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Painting With Light Paperback – February 5, 2013
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Explains the job of the cinematographer and explores how lighting camera techniques and choice of locations determine the visual mood of film This title provides an overview of author s biography and career and explores the influence of his work on contemporary cinematography and the foreword Few cinematographers have had as decisive an impact on the cinematic medium as John Alton Best known for his highly stylized film noir classics T Men He Walked by Night and The Big Combo Alton earned a reputation during the 1940s and 1950s as one of Hollywood s consummate craftsmen through his visual signature of crisp shadows and sculpted beams of light No less renowned for his virtuoso color cinematography and deft appropriation of widescreen and Technicolor he earned an Academy Award in 1951 for his work on the musical An American in Paris First published in 1949 Painting With Light remains one of the few truly canonical statements on the art of motion picture photography an unrivaled historical document on the workings of postwar American cinema In simple non technical language Alton explains the job of the cinematographer and explores how lighting camera techniques and choice of locations determine the visual mood of film Todd McCarthy s introduction provides an overview of Alton s biography and career and explores the influence of his work on contemporary cinematography and the foreword written expressly for this edition by award winning cinematographer John Bailey explores Alton s often contentious relationships with colleagues the American Society of Cinematographers and the movie industry itself
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I wish I could recommend this book for instruction in lighting technique, or theory, or anything... but I can't. Oh, there's a tidbit here and there, but not much to advance anyone's lighting chops. It IS an interesting look at how motion picture lighting was executed in the 40's and 50's. But given the improvements in lighting instruments and sensors, following these directives will not yield optimum results. So many ideas here feel like "add another light." At one point we learn the 8 light method for lighting a single (one person.) Wow!
Ask a local gaffer or DP who's work you admire if you can work for them, unpaid, as an extra pair of hands on a shoot or 3. Ask ahead of time if you can ask questions while they work. The professionals I work with would be happy to pass on what they know. And don't ignore the DPs and gaffers who are 50+. They've seen it all and will be flattered and happy that you are asking them to share their experience and wisdom.
Alton's work is so remarkable, it's a pity he wasn't able to successfully work within the system to create more films.
He did receive an Academy Award for his cinematography on "An American in Paris," but was largely shunned by the industry.
Just watch the film noir classic, "The Big Combo," and you'll see what I'm talking about.
The rest of the book covers lighting theory, mystery lighting, close up lighting, outdoor lighting, snow, sea, portraits, the lab, day and night, and a bunch of other stuff. It clocks in at 191 pages.