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Light this scenario, please....


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#1 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 10:08 PM

A darkish room. A long metal table - on one end, a handcuffed man in a chair. On the other, two police officers. The shot is a 360 dolly around and around the table as the men speak to the prisoner.

This is low budget work. I need a recommendation on the lighting setup - I'm thinking a chicken coop off the ceiling or a kino bank.....?????

Also, what kind of (low budget) dolly can make an arc around a table that is probably 8-10 feet long.

Thanks so much, guys!!!
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 10:33 PM

It's not the dolly, but the track that you need. Circular track comes in different diameters, so you'll have to figure out what you need to get around the table and the between the set walls. If you're shooting in a practical location you may not have enough room to use circular track, in which case you'll need a very smooth floor (and a really good dolly grip), or maybe try a Steadicam. To pull off precision steering in a small space requires a "real" dolly, so I don't know how low-budget you're thinking. A Chapman PeeWee can do a lot in tight spaces.

For lighting, you can do pretty much whatever you want as long as you can hide the rigging and cabling above or below frame, since you see 360 (in a practical location you're still going to have to hide or dress the cable for a chicken coop somewhere). You could motivate some downlight over the table as suggested, push light through a window, hang lights over the top of the set wall, and so on. It's up to you -- what do you want it to look like?
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 12:30 AM

If you're shooting in a practical location you may not have enough room to use circular track...


If you can find a rental with a spider dolly and some rubber track, that might work out for you. The spider dolly can be unpredictable at times because of the flexible leg to adjust for turns in the track, but it's fine if you're in a tight spot.

A Kino 4-bank overhead might be nice, if you have the support for it, and as Michael mentioned, a way to hide the cable. Watch some Law & Order or CSI to get some ideas ;)
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 01:24 AM

It seems like the basics would be pretty common between people. I don't want to light it for you but I, personally, would tend toward lighting the cops dark and the perp hot. Depending on how hard they're sweating him, I might go as far as 2 or even 3 stops hot on the handcuffed guy and probably sit around a stop dark on the cops. It'd be nice to motivate a little edge on the cops if they're dark.
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#5 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 05:04 PM

Thanks for all the great replies. I really appreciate it.

The location will almost certainly be a practical one. The perp is also the good guy, and the cops bad. I still like the hot perp look though.

Thanks again,

Adam
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#6 Dominic Cochran

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 06:06 PM

If you don't have room for track I've had pretty good luck with the Matthews Roundy-Round dolly if the floor is VERY smooth and you have a good Dolly Grip. Cheap rental too. You can put it on track too if you DO have the room. Good low budget option.
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#7 Bob Hayes

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 07:31 PM

No money? Use a wheel chair. You may need a couple of lights to hit the back ground. A China Hat works well for a sourcy top light. China ball for more spill. You might try a hard spotty light hitting just the table.
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#8 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 07:52 PM

A darkish room. A long metal table - on one end, a handcuffed man in a chair. On the other, two police officers. The shot is a 360 dolly around and around the table as the men speak to the prisoner.

This is low budget work. I need a recommendation on the lighting setup - I'm thinking a chicken coop off the ceiling or a kino bank.....?????

Also, what kind of (low budget) dolly can make an arc around a table that is probably 8-10 feet long.

Thanks so much, guys!!!


I was just thinking that scene through to it's edit. It's not for me to say how the Director wants this to eventually look, but it seems to me that you don't really need the capability to do a full 360 around the table all at once.

What I mean is, you could have this scene as a one-er, but that could get boring fairly quickly, especially if you want to build suspense or drama. So, if the scene begins with that wide dolly shot, then cuts to mediums back and forth from cops to other guy...then back to the master at some point...then cut to tighter shots on both....depending on how the scene is written and is supposed to play (and how big the room is!), you could conceivably wind up on a very tight (long) lens for the final climactic moments, say, if the cops push the other guy to his limits.

Anyway, the point of that is to say that unless you plan on playing the entire shot in that overall master, you only need enough "dolly" to get a few choice moments at that lens. Then, when you drive in for those mediums and closeups, you'll likely have to pull the table out of the way so you can track more closely around each of the talent. You could even play around with the direction you dolly to add some tension (so that it isn't always right to left, for instance).

With that in mind, you're doing shorter moves, but having to plan out the EDIT much more carefully before any film rolls through the camera. What that buys you is less need for equipment you can't get, plus it theoretically helps move the day forward quicker given that you and the Director have done your homework and planned the shots out per the script moments way ahead of time.

Just a thought. Good luck!
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#9 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 11:50 AM

You haven't said what format you're shooting on; how much light do you need? Maybe you can put the lights in the shot??? (Just be sure to dress the cabling.) You could just put a bare Kino tube on the table underlighting the cops ... (very Mullen-esque.)

You can probably squeeze a few hand-dimmers into your budget, so you can time in some lighting cues if you need ...

Low budget or not, the spider or cricket is an excellent choice for this kind of move, just make sure you get the boards, or else you'll have a tough time walking around the dolly!

Circular track comes in diameters of 10', and 16'. You might get the bigger track around your table, but you'll need a big ass room in which to fit it. (Better method would be to decide on the track, and then find a table that fits inside the track.) The tight track (10' diameter) is really tight, more for table top, or a CU on someone in the center ...

Just some random thoughts.

Good Luck.
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#10 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 12:26 PM

I don't want to sound negative, but circular track is almost always a compromise in framing when you have more than one object or character. Circular track is in my view only good for one thing: to track around inanimate objects where the object stays in the middle of the frame and in the center of the track (i.e. no panning should be required) - a face, a cup etc. The minute you have to pan on a circular track to compensate for something, you have compromised the effect and it will start to look snaky and unclean. It's hard to explain, but you'll understand when you can view it through the viewfinder.

Let's do a real world example. You have three men sitting around a table. Start by being so wide that you can get all three men in frame at the same time. Camera is pointed at the center of the circle, which preferrably should be an imaginary axis in the middle of the men/table. Track around and all will be fine. You will probably see your own track in this scenario, but it's doable. It's also hard to light for a 360 wide, but that's also doable.

Now, without changing the track move in to a close-up of one of the guys. Since he's not in the center of the track anymore, you'll now have to both pan and tilt to keep him in the center of your frame - this will look snaky and jittery. Also, you will now notice that due to your panning, your object will appear to be rotating faster as he comes closer to the lens and slower when he's further away. Your framing will also be compromised since he will appear to be smaller when he's further away and larger when he's closer. The cool illusion of a circular, even track is now broken by the ketchup-effect of having all that compensating panning and tilting accelerating towards the close end.

I don't have much time for circular track, as you might be able to tell. It's probably the most misused track of all and my heart just sinks every time a music video director asks me to bring some, because I know we'll end up using it in the compromised way above.

As for creating interest with movement, I always bring up Hitchcock's credo: "If you want people to really listen, don't move the camera".
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#11 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 11:45 PM

Excellent advice and much food for thought. Thanks to all who responded. I'm going to chew on it for a while, maybe do some informal test footage.
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