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  1. #1 Ask David Mullen ANYTHING 
    Moderator Tom Lowe's Avatar
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    Please don't feel like you're harassing David, because I cleared this thread with him in advance. Here is your chance to pick the brain of a top working cinematographer. How many people, in any given line of work, get this opportunity?

    thanks so much, David!
    Last edited by Tom Lowe; 04-05-2016 at 08:43 PM.
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  2. #2  
    Okay, here goes...How do you feel about lighting with china balls? It seems like I saw a thread somewhere where someone mentioned a DP who lights primarily with china balls. I ask because I did a shoot recently for a fast food chain, and we ended up using a bunch of defused 1k's to light the inside. The problem was, we had some hot spots that didn't look so great in the end (watch the spots at http://www.petros.com/). My thought now was that I should have used about 10-15 balls with 200 watt lights, and then some small 250's to add some hairlight and a little fill for when our actor got to his mark. I will probably be doing more spots like this in the future, so I'd like to come up with a better system (and hopefully I will have a grip/gaffer, but I want to know for my own knowledge.)

    Thanks,

    Matthew
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  3. #3  
    Please, anyone else who wants to add to my answers too, please do so...

    I’m a big fan of Chris Doyle, particular his work in “Fallen Angels”, “In the Mood for Love”, “Hero”, “2046”. He did some nice subtle period work recently in “The White Countess”, though not as snazzy as his work for Wong Kar Wei. I have one of his still photography books, “A Cloud in Trousers”, which has a lot of what looks like push-processed slides. I think in terms of photographing urban landscapes, especially at night, he’s probably Number One.

    A DP’s work sometimes falls into two rough categories, naturalism/realism and expressionism/impressionism. Either they are creating a believable effect… or they are distorting reality for a psychological effect. Or course, movies do both, in the same movie, all the time, but some DP’s lean more one way than the other. People like Roger Deakins, David Watkin, Nestor Almendros, Gordon Willis, tend towards a naturalistic approach grounded in reality, whereas someone like Robert Richardson, Chris Doyle, Janusz Kaminski, Vittorio Storaro lean towards a more manipulated distorted reality, either more operatic & theatrical, or more expressionistic or impressionistic. But I don’t want anyone to take these labeling too seriously – it’s just a loose way of thinking about how one works, sees the world or art.

    A lot of this, of course, is grounded by the material being adapted, and by the director’s visual taste too. And you can also see documentary impulses weaving through Robert Richardson’s or Chris Doyle’s work, even while they also can be quite theatrical at times.

    I’d love to shoot for David Lynch, Ridley Scott, Terrance Malick… just to learn something from them.

    Recent movies with good images… well, the Autochrome-inspired flashbacks in “The Illusionist” were interesting… the faux Technicolor look of parts of “Tears of the Black Tiger”… the long takes in “Children of Men”… the overall mood of “The Fountain”… many moments in “The New World”.

    Chinese Lanterns: I use them all the time. I haven’t used too many all at once, though I once lit a running shot through the woods by hanging a string of Chinese Lanterns with daylight photofloods in them. In terms of using a lot of them in a grid pattern in a ceiling, that should work fine as long as there aren’t simpler and faster ways to get a soft overhead light effect. Just depends.
    David Mullen, ASC
    Los Angeles
    http://www.davidmullenasc.com
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  4. #4  
    Moderator Tom Lowe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Mullen ASC View Post
    I’d love to shoot for David Lynch, Ridley Scott, Terrence Malick… just to learn something from them.

    Recent movies with good images… well, the Autochrome-inspired flashbacks in “The Illusionist” were interesting… the faux Technicolor look of parts of “Tears of the Black Tiger”… the long takes in “Children of Men”… the overall mood of “The Fountain”… many moments in “The New World”.
    Wow. We very much agree. I have not seen “The Illusionist”, but it's crazy that I agree with you completely. For me, the top 3 cinematography masterpieces of the last few years have been: The New World, The Fountain (but this includes all visual aspects) and Children of Men.

    BTW, David, how excited are you to see Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights? It has gotten about the same rating among critics as The New World and The Fountain, so far.
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  5. #5  
    Here's a question for David. You helped me when I started working in film about seven years ago by answering questions on cinematography.com and now here we are again....

    So, I feel confident in what I can use/do in terms of smaller units....but I always end up getting stumped in terms of larger lights. How can a DP know what kinds of units he should use if he/she does not have experience using bigger units like 4K HMIs, 12Ks, etc. Example....I have to light a large day interior where we need to create a realistic sunlight through three large (10 foot high x 6 six feet wide windows) windows....what units do you use....I imagine this changes depending on what type of effect you want....a softer effect (like shooting through silk or light grid) or a harder one....but how do discern between whether a 4K Par will be enough or should I be using a 12K....is there any way to be sure if you have not used the bigger lights before?
    watching budgets shrink since 2000

    www.adriancorreia.com
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  6. #6  
    What's your process when lighting a scene do you tend to have a complete image in your head from the start of exactly where every light will fall and then set out with your crew to make it a reality or do you work from very broad concepts such as mood and let the lighting evolve as you see it?
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  7. #7  
    Well, to some degree, you get experience over time because as your budgets climb, you get to order the next bigger (and more expensive) light -- so once you've gotten to know the limits of a 4K HMI PAR, you next get to use a 6K HMI PAR.

    A lot of this is budget-related, unfortunately -- you may guess that you need an 18K HMI fresnel but you end up with a 4K HMI PAR, so you make do.

    You can always knock down a brighter light, so when in doubt, you order the bigger unit.

    There is photometric data available for these lights, but to some degree, it's still an (educated) guess. You end up moving a light closer or farther back, etc. to get the intensity right.

    If you've got a general package with some larger lights, what happens over the course of shooting over a couple of days is that you quickly learn, for example, what a 5K at ten feet through a 6'x6' light grid cloth gives you, exposure-wise. So maybe the first time, you guess the wrong unit to use and have to swap it out, but after that, you remember. You then get to say "well, that 5K was overkill last time, just bring me a 2K" or conversely, "that 5K wasn't quite enough last time, get me a 10K."
    David Mullen, ASC
    Los Angeles
    http://www.davidmullenasc.com
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  8. #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by im.thatoneguy View Post
    What's your process when lighting a scene do you tend to have a complete image in your head from the start of exactly where every light will fall and then set out with your crew to make it a reality or do you work from very broad concepts such as mood and let the lighting evolve as you see it?
    I imagine how the space will be lit and describe what I want to the Gaffer, sometimes very specifically in regards to the unit, sometimes not. But I try to describe the entire lighting set-up, including fill. But that doesn't mean that once I start to see the lights come on, I don't make adjustments -- maybe I'll turn off a light or add one. There are just limits to how much you can play around, change your mind, so you try and get it right.

    I usually stare at the space, hopefully on my own time but sometimes in front of the crew, right after the blocking is finished. I light the space in my mind, knowing what areas are off camera, or where special rigging may be involved, and then I describe it to the Gaffer. But he may make suggestions too and sometimes I'll modify my idea if I like his idea.

    My general philosophy in lighting is that there is a dominent source or type of feeling to the light -- and all other lights have to feel secondary to the dominant light. This keeps the effect from seeming cluttered from too many sources. This is one reason why I tend to either use very hot backlights with very little fill on the face, or no backlights at all. Either I like the feeling that the scene is backlit (maybe by the sun coming through a window) so it should be strong, or that there should be no backlight or a very mild one to round off the shoulders and hair. I generally don't want things to look like some classic 3-point lighting set-up.

    But in a moving shot, actors may move from one source to another, from one dominant light to another.
    David Mullen, ASC
    Los Angeles
    http://www.davidmullenasc.com
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  9. #9  
    REDuser Sponsor Brook Willard's Avatar
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  10. #10  
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    David, do you often, or ever, even, have a situation indoors where you use available light?

    edit: meant to say "only" available light.
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