Cinematic Lighting
4.5 (52 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
196 students enrolled

Cinematic Lighting

The art of dramatic lighting, for cinematographers of independent films
4.5 (52 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
196 students enrolled
Created by Neil Oseman
Last updated 5/2020
English [Auto]
Current price: $111.99 Original price: $159.99 Discount: 30% off
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This course includes
  • 4.5 hours on-demand video
  • 2 articles
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • How to create depth and contrast in your shots
  • How to light for both the master shot and the coverage
  • How and when to use HMI, fluorescent, LED and traditional tungsten lighting
  • How to use natural light to your advantage, and how to mould it
  • How to use a light meter and false colours to correctly expose your image
  • How to use smoke or haze to create atmosphere
  • How to simulate sunlight, moonlight and firelight
  • Students should have a grasp of basic cinematography concepts like white balance and depth of field.
  • A familiarity with the principle of three-point lighting will be useful, but not essential.

This course is an advanced and in-depth guide to arguably the most important part of a Director of Photography's job: designing the lighting.

Rather than demonstrating techniques in isolation in a studio, this course takes place entirely on location. The intent is to show the realities of creating beautiful lighting while dealing with the usual challenges of real independent film production, like time, weather and equipment, as well as meeting the requirements of the script.

The course consists of four modules: Day Exterior, Day Interior, Night Interior and Night Exterior. Each module follows the blocking, lighting and shooting of a short scripted scene (inspired by the fantasy web series Ren: The Girl with the Mark) with two actors in full costume. Watch experienced Director of Photography Neil Oseman and his team set up all the fixtures, control the light with flags and rags, and make adjustments when the camera moves around for the coverage. Every step of the way, Neil explains what he's doing and why, as well as the alternatives you could consider for your own films. Each module concludes with the final edited scene so that you can see the end result.

Who this course is for:
  • Cinematography students
  • Camera operators looking to move up to Director of Photography
  • Corporate/industrial filmmakers looking to move into drama
  • Indie filmmakers looking to increase their production values
Course content
Expand all 19 lectures 04:28:27
+ Day Exterior
4 lectures 01:05:16
  • What to look for on a recce/scout

  • How to predict the sun path using apps or a compass

  • How to block action relative to the sun

  • Three-point lighting

  • When to shoot in cross-light vs. backlight

  • How to get rippling reflections off water

Preview 14:38
  • Observing a rehearsal with actors Kate and Ivan

  • What to look for in the blocking

  • How to get reflections off a blade

  • When to shoot the master shot

  • How to choose what order to shoot your coverage in

  • Using a white poly/bead-board as bounce

Blocking for Success
  • Why light meters are still important

  • Dynamic range and log recording

  • How to use an incident meter and a spot reflectance meter

  • The f-stop series

  • How to use false colours

  • How to arrive at the right exposure from all this information

  • How to select the appropriate ND (neutral density) filter

  • Shooting the wide shot

  • Short- and broad-key lighting

  • Types of reflector

  • Positioning a reflector

  • Paying attention to eye reflections

  • Negative fill

  • How to use 4x4 floppy flags

  • Shooting Ivan's close-up

  • Using a trace frame

  • "Health bounce"

  • Shooting Kate's close-up

  • Summary

  • The final edited scene

Shaping the Singles
+ Day Interior
4 lectures 01:11:09
  • Identifying light sources in the room

  • Using apps or a compass to predict how sun will enter through the windows

  • The principle of dark-to-light depth

  • Using curtains to modify interior light

  • Introduction to some common lighting instruments: Dedolights, Kino Flos, an HMI and a Rayzr MC LED panel

Scouting & Equipment
  • Observing the blocking with actors Kate and Ivan

  • Direct lighting using an HMI

  • Controlling contrast with black-out

  • Diffusing the light with a trace frame

  • Bouncing the light off poly/bead-board

  • Bouncing the light off parts of the set

  • Use of a light meter and false colours to set the correct exposure

Lighting Through a Window
  • Use of smoke or haze to add atmosphere to the scene

  • Reasons to add atmosphere

  • The concept of aerial perspective

  • Shooting the master shot

  • Comparison of the final shot to the other versions demonstrated in 2.2 and 2.3

  • Use of viewfinder apps to find a frame and select a lens

  • Challenges of front-light

  • Adjusting the window light to highlight certain areas

  • Demonstrating a "window wrap" using a Kino Flo

  • Using light readings and ND filters to arrive at the correct exposure

  • Shooting the reverse

  • Summary

  • The final edited scene

Lighting the Reverse
+ Night Interior
4 lectures 01:04:36
  • Observing the blocking with actors Kate and Ivan

  • Approaches to lighting a night interior scene

  • Lighting from outside with an HMI "moon"

  • Working with bounced "moonlight" inside the room

  • Choosing an overhead source as the key light

Interior vs. Exterior Light
  • Time and safety considerations of working with toplight

  • Rigging a toplight safely

  • Controlling toplight spill on the set walls

  • Using unbleached muslin to soften and warm up the light

  • The inverse square law

Working with Toplight
  • Working with practical candles

  • Reinforcing candles with a hidden LED fixture

  • Simulating an off-camera fireplace

  • Lighting the view outside the window

  • Bringing moonlight into the room to add colour contrast and depth

  • Shooting the master shot

Moonlight & Firelight
  • Checking the blocking for the first single

  • Filling in shadows using additional unbleached muslin

  • Flagging the top-light to control the background

  • Adjusting the external light to maintain colour contrast

  • Shooting Kate’s single

  • Adjusting the fireplace effect to work for a close-up

  • Shooting Ivan’s single

  • Summary

  • The final edited scene

Shooting the Singles
+ Night Exterior
4 lectures 59:36
  • Observing the blocking with actors Kate and Ivan

  • Principles of night exterior lighting

  • Creating believable moonlight

  • Features of HMI lighting

  • Choosing a position and height for the HMI "moon"

Setting the Moon
  • Use of a practical fire source

  • Reinforcing a practical fire with an LED fixture

  • Colour contrast

  • Using a Kino Flo as an additional soft source

  • Tackling a difficult shadow

  • Reading and adjusting lighting ratios using an incident meter

  • Working with smoke/atmos outdoors

  • Shooting the master shot

Finessing the Master
  • Adjusting the existing sources to work for a close-up

  • Shooting Ivan’s single

  • Diffusing the HMI

  • Monitoring exposure using false colours

  • Shooting Kate’s single

Shooting the Singles
  • The pros and cons of flipping the backlight

  • Example of cheating the moonlight around

  • Using established sources to your advantage

  • Adding diffusion vs. a gobo to the HMI

  • Creating a “branch-a-loris”

  • Shooting the reverse

  • Summary

  • The final edited scene

Lighting the Reverse
+ Appendices
3 lectures 07:50

Links to useful articles on my blog and my Instagram feed

Useful Links

A list of the camera and lighting equipment and apps used in making the course

Equipment List

This sequence, deleted from Module 3: Night Interior, shows the filming of an alternate version of Kate's close-up. On reflection, I feel that the original version is superior, but see what you think...

Deleted Scene