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Exterior lighting for forests


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#1 Hugh Thomson

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 03:10 PM

I'm a student shooting in a rotting pine forest (no leaves/no dappled sunlight). I'm having trouble thinking of ways to make it more visually interesting.

I'm shooting on Super 16 with an ASA of 200T, which goes down to 125 ASA with the daylight filter. On sunny days the bright spots read at about F-stop 11-22 and about 4-5.6 in the shade. Lots of trees casting lots of shadows that make the contrast ratio a pain in the butt. On cloudy days about 2.8 everywhere. No lights, just a bunch of silver reflectors and boards of polystyrene on C-stands.

I've decided to shoot at 70mm-90mm for most of it at 4.0 or 5.6 to make the actors stand out from the blurry background. I'm hoping to shoot must of it with the sun coming from behind the actors to give them a rim light, reflecting light on their faces, making the backlight about 2 stops hotter. If it's cloudy I guess I'd go for a Miller's Crossing kind of look.

Any tips on how to make this more interesting?

And what to do for wide shots with too much contrast between bright/dark? It's being telecined, put on mini-DV and edited on a computer. I suppose that lowers the acceptable contrast range to about 6 stops, so should I expose somewhere between and let the grader worry about it?

(apologies for the long post)
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#2 Ratheesh Ravindran

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 07:50 AM

I'm a student shooting in a rotting pine forest (no leaves/no dappled sunlight). I'm having trouble thinking of ways to make it more visually interesting.

I'm shooting on Super 16 with an ASA of 200T, which goes down to 125 ASA with the daylight filter. On sunny days the bright spots read at about F-stop 11-22 and about 4-5.6 in the shade. Lots of trees casting lots of shadows that make the contrast ratio a pain in the butt. On cloudy days about 2.8 everywhere. No lights, just a bunch of silver reflectors and boards of polystyrene on C-stands.

I've decided to shoot at 70mm-90mm for most of it at 4.0 or 5.6 to make the actors stand out from the blurry background. I'm hoping to shoot must of it with the sun coming from behind the actors to give them a rim light, reflecting light on their faces, making the backlight about 2 stops hotter. If it's cloudy I guess I'd go for a Miller's Crossing kind of look.

Any tips on how to make this more interesting?

And what to do for wide shots with too much contrast between bright/dark? It's being telecined, put on mini-DV and edited on a computer. I suppose that lowers the acceptable contrast range to about 6 stops, so should I expose somewhere between and let the grader worry about it?

(apologies for the long post)



I think you should punch in more light into the shaded areas with whatever reflectors and all you have.It will be absolutely fine even if you have highlights above two stops,since the stocks we use today can handle all that.A white skimmer cloth will be handy to cut out that excess sunlight,so that you can keep a moderate contrast level.All the best.
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#3 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 02:03 PM

I'm a student shooting in a rotting pine forest (no leaves/no dappled sunlight). I'm having trouble thinking of ways to make it more visually interesting.

I've decided to shoot at 70mm-90mm for most of it at 4.0 or 5.6 to make the actors stand out from the blurry background.

Any tips on how to make this more interesting?


Eliminating the forest doesn't seem visually interesting.
What is the purpose of the scene and what is going on in it?
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#4 Hugh Thomson

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Posted 17 September 2006 - 05:04 AM

We just had our first shoot the other day. It seems it takes a lot of room to get a mid shot at 90 mm. Funny that. I'd have to agree with you Mr. Vale. It was a bit pointless driving two hours out to the woods and not showing them. The forest is very, very dense, i was afraid that if they were in focus that it would be too chaotic.

I haven't really shot much on film before. I guess my question is, what's a good contrast ratio for faces in a day shoot?

Where would be the best direction to use the reflectors? from near the camera? from the dark side of the face?

thanks for your help.
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#5 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 08:25 AM

you can also use the sun as backlight and key with a reflector. that doesn't always look natural or right but almost always much "better".

/matt
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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 09:42 AM

If you can, Telecine to something other than mini DV. You're throwing away so much information.
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#7 Ryan McMackin

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 09:46 PM

Hugh,

I too am a student and planning to shoot a music video on 16 in a week or two. I, like you, haven't much film experience and have similar questions. Though, I wanted to ask you a bit about your your location and available light. I went location scouting last week under overcast skies and in the forest, which is dense and green, my images are underexposed. So, I'm assuming that your location has little or no canopy. Is that true? If so, I imagine this difference is due to our respective locations or I am missing something here!? I've attatched a one of my location photos for reference it was shot at ISO 500 F3.5 at 125th of a second as I was originally intending to shoot at 60FPS. Anyones input here would be much appreciated!

-Ryan
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#8 Ryan McMackin

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 10:06 PM

Sorry, the attachment didn't work! Here's a link to the photo...

http://www.rmcmackin.../Forest_125.jpg
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#9 Hugh Thomson

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 02:33 AM

That looks pretty cool, Ryan. We're shooting in very different conditions, there is no canopy where I am. I thought pine was evergreen(?), so i guess it's dying (one in ten of the 60 ft trees have fallen down too). The look of your forest reminds me a bit of Snow Falling on Cedars. There are a few scenes in similar surroundings and you should probably watch that for some ideas.

I'm in Australia, I've heard that the light here is quite different to that in Europe and North America. It's usually quite hard and rarely overcast, especially where I am.
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#10 Ryan McMackin

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 12:23 PM

Yeah, that makes sense. Thanks for the suggestion, I've been meaning to watch that movie anyways...
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#11 chris schaller

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Posted 22 September 2006 - 01:13 AM

Hi Hugh,
Lighting from the ground (AKA malibu lighting) can sometimes add a surreal feeling and also be more feasible than other approaches. Watching big hollywood movies can be deceiving sometimes. Never underestimate how much resources went into the final product, especially with Robert Richardson involved.
Best of luck.
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#12 Allen Parks

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 01:29 AM

Consider shooting your wides early morning and late afternoon, rimming the trees and actors. Shoot closeups mid day, using reflectors to maintain the rim effect, 8x or 12x silk or light grid overhead, if available, to diffuse the hard toplight from the sun, and poly to fill or key. Wrapping the light around from the direction of the sun is a natural looking source. Negative fill is a great way to maintain or create contrast. 4x solids or floppies can help block ambient light to maintain the contrast of your wide shots, or create contrast if you lose the sun. Neg fill can also be used to maintain an overcast look if you establish overcast and gain sunlight later, fly a solid over head and shoot into the shadows.

Strange things happen in natural settings. In hard sun, light bouces "environmentally". Place poly on the ground and bounce some sun from below or bounce your reflectors into it. Use the colors of the environment. I've used wood(luan) as bounces in fall forest and in desert to simulate natural looking bouce that occurs in the environment.
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