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on 25 May 2004
Although the technical end is obviously about fifty years out of date, this is still a rewarding read for anyone interested in film lighting. For one thing, you'll never look at a film from the 30's and 40's again without the satisfying feeling of being able to recognize a clothing light in action. On a practical level, it's still got a lot of tips worth thinking about for the amateur or even professional filmmaker. The simpicity of the equipment might even be a bonus for those just learning, or shooting on a limited budget. Certainly I've never seen a technical lighting book this clear, practical, and real-world.
My favorite thing about this book though is the extra chapter on Lighting for Ladies. Now this is a guy who LOVES light and is out to do his bit to beautify the world. So naturally, he includes an appendix on how any women who happen to be reading, can use Hollywood lighting tricks to enhance their appearance. I swear I'm this close to rearranging my office so that the daylight can hit me just so... although I don't know if I'm ready to go around my flat with a mirror before a date, so I can figure out the optimal place to sit on the sofa!
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on 14 December 1997
I have had a photocopy of a photocopy of this book for about seven years, so I was understandably extatic to learn of the recent reissuing of this long out of print and much sought-after title. For decades, critics have discussed Film Noir as the apex of American film in terms of style as well as content. And Academy Award winner John Alton has long been hailed as perhaps the most important cinematographer of his era. Such was his passion for the art and craft of cinematography that he wrote a book on the subject at a time when such books just were not being written. Painting With Light has great verve and wit, and serves as a very practical how-to exploration of cinema- tography as it existed at the time. But, as such, it is now also a fascinating slice of movie history. In the end, however, I believe it is most valuable as a tool to help the modern cinema- tographer rediscover the texture and mystery brought to the screen in an era when films pulled you in instead of trying to leap out at you. The book co
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on 4 October 2009
I have given this book to more than a few young people who have had an interest in theatre lighting when they entered higher education over the past fifteen years. It is a seminal work with a simplistic approach to what actually works in creative lighting. Alton, though a film noir specialist, gained his Oscar for the dance sequences in American in Paris, the only time two Oscars were ever awarded for film lighting ... even more amazing is that they were given to the same film!
The technology may have moved on so far it is astounding BUT his principles are as valid today as in 1949. Some of the effects and techniques are lo-tech but the results are still brilliant in modern film. The innovative work he did is used as a foundation for films such as Blade Runner, Girl With A Pearl Earring etc and his tricks-of-the-trade are still appropriate today.
For anyone interested in technical theatre, cinematography or even fine-art appreciation in general this book will be a reference resource which will last another 60 years.
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on 6 November 1996
Oscar winning Alton wrote this book years ago, but it still rules among the most interesting books about film lighting, filmmaking, and the perpetual wonders and mysteries of Light. A must, really. Alton's writing is clear, clever and funny.
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on 20 February 2014
Regarded as a bible in the cinematography world, but due to excessive deference. Now very out of date and doesn't quite stand up to its reputation.
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on 22 October 2008
I think this book is overrated, it lacks significantly for anyone who wish to get hands on technique and get started, and is out dated on so many aspects that it is more a historic curiousity for those who wish to know how they did it back then:

First, the book was written when colour was just beginning to gain popularity in film, but the book fails to state that he wrote for B/W. There are huge differences in film, in particular colour. White balance nad colour temperature is left out, or fixed by adding gels and filters without further discussion.

Second, there is no connection between explained setups and examples where these are used. Most photos are in portrait rather than standard film format, and with the wide screen format you don't get an idea of how any particular lighting works across the entire scene. Most photos lack caption, and are of poor print quality, black is mostly grey and white is washed out - not the contrasty image you where looking for.

And then finally, Alton has his golden age with Film Noir known for low key black and white. It is clear that this is the style he mastered, and unfortunately not much else.

I don't know who this book is for, maybe those who like to study the history of film making.
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on 16 July 1998
This book is an excellent source of information on lighting, from the basics to refining the most professional scenes.
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