Cinematography – Research Lighting and Lens


In this task I will be producing all research I am doing toward my cinematography assignment in terms of lighting and lens. I have been watching films and reading books to help me find a desired look that is right for my project. My plan is to first research and with a series of test find out how to do these affects and if they are possible in production. When I found found a series of experiments that work I will try to include them into my final project with feedback and a critical analysis to show the successes and failures.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

When the idea of my project (“A Trip to The Office”) came about I instinctively started to think of movies that would best illustrate the look I was after. Fear and Loathing was always going to be a good one to look at because it not only shares a similar topic but it shows a very illusive display of lighting all of which are meant to make the viewer feel like they have entered a dream world. Cinematographer Nicola Pecorini used a mixture of magenta, red and cyan lights to create this world that characters Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke were living, not to mention the existing use of colours in costume and on set (Chris Gorak art director).

I hope to use a similar effect toward my lighting set up and some of the camera and lens work:

The Use of Lights on Set

You can see by these two pictures underneath that there can be a great affect of interest and action by simply having a lighting flashing on and off; it not only draws attention to the centre of screen but also creates a change. Once the lights have done this you can see it creates a different effect and almost a completely different location. NOTE: The change in depth and texture


The lighting on set here is a brilliant example of using lighting on set because the denotation shows a light for which the actor is using for his type writer but it connotes a surreal environment and the state of the characters mood. In this case an intoxicated, alone and illusive mind. Notice that although the room appears to be filled with a red gel there is still a great deal of depth to this shot; this will be because of the cinematographers choice in ratio i.e. a 4:1 kicker to fill ratio.


Jib Shots

I feel that jib shots or at least one jib shot should be used in my project as it shows a different way of looking at a scene as seeing as my project sheds a very ‘different’ nature it should include shots that shows a scene from a different point of view. This one in particular maintains a fill of colour and connotes a psychedelic out of body experience as our audience leaves the scene via a tunnel from above.


Neon Glow

I chose this shots because the neon lights add to the placement of the scene and from here we believe we are in fact in Las Vegas. The neon glow add an artistic look to the scene making a hard line between the fore grounds positioning.


Barrel Lens plus Lighting Ratio and Texture

This shot has a brilliant effect because the cinematographer has really captured Jonny Depps state on mind. He is covered in sweat, tripping and dreading the meeting with the receptionist. What I like best from this shot is how he has captured the texture on his face and has made him stand out from the background.


Winding Camera Moves POV

In this shot which follows the previous shot we see this illustrating Depps POV which in this case is unbalanced and winding towards the desk. This is a good effect, especially in POV because it gets straight to the point of the feeling of the character. Illusive camera moves is also something I wish to use; this example as well as others should provide some research and examples of the effects I wish to use and capture.


Again a winded camera shot illustrates the mood of the character but in this one an adaptation has been made by having a fan to add effect into his hallucination.


The reverse shot has also included a tilt on the frame which adds even more effect onto the state of the character and the surreal situation that has occurred.


Blue and Pink Lighting Mixture

We see here that Depps character is engulfed in blue light. Regarding denotation again I would say that this is trying to best express that character Raoul Duke is heavily under the influence of drugs as the light seems to be suffocating him where as Dr.Gonzo’s character is unaffected. One thing that Im interested in this shot is how the cinematographer has brought in two separate colours in the scene and has created this feeling of contrast and may be something I will take in when bringing my character out of his own surroundings.


Again this is the same scene although now Raoul Duke is lit with a pink / magenta light; denoting his changing state of mind? Properly.. What is interesting again is how the two colours stand out from another giving this very separated feel.


The Use of Lighting Smoke 

I have previous been reading a cinematography book (21st century cinematography) and it expresses the use of lighting smoke. It is seen to create both a distinguished look but with the right smoke and setting it can bring a new texture to a room. In the book they talk of using a screen with cut out shapes to add to this texture. As you can see from this image the smoke does bring a desired texture to the room and it certainly adds to state of Raoul Duke’s mind as the previous shot will show that an army documentary and the tone of the camera mans voice adds to this hallucination.
Smoke is definitely something I wish to use as it can completely transform the state of a room and has a number of effects it can bring to camera.


Number of Different Lights

In this shot we see a number of light tones that add the effect of the room. The lights are seemly different but all add to the room with out any gaps or bad adaptations to depth. The cyan light split the reds apart and creates even more depth while a cyan lights brings the actor closer to camera. The reason I think all this seems clear is because of how well lit the subject is away from the background and how only some of the light from the background flare onto the sides of the subject face it is almost he is partly drawn into the room while the magenta separates him from it.
This same effect could have been used with the colours swopped i.e. cyan to bring the actor to the front and red and magenta either side to light the background.



Smooth Colour Palette 

I chose this image because of how well the DP has connected the magenta and red lights together with out much change in intensity and placement. The two colours go together well and creates a nice affect to the room. Again a different colour in the foreground gives something to the depth and makes it stand out.


Good Flagging

Even though there is a lot I like from this shot I wanted to raise the issue of good flagging and flagging your subject in the foreground from the background. Depp’s character seems to move through out the scene but the red light that fills his face seems to stay on him without spreading to the magenta. My thought would be that the red fore ground, magenta mid ground and magenta background all cross from opposing sides.


Dutch Tilt

The dutch tilt is a good camera move to impose an impression to the audience in this case of these three pictures below it indicates the intensity of Depp’s vision of Dr.Gonzo’s transformation. I should use this technique as it quickly translates to the audience that there is something wrong with the scene.



The scene ends with a barrel lens close up which again adds to the effect. This Barrel lens technique is something I will talk about later on.


This shot shows a number on different effects i.e. dutch tilt; number of different lights and multiple colours to bring the fore ground away from the background.


This shots shows a good spread across the length of the room and even shows a two tone look with magenta and red. It seems as if the magenta is coming from the lights seen at the end of the room or a mixture from a light coming through the curtain as well as a bright flagged light from a far to light the ceiling.

Lighting with a White Light and Magenta 

The use here is good as instead as the DP has decided to use a white light and smoke to bring the actor from the background. The colours again are flagged well and show an equal display across all three sides of the room.
For my project I will have to be looking for ways of getting an equal spread across the shots and one thing that I have learnt from these picture is to plan where your actors are going to be because a lighting plan will sometimes cause shadows because of where they will be standing. Most of these picture do not show this but they do show complicated lighting designs that will need lots of planning.


The Use of Blue and Pink

I decided to choose this image for the same reasons as most; it shows a good use of colour where the separation not only looks aesthetically pleasing but creates depth in the image.
Again, this is something I will be looking for to include into my lighting design as there will be a good use of colour and it will be a good technique to create more depth in the room I will be using.


Barrel Distortion

Barrel distortion comes from a close up with a lens that has a very shallow focal range i.e 18mm – 32mm. I plan to use this affect because of the elongated effect it can have to things in the foreground of a shot. It will be a good effect for me when my character starts becoming overwhelmed by his trip; it could give good indication to how the character is feeling.




My conclusion is that Fear and loathing has complicated light set ups through out the film of which I have taken detailed notes from. My plan is based on the research to camera and light that is seen through this film which I intend to use to display heated emotions i.e. the vast amount of colour should give some meaning to the shot. I plan to dissect the skills of mapping a room out with colour and using camera angels within a set to have as much meaning as possible to the actors state of mind.

Vision of Lights

My experience watching this documentary was brilliant, to me it was a great source of information. I got a chance to hear stories from some of the masters of cinematography which included tips and guide lines into some of the things I may want to try and explore.   As well as motivating me through the project and have used quote throughout  the project to justify where my influences and methods have come from.

Painting light onto a blank

This entry was posted in Cinematography. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s