Cinematography: Intro to Studio Lighting | Matt Workman | Skillshare

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Cinematography: Intro to Studio Lighting

teacher avatar Matt Workman, Cinematographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The Project


    • 3.

      Seamless Paper 101


    • 4.

      Blocking Talent And Camera


    • 5.

      Lighting The Seamless


    • 6.

      Lighting The Talent


    • 7.

      Wrap Party!


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About This Class


Learn how professional cinematographer Matt Workman creates dynamic studio lighting on a simple seamless paper background.  Matt has shot music videos for Justin Bieber, 50 Cent, Diddy and commercials for Google, Facebook, BMW, and L’Oreal.  In this course Matt covers the concepts and techniques required to create professional / dynamic lighting.  This course is perfect for the beginner to intermediate Cinematographer or videographer that is comfortable with a camera and wants to learn more about studio lighting.

Meet Your Teacher

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Matt Workman



Matt Workman is a Technical DP / Cinematographer based in New York City. He specializes in previs, motion control, and virtual production. Matt is able to work seamlessly with the agency, production company, and visual effects company by using 3D previs as a common visual language.

Matt is the founder and editor of Cinematography Database (, a company and blog that focuses on modern cinematography.

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1. Introduction: Hey, guys. My name is Matt Workmen, and I'm a professional cinematographer or director of photography based out of New York City and Boston. I'm shot music videos for artists like 50 Cent, Didi, Justin Bieber and I've shot commercials for clients like Facebook, Google, What else? BMW, Subaru. I've shot a lot of commercials. I love commercial. It's kind of my thing. I got my start around the time the Panasonic Devi X 100 a came out. It was the first chamber that allowed you to shoot 24 p, and I was into it and I bought it and I started shooting music videos for artists and Boston. A time I was a director. A DP Oath editor ended the visual effects, and I kind of recruited my friends to help me. And then, since then I have moved on to being ah solely a director of photography because I found my focus is really, um, I really like concentrating on the camera work and the lighting and the skills. Of course, we're gonna be talking about something very important to DPS and videographers, and that's studio lighting. Specifically, we're gonna be looking at in exploring how you like a seamless paper background. If you don't know, it seems people of background is. It's basically a big roll of paper that your rolled out. That's a really nice color. This is something that you're gonna be seeing a lot as a commercial cinematographer or as a high end corporate shooter. Seen this paper is really, really great because it's really flexible really cheap, and you can set it up anywhere. You can basically turn a conference room, a gym, your house, anything into a professional studio. If you know how delighted throughout the course there gonna be using my own style of three D diagrams and three animation called previous to help illustrate the camera work and the lighting. By the end of the course, you're gonna have a great handle on the concepts and the techniques of how to accomplish dynamic studio lighting. Using a seamless paper background that I hope that you were able to use in your work 2. The Project: So the project for this course is to create your own dynamic studio portrait. If you have access to a real camera and real lights, you're gonna have a really good time because we're gonna have some really good diagrams that you can follow. And again, you're gonna have the concepts and techniques that we discussed about to guide you through the process. Go ahead and upload Ah, the final J peg or the final still from your set up and also step back to get your iPhone and take a nice behind the scenes photos and share that with us. It's really cool to see the final aiding and the behind the scenes lighting together. I think that's really helpful. Way for all. The stolen is a great refer you to learn and just kind of record what you've done for the future for the more D I Y version. If you don't have a real camera, don't have realized just take out your iPhone, grab your friend and stand them in front of a wall and then grab any light that you can grab. A late like that spotlight would look really great in the background and just follow the same techniques. And just try Teoh trying to them in your own way. You're gonna get pretty cool results post those two. I think those are justice. Informative especial. If you did a great job, you know, I think, Ah, there's more and more projects that are being shot with iPhones, like tangerine that look amazing. You know, go ahead and see if you can do a better job than the guys with the rial cameras with your phone. That's a real challenge. 3. Seamless Paper 101: so the first step in this process is to go ahead and pick your seamless paper background. Now, for those of you that aren't familiar with Siemens paper, it's basically like a big role of wrapping paper or toilet paper. You're gonna have a knitter, cardboard core, you know, tube thing. And then you have this paper that's basically wrapped around it, and you're going to get, you know, Mr Different sizes. There's one that's 107 and just why that's really big. And there's one that's 53 inches wide. It's a little bit smaller. They're gonna come into lots of different colors, and you basically can't screw that up. They've been manufactured toe to have colors that look great on camera. All of them look really good. I've used, I think, probably probably every color at this point. Maybe, although I've used a lot of the colors, they all look really good. You're not going to screw that up, so just pick a color. You like darker colors, kind of work better if you're looking to make greedy INTs, but we'll get into that later. Um, so go ahead to something like being each photo dot com Goto adirama. Basically, any professional photo store should have these seaman's papers at least the smaller ones go ahead and buy a one. They should be pretty cheap. I think that, like 22 $50 for the small ones, it's a good investment if you're gonna shoot with them later to kind of test them out. And, of course, to test out the leading that we're gonna be doing in this course. So once you have your paper background, if you have the big 107 inch one, you're probably gonna need to use some legitimate grip or photo equipment. Now, the way that we set up ours in our three D illustration is by using to see stands with global arms and you're gonna want to put the arms that red angles like this, and they're gonna slide the arms, the go, Boeheim's into the paper, roll from both sides, and you're gonna raise it up and you're gonna roll the paper out and create a nice little psych. Now, if you don't have equipment and you're gonna do this more, dear whywe, just go ahead and take your smaller role. Take the 53 inch roll roll out a couple of feet. Cut it off. Take this paper. You've got this. You know this baby Just put it on a wall, basically. Just just tape it from the top. The sides of the bottom just get it is flat as you can, and you're gonna use that as your back. And I think most people should be able to do that in your living room in your garage are somewhere you know. So to recap, you're gonna either choose the 107 in troll or you're gonna choose the 53 inch roll. You're gonna get a nice, dark, saturated color That's gonna be best for this demo. If you're really into, like, some sort of, like, later color, go and do that that works fine. Or if you want to use white, um, then use whatever equipment you have. If you're a real set, you see standards, backdrop stands and just put those seamless up, psych it out and again. If you have the smaller role and you don't have access to equipment, just cut off a piece and take it to a wall. And now you've got your back out to start shooting 4. Blocking Talent And Camera: So now that you have your background up, let's talk about the blocking and that's the position of the talent and the position of the camera. Now, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Use your intuition to set it up. But what we're gonna do in this class and for this demo, our for a three D demo. Anyway, we're gonna look to put a lot of distance between our background and our subject and is an important reason we're gonna do that. And that is so that we can light our talent separately from the background. Basically, when you light the background, you need to have a lot of control over it. You need to have, um, precise placement of the light you want have control of the late that's hitting it. And you don't want the light on the talent hitting the background. For that reason, we're gonna take our background and we're gonna put about 5 to 10 feet of distance between our talents and the background, and that's gonna keep the light separate. So next let's talk about the place into the camera and the type of lens we're gonna use. So because we put so much distance between the town in our background, we're gonna need to use a longer lens on longer lenses helped compressed space. So if you're in a wide lens like a 25 and eight teams of like that and you have 10 feet between the town in the background, you're going to tell that in the lens you're gonna be able to tell that it's really far away and honestly not gonna be able to keep your talent within the background, you know? But I only have so much with if you're on a wide lens, you're not going to see, um, they're gonna come off the back on very quickly. But if you're on a longer land something like a 50 1 35 200 Even if you're gonna do a shot like this, you can actually get your talent to fit on a very small background. So we're gonna try to use longer focal lengths. And so look at this diagram. When you're looking at a wide lens, you can see that it's very difficult to keep the talent on it. But as we zoom in and you see less of course, you're able to keep your telling better on the background now for our D I Y solution. If you don't have a real camera with interchangeable lenses, go ahead and use your iPhone. I think most iPhones at this point can do this. If you go into video camera mode in your tap, the camera and your scroll to the radio, you pinch or something like that you can zoom in, and that's effectively changing the focal length of substance longer and you get the same effect. The quality is gonna be a lot worse, but you're gonna be ableto see a smaller window, and you're gonna able to keep their talents within the background, and that's the whole goal. 5. Lighting The Seamless: Okay, so we have our background, we have our talent and we have our camera place. We've got a nice frame. Everything is working. So how do we light the background? And that's one of the core of this course, and we're gonna go over three different concepts in three different techniques of lighting that background to get different results. The first style of lighting is just flat lighting. So you want to have the background be one solid color, very even. And that's a great way to start any psych it project any seamless paper? Um, it's gonna be a very clean look and a lot of the times. That's what clients wants, and you're not gonna want to deviate from that at all. So the best way to do that is to take two lights, and they could be almost any latest. Soft light works a little bit better because you can blend the sources together a little bit better, but you're gonna want to take one light on one side of the seamless, and then the other light on the same the same distance as the other light, and you're gonna want to pan in both lights so that their patterns on the back on kind of blend together into one bush, one big, soft Bush. And you're gonna get this nice, flat, even exposure. And that's that's really trade forward. I probably don't even have to explain that to most people, but I think it's good to look at that. That's how you're gonna get that flat even lighting next. We're gonna look at how you create a linear Grady. And a grading is basically something that goes from dark to light and linear means. I think it means line or straight. At least that's how I think about it. So linear greedy is a greedy that goes like this. This had being light, this I being dark and kind of fades in between. And the way that you do that, you're gonna use, um, just one of your lights. So if you turn off one of the background lights, which on this one off this light now is gonna be very bright on this part of the second is gonna get darker, and it's gonna create this Grady int. So look at that effect. That's pretty cool. I don't use that one too much. The one that I really like as far as winning ingredients is agreed that goes from light to dark from bottom to top. And you can see that in this three D diagram and what this type of lighting kind of evokes is a sunset or a sunrise. So if you picture your horizon and you picture that the sun is below the horizon, you don't see the hot spot from the sun. All you see the light from the sun lighting the sky and the sky is gonna be very bright here and then get darker. And that's kind of what we're doing on the psych. And that looks really great, especially you pick of really bright, saturated color That looks really cool. And it looks really good on white to, um, has a nice effect. I definitely recommend trying that one out first. If you've already done their flat lighting and you're setting this up at home, you're sitting up in the studio. Check out that linear green in from the bottom to the top. So our last style of lighting is called a circular radiant, and it's a little bit different than the linear agreement that's again is a straight line, a circular, Grady, and starts in the center. This is where the hot spot of the latest, and then as you get a go far from it like this. As you get distance from the center, it gets a doctor, so you're also can think about it as a vignette. So the way you create a circular, great aunt is you have to get a light that's focus herbal and that you can spot in So you don't want to use the Kino Flo celebs like we've been using our demo. You want to use something more like a friend? L something like a source for leeco. Anything where you could make a nice little circle of ah controlled light for your D i Y. People again that lights perfect. Um, it's just a regular old bulb in a metal casing. But that metal casing makes it so that the pattern comes out in a circle. It's not just a big bush and has a nice little pattern. You're gonna take that pattern and you're gonna put the hot spot directly behind the talent , like right here, like you can't see it. It's right there. That's where you're gonna put it. That's where you're gonna aim to put the light on. What that's gonna do is gonna put a hot spot buying the town the treatments out. So let's take a look at that in the three d demo. This is the full lighting set up off the background, and if you look at the camera, the talents not live, but you can see the different effect that's happening on the background. This is my favorite of the, you know, seamless paper backgrounds, and it's one that I've done many times. Um, and even though you use the same concept when you're letting it, you can basically vary the softness of the circle, the size, the ratio of dark delight. You can change the color on it, and you can get so many different effects by just using the same concept and technique over and over again. And this is the concept and technique that I want you guys to do in your project, that this is the one I think looks the coolest and the one you can really play around with and give your own style and flavor, too. So let's recap the three different ways of light in the background is the flat lighting two lights from the side. You get a nice, clean, even exposure the next of the linear radiant. And my favorite, of course, is the bottom to the top. To put a light at the bottom of the cycle, focused at the bottom of the psych or the seamless paper, and it's go gonna go from light to dark, that looks awesome. I use that I use that will actually have used that on a lot of music videos, I think is where that's looks really cool again. Kind of feels like a sunrise, and then the last style or the last concept is to do a circular great, and that's gonna just take that's gonna happen. By taking a spotlight and putting it somewhere on this site, you typically put it right behind the talent so that there's this kind of natural radiant that really focuses the I onto the under the talent. So pick one of those three and go with It was the style that makes the most sense to you. And next we're gonna look at lady talent 6. Lighting The Talent: So now we've lived the background. We have, ah, frame up. We have a cool Grady and happening. Maybe it's a circular grating. It minutes a linear radiant. Who knows that? Probably awesome. No, but now we want to talk about letting the talent now letting talent, of course, or lighting a person is a big subject. We're not gonna get into, like the nitty gritty of that. That's probably a separate course and a fun course to make. What? We're gonna talk about this how you control that light that is hitting the talent from hitting the background. That's all we're really gonna talk about. You like the talent, however you want Teoh. Um, but let's talk about how you control it. So So the most common way of lighting talent is from the side and above, and this is 3/4 lighting, and that's gonna come roughly from here. It's gonna create a shadow somewhere either from here. And if you come, a little front of the shadow goes about there. And this is like your most common and kind of flattering way of lighting someone. But the problem is, if you put it light, here it is very likely that this light is going to spill onto the background and that you've gotten enough distance, which would be ideal. But you may not have. You might have a little bit of spill from this light. And when you do that, you know, Is that like, Oh, no, not my Grady. It looks like crap. It doesn't look that great. So what you have to do is gonna put a light. You're gonna put your key light here, like to tell how you want, and then you're gonna need to put a flag or a solid like we're showing in the three D diagram about here and what that's going to do it that's gonna stop the light like this is going to stop that light from hitting the background. And that's that's all we're trying to communicate in this course is that you know, if you put your key light up, use some sort of solid or flag down a real set or if you need a d i y a d I Y version. Use a pizza box office. They have used pizza boxes for flags. Probably too many times. Don't don't admit to that too much, but anything like that or a jacket or something that's opaque, anything like that. Just stop that light from the key light from hitting the background. 7. Wrap Party!: so that's gonna wrap it up for this course. I hope you've learned something that you can take away and use on your own work. I want to say that even though we relating a fairly simple example of just a paper seamless , even the paper saying this is awesome you'll probably that figure entire career, that the high level concepts and techniques used to light that seamless are 100% applicable to bigger shoots. If you're on 100 foot cycle and you've got the latest celebrity, you've got the biggest camera in the world. When you goto light that set, you're gonna be using the same concepts. You know, Is the background flatly lit? Is it going to have ingredient from the bottom or we're gonna put a hot spot in the centre ? It's the same exact process. Now it's different. If you're gonna use different lights, you're gonna have a crew. But again, it's important to just be able to visualize in your head before the shoot what it looks like. And that's what I've tried toe communicate in this course. I really look forward to seeing the shots and the lady that you put together and even more so. I'm really excited to see the behind the scenes shot seeing the final image and seeing the behind the scenes. That's that's how I learned cinematography. Um, and I think that's gonna help the community. It's skill share really learned and progress further, and I think that you'll learn by doing it to, you know, take your picture, take it behind the scenes and upload that And then, you know, maybe like a couple months later, when you come back and you've learned a little bit more, you're like, Wow, that's how it used to do it. But now I do it this way, and that's cool. And maybe you see someone else getting a really good result, and then you get to see how they did Their lighting, and it could be is with simple units. It doesn't have to be a big said. It could be like how you place those lamps in the background. What does that look like? Where did they do it? Why does that look so good? And again? The challenge is to do it with your phone and your desk lamps and have that looked equally as good or better than the guys using real lights. So that's it for this course. I hope you guys have enjoyed it. And I'm gonna be as active as I can with the comments in the form. And I'll see you guys in the next one.