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Every year we celebrate the best cinematography at the Oscars! This year, Joker was one of the nominees for best cinematography, and it was well deserved. Joker has a very unique visual style, created by a combination of camera, lenses, lighting, and color. Today on 4 Minute Film School, we are going to try to recreate the lighting in a scene from Joker, and demonstrate how you can use some of the movie’s lighting techniques in your own projects.
In this video, Matt from the A-Team walks us through the lighting for a shot modeled after a pivotal scene in the movie. First, he identifies the key lighting elements that are present in the movie. This includes the color, direction, and motivation of the different lights. Next, he sees what the location already has that can be used to enhance the scene. In this case, the location had some practical lights similar to those in the movie. Finally, he chooses lights that will produce the same lighting quality as those in the original shot. This includes a combination of hard light and soft light, because each light has its own strengths and weaknesses.
The main techniques used in this video are using a spotlight to fake a window light, simulating TV light, and using dimmers on your practicals. Using a spotlight to fake a window light is a great technique to have because it can be used to make your scene look like it’s part of a bigger world, even if you shoot it in a small room. Simulating TV light means using a film light, in this case an LED panel, to imitate the flickering effect that a TV makes. This can bring an interesting element to a shot because of the color contrast, while adding a sense of motion you get from animated lighting. Using dimmers on your practicals means connecting a device between a practical light, in this case a lamp, and the power source. This device will allow you to adjust the amount of power going to the light, and make it darker or brighter.
There are thousands of movies out there you can use for inspiration. Often times, you will find that the movies you’re watching today were actually inspired by the visual elements of movies from several years ago! Being able to imitate the lighting of a film [without exactly copying the lighting] is a fine art in filmmaking. Ultimately, you want your film to have its own unique look, and that can be inspired by a collection of other visual styles. Mix and match elements in order to create something that adds to your story, and is completely original.
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