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Background Lighting Tips?


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#1 Jason Banker

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 02:22 AM

Hi,

As far as lighting actors I feel fairly confident, but background work is a bit confusing.

I have read that you should avoid using soft lights for lighting backgrounds because it flattens the image.
Some have suggested using some small 150 - 300 watt fresnel lights instead, but I don't have much experience on how to make the background look pretty.

Can anyone give me any general rules or tips on background lighting for interiors?

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I am doing some test shooting at the end of the month and most of my locations are in more rundown buildings that have small rooms with little availble light. Some of the rooms have no windows. In a few tests so far, I mainly just lit the actors with a Kino and maybe a dedo as a edge light. The backgrounds were left with only the fall off from the actors lights.

Any suggestions?


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What kind of bulbs should I replace the practicles with? Is there a standard type bulb that most people use?


Also should I use bounce light off of the ceiling to raise the ambient light of a room or does that just contribute to an overly flat image if the room is small?



I know this is fairly basic stuff but any advice would help.
Thanks
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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 03:01 AM

Hey Jason

By any chance do you have a spot meter? When lighting a background, or walls that is, it's good to get a reflective reading. Since walls can vary in color and glossiness of paint, it's good to know exactly how much light is coming off of them when you strike them. As far as using a soft or hard light for the backgrounds, it just depends on what kind of mood you're going for and what time of day you're trying to simulate. What matters a lot are your contrast ratios. Having dramatic shadows can add depth to your image, but you don't want to distract your viewers with a background, so it's a creative decision on your part.

Regarding the practicals, do you actually plan on using the practicals to light your actors, or are they basically set dressing. Eiko makes a great 115w bulb that burns at 3200 kelvin, and GE makes a 75w that I've used. The 115 is good for lighting an actor if they're real close to it, but the 75w is also good if the light is just in a shot and you want a white bulb. Otherwise, basic bulbs are fine if you're OK with them being yellow.

Again, regarding the bounced light, it's just a matter of your contrast ratios. How bright is your key in comparison with the darkness of your shadows. Just gotta figure out what you want and shoot for it

good luck!
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#3 Jason Banker

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 04:47 AM

Yeah, I forgot all about spot metering. Having never went to film school, and shooting very little film I haven't spent much time working with a light meter. Most of my work thus far has been with video and super 8, for documentary type subject matter.

I do own a Sekonic light meter that I use when shooting super 8. Normally I just use it to figure out the proper exposure for the actors face, but not for measuring the differences between lights.

Since the actor is normally the focal point what metering formula is standard for background lights?

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As for using practicals I want the film to be fairly depressing, and dark so I guess the lights can be used as they are for the most part. The main issue is that I will be using the HVX200 with the M2 adapter and I am discovering that you really need to light a scene as though you are lighting for low ASA film stock.

With that in mind is it normal to replace the bulbs with the highest watt bulbs you can run in the fixtures? or does that call to much attention to the background?

Are there 250 or 500w practical bulbs? Would they be overkill?

If I use high watt practicals for the wide shots, can I just subsitute the Kino for the close-ups even though the quality of the light will look somewhat different?

What usually motivates the kind of light a kino puts out beside maybe a window?

In the past I have used my fresnel spots to create that noir type look, but find it challenging to use them to get anything other than a theatrical look. Is bouncing or diffusing the only way around this?

o.k ..... I'll stop :P
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#4 Albert Smith

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 12:48 PM

I dont think there is any really general tips on anything with lighting, its varies so diffrently from project to project or location to location. It really does depend on the scene and what mood you want. Are you just trying the light up walls or a whole backround, day night? Think about some motivation for the lgiht where would it natrually be coming from, would there be any? then think of the scene your trying to create dark and moody, maybe you barley want any light on the backround, or should it be bright and high key. I think for backround lighting if you want to keep it simple bounce light off the ceiling and let it raise the overall level in the room and get some light on everything, thats what I have done when im in a time jam or w/e and it works just to get some light in there with out really thinking about motivation or mood but thats like a last resort I have used. for the fresenals, how big of an output are you dealing with, the farther you pull them back the less spot like they will be, so yes they can be used for other things, but diffusion is not a bad idea either and bouncing works too, theres a lot ofoptions with any light using your grip equipment to direct the light asneeded you can really do anything with any light. As far as practicals go I have used 300w bulbs before, be careful though if there standard sockets there not made to handle bulbs like that and you can run into some problems especially in a lamp as most are rated at 60w. I generally like the yellow from the bulbs personanally so i just use standard bulbs in higher wattages when needed, but thats a preference thing. Hope that helps a bit, Im not a proffesional yet by any means but just some ideas to think about. Good luck with your shoot.

Edited by Jake Zalutsky, 17 November 2006 - 12:51 PM.

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#5 Luke Prendergast

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 05:20 PM

A trick I regularly use for practicals with a shade on them, is to illuminate the shade from the outside with a profile or ellipsoidal spotted right in and cut with the shutters. It still looks realistic, but there is no hotspot from a lamp actually inside the shade, just the nice soft bounce.
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#6 Ashim

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 11:26 PM

Thats a neat trick, indeed!
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#7 Daniel Smith

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 01:37 PM

This is coming from an amateur so ignore if you wish, but it's still my opinion.

I can't stand seeing flat lit backgrounds. (If you want flat, bounce the light off the ceiling or something to prevent hard shadows) One thing I did in a recent shoot was:

1. Shoot the light through a grid which separated the light giving a much more interesting look

2. Closed the horizontal barn doors leaving only a few centimeters. This gave a thin, powerfull line of light which over powered the backlight, looked really effective.


I have to get some stills developed, I could probably upload an example once I have.

Try playing around with some gels.

Could try buying some incense sticks and smoke the place up a bit if you want. (Looks really cool, unless it starts showing light beams coming from places that does not look natural for a light)

Edited by Daniel Ashley-Smith, 18 November 2006 - 01:40 PM.

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