Friday, December 5, 2008

Lighting Daisies

I'll make this quick because I'm supposed to be in bed already.

There's a lot of good shows on TV -- I've especially enjoyed Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, The Shield, The Cleaner, and, believe it or not, Pushing Daisies.

Yes, Pushing Daisies.

My wife thinks it's dumb, but for some reason I keep coming back. A lot of it is just the look and feel of it... the style of it.

And I can learn a lot about lighting from it.

Most shows require quite a bit of realism but the fantasy-style of Pushing Daisies lets them use some unconventional and dramatic lighting. Take the episode I watched tonight ("Comfort Food") -- near the end, Olive (Kristin Chenoweth) went into a little music video/song of unrequited love. Aside from the quality of her singing (she's surprisingly talented -- I say surprisingly because I don't expect most TV stars to be able to sing very well), the really cool thing was a sequence of lighting changes. So cool, in fact, I took ten minutes and went back and reconstructed the lighting in each shot.

I'll let you do your own reconstruction -- many of these lighting changes happened real-time as one set faded down and another set faded up. For instance:

Pushing Daisies uses such lush and saturated lighting and costumes that you can't help but be impressed. These screen caps don't quite do it justice and it really is better to see the whole sequence animated. (edit: which I've provided at the top of the page with a YouTube clip)

Plus, there was a lot of natural framing and restriction of light.

If you have the time, take a minute or two to break down the lighting on each shot. I've spotted cookies, a snoot or grid, backlighting, frontlighting, sidelighting, pretty much everything in this two minute segment of footage.

A great little learning experience would be to try to imitate a lot of these effects. Get an actor or two, set up a few scenes, and then shoot them to the best of your ability. Maybe I'll try it sometime; I know I'd learn a lot!

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