Sabela Cutting Cabbage: Lighting Breakdown

I’ve put together another little lighting tutorial — how ironic, since lighting is the one area I knew nothing about when I started this project.  However it seems to be going pretty well, helped swiftly along by the quality of the pre-established setups by a pro cinematographer — Marcus Elliott — and the things I’ve learned from him.

There are 8 lights on this scene, and 5 of them are either cheaply made or relatively cheap to buy.  So I thought a description of this particular setup might be helpful.

Sabela Cutting the Cabbage — Lighting Tutorial from Stephanie Dudley on Vimeo.

  1. Dedo w/ projection lens, angled from above, lighting the front of Sabela
  2. 150W Arri, also from above, shining directly down, from the side (highlighting Sabela’s left arm, and the rim of the cabbage)
  3. LED taped to a piece of white card, shining fill light to Sabela’s right side, and to light the copper pot (here is where I got the LEDs…  from a local dollhouse company.)
  4. LED light nested on the floor of the stage, shining up directly beside (and slightly behind) Sabela, providing a rim light on her left side, and a sparkle in her left eye
  5. LED light tucked behind counter, lighting the back wallpapered wall
  6. Home-made soft box lighting back countertop (for a how-to on making these, see this post)
  7. A second home-made soft box lighting the front countertop (which really only lights the face of the cabbage in this scene)
  8. A softbox built around a 150W Arri, lighting directly above the fridge in the BG.

A lot of these lights were “discovered” by moving the existing lights around a bit, turning them on and off (kind of like what I did with this video tutorial), nudging them left or right, and seeing what worked and what didn’t.  Same goes for camera… a little higher, a little lower, a little closer, further, until it’s just right.  Throughout the film, it has taken longer to set up each scene — camera, rigging, and lighting — than it has to shoot them.  This is the result of a personal philosophy… I feel like the beauty of a film is in the details, the things that contribute most dramatically to the overall mood of the piece… and for me, the animation itself is almost secondary.  Almost.  I certainly don’t sweat the animation as much as I do everything else.  In fact, I enjoy the animation process so much that the end result in this almost does not matter.  Almost.  (Perhaps what I’m saying here is sacrilege for many animators…)

I’ve been trying to arrange and organize the sound processes, recording, sound design, and mixing, many months down the road…  sound and lighting both add SO MUCH to a film’s atmosphere.  I’m very much looking forward to that stage, as well… sitting in a recording studio in Montreal, recording voice and music… I really can’t wait.

Anyway, about the lighting, I’m finding that it just needs to be meddled with until there is an “aha” moment.  Sometimes that can take a couple of days.  (This 10 second scene, for example, took 2 days to light and rig, one day to shoot.  Many of the scenes have taken much longer than this for setup…)

4 thoughts on “Sabela Cutting Cabbage: Lighting Breakdown

  1. Shelley Noble

    What a sensationally educational and informative post, Stephanie!

    I feel like you are saving me thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of reading books (which I couldn’t grasp as well as your demonstrations) and/or attending lighting classes with these fantastic breakdowns!

    Thank you so much!

    I think you got that lighting precisely right. It looked superb to me and even more like magic alchemy after you explained your process lighting it.

    Boy, have you learned a ton about this! So artful! Brava!

  2. stephanie dudley

    That’s great Shelley… After I wrote the post I wondered how useful it was, because I realized “moving things a little left and a little right til they look good” isn’t all that informative… but that’s really all I did, and I guess once you know the basic principles of 3-point light, and how to use soft light vs. hard light, warm vs. cool, yadda yadda… maybe it’s just a matter of taste, to get to the final picture.

    I was very lucky to have a friend helping out, to set the tone of the picture, and the lighting style. Hopefully I’ll be able to do his work justice… or at least partial justice 🙂

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