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Fluorescents+windows+huge warm source


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#1 Elena Valden

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 10:32 AM

Hello everyone,

Savoy maybe a nice hotel, but their kitchen is a nightmare to light for an inexperienced DP like me!
We are shooting a documentary on 16mm, T500, and the location looks very tricky:

fluorescents on the ceiling are all over the place with colour temperature ranging from 3600 to 6500K,
there are windows and a huge lamp all along the kitchen under which they keep the food warm before it is served (2030K and looks incredibly orange).

The main kitchen's readings are at 2.0/2.8 and that big lamp goes right into 11.5
To top it up, the gowns of chefs and plates are shining white

Not very sure whether I can afford to lose a stop by using an FLB on Cooke lense,
and how to match redheads and blonds for those conditions,
and what to set the aperture on,

and the food still needs to look gorgeous...

I would be VERY grateful for a piece of advice (SOS! Help! :)
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 10:43 AM

If it's a documentary... why do you need to light it? Sounds like there is plenty of light in there. Mixed color temps are fine in a documentary.

In terms of adding more light, you need to decide on average what direction you will be shifting the overall image in post towards -- maybe you'll let the tungsten be halfway warm and the daylight halfway blue, and leave a little but not all of the green in the flourescents. If that's the case, maybe any additional light -- like for fill -- should just be in the inbetween color -- halfway between 3200K and 5500K, with a little green. So maybe add 1/2 CTB + 1/2 Plus-Green to your tungsten lamps.

Modern color neg stocks are pretty good at dealing with mixed color sources in a scene, and modern telecine color-correctors can do a lot to balance things too.
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 05:09 PM

I agree, I've done dozens of shoots in restaurtant/hotel kitchens and just let the mix of light sources go. Usually I go with a tunsgsten balance and don't worry about the fluorescents going cyan. You can always warm it up just a bit in post if you want.

In your case it sounds like you might want to aim for a color temperature of about 4400 -- half way between the daylight and tungsten sources, and close to the fluorescents except for their green spikes. That means putting 1/2 CTB on your redheads for general fill, or let them stay tungsten for filling in areas closer to the tungsten lighting. Personally I wouldn't add any plusgreen to my fill lights, just to protect the color saturation in the food. But David's absolutely right about using it when you're trying to fill a predominantly fluorescent-lit area.

You could elect to shoot tungsten film with an 81EF filter if you want to protect the warm saturation, or forego the filter and just color time / telecine the right color balance later. Daylight balanced film generally handles mixed color temps better than tungsten, to a small degree. And FWIW, food and faces generally look better when skewed warmer rather than cooler, but if you're doing "beauty" shots of the food you might want to set up an area with more controlled lighting for that anyway.

I know what you mean about the difference in light levels, especially between the aisles/counter areas (toplit) and under the hoods where the cooktops are. Usually there's a feeble tungsten bulb up in there that's not enough to compete with the rest of the kitchen. Usually I'm shooting video so I just end up riding the iris like crazy, but with film you might have some extra latitude to pick an exposure and know that the film will hold detail. I wouldn't worry about the white outfits or shiny surfaces -- just expose for the incident light and let the highlights behave naturally.
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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 05:22 PM

fluorescents on the ceiling are all over the place with colour temperature ranging from 3600 to 6500K,
there are windows and a huge lamp all along the kitchen under which they keep the food warm before it is served (2030K and looks incredibly orange).


The heat lamps are supposed to be orange, so that's forgiveable. However, for your main source, the fluorescents, just be sure to shoot a gray card for if you plan on timing out the odd colors & color temps. during telecine.

You can always have them prepare the food again for you on another day, specifically for getting some glamour shots of the dishes in a special lighting setup.
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#5 Ken Minehan

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 07:50 AM

On your recce take a good digital SLR with you. Sometimes i use Canon 30D or 5D for recce. In singapore we shoot at 24fps, so i set my camera to 1/50 shutter speed and take a couple of still frames for a rough gauge. Set your colour balance on tungsten and see how it looks. Then try a few different colour balances. If you have little experience, doing this on a recce can help you alot.

If you want to correct everything so it looks flawless thats fine, but i would think on a documentary shoot you wont have the luxury of time.

Anyway good luck mate.

Ken Minehan
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#6 Elena Valden

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 10:44 AM

maybe any additional light -- like for fill -- should just be in the inbetween color -- halfway between 3200K and 5500K, with a little green. So maybe add 1/2 CTB + 1/2 Plus-Green to your tungsten lamps.

Modern color neg stocks are pretty good at dealing with mixed color sources in a scene, and modern telecine color-correctors can do a lot to balance things too.


thank you so much. Yesterday was the first shooting day, and I decided not to use many lights, as you suggested, and only had one redhead at hand to boost the light up a little bit.
I went for CYAN 4330+15 (which I believe is close to 1/2CTB +1/2 Plus-Green) for the redhead, and it seems to be blending in with the rest of the lights in the kitchen more or less.

Have watched the rushes today in the morning, and have noticed that, when adding light from a redhead, if I reflect the light through one of the many steely surfaces in the kitchen, the subject seems to be much more evenly lit compared to ths shots when the redhead hits it straight on.

Another strange thing is that shots that seem slightly underexposed (still gradeable, I hope), the green is much-much less noticable, and I do not really know what to think of it.

And what is even more surprising, one of the shots came out looking absolutely normal, as if tungsten balanced. There are so many factors involved that I do not even know what affected it most:
a) it was in the area closer to the warm source
B) there were lights I didn't measure at the recce (still looked exactly like others to the eye)
c) I didn't use redhead with cyan on it

So I am at a loss how to carry on shooting - all my recce T stills showed that the kitchen will come out green, but now I am doubting whether I am enhancing the green myself by using the CYAN on the redhead?
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 11:02 AM

Well, if you're in a part of the kitchen with no green, then you don't need to add it, but otherwise, all you are doing is maintaining some green in your additional lighting so you can remove some of it overall in post later. You could use less green if you feel it's OK -- you could use 1/4 Plus Green instead of 1/2 Plus Green.
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#8 Elena Valden

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 11:02 AM

If you want to correct everything so it looks flawless thats fine, but i would think on a documentary shoot you wont have the luxury of time.



you are soooo right about time! As the first day showed, there is hardly any time and space even for a single redhead...
thank you so much for advice,
yes, I have done some recce, but the results on stills seem to be quite different from my first rushes

colours are very different in different areas,
and originally I wnated to keep the green, industrial look of the kitchen by not fighting fluorescents and balancing tungsten lamps with CYAN, but now I see that the heat lamp in some shots is taking over the fluorescents completely and the green look vanishes.

so I guess a lot of work will have to be done in grading. Unless there is another solution?
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#9 Michael Nash

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 09:32 PM

Well, you said that there were a lot of different colored light sources in the room (including different CT's of fluorescents), so it's expected that some areas and shots will appear a different color than others. Basically your only options are to light each area to the same color temp (which you've ruled out for practical reasons), or to try to smooth out the color differences shot-to-shot in post color correction.

I wouldn't worry about the heat lamps washing out the green, though. It seems to me the light from those lamps would be visibly motivated and justified. If the difference in color between shots really starts to bother you, you could include some more shots that include both the warmly lit and the fluorescent lit areas in frame, so that the audience gets used to the idea that there are different colored lights in the room.

The appearance of green from fluorescent lights is different between film stocks, and between different digital captures (stills or video). If you were taking your recce stills with a different film stock, or a digital camera, there's no guarantee that the green saturation will appear the same in your final footage. Really what digital stills are good for is just seeing what color temps are present, not as "proof" of the final look.

Of course your fill light will look more "even" when bounced off a surface, even a reflective one such as steel (assuming it's not mirror perfect). The larger the area of the light source, the softer the quality of light, and the broader the spread. You could try putting some diffusion like 216 right on the redhead as well, which will help spread the light more although it won't be as soft as a bounced source.
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#10 Nicholas Kinsey

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 09:17 PM

[quote name='Elena Valden' date='Feb 14 2007, 07:32 AM' post='154901']
Hello everyone,

Savoy maybe a nice hotel, but their kitchen is a nightmare to light for an inexperienced DP like me!
We are shooting a documentary on 16mm, T500, and the location looks very tricky:

fluorescents on the ceiling are all over the place with colour temperature ranging from 3600 to 6500K,
there are windows and a huge lamp all along the kitchen under which they keep the food warm before it is served (2030K and looks incredibly orange).

The main kitchen's readings are at 2.0/2.8 and that big lamp goes right into 11.5
To top it up, the gowns of chefs and plates are shining white

Not very sure whether I can afford to lose a stop by using an FLB on Cooke lense,
and how to match redheads and blonds for those conditions,
and what to set the aperture on,

and the food still needs to look gorgeous...

I would be VERY grateful for a piece of advice (SOS! Help! :)

As a Canadian DOP with feature experience, the major problem to worry about is the daylight window and fluorescent mix. The question to ask is what you are going to be filming. Skin tones, white gowns and food as far as I can see. To get decent skin tones, I would usually put an 85 filter over the lens and put full blue filters over the tungsten lights. Ideally, HMIs would be used bounced of white cards. This will essentially remove the green tint from the fluorescents and allow you to bring up the light some.

You are using a film stock that won't work with both light sources, so you could chose to kill the daylight and work without a filter. Then the lab will time out the green. This works very well except for eyes. You could rent a fluorescent light head and hold it near faces to bring up the eyes (an eye light).

Or finally, you could kill the fluorescents entirely by turning off the lights and working at 3200 with your tungsten lights.

All these methods can give good results. The overhead fluorescents will be reflected on stainless and glass surfaces, giving a greenish tinge in 1 and 2 above. If the aim is to see food being cooked, try to minimize the fluorescent light and work with your turngsten light heads.

Don't believe that just because you are doing a documentary means that sloppy lighting will be acceptable. Good natural lighting will always win out. Hope this useful.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 11:46 PM

There is a school of thought, from the old Cinema Verite days, that documentaries shouldn't be lit at all. Of course, it depends on the type of documentary, but honestly, the point is usually to capture the reality of the situation, not relight things to look pretty.
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#12 ryan_bennett

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 12:00 AM

Now I'm going to have a similar situation, big fluorescents and windows which for the set is supposed to be a studio producers office. My idea is to shoot using Fuji Reala 500D, any thoughts?
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 12:34 AM

My idea is to shoot using Fuji Reala 500D, any thoughts?


If you're shooting it in 16mm, I hope you like grain...
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#14 Chris B. Cornell

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 01:16 AM

There is a school of thought, from the old Cinema Verite days, that documentaries shouldn't be lit at all. Of course, it depends on the type of documentary, but honestly, the point is usually to capture the reality of the situation, not relight things to look pretty.



But you would agree that the camera exposes an "unlit" scene differently than the eye will see it. My question is: should one go through measures to light the scene not to "look pretty," but to preserve the "reality" of the scene. For example, gelling windows to see outside, or perhaps replacing replacing globes in the existing practicals in order to get at least some level of exposure, if required.

Edited by Chris B. Cornell, 22 February 2007 - 01:17 AM.

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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 09:39 AM

But you would agree that the camera exposes an "unlit" scene differently than the eye will see it. My question is: should one go through measures to light the scene not to "look pretty," but to preserve the "reality" of the scene. For example, gelling windows to see outside, or perhaps replacing replacing globes in the existing practicals in order to get at least some level of exposure, if required.


It's not about recreating natural light to look correct for the film stock & camera lens, which fiction cinematographers do all the time -- it's about not changing the real situation, including the lighting, for the sake of the filmmaking technique being used. Of course, it depends on the type of documentary -- an interview, for example, is a staged situation anyway so why not light it? But a fly-on-the-wall Frederick Wiseman-type observational documentary... the last thing you want to do is to start setting up lighting and grip equipment around people who are supposed to forget the camera is there.
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#16 ryan_bennett

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 09:45 AM

Ya I don't mind grain, but now you got me curious to see it I think I got to run a test on this for sure.
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#17 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 10:28 AM

With doco work as in most other areas, I'd concentrate on getting the skin tone & it's exposure right before anything else. I've been in the savoy kitchen some time ago and would have thought you might get more use out of bouncing a 2k, maybe as a froglight and then perhaps use some additional kinos for fill elsewhere... With a froglight it's easy to hang different gel sheets for tuning the colour temp/wash...

Hope shoot goes well...
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