since you first opened your eyes. Trust what your eyes tell you. My job
is to dissect and define all those things you already know and present
them to you in a way that will allow you to manipulate them like old,
familiar hand tools.
Lighting, Both Beautiful and Accurate
Pleasing lighting is not mutually exclusive from accurate lighting.
This may seem to be an obvious statement, but you would be sur
prised how many artists throw lights into a scene to highlight an item
when there is no lighting source to justify the illumination. Technical
accuracy is one of the keys to good-looking lighting. If you really need to
highlight something and there are no light sources to justify it, there are
other steps you can take to achieve a good look. Altering the background
to create contrast is one such solution, although it’s not always possible.
Find a way to add a light source to justify the light you need. If nothing
else works, at least try to make the offending effect subtle enough to
pass notice. You might even get away with making alterations to the
subject or its textures.
Creativity is not just about building, painting, and lighting. It is also
about finding creative solutions to problems just like this. They pop up
every day and part of your job is to fix them. And speaking of finding
solutions to problems, the final chapter in this book, Chapter 27, is called
Anatomy of a Production Lighting Rig,” where I spend some time
describing the problems and requirements that led to the creation of a
special feature film lighting rig. There were a number of unique prob
lems, and this rig solved most of them, while maintaining flexibility,
accuracy, and beauty of light.
In your career as a lighting artist, you will probably encounter situa
tions where you are ordered to highlight something and denied
permission to make any alterations that would justify that highlight. This
does happen, especially when the budget is tight, time is short, and/or
the director or VFX supervisor may be inexperienced. This is where the
VFX supervisor has a job trying to coordinate between director, gaffer,
and CG department to try to make the final composition seamless and
real. You should try to argue your point, but sometimes they don’t want
to hear it. Just smile, nod, do the work, and don’t put it on your reel.
Sometimes you just have to walk away.
Introduction ········································
Note: Some filmmakers are euphemistically referred to as
guerilla filmmakers.” This evokes a mental image of hurried,
hit-and-miss operations that spawn marginal results. If you are
very lucky, you will never end up trying to light shots for these
guerilla” filmmakers whose favorite expression at the end of a
long day seems to be “They’ll fix it in post.” That means it is up to
you and the rest of the VFX team to fix whatever mistakes they
can’t be bothered to fix themselves. I have seen some pretty
incredible expectations come from set regarding post fixes:
A chair is accidentally left in frame for a shot. Instead of
reshooting, the crew wraps for the day and requires a composi
tor to paint out the chair.
A scene is in the can. Later the production team decides it
doesn’t like the round neckline on a dress. A compositor is
ordered to make it square.
Green-screen shots come back with completely improper light
ing angles for the CG environment that is to be added by the
VFX team. Green light spills all over the talent. Many hours of
rotoscoping are required; lighting must be altered to accommo-
date the plate.
All these are due to lack of planning and laziness. Unfortunately it
adds a massive workload to the VFX department, which would like
to be spending its time making the shots world class but instead
spends time cleaning up other people’s messes and do not then
have enough time to properly finish its own shots.
Don’t despair. There are also many filmmakers who plan care
fully and who care about the results.
If you are lucky, the shots are carefully planned, the CG department is
included in the planning process, and the shots come back as expected.
What is more likely is that one or all of these events will not occur. This
is where your creativity is really going to come into play — where you
will really need to know your lighting to pull off a miracle.
You will discover that there are many ways to skin a cat. Regardless
of whether the shots you receive are manna from heaven or guerilla
crap, you will find that stunning results can be achieved with the slight
est planning.

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