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Should a Light Source Always Be "Motivated" in a Film?

Should a light source always be motivated?
Lighting Diagram by Tyler Kaschke, Colorado Gaffer

Motivated light sources when shooting a commercial video production in Denver Colorado
Still frames from this commercial for Kong

Motivated light sources when shooting this commercial video production in Denver Colorado
Stills from this commercial for Kong

Should a light source always be “motivated”? Usually yes, but not always.

We get to create our own reality as filmmakers and light doesn’t have to “make sense” if it fits the narrative and looks cool.

If you can make a scene look beautiful, then who cares which direction the light is coming from. Of course continuity is still important, but usually when the contrast between shots is similar no one will notice.

There are many reasons why photorealism may be better suited for a project (ie documentaries and corporate videos) but when you’re allowed some creative flexibility, a pictorial approach can be really fun.

Pictorialism in cinema emphasizes the beauty of the subject, tonality, and composition - rather than the documentation of reality. Specifically, it was an artistic movement around the turn of the 20th century that pushed to elevate photography as a fine art on par with painting. Their unique aesthetics were achieved by by pre and post exposure manipulation of the image.

I once heard Russell Carpenter, ASC say “Shoot it naturalistically or make your move.” And that should be all the validation anyone ever needed to have some fun. A lot of cinematographers get hung up on whether something “feels natural” I say if it looks good, then send it, bruh 🏄‍♂️

Two 1200Ds streaming through the windows to lift the space and give us back and side definition. A 600D with 1/4 CTS from the left window. A @litegear LiteMat 4 Spectrum with @dopchoice Snapgrid inside to wrap the key and give some nice catchlights in the eyes. A 60C in the back room for texture on the brick wall, and a couple @asteraofficial Titan Tubes for accents elsewhere. Some duve on the ceiling and floppies for negative fill and to bring in some contrast. All controlled via @blackoutlightingconsole and a @ratpaccontrols AKS+

Director @adampatch

Producer @brennahro

AD MJ Black

Dolly G @thefirmgrip

G&E Swing @tongkatt

Art Pam Chavez

Wardrobe @m.corbitt

Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with G&E and grip truck and sprinter van rentals based in Boulder, Colorado and serving Denver, Golden, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.

For more information about motivated film lighting and shooting video production commercials in Colorado, follow me on Instagram @colorado_gaffer 


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