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Lighting a scene set at dawn


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#1 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 11:05 AM

Hi everyone,

I know this sub-forum is usually for professional productions, but I thought I'd post my work from this class assignment because I've done a lot of prep for it and would like some feedback on my working method, thought process, and perhaps what you might have done differently. :) Also, I'll have stills from the shoot and will post them here afterward.

So, I'm lighting a short scene from "The Power of One" this Wednesday in my directing class. The parameters of the class dictate that the scene be no more than 3 pages, that the crew consist only of our classmates, that we shoot on miniDV on the JVC GY-5000, and that we have 3 hours total to build our set, light it, shoot it, break it down, and completely wrap the stage. Though this sounds like a really short amount of time, the previous scenes have gone well and finished on schedule when they've been well organized and fully prepped. The class is split into two crews of 10, with rotating crew positions -- crew A goes in the morning and crew B in the afternoon. This week, I'm the DP for crew B.

The film "The Power of One" is set in 1950s South Africa. The story is about an English boy, PK, who is orphaned and secretly begins hanging out with black South Africans. He meets a imprisoned prophet who teaches him to box and begins spreading a myth about him as a peace-bringer to the black tribes who suffer under apartheid. As PK grows up, he is torn between white society and his black friends with whom he increasingly identifies. The scene we're shooting is about halfway through the script -- PK and his roommate Morrie are sneaking back into their boarding school dorm room at dawn. PK has been out fighting in an illegal boxing match against a black opponent. The boys enter to find Gideon Mandoma, PK's opponent in the match, waiting for them. Gideon has heard the myth about PK and calls on him to defy apartheid and teach the black people to read and write.

Here's a link to the script, it's about 3/4 down the page in PDF format. The scene is #115.
http://www.script-o-...om/table3.shtml

I haven't seen the film because we don't want to copy or emulate it -- instead, we are supposed to read the script and interpret the scene in our own way. The director has pretty much given me free reign as far as lighting goes, so long as I work quickly and get the first shot off in 45 minutes or less. We are shooting on the school soundstage which has battens but no lighting grid, so we'll try to light from the floor whenever possible to move quickly. For this class, we are only allowed to light with 2K fresnels, 1K and 2K soft (zip) lights, and (3) Mickey Moles (1K open face lights). Anything else, we have to rent.

The director and I have chosen this still frame from "Pride & Prejudice" (2005) as our main visual reference for the scene: [attachment=1844:attachment]

We like the moodiness of the soft light and how it barely illuminates the room -- we plan on creating a similar silhouette of Gideon framed against a window. In our version, the light will be a cyan pre-dawn skylight, and the window will have a heavy canvas curtain over it to further soften the light and hide the view outside. As the boys enter the room from the lit hallway, warm tungsten light will briefly spill across Gideon's face as the door opens and closes. Gideon will stand up, and Morrie will flip on the desk lamp wired to the light switch by the door, which will bounce off the wooden desk and softly uplight the boys' faces as they approach Gideon. As Gideon speaks to PK, the curtain behind him will begin to glow pink and orange with the first rays of the rising sun. After Gideon leaves through the window, the curtains will rustle in the gentle morning breeze.

Here's my lighting diagram. [attachment=1843:attachment]

Skylight -- I was going to create the soft, cyan skylight by bouncing two 2K fresnels gelled with grid cloth and blue and green gels into a 4x4 silk raised up as high as possible and angled down at 45 degrees, placed a few feet outside the window (stole the idea from Adam Frisch!).

Hall light -- The light from the hallway could be a 1K zip light hung from the battens, gelled 1/4 or 1/2 CTO and angled down to light Gideon in the room to key briefly. I'm unsure about whether or not the zip light is the right light for this effect though -- it might be too powerful and have too much spread. Perhaps bouncing a Mickey off the back wall and into the room would be better?

Desk lamp -- I was thinking of putting a 75w bulb in the practical desk lamp fixture and darkening it with streaks n' tips. It would have to be cued by a crew member to the actor's actions. I was going to use a Dedolight on a magic arm clamped to the top of the stage flat to enhance the practical and replace it altogether when the practical was not in the shot. The benefit to this would be that the Dedo would be more powerful, manueverable and focusable than the desk lamp, so I could cheat the bounce light on the boys' faces much more easily with a bounce card. Matching could be a problem though.

Sunlight -- This is the biggest problem. I was originally going to just use a 2K fresnel and a 2K variac dimmer (the color temperature shift would be motivated by the warm-hued sunrise gradually cooling off as it rises higher in the sky). Problem is, I can't find a 2K variac to rent in this city, just a 1K. The closest rental house that has them is across the bay, too far for this shoot.

One alternative is to find some metal shutters (sort of like venetian blinds) and put those right in front of the light. Those are hard to find, and probably impossible to rent. Another alternative is to stack a bunch of nets and scrims in front of the light, and gradually pull them all. This is probably too labor intensive and time consuming to reset. So what I finally came up with is to use the three Mickeys behind a silk and turn them on one by one. I'd put the first one on a 1K dimmer and fade it up. The other two lights, I'd put a whole bunch of scrims into to make them less obvious. Going through a layer of silk and a heavy curtain, it might read as one source gradually fading up, I don't know. Anyone have a suggestion here?

Well, that's it -- longest ... post ... ever. If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading, and I hope it wasn't too annoying for you. I appreciate any and all comments, criticism, and suggestions.

Thanks!

P.S. Almost forgot -- I plan to net the back of the lens with a black stocking to cut some of the edge off the video and also to get some halation around the practical bulb and the lit desk. Does anyone have advice on how to do this with the 1/2" chip GY-5000 camera which I believe has a B4 mount but almost no clearance behind the lens? The lens is the 7.3-55mm f1.9 Fujinon, and the damn lens shade is stuck and won't come off, so I can't even net the lens front.
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#2 Hal Smith

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 11:46 AM

as originally going to just use a 2K fresnel and a 2K variac dimmer (the color temperature shift would be motivated by the warm-hued sunrise gradually cooling off as it rises higher in the sky). Problem is, I can't find a 2K variac to rent in this city, just a 1K. The closest rental house that has them is across the bay, too far for this shoot...............
One alternative is to find some metal shutters (sort of like venetian blinds) and put those right in front of the light. Those are hard to find, and probably impossible to rent. Another alternative is to stack a bunch of nets and scrims in front of the light, and gradually pull them all.

If I absolutely had to mimic sunrise or sunset, and their subtle color temperature shifts, I'd might take a theatrical lighting scroller and build a custom scroll for it that was a combination of graduated CTO strips and graduated ND strips - scrollers are available big enough to cover a nine-light. That would give me absolute control over both color temperature and intensity without dimming the lamp itself. Another approach would be to use a modern intelligent light fixture with CMY mixing and "paddle" dimming. There can be a problem with field even-ness with that type of light but bouncing it or putting diffusion out front would solve that. I own four Cyberlight CL's that I used on stage at the close of "Tuesdays with Morrie" where Morrie is ascending to heaven. I created a "light show" back lit on a scrim presenting a slowly changing play of shifting light intensity and color that was very effective . With a smaller scrim (silk or grid cloth) that basic setup would have worked for a morning light punched though a window, obviously I would write a new light board program mimicing sunrise/sunset.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 11:55 AM

It's too bad you can't get a big dimmer for the sunrise effect. Another possibility, since the sun is rising in theory, would be to build a layered wall of scrim flags (nets) that get thinner from bottom to top and then raise a light on a stand during the shot from behind them until you clear the scrims.

To get a good silhouette, you may want a little (dim) light on the walls surrounding the window, maybe by bouncing some weak light off of the floor below the window.
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#4 ankit trivedi

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 12:05 PM

hi..
this is ankit from india. i am doing my PGD in cinematography..
i really liked your work... your lighting diagram were nice...
can you tell me what type of exercies you do in your college....
looking forward to hear from you.
ankit
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 12:41 PM

Another possibility, since the sun is rising in theory, would be to build a layered wall of scrim flags (nets) that get thinner from bottom to top and then raise a light on a stand during the shot from behind them until you clear the scrims.

Hey, that's a really cool idea! You know, we do have a Crank-o-vator stand on the sound stage... Hmm.

To get a good silhouette, you may want a little (dim) light on the walls surrounding the window, maybe by bouncing some weak light off of the floor below the window.

What direction would you bounce the light from? From the window side, maybe from above the stage flat? Or would it be more of a bounce back from the far wall? Thanks for the tips, David!

Hal, the scroll sounds like a cool idea, but where would I get something like that? Are the scrolls motorized, or do you turn them by hand? Sorry, I don't know much about theater lighting at all! I'm afraid computer controlled lighting is way out of our budget (out of my pocket, basically). I was kinda hoping for a more low-tech solution -- thanks for the suggestions though.

Hi Ankit, here at San Francisco State University, we mostly study film theory instead of shooting. In cinematography class, most of the exercises are very basic because the faculty assume that you know nothing when you start (which in some cases is true, others not). The first one I had was to shoot 100' of 16mm and do three shots: a pan, a transition (move from one character to another), and a 360 degree pan. I know, it sounds very boring, and it was! Another one was to light a simple day interior scene on the soundstage. This one was a good one because I had never worked on a soundstage before, though I had read a lot about it -- I learned how to put up a 10K, and how junior stands worked, and how to put lights on a batten, what a twist-lock plug was, etc. But basically, I have to admit that I did not learn very much from the production classes at this school.

Mainly, I learned by reading lots of film books, reading this forum, asking questions from more experienced people, shooting my own projects, and crewing on bigger projects as a PA and AC. I'm constantly amazed at some of the people in my classes who don't have any interest in doing these things -- they just want to shoot their own (usually horrible) projects and goof off the rest of the time. So I guess you have to educate yourself ultimately, and just take what you can from the school you go to. Sorry to sound so depressing, but I believe it's the truth.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 08:33 PM

Hey, that's a really cool idea! You know, we do have a Crank-o-vator stand on the sound stage... Hmm.
What direction would you bounce the light from? From the window side, maybe from above the stage flat? Or would it be more of a bounce back from the far wall?


Where ever you can hide the light...
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#7 Hal Smith

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 08:52 PM

.......... but where would I get something like that? Are the scrolls motorized, or do you turn them by hand? Sorry, I don't know much about theater lighting at all! I'm afraid computer controlled lighting is way out of our budget (out of my pocket, basically). I was kinda hoping for a more low-tech solution -- thanks for the suggestions though.

Any school around you with a theatre department should have a scroller or two, if not 50. Some of the older ones will only select a fixed size gel panels but most now can be programmed by a DMX lightboard to go to any arbitrary location on the string, for your use any DMX board including a POS Behringer would work since you would use manual control of gel position, not programmed control. If you go that route, the tape you use to connect gel strips and panels together with to make a custom scroll is called J-Lar made by Permacel. J-Lar's an extremely clear acrylic tape that will take some heat - it's also used to repair torn gels. Theatrical supply houses usually stock it - but for some unfathomable reason the staff at those places often don't know what it's used for.
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 01:29 AM

Cool, thanks for the tip Hal! I'll ask around at our theater department.

On a separate note, I've noticed that when I plan out small details like this in advance, a lot of times the ideas don't work out and I have to change them on set quite a bit -- usually I just go back to something I 've done before that I know works, but then I feel that I haven't learned that much. So my question to you is: do you think it's better not to go into such minute detail and just have an overall plan when you prep a lighting setup? Is it just experience that will reduce these types of blunders?

By the way, if anyone reading this thread sees any potential problems or sees a better/easier way of accomplishing these four lighting elements, please feel free to comment -- I could really use your input since I'm not at all sure that some of these things will work. I'm open to all suggestions at this point.

Thanks again, guys!
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 01:47 AM

It's good to plan ahead, whether on paper or in your head, but you need to plan on making last-minute adjustments, so you may need some extra units, although for all you know, you may end up using fewer units once you start to see how it looks in front of your eyes.

Remember to use your eyes; if it looks wrong, make a change.
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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 02:00 AM

It's good to plan ahead, whether on paper or in your head, but you need to plan on making last-minute adjustments, so you may need some extra units, although for all you know, you may end up using fewer units once you start to see how it looks in front of your eyes.

Remember to use your eyes; if it looks wrong, make a change.

That's good advice -- sometimes though, it looks wrong, and I'm not sure what to change! I guess I just need to light it one way or the other, watch the results, and learn from my mistakes? You can't become a lighting wiz in a day, I guess.

Thanks for the advice as always, David. I really appreciate it :)

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 19 March 2007 - 02:02 AM.

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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 02:49 AM

Well, you are shooting video, so you'll see the results both in front of your eyes and on the monitor... usually when something isn't right, it's because it's overlit or underlit, so you'll either be adding or subtracting light somewhere. I know that's pretty vague.
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#12 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 04:44 AM

Well, we shot the scene today. It was a rather hectic schedule, but we managed to get all of our shots, plus an extra insert of the curtains blowing in the "morning breeze." We ended up cutting the "first rays of the rising sun" idea for want of time. We got our first shot off at about an hour and ten minutes into the schedule, which left less than two hours to finish the scene, break down the set, wrap all the equipment, sweep the stage, and lock up. It seems like it took way too long to get rolling, and I'm beginning to realize that giving a film crew (or at least a student film crew) an extra hour to setup just means that they'll waste that extra hour doing the same amount of work -- it's like a giving a chronic procrastinator an extra week to write his paper; he'll still finish it an hour before class (I should know).

One of the factors which slowed us down right from the start was that the set from the morning group's shoot had to be completely dismantled and the flats rearranged. While most of A and B crew were doing this, I had a few grips and electrics set up the "skylight" -- two 2K fresnels bounced into a 4x4 silk which was placed outside the set window. One 2K was gelled Full CTB and the other Peacock Blue (thanks Adam Frisch!) to produce a cyan light. Just looking at the Peacock Blue gel, I really liked it (it's fairly cyanish by itself) but figured I'd err on the bluish side as opposed to the green and add the CTB. Boy, am I glad I did. The mixed light was a lot greener than I thought it would be, and now I think I would have gone for just CTB and 1/4 Plus Green on both lights to get the color I wanted. I also realized that bouncing off silk is extremely inefficient -- I didn't bother to meter the light coming through the window, but it was clearly waaay to dim. I had to turn the 2Ks around and put them through the silk, and even then I would have liked a few more stops. The next time I try to bounce light off a silk, I'll use a 5K or a 10K at least.

While the grip/electrics were doing this, I was also trying to net the back of the Fujinon lens (our 1st and 2nd ACs were doubling as set design and props and so were unavailable). Amazingly, no one here had heard of netting the back of a lens, so I spent way too much time explaining to everyone what I was doing. I got the net from Nordstrom's hosiery department -- I told the lady behind the counter what I was up to, and she just happened to be throwing out her old hosiery swatches. Score! I ended up using a "6 Denier Black Shimmer," very light and created those cool four-pointed rainbow flares around specular sources.

To get the net on, I first tried an I-Ring but that was too long and small; the lens had almost no rear clearance with the 1/2" JVC GY-5000 camera. Next, I tried snot taping the net to outer ring of the exit pupil, where the mount meets (what I guess is) the CCD. This ring is adjacent to the steel flanges of the mount. Turns out that the lens wouldn't mount; the thickness of the snot tape and net was enough to keep the lens from seating properly! So I finally had to snot tape the net on the inner ring of the exit pupil a few millimeters away from the glass itself, which worked great. All this was between running back and forth to the electrics setting lights, grips setting the silk, more grips lowering the battens and clamping a soft light to it, answering everybody's questions about nets, etc.

I'm also realizing the value of simplifying lighting setups. David Mullen, ASC and Hal Smith offered me several solutions on how to create the look of the sun's first rays striking the curtained window, but they were probably much too complex and time-consuming to create for a student crew on a time crunch, so I elected to simplify with a Mickey (1K open face) on a 1K dimmer shining directly on the window from about 5 feet away. I was mainly worried that the light wouldn't cover the window so I set up in front of it a 21"x24" gel frame of half grid and full minus green (for the pink color) to get a wider spread. The main problem was the dimmer (which I rented) and which I assumed would be a rotary dimmer with a continuously variable voltage. It was not; instead it was the kind with up and down buttons which produced an unsubtle stair-step effect. We could have massaged it with a flag passing in front of it, but then the Mickey began making a buzzing noise, and we decided to drop it.

The smartest thing I did was to rent the Dedo and Magic Arm, which became our key light (motivated by the desk lamp, which we forgot to plug in and which consequently became an "imagined source"!), and which saved a butt-load of time by being almost infinitely tweakable. I might just have to buy a kit of these -- I'm addicted. Annoyingly, while I was still setting the Dedo, the director began calling for the first take of the master shot -- I hadn't even had a chance to set the frame with the operator yet! I was still tweaking the key between takes, but unfortunately I had to live with the overall lighting I had in the master, in which PK was over-lit. He steps into the dark room (about 2 to 2&1/2 stops under) and sees Gideon sitting in the foreground. As PK steps forward and stops, the desk light slashes across his chest. As he sits down into a MS, he is fully lit. The halation from the net was a bit much, but I liked it. Unfortunately, it looked an awful lot like sunlight. We tweaked the frame so that PK was in MS, with Gideon frame left OS, and Morrie was between them in the far background - it looked great.

The next setup was an MCU of Morrie, and I decided to cheat the light quite a bit. While in the master Morrie was 2&1/2 stops under and lit soley with the soft cyan skylight, I decided to spot up the Dedo and bounce it off the bed to Morrie's right, which created a nice soft key. I'm not sure how this will cut -- I'm guessing that as long as the director doesn't cut straight from the master to Morrie, it'll be fine. I'd like to leave him the option of doing so though. Anyway, that was a wrap on Morrie.

The next few setups were MCUs of PK getting up and sitting down, with dialogue. When we did his standing shot, I forgot at which point in his movement the light was supposed to hit his face and when it was supposed to be dark! There was no question of rewinding the tape -- I just had to make a decision fast. Luckily, I had been taking still frames of each setup (not well at all, as you will see), so it was just a matter of reviewing the stills. In the tighter shots, the net diffusion really enhanced the look, as the depth of field seemed to fall off much faster than without it (it was also a light subject against a dark background, which helped). Overall, I think the look was much more cinematic than the previous few weeks' work.

We then turned around, shooting towards the window for all of Gideon's shots. In the first setup, Gideon was supposed to be silhouetted by the window, then briefly front-lit by the warm hallway light as the boys entered the room. We had put up a 1K soft light gelled 1/2 CTO on the batten behind the door, and and it was simply a matter of lowering the batten to about 3 feet off the ground to shoot directly though the door and into the room. The door was our flag. I had greater problems with the key, since I couldn't get the Dedo frontal enough. The best I could do was a sidelight, which left Gideon pitch black on the left side of his face (his dark skin didn't help at all). I also rode the aperture about 1&1/2 stops, going from f1.9 to 2/2.8 split and filled the shadow side with foamcore. After thinking about it, I now would have bounced the Dedo off the foamcore and keyed Gideon with that from below and 3/4 front, still respecting the direction of the light but motivating it as the bounce off the desk, nice and soft. I tried to get an eyelight by shining my flashlight onto showcard just beneath the the lens, but it didn't do anything. A small piece of foamcore in his lap gave him a bit of uplight and (hopefully) an eyelight.

Finally, as the AD called for room tone, I requested that since we were recording single system sound and the room tone would be on the MiniDV tape, we might as well shoot the insert of the curtains moving at the same time. We just zoomed in on the windowsill and the bottom of the curtains, catching a bit of the lit wooden chair in the foreground and got our room tone and insert at the same time!

I'll post some digital stills soon (not tonight though, midterm tomorrow!), and the frame grabs next week when I get my MiniDV dub. Possibly even a cut scene at some point. Anyway, thanks for reading.

P.S. SAD STUDENT TIP #2: Don't ever rent equipment without a car or at least a ride -- I had to take my camera bag, gelly roll, 1K dimmer, Dedo in a box, Lowel gel frame, and a cardboard box of miscellaneous crap home on the bus by myself. (dumb) And a cute girl asked me if I needed help and I said no. (dumber) And I lost my cell phone when the belt clip broke. (dumbest) So don't be dumb like me -- get a car! (And don't turn down cute girls). That is all. Peace. :ph34r:
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:08 AM

What's unrealistic about the student exercise was for the crew to have to factor in assembling and striking the set as part of the shooting day. I wouldn't accept that on one of my shoots -- art department time is a separate thing from shooting time. When you walk in on a set, it should be finished. What is everyone supposed to learn from that experience other than to not repeat it?

Otherwise, it sounds like you learned a lot about lighting that day. And netting a lens (I haven't tried doing it to the back of a lens...)

I wouldn't use silk as something to bounce light off of -- it's too transparent. Maybe outside in sunlight when I need to quickly use an overhead silk set-up as a bounce instead, because I don't need much out of it.

Muslin would work better, or UltraBounce.

To keep the window light from looking too sunny, it has to be exposed more dimly (especially when shooting in video) which may mean bringing up some soft ambience in the room to compensate (although you said you wanted a silhouette, meaning a black cut-out against a brighter background, not a dimly-lit figure.) You can also mount something like a Kinoflo above the top of the window frame to provide some soft top/backlight, maybe on the blue-ish side to suggest skylight.
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#14 Hunter Sandison

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:55 AM

Hello Satuski,
What's a batten? I realize connotatively from your posting that it is some sort of lamp mount. You must forgive my ignorance but I have always been Camera Department and never a juicer nor grip. It seems that it cannot be one of our standard lighting grids because you lowered it to 3' (with stage walls). If not on a stand nor a point, what is a batten?
I've worked as an A.C. in Los Angeles for a couple years now and gained a lot of experience(I'm by no means an seasoned veteran nor any kind of expert). From what I've seen, first shot off in an hour and ten minutes is a respectable time. Don't be so hard on your crew. Student or professional, set ups take a little time. After the first scene things tend to go much more smoothly(if properly planned) barring any stunts, guns, or problems with picture cars or actors. From what I understand of your scene, you have none of these issues.
The lighting diagram is very interesting. I only wish it had the camera positions too so we could see how you covered the scene.
Also what's an I-Ring. I' ve put nets and gel filters behind many lenses (although the whole idea seems less popular lately) but I don't know what an I-Ring is. Again my ignorance is showing but this time its Camera Department territory( and that can't happen). Tell no one.
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#15 Adam Butterworth

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 02:39 PM

I'm looking forward to these stills!
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#16 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 07:47 PM

I'm looking forward to these stills!

Hi Adam,
Err, like I said, they're not very good since I spent about 15 seconds on each of them, enough to take a test shot, correct the exposure, and get a second one. Plus, towards the end, I kinda forgot about taking them. The frame grabs should be much more edifying.

Hi Hunter,
Battens are basically long poles that run across the length of the stage and can be lowered and raised on a pulley system. They need to be weighted down with the same weight as the lights that you put on 'em. The sequence is: lights on, weights on, weights off, lights off. Some of them are electrified, meaning they have plugs for lights, with multiple 20 amp circuits. Sort of a poor man's lighting grid (apparently the school ran out of funds back when they were building the stage, so they couldn't build a catwalk like everyone wanted).

Here a link to the i-ring: http://www.filmtools.com/iring.html
It's for putting nets on the back of B4 mount lenses. After trying it, I believe it's a total rip-off. It's just a flimsy plastic ring that snaps together -- if you put a net in it, the ring comes apart on its own after a while (or if you hold it wrong), and you have to redo the net. There's no way this thing should cost almost $30! Don't get one.

I don't mean to be hard on the crew -- I think they did a great job overall. It's just that some of their behavior annoys me: when I ask them to put up a light, some of them stand around chatting with the light on the frickin' ground. You would think that if they were seriously invested in the work, they'd finish the job, then come ask me what needed to be done next instead of making me go find them. But I can't really be more forceful because we're classmates on a crew with rotating positions (ie. I'll be a PA on their shoot next week), so I end up doing a lot of the grip/electric work myself or delegating to one or two people that I trust.

BTW, I'll put up the overhead diagram with camera positions if you want -- I'll need to take the other stuff down though. This 100k attachment upload minimum doesn't help. I guess I'll have to upgrade my membership or something.

Hi David,
I see your point about building the set beforehand -- of course, this is a directing class, so we're not supposed to spend too much time creating a realistic set or a lighting it (you'll see what I mean when you see the stills -- it's not really an acceptable set for a real production). The bulk of the three hours is meant to be for the director and actors to work. I just couldn't resist getting more ambitious because this is my only chance in two years at this school to DP a shoot on the soundstage -- Lord knows when I'll ever get to shoot on one of these again! I expect it'll be back to practical locations on low/no budget shoots for the next several years.

"I wouldn't accept that on one of my shoots ..."
:lol: Sure, when I'm in the ASC and shooting features that'll be seen in hundreds of theaters across the world, I'll put my foot down too. Until then though... (Just kidding David, I know your low-budget indie film roots :P ).

I'm surprised you've never tried netting the back of a lens, especially with your interest in halation effects. Do you feel netting the lens softens it too much? Hell, if there's a format to do it in, it's 35mm scope. Hope I get to shoot that format someday...

I know I said a silhouette, but the director objected, saying he wanted to see the eyes. To which I replied, you'll see the eyes later when he sits down, but I was overruled. In fact, he kept telling the camera op. to open the aperture, so that shot ended up being overlit. Like I said, now I'd probably light 3/4 front with a bounce card and place Gideon's face on Zone 2&1/2 to 3. Maybe I'll get a chance to color correct it -- I'll do it for my reel footage anyway. The Kino as backlight is a good idea (not that we had Kinos!). I remember seeing a set still from the latest AC magazine featuring Sven Nykvist shooting "Cries and Whispers" with a similar setup, bounce board above a window with a nook light punching into it. I'll have to watch that film again.

Alright, I'll try and get some stills up after work tonight. Thanks for the discussion guys!

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 22 March 2007 - 07:48 PM.

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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:01 PM

Trouble with netting lenses on features is that you either have to take the time to net them... or have a set of lenses already netted and a separate set of unnetted lenses for shots where you don't want to use them.

I was talking to one of Kaminski's AC's who said that Kaminski started trying nets on "Amistad" and the AC found himself scrambling in the last minute trying to add a net over the back of a lens, with Kaminski and Spielberg breathing down his neck, telling him to hurry. That's one reason why Kaminski started using nets on frames in front of the lens later.

I'd love to find the right project for nets on everything... I used some nets on frames occasionally for "Big Love" because Bill Wages brought some with him, a very fine sort of black nylon wedding veil that you can get in some fabric stores. Looked great on the actress' close-ups.

But for big screen work, I worry about not getting nets to look subtle enough.
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#18 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 02:03 AM

Hmm, well since you seem to use Panavision cameras a lot, could you just make a little pre-netted frame that fit into the filter slot behind the lens? Or would that be too close to the focal plane and start coming into focus?

Sounds to me like Janusz Kaminski was never an AC! Was the net that you used subtle enough to cut with the un-netted shots or did you have to diffuse the other shots with a filter? I wonder how Robert Richardson got such a crisp look on "Bringing Out the Dead" -- his trademark halation effect is all over that film, so I assume he used a net on the lens, but it wasn't obvious to me at all. Of course, I've only seen in on DVD, so maybe I'm assuming too much.

Well, when you finally get to shoot that 65mm project, maybe that'll be the one that gets netted all the way through. B)
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#19 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 05:21 AM

Okay folks,

The production stills are online at: http://new.photos.ya...a@sbcglobal.net

While the camera setups are only approximate, I've tried to make them look as close to the footage as possible (from memory). I realize that the CU of Gideon Mandoma has crossed the 180 degree line, but this is not the case in the actual footage. These represent only some of the shots we got, since I wasn't able to get stills for all of them. In several of the shots you will see the director (the dude with the "fish" T-shirt), who is directing an actor -- in one case, the framing is way off, showing above the tops of the stage flats. Again, this is not in the actual footage. I've included the one picture of a lighting setup that I remembered to take -- it's kind of hard to tell, but this is the MCU of PK sitting in a chair. The key is a Dedo clamped to the top of the stage flat, and he is filled in with foamcore bounce.

I've included an overhead diagram of camera positions (with only the setups that I have stills for). Most of the other setups we had were just variations on these shots anyway.

Anyway, actual frame grabs coming next week. Thanks for reading!
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 08:36 AM

Hmm, well since you seem to use Panavision cameras a lot, could you just make a little pre-netted frame that fit into the filter slot behind the lens? Or would that be too close to the focal plane and start coming into focus?


Correct, it would come into focus.

"Bringing Out The Dead", "Snow Falling on Cedars", parts of "Horse Whisperer" and "Four Feathers", all used nets and were all shot in anamorphic. The larger negative offsets some of the loss of sharpness, plus he often used some sort of contrast increasing technique like ENR for the prints, which adds sharpness, but these movies did have a pleasant softness to them on the big screen.

The thing with a net on a frame in front of the lens is that the longer the focal length, the more subtle the effect because you are looking through enlarged gaps in the net. This is the opposite effect of what happens with glass diffusion. So in the case of "Big Love", when Bill Wages pulled the net out for the wider-angle, wide shots, there was not a big change in sharpness. However I do find the problems with nets is the lack of ability to use them in degrees of strength (which again, if you had nets of different strengths, would be hard to switch between if you were gluing them to the back of the lens.) I think this is one reason why Kaminski eventually started favoring Classic Soft filters more than nets lately.

One trick would be to use the #1/4 Classic Soft (which is subtle) for medium shots and a Black Net for anything closer.

Regarding the stills:

If the Dedo is meant to simulate a desklamp, isn't it coming from too high? It looks more like a ceiling track light effect.

How did you simulate the lens diffusion in your production stills?
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