|Cinematic Expression - Lighting Style
I was once asked by the student: "Why the Style" ?
One can go through life with or without style. Weather it is considered an "Old Europe" point of view or not, one of the building
blocks of personal culture is preoccupation with tradition and as such - value reflecting on One's Personal Style. Environment
that one is a part off determines initial concept of Style. Some acquire it through intellectual reasoning, others by copying and still
others by pretending. Unfortunately, intelligence does not make One a "person with style"... One's heart, sensibility and general
knowledge do. Attention to established values as perceived and respected. In reference to the Face CU lighting, there are Five
established lighting styles that are determined by Key Light position: Front, butterfly, Loop, Rembrandt and Side.
It makes aesthetic sense to conform to one of them in CU treatment. Being anywhere else with the nose shadow (Key position)
indicates lack of lighting expertise or generally lack of knowledge of established standards of aesthetics throwing shadow of
suspicion about the person's ability to handle more sophisticated lighting situation.
From cinematic point of view there can be two general Lighting Styles that encompass majority of lighting situations:
High Key Lighting Style and Low Key Lighting Style.
High Key - Characteristic feature is low contrast ratio between Ambiance and Key Light. This style can be achieved by both
Broad and Narrow Lighting Setup as long as contrast between Key and ambiance is maintained at low ratio. High Key Lighting
Style lends itself to creation of Daylight Interior situations where the atmosphere is full of ambient light. By its nature (low
contrast) of lesser dynamism as compared to a Low Key Lighting style.
Low Key - In contrary to High Key Style, this style employs high contrast ratio between Key and Ambiance and it is of
crucial importance that it is built on Narrow Lighting setup where the Key Light plays the Narrow (off Cam) plane
of the subject. Style lends itself to creation of night scenes and any kind of Noir situations where degree of drama
is controlled by ratio of contrast between Key and Ambiance.
High Key Lighting Style
Given example is a somewhat rare rendition of High Key style in that it maintains
high contrast ratio between Key and Ambiance, built on the narrow (off camera)
plane of the subject. This approach assures level of dynamism otherwise not very
characteristic of high key situations. Other characteristic feature of the style is Full
and Flat lighting not necessarily of high level of Ambiance.
Low Key Lighting Style
Often referred to as Chiaroscuro. Characteristic feature - High Contrast ratio
between Key and Ambiance. Narrow Lighting Setup. Style utilized in Noir
(Chiaroscuro) situations where sough after qualities are those of drama, suspense
and mystery. Style of Dynamics and Beauty. Very potent in any Mood.
Lighting Ratio is the ratio between Key and Fill (face) expressed by formula LR= (K+F)/F.
Equal amount of footcandles from both Key and Fill, lets say 100Fc - It would seem the LR should be 1:1(?)... Ratio will be 2:1
since LR=(100+100)/100=2/1. What happens is that the the middle part of face (where lights overlap) receives 200Fc. Thus
ratio of 2:1. Contrast Ratio is the straightforward ratio between Key and Ambiance. In reference to CU treatment, there are
definite Portrait Lighting Styles that once applied within certain Lighting Setup (Broad and/or Narrow) contribute to Mood creation.
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Technical and Artistic Aspects of Cinematic Expression