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Lighting Consistency


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#1 J. Søren Viuf

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 01:38 PM

Some advice needed:

I have now shot quite a few student films, both film and digital, and the one problem I keep on encountering is a lack of consistency in the lighting. Even when I shoot at a consistent aperture, it seems to fluctuate a bit. The only thing else that I can think of that I need to do is take very specific measurements to make sure the light levels match. But is that possible on every part of the scene?

Or do I just need a more experienced eye?

I think part of my problem stems from an uncertainty about "cheating" in close-ups.

I guess my question is what approach do you guys take to ensure a consistent look throughout a scene and throughout a film?

Thanks for the help.

JSV
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 01:42 PM

You just have to know, from experience, how far you can cheat. Generally you don't want to violate the "feeling" for light in the scene, its direction, intensity, color, contrast. But as you get closer, you can alter the softness/hardness of the key, and (slightly) its angle & height, to some extent and get away with it, depending on how extreme the change in shot size is (it's harder to cheat when you're just going from a waist-up to a chest-up shot, for example.)

You also have more flexibility to make cheats when doing a complete turnaround on the room, looking at an entirely new direction, as long as you keep some feeling for the logic of where the light is coming from.

You also have to decide sometimes if keeping the lighting consistent will ultimately be more distracting when moving into a possibly unflatteringly-lit close-up versus changing the lighting to improve the close-up, because some types of lighting effects on a face are more obvious and distracting up close than in a wide shot.

But the goal should be to light a wide shot well-enough that any adjustments in the tighter angles are minimal. Not always possible, but to some extent, that's a cinematographer's dream, to light a master so beautifully that you can zoom in and pick-up tighter shots and have it all work and look great. But sometimes it's just not possible, especially if the wide shot has a lot of roaming camera movement and the lighting was dictated mostly by the need to hide the lights, not make the room or actors look the best.
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#3 Hal Smith

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 02:24 PM

You just have to know, from experience, how far you can cheat. Generally you don't want to violate the "feeling" for light in the scene, its [i]direction,

Slightly off-topic. As part of the moving in closer, don't you often add some diffusion to the lens?
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#4 J. Søren Viuf

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 02:25 PM

Well, David, that certainly helps. Also, I was looking for was some specific methods that cinematographers use to maintain consistency? Digital photos? Light meter readings? By Eye? Anything else?

Thanks again

Soren
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 05:14 PM

I would add that by "lighting" I include not lighting, just using available light and practicals as sometimes being the ideal situation.

I do it mostly by eye and just meter the key. If you had to go back and recreate the lighting, especially for efx work, then taking more readings would be good.

I usually only meter fill when working in very dark settings like a moonlight effect where I really wanted to place the shadow detail at a consistent but "barely there" level. Or when working in extreme backlight where the fill is the "key" on the face really.
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#6 Sam Kim

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 10:26 PM

I would add that by "lighting" I include not lighting, just using available light and practicals as sometimes being the ideal situation.

I do it mostly by eye and just meter the key. If you had to go back and recreate the lighting, especially for efx work, then taking more readings would be good.

I usually only meter fill when working in very dark settings like a moonlight effect where I really wanted to place the shadow detail at a consistent but "barely there" level. Or when working in extreme backlight where the fill is the "key" on the face really.



This was something I was just recently thinking about. Digital is new to me, i've learned all film, and since digital you can manipulate the iris, the aperture, and what feels like a bizillion of things I was wondering how things are kept consistent especially since it's WYSIWYG.

From what David wrote it seems like that the way to keep it consistent is either to Light it, Meter it and keep markings of those, OR just doing it by eye because it's a DP's dream to make it all consistent all the time. right? That's what I'm understanding.

To add my question, when using digital you have to white balance (this is new to me), how often would you do that? How often do you want to change your F stop? Changing your f-stop changes your latitude doesn't it? I think i'm over thinking it and confusing myself. Can someone help clarify this?
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 11:43 PM

Slightly off-topic. As part of the moving in closer, don't you often add some diffusion to the lens?


This is very much a "sometimes" thing. I have done it before and have not done it before. My guess is that's about everyone's story. It probably hasn't been standard practice for a long time.

To add my question, when using digital you have to white balance (this is new to me), how often would you do that? How often do you want to change your F stop? Changing your f-stop changes your latitude doesn't it? I think i'm over thinking it and confusing myself. Can someone help clarify this?


I do it by eye. I white balance once, before beginning a scene. Changing stop isn't something you can characterize as far as how often it's changed. Either you need more depth of field or less, so you change it. generally, though, you want to keep a consistant stop for each particular type of shot. This would mean that you don't want a close-up at f/2 and the reverse CU at f/11. Just the same, you probably don't want to shoot a deep focus master then turn around and shoot one wide open.

As with everything, these are guidelines about what tends to work. I have broken them, but rarely and with good reason.
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#8 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 08 March 2007 - 09:52 AM

Soren,

A great way to make the lighting more consistent is to insist on a couple of color-correction sessions when the film has been cut. What did Ansel Adams say? "The negative is the score, and the print is the performance." When films were shot and cut on film, there was no way around timing a couple of answer prints. Now, w/ digital film-making it's easy enough (especially for film students) to cut the film in Final Cut and output direct to iDVD and entirely forget about color-correction. But, no matter how good you are, you're never going to be perfectly consistent "in-camera." Shots that have been mixed in the editing room blender always need to be tweaked, (that's just the way it works) and your work is incomplete if you do not participate. Given that w/ digital media there is no physical "reality" to your footage, it's even more critical now to color correct.

As for lighting the set, you decide on an approach based on the script and what the director wants. Within that general idea, Sunny Morning Interior, or Dungeon Night, for example, you can get away with quite a bit of cheating.
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