Friday, November 30, 2007

UNDERLIGHT



Underlighting is an interesting effect. It emphasizes completely different details than top lighting. Look at the examples above . The two pictures are of the same person, only the light is different. The difference is amazing! The bottom-lit picture is robust and menacing. You can see every pore in the skin. The top-lit one is ethereal and unworldly. The eye sockets are huge and sunken and the details in the skin have disappeared.


The top-lit guy (bottom most, above) seems too thin to be completely menacing. He's spooky but he look like he's about to keel over from malnutrition. A lot of department stores use overlight in their dressing rooms. It's the easiest light to do and it makes people look thinner.




Underlight looks simple to shoot but you still have to pay attention to the overall effect. Here (above) a light was necessary to separate the back of the head from the background and a dark shirt was worn to eliminate the distracting body and keep the focus on the face.



This still (above) seems too good to be true. Were the eyes and mouth really that black in the original photo?



Girls playing victims look great underlit. It's such an unflattering light for them that seeing it there makes the girl seem completely out of her element and at the mercy of the killer.



You only realize how extreme and exaggerated Frankenstein's lighting was when you see other actors (above) underlit. Here's Peter Lorre with a more subdued underlight. .



Here (above) it looks like Frankenstein was hit by a top light as well as a bottom light.



An interesting interpretation (above) of Frankenstein's head, emphasizing the lower face and blacking out the forehead and hair.
Underlighting didn't seem to do much for this actor (above).




A classic example (above) of underlighting: The eyes are highlighted, the nose is a tall, dark cone, the upper lip is white with a dark moustache of shadow right above it to make the mouth seem bigger and wider.


I haven't seen "Frankenstein" lately but my guess is that a number of his scenes were top lit like the one above. It's a great effect. The toplight makes him seem intellectual and supernatural. The bottomlight makes him seem like the embodiment of fate-ordained death.
The browridge is still very prominent here and it marks the dividing line where the bottom of the face turns gray. Is that just lighting or did they help the light along with darker and lighter make-up in some scenes? How do you like the eyes and sides of the mouth?





13 comments:

lastangelman said...

Used to have an collection of interestingly lit photos of people who had acromegaly - mainly Rondo Hatton - but a quite a few unknown men and woman - I was pissed I had lost them to water damage a few years ago - I imagine the unknown photographer may have been artist looking for unusual features and shadows or someone with an unusual obsession, there was about seventy of these glossies all head shots, some with oversized hands in shot, too.

Jenny said...

Yes, Ernest Thesiger's face really did look that way with that lighting-it's not faked! : )

Ken Mitchroney said...

Eddie, Check out " The Return of DR X ". Bogart is the heavy, and has his own up lighting that follows him through the entire picture. It's really funny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZebNDQA6sZU

Kelly Toon said...

I remember reading about the sculptor who carved the lincoln memorial . . . he/she worked on it inside, with underlighting, and when they got it outside he had a bizarre, startled expression and had to be redone!!

Lester Hunt said...

Eddie, these lighting choices are good examples of how photography can be a real art, as much so in its own way as painting. (There is a minority view in the field of aesthetics that says it can't be, because it just "mechanically reproduces" things). -- You know, one of my favorite examples of overlighting is a great shot of Dietrich in Shanghai Express. It's the one were she is standing in the vestibule of the train car with a single brilliant cieling-light over her. The hairs on her fur collar are gently moving in the breeze, like the tentacles on a sea anemone. Trying to find it just now I noticed how many of the shots of her in this film are overlit. You can see some by clicking this link. Boy, how different they are from the example you give here! Not menacing, but exciting and glamorous. I guess that's my point - its so hard to generalize about what effect a given type of lighting arrangement is going to have.

Kali Fontecchio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny said...

Lester, Kali-Josef von Sternberg was/is justly famous for his high key lighting of faces--most particularly Marlene's face--above all his other many stylistic touches; he invented that lighting for Dietrich(and she always credited him with inventing her entire screen persona through his presentation, particularly the lighting).

And yes, after Joe had his way with her on film, Marlene herself had learned exactly how she should be lit, and how to do it technically--while she didn't set the lights herself she'd demand the "von Sternberg" treatment by every cinematographer in virtually all her films thereafter. They were sure a great team.

Kali Fontecchio said...

ACCK WHAT AN UGLY TYPO I HAD EARLIER!

Hey Lester! She is overlit on purpose by her request- at least that's what Riefenstahl said...

The Horns and the Hawk said...

so, i went away for awhile and my rss blog reader was absolutely full, and it took me a very long time to read through. i saw a post where you said, essentially, "i quit!" but then here i am reading all these recently posted blogs. this is my 3rd one from my rss reader this morning. what gives?

don't get me wrong, i love your blogs. i like the way you talk theory that's not directly related to animation and your photo comics. glad you didn't leave, but what made you stay?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Horns: Thanks for asking! Well, I got a lot of comments that convinced me to stay, that and a picture of Uncle Eddie on the Theory Chair by John and Kali.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Kelly: Great story!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Ken: Thanks for the Mr. X trailer! I saw the film. It's an odd movie that seems to fail as often as it succeeds, yet's still worth seeing.

Some Guy said...

Man, I wish modern films had cinematography like in the old days. Wait, make that any cinematography at all.