We recently teamed up with SIGMA CINE to create the Cinematography Challenge. Hosted by Rosco and SIGMA Ambassador Graham Ehlers Sheldon – this series of short videos is a way for filmmakers to “nerd-out about cinematography – with a heavy emphasis on lighting and optics.” Each DP that entered SIGMA’s Burbank office began their challenge by choosing a theme or movie genre. Then they used SIGMA CINE lenses and Rosco DMG fixtures to light and lens their scene in 30 minutes or less.
The first challenger to accept the Cinematography Challenge was Cinematographer and Rosco Ambassador Carissa Dorson. According to Carissa, her experience shooting in the fast-paced world of sketch comedy (like her work on A Little Late With Lilly Singh), “makes [her] perfect for this, actually.”
Carissa chose “Fantasy,” which immediately made her think of Guillermo del Toro and the bluish-green + orange color scheme of his films. Carissa began by filling the space with haze using a Rosco V-Hazer. She also chose a SIGMA Cine 50mm T1.5 FF lens for the camera. Then Carissa set up a DMG SL1 MIX light to backlight the scene in a deep cyan. She also added cyan-colored sidelight using a hard light with a 90 Cyan gel from the Rosco CalColor Filter Kit.
Carissa happened to find a golden skull just lying around the SIGMA CINE office. She handed that skull to Mana Afshar, who was our Model/Actor for the Cinematography Challenge. Carissa then bathed Mana and the skull in warm “candlelight” that she created with a DMG DASH. Carissa noted how she had a specific shot from del Toro’s Crimson Peak in mind when the challenge began. “I think we definitely did what I set out to do,” she said, “I’m happy with it.”
In this episode of the Cinematography Challenge, Cinematographer Vance Burberry chose “Dutch Painting” as the inspiration. Vance then proceeded to demolish the challenge by completing not one, but TWO lighting setups in the allotted 30 minutes!
Throughout the video, Vance shares lighting techniques that the Dutch Masters used in their painting – like Rembrandt’s Triangle. This technique uses the model’s nose to create a triangular patch of light on the opposite eye. Vance used the light from an SL1 MIX through a 4×4 Silk to produce a soft sidelight for this effect. He also used a hard spotlight behind Mana to create a little separation between her and the background. Vance lensed the shot using a SIGMA Cine Classic 85mm on the SIGMA fp L camera.
“You know, it’s pretty simple Vance. You’re not using a lot of lights,” Graham observed. “It’s about the light being in the right place,” Vance replied, “better one light in the right place than four in the wrong.”
Click the image to go watch this part of the video.
In his second lighting setup, Vance quickly turned off the SL1 MIX, handed Mana an open book, and laid a DMG DASH inside of it. The only lights in the shot were the DASH and the backlight. “A lot of what Rembrandt did was light from within,” Vance explained. “He’d have a table that lights up or a book. We’re going to have a book, because, knowledge is light – right?”
Our third challenger on the Cinematography Challenge was Director of Photography Chuck France. He chose Crime Drama as his genre, which meant he needed to create contrast. His first task was masking-out all of the light bouncing around the white-colored space with flags and duvetyne. Knowing that he was going to be shooting in very low-light conditions, Chuck mounted a SIGMA Cine 105mm T1.5 FF lens onto the SIGMA fp L. That combination, as Graham noted, “really held it all together” in the low-light conditions.
In order to create as much contrast as possible, Chuck lit his scene with one SL1 MIX equipped with a SnapBag and a SnapGrid. Chuck’s thinking was to create a light source that would mimic moonlight in the scene. At one point, Graham points out that SL1 MIX was only at 3% (“you have 97-percent’ish to go”). In the end, Vance bumped the SL1 up to 10%, and his shot remained moody, contrasty, and desaturated.
In the background of the scene was a small Rosco SoftDrop that reminded Chuck of his home in the Ozarks. Graham was especially impressed with how well the SoftDrop played and how realistic it looked in the scene. “You pull it out of the box and you’re like, ‘okay – it’s a hill.’ But when you see it on camera and – especially on the [SIGMA Cine] 105 – that tree is a tree!”
A huge thanks to our friends at SIGMA CINE, Carissa Dorson, Vance Burberry, Chuck France, and Graham Ehlers Sheldon for helping us create the first three episodes of the Cinematography Challenge. As Graham said in the videos, “we hope this series is fun and, hopefully, a bit educational, because the best way to improve your cinematography is to test and try new things out.”