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Painting With Light Paperback – May 18, 1995
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Top Customer Reviews
An Introduction by film critic and documentarian Todd M. McCarthy provides a biography of John Alton and a filmography. John Alton starts out by saying that his techniques may be applied to still photography, and there are a couple of chapters toward the end of the book dedicated primarily to still photography, so photographers take note. The equipment that Alton describes is outdated, of course, but the reasoning and techniques may still apply, especially to those interested in low key lighting. The book starts out by introducing the cinematographer's equipment and describing basic lighting set-ups. Film noir fans may be particularly interested in Chapter 3, "Mystery Lighting". Alton found "the most beautiful photography is in a low key, with rich blacks", and he talks about creating it here. Chapter 4, "Special Illumination", explores some situations also common to film noir, such as streets, rain, fog, and moonlight. Chapter 5, "The Hollywood Close-up", might be applied to portrait photography as well as movies.Read more ›
In filmmaking we are faced with the same Paradigm that faces all industries. The pyramid = Fast, Good, and Cheap. Each of these occupies its own corner of a standard triangle. But here in lies the rub, you can only choose two: good and fast, fast and cheap, cheap and good, etc.
"Painting with Light" comes from an era were most of Hollywood understood this paradigm. Most people in Hollywood, particularly those in "Key" positions knew that good, if not great, lighting took time, and often time took money.
It's an excellent book for those that wish to know more about the general technical requirements of film. Along with "The 5 C's of Cinematography". I would also reccomend, if not require, this book for any aspiring indie filmmaker. Want to make a movie that competes with the majors? Learn what the majors know, and forget what they taught you in film school.
It didn't disappoint. Very convincingly, Mr. Alton makes his case for the way lighting and setting can affect the whole tone and mood of a film. He also reveals how some difficult situations, filming against snow, can be overcome.
This was a seminal book of 1949 and I'm glad to rediscover it, even though I wasn't born in 1949 and I came to it late but had the luck to see an earlier edition. As you can probably tell, the cover photo is riveting and the contents are also compelling.
I did want to note what may, perhaps, be obvious to some readers: film techniques and the ability to manipulate lighting have come a long way since 1949. Special effects can be used. But I come to this book with a still photographer's background and I'm thrilled to be able to use the information in both film and still photography.
If you are prepared to take what is here and remember when this book was written, you'll find an abundance of riches. For those who like noir type photos or movies, you'll be thrilled when Alton discusses how to use weather to your advantage - whether that be rain, snow, fog, etc.
Also, a confession: I prefer black and white photos and films - in many instances - so I was particularly delighted to read Alton's words about "rich blacks", two words that might not seem to be joined together - rich and black (and I'm not talking politics or class here).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is useful even though a lot of the info is for an older generation. The setups and the basic thinking still applies.Published 5 months ago by StudioSteve
The technology is old, so it is interesting, but lighting a scene and description of on set jobs is spot on. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
John Alton knew lighting, and has a great grasp on teaching it. His book, although old, still has momentum in the basics of lighting and even a few cheap ways to make effects in... Read morePublished on April 26, 2014 by Austin Dudley
Brilliant insight of a great cameraman, despite it's very technical start, philosophy and theory pour out of what seem like side-notes. Read morePublished on April 26, 2014 by Pedro
Thank you, Martin Scorsese, for recommending this book.
Alton's work is so remarkable, it's a pity he wasn't able to successfully work within the system to create more... Read more
As a former professional stills photographer I can relate to many, if not all of the lighting discussions in this book. After all, in a way light is light. Read morePublished on March 31, 2014 by Tim Greig
I've not made it all the way through this book, however, what I have read has been great. As an independent filmmaker, it seems that the term "independent film" means... Read morePublished on November 28, 2013 by Ross Hamil
This is the classic by John Alton. You will learn those essential theories on lighting which answer all or at least many of your questions. Read morePublished on November 10, 2013 by The Z Man