Understanding the Cinematography of Robert Yeoman

Robert Yeoman is one of the most simple and unassuming DPs around. Together with Wes Anderson, he has created some of the most interesting visuals in cinema, ever. I go through some of his cinematography lighting and camera techniques to help you understand his unique style.

Just to be clear: Robert Yeoman changes his style to suit the movies he shoots. The goal of this video and article is to drum up enthusiasm and a yearning to learn more.

Warning: I do not claim this knowledge is 100% accurate. Just think of it as an endorsement of his work. If you want accuracy, look someplace else.

Here’s the video illuminating the cinematography style of Robert Yeoman:

How he lights faces

Robert Yeoman prefers a single soft source (or many sources acting like a single source) from the side. He achieves this by bouncing off muslin or bounce cards, and maybe further diffusing them (a Book Light) with Silks/Light Grid, either quarter, half or full.

He typically, but not often, tends to hair light from the opposite side, and it tends to have a specular nature. It’s subtle and not intended to call attention to itself.

He also uses Kino flos or Chinese lanterns (China Balls) to fill in the actors’ faces.

Cameras, formats and lenses

He is a supporter of film, and has shot on most aspect ratios. He prefers Kodak stock.

Recently, he has started using the Arri Alexa and is comfortable with both mediums. He’s a flexible cinematographer who works hard to adhere to the director’s vision.

He has used all kinds of lenses.

Terms and equipment mentioned in the video

Light Grid is a type of diffusion material.

The standard head for film cameras is the Arri Gear Head. Unlike the fluid head, you position the camera using wheels. This allows for precise movements that are repeatable.

He uses Kino flos, Chinese lanterns (with tungsten bulbs) and LED panels to key the actors after lighting the overall set.

I hope you’ve found this article useful. If I’ve stoked your interest in Robert Yeoman’s work, please watch the movies he shot, read the articles about his movies in American Cinematographer, and read and watch his numerous interviews online.


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