Killing the Light: Dark Cinematography

Low Key Cinematography - Bridge

There is low key lighting and then there is LOW KEY lighting.

Max Goldman is one very talented cinematographer and this week’s inspiration corner honor goes to his recent commercial for Carhart and what he describes as “dirty & abstract“.

This is hands down one of the best commercials I have seen on Vimeo this year.  The mood, the color palette, the tonality of the images are all stunning.  Max does a great job across all the environments of keeping a solid low key look with splashes of color.  This is dark cinematography at its finest.

Low Key Cinematography


Low Key Cinematography - Wide
LLow Key Cinematography - Weather

Getting the Look

The grade (done by Tom Poole @ Company 3) does a nice job of making the spot pop in all the right places and this is definitely one to check out.

If you like this kind of dark cinematography be sure to check out my upcoming interview with Max on episode 002 of The Wandering DP Podcast.

Max went over during the podcast how he likes to take advantage of working with larger crews on jobs like this.  If he is in a flat light situation he can have a 40x or a 30x black to throw over the camera as negative fill to give him immediate mood.  Whatever he is doing it is working.  The camera always seems to be in just the right spot.


Dirty Cinematography


Low Key Cinematography

Pushing the Alexa

Max talks about how he poured water on the lens and how he used the mantra “Dirty Abstraction” to convey his ideas of the look of the piece while on set.  He shot this on his preferred set up of the Arri Alexa coupled with vintage lenses.  In this case it was a set of Canon K-35s and as he points out in the podcast interview he likes to push the Alexa in RAW mode to 1280 or 1600 in most situations.

The combination of old and new makes for a very inspired look.

I think he nailed it.

Dark Cinematography
Dark Cinematography

Your Thoughts on Dark Cinematography

What do you think?  Are you a fan of the look and feel of the piece?  Do you have any tips or techniques for integrating dirty cinematography in to your productions?

4 Responses

  1. Chris

    Is he putting negative fill over top of the camera to help create the illusion of side light / light wrap in those flat situations ?

  2. Josh

    Just came across your blog. Great article, great video and I have just just downloaded the pod cast. Thank you.

  3. Lance

    Just found your podcast and starting from episode 1. This was amazing. Huge fan of dark cinematography! Very well shot and executed, hard to believe it happened in 3 days. Would be cool to see some BTS on how the lighting was done. Was there any lights on this set. HA HA. So far two episodes into the podcast and really enjoying it.