Friday, August 15, 2008

Movie poster lighting dissection

I saw this poster at the movie theatre, and (much to my friend's chagrin) stopped for a few minutes to dissect the lighting. I think it's quite a powerful image. First, it has great composition: the black line of the horizon is on a line of thirds, his head is on an intersection of the line of thirds, and the lighting from the far right corner travels up his leg and creates a leading line right to the face.

This is my attempt at replicating how I think the lighting was done:

Three lights:
Blue light is the bright rim you see on his face. It is quite hot compared to the front fill light, which is why I think there are two lights for his face. One hot one, behind, for the bright rim, and one less hot (bright) for the fill of the face. It looks like they used bare bulbs, with no light modifiers, so show off the texture and specularity of his skin. It would be unflattering for a woman, but for a weathered demon-man, harsh lighting works well.
The white light is the fill light on the front. You can tell that it's also angled off to the left because of how heavy the shadow from his pecs are.
The red light is kind of a combo of the left two. It's providing rim light, but also a slight bit of fill (on his gun hand, for instance). It needs to be less bright so that it doesn't compete with the main lighting on the important areas (his face and rock hand).

This is a great look, and one I'd like to try to replicate sometime. It seems to use just 3 lights, all bare (though the right light might have some slight modifier on it) which could be emulated with 3 small strobes. Whenever you see a lighting setup you enjoy, try to dissect it.

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