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Light roles

Discover the roles of light in photography and filmmaking: key, fill, bounce, rim, and kick. Key light shapes the scene, fill light reduces contrast, bounce light reflects off surfaces, rim light outlines subjects, and kick light separates subjects from backgrounds. Master these techniques for stunning visuals!

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Video transcript

(tapping on table) (bell ringing) - In the last exercise, you developed your sense of light and shadow quality by paying attention to intensity, softness, and color. Now let's think about the various roles that light can play when lighting a scene. In photography and filmmaking we define a light by how it is being used. And since those are common terms in those industries, it's useful to know them. To see the different ways lights are used, let's break down the shot and look at the lights one at a time. Key, fill, bounce, rim, and kick. First, let's turn off everything except this light. This is the key light, and it's the main shaping light in the scene. By shaping, we mean it helps things look dimensional. Let's return to our light box and try this out. I'm going to swap out my ball with an orange for this exercise and here's my light in a typical key light position. Now let's return to our scene and turn on another light, the fill light. Here's what the scene looks like with only the fill light. This light adds light into the shadows and reduces contrast. One example of a fill light is a light that we get from the sky. It's usually a softer light, and so it doesn't have strong shaping and shadows the way a key light does. Let's return to our light box again and try this out. Here's what it looks like if I add a fill light to the scene. And here is just the fill light by itself. (light switch clicking off) Now let's return to our virtual example and turn on a new light, the bounce light. This light bounces off of surfaces and gets cast back into the scene. This happens naturally, like when light bounces off of a wall, a table, the floor, or even a shirt. Since light automatically bounces around a scene we sometimes want to exaggerate it or simply add extra light to the subject. The way to do this is by bouncing the light off a white card that is off camera like this. Another light that we sometimes use is called a rim light. Rim lights are used to help carve something out from the background by outlining it with a rim of light. This is done by pointing the light into the camera from behind the subject. To create a rim light on the orange, I'll place my light over here like this. Finally, we can also create what's called a kick light. Here's our scene with a kick light only. Like the rim light, the kick light can be used to help separate the subject from the background. This light, however, is brought around a little more to the side of the character and rather than being an outline, gives extra shaping to the subject. To create a kick light on the orange I'll move my light over to the side like this. Sometimes, but not always, a kick light is coming from something in the set, such as a window or the sun behind the subject. OK, those are the main roles that we are going to cover in this lesson. Let's see all these lights turned on together. Key, fill, bounce, rim, and kick. In the next exercise, you'll have a chance to explore these basic ideas with something that we ask many people at Pixar to try, lighting an orange. Good luck.