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how to augment practicals with a single lighting set-up


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#1 Andy Lehmann

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 05:33 PM

I´ll do a low-budget feature in spring. The director wants me to work mostly handheld to give the actors a lot of freedom. So, it should be avoid having lighting gear in the set. Every lamp should be rigged above or comes from outside. Most of the locations will be lit with available light (more or less). This is not a big deal, because a lot of the locations are naturally lit by fluroscents from above. The only big problem is an apartment at night. There will be a few practicals like floor lamps, desk lamps etc. and the lighting should look natural. So, I´m looking for a way to augment the praticals that work either for wide shots and closer ones...and for different camera angels (there will be a lot of camera moves that start in one direction as a wide shot and ends in another direction as a close-up). I don´t want the light too flat and toppy. The movie will be shoot with a Panasonic HVX200 in HD. Do you have any suggestions?

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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 08:40 PM

Placing the practicals in the right parts of the room can really help. Try to get a light in each corner of the room, so the light can wrap around your subjects a bit, from all camera angles.

You'll still want to augment the light from the practicals though, as they're likely to burn out, especially on video. Small fixtures like clamplights and chinaballs above frame line can help beef up strategic areas. Put them all on dimmers to find the right balance with the practicals.

If it's single camera, it's not difficult to have someone float a chinaball near the camera for added fill. Again use a dimmer; the idea is to fill, not key with it.
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 10:14 PM

You might also want to consider ND'ing some of the lampshades so they don't look too hot. You'll lose the light that would have shone through the shade, but you'll get a really cool hot light coming out the top & bottom of the shade, and probably enough to still be able to work them into your available lighting schematic.
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#4 Andy Lehmann

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 03:42 PM

Thanks for the replies. Yes, I thought about chinaballs before, but i´m frightend about the fact that they are difficult to control and produce too much spill. I don´t want to have the image washed out and be flat. Perhaps, I should use Chimera pancakes instead of chinaballs or bounce additional light into silverlame boards to augment the practicals!? The idea with the ND is a nice one-I´ve done this before with lite grid instead of ND. The problem with video is the stand and the things below the lamp (table etc.) will burn out if you put a bulb with a higher wattage in the practical. Okay, you can cover the bottom of the lamp shape with ND, too. But, what you´ve got is a light that is bounced from the ceiling. I´m searching for a way to get a soft light that is a bit more directional. Any ideas?
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 06:46 PM

There's no getting around it, if you want the light to come from a specific direction, you have to put a light where it needs to be coming from. If you see that light source on camera (as a practical), then you have to cheat the position of the movie light somehow.

The problem here is that you want to be able to more freely around the room, potentially seeing where your movie lights need to be. So you've got to hide supplemental sources somewhere. Above frame line is generally easiest for a camera that needs to see 360 degrees, although it's a bit of a cheat for the lighting.

The other solution (and best, IMO) is to carefully block each shot, finding where you can hide lights behind furniture and such, so that the light comes from more realistic angles.

Practicals don't burn out on video because of higher-wattage bulbs; they burn out because of exposure. The idea is a brighter bulb gives you more light to work with for exposure, then you ND or diffuse any spill that's objectionable. If you're shooting with the HVX (320-ish ASA), you're going to need a little more oomf out of the practicals if you want any natural exposure from them. Otherwise, all your key light is going to come from your supplemental sources, which are in "cheated" positions. You're trying to balance a mix of light from your practicals and supplemental sources, so that the practicals don't completely burn out or the key light be totally cheated.

Chinaballs don't have to give "flat" light. All they are is a lightweight soft source. You can dim them up or down to taste, so they don't have to wash out the whole room -- they can be just bright enough to augment the glow of a table lamp when a character comes close to it, without throwing light all the way across the room. And you can make them as directional as you want by wrapping the backside with duvetyn or blackwrap. Chimera even makes a model with a pre-fitted black shroud for this purpose. I also recommended them because they are lightweight enough to clamp in various places with a minimum of rigging and support.

Bounce can be useful, but keep in mind that a bounce takes up more space because you've got an stand or rigging for the light, and the bounce, and the space between them. One bounce trick that's good for interiors is to use a Source 4 bounced into a card across the room (shooting over the actors' heads), or placed low behind furniture and aimed up at a bounce that's above frameline.

Small lights like small Kinoflos and household clamplights (with diffusion) can be hidden behind lampshades and such. Inkies, Peppers, Tweenies, Dedos are also easier to hide. Make sure you have plenty of clamps, Mafers, Cardelinis, and other such grip widgets available to rig all these units in small spaces.

Whatever rigs you use, creating a "natural" and not flat look is by using multiple sources, giving more strategic pools of directional light with quick falloff, and not having the light sources so bright or soft that they just wash the whole room.
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#6 Walter Graff

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Posted 24 February 2007 - 12:47 PM

You'll be able to do more with a single 500 watt fixture such as an Omni which you bounce into a ceiling or card to make it look like the practices are lighting than anything else. Accentuating practicals is really easy and allows you camera freedom. I shoot many reality based handheld programs this way. I finished a series for HGTV where all lighting was simply the addition of one or two 575w or 1.2k pars that I aimed into a ceiling of whatever location I was to accentuate daytime. It's no harder to do for nighttime stuff with bounce even though it seems some here are saying that.
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