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Shooting narrative scenes is one of the most crucial skills needed for cinematography. In fact, it is the thing that draws most people to filmmaking. Keeping consistent lighting and camera movement form the essentials for shooting narrative scenes. On top of that, you need to think about character and lighting motivation. Today, director of photography Jon Salmon walks us through how to shoot a narrative scene between two characters in a pool, in the style of a “Coming of Age” indie feature.
In this video, Jon shows us the steps he takes when shooting a scene in a pool.
First, he uses lighting to augment the sunlight, and shape it to be more cinematic. This is done using hard light sources with a matching color temperature to the setting sun. Second, he uses camera angles and lens choices to provide the audience with an intimate connection to the scene. He keeps the camera out of the water but uses a long lens to get close to the characters. Lastly, he keeps the camera motion fluid to match the movement of actors in water. This is done by placing the camera on a sandbag to allow for subtle movements.
The main techniques we will be discussing today are electrical safety, keeping the actor’s movement in mind, and placing lighting before talent. Electrical safety when working around water includes using special equipment to make sure that if a light falls in the water it won’t electrocute anyone. Keeping the actor’s movement in mind means allowing your camera to be fluid to match their movement. Placing lighting before talent means setting the lights without any actors in-frame, and then bringing the actors in. This is important in pool scenarios to avoid the lights falling on the actors and causing electrical hazards.
Ultimately, the best way of lighting a scene is the way that works best for the story. It’s up to you to decide which style of lighting suits the project you’re on. Maybe it’s a naturalistic approach, maybe it’s something completely surreal. At the end of the day it’s about telling the most important story and allowing your audience to relate to the characters.
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