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Couldn't Decide Whether This Would be Grip or Lighting...


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#1 Gus Sacks

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 03:21 PM

So I'm looking forward to shooting a short film on S16 in January. I know it's about 6 months away, but there's this one shot that's already got me a little nervous. Well, not nervous, but I've already been thinking about it all of the time when I'm not on-set, and I wanted to know if anyone else has an opinion...

The scene begins and it's night-time. I know how to light for sodium vapor, etc... but.
Basically, here's how the shot reads:

She throws her inhaler on the ground and she?s off.

Mariah starts running down the street.
She picks up speed as the urban townhouses zoom past her.
Mariah let?s out a liberating SCREAM.

As she SCREAMS the night begins to turn into day. BRIGHTER
and BRIGHTER, LOUDER and LOUDER. She keeps running and by
the time she closes her mouth, it?s completely daytime.

She stops, standing in the center of an intersection. Beads
of sweat glisten on her forehead, but she?s not out of
breath.

A loud ALARM starts to go off. The world around her starts
to change. The intensity of the sunlight begins to fluctuate.
The dream is falling apart.

MARIAH
Oh nononono. Please.

She starts breathing hard. Anxiety starts to spread. The
ALARM gets LOUDER.
The sunlight fades out.
Complete DARKNESS.



And the director and I want to do this in one shot without any CGI. We were thinking of tracking with her, at a medium shot, 1/4 profile on her left side. We would start in a wide, and she would pick up speed enough to move to a medium. It'd be shallow enough dof where the background (brownstones) would kind of whizz by. She'll be running pretty fast - we'll have tons of dolly track.

Now. Our budget isn't gigantic, but it's not small, either. We aren't allowed to employ any 12Ks to produce the daylight, so I'm thinking we're going to have to manipulate either sunrise or sunset, depending on the locale (where the sun is at perhaps a 45d or lower angle). At that time of day I don't think the sky itself will be too, too much of a problem (it'd be like day for night almost).

Here's where my experience level's going to show (haha, perhaps embarressingly)... If we fly some 20'x solids high enough, a number of them, would we be able to completely block the sunlight of a fairly horizontal sun, so that it would be stopped down enough that we can light with the sodium vapors, and then as she ran closer we take away the solids so that the light begins to spill all over the place, and then eventually she'll stop, we'll whizz around her 270d (this will probably be Steadicam) and see the sky in transit, ending up on a head-on away from the sun, in a CU (which will present some shadow issues perhaps).

And then as the dream ends, we bring the solids back in.

If anyone's willing to lend an opinion, it'd be so nice :) Be harsh. I need it, already, haha. Thanks!

- Gus
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 08:35 PM

Be harsh. I need it...


Okay, since asked... ;)

"And the director and I want to do this in one shot without any CGI." Why? That's kind of like saying, "we've decided to paint ourselves into a corner -- how do we get out of it?" If you think a single in-camera shot will really help sell the surreality of the situation AND you have a plan for how to pull it off, then it's a good idea. But if you don't know how to do it, then you're creating an incredibly difficult and expensive situation for yourself just for the sake of creating a dream sequence. You can get the idea across of the sun coming up faster than real time through simpler means. You have to remember that Michel Gondry has lots of practice at pulling off these kinds of gags! ;)

You've got to do more than flag off the direct sunlight to acheive a convincing night look, and have the practical sodium vapor street lights illuminate the scene. You've got to kill all the ambient skylight and ambient bounce of the ground and buildings as well. So what you're talking about is effectively "tenting" a whole city street!

Don't underestimate the rigging and safety involved in putting a 20x20' solid high up, let alone several of them. And there is simply no way you're going to "take away" and then re-establish a 20x20' frame during a take, let alone several of them.

You don't say why you're not allowed to use 12K's, but lighting night for day is far cheaper and easier to rig than trying to "grip" day into night, sunrise, and back. If I had to do it I'd shoot at night and find a way to rig multiple lights that could be individually controlled to give the exposure and lighting I needed to create sunlight, skylight, and ambience in strategic areas of the set.

I remember reading about how The Truman Show did the sunrise gag with I think Wendy lights on a crane that rose up, while a large "bottomer" was simultaneously lowered for a shadow line. And that was only for direct sunlight, not including ambience or a 270 steadicam move. Not an easy rig. It's at the 25 second mark here.
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#3 Gus Sacks

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Posted 06 July 2007 - 12:09 AM

Okay, since asked... ;)

"And the director and I want to do this in one shot without any CGI." Why? That's kind of like saying, "we've decided to paint ourselves into a corner -- how do we get out of it?" If you think a single in-camera shot will really help sell the surreality of the situation AND you have a plan for how to pull it off, then it's a good idea. But if you don't know how to do it, then you're creating an incredibly difficult and expensive situation for yourself just for the sake of creating a dream sequence. You can get the idea across of the sun coming up faster than real time through simpler means. You have to remember that Michel Gondry has lots of practice at pulling off these kinds of gags! ;)

You've got to do more than flag off the direct sunlight to acheive a convincing night look, and have the practical sodium vapor street lights illuminate the scene. You've got to kill all the ambient skylight and ambient bounce of the ground and buildings as well. So what you're talking about is effectively "tenting" a whole city street!

Don't underestimate the rigging and safety involved in putting a 20x20' solid high up, let alone several of them. And there is simply no way you're going to "take away" and then re-establish a 20x20' frame during a take, let alone several of them.

You don't say why you're not allowed to use 12K's, but lighting night for day is far cheaper and easier to rig than trying to "grip" day into night, sunrise, and back. If I had to do it I'd shoot at night and find a way to rig multiple lights that could be individually controlled to give the exposure and lighting I needed to create sunlight, skylight, and ambience in strategic areas of the set.

I remember reading about how The Truman Show did the sunrise gag with I think Wendy lights on a crane that rose up, while a large "bottomer" was simultaneously lowered for a shadow line. And that was only for direct sunlight, not including ambience or a 270 steadicam move. Not an easy rig. It's at the 25 second mark here.


Hey Michael,

The reason for no 12Ks is the cost, but as it appears it might be expensive either way. I know the rigors of flying 20xs, and the pipe dream of moving them is, yes, simply ridiculous. This is why I get my bad ideas out first ;) 6 months ahead.

Why we don't want to do CGI? Well, the entire film is about lucid dreaming. It's not a series of simply dream sequences, per se. The only "magical" things that occur really have to do with the character and how her surroundings (nature) changes. No flying or anything that would normally require CGI... Personally I just don't like using green screen, but if it came down to it, of course I would. It would just possibly be a pain to match the plate shots of the sun/surroundings while lighting her in the 'studio'.

If we have a good way of doing it, then yes, we'll do with one shot. But it's a big if that we have time to explore now, so I felt why not? I thought of some in-camera things we could try, but this tenting in a city block idea was just a wild try at it. We're not trying to mimic Gondry, but he certainly does have some tricks up his sleeve.

Dreaming is healthy; I think. :huh: :)

Thanks for the honesty,

Gus.

The Truman Show clip makes sense,
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#4 Shane Bartlett

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Posted 06 July 2007 - 08:44 AM

Difficult situation. I had a similar situation for a script once, and while I eventually figured out how to shoot it (a 180 MED shot around a woman that transitions smoothly from day to night, ending in a side-angle with a full moon in the background--very anime), unfortunately the script never saw production.

I don't have any immediate solutions for your challenge, but, after my experience testing and trying to conceive the above, I can say that re-thinking the way you want to make the shot can help tremendously. I only arrived at that shot through testing--originally, it was much more complex. Simplify, simplify, simplify. And consider your subject matter.

Barring a simpler setup, and I'm asking you here, would it work to shoot this day-for-night and very gradually (throughout what seems like a lengthy dolly run) rack open the iris? Perhaps have things wiping the frame--lamp- and sign-posts, etc--to further distract viewers from the bumps in exposure increase.

I realize this might not be an attractive idea for most projects (and to be honest I have no idea what this would look like), but for your subject matter it seems like it could be a cheap possibility.
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#5 Gus Sacks

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Posted 06 July 2007 - 10:11 AM

Difficult situation. I had a similar situation for a script once, and while I eventually figured out how to shoot it (a 180 MED shot around a woman that transitions smoothly from day to night, ending in a side-angle with a full moon in the background--very anime), unfortunately the script never saw production.

I don't have any immediate solutions for your challenge, but, after my experience testing and trying to conceive the above, I can say that re-thinking the way you want to make the shot can help tremendously. I only arrived at that shot through testing--originally, it was much more complex. Simplify, simplify, simplify. And consider your subject matter.

Barring a simpler setup, and I'm asking you here, would it work to shoot this day-for-night and very gradually (throughout what seems like a lengthy dolly run) rack open the iris? Perhaps have things wiping the frame--lamp- and sign-posts, etc--to further distract viewers from the bumps in exposure increase.

I realize this might not be an attractive idea for most projects (and to be honest I have no idea what this would look like), but for your subject matter it seems like it could be a cheap possibility.


An iris open would be very simple... my director asked if we could just do digital day-for-night, which, unless we controlled the light in some way would look pretty scary in terms of matching actual night. The shadows, directional light, etc. An iris open would look pretty funky, haha.

Simplify is good advice, though :) The 270d nature of it will more than likely change with a cut.

I guess this would be a lighting question... but I've been in the presence of them before, and did my research on Arri's site, but how many 12K or 18Ks would I need to really light for day, and do they make any kind of Variac for HMIs that strong?

Thanks, as always,

Gus.
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#6 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 06 July 2007 - 04:32 PM

Blue screen, plates, treadmill, motion capture dolly on curved track. Lots of testing.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 July 2007 - 11:09 PM

How about pumping the light on her way up while you do an iris pull? With some practice, you could keep her constant but the surroundings would go darker.
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#8 Hal Smith

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Posted 07 July 2007 - 12:45 AM

I know your Director is thinking of doing this in one shot but keep in mind that an audience member will "splice' shots together in their head. A cutaway early in the shot to the moon establishes night, a cutaway later to a sunrise (like "The Truman Show" trailer on YouTube), etc. would reinforce time of day. Remember - it's the story you're telling that counts, not the process. Try carefully storyboarding the script and seeing what ideas come to the creative team.
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#9 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 07 July 2007 - 10:36 AM

How about pumping the light on her way up while you do an iris pull? With some practice, you could keep her constant but the surroundings would go darker.


But that wouldn't change the quality of the light in the background.

"Why we don't want to do CGI? Well, the entire film is about lucid dreaming. It's not a series of simply dream sequences, per se. The only "magical" things that occur really have to do with the character and how her surroundings (nature) changes. No flying or anything that would normally require CGI... Personally I just don't like using green screen, but if it came down to it, of course I would. It would just possibly be a pain to match the plate shots of the sun/surroundings while lighting her in the 'studio'."

Using plates isn't CGI. It's old-fashioned VFX. Ever see "Citizen Kane"? There's tons of VFX in that film, and it's all perfectly lucid. Only now-a-days, it's way easier to blend the elements. I get the sense that you're a little frightened by the blue screen. But, look at it this way. Your sequence boils down to an actor in the foreground, and stuff in the background. The background has a night look, and then a day look (the actor's lighting should follow suit.) If you're in a studio and you're doing this sequence as smash cuts, you start w/ the daylight backdrop, cut the camera, the grips roll in the night drop, you dim to the night lighting, and shoot the second half. If you want to do it w/out cutting, then the bluescreen replaces the backdrops, and you put what-ever you want in them.
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#10 Gus Sacks

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Posted 07 July 2007 - 02:54 PM

These are all really good suggestions and comments. Thank you very much for them: Shane, Jon, Chris, Hal and Michael.

Jon, you're right. Back-projection, etc. is as old as dirt, so I was incorrect in saying they were CGI. It might just be cheaper to rent out a studio for the day and go at it that way. The only thing I'm a little nervous about is matching the steadicam plate with her movements. We'd have to probably shoot the last part of it (the wide with her in daylight) on location when we did the plates. Continuity, continuity, continuity :) And, yes, I've seen Citizen Kane.

Chris, I don't think that would actually allow the scene to be correctly exposed. By pulling the iris we'd just be leveling it back to where we began. To make a difference we'd have to close down a lot to make it appear dark, and then as we added light the iris would be adjusted for it, so it would appear normal.

Hal, that's kind of what I was originally thinking (cutting away to the car windows as the light begins to spill on them; houses as it creeps around corners). We might do that to establish things, and perhaps cut away mid-shot, but we'll see. We're having a meeting in a week or so.

I also just checked out LitePanels makes a 4x4, 8k system that might be kinda neat if used effectively :) oh, to dream...

Thanks again, everybody.
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#11 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 07 July 2007 - 10:54 PM

"The only thing I'm a little nervous about is matching the steadicam plate with her movements."

Stanley Donen did it manually for that scene in which Gene Kelley dances w/ a mouse. (It was the first thing he ever directed.) You can do it w/ motion capture to get the plates, and then replay the move in the studio.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 07 July 2007 - 11:57 PM

Chris, I don't think that would actually allow the scene to be correctly exposed. By pulling the iris we'd just be leveling it back to where we began. To make a difference we'd have to close down a lot to make it appear dark, and then as we added light the iris would be adjusted for it, so it would appear normal.


You misunderstand a bit. I mean that you would light the person completely separately from the background. Increase the amount of light on the person, but not the background. Stop down. The person can remain properly exposed while the background will go darker. It's been pointed out, though, that my idea wouldn't account for quality of light only quantity. It might be a conceptual start, though. I did it for a music video, I'll see if I can dig it up.
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#13 Gus Sacks

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 05:28 AM

You misunderstand a bit. I mean that you would light the person completely separately from the background. Increase the amount of light on the person, but not the background. Stop down. The person can remain properly exposed while the background will go darker. It's been pointed out, though, that my idea wouldn't account for quality of light only quantity. It might be a conceptual start, though. I did it for a music video, I'll see if I can dig it up.


I get what you mean, but we want to have the overall effect that it's becoming daytime, so you'd have to account for the background being exposed the same as her. That's why it's going to be fairly difficult correctly lighting night for day if we do decide to go that route. I'm pretty sure we're on the same page.
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#14 Michael Nash

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 05:46 PM

You don't always have to use very big lights to make a small area look like daytime at night. You just have to light it up evenly, and the larger the space the bigger the lights you'll need.

Remember, if you're starting at T-2.0 on 500 ASA film for your nighttime exterior, you only have to light up your "daylight" area to that same T-2.0 at 500 ASA. You don't have to bring the exposure all the way up to T-16 at 50 ASA. However, you might still need some pretty big units just to light that large an area.

You can't put HMI's on a Variac. The ballast requires constant power. Some manufacturers include a dimmer on the ballast, but it only takes you down about one stop. So typically large units utilize a more "old fashioned" approach of using shutters or other grip means to manually flag or iris the light for dimming.
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#15 Gus Sacks

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Posted 09 July 2007 - 05:35 AM

You don't always have to use very big lights to make a small area look like daytime at night. You just have to light it up evenly, and the larger the space the bigger the lights you'll need.

Remember, if you're starting at T-2.0 on 500 ASA film for your nighttime exterior, you only have to light up your "daylight" area to that same T-2.0 at 500 ASA. You don't have to bring the exposure all the way up to T-16 at 50 ASA. However, you might still need some pretty big units just to light that large an area.

You can't put HMI's on a Variac. The ballast requires constant power. Some manufacturers include a dimmer on the ballast, but it only takes you down about one stop. So typically large units utilize a more "old fashioned" approach of using shutters or other grip means to manually flag or iris the light for dimming.


I thought they made light boards you could employ in controling HMI lighting.

True, we don't need 50K of light, but you're right; we are going to need a few big lights at least.

I'm considering doing plate photography more and more, actually.
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#16 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 11:55 AM

I thought they made light boards you could employ in controling HMI lighting.

True, we don't need 50K of light, but you're right; we are going to need a few big lights at least.

I'm considering doing plate photography more and more, actually.


It really will be the best way to go. ;)
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#17 Gus Sacks

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 05:29 PM

It really will be the best way to go. ;)


Yeah, we settled on it the other day.

We're just having issues squeezing in the studio time, but we'll manage. Did I mention I was producing this as well? (i.e. I'm cutting my own budgets! :(

But, it's part of the fun.

Thanks again for all your help. I'm sure I'll be back here in a few months with some other questions - perhaps in a different forum :)

Gus
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#18 Andrew Rawson

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 09:17 PM

Gus
You actually can do this practically and using all tungsten units which are cheaper than HMI's. Shoot it at night and light the street to your liking and pull with her (Steadicam). When you get to the area where you want the daylight transition to start happening simply have her make a sharp right or left hand turn so your background then becomes a containable area of buildings and not looking down the whole street. Have tungsten units on dimmers and bring them up once she makes the turn. Example: 20K scraping the background buildings and Maxibrutes into overhead bounces ( at least 20'x20' but preferably larger 40'x40'). Toplight is what sells daylight. Then of course at the end you can transition back to night by dimming the daylight sources and bring up a night look. You still need a number of large units and a crew experienced enough to deal with flying 40' bys and a good dimmer board op. It's an ambitious shot but a very cool one and as long as you have an experienced crew not really all that difficult. Ramping the camera speed during the transition could also make this shot more dramatic and again because you're using tungsten you won't have a problem ramping camera speeds.
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#19 Gus Sacks

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 10:03 PM

Gus
You actually can do this practically and using all tungsten units which are cheaper than HMI's. Shoot it at night and light the street to your liking and pull with her (Steadicam). When you get to the area where you want the daylight transition to start happening simply have her make a sharp right or left hand turn so your background then becomes a containable area of buildings and not looking down the whole street. Have tungsten units on dimmers and bring them up once she makes the turn. Example: 20K scraping the background buildings and Maxibrutes into overhead bounces ( at least 20'x20' but preferably larger 40'x40'). Toplight is what sells daylight. Then of course at the end you can transition back to night by dimming the daylight sources and bring up a night look. You still need a number of large units and a crew experienced enough to deal with flying 40' bys and a good dimmer board op. It's an ambitious shot but a very cool one and as long as you have an experienced crew not really all that difficult. Ramping the camera speed during the transition could also make this shot more dramatic and again because you're using tungsten you won't have a problem ramping camera speeds.


Yeah.

We'll just have to modify the end of the shot.

Food for thought. Thanks, Andrew.
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#20 Michael Collier

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 10:27 PM

I think your best bet would be to avoid the studio VFX. In my experience the more you shoot on location, the easier everything is. Is there any budget for a motion control? It sounds like thats out of range, but it could make everything simpler. Shoot several passes of the road during early morning to dawn. Then shoot an element of her just before dawn. That way you can easily replicate the light of sun at the end of her run. Along the path she runs you can set several greenscreens, all aligned with the cameras perspective. Then theres no roto, no need to light a studio to match, and everything would be much more organic. The only downside is a motion control, which could rule out this option altogether (though if you were tracking a steadycam for a studio FX element shoot, wouldn't you therefore need a motion control that day?)
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