Cinematography Mailing List - CML

 

Search


Eyelight

Published : 26th July 2004


Hi.

1/. What's the best way of creating an eye light in low key light situations? Especially if one side of the face is supposedly lit by a table lamp and the other side is dark. I was still thinking of having eye lights in both and my idea was to place a dimmed light bulb above the camera, This way it would not be strong enough to affect the lit side, but good enough to create a fill on the dark side of the face.
Any thoughts?

2/. Any thoughts in eye lights in general? What was the history behind having to require this before? I personally don't like it and find it too obvious especially when you can detect the actual lighting source like the Kamio. In my case, I'm putting one because the scene is a depressing one but with a glimmer of hope. Hence, the eye light to show hope in the person.

3/. Would a light bulb suffice? I've heard of a color-corrected light bulb. Is there a specific brand to buy or is this a type of bulb I can get in the shelves?

Thanks for any advice.

Raymond Ocampo
Student DP/Editor
San Francisco, CA



>1. What's the best way of creating an eye light in low key light >situations?

Do you want it solely as an eyelight or as a fill light for the shadow side of the face? It's easy to fill a face AND get the fill source reflected in the eye; it's trickier to reflect a light in the eye and NOT significantly raise any deliberate underexposure
of the face.

Dimming a bulb will lower the colour temperature though that possibly won't matter if your key is a practical lamp. Putting the bulb into a Chinese lantern may help create a more subtle, diffuse highlight.

>2. Any thoughts in eye lights in general? What was the history behind >having to require this before?

They're simply a matter of taste - often the directors or the studios as opposed to the cinematographers. Sometimes it's an appropriate aesthetic, other times not. It needn't reek of artifice if done with care.

Eyelights or indeed any lamp positioned over the camera to enhance the modelling of light on an actors face are often colloquially referred to as 'Obie' lights after Merle Oberon;

"Because of facial scars [the actress] sustained in a London car crash in 1937, her future husband, cinematographer Lucien Ballard, designed a compact spotlight that he coined the "Obie" (Oberon's nickname). Mounted on the side of the camera, the device lights the subject head on, thus reducing the incidence of unflattering facial lines and shadows."

The Kamio is perhaps the only design of lamp you could use that has such a distinctly 'movie light' shape. Anything else looks like a domestic lamp or window. As to 'daylight balanced' bulbs, they're available just about everywhere that sells domestic light fittings - they're the bulbs that have blue unfrosted glass. Shops that sell needlecraft supplies always
carry them. Be aware that they are neither Daylight (5600k) nor Tungsten (3200) but 'somewhere in the middle' with a slight green/cyan bias at lower wattages.

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.



Raymond Ocampo wrote:

>1/. What's the best way of creating an eye light in low key light >situations? Especially if one side of the face is supposedly lit by a table >lamp and the other side is dark...

Probably a small bulb over the camera. But the reflection in the eyeball will be much tinier because of the convex shape of the eyeball. You may need to surround the bulb with a small diameter white paper reflector to enlarge its size. It doesn't have to be very strong, the eye is giving a spectral reflection.

>2/. Any thoughts in eye lights in general? What was the history behind >having to require this before? I personally don't like it and find it too >obvious especially when you can detect the actual lighting source like >the Kamio...

Very simple : no eye light, dead eye. The subject loses any spark of life without that little eyelight. The fact that the key light is coming from another angle really doesn't matter to the viewer. In still portraiture I have often inserted eye lights when there were none and the difference is night and day. The subject comes alive.

>3/. Would a light bulb suffice? I've heard of a color-corrected light bulb. >Is there a specific brand to buy or is this a type of bulb I can get in the >shelves?

If the bulb's light is weak enough not to substantially affect the shadow side of the face, color temp shouldn't matter. The strength depends on the light level you are exposing for. Generally speaking, set up your lighting, add the eye light and dim it up until it shows nicely in the eyeball without brightening up your shadows noticeably.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>Do you want it solely as an eyelight or as a fill light for the shadow side >of the face?

I guess it would be a lot more practical to use it as eye light and fill light for the shadow part.

>Very simple: no eye light, dead eye

I guess this is still very much true. I am just sometimes discouraged when I see a very obvious studio light reflecting from the eye. Or perhaps we are all instinctively perceptive to the lights in the scene versus watching it as regular viewers.

Thank you Tom and Wade for the very helpful and informative advice.

Regards,

Raymond Ocampo
Student DP/Editor
San Francisco, CA



>What's the best way of creating an eye light in low key light situations?
>I don't think there is a *best* way to get a catch light in there.


There are lot's of little tricks. Sometimes it's as simple as a small card with some Roscoflex on it - just returning the backlight. These cards can be shaped to look how you want. Sometimes they have to be hand held to float with the actor - the card staying in close but just out of frame.

Sometimes it can be a 4X4 frame with some heavy diffusion and a small fresnel - even with thick black mullions done in tape to make it look like a window if you see the shape in the eye.

David Perrault, csc



David Perrault, csc wrote:

>...Sometimes it can be a 4X4 frame with some heavy diffusion and a >small fresnel - even with thick black mullions done in tape to make it >look like a window if you see the shape in the eye.

Be careful with large sources as catch lights if the actor has very dark eyes. You'll get a large reflection that can give him/her a glazed look.

Wade Ramsey



Hi Raymond,

>I guess this is still very much true. I am just sometimes discouraged >when I see a very obvious studio light reflecting from the eye. Or

Yes, but keep in mind, it is YOU who is noticing it as a movie light. I would imagine the vast majority of viewers would not recognize it as so, in fact most would not pay CONSCIOUS attention to lighting unless there was something very stylistic going on, or if the lighting was inconsistent.

I remember when I saw David Mullen's great work in the film Twin Falls Idaho, and there were at least two occasion where I could see that Kino reflected in the eye (once in the hallway of the main apartment, the other when someone opens their eyes [CU]).

Yes, I recognized the Kino light, but would the audience generally recognize it?

Of course, a 4 bank Kino with grind cloth and ND brought real close would look less like a Kino, perhaps more like the reflection of a window light.

I guess sometimes it's appropriate, other times not.

For masterful use of an eyelight in a scene, check out the Sixth Sense, when the Willis character and the boy meet for the first time, and there's that Q&A happening. Every time Willis gives the right answer, the boy takes a step closer, and his eyelight gets a little bigger.

Very cool...

Duraid Munajim
Dp, Toronto



Wade Ramsey writes:

>Very simple : no eye light, dead eye. The subject loses any spark of life >without that little eyelight. The fact that the key light is coming from >another angle really doesn't matter to the viewer.

One of my first photo jobs was with a society portrait photographer who often got so caught up in his work that he would forget to turn on the eyelight, which was as Wade describes -- a low wattage bare bulb with some diffusion around it. We didn't call it an eyelight, but the "catch light",
presumably because it caught your eye.

Anyway, when he forgot to turn it on, his retoucher would simply add a tiny dot of black retouching ink on the negative. She was amazing. She could also rapidly remove wrinkles and blemishes, remove hair or add hair, remove pounds -- few patrons asked for more, double chins, etc. This woman was worth her weight in gold.

She had her own light box which had an adjustable oscillating mechanism, operated with a foot pedal that moved the negative under her peens and pencils. It seemed damn near magic to me.

Brian "Thanks for the No-Telly" Heller
IA 600 DP



Brian Heller wrote:

>This woman was worth her weight in gold.

Sad to see another skill lost to Photoshop...

Jeff "been to the buggy whip capitol of the world" Kreines



Brian Heller reminisces :

>...Anyway, when he forgot to turn it on, his retoucher would simply add a >tiny dot of black retouching ink on the negative. She was amazing.

When I was beginning in still photography, I asked my boss to teach me how to retouch. He promised me I'd be sorry--I'd get to sit all day staring at those back lighted negatives til I got cross-eyed, while others were out shooting. I persisted and he was right! I got to retouch thousands of negatives and added catch lights as Brian described on many occasions.

The retoucher who really impressed me was at a portrait studio I worked in during summer vacations in KC. This photographer was one of the last ones to persist in shooting direct separations with a one shot camera and making dye transfer prints. The lady who did the neg. retouching had to retouch not one but three negatives--the red, the blue, and the green record. They had to match so that when printed there was no color shifting in the retouched areas. She was amazing.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>1/. What's the best way of creating an eye light in low key light >situations?

If you are trying to blend it in with the existing lighting and not totally fill in the dark side of the face I'd add it from the key side. Depending on how bright it is or how obviously it affects the actor/actresses face, you can :

(1) Add it from the key side just above and to the side of the lens so that the nose shadow falls somewhat into the smile line. This works for people who don't have deep-set eyes.

(2) For deep-set eyes add it from the key side from right next to the matte box. This works as long as the subject doesn't have a big nose, which would create a large-ish horizontal nose shadow. (I hate those.)

(3) Under the lens really cleans up faces nicely but the source needs to be big as it may cast upward shadows that will look a bit odd if they are too sharp. I typically use bounce cards when I do this. Sometimes you can do this nicely from the key side, and other times it needs to go right under the lens.

(4) Lastly, you can always add it from right next to the lens from the fill side but that will give you two tones on the face (key and fill) instead of many (key to fill to dark, or black) when you fill from the key side.

I don't usually put a light directly on top of the camera. I'd rather the shadow cast by the light go one way or the other instead of painting an even line under the chin. If I'm going to do that I'll just key from right over the lens. That doesn't sound appropriate to your situation.

For a soft hit that blends nicely with the key put the light through some diffusion (216 or even 1000H). For a nice "ding" leave it undiffused, but only if you can hide the hard shadow in the key light's shadow. A nice compromise is to use a silk, which casts a soft-ish shadow but lets enough specular light through that you get a "ding" in the eye. I've used small units through 4'x4' silks for eye lights, which is a little overkill. Smaller diffusion works fine as long as you keep it as close to the lens as possible.

>2/. Any thoughts in eye lights in general? What was the history behind >having to require this before?

I like them. I think hits in the eyes look very cool and really bring life to a portrait. I go out of my way to hide the eye light and make it look like part of the key. I don't want people to look lit but I definitely want them to look good.

>3/. Would a light bulb suffice? I've heard of a color-corrected light bulb. >Is there a specific brand to buy or is this a type of bulb I can get in the >shelves?

You could pick up a tungsten-balanced bulb from JCX but I don't see why you couldn't do it with any other kind of movie light.

Art Adams, DP [film|hdtv|sdtv]
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/



Thank you Art for the helpful info and for everyone's comments prior. I'm saving all the advice for my coming production shoot. Oh, and for my coming book titled - Eye Light the Art of Lighting for the Eye. It's a full 10 pages! Okay maybe not.

Thanks again.

Raymond Ocampo



>Oh, and for my coming book titled - Eye Light the Art of Lighting for the >Eye.

That's funny; I've got a book coming out called "I Light: The Art of Art Lighting Eyes."

Art Adams, DP [film|hdtv|sdtv]
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



>1/. What's the best way of creating an eye light in low key light >situations?

A few random thoughts (not enough shooting lately) :

I think first things first - do you just want a glint in the eye, or something larger, some shape?

For the former - I recently watched "Catch Me If You Can", and quite often the only way you can pick out where the eye is on the face is by the tiny glint there.

I've tried doing this a few times and the devil is in the level - it is not easy to get that glint w/o filling in the shadows. However, on the making-of-doco of "Catch Me" you can see and eye light rig on top of the matte box - it's basically a 1ft pipe with a small bulb at one end. I've read about John Seale using a similar rig. In the making-of you can sometimes even see two of these rigs on the mattebox - I'm assuming one for each eye...

I've been thinking about several ways of rigging something like this, so far I'm thinking of just attaching a pipe to one of those 50W halogen desk lamps (the ones with the flex arm). Depending on the distance to the camera, this might be a bit much, so I've thought also thought about finding a threaded pipe to replace the reflector on a mini MagLite.

Another thought has been to use a two-way mirror or prompter (think red-eyed droids in Blade Runner) - shape, size, colour and intensity to taste but this might be a OTT for eye lighting.

For more of a shape - I quite often like to put a really hot spot on some piece of set dressing or prop. With a bit of planning and some happy accidents you can get an eyelight that not only looks natural but can also serve a narrative purpose.

There is also fairy lights (see Cate Blanchett in LOTR)

Cheers,

Kim Sargenius
----------------------------
Cinematographer / Filmmaker
Sydney



Kim Sargenius writes :

>you can see and eye light rig on top of the matte box - it's basically a 1ft >pipe with a small bulb at one end. I've read about John Seale using a >similar rig.

I've noticed something similar in various production stills -- notably, some "in memoriam" stills of Conrad Hall in Am. Cinematographer. Looks like a pair of crude binoculars mounted above the lens. Couldn't figure out what they were... but this eyelight thingy sounds about right.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Dan Drasin wrote :

>Looks like a pair of crude binoculars mounted above the lens. Couldn't >figure out what they were... but this eyelight thingy sounds about right.

Unless it was a Panatape...?

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.



Tom Townend wrote :

>Unless it was a Panatape.....?

I have seen them in one of the old lighting-books, and they were referred to as eyelights. Always been tempted to built a pair (only wish I had the time, but Easter-holiday is coming up soon)

Cheers

Martin Heffels

Filmmaker/DP/Editor/Filmschool Techie
Sydney, Australia



>Always been tempted to built a pair (only wish I had the time, but >Easter-holiday is coming up soon).

Put me down for some beta testing!

Cheers,

Kim Sargenius
Cinematographer / Filmmaker
Sydney


Sponsored by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CML Home CML-Tests Home

© copyright CML - Cinematography Mailing List all rights reserved