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Light quality

Discover the art of lighting with Pixar's director of photography, Kim White. Learn how real-world lights influence virtual scenes and explore three key aspects of light quality: intensity, color, and softness. Experiment with light sources, filters, and bounce techniques to create different effects and enhance your understanding of lighting in movies.

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Video transcript

- Hi, my name is Kim White and I'm a director of photography for lighting here at Pixar, or DP for short. The main job of a DP is to direct the lighting on a movie. I'll be your host for this lesson on the art of lighting. We'll explore how lighting is done in both physical and virtual scenes. By the end of this lesson, you'll have a chance to set the lights for actual Pixar shots. But before we start I should warn you that there are spoilers ahead for Toy Story 3, Coco and the Incredibles 2 so you may want to watch those movies before starting this lesson. Okay let's get started. In order to know how virtual lights work, it helps to understand how lights in our physical world behave. So let's start this lesson by learning about real lights using a simple, real world exercise. To do this exercise, you will use a basic scene. Two white walls and a white floor with a white ball in the middle. You can construct this scene a couple of different ways. One way is to tape two pieces of white foam core along one edge to make your walls and sit them on a white piece of paper for the floor. For your light source, you can use anything but a flashlight, desk light or clip light would work well. The light source that you choose and where you place it will influence the kind of light that it provides. You could call this the quality of the light. There are three main aspects of light quality we'll cover in this lesson. Intensity, color and softness. Intensity is how bright it is. This depends on the power of the light but we can also change the intensity by moving our light closer or further away from the subject. Another way to change the intensity is to put a piece of paper or cloth in front of the light. Softness is defined by how harsh the light is. You can see this in how soft the shadows are from the light and how the light falls away on the surface. This depends on the size of our light relative to the subject. For example, a small light like this will cast sharp shadows and fall away more quickly around the surface. While a larger light will cast softer shadows and fall off more gradually. There's also a trick filmmakers use to make a smaller light source act like a larger one. They bounce the light off of a bright surface which turns the surface into a large light source. Notice the shadows are much softer because the light source is larger. Finally, let's talk about the color of a light source. To change the color of the light, we can put a filter in front of it such as a piece of colored cloth, plastic or paper like this. Another way to change the color is to bounce it off of a colored surface. For example, let's add two colored walls to our scene. Watch what happens to the light as it bounces off each wall. Observe the change in colors to light and shadows. Notice how the ball is picking up some of the blue bounce light from the left wall and the shadow of the ball is getting red light from the back wall. As you can see, depending on how we use our light, we can change it's quality such as intensity, color and softness. In this first exercise, you'll build this lighting box and observe the effects of the lighting, drawing what you see. However, it's important to know that the goal of this exercise is not about making beautiful, well-drawn images, it's about learning to observe light and shadow. Enjoy!