Cinematography Techniques for One-Man Band Filmmakers | Sean Tracy | Skillshare

Cinematography Techniques for One-Man Band Filmmakers

Sean Tracy, Filmmaker

Cinematography Techniques for One-Man Band Filmmakers

Sean Tracy, Filmmaker

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10 Lessons (1h 15m)
    • 1. Class Overview

    • 2. Criteria

    • 3. Police Interrogation

    • 4. Product Demo Lighting

    • 5. Top Light

    • 6. Natural Light

    • 7. Hard and Soft Light

    • 8. Orange and Teal

    • 9. High Key Look

    • 10. Conclusion

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About This Class

In this class I breakdown the lighting for several commercials, music videos, and narrative films I've created for clients over the past year. I'll show you what cameras and lights I used, where I put them to get the look, and why I made those choices.

I work on low budget commercials and videos in the range of $2000 to $20,000 so you'll see me using affordable gear that you have access to. In truth, you can use any camera including your cell phone and shoot cinematic video, if you know how to light.

If you are a beginning or intermediate filmmaker who wants to learn about lighting or a one-man band production team, watch this class to learn some exciting techniques and increase the production value of your videos.

Some of these lessons are a little long. Many approach the 10 minute length but please watch all the way through. I start each lesson with background on the project, then talk about the lights used and their positions and motivations. Then I show before and after and conclude each lesson with an assignment.

Meet Your Teacher

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Sean Tracy



Sean Tracy is a DP and editor from Queens, New York. In 2013, he started MONSTRINTHEDARK, a small production company in upstate NY that specializes in creating immersive video content for new media channels

Sean's third feature film, Black Hat, was purchased by Amazon Studios in 2011 and his NBC pilot, The Lottery, was an official submission at the 2013 NYTVF. Since then, Sean has written and directed commercials with sales to several major brands including Slimfast, Novartis, Choice Hotels, Shark Cleaning, and The Ad Council.

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1. Class Overview: This skillshare class is all about learning how to light. Controlling light, adding light, taking away light. I'm going to break down for you several commercials, music videos and narrative films that I shot in 2017. I'm going to show you what camera I used. I'm going to show you what lights I used and I am going to explain to you exactly how I live to see. But more importantly, I'm going to give you the reasons why I made those choices. It's really important if you want to become a cinematographer. That you're able to walk onto a studio set or to a location and analyze the light that's there, and figure out how you're going to control light by adding it and taking it away. I typically work on projects that are right around $2,000- $20,000 budget range. So nothing really big. You're going to see equipment that you have access to. Cameras that you can access and lighting equipment that's not too expensive that if you have a decent budget, you can also rent or buy to use in your projects. I encourage you to take the class, follow along and please try all the assignments at the end of each lesson that will really help you improve your cinematography skills. 2. Criteria: So before we get into some of these lighting breakdowns, I think the first thing that I should do is talk about how I access a location when I arrive for a show, kind of the criteria that I use. The first thing that I need to know is the mood and tone of the piece that I'm shooting and I'll do that by talking with the director beforehand and establishing what type of lighting we're looking for. We may even use reference skills from other films or other videos that we like. We're on the same page. The second thing that I need to know when I get there is, am I shooting interiors and exteriors? Now if I'm shooting exteriors, the thing that I have to worry about is the position of the sun throughout the day. I really want to try to shoot in the early light in the morning or the nice flattering light towards the end of the day. I want to avoid shooting in the middle of the day because of several reasons. One, exposure is going to be hard because of the hotness and the brightness of the sun on your background and other elements like metal that can pick up those hot highlights will be very hard to control. Of course, in the middle of the day, the shadows are very short and they're very hard in their crisp and that looks unflattering on a person's face. What you're shooting indoors, One of the first things I do is I take a look at my surroundings and I look at what's the light look like naturally? Are their windows? It is light coming through those windows? What are the house lights and what do they look like? What color temperature are they? Are they fluorescent lights, are they tungsten lights? I need to know all those things. Then I can decide, do I want to taint that window and not have that sun come through and completely control it? Or is the quality of light that's coming through that window good and do I want to use it? Do I want to use some of the house lights, some practicals, or do I want to turn them all off and have complete control over what I'm doing. After I've made those general assessments, the next thing I'll start to think about is color temperatures. If I letting light come through a window, am I going to have all my lights be daylight balanced to match that light that's coming through the window? Or am I going to try to put some of that daylight and the shadows and have them be blue and use tungsten on skin tones to have them be warmer. I'll have to make that decision and that's something that I'll talk about with the director and that's something that will establish when we talk about the mood and the tone. Now, after I've made all those assessments and I've decided how I'm going to control the light. If I'm going to let Windows play, if I'm going to have practicals, what color temperature I'm going to use. I start to light. Typically, I like to light in layers. Background will be lit separately from the subject, which will be in the middle ground and then there will be a foreground. I usually like to light with my key light first, I start with my key lighter by subject, and then I start to work my way backwards from there, working for the foreground to the background and sometimes from the background to the foreground. You want to add visual interest to your shots by lighting in layers. The shot that you're looking at right now, me sitting in this chair, there's no visual interest. It's very flat. Just be sitting in a chair with a gray wall behind me. I've lit from the key light here and I've got a back light lighting here just to pull me off the wall a little, but there's not a lot else going on and there's no foreground element, there's no real good background elements. It's very even, it's very flat. So this is the lighting you want to avoid. You'll do that by going to interesting locations and lighting in layers. Hopefully that helps. That's a good criteria to start with, when you're headed out to a location. 3. Police Interrogation: I want you to take a good hard look at these photos. This one's my favorite. You think this is a joke? You did this. One fungus is what did i do? Okay, so you were just watching a couple of seconds of an add that I directed and DP for protocol for Fungi and I am going to break down the lighting and show you how I did it. Here is some background information on the video itself. The budget was about $4000. We shot this on the URSA mini Pro from black magic. We shot with Rokinon Cine and for one shot, I believe I used the Canon 70-200 F2 0.8 and in terms of crew size, we had a five-person crew. I was directing in DP. We had a 1st AC, a gaffer, a grip and a makeup artist. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about interrogation scenes is top light. I knew that I wanted to top light the scene but let me break down for you some of the issues that we had. Number one, we shot this in my basement, the same basement then I'm in right now.The walls were a horrible peach color, so I got some gray paint, a nice shade of gray paint, and I painted the walls gray. That was step one. The second issue is at the ceilings are really low. I can reach up and touch it with my hands. So they're just about eight feet high, which is a problem especially when you want to top light. The third problem is that this is a basement and there's a lot of junk in it. I basically had a corner that I could shoot into, which is the angle that you see in the video, but I couldn't do the reverse, I couldn't bring the camera around behind the table to cover it as in, shooting over her shoulder to him and then shooting over his shoulder to her. It is not possible because behind her you would just see basement stuff, and there's different wood paneling. There's not just all these walls that were gray. In order to pull this off, I had to be very specific about how the actors were going to be blocked and how she would move around and this is the part that I didn't show, but she moves around and joins him on that side of the table so that we never have to look the other way. I brought in an old table and I got some hardware from Home Depot. I think it was just like a bracket for a cabinet and I screwed that in so that he could be handcuffed into the table, so like it is a little bit more realism. In terms of the basement, we are dealing with one window which is camera. But it's a basement window, there's not direct sunlight blasting through. It's actually underneath the lip of a deck so that while there is some direct sunlight and there's not a ton of direct light and it's very soft. So I let that window play in the scene. In terms of lighting here, what we have got, and I'm going to show you an overhead and this photo here, which is unfortunately the only picture that I thought of taking when I was doing the lighting but we have got some window light playing and what I did was I hung some burlap across the window outside so we know what is playing through that window is very minimal, but it's there and it's daylight and then for my top light, I used my favorite top light by ALZO digital drum light, which puts out a really nice even soft spread and it's being boomed off of the arm of a C stand and the C standard is literally just right out of frame behind the actress and that's giving a nice illumination that's coming down over the table. It's giving him his key. It's giving her key. I did run into a problem in terms of that being the key, because as you can see, the skin tones are quite different between the male actor who's got much darker skin tones. He's also got like two layers of makeup on and the actress who's got very fair skin. In order to kind of get her to be able to be in this key light you will notice that when she first enters this frame here and the beginning shot, she is bending down into the shot and that is because if she was standing straight up, we would see the drone lighter or she would be basically right on top of it and we'd be clipping highlights on her because she's got blond hair and she's got very pale skin and what we had to do was obviously have him sitting the whole time. He never gets up and she bends into the shot. She stays there and it works because it seems like she's kind of confronting him across the table. If this was a different scene, it probably wouldn't have worked. To pull him and her out of this gray wall back there, I took a 1K fresnel, a tungsten light, and I used a full CTB on that and basically just blasted that through a cardboard cutout that had a couple of slits in it. There is this nice pattern on the wall that breaks up what's just very boring, in like this interview shot of me right now. There is nothing going on back there. It's just a pretty blank gray wall. To break that up and to make it a little more visually interesting, we have got a little pattern going on back there. I also wanted to highlight a couple of other flourishes. You want to be able to sell the reality to whoever watching that this is actually some kind of a jail cell and this is a real interrogation. The top light is just the beginning of that because that's what people generally associate with it but then I wanted to have some bars on the window to kind of make it look like there's no way out for him and there's no bars, of course, on the window. It is just my basement. I don't even know what these things are, just some kind of metal pipes and I lay them out evenly across the window so that it looks like there's some bars there. It is just a subtle thing that's in the background that you only see in one or two shots, but it's there and then the other thing is I wanted to make this area feel bigger than it was because it's extremely small. We basically just took a C stand, we took a pair of old blinds and we hung those blinds, open them, and then took a piece of old plexiglas and put that in front of the blinds and shot through that for one of the opening shot. I think it opens on the handcuff, just to establish that what is going on there and then we kind of tilt up to see him and then for her [inaudible] , she comes into the shot. We pull back to a wider shot where we are shooting through these blinds to make it look like we are on the outside of the room and we're looking in and that just makes the room feel like it's a little bit bigger. All these kind of like little tricks just help sell the illusion that we are actually in an interrogation room and not just shooting in the corner of an old basement. For this shoot, we decided to go with daylight just because we had the window plane and I bought this ALZO drum light at its only like $300, but it is really nice. It works really well in the top light. I actually use it in a lot of the work that I do. It is better when I don't have to boom it off and on on the C stand or something like that. If I could find a place that I can actually hang it that's even better. But it puts out a lot of nice, really soft light and it's got skirts, so it's fully skirted in the scene, and this is the drum light in its case and this is obviously it's a lot bigger when I take it out and unfold it but just for a comparative, this is the aperture light dome in its case, obviously when this folds out, it is about the size of this and when this folds out, it's way bigger. It gives you a much bigger even spread of light. Just a couple of more notes on what we did here. Obviously, we wanted to have a cinematic look as we could for this piece. Working with a new client wanted to impress them and make them look really good, even though the budget was fairly low. We do have some fog playing in the scene and it's not haze. It is just a fog machine and of course the difference is that the haze will settle and look really even whereas the fog is kind of moving in the curls and it's not even so it's not as professional, but it's what I had available for this. Playing in that 1K that's hitting the wall behind the talent and also coming through, catching the light that's coming through the window is some fog. We were kind of putting their shadow side towards camera as much as we can so that the key is coming from the top, but it is also kind of coming from camera. The front side of the camera as it's coming through from the window. That brings a nice shadow on his face towards the camera, which gives it a more cinematic look. It shapes the face better. It is not as flat and again, the only issue really that we have here, and this made it a little bit harder to grade was one we get into these closeups when she joined someone on his side of the table, as we see. When you see those two skin tones together, the dark skin tones and her pale skin tones in the same shot together. You can see that that's hard to balance and her skin because it is so light is going much higher in terms of [inaudible] than I wanted it to, but because this was a limited budget shoot and this was actually a difficult day because while we were shooting this, we are also getting ready that afternoon to shoot a second commercial for the same client with the same actors, I had to run through everything quickly. I wanted to be able to use just one light setup that kind of worked for the whole thing. The only other additional light that we used for this was a low pro-light with one eighth CTB on it and we brought that in. We might have bounced it in Oregon direct. I don't remember exactly, but that was for the product shots. When we see the product and close up, we're using that just to fill it in and give it a little more shape to the little tiny bottle. Here are some before and after. This is the ungraded image, and here is the graded image. I tend to cut and premier and then I like to round trip into resolve for color. Sometimes I will grade things completely by hand. Other times I will just start a grade by hand and then you use a lot to finish up. In this situation, I'm using a lot and i will put a link to the web pack that I use in the description for this video. Here's your assignment. I want you to shoot an interrogation scene. A lot of times it's great practice not to write out a full script is just to write a scene and to practice with some friends. Write an interrogation scene, find a good spot for it and practice the way you can light interrogation scene, of course, top-light is one of the ways that you'll generally see but maybe you can try a different way or maybe you can try top light with something else. Experiment with an interrogation scene and then leave it in the class notes so we can all check it out. Thanks. 4. Product Demo Lighting: Today's lighting breakdown is going to be really quick. I just showed you a couple of really nice looking product shots we did for a spec commercial for a coffee brand called Melitta. Again, this is a spec and we didn't want to spend money on it because, we're not sure if we're going to make money off of it. We wanted to do it as cheap as possible. In total, the budget for this was about $500, and that really was just location fee for the cabin that we rented, we spent a little bit of money on. Some of the food that's on the set that we dressed, we shot this with the URSA Mini Pro. We're using aputure LED lights, the lightstorm and the lightstorm 1/2 and little tiny aputure although I don't remember what it's called. The other one, we're shooting on broken on primes. Don't remember the focal lengths, but I'm pretty sure there's a 35 in there, a 50 and 85, and there's also the broken on macro 100 millimeter. In the background we also have some Christmas lights strung up. When you're shooting commercial products, it's really important that you make the product the hero. The product has to be lit really well. When you're lighting things, especially things that are glass, it can be very tricky. The product here is not glass. The product is actually what was on top of the coffee pot. It's a pour over. You put coffee in it, and then you pour hot water into it, and it goes into the coffee pot, but we did had to light, and we had to lit a coffee pour. We had to make it look good. We had to light the product which had a weird matte finish. It was also a difficult thing to light. That's one thing to really take into consideration when you're doing actual work or if you're doing a spec, you want to make the product shots look really good. In this situation, we started by finding a really nice location. It's a cabin somewhere in upstate New York. I think it's an Ulster County. I live in a log cabin. This was a really loggy log cabin. Had the whole super log cabin theme going on inside of it. The location helps, and the kitchen had a very nice ion, was spacious, it had good ceiling height, so that all worked for it. We bought some breakfast foods and things like that and I think we did a pretty nice job of dressing the area around which we're going to see the product. It's not good enough just to see the product looking nice, but you want to have it in an environment that feels conducive to that product and that looks like it's dressed nicely. Having little art department or some art money or art direction can go a long way. For these product shots that I'm showing you here, what I wanted to do was have one really nice large source of light coming from camera light. I didn't have my four by with me. Basically what I did was I took a shower curtain and I draped it from the arm of a C stand. Thinking about it, probably was a pretty good approximation of a four by four or maybe a little bit longer than four and maybe it was a four by six. I took my aperture lightstorm, and my lightstorm 1/2, and just filled up the curtain with those two lights, back them up, filled it up, put them to full brightness. I'm fairly positive that that's what we were doing there. In terms of distance where the product is the Melitta pour over is from the actual shower curtain. It's probably about three feet away. That shower curtain is literally just out of frame and the wide shots and it's three feet away in distance. For the pour overs, this worked fairly well. The light is coming in from the side. As it comes in from the side through a very big source, it's going to wrap more. It's wrapping nicely around the product from the front to the back. It's giving me nice soft shadows across everything else that's there on the shot. Then the only thing that we had a change for when we were shooting the coffee pot, we're shooting in slow motion or on a macro lens here, and we want to see these drops of coffee and get them a little logo at the same time. I think what we did was we took the light and instead of coming from the side, it's coming a little bit more as a three-quarter backlight. I'm not the greatest at product photography lighting. I'm trying to get better, but I know that in the past when I've lit glass and bottles and things like that, usually I like to come from behind. I couldn't come directly from behind. I moved everything to three-quarter angle. Then we're also holly-wooding another small light to get the reflection in the pot. What really worked well I think in this situation for these shots is that, in the far distance in the background, we've got these Christmas lights playing. They're probably from the actual product. They're good 15-18 feet away against the wall in the background. They're just blowing out subtly giving that nice bouquet in the background. That just helps make this field a little bit more cinematic. Again, just to reiterate, this is a really simple setup. We're just taking two lights, and we're pushing them through a shower curtain. We're just making a really big source of light. Obviously the bigger the source of light is, the softer the light is going to be. We've got nice soft light, from really large source, wrapping around our product. We've got a nice bouquet in the background from some Christmas lights. We're just letting it roll from there, and doing our thing here some before and afters, of what the grade looked like. I cut and premier, I round trip to DaVinci Resolve for color. That's basically the whole thing. That's a pretty quick simple lighting breakdown for what we did for this commercial. Your assignment should be pretty obvious for this one. I'm going to ask you to do some product lighting. Keep in mind that you want to put your product into an environment that's conducive to that product. It's got to make sense where that product is being shown. Do a little art design, make it look nice, and then try lighting from different angles. Light from the front, light from from three-quarters, light from the side, three-quarter back-light. Watch how the light plays on it. Bringing some negative to one side. Try bunch of different things in different angles, and see what looks best for the product that you're lighting, and then please share it with the rest of the class so we can check it out. Thanks. 5. Top Light: Hey, what's going on? It's Sean. You were just watching some scenes from a music video that I directed and DPed by a Hartford, Connecticut, artist named Sherm Dizzy. That was Capital Murda. Today, I'm going to show you how we shot it, by providing breakdown. It's really easy, it's one line, that's it. The budget for this project is probably around $2500-3000. We shot this on the URSA Mini Pro. We also did shoot some of the performance scenes on the C100 Mark II. But I'm not going to talk about. Maybe I will break down some of that. C100 Mark II, cutting with the URSA Mini Pro, we're using some tungsten lights, were using an ALZO Digital Drum Light, which I've talked about before. It's one of my favorite lights to use. The location was a car wash, Bubbles Car Wash in Hartford, Connecticut. The idea was really just to showcase Sherm and his friends. We had this little showdown scene with some drugs and some money and stuff like that and it's taking place around the table. When I shoot table scenes, I really like to top light. I think it's a much easier way to get uneven light across everybody at the table, especially when it's a roundtable. We have one group of three guys on one side of the table, then wrapping around the other side is Sherm and his crew. I think there was 1,2,3,4; five of them, so eight people at the table altogether. We're in a freezing cold car wash and we got limited amount of time. What I did was took out my trusty ALZO Digital Drum Light, which I bought for like 300 bucks. It uses daylight balanced LED bulbs and we took a photographer's backdrops stand, two stands and then the bar across that you'd hang your roll of paper from, your backdrop paper. We basically took that and we hung the drum light from that and we put that over the table. We put that straight down the middle of the table because we knew we were going to either shoot one way towards these three guys or one way towards the other. But we were never going to have a wide where we had to see the whole table and then in fact, see the stands and see the lights through these video. We don't need to go crazy. When you're looking at these shots that are playing right now, this is all just one big soft drum light. One top light source, really nice, really soft. It's skirted all the way around. If you're not familiar with what that means is so that the light doesn't spill everywhere, you skirt the light. You take duvetyne or some black cloth and you put it around the parts of the top light where you don't want light to spill out of. Well, in this situation, the light is just coming down from the top and it's not going out in the sides and bouncing off different areas. We're already in a really dark, there's no electricity in this place, it's really dark inside. What's nice about it is that the light falls off really fast. Once you're outside of that cone of light, the light's falling off to black, which was really cool, which is what I wanted. Because what's back there is just like a lot of junk, just basically looks like garbage and I didn't have time. It was just me and one other guy doing all the jobs, doing everything, directing DP, graphic grip. We're doing all these things, ac. It's all happening just between two of us, so we don't have time to art direct and try to make things look cool around there. We basically just had a table, a briefcase, a pair of handcuffs, another briefcase that didn't have anything in it, didn't really have drugs or anything, there's nothing in there, we have to fake all of that stuff and a top light. That's all we needed. I sat back at the monitor and directed and blocked out the scene with all these eight people who've never acted before and I had my other guy just to operate camera and get the shots for me. We shot everything in slow motion on the URSA Mini Pro. I think we shot at 60p. We just did good general coverage. We got a three-shot on one side of the table with these three guys they're wide and then we did wide on the other and got the five people coming up to the table. Then we just basically broke up into close-ups for everybody. We didn't play those close-ups all the way through the song or all the way through the scene that we, we're reenacting. We just got the pieces that we needed. Otherwise, we would have been there all day, because it was really, I can't stress how cold it was and how fast we want to get out of there. One of the things that I stress and what I tell it to other people is you've got to light accordingly for the situation and for the budget. With our small budget of just $2500 for everything for pre-production, for production, for post-production, that's not a lot, I couldn't afford to bring in a big crew of people or bring tons of equipment with me, because by the time we got everything set up we'd have to be out of there. I try to do what's necessary for the scene to get the best look that I can with what I'm given. In this case, that was a top light. The other shots with the performance and I'll show a couple of those shots here. This is really simple stuff. We've got this wall that was in this place that we were shooting that's just covered in graffiti, it looked cool. I just backed the talent right up against the wall, took tungsten-balanced 1K for no light, setup to spot, put it up high. It's basically coming straight at him from right next to the camera, just straight at him spotlight and he's performing in it. Then we did some other setup similar to something that I've done in other videos where we just put down two to 1Ks backlight through a lot of smoke and hit him through that. It's simple, it was fast. It was fast enough for the situation. I actually think at the end of the day the video came out pretty good. I'm very happy with some of the shots at the table and the way it looked. They look nice, they look crisp, they look clean. Here's your assignment for this one: I want you to take one of the lights that you have and I want you to use it as a top light. You don't need to use the light that I used. You can take any light and you can use it as a topper. If you want you could modify it by putting something large and soft in front of it so that it has more of a spread. The larger you can make your source, the softer will be. We shoot something with a top light and I think you'll find it interesting like the results you get. The thing that's great about a top light is that it mimics what we're used to as humans in terms of what we see as lighting. When we're outside, we're being top-lit, the sun is coming from above and hitting us. Most of the time when we're indoors, we're also being top-lit. Were being top-lit from lights inside, so we're used to seeing what top light looks like. I think top light is a cool, effective way to light your scenes. Give it a shot, share it with the class, and we'll see how it looks. Thanks. 6. Natural Light: Randy, what are you doing? We have to go. What happened to you? I called you 20 minutes ago and I told you it happened just like I said, it would. Now we need to go is your bug out bag ready? Yeah, I got all the best stuff. Good. This is one that I'm excited about because this is a narrative fiction piece, and I don't get to do a lot of those like I used to, I'm doing mostly commercials and music videos. So this was for a web series pilot that I was a DP on, working with a friend of mine who is a director, and it's called Midnight. It's all about this bag that we see on the table. The bag is Midnight. The bag is the star of the show here. So let me just break this down for you quickly. This was a real low budget thing that we put together just a bunch of actor friends that we knew and a makeup artist, and then me and my director friend. So what we really spent money on was renting some lights from another cinematographer friend of mine, and food. So we're probably talking about $200 most to shoot this scene. I'm not including all the equipment that I already own, of course. We shot this on the Canon C100 Mark II. I shot this before I had purchased the Black Magic awesome mini Pro. So unlike many of the other shoots where I'm using LED lights or some of my older tungsten lights, for this shoot I rented some LEKOs from a cinematographer friend of mine, who had two of them. We do also have some LED lighting in this scene, as well as a practical playing in this scene. In terms of crew, it was just me and a director, and we had a makeup artist onset. So to really start kind of picking apart this one particular shot,we were shooting in a log cabin that I live in and on one side of the log cabin, we've got a whole bunch of windows and a door, and there is only one part of that wall that doesn't have a window and it's the part where there's a pellet stove. So I knew that because I'm shooting in the cabin, I wanted this to have kind of that cabin feel to it. When you typically see log cabins, what do you think? Well, there's a lot of spooky log cabin stuff, but typically, you're feeling like a lot of natural ambient light in a log cabin and also some practicals, which is basically, we took that idea and ran with it. So I wanted to have nice natural light spilling through these windows which are camera left. There are also windows on the other side of the cabin and I didn't want that window light to play. So we tinted up in this shot where you're seeing these two actors side-by-side here and just seeing the bag on the table in the background. The actor sitting on the couch, whose name is Stewart, there's a very large door just off to his left, our camera ray, double window door. We tinted that out so that there is no light coming through there. We really just wanted all of our key to becoming from camera left. Now, what I wanted to do was take these LEKOs, and if you're not familiar with LEKOs, they're theatrical lights, but they really have a nice punch to them. They're good for taking a light, taking a LEKO and putting that light through a window or bouncing it off glass and coming back to the window to make it a little softer. It's very direct, it's very strong, it's very punchy. These LEkOs come in different beam sizes, so I'm not sure what the beams were. I think one was like a 35 degree beam, and that's just like the angle of the beam. Obviously you could have a light that has a large beam like this or a narrow beam, and these narrow are beams have more punch to them. So I think one was a 35, and I'm not sure what the other one was, but the idea was to take them, put them outside, bring them 12-15 feet away from the cabin, and bring them up high and then have them punching in through these windows. But it rained when we were shooting, of course. So I can't put these lights out directly in the rain, so the next best solution was to put them on the front porch of the cabin. But instead of giving me now 12-15 feet, now they're much closer to the window than I originally intended, so they're like 5-6 feet away and they're not quite at the right angle. So the intensity of the light is a little bit more than what I wanted. But because this is a supernatural kind of a thing and there's a horror or zombie element, something like that to it, I think it works. So it's a little bit punchier and stronger coming through. So for this shot, we've got two lights playing through the window. We've got one big light coming through the background where the table is, and it's playing straight through there. Then we've got one light coming through and it's keying both of their [inaudible]. It's backlighting. The girl with the splattered scientists thing on, it's kind of giving her her light, and then she slightly stepped to the side, this is how we blocked it out that she'd just be off to the side so that light can get through and they could hit our actor, and by the time it's reaching him, it's starting to get soft. We really want the bag, Midnight, the black bag on the table to stand out. So what we do for that is I had this overhead practical and I forgot to turn it off at first, and then when I looked at the monitor and I saw it on, I said that actually works. We've got these LEkOs coming through and they've got a one-eighth CTB on them. So we're trying to push a little bit of daylight, but they're still coming through warm. So the practical kind of worked and then right behind the bag, there's an aperture 672. It's hiding right behind the bag. If you look really carefully, you can see it's on and it's just rimming the bag and giving that bag and backlight and making it stand out a little more, it's just making it pop a little more. So when that actor lifts his finger up in the scene and he says, "Yeah", he's talking about the bag. It looks like he's pointing at the bag and the bag is, I'm hoping that your eye is really drawn to that bag, that hero. There's another shot here that opens the piece where this character, Angela walks through the door. The light behind her is just natural ambient light, we didn't do anything special there. She walks in, she's walking into that first light as she passes the table, then she's coming to the part that I talked about where there's no window, there's just a stove. So she's walking through the light then she's walking out of the light. So she comes into shadow for a second, and then she comes back into the light. So it looks very natural that way. This was a fun shoot. Here are some of the before and afters. Usually I grade in, I'm sorry, I cut it from here and then I'll take the work, if there's time, I'll take it into individual resolve and I'll do a color gray there and then bring it back. For this piece, I decided to use FilmConvert. So those are some of the before and afters for this piece. This was a fun shoot, getting to get away from the tedium of always shooting commercials and stuff like that, even music videos they're fun, but I'm still working for a client at the end of the day. It's nice to be able to break out of that and do something that I want to do for myself at some point and if you're kind of stuck in that same place where you're doing a lot of client and corporate work and stuff like that, then it's good to get some friends together and to shoot something that you want to shoot. So your assignment for this one is to shoot something that has a natural lighting look. So use only a mixture of natural light, whether it's actual natural sunlight or if you want to make artificially looking natural light by taking a large light like a LEkO or an HMI through a window and then also use a practical in your scene. Shoot something that has that kind of a natural look to it and see how it comes out, share it with the class and we will talk about it. Thanks for watching. 7. Hard and Soft Light: That was a snippet of New York City rapper, Timothy Dark's video, Unpatriotic. I directed this, and I was also the director of photography, and you probably noticed from a couple of the shots that we kind of have like a real gritty look. That's added by location, and then we also have a lot of, it's not haze a lot of fog going on and some kind of real raw looking imagery. I'm going to break down the lighting for this in a couple of seconds here for you. Just some background information in general, I work on projects that are in between two and $20,000. When it comes to music videos, though, I'm not dealing with artists that have that much money. I don't actually know what the final budget for this was, I mean, we did have to rent the location that we were at. Tim had quite a few actors in it that he paid. He also rented a van and kind of bust everybody to the location, and then in terms of crew, this was a pretty small crew size. It was just me directing and DP'ing, and I had a gaffer and a grip, there was also a makeup artist on set, there was an AD as well. But the AD, was also a runner, so he was running to the store to get different things. Fairly small crew, fairly long day, this was a full day shoot on the URSA Mini Pro. The shots that you're seeing there are on the URSA Mini Pro. We did also use the C100 Mark II and I'll probably show you a couple of those shots as well. I'm cutting URSA Mini Pro footage with C100 Mark II footage in this music video. There's quite a bit of fog used in this video, I think we had two fog machines going. If you're not familiar with the difference between haze and fog, I'll probably talk about that later. We're using both tungsten and LED lights for this particular project, and I believe I shot most of this on my Rokinon Primes. I'm not going to break down every single setup in the music video, I kind of just want to focus on a couple of the ones that I really like. The first one is, when it comes to this music videos, this was a political music video, it's an anti-Donald Trump music video. I think that the location is really key to kind of selling what we're doing here. This is actually a sequel to a music video that we shot the previous summer called The Future. I won't go into too much detail because you can certainly go on my page or Tim's page and watch the full videos yourself. We were really kind of looking for a warehouse location or a factory location so that it looks like these prisoners are being brought there and they're being indoctrinated into this Donald Trump program. They're being brainwashed. The location number one is key, it's a really cool, I don't know even know what, to be honest, what it was. But it was like a warehouse, there's a lot of stuff there, had good height for the ceilings, it had wood floors and the walls were white, but it was very dark, we didn't have to deal with a lot of tint. We just had to tint one window basically and we were good. In terms of that, that was great, he had a cool prop which was this chair that was built as brainwashing chair, we have the scientist. We grabbed a ladder and we put this American flag draped in the back. That was all we did for addressing the set basically. I love like these big archways that we're shooting towards and I wanted the kind of like a flood of lights coming through some haze or some fog in this situation. We've got two tungsten for now 1K lights behind in the back of the shot, one on the left, one on the right and they're kind of both aiming towards the back of that chair where we see people kind of getting thrown into the chair and being brainwashed. We use this setup for performances, we use it for the story line. This was really working in terms of having those lights and then filling the area where those lights were with a lot of fog. Again, if you're not familiar with the difference between haze and fog, the haze machine is a lot more expensive. Haze settles nicely, so it just sits there. Fog does not do a good job of just sitting and settling, it swirls a lot. Instead of having, if you look in the background, you'll just kind of see these big swirls of fog and smoke. But it's fine, it works as a music video, it's low budget. We also needed to have, this is a very back-lit scene right now, so all we're doing is kind of using two big 1K lights for backlight. We also kind of needed to bring in some light, two front light, but we wanted to give it some shape. All the light is coming from camera, and so basically in a lot of situations, a lot of what I do is I try to, after we block out a scene, I just want to have one lighting setup that can work for me, especially for a music video. If it's a narrative film, it's different. I might, obviously we're going to light the wide and then we're going to have to go in and we light for close-ups and things like that. For the music video where we've got to shoot everything for a four minute song and then we've also got to shoot this opening cinematic sequence before the music even starts. That's a lot, it's five minutes worth of content that we've got to pack into a day. We've got the location for eight hours. We've got to move fast, so I can't be changing, lighting set-ups, and relighting for close ups and things like that I've got to move as fast as I can. I tried to block out a scene and then build one lighting setup that's going to work for me throughout the day. For the master going towards the brainwashing chair and then for the reverse, we've just got one lighting setup. Basically on camera right, for this scene, we've just got a bank of LED and tungsten lights, all tungsten balanced. We've got like a big LOL Rifa EX88 soft box. We've got two aperture lights, delight storm, the four and the lights on the half, and they've got CTS on it's, called a straw. Then I think we've got another not sure what the fourth light was. If I think about it, maybe it'll come to me. It might just be another aperture light, one of the smaller lights and also bounded to tungsten. Basically, we just built a big wall of tungsten side lighting basically. For this shot where we're looking towards the arches with the backlight, the people sitting in the chair, they're getting a little bit of that front. It's basically a side light coming in from camera and it's giving a little shape and they've got shadow on the other side. Then for the reverse, these scenes which we shot in slow motion with all the prisoners and their guards on the floor, they're all getting their light from camera on the left and that's basically the wall of tungsten that we created. It's fairly soft, but there is a white wall and the other side of the room, so we're getting a little bounced off there and it's coming back a little bit and filling in some of the shadows. That's basically the whole setup for this thing. Here's a quick shot of what we shot on the DJI Ronin, with the Canon C100 Mark II. It was kind of like the perfect time of day where, I liked where the angle of the sun was, back-lighting him as we walked down this alley and we've got the guards, some of the guards we positioned them in different places, hanging out. Like this was a really cool location, it was altogether we got the interiors with the outerious. We got roof shots for this singing shots, we got it all for one price so it really worked out well and it's a very cool. This shot, if you're a pixel people, then you can probably tell the difference between the URSA Mini footage that was taken inside and the C100 Mark II that's being shot for the singer on the roof and for Tim's alleyway shot in the outside. But if you're not, I don't know if you can notice the fact that we're cutting those two cameras and we're kind of obviously, we're using a weaker codec with a Canon camera and a much higher, better codec , better camera, better resolution on the URSA Mini Pro. But altogether I think it kind of came together nicely and I like, in these shots the mixture of kind of the hard light coming from behind and a softer light as a key from the side. Here's some of the before and after shots. I like to cut, in premier and then I like to round trip to Davinci Resolve. For color at the time, I think I was working in Davinci Resolve 12. Here, what's a logical assignment here? I'm not going to ask you to go out and make a music video, but I want you to think about kind of the impact of fog and hard lights. We're using hard lights in the background, those tungsten lights are hard lights, and then we've got soft lights as the key. I want you to go out and I want you to shoot a scene where you kind of combine hard light and soft light together, share it with the class and let's see what you came up. 8. Orange and Teal: What's your name? I said. What's your name? Sean Tracy, but people call me monsters in the dark. Not so scary now. What do you do? I'm a freelancing photographer from New York. I make commercials and small business videos and occasional music video, narrative film. Okay, you were just watching part of a video that I made as a submission. This sounds weird. As a submission to be a member of an organization called Zuber Pro, which allows me to bid on bigger projects with bigger clients and they asked me to make a video and to answer a couple of questions and tell a joke. Instead of just doing this being boring, sitting in front of a camera and answering the questions, I decided to make it a little lively, make it something that they wanted to watch, so I created this scene where I'm tied up and kind of being interrogated. There's someone beating me up and asking me these questions and I'm answering them just to make it more interesting than just this back and forth this way. What we've got going on here is four lights and I'm going to break down for you kind of how we did this. I wanted this spot to this voyeuristic feel, and it switches back and forth between this camera that's handheld and moving around left and right behind things behind these columns that are in the area where we're shooting and it also switches to the camera that looks like the camera that the interrogator is using to film me being tortured or whatever. It's cutting back and forth between those. The main camera that we're using, the camera that's hand-held is the Canon C100 Mark II and it is being operated by my wife and she's got an easy way gone so that she could easily move around with it and it's not too heavy. It's also got an Atomos Ninja Blade on there, just so I can get some prowess out of that camera. Rather than the ape at 420, weaker internal codec that it has. Then the camera that's just locked down on a tripod that we've intentionally made look bad is the Panasonic GH4. We've got four lights in play in this scene. We've got an aperture light, storm an aperture light storm half, and an aperture 672. We've also got a low pro light. The ceilings were low. I knew that I was the focus of the piece, sitting in the chair so it's not important to turn the camera around and see the guy who was interrogating me and beating me up. All we need to do is kind of see him in the frame, whether it's from, knees up and I don't think we ever really see his face fully maybe for a second, there's an angle where we kind of do see it but he's not the focus, he's not the important one. So I set this up knowing that I could really only shoot in one direction, the direction towards this peach wall. I dressed the set to just have a little bit of visual interest. So I moved in like an old palette or two into the scene, some boxes and they're actually some of my 1K Fonull lights just sitting there on top of those boxes. Then there's me in the chair with some rope and the camera itself, the camera that's on the tripod, we see it in the shot. It's also has its own light too. This is one of the rare times that on the day that I was filming, I actually remembered to take out my phone or a camera and shoot the lighting breakdown. All right, so here's our light setup for our submission for Zuber. We've got an aperture light storm, almost three-quarter angle back there and that's going through a double or is that a single? I don't remember just to diffuse it a little, and that's also gels with some CTP. So we've got a little bit of a cooler background playing there across the side. We've got another aperture. One-half light storm that's just bouncing off the floor and giving some kind of more fill in that area over there, and then on this side, we've got another aperture light. It's going through a single net and that's got some CTS on it so that the temperature is a little warm here on the side of the face. Then we've got the Hazor here and it's not plugged in so I can't show you any of the haze. We had a boom mic hanging and we also have the talent miced and then you'll get to see what the final product looks like in the next video. Okay, so as you can see in that video, hopefully you heard it. You were able to see it. There are three lights going on. There's a very small aperture 672. It's going through a single net and it's my key light that's hitting the right side of my face, so it's coming from camera left when you look at this screenshot, that's giving me key, and then all the way on camera right side of the frame, out of the frame are two lights. There is the light storm full. That's the one that has the barn doors and that light is my fill light. It's a back-light. It's coming almost from a three-quarter angle. It's not quite a side light it's just a little bit behind me. It is also lighting a little bit of the background and that light is intentionally, it's daylight balanced. I wanted to be able to put more blue in the shadows with that light and then the light that's giving my key has its tungsten balanced so it's giving me warmth in my face. The other light is a light storm half, and I could have pointed it up at the ceiling. The ceiling is white so it would have bounced more light off the ceiling because of ceilings white. It would have bounced more light down but I think when I tried that, that was a little bit too much light, too much level and I didn't like the way it flattened to a lot of the things out so I chose to shoot that light down at the cement floor and it's just giving a little bit of level, a little bit of fill, a little bit of ambiance at that area and it's helping also give a little bit of an edge light to the guy who's beating me up as he kind of walks in and out of that light. The light that I didn't talk about in that breakdown is below pro light, which is camera light and it is coming across and it's hitting the Panasonic GH4, which is sitting on the tripod and as the camera moves, my wife has got the easier rate and the Canon on and she's moving back and forth behind these columns that are in the basement and she's playing with the focus and trying to keep focus as she moves. It gives it an organic voyeuristic feel to it. You're also seeing that Panasonic GH4 and it couldn't be completely a darkness where it was, it was so we had to give it light. So that's what the pro lights doing. The pro light is coming from about eight feet away. The pro lite is a small, older light made by low tungsten balanced light. It's got barn doors, so the barn doors are really close. I have some black wrap around them so that it's just a really narrow beam of light that's just hitting the side of that camera so that you can see that it's there and pick it out. From there, you know we're just letting the scene play out. I knew that I was going to be cutting back and forth between these two cameras. We did a whole bunch of takes as she moved around, nothing was really choreographed in terms of her move. I just wanted to have that natural voyeuristic feel you're in there and you're peeking around and see what's going on. Here are some of the before and after. This is a pretty heavy-handed grade here. I really wanted to accentuate the shadows with the blue tones and go for that Hollywood look by really putting some of the orange into my skin tones and really making it pop. So it's a bit different from the earlier interrogation, see, we looked at for fog away where we said, when we see in an interrogation, what do we think? We think top light. This was a different type of interrogation scene. I wanted it to have a different feel and it's pretty bright, it's got good level, but I wanted it to have that Hollywood look. So we went with the teal and orange tones for the grade and if you're wondering in terms of submission, yes, I was accepted as a super pro member, whatever that means. Now I get to bid on these bigger jobs, none of which I ever win. All right, I hope you enjoyed this class. For this one, your assignment is going to be, I'm not going to ask you to shoot another interrogation scene because I've already done that but just to bring up the idea of the Hollywood look or the Hollywood look that was popular a couple of years ago where every Hollywood film had teal in the shadows and orange and the skin tones. It's a pretty popular look in photography as well. Those are good complimentary colors and it's pretty easy to pull off because your lights are either daylight balanced or their tones and balanced and a lot of times it's pretty easy to take one or the other, the other way by using a gel, by using a color to blue or I like to use CTS , which is color to straw but you can change the color of your light by using gels and they come in different strengths. What I'm asking you to do for your assignment now is to shoot a small scene and go for the Hollywood look, go for blue in the shadows and go for orange and the skin tone. You're going to want to try to light your talent with tungsten, or you're going to want to put some day light into the shadows. You can take it into Premier or Da Vinci, which is free and you can really kind of accentuate those colors and pull them up in the grade. Share it with the class, and we'll talk about it. Thanks for watching. 9. High Key Look: Moving is stressful. Researching who to hire, staying organized, scheduling the move, it's practically a full time job. Instead of doing all this yourself, just sign up for Moved and get a free personal assistant who will coordinate your entire move. Yes, Frank. What can I do for you? Not that kind of assistant. This kind, a real person dedicated to managing the details of your move while you're busy going about your day. What's going on? Sean, and you were just watching a bit of a commercial that I made for a company called Moved, a New York City startup. I'm going to do a little bit of a lighting breakdown and show you the first couple of shots, I think, the first three setups in this scene. The Moved budget was about $10,000, but that was for two commercials. This is actually one of two spots that I made for them. I guess, if you break it down roughly each of the spots was about $5,000. We are working in an Airbnb apartment in Brooklyn, so some of that money had to go to location. We're working with a pretty big crew here. I'm directing. I'm also the DP. I have a gaffer, I have a grip, I have an AC, I have PA, and we've got a makeup artist, and have a wardrobe stylist onset, as well as the clients, and a whole bunch of actors. So we had a lot going on, pretty large crew. We shot with the Ursa Mini Pro and Rokinon Primes. I can't remember everything that we use, but I know that we've got some daylight bounce lights. We probably got some Tungsten in there too. I'll try to break this down as best as I can for you. If you've watched a couple of these lighting breakdowns that I've been doing, then you've probably seen me talk about this top light before, the Alzo Digital Drum Light. I've left a link to in the description for this. But I really like this light. It only costs 300 bucks. It's big, it's soft. You can boom it from the arm of the C-stand or you could clamp it on to something overhead if there's something there. It's pretty versatile in terms of how nice and soft it is, and where you can place it. It's really inexpensive, $300. It uses these LED bulbs, and I'm sure you could probably buy Tungsten-balanced ones, but I've got the daylight-balanced ones. I used this on a lot of projects. I try to bring it with me wherever I go. I've used it in a couple of music videos and a couple of other commercials that I've done breakdowns for. In this situation, I think that the biggest problem was we've got a nice location in terms of size and space, but what's not nice about the location is that it's really white, everything is white in this place, and that makes it tricky. That makes it tricky because there's a lot of white reflective surfaces, and that could become tricky as you place lights. You're getting light bouncing all over the place and bouncing off. In any surface that's white, you're going to get light bouncing off that and then bouncing back and then hitting. That can get crazy and that can get complicated. What I think in the future, I'd probably be doing with something like this is blacking the ceilings, things like blacking the floor to help control some of that spill. But the client wanted a pretty high-key look and I really wanted to use my drum light. Basically, in this first set up here, we've got our actor. He's got his shirt that was created specifically by the wardrobe stylist so that we can have a second pair of arms in there. So we've got us four arms because he's just doing so much because he's trying to play in this move by himself. We've got the Alzo Digital Top Light off a C-stand, and then we've got a 1K Tungsten for now at the bottom of the stairs. In shooting up the stairs, to give a little bit of an accent to the wall that's there behind him, I think, there might be another light in play here as a backlight for him. I don't remember. If I look more carefully at the scene, maybe I can let you know. But basically, the top light is doing all the work here. It's lighting him. It's a nice soft light. It's completely skirted all the way around and it's giving some nice light to the table and stuff like that. Then, the same thing in this kitchen scene, I used the top light. I just love using this top light. There's a lot more going on though in the scene. So maybe this isn't going to be the most comprehensive breakdown because I don't remember what I did. Maybe it's got to be more about ideas of how to work with clients when they're onset and make them happy. The first thing really is to know what they're looking for in terms of high-key lighting or low-key lighting, and doing some mood board and storyboards for them, and making sure that you're on the same page because one of the worst things that you can have happen is you arrive on set with your plan in your mind as the DP or the director of what you want to do, and then, as you start to do it, you get it set up, and then the client looks at it and they're like, "What's this? What's going on? This is what we're doing? This is not what I pictured." You want to unify your vision and the client's vision. So in this situation, I wrote this concept for the clients to introduce their product. This is the video that's on the homepage of their website, their landing page. Everyone who goes to sees this video. This video is there to help explain to people what is. So the idea I pitched had to be pretty solid and they had to like it, and it had to be not something too far-fetched, because I like to do things that are a little bit far-fetched, but not too far-fetched, that it would be cool for people to watch it and humorous, and they'd understand what the product was, and they wouldn't be put off by the gimmick of the character having the four arms. So there had to be a lot of communication back and forth with the client so that they knew what we were doing. We were definitely looking for something high-key. There's no product here to show. This is a service that we're selling. In fact, the spokesperson becomes the product. He's the face of the product now, so he's got to look good. He's got to be well-lit. Everything's got to look clean. This company, the image is clean. Everything is clean, a clean, simple look. So that was what we're going for here. We want it to be clean and simple. When you're lighting interiors, you've got to think about, obviously, where your practical light source is, are there practicals in the scene, where are your windows? You can use any of that natural light. In this situation, I don't think there were any windows in this place. It was a weird condo and this was the basement of the condo. So there was a room in the back that had some windows, but where we are, there's no windows, so we've got no natural light to worry about. So we struggle all the practicals. The first thing that goes up is this top light to light the subject. Then, we kind of just like lit around that. There's definitely some lights, I think, lower on the floor to give some accent behind him, to light the cabinets and things behind him. There's definitely a light off to the left to give an accent to the cabinets there. I wish I remember a little bit more, but basically, we just wanted to have a lot of light that was clean, and even, and filled in the shadows, and didn't give us too many problems with reflecting off all of these different surfaces. Then, this last shot in the sequence that I'm going to show you is the guy who works at Moved, the Moved CEO, and this is his shot. What I went ahead and did was use the top light again for him. Basically, it all comes down to how much time you have, maybe, onset and what you're dealing with, how much you have to get shot. Using the top light for everything was just the easiest on this particular day. So we just moved the top light in of a C-stand above him. I think, he might have an aperture light as a backlight at the same time, and just let it roll with the Ursa Mini Pro. In this situation for this commercial, there are no lots,. This is just all graded by hand. I guess, you say by hand, it's hand-graded. There's no lots basically is what I'm saying. So this is the final look that we got out of this. What's most important, I guess, is that the client was happy with it. They were happy and they used it and they're still using it. When you can make your client happy and work within their budget, then that's all you can do. That's a job well done. 10. Conclusion: Well, it's been a long, bumpy ride, hasn't it? Hopefully you've enjoyed this Skillshare class, you've enjoyed watching these videos. Hopefully, you learned something. I showed a bunch of different techniques that I use for lighting and as you can see, you don't need to have ARRI SkyPanels and huge HMIs and all these expensive things to make something look good. You just need to kind of really think about how you want to light something, think about what you've got access to and then go for it. I'm not saying that I'm the greatest cinematographer, I certainly am not. I've got a ton to learn and you do too. I'm just trying to share a little bit of my knowledge as I work my way up to more and more expensive productions, my commercial work, every year we're adding like another zero onto some of our biggest budgets. Maybe not another zero, maybe another. Anyway, they're getting bigger, they're getting better, I'm getting to use more professional tools. But I still like to just use things that I have access to, my aperture lights, my tungsten lights. If I go to a studio shoot and they've got some old tungsten there, that's fine, you can do this, it's all the same thing. It's all about the technique. It's all about making light soft and controlling that light by adding light and then figuring out how to take away some of that light. I hope you enjoyed the class, if you did, please leave a positive review so that other people who are interested in cinematography can find the class and can also take it and learn some new things. I know that there's a ton of different assignments to do and it's probably a possible to ask someone to do all of them, but hopefully you chose at least one or two to do, to practice for yourself. If you really want to become good at lighting, you've got to practice lighting, you've got to practice lighting every day. It's the same as any other skill that you're trying to learn, you've got to do it as much as possible. Another great thing for you to do is to watch a lot of films and watch a lot of Weldon TV and study the lighting or go to websites like and look at stills from movies and think about the lighting and try to emulate those and practice that way. I hope you took something away from this class, I really appreciate you watching all the way to the end. I'm Sean for Master of the Dark. Thanks again.