Grip Lighting

Cinematographers are freaks about light. Adding it, taking it away, leaving it hard, softening it, bouncing it, skipping it, coloring it, shaping it, letting it fall off ... Each story dictates a movies lighting scheme and the grip department has the tools and the know how to help a DP accomplish all of these looks.

When we’re shooting outside, we go to battle with light and the grips are the infantry. They have a lot of weapons. First. Get off on the proper foot and choose the right direction for your shots. In most cases you want the sun behind your subject for as much of your day as possible, location permitting. This is called shooting in backlight. To balance your foreground with the background grips have all kinds of fabrics for bouncing light or “filling” the subject. The kind of bounce you choose is story driven. Day exterior bounce fill depends on the sun. The amount of light hitting the subject is determined by the kick angle of the bounce frame relative to the subject. Passive fill adds exposure based on the tonal “zone” of the fabric and the reflectivity of the subject. Negative fill is typically a dark fabric placed close to the subject that removes ambient light from one side of the subject. This creates a “shadow” and therefore increases the contrast between the light and dark side of the subject. The introduction of any kind of fill is a creative choice.

Grips can also use highly reflective tools to direct a much stronger source of light. And not surprisingly these are called reflectors. Reflectors have a hard side and a soft side. For a straight dose of sunlight they have large mirrors. Of course you need the sun for these to work and a steady hand on them to prevent the source from jittering in the wind. Reflectors have been around a long time.

Sometimes you have to shoot in the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead. In most cases, the grips will build a large silk to soften the hard overhead light. Or if your scene started out in overcast and then it burns off and the sun appears - the grips will build a large frame and skin it with diffusion material to provide artificial “shade”…. To be continued - MV

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