Wartman Boxing Commercial :60 – The Power of Lighting (Part 2 of 3)

Writer/Director: Benjamin Wilt
Director of Photography/Colorsit: Nicholas Matthews
RED Epic & Cooke S4s with ¼ BlackPromist
Graded in DaVinci Resolve & Cinegrain added

(to view an inside look at the Director’s vision for this project visit http://www.benwilt.com/#!wartman-brothers-boxing-/cwzs)


After the location scout, I knew that it was essential for us to strategically re-light the entire gym to capture our little moments.


While we could have used and augmented pre-existing light, we would be fighting with color spikes & flickering from the fluorescents in our slow motion footage, light spilling over a rather visually-busy location & distracting our viewers from what we felt was important, and constantly battling flat-lit underexposure.

In this digital age, we have the luxury of very sensitive cameras (boasting unheard of usable ISO ratings), which have huge creative possibilities, because it allows us to see when before it was impossible (and to use practicals more to light scenes!). This has also created problems. You’ll here statements like “we don’t need lights, anymore” or “why are you wasting production time (MONEY) setting those units, when we could be shooting.” Additionally, just because certain environments can be brighter doesn’t mean they should be. If it’s nighttime and we’re in the city, when you overly raise the exposure without clear aesthetic reasons, it feels quite unnatural psychologically.

Ultimately, lighting is about more than just getting an exposure; it has shape and feeling. It determines what we see & when we see it & how we perceive what we’re seeing. To quote Gordon Willis ASC, A cinematographer is a visual psychiatrist – moving an audience through a movie … making them think the way you want them to think, painting pictures in the dark.” This is why lighting matters so greatly—it’s storytelling!



Telling stories is a privilege, and cinematic stories—no matter how small—take money. We as Dps have a huge responsibility. Deliver a look that accentuates and propels the story…while staying under time and under budget. We certainly bear a certain lion’s share of the responsibility for staying on schedule. So, while we’re interested in achieving a look, don’t fool yourself into thinking certain looks & styles don’t cost you a certain amount of time and money.

To quote the master, Roger Deakins, ASC, “I am finding that my lighting becomes more and more simplified as I gain experience, which facilitates moving the camera more easily. I always operate myself and so I am very aware of the flexibility I need as an operator. With that in mind I have always tended to light for the situation and not a single shot. It is hopeless to light a close shot, however brilliantly, only to find that the lighting used can in no way be justified in a wider view.”

I believe this is just as important as creative vision and it’s a huge consideration in your marketability as a DP. Keep in mind, If you stay on time and under budget you usually get to keep making stories—at least that’s Woody Allen’s secret.

Furthermore, there’s a certain staleness to lighting that’s too exact and too precise. Consider what Conrad Hall ASC, said, “There’s a certain beauty to imperfection.”


Nicholas Matthews is a director of photography who specializes in story-driven commercials, narrative films, and music videos. To see more of his work visit http://www.nicholasmatthewsfilm.com.


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