited space how TODAY"S LIGHTING IS MOST OFTEN TO CREATE MOOD rather than to establish illumination for basic exposure. He also talked about High Key and Low Key, dramatic looks—from sit-coms to film noir and how the difference was less about the Key light and more about the contrast to the fill light.

light FresnelColeman honed in on his main message as he used the simple key light to demonstrate the importance of shadow or negative light on the face of the subject. MODELING SEPARATES THE PROS FROM THE AMATEURS. The consensus of the audience—most of whom were videographers and DPs—was that 90 to 95% of the people they shoot (either interviews or dramatic narrative situations) did not look or talk directly into the camera. Thus to achieve modeling on the subject's faces the key light was not close to the camera but was essentially in line with the direction the subject was facing. Then for the first time addressing the issue of fill light, Coleman demonstrated a version of Cross-Key Lighting to make his final concept come alive; KEYING TALENT FROM THE OFF-CAMERA SIDE REVEALS FACIAL MODELING TO THE CAMERA.

Coleman added a bonus with an explanation of how this concept is applied by Master Lighting Director and DP, George Spiro Dibie, ASC. The award winning Dibie, who is retired from a distinguished career which included classic TV Series such as Barney Miller calls his method the X-Box. As Coleman described how Dibie taught it to him, when plotting the lights you draw an imaginary box around two or more talent facing each other and draw and imaginary X across the box from corner to corner.

Ingred Bergman and Michael Checkhov in HItchcocks Spellbound 1945 Samall2In the two corners away from the camera (the other side of the imaginary 180 degree line), Dibie would place his Key lights in the efficient cross-key technique. In the two corners on the camera side of his X-Box, Dibie would place two fill lights—also in a cross-key manner— to adjust the amount of modeling (contrast ratio to the Key) up or down in the desired contrast to the Key light.

While Coleman's presentation was strictly a live demonstration and did not use any graphics or illustrations, he did send us this screen capture from one of his favorite films to show the traditional use of cross-key lighting to create modeling on the characters faces. The slide shows Ingred Bergman with character actor, Michel Checkhov, in a scene from Hitchcock's classic 1945 film, SPELLBOUND.

The video of John Coleman's talk, shot by Larry Stimson, has been posted on the SOCal Media Pros YouTube channel You can see it at

It has also been posted on RoundTable.Media under VIDEOS> Educational/Tutorial

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