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Backlight experiment


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#1 Simon Walsh

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 07:56 PM

Hi all,

I constantly come across this issue where my subject is close to a wall or in a corner where there is little or no room for a backlight. I shoot low budget interiors on location so there is no room to rig lights from above like in a studio set up. What do you guys think of using a small LED ropelight lining the backwall behind a character to gain further definition of a subject.

Is this a good idea? do you see any problems? Anyone else got a different solution to this?

Regards,

Simon Walsh
Student Cinematographer
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 08:16 PM

I'm not sure a rope light would put out enough light, but if so, if it gave you enough of a rake on the back of someone's head, then the only issue would be flagging it off the wall it was attached to, probably with some black paper tape or something running along the bottom.

You can also cove/bend a piece of showcard, attach it to the top of the wall, and bounce into it. I like to use Source-4's or Lekos for that since they can be focused to just hit the card.

You can also make "bat strips" -- strips of thin wood with a row of light bulbs on it -- assuming you can attach it to the wall.

Probably instead of the rope light, I would tape a Kino flourescent tube to the top of the wall and run black paper tape along the bottom, or blackwrap, to cut it off the wall below.

There is also the question is to whether you always need to have a backlight. It can become artificial-looking if too unmotivated. For example, in a day interior scene, I would never add a backlight from a windowless wall because it would not be coming from any natural location.
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 12:31 AM

This sort of ties into the other thread about coverage. Sometimes the best gag you can pull out of your DP's "bag of tricks" is to control the blocking so that it works for camera, rather than just accept bad blocking and hope to somehow make it look good through lighting. Remember as director of photography you're there to make the image look good. If pulling the actor away from the wall makes it look better, then that's a legitimate control you can exercise.

But of course there are times where the CU has to be in an inconvenient place. I try hard to make sure there's something interesting in the background for separation, if it doesn't seem appropriate to cheat the lighting. It could be as simple as doorframe or piece of a bookshelf, window, or whatever. Anything that gives you visual contrast between foreground and background can help create the illusion of depth. One gag I picked up early on is to always establish a practical in the corner of the room. That way, you can turn on a light and have contrast for separation rather than live with a "dead" background. If it's daytime and not logical to have that light on, then I try really hard to have a piece of a hot window in frame, or at least light coming from a window giving some heat back there.

For a quick "stickup" backlight in a CU though, it's not hard to arm out a small unit on the end of a C-stand. Double-arm the stand if you have to.
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Rig Wheels Passport

Glidecam

CineTape

Aerial Filmworks

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

The Slider

Tai Audio

Willys Widgets

Wooden Camera

CineLab

Technodolly

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Ritter Battery

Paralinx LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Visual Products

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Abel Cine

rebotnix Technologies