Conrad Hall: Tech. Names & Approach to Set Lighting

From American Cinematographer, Leader of the Pack interview by Caleb Deschanel, ASC & edited by David E. Williams (September 1998)

Deschanel: Having watched you work a number of times, I know you have a tendency to ignore certain technical aspects of the craft. I’ve heard you say, ’Oh, bring me a light that’s about this big.’ [Both laugh.] Now, I know you’re talking about a 10K, but do you deliberately just want to free your mind of all of those details?

Hall: Should I know all the names of all the lights? There’s just so much new equipment coming out all the time. In terms of lights, I basically work with big lights and tiny lights. I simplify. I’m loathe to take walls out to shoot a scene. A production designer I recently worked with said to me, ’Conrad, when you shoot, you have a circle around your subject and you work within that circle. When Piotr Sobocinski shoots, he peels the circle back, leaving just a wall here behind his subject. When Emmanuel Lubezki [ASC, AMC] shoots, he does the same thing, but then he kicks a hole in the wall to make space for a backlight.’ Well, I like the reality of shooting in a room with set dimensions. I’m not used to tearing out a wall and pushing back 40 feet so I can use long lenses. I’ve just never thought about working that way. I like to live in this kind of formal reality, in the same way that a painter lives with a canvas of a certain size. That sets up certain rules and suggests an approach without creating the possibility of the viewer being somewhere he or she cannot be.

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