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The Sophomore


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 09:51 PM

I'm pretty exhausted so I'll keep this short...

We spent the first day finishing scenes in the gym lit and dressed for some basketball game scenes. Since we ended the week with scenes back in the gym lit and dressed for a homecoming dance, I tried to use the solution I used on "The Quiet" when faced with exactly the same scenario (a game followed by a school dance) which was to hang a grid of Parcans above the gym that could be white for the game and gelled for the dance. Trouble was that this gym was bigger, with a higher ceiling that was smooth with very little structurally to hang lights off of. We ended up putting up a bunch of pipe and truss clamped to the few pipes up there designed to hold the basketball nets. Unfortunately, we only could hang about 40 Parcans in a pattern due to the weight restrictions, etc. So there were a lot of gaps on the floor in terms of spots. Now the director wanted the game scenes to be lit a little differently than normal, so rather than put 216 at the bottom of every parcan to create a soft toplit look, I put opal in the center ones, to spread the light a little, but otherwise went for the pattern of hot spots on the floor of the gym. I also dressed the edges of the gym with bare cool white fluorescent tubes. In this photo, you can see the rig in the ceiling; we're shooting a closer shot of two people talking where I turned off the overhead par above them and used a Chinese Lantern instead for a softer light.

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We spent another day doing the classroom scenes -- I used mostly natural window light but because it was dark and overcast outside, I had to augment it a little. In the wide shots looking towards the windows, I mounted an 8'x4' beadboard white card above the windows and bounced a 4K HMI into it (heavily scrimmed down -- we probably could have used a 1200w HMI instead but the gaffer didn't want to find himself with too small a light, so he went bigger and scrimmed down.) For other angles, I used an 8'x4' beadboard on a stand instead. You can see both the one being used on a stand and the one left in the ceiling above the windows here:

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It was dark outside so I was only getting an f/2.8 for the people nearer the windows, so I needed to use the bounce light to get the main people sitting farther from the windows up to an f/2.8 (at 400 ASA on Fuji Eterna 500T with no 85 correction.) By the time this photo was taken, it had gotten brighter outside.

The room was hazed.

We filmed in hallways for two days, mostly a mix of overhead hanging practicals with daylight photofloods in them (for a warm look because they are around 4800K if not lower), plus some soft daylight from windows or Kinos through diffusion.

We ended the week shooting the dance -- I gelled the overhead pars with cyans, greens, and blues, but had to dim them on the board to 50% to balance with the mirror disco ball light patterns and some Christmas tree type lights -- the whole room was rather dark (and thus realistic for a dance) but it meant that I had to push the film one stop and shoot at f/2.0-2.8 all day long.
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#2 Ram Shani

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 12:19 AM

great pics and very informative post

i always having trouble to control the type of lighting you used for the class because the people that set near the window are light by 2 sources the window and the bounce. and the bounce is toplight to them and much stronger in intensity so i need to put same net or WD at the bottom how did you control the light

why you didn't use kinos for this? (rig problem?) they are more easy to control and less hit
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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 01:34 AM

I have to admit, that seems an odd choice for lighting a basketball game, Dave. What is the guy trying to achieve here, what's the artistic reason for the spot pattern lighting? I realize from what you've said, you were limited in the number of pars you could set but I also know that if you had wanted a more even and bright lighting setup, you would have found a way to do that so there has to be a powerful cinematic reason the director and yourself went this direction. From the other photo, which also seems to have a heavy feel to it as well, this piece seem to be moody. Is this pic a horror film perchance of some kind of drama or avantguard piece or is it pretty straight forward and I'm seeing something that isn't there? I wanted to test my instincts before I looked it up on IMDB. :D
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#4 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 02:34 AM

David,
The still from the Basketball court looks beautifull; How are you finding the Smoque filters?
S
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 07:02 AM

If I had used heavier diffusion gel on the pars, I could have made them spread more for an even toplit look. But we are making an odd mystery-comedy film noir parody set in an old Catholic high school, and the word the director often uses is "defamiliarize" -- i.e. he doesn't want this to look like a high school comedy like "American Pie" and he didn't want the basketball game (which is just going on in the background really of a conversation between two people) to look like a million other basketball games in movies.

Also, on film, the contrast is lower than on my digital stills, so the players are always lit, they just go hotter now & then as the move around.

I'm using the Smoque filters for places in the school that can't be smoked, like the long hallways. It seems to work OK, although you have to watch bright windows where people pass back & forth in front of it, because it causes the effect to flash on and off.

The bounce above the window has a bottom lip/shelf to keep the people below from being lit too much compared to the window, but a little soft toplight blending into the window light looked fine because they could have had some fluorescent lights on in the ceiling in real life. I could have rigged Kinos up there (my other plan), but I was worried about them not being soft enough, plus I didn't want to switch from Kinos in the wide shot to an HMI bounce for the close-ups, although I do that now & then. Also, I was in a hurry and I didn't want to take the time to rig Kinos to the pipe up there, hide the power cables, etc. Also, I had some low-angle and extreme wide shots where I had to take the card down because it would have been in the shot, so it would have take more time to de-rig Kinos off of the pipe.
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#6 Ram Shani

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 09:33 AM

thanks for the replay

its great example of art of light& time to light and of every day shooting

thanks hope you will had great shooting time
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#7 Matthew Buick

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 02:31 PM

Now I don't know a great deal about lighting, but I know enough to say that those sets were lit by a genius. ;)

Edited by Matthew Buick, 20 August 2007 - 02:32 PM.

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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 02:43 PM

lit by a genius


Since I'm using a lot of natural light, most of the genius is God's...
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#9 Matthew Buick

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 02:53 PM

Yes! But the ability to recognise God's genius is genius in itself.
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#10 John Holland

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 03:07 PM

Matt. spend time looking at light , where shadows fall be it day or night look at the same when you watch films i think its only way you can learn how to light .
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#11 Matthew Buick

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 03:16 PM

And that is what I do. I just don't know a great deal about the types of lights, techniques involved in making lighting subtle. I went to my City Library on Thursday to order as many books on lighting and composition. As it turns out the library, whick is the only substantial library in Newcastle has been demolished in order to redevelop the space.
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#12 Mike Panczenko

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 07:04 PM

Who is on your crew David?
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 07:17 PM

Camero Operator / Steadicam is Jeff Muhlstock, who did the same on "Gracie", the soccer movie that one of our line producers did. 1st AC is Frank Rinato. Gaffer is Kevin Janicelli, who did "The Sopranos" and worked with me on "Shadowboxer". Key Grip is a young man than Kevin recommended named Anthony Gamiello (I'm surrounded by Italian-Americans...)

Sound mixer also did "Shadowboxer", Tom Varga. So did the 1st AD, Tom Fatone.
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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 02:29 PM

Out of curiosity, you wouldn't have a camera intern named David, would you? I have a friend interning on a feature in that same area with about the time schedule you seem to have.
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#15 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 07:33 PM

Also, on film, the contrast is lower than on my digital stills, so the players are always lit, they just go hotter now & then as the move around.


Hey David, thanks for the updates as always.

Is that your new Nikon D40X? It looks pretty "snappy" -- can you vary the contrast setting on the camera at all? Are you using it for any pre-vis or exposure checks, or just for behind-the-scenes stills?
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#16 Piotr Ciacka

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 12:44 PM

Dear David,

In Your great production diaries You mostly elaborate on lighting. This time I'd like to ask about framing/camera movement. What's the concept on "The Sophomore"? Any exciting technocrane moves? Noirish high angle shots? What were your influences/references when thinking about the framing on this movie? I suspect I'll find Gordon Willis on Your list, but he's probably on everyone's reference list, anywhere :-).
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