Q & A #5…

            Rajiv M. of Hyderabad, India asks:

            How do you deal with fill light?

            As I’ve stated many times, there are no one-size-fits all answers to most questions about cinematography.  That also applies here but I’ll try to be as specific as possible.

            Fill light is what brings out the true feeling of an image, so I pay close attention to its use (or non-use, as the case may be).  The context of the story provides initial guidance in how it’s applied.  Then, using taste and awareness of what’s going on in the moment, a certain level is settled upon.  It might be a hot blast that brings the shadows up to key exposure.  It could just as easily be a whisper that leaves the subject teetering on the edge of black.  Although I have some favorites, I’m not terribly particular about the unit my Gaffer brings in.  Nowadays, it’s my Key Grip who’s often saddled with the job.  Camera sensors have become so sensitive that that the right amount of fill can be met only by taking light away rather than adding it.  

            Here’s a good place for you to start thinking about your own approach, at least on a mechanical level.

            Try adding fill light from as close to the key light’s position as possible or from a place close to your camera position.  This will serve to “drag” the fill around your subject so as to extend the effect of the key.  In the majority of cases this will deliver a natural and pleasing look – and will give you a good place from which to deviate…and learn.

         I’m fielding any and all questions on cinematography and filmmaking, so fire away with whatever you’d like to hear about.  Post your query in the comments box and I’ll reply as soon as I can get to it!


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