Low-key lighting is a style of lighting for photography, film or television. It is a necessary element in creating a chiaroscuro effect.Traditional photographic lighting (three-point lighting) uses a key light, a fill light and a back light for illumination. Low-key lighting often uses only a key light, optionally controlled with a fill light or a simple reflector.
Low key light accentuates the contours of the subject by throwing areas into shade while a fill light or reflector may illuminate the shadow areas to control contrast.The relative strength of key-to-fill, known as the lighting ratio, can be measured using a light meter. Low key lighting has a higher lighting ratio, e.g., 8:1, than high-key lighting, which can approach 1:1.
The term "low key" is also used in cinematography and photography to refer to any scene with a high lighting ratio, especially if there is a predominance of shadowy areas. It tends to heighten the sense of alienation felt by the viewer, hence is commonly used in film noir and horror genres.It is typically used in dark dramas/ thrillers. Low-key lighting is also associated with German Expressionism and later film noir.
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The film industry is built upon many technologies and techniques, drawing upon photography, stagecraft, music, and many other disciplines. Following is an index of specific terminology applicable thereto.
Stage lighting is the craft of lighting as it applies to the production of theater, dance, opera, and other performance arts. Several different types of stage lighting instruments are used in this discipline. In addition to basic lighting, modern stage lighting can also include special effects, such as lasers and fog machines. People who work on stage lighting are commonly referred to as lighting technicians or lighting designers.
In photography, exposure is the amount of light per unit area reaching a frame of photographic film or the surface of an electronic image sensor, as determined by shutter speed, lens aperture, and scene luminance. Exposure is measured in lux seconds, and can be computed from exposure value (EV) and scene luminance in a specified region.
Lighting or illumination is the deliberate use of light to achieve practical or aesthetic effects. Lighting includes the use of both artificial light sources like lamps and light fixtures, as well as natural illumination by capturing daylight. Daylighting is sometimes used as the main source of light during daytime in buildings. This can save energy in place of using artificial lighting, which represents a major component of energy consumption in buildings. Proper lighting can enhance task performance, improve the appearance of an area, or have positive psychological effects on occupants.
Contre-jour is a photographic technique in which the camera is pointing directly toward a source of light and an equivalent technique of painting. It was also used in paintings prior to its use in photography, where the shadows would fall to the left on the left, to the right on the right and forward in the lower centre. The edges of the subject would show surprising colour effects.
In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, grips are technicians in the filmmaking and video production industries. They constitute their own department on a film set and are directed by a key grip. Grips have two main functions. The first is to work closely with the camera department to provide camera support, especially if the camera is mounted to a dolly, crane, or in an unusual position, such as the top of a ladder. Some grips may specialize in operating camera dollies or camera cranes. The second main function of grips is to work closely with the electrical department to create lighting set-ups necessary for a shot under the direction of the director of photography.
Grips' responsibility is to build and maintain all the equipment that supports cameras. This equipment, which includes tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs, cranes, and static rigs, is constructed of delicate yet heavy duty parts requiring a high level of experience to operate and move. Every scene in a feature film is shot using one or more cameras, each mounted on highly complex, extremely expensive, heavy duty equipment. Grips assemble this equipment according to meticulous specifications and push, pull, mount or hang it from a variety of settings. The equipment can be as basic as a tripod standing on a studio floor, to hazardous operations such as mounting a camera on a 100 ft crane, or hanging it from a helicopter swooping above a mountain range.
Good Grips perform a crucial role in ensuring that the artifice of film is maintained, and that camera moves are as seamless as possible. Grips are usually requested by the DoP or the camera operator. Although the work is physically demanding and the hours are long, the work can be very rewarding. Many Grips work on both commercials and features.
Three-point lighting is a standard method used in visual media such as theatre, video, film, still photography and computer-generated imagery. By using three separate positions, the photographer can illuminate the shot's subject however desired, while also controlling the shading and shadows produced by direct lighting.
High-key lighting is a style of lighting for film, television, or photography that aims to reduce the lighting ratio present in the scene. This was originally done partly for technological reasons, since early film and television did not deal well with high contrast ratios, but now is used to suggest an upbeat mood. It is often used in sitcoms and comedies. High-key lighting is usually quite homogeneous and free from dark shadows. The terminology comes from the higher balance in the ratio between the key light and the fill light in a traditional three point lighting setup.
The key light is the first and usually most important light that a photographer, cinematographer, lighting cameraman, or other scene composer will use in a lighting setup. The purpose of the key light is to highlight the form and dimension of the subject. The key light is not a rigid requirement; omitting the key light can result in a silhouette effect. Many key lights may be placed in a scene to illuminate a moving subject at opportune moments.
In television, film, stage, or photographic lighting, a fill light may be used to reduce the contrast of a scene to match the dynamic range of the recording media and record the same amount of detail typically seen by eye in average lighting and considered normal. From that baseline of normality using more or less fill will make shadows seem lighter or darker than normal which will cause the viewer to react differently, by inferring both environmental and mood clues from the tone of the shadows.
Rembrandt lighting is a standard lighting technique that is used in studio portrait photography and cinematography. It can be achieved using one light and a reflector, or two lights, and is popular because it is capable of producing images which appear both natural and compelling with a minimum of equipment. Rembrandt lighting is characterized by an illuminated triangle under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face. It is named for the Dutch painter Rembrandt, who occasionally used this type of lighting.
Stage lighting instruments are used in stage lighting to illuminate theatrical productions, concerts, and other performances taking place in live performance venues. They are also used to light television studios and sound stages.
Portrait photography or portraiture in photography is a photograph of a person or group of people that captures the personality of the subject by using effective lighting, backdrops, and poses. A portrait picture might be artistic, or it might be clinical, as part of a medical study. Frequently, portraits are commissioned for special occasions, such as weddings or school events. Portraits can serve many purposes, from usage on a personal Web site to display in the lobby of a business.
Lighting ratio in photography refers to the comparison of key light to the fill light. The higher the lighting ratio, the higher the contrast of the image; the lower the ratio, the lower the contrast. Since the lighting ratio is the ratio of the light levels on the brightest lit to the least lit parts of the subject, and the brightest lit are lit by both key (K) and fill (F), therefore the lighting ratio is properly (K+F):F although for contrast ratios of 4:1 or more, then K:F is sufficiently accurate.
In photography and cinematography, available light refers to any source of light that is not explicitly supplied by the photographer for the purpose of taking pictures. The term usually refers to sources of light that are already available naturally or artificial light already being used. It generally excludes flashes, although arguably flash lighting provided by other photographers shooting simultaneously in the same space could be considered available light. Light sources that affect the scene and are included in the actual frame are called practical light sources, or simply practicals.
In photography and cinematography, a reflector is an improvised or specialised reflective surface used to redirect light towards a given subject or scene.
Photographic lighting is the illumination of scenes to be photographed. A photograph simply records patterns of light, color, and shade; lighting is all-important in controlling the image. In many cases even illumination is desired to give an accurate rendition of the scene. In other cases the direction, brightness, and color of light are manipulated for effect. Lighting is particularly important for monochrome photography, where there is no color information, only the interplay of highlights and shadows. Lighting and exposure are used to create effects such as low-key and high-key.
In filmmaking, a skypan is used by the director of photography for lighting scenery that lies outside a set's window or door. Skypans are circular with an upraised ridge around the outside. It is made up of a reflective white pan that has a detachable heavy-duty lamp socket rigged in front of the pan by being clamped to the lip. This is positioned to keep the lamp filament in the middle of the reflector. The skypan is used mainly when raw power is required, spreading a bright light that allows large-scale coverage of a background set. Either 2K or 5K bulbs are generally used. A skypan is usually confined to studio work and rigged up to a scaffold or ceiling-mounted pipe grid. When regularly spaced, they are also useful for lighting green and blue screens.
Articles related to the field of motion pictures include:
Low-key photography is a genre of photography consisting of shooting dark-colored scenes, and emphasizing natural or artificial light only on specific areas in the frame. This photographic style is usually used to create a mysterious atmosphere, that only suggests various shapes, often graphic, letting the viewer experience the photograph through subjective interpretation and often implies painting objects or the human body with black non-toxic dyes or pigments.
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