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Treatment of windows


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#21 Michael Nash

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 06:41 PM

On the other hand, I was wondering if any of you actually considers blown-out windows a mistake, in general, or what do you consider to be the "overexposure treshhold" for it.


Well, I tried to address this in my previous post. It depends on the look you're trying to create.

If you're trying to create a contrast range that's a "naturalistic" look (emulating what your eye sees), then it would usually look wrong to not see any detail out the window. The exception might be what David alluded to about distant windows (like at the end of a hallway), where it's reasonable that your eyes would be adjusted to the darker indoor light and not really see bright detail out a distant window.

If you're trying to create a contrast range that's more "photographic" (what film captures in real-life situations), then blowing out a window could look fairly normal, at least on a sunny day.

If you're trying to create a high-contrast look (like a skip-bleach negative), then you would expect the window detail to blow out.

I can't speak for others about an overexposure threshhold for detail outside windows, but generally for a "naturalistic" look you want the outdoors to go pretty hot but still hold some detail. The precise amount depends on the film stock/video camera you're using. On film you might find +3 stops or more looks fine, but on video you'll need to reduce that to +1.5 for a similar look (just as a comparison).

When shooting on location you'll often want to put ND on the windows to help get the indoor and outdoor exposures closer together. When shooting on a stage, you often want to put a lot of light on the backing or exterior view to make it look realistic and not "fake."

Perhaps David can tell us what he does on "Big Love." I haven't seen the show yet, but I assume there may be sets where you see the "studio" backyard out the window.

Like Michael Nash said, I also sometimes put Half Hampshire Frost on the windows to throw the view out of focus, which helps if you only have something fake-looking like a tree branch on a c-stand arm against a white background.


Thanks for clarifying that (no pun intended ;) ). I looked up Half Hampshire Frost in the swatchbook and it's indeed slightly lighter, with more clear image showing through, than "Hampshire Frost."
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#22 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 09:11 PM

Whether to white-out a window partly comes down to "do you have a choice?" -- i.e., if not white, what do you have to put out there if you've lost the light? Maybe if you're lucky, there's a wall outside the window that could be lit-up instead, but maybe not. Maybe a big bush, maybe not. What if outside one window there is a wall or big bush, but the others look out into black space at night? Would you want a view outside one window but whiteness out the others? Or would you want a consistent look to the windows?

So this is what I'm referring to as "taking the curse off of white windows" by using some sheers or blinds to break it up. This looks more acceptable -- for example, look at the opening of "The Godfather", which has point of view shots looking through the blinds at the wedding outside, but otherwise, the windows are whited-out with blinds over them. Not strictly realistic but it creates a graphic look (the bright-dark lines of blinds crossing a whited-out window.)

Now if you are looking straight at a window where the light is supposed to be coming from, but don't want to flare the lens by looking right into a bright diffusion frame surface, then you have to recreate the effect from the off-camera sides of the frame. Now maybe you are lucky and a backlight outside the window just hidden by the top of the window frame can shine into the room far enough, but sometimes you can't get that angle so you place a soft backlight inside the room just above the window frame to create that soft backlight effect (I've sometimes mounted a 4' 4-bank Kinoflo above the top of the window for that look). And maybe you are shining in soft light through the window from each side hidden by the sides of the window frame.

Here is an example of Kinoflos just above the window frames creating a soft backlight from the direction of the windows:

Posted Image

In fact, not only does the practical bedside lamp show a reflection of the Kinoflos on the top of the shade, the shine on the arm gives away the warm sidelight from off camera right to simulate the bedside lamp.
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#23 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 09:27 PM

Regarding the fall-off issue, it's pretty obvious what the problem is. When you cover a window with diffusion and hit it with light, the diffusion becomes the "source" not the light behind it. So if you're a foot away from the window, you're a lot brighter than when you're four feet away from the window, because you are so close to the source. Compare this to a real room with overcast daylight coming through where the far background is the source of light in the room, so moving from one foot to four feet back from the window will not create the same fall-off in intensity.

However, if you are simulating a bright frosted window, then the fall-off would be the same (frost versus diffusion material) since in either case, the surface of the window has become the source of light. But if you are simulating distant overcast skylight or ambient daylight, then to realistically create the same fall-off, you need bigger, softer lights farther away.
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#24 TJ Williams

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 11:16 PM

sometimes when you want the outside to match 2 or 3 stops of ND sheet material can be applied directly to the window surface. This comes with an 85 conversion if you are using quartz inside to match the std. day outside.
best application is with a little water a squeeze and a razor knife to cut to the size of the window. A little practice here is good. A lot of the local grips in my market have become very quick at this.
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#25 Gabriel Cortez

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 03:29 AM

Thank you all for your input on this topic, and especially you, David. These considerations cover just about everything related to my window questions, thank you again.
And by the way, David, that picture you posted helped a lot; I wonder if you could post an example of a DAY/INT. situation, of the same kind? (along with the lighting details)


Cheers
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#26 Paul Bruening

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 10:35 PM

I've always found it ironic how studio shots will blow windows artificially to create the illusion that they are real windows. All that is considered to be just fine. Then, when on location, great effort is taken to reveal exterior detail in windows. It's like, "whatever is the harder thing to do... do that."
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