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Shot lighting

Shot lighting in animation directs viewer attention, creates depth, and enhances character appeal. Master lighting sets the overall scene, while shot lighting adjusts individual elements. Pixar artists use shot lighting to emphasize characters, improve continuity between shots, and make characters look more appealing from specific camera angles.

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Video transcript

- Once master lighting is complete, we then begin shot lighting. In shot lighting we are adjusting the lights to support the individual shot. One of the goals of shot lighting is to direct the viewer's attention, to get them to look where we want them to. Oftentimes a shot will have a lot going on that could grab the audience's attention. Here is an example of a very busy shot from Cars 3, first with master lighting, and here it is with final shot lighting. In shot lighting we added more light to the tops of the cars from the track lights. This helped to give the cars more contrast and it emphasized the fact that the cars are being lit by the lights on the track. The additional contrast makes the shot more dramatic. We also added more light to the dirt where the cars are driving and darkened the ground close to camera. This gave the shot more depth and helped the audience look where we wanted them to. As the cars swing around to the other side of the frame, in shot lighting we continued to keep that strong top light which helps to carve him out from the background. In shot lighting we artificially darkened the foreground car as the camera passes it. This helps keep the focus on McQueen, even though we can't see him on the other side. Losing the audience's attention, even for a split second, can make the shot less clear. Finally, when McQueen comes back into view we shot lit him so that he was brighter on the top and darker on the side to help him feel dimensional. We also moved his key light so that he would have as much shaping as possible. By keeping the green car on the left a little darker, we make sure that the audience's attention stays fixed on McQueen. Another goal of shot lighting is to make shots work in context. Meaning that one shot cuts smoothly to the next. As an example, here are two consecutive shots from Cars 3. In this first shot we introduce Miss Fritter, the school bus. She is an over-the-top character and we wanted to reveal her theatrically with lighting. However, in the master lighting she was getting enough light that she could be seen standing behind Cruz and McQueen. So in shot lighting we darkened her and then animated on a spot light as a way to dramatically introduce her. In the master lighting of the second shot you can see that the spot light existed, but ti was moving around. By locking down the spot light onto the characters in shot lighting we not only create that theatrical moment, we also improve continuity. A third goal of shot lighting is to make characters look appealing from the camera angle of the shot. In this example from Toy Story 3 Lots-O is meant to look mean and even a little evil. In master lighting, there is a red light that is coming from the left side of the screen, but it isn't doing much on Lots-O. So we added a new light onto him from that direction to emphasize the red and also give him more shaping on his face. We also added more red light to the bug character and Ken who are behind Lots-O. This serves to not only give them more shape, but to also support the idea of the red light in the background. Since the light is red, it reinforced the idea that they are Lots-O's henchmen. For more examples of shot lighting, let's hear from two of our shot lighters. - My name is Linhan Li, I'm a lighting artist at Pixar. We usually start with the DP for initial review. So we'll be on the same page on what's the most important elements in the shot. The DP may ask for some separation between character and background. Then we need to knock the background out by lower the contrast and bring more contrast to the foreground. Sometimes there might be background elements that's drawing unwanted attention, we want to tone that down. - One of the things that I had in family dinner was in the far background you see the kitchenette which has a bunch of chrome things in it. And they were a little bit shiny. They weren't specific to the story, they were just sort of atmosphere and you would see this kind of flashy stuff in the back behind him and it's like, that's visually not quite working, it's close but not quite. So I dimmed them down a little bit so it wasn't so distracting. We kind of sweeten things as we refine and polish. - Here's a shot that is very typical shot lighting scenario. This is over the shoulder character conversation. When I just got this shot starting from master lighting everything worked out pretty well. Except that we want to have more emphasis on the main character that's facing the camera and we want to push the background further so we don't pay much attention to it. I added the key light and tweaked intensity to give this main character a more interesting and appealing look and add more atmosphere to the background so there's less contrast. Also, this shot will require some detail work. For example, there is this metal badge on the main character's hat and we want to bring out that metallic quality. I added a special kick light to the badge only to bring out the speck from the metal. And because of the brim of the hat is black verses black hair we want to create some separation, I also added a ring light to have some kick on the edge of the brim of the hat so it separates from the dark hair. - Now that you have a sense of how shot lighting works, it's your turn to try it out. Let's return to the previous exercise that you setup the master lighting in. We can now take a closer look at one of the camera angles and shot light to it. Your goal in the next exercise is to match this color key by selecting the correct lights and adjusting your light parameters. After this exercise, you'll have reached the end of this lesson on lighting. Congratulations! If you want to learn more about the science of color, check out our lesson on color science. Or if you want to learn more about how we render images, check out the rendering lessons. Both of these lessons are relevant to lighting, so check 'em out.