a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Pola screens


Different tools and considerations in cinematography
Billy Williams Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Finally I came to try and... in trying to kind of analyse ones approach, an... an approach which... which I've had for many years now without realising it, is that one works obviously from the script and the breakdown of the scene resulting from the rehearsals. But when one's rehearsing... when the actors are rehearsing and I'm on set with the director and various other crew members and you’re watching to see how things play, and trying to see where is the best place for the camera to be at certain times. And then when the rehearsal has been completed, to have discussions with the director and operator about where we put the camera, when we track, and what size we're going to be, and when we need to be in close and when we need to reverse, these things come out of... of the rehearsal. But there's a thought process which is also going on as to how it's going to be photographed. And the first thing that... that I'm thinking of when I'm... I’m perhaps setting up a shot, is what is the direction of the light going to be? What's the main direction of the light, is there a very obvious source like a window or a practical lamp, or could I make the source anywhere that I liked because there's no obvious source? So that you're thinking about where the source of light comes from. And this also applies when you're working on exteriors, particularly in sunlight... is that if the sun is behind you for instance, you have a very flat picture. When the sun gets into a cross light position, especially when it's... falling a little bit, you get lovely shapes and textures, of the texture of the land and the hills and so on, and things become more sculpted. And then when it lits into three quarter back light, things become more rim lit and dramatic and then when it goes into full back light you see, you get this halo effect round things. That backlight picks up the mist more and the atmosphere that surround, or if you're using fog and you backlight it, it shows up much more.

And so the first consideration... what is... what is the direction of the light? And if you're in the studio of course you have a certain amount of choice as to way you place that key light. And of course you have to take into consideration the placement of the actors and how you want the actors to look, because certain angles of light are less flattering than other angles, so the direction of the light is the first consideration. The next consideration is, is it going to be hard light or it is going to be diffused through a frame, which will soften the shadows. Or it is going to be very, very soft by bouncing off a big white frame, which will give you even less shadows. So that's the second consideration, is... is what I call the quality of light. Hard, diffused or very soft. The third consideration is what is the contrast ratio. Are you looking for extremely contrasty, which is more dramatic of course, or, you know, the more fill light you put in the less dramatic it becomes. So how much fill light do you want to put in, in relation to this key light. Because if one says that it's an eight or a 10 to one ratio, that's... that’s a contrasty, if you get down to four or six to one, that's more kind of middle of the range and then the flatter you get the, you know, ratio can be one to two, but that's a very flat look. But there might be times when you want to do that. So that's the next consideration, is the contrast ratio.

The other consideration, the next one, is what is the colour the light. Is it... is it all white light or is it a mixture of perhaps colder light coming through the window with a bit of tungsten light inside. And if that's the case, then the tungsten light should have a warmer look than the daylight, so what filters are you going to put on the lamps to create this difference in the colour temperature. So that's the next consideration, is the colour of the light. Then the... I think the final consideration is, what are you going to put on the camera. Are you going to be put any kind of colour filter, so that the overall thing has a... a colour bias or are you going to stay just with the 85 if you're on exteriors or with no filter inside, and are you going to put any diffusion on? Do you want this thing to look what we call clean, which means there's no... no diffusion, or you want one of a choice of many, many different kinds of filters marketed by Tiffin and various other manufacturers, which diffuse the image. They all break down the image to a certain extent, make it less sharp. Some of them create a little flair around the highlights; some of them just reduce the contrast. There's only one filter that increases the contrast and that's the pola screen, which you wouldn't normally use inside, but I always use a pola screen when I'm on location because it enhances the sky and can reduce unwanted reflections off water. A pola screen is... is the only one that increases contrasts, all the other filters are a means of reducing contrasts. I always favoured black nets as diffusion, various degrees of density in black net that... there's such a choice now of different... different filters that you can do all sorts of things, and graduated filters too are very useful for taking down a sky that's too bright, just a... a neutral density... soft edged neutral density you can bring down and reduce the sky... bright sky or make the clouds more dramatic. So, all of these things I try to encourage the... the group to think about, to have a pattern of thinking as to how you're going to achieve the desired effect.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 6 minutes, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008