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Period Piece Lighting


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#1 SSJR

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 12:31 PM

So we are throwing back to 1660 for a movie about the plague.

I'm shooting on 800T with 1/4 and 1/8 pro-mist for exteriors in a historically accurate village. I have interiors that are in a dark house from the 1600s and have three windows all on one side. Lanterns and available light are my only motivational / existing light.

Here's where the question comes in....

How do I light a interior night scene and fill the room with a natural glow from "the lantern" but make sure it isn't too orange or fake?

similarly how would i have a subject move a lantern in frame and make the light coming from it look real if the lantern itself doesn't emit enough light?

Last does anyone know of special candles, Lanterns, certain brands of flickr boxes etc. that will expose and fill a subject with 800t and super speed lenses. :)

Help would be much appreciated.

Thanks,


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Evan Lane
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 02:00 PM

You have two different problems here. One is getting enough exposure from a lantern, which is possible if you, for example, put an electric light inside and diffuse the glass housing. "Days of Heaven" did this for the nighttime lantern scene where they pick locusts off of the wheat. Or you can hide a bulb behind the lantern.

The other problem though is one more of logic -- in real life, the fall-off from a single lantern is quite severe, but our eyes quickly readjust as we look around a room, but obviously you don't want to do a lot of stop-pulling everytime someone moves farther away from a lantern, yet you also don't want them to go several stops underexposed. So here is why you have a problem creating a realistic look -- our eyes are always compensating for changes in levels, but we have to light so that we don't have to change the f-stop all the time as we pan around a room. So your choice is to extend the range of the lantern light by adding additional keys from the same direction, or a single key farther away with less fall-off, or have someone move from the light of one lantern to another.

If this were easy, anyone could be a cinematographer. The "single lantern moving through the room" shot is one of the hardest to light, unless you can live with just a bright bulb in the lantern and really just have that be the only source, with the room falling off to darkness quickly. Or you could just add a lot of soft ambient fill throughout the room so that it never goes too dark.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 02:16 PM

Electric light inside lantern housing:

Posted Image

Posted Image

Electric light hidden behind real lantern w/ flames:

Posted Image

Off-camera spotlights coming from direction of lantern, moving with actors:

Posted Image

As you can see, the problem with having the lantern really do the lighting, either with a hidden bulb, or using a bulb instead of a flame, or even if with real candleflames ala "Barry Lyndon" is fall-off -- only the person holding the lantern will really be lit. But the problem with bigger sources lighting the whole room is realism.
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#4 SSJR

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 08:17 PM

David Once again you have been a huge help. Thank you sooo much!

Evan Lane
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#5 Andrew J. Whittaker

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 04:32 PM

Hey Evan,

There was a similar dilema that I faced while gaffing a project last summer. All candle and firelight in a log cabin in the woods. The DP wanted all the light to be motivated by the hundreds of candles in the room and the fire coming from the fireplace. But as David explained the drop off from the firelight and the candles is pretty severe.

So what we did was use a soft fill from a couple of overhead china balls with I believe 60w light bulbs in them, dimmed down to the desired level. The color balance worked perfectly and the scene has a great feel to it.

In your case I think if you can motivate a similar type of fill by placing practical lanterns and or candles around the room, you will be able to get away with motivating a fill from a soft overhead sorce like a china ball. This way you won't have to worry about having an unnatural feeling by not seeing the walls and setting of your scene.

If whatever practical lantern you are using for your key is not enough, the the old trick of flying in a china ball on a pole could work well for you. This is discussed in Reflections: 21 Cinematographers At Work by Benjamin Bergery. There is a chapter where Philippe Rousselot talks specifically about using this technique to suppliment the light from a lighter.

In terms of a flicker box or dimmer box, I would worry more with getting a dimmer than a flicker box. You are not dealing with a large flickering source such as a campfire, so being able to dim the electric lights that you will use to get the light in the right ballpark for color temperature and intensity seems more the paramount concern. Also the flicker could be easily attained by having your practicle sources close enough to the faces of your actors. With the 800 speed film you are using you should be able to get some of that detail as long as you dont overpower it with your electric sources.

Good luck.

-Andrew J. Whittaker
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