Why David Fincher’s ‘Mindhunter’ DP Believes ‘There Are No Rules’ in Lighting

‘Mindhunter’ DP Erik Messerschmidt shot the darkly intimate show with custom-made RED Xenomorphs.

When it comes to cinematography, every filmmaker, every movie or show, and every shot is different. While there may be a “textbook” way to approach a scene, there is no “correct” way. Even so, patterns and styles always emerge, and few filmmakers have developed a look as distinctive as David Fincher’s. While Fincher is best known for his mysterious and gritty films, ranging from Fight Club to The Social Network, he’s recently ventured into the realm of streaming television, where he has produced and directed the critically-acclaimed House of Cards, and now seeks to expand on that success with the recently-released Mindhunter for Netflix.

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‘Marshall’: DP Newton Thomas Sigel on Lighting for Character and Shooting 80′ From the Ground

Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC, brought courtroom drama ‘Marshall’ to vivid life despite a small budget and challenging locations.

Some of the most critical moments in American history have been realized courtesy of the country’s justice system and the courtroom. Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and the Scopes Trial were each landmark cases that dramatically shifted the tide of American life, helping lead to a national fascination with the courtroom that has extended to the cinema in the form of fictional masterpieces like To Kill A Mockingbird and A Few Good Men. On-screen, these monumental cases have drawn a great deal of attention, with movies suitably lending their focus to the dialogue. While questioning, cross-examining, and objecting remains at the forefront of the story in Marshall, DP Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC, also makes sure to bring a visual life to the courtroom drama.

“It was several stories up, almost 80 feet in the air, with huge windows, and 90% of my work was daytime.”

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Watch: How Stanley Kubrick Mastered Practical Lighting

Is Stanley Kubrick responsible for cinema’s shift to practical lighting?

As many of you know, practical lights can be defined as light sources visible within the frame that also serve to light the scene. These can include everything from lamps to candles to a blazing inferno.

Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest popularizers of this technique, famously lighting much of the great Barry Lyndon’s interiors entirely by candlelight. Not only did this produce beautiful imagery, but it was also historically accurate for the picture and helped audiences suspend their disbelief.

As Entertain the Elk points out, “if the lighting is unbelievable, it will distract and take the audience out of the story.” This is the virtue of practical lighting.

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Gear: BB&S Lighting Gets Tiny with Pipeline Fixtures

Find yourself in a literal lighting jam? Check out these versatile Pipeline LEDs from BB&S Lighting that fit almost anywhere in this NAB preview.

When lighting space isn’t a luxury and you find yourself in a tight spot, BB&S Lighting offers a solution with its Pipeline series of LEDs. Adding to its existing 1-foot, 2-foot, 3-foot and 4-foot lengths, two new versions of the “fit-anywhere” fixture are now available in 4-inch and 8-inch varieties and will be shown for the first time at NAB.

Just 1-inch in diameter, each LED is available in 3200°K, 4300°K or 5600°K color temperatures. Its cylindrical shape emits a high 98 TLCI remote phosphor LED light, spread over 180 degrees. The wide light dispersion produces a high output of 333 lumens for the 4-inch Pipe and 666 lumens for the 8-inch, both touting heatless and fan-less operation. Another positive is its low power draw, 3W for the 4-inch and 7W for the 8-inch and each version is available in 10-20V to run on batteries or 48V, and completely dims down to zero. They also feature dedicated dimmer/drivers to control the output and feed power.

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Watch: DP Geoff Boyle Discusses the Evolution and Future of LED Lighting

Though they came from humble beginnings, LED lights have evolved into something great.

LED lights have come a long way in the film industry. What were once inconsistent and unreliable light sources evolved into some of the most affordable, convenient, and efficient lighting tools on the market, especially when it comes to independent filmmaking. In this video from Cooke Optics TV, cinematographer Geoff Boyle discusses his own experience being introduced to LED lights, how they changed throughout the years, as well as the many issues they solve for DPs.

One of the most interesting things Boyle talks about in the video is the parallel between film and digital and LEDs and other light sources. In the same way that digital went through its awkward teenager phase as an alternative to film cameras, LEDs too have gone, and are still going through theirs.

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Shootout: Lighting Green Screen and More with Cineo HS2 LEDs

Accomplished cinematographer Shane Hurlbut compares his favorite LED lights.

[Editor’s Note: This article has been republished with permission from Shane Hurlbut, ASC’s blog.]

In the below shootout between Kino Flo Selects, Arri Sky Panels, and Cineo HS2, I go very in depth on CRI, light output, and weight. I also present great side-by-side comparisons of the lights balanced for daylight, Tungsten, and how well they play on skin.

One of my favorite types of light is remote phosphor (LED). It’s incredibly powerful. Since this technology has been introduced to our industry, these lights have been taking over. It’s because of their ability to produce beautiful skin tones, their unbelievable brightness, and just how easy they make it to switch between 3200, 4300, 5600, chroma, green, and blue.

It was an epiphany for me when I started lighting green screens and blue screens with them; the old way of lighting screens meant putting a lot of Kino Flos with green or a lot of SkyPanels up on truss.

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Watch: Create Stunning DIY Lighting Effects Using a Box of Crackers

If you’ve got an empty box of Saltines, you can make some pro-level lighting effects.

It’s the greatest time of year, you guys—flu season is almost over. If you managed to barricade your door well enough to avoid catching the demon bug from hell, 1.) congrats, and 2.) I want you on my zombie apocalypse team. But for the rest of us who puked our guts out or had to hold a child’s face over a toilet bowl while they puked their guts out, we unwitting stockpiled on a really helpful DIY light modifier that will help you create some really cool lighting effects: Saltine boxes. In this video tutorial from the Academy of Photography, find out how to turn a regular ol’ cracker box into a nifty modifier for your lighting setup.

Though the tutorial is geared toward photographers, this easily translates over to filmmakers. You won’t need the external flash and trigger/receiver, but you will need a light that can fit inside of your cardboard cracker box.

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Watch: 4 Practical Lighting Effects That Are Super Easy to Pull Off

If you want to create some easy practical lighting tricks, like police lights or a TV screen glow, this tutorial shows you how.

Lighting a scene is not simply about putting enough light on your subjects to get a good exposure. Sometimes, you’ll have to find ways to recreate certain practical lighting situations—like a movie projected in a dark theater—using whatever equipment you’ve got on hand.

In this short tutorial from Aputure, DP Julia Swain shows you how to pull off four simple lighting effects that will come in handy for almost every project you shoot.

Practical lights, or lights that are (usually) visible within the frame, are used in filmmaking all the time. They are the TV/computer/movie screens, lamps, and headlights that make your shot not only more realistic, but more interesting, as well. However, including these kinds of lights isn’t always as simple as turning them on and putting them in your shot. Often, they’re not bright enough or have a lot of flicker. This is why it’s helpful to have a few practical lighting tricks in your arsenal. Below are the four tricks from Swain’s tutorial.

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This $250 LED Lighting Kit Is Ideal for Filmmakers on a Budget

If you need a light kit but don’t have the funds, this $ 250 LED kit might be right up your alley.

Even though there are many ways to save money on lighting, sometimes you do need to bite the bullet and drop some dough on some lights. However, this can be a scary process, because 1.) lighting is important and not all lights are created equal, and 2.) you may not have enough money to get your hands on ones that are powerful/accurate/functional enough. But Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter is here to give you some suggestions on some dirt cheap LEDs that will give you the most bang for your buck. Check out his video below:

This is actually the second video Pike has made about budget-friendly LED light kits, the first one having a maximum budget of $ 500. So for this video, he took it a little further and cut the budget in half for those that really need to pinch their production pennies.

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Video: This Might Be One of the Best Lighting Kits $500 Can Buy

Lighting equipment is expensive, but there are ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality.

Getting your hands on a decent lighting kit can be difficult for a budget filmmaker. Buying is oftentimes out of the question and rental costs (if you have a rental house in your town) can still be more expensive than you’d like. So for a lot of us, putting together a kit with a hodgepodge of different lights, modifiers, and stands is the answer, but the question still remains: what should I include in my budget-friendly lighting kit? In this video, Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter offers up his response; a high-quality, low-budget lighting kit that you can buy for $ 500.

Pike’s kit includes:

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