From the Editor: Lighting Lessons At Digital Video Expo
When we began plotting out Digital Video Expo 2010 a few months ago (to take place this year on Sept. 28-30 at the Pasadena Convention Center), I knew we had at least one cornerstone for the event already in place: George Spiro Dibie, ASC.
The Emmy-winning director of photography and former president of IATSE Local 600, the International Cinematographers Guild, George has worked with me on Digital Video Expo for the past two years, serving as coordinator and moderator extrordinaire of our Master Classes in Lighting sessions. During these standing-room-only panel discussions, his fellow American Society of Cinematographers members screen favorite scenes from recent work and then discuss their lighting approach — sounds simple, no?
Well, actually, no.
The careful control of lighting is a key element of every production — whether it be done in in front of the camera or via some postproduction process — and one that separates mere craft from artistic achievement. Good lighting will elevate an otherwise poor project. Bad lighting can help ruin a worthwhile one. The right lighting can create magic. And it’s this distinction that is at the heart of the Master Classes in Lighting sessions, and which George tries to convey with his all-star lineups of panelists, which, in past years have included ASC members Allen Daviau (ET-The
Extra-Terrestrial, Bugsy), Owen Roizman (Network, The Exorcist), Bob Primes (thirtysomething, Felicity), Roberto Schaefer (Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace), Daniel Pearl (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pathfinder) and ASC president Michael Goi (My Name Is Earl, The Mentalist). Yes, George puts on a good show.
Some people may ask, “What can we learn from these Hollywood types? Their gaffer's tape budget is bigger than the budget for my entire project?” To them I say that lighting is about properly addressing your subject, expressing the story being told and setting the mood. It’s about composition, and it’s about captur- ing a performance or moment. Am I describing a $100 million studio film or a corporate video? A network TV series or a wedding? A high-dollar commercial or a YouTube-bound comedy clip?
Is there really a difference, other than the size of your kit or crew?
Dibie (left), with James Wong Howe in the 1960s.
As a popular Hollywood myth goes, the great cinematographer James Wong Howe — also a longtime ASC member — was asked in the 1970s why video “looked so crappy.” Without hesitation, the famously blunt Oscar-winning cameraman (for Hud and The Rose Tattoo) replied, “Because crappy people shoot it.”
Howe was not denigrating video with his reply but those who chose not push the medium to be the best it could be, those who simply wallow in mediocrity. Video has come a long way since then, not only due to improvements in technology but also huge changes in the creative thinking of the people who use it.
George Spiro Dibie, who trained with Howe, was instrumental in that process of change, which began in the late 1970s, and he’s still at it today.
Stop by Digital Video Expo this year to find out for yourself. Register today!
magazine and DV.com