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Master Lighting

Master lighting and shot lighting are key stages in movie creation. Color keys guide the lighting team, setting the scene's mood and tone. Master lighting sets up lights for the entire scene, while shot lighting adjusts individual shots. This process helps create visually stunning and emotionally impactful films.

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Video transcript

- Once we have a color script done for the entire film, we look closer at individual scenes to further develop how we are going to light them. If you recall from our storytelling lesson, a scene is comprised of many different shots, and each shot is defined by a new camera angle. As a first step, a few shots are chosen from each scene and they are roughly painted to show what the lighting will look like. This allows us to see the direction of the light, its color, how much atmosphere there will be, and the value structure of the scene before we begin lighting on the computer. These paintings are called color keys, and they will be used by the lighting team as a reference while they are lighting the scene. Often times, we'll choose a wide shot that shows as much of the environment as possible. This is so that we can get the broad strokes of the lighting design. Here is a wide shot from Cars 3 of the Thomasville track in the morning. Sometimes, we also paint a closeup shot of characters to help show what they will look like in the setup. For example, here's a closeup from the same scene in Cars 3. Notice how McQueen is in the shadow from the stadium. Having McQueen staged in the shadow and Cruz in the light at the end of the scene was an important story point that we wanted to capture in the color key. Cruz is celebrating because she's beat McQueen and she's in the light. But, he realizes he'll never beat Storm, so we kept him in the shadows. Also, notice how warm the sunlight is on the ground, how cool the shadows are, and the dark value of the trees behind Cruz. These were all cues that we followed from the color key to help the sequence feel like early morning. Once the director is happy with the paintings and feels that they portray the look and feel of that moment in the movie, we're ready to start the actual lighting. Lighting happens in two main stages, master lighting and shot lighting. Master lighting is where we set up the lights for the entire scene. This involves choosing the correct position, direction, time of day, color, and intensity for the lights. Think of it as lighting in broad strokes, taking all the shots into consideration. Shot lighting is where we go in and adjust the lighting for each individual shot. We'll talk about that more in the next video. In this video, we're going to focus on master lighting. Let's bring in a few of our artists to help us out. - Choosing the right moments for a color key is, again, more of a practical problem, as well as an emotional, color-based idea. You might show, like, a wide shot to say, "The world looks like this at this point," you know, whether where you are, it's just the quality, the color of the thing. So often, you might start with an establishing shot. You're trying to sort of seduce them into saying, "That's what I want it to look like "and believe it can be done that way," and so, when you finally get to lighting, they're totally on board with that direction. - It's important to have a picture, otherwise we can all say words. You know, we can all say, you know, "A green glass holding a cup of water," and every one of us is going to be correct in whatever image is in our head, and entirely different from each other, right? And so, it's important to have some sort of, like, rough, grounded reference that we can all point at, understand what we're doing, and go off in a direction, and then allow it to evolve from there. - I'm Keith Cormier. I'm a Lighting Technical Director. - My name is Jonathan Pytko, and I'm a Lighting Technical Director here at Pixar. When I get the color keys, what I'm looking for is the overall mood and tone of what's in the scene, and if there's any sort of big story elements that we have to convey through the composition of light. So, in this color key, you can see that we're coming into the arrival's departure area, and this is a nice example of where we're using color and light to create this friendly, inviting atmosphere. Everyone's happy and coming into this place, so we're using atmosphere in the background, which plays a huge part in the Land of the Dead, to create this nice, colorful, blue atmosphere, interspersed with different pockets of warm light to always sort of show that there's something going on just around the other corner. And then, in the foreground, we have a lot of pin lights of all different colors. We have street lamps lighting up, we have these big fire pits everywhere that are just, everything is subtly contributing to bring up the level of illumination so that it feels lit, it feels colorful, and it gives a nice sense of warmth, and inviting the characters in. - For this color key for family dinner, the DP had indicated that the center of attention was this dinner table in the middle of the room, and a lot of the room would fall away into darkness. And generally, when I get a color key, I've taken a look at what the main light is, what's the heavy hitter in the scene? And in this particular sequence, the main light is the light hanging over the table, and naturally, there's gonna be some bounce light coming off of the table. In this case, the table was white, and that way, we got a little bit more bounce on all the characters. We tried to be true and authentic to the lighting scenario that was there, so the heights of the characters would make them brighter or dimmer because they are closer or further away from the light. And it ended up working amazingly well, that it happens to be kind of an emotional moment in the movie where the family's arguing a little bit, and Bob ends up having a little bit of a heated moment, and he leans forward in his chair and he gets even closer to the light, and his face kind of blows out a little bit, and that really added to the emotional impact of the scene, and I knew it was really working because I get done with the sequence and my heart would be kinda pounding a little bit and I'd be a little tense, and I'd have to take a breath. - In the following exercise, we'll provide you with a color key, and your job is to set up the master lighting and try to match it.