Lighting In The Future

Developing my skills in lighting have made me realise this is what I am ultimately passionate about, nothing to do with how it translates on camera, how you can manipulate it in post production, but the physical choice of light, colour, and design. I love the blend of the technical attributes of lighting with the creative stylisation decisions. Ultimately I want to find a role where I can blend these two approaches to lighting, ideally this is where being a Lighting Designer/Director can become a career focus.

It’s funny how I started off doing live event lighting 8 years ago during my secondary school and education, and despite having explored the world of media production I have found myself going back to where I started. Only this time I now have a whole range of skills to make me a better practitioner than ever. In terms of being a lighting designer I automatically limit myself to studio productions of live events, as the role does not exist outside of these mediums without including additional elements that don’t interest me (i.e. Cinematographer).

I feel I have a strong set of projects that can add to my portfolio and help point me in the director of this career path. Despite coming from a filmmaking background I feel I have built up a variety of skills that compliment the career choice. Now I know exactly where I want to be going with this craft specialism it will become my sole focus, with every other skills purely acting as a compliment to it. This entire pre-production period has been a huge benefit to me as a practitioner and I feel more determined in my mind to go get the career I am truly passionate about, whether it takes me to television, concerts, theatrical performance, or live events.

Lighting Design Software

Up until this point I have been using ‘Hollywood Shot Designer’ to draw up any lighting plans. This is primarily a blocking diagram tool so it becomes difficult when you want to do anything in-depth, nevertheless I appreciate its simplicity for drawing up quick and basic plans. With my focus shifting towards live event lighting I felt it would be appropriate to start learning the software as I approach the production period, especially in relation to my live event projects. I went to the Lighting Designers facebook group I actively participate within for recommendations:

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Vectorworks

This is CAD/BIM (Computer-aided design/Building information modelling) software, used for 3D modelling and drawing. It does embody elements of lighting design, but I feel the primary use of this software doesn’t suit my needs. A student edition is available upon proof of education.

LXFree

This is a simpler lighting design application, used for light plots and paper designs. It references databases of a variety of lights so you can put precise information in terms of position, intensity, dynamic changes, etc. It is a completely free tool to use, and looking from screenshots it seems relatively simple, a more appropriate alternative to ‘Hollywood Shot Designer’. I have gone ahead and downloaded this application and will start playing around with it so I can draw up relevant lighting designs using professional software as we near the production period.

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Capture Argo

Capture is the most advanced and relevant of all the recommended software options. It supports a variety of DMX protocols that can connect directly to a variety of lighting consoles supporting CITP (i.e. ADB, Avolites, Strand). However I won’t be able to use it to this extent, but the physical design and execution from the examples is something I strive to learn. Along with lighting design it can introduce video, moving scenery, amongst other elements to further enhance the impact of the design. I have gone ahead and downloaded the student edition to get me started, despite its limitations. Unlike the full edition it has a limited library, a maximum of 2 DMX universes, and limited modes; however the student edition will act as a strong starting point as I explore the suitability and feasibility of the application.

Lighting Kit List

I feel like I have an idea as to the type of kit that I should acquire and carry around when working as a lighting designer or gaffer on film sets or in studios. Having worked as a lighting designer/technician previous I have already started to build myself a small kit, but I feel this year is a perfect opportunity to finalise what I need. I currently own a pair of lighting gloves, multitool, battery tester, variety of tools (i.e. screwdrivers, spanners, etc), sample of lighting gels, pocketbook. Searching around I have come up with the following additions to the kit:

  • Pouch/Belt
  • C-Wrench
  • Multitool (Owned)
  • Screwdriver (Owned)
  • Knife (Included in multitool)
  • Circuit Tester (Own battery variety)
  • Pegs For Scrims/Gels
  • Viewing Glass
  • Gaffer Or Paper Tape
  • Light Meter

This is a good starting point, I think the key is to keep everything compact and portable, but not so much so that they are no longer suitable for heavy use. This website was useful in particular in constructed this equipment list, plus it has loads of additional information about the role of a gaffer – http://howtofilmschool.com/working-as-a-gaffer/

Craft Pitching – Lighting Designer

JWakley Crafts

I am really pleased with how my craft skill went to industry professionals, I think I managed to embody my entire process over the past 8 years of where I started as a Media Ambassador at Nailsea School/North Somerset Council, right up to the projects I’m currently working on and where I want to take my skills next.

Reflecting upon the lighting design element I feel this is where I want to go in the future. I was generally clouded with my judgement of how to pitch myself, as my study into colour isn’t a particular job role. The idea of working as lighting on film sets splits into two types of role:

First is the Cinematographer. I love the creative elements of lighting design and really want to create the perfect composition through its application. The cinematographer would best fit this intent, but it requires in-depth knowledge of camera. I am really confident using cameras but pursuing this as a career doesn’t interest me, I purely want to focus on creative lighting. This role is the closest on a film set to lighting design, but it continues into camera work unfortunately.

The second is Gaffer. This focuses on the technical application of lighting but removes any creative decisions as they are done by the Cinematographer. This hands on work with lighting appeals to me more than the role of Cinematographer, but once again it doesn’t full embody what I want in the future as it removes creativity.

Chatting with Terry Flaxton and John Podpadec I have come to the firm decision that film isn’t the career path for me to continue to pursue my craft. I think it’s safe to say a path in studio television work or live events is where I can work my way to becoming a Lighting Designer. Being on a course where the focus is on film makes it slightly more difficult, but I feel my current portfolio of projects (studio productions, gaffer on films) helps to shift my studies readying for the career.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is one of the most widely used personality instruments in the world. The 70 questions help to define your personality type, obviously it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The test is based upon the books of Dr.David Keirsey – Please Understand Me, and Please Understand Me II. By taking this test I can better understand the type of person I am, understanding my strengths and trying to improve upon my weaknesses. This is relevant for any role I undertake in the media sector, and worth identifying as I continue to work towards a variety of UWE projects and start locating professional work following graduation. I have come across a variety of personality tests, and this is one that is constantly recommended and referred to.

My combination score was ESFJ – “Provider”. The full explanation of the score: http://www.keirsey.com/4temps/provider.asp

Providers hold the following traits:

  • Insure welfare of those in their care
  • Sociable
  • Friendly social service is a key to their nature
  • Give time and energy to make sure the needs of others are met
  • Highly cooperative and maintaining teamwork
  • Attention to detail
  • Organisers
  • Love to entertain
  • Become restless when isolated from people
  • Friendships matter a great deal
  • Extremely sensitive to the feelings of others
  • Self-conscious
  • Loving and affectionate, needing it in return
  • Crushed by personal criticism

Having noted the traits of Providers I can see how I match this personality type to the majority of its definition. I definitely see myself as an organiser and perfectionist, this is why I feel I am well suited for a Producer role along with my ability to work as part of a team. This carries across to my specialism in lighting and grading as I am forever chasing the ideal aesthetically perfect image.

I am a person who is driven by emotion, no matter how much logic I apply to a situation I will still be considerate of others feelings and expect the same in return. I know to survive in this industry I will need to grow thicker skin, otherwise I’ll find myself obsessing over the most minor details. I think this is the main point to highlight once productions have gotten into full swing, I need to work logically and focus on the job at hand, if something isn’t working I need to be straighter with colleagues and avoid being over cautious.

Gaffer Role

When it comes to working on a film set or location work the idea of ‘Lighting Designer’ tends not to be an official role, more of a blending of the role of a cinematographer and of a gaffer. I am already well aware of what a cinematographer does, technically and creatively, and how they fit into a film crew. However gaffer is more of a general term I have used to define someone who works on lighting purely technically to execute the requirements of the cinematographer.

The Oxford Dictionary has used the term ‘Gaffer’ to describe the chief electrician in films since 1936. Another term a gaffer can be credited with is CLT (Chief Lighting Technician). On a film set the job encompasses managing light under the director of a Director of Photography – the understanding I was already working under. This role removes any creative control as they implement the design presented and discussed with the DP (or Lighting Director in Television).

Creative Skillset defines the following traits for this role:

  • Deep knowledge of lighting
  • Able to interpret lighting plans
  • Strong team-working skills
  • Knowledge of electrical theory and practice
  • Adaptable and resourceful
  • Work long and irregular hour
  • Physically demanding tasks
  • Good colour vision
  • Knowledge of relevant Health and Safety legislation

The Creative Skillset website is a great source for locating additional information about a variety of roles across television, filmmaking, and the entertainment industry:
http://creativeskillset.org/job_roles_and_stories/job_roles/296_gaffer_tv

My only concern with this role is the electrical qualifications that are recommended to help out. I feel confident when it comes to lighting with a lot of experience as a technician, but doubt whether I have the inner working knowledge for advanced technical terminology and techniques. It is definitely a good starting point to get my foot in the door, but ultimately I crave the creative control over lighting that comes from a role of Cinematographer or Lighting Director.

Johannes Itten

He who wants to become a master of colour must see, feel, and experience each individual colour in its many endless combinations with all other colours. Colours must have a mystical capacity for spiritual expression, without being tied to objects.

Throughout my investigation in light and colour I have come across a vast amount of theories, ideas, and individuals who provoke you to rethink colour. One I had to mention in particular was Swiss painter Johannes Itten. He was one of the first people to define and identify strategies for successfully combining colours. The contrasts:

Saturation – Juxtaposition of light and dark values and their relative saturation.
Light And Dark – Juxtaposition of light and dark values.
Extension – Formed by assigning proportional field sizes in relation to the visual weight of a colour.
Complements – Juxtaposition of perceptual opposites.
Simultaneous Contrast – Boundaries between colours perceptually vibrate.
Hue – Juxtaposition of different hues, greater distance results in greater contrast.
Hue (Primaries) – Juxtaposition of primary hues.
Warm And Cool – Juxtaposition of hues considered warm or cool.

Itten explores the idea of colour balance head on, and goes beyond the standard ideology of western civilisation as to the emotions each colour can suggest. He questions the difference in societies and how they view colours – i.e. China wear white for mourning to signify the departure to heaven, whereas England wear black for loss of life.

JohannesItten

Itten’s notes on colour on colour meaning was something that I haven’t really come across before. Usually when you talk about colour meaning you think about particular hues, but Itten goes further by questioning what happens when you start to layer colours and the resultant association. This builds upon his existing ideas as to the emotional capacity of the colours:

Yellow – Most light-giving of all hues
Yellow On Orange – Strong morning sun
Yellow On Green – Radiant effect, outshining the green
Yellow On Violet – Extreme strength of character, hard and inexorable
Yellow On Red – Loud joyful noise

Red – Very sensitive where it shifts into yellowish or bluish
Red On Orange – Smouldering, dark and lifeless, as if parched
Red On Green – Impudent, rash intruder, loud and common
Red On Cold Red – Subdued glow, driving the red to active resistance

Blue – Always passive
Blue On Yellow – Devoid of radiance
Blue On Lilac – Appears withdrawn, inane and impotent
Blue On Dark Brown – Strong vibrant tremor

These are just a few examples of his approach to light and colour, identifying the result of mixing colours and how its meaning and interpretation can vary across societies. This is why he stood out in particular amongst all the various colour and light theorists, going beyond what the ‘hollywood civilisation’ wants and forces to be the law of the land across the media landscape.

Colour Temperature

Colour temperature is a measurement that relates to the colour light wash of an image. The visible light spectrum runs from blue to red hues and the temperature measured in Kelvin follows this with cooler colours typically measuring over 5000K, and warmer temperatures are located on the opposite end of the scale under 3000K. The following table gives a sense of how the temperature relates to the overall feel of an image:

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When plotted on a CIE colour space model you can see how the points represent the chromaticities of the colours of light emitted by uncoloured incandescent lamps. Temperature adapts a measurement system in Kelvin rather than plots on the CIE model, this becomes an advantage of measuring the intensity and colour of the image through this method.

PlanckianLocus

 

The entire process of colour temperature is important as a stylistic tool as it changes the entire feel to a piece of media. It is something commonly dealt with when grading a picture as colder temperatures are generally less inviting and darker when compared to warmer and redder imagery. There isn’t much more involved with colour temperature other than the basic understanding that it is a measurement for uncoloured lamps and the intensity of the light. By throwing the temperature it will throw the hues throughout the entire image, ultimately it determines your reference as to what is white, and how every colour responds in relation to what has been defined as this.

Spectral And Nonspectral Hues

This realisation that I often think about always blows my mind, I am studying something that isn’t a physical thing (using the term loosely). The idea of colour is something that is a scientific measurement, it is a wavelength that bounces off an object at a particular frequency to provide the sensation of colour. The fact it is a measurement means it is purely subjective and everyone has their own unique experience. Visible radiation

Indeed, rays properly expressed, are not coloured. There is nothing else in them but a certain power or disposition which so conditions them that they produce in us the sensation of this or that colour. – Sir Isaac Newton, Optiks, 1704

As humans we can only see approximately 380nm – 780nm worth of electromagnetic waves; what we define as ‘the visible light spectrum’. This scientific measurement is how we define light and colour, so a wavelength at 470nm would be considered blue, whilst a wavelength at 600nm would be considered orange. This even comes down to tiniest changes in the wave as a light at 468nm (greenish blue) would appear more greenish than a wave at 483nm.

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When you take this approach towards light you begin to encompass how we define it as a CIE colour space model, and how something such as ACES fits into this as it caters for wavelengths beyond the visible light spectrum. Our perception of all of this depends on the sensitivity of our cones to short, medium, and long waves in the band of the wavelength spectrum. Any given colour is decoded by these cones mixing our primaries to form a depiction of the wavelength.

The other way of looking at the visible light spectrum goes beyond scientific measurement and focuses on the emotional impact of witnesses these wavelengths. The sensation of light and colour is something to be felt, it changes your perspective on the world around you as you gain associations as to what colour means (i.e. red on a road sign means danger). It is important emotionally to our lives, the creative viewpoint of colour is never-ending whilst science has managed to define what light actually is.

Yellow can express happiness, and then again, pain. There is flame red, blood red and rose red. There is silver blue, sky blue and thunder blue. Every colour harbours its own soul, delighting or disgusting or stimulating me. – Emil Nolde, 1942

At the end of the day the concept of light and the way each subject perceives it comes down to the eye of the beholder. This is why I feel the use of light and colour has no set rules because everyone views it different and nobody can truly share the same experience. We can define what a colour is in a numerical form, but I may see that as a slightly different tint than the next person. Despite being presented the same image, each person responds different and takes away their own unique experience.

Philip Bloom

Philip Bloom is a British filmmaker who has always been an inspiration, his films always amaze me and his contributions to fellow aspiring filmmakers are always informative, useful and strive to help others succeed. He is particularly known for working with DSLRs, combined with a portfolio of short films and documentaries, Philip Bloom is someone who independent filmmakers strive to be.

I consider Bloom to be a pioneer of new cinematographers; ones who embrace low budget filmmaking and use it to its fullest potential. With 20 years experience beginning as a travelling cameraman for Sky he openly shares his knowledge and passion for independent filmmaking through social media, blogs, and his website (www.philipbloom.net). He is a great fan or taking a DSLR onto the street and capturing the world that surrounds him, I love this attitude and approach to filmmaking. It is not always the case of having to create a narrative and shoot for a reason; sometimes it is nice to simply focus on capturing a beautiful shot. Now that he blogs his obsession online it has led to exclusive access to new equipment for testing, creating a cycling of generating new content simply to demonstrate the abilities of the latest cameras, lenses and rigs.

One of Philip Bloom’s most popular freelance films can be categorized as ‘the people series’. These films consist of Bloom testing a type of camera by filming the residents of a city, simply focusing on capturing beautiful cinematic sequences that tie together with the use of an instrumental track. The series consists of Sofia and San Francisco shot on a Canon 5DmkII, in addition to Dublin and Venice Beach both shot on a Canon 7D. These films paint a brief portrait of the city and its inhabitants, allowing the viewer to feel like they belong. It could be argued these are nothing more than holiday style videos put together to a soundtrack, but to me there is a cinematic beauty and intention behind every shot. The shallow depth of field continually featured creates beautiful portraits of a variety of subjects; no matter who they are Philip Bloom turns them into visual beauty. It is refreshing to see films where the focus is purely on the cinematic and technical attributes. Creating successful films is as much about the technical as it is about the creative.

Despite focusing as a lighting designer I can appreciate Philip Bloom as a cinematographer. He doesn’t shoot with intention other than to produce visually stunning images. The idea of purely focusing on creating that aesthetic beauty is something that appeals to me greatly. I appreciate his continuous intention to film the world around him, and through doing this continuing to build upon his existing skill set. He has become an icon for DSLR filmmaking due to his obsession to leave the door with a camera in hand and capture everything around him.