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#1 Walter Graff

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 12:28 PM

I have made a few DVDs that I both sell to those newer to the production world and give free to any schools that want it. All are designed for those with no budget and a few pieces of equipment. So far I did one on lighting headshots in interview scenarios, another on how one has to learn to see light, remember it, and then take that into a scene and recreate it, and one on how to do green screen with no budget from start to finish. All three ideas were given to me when I asked a group what they wanted to learn most. I am currently working on one that will discuss nighttime exterior shooting on no budget and some of the many ways one can accomplish that.

I was wondering if anyone had any ideas for a topic that I could make into an hour or so presentation for future disks. It has to be a topic that can be more broad stroked than being absolutely specific because out of context (no script) I find showing lighting technique can be difficult to comprehend without the motivation. In other words showing how a scene is lit in a bedroom at night is tougher to see as an end result without it being in context of a story. The mind picks it a part more than it would had I presented it as part of a story where the visuals merely reinforce the story rather than saying "this is night" by itself. Not that it can't be done. I have done such with success. My exterior night disk will include running in the woods, sitting at a fire, walking on a street, etc. So with that disk I will make broad strokes of what some night scenarios can be. Of course there are fifty ways to light one scene all I can do is present a sliver of that.


So anyone have any ideas of scenarios, settings, topics that they think might make for a good disk?
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#2 John Thomas

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 05:30 PM

I could have used a DVD on "how to light a room". It took me a long time to ignore the actors and light their enviroment first... tell a story there. It's the same outside, get a good background, know where the sun is going. Those actors can be very distracting. :rolleyes:
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 08:42 PM

Some ideas:

Lighting a room for different times of day into night.

Lighting for elaborate camera moves inside a room.

Using colored lighting.

Lighting black objects, white objects.

Cheating lighting from master through coverage.

Effects: moonlight, TV light, fire light, lights in room coming on or off.

Dealing with mixed lighting on locations.

Dealing with bright windows or backgrounds.

What different types of lights do.
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#4 Jason Maeda

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 09:58 PM

those are really good topics david. I might add "creating convincing eyelines" with blocking and camera angles...
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#5 Jason Maeda

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 10:00 PM

good ideas, david.
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#6 Walter Graff

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 10:13 PM

Lighting a room for different times of day into night.

This one I have in the works. In my light and shade video, I start our talking (rambling) about how like a pro athlete, a lighting person needs to always sharpen his/her talents. Tiger Woods hits thousands of golf balls a day top keep his muscles memory about how to swing perfect. An accountant gets very good with numbers from practicing the methods of adding an subtracting. And a chef learns the intricacies of cooking and gets better at constancy from doing it over and over. As a lighting person I feel that the same foundations for learning the art, have to first be realized as a talent, second have to be constantly practiced. A good part of that practice is simply in observing. I often find myself in situations like a restaurant, a subway, in a car at night, etc, and I am constantly taking pictures in my mind of what motivates the lighting. What does the dashboard do to my passengers? What type of motivation is lighting those at the table with me? How does the overhead lighting of a subway affect the people in it? Is it even, motivated from above, etc? And these are things that I find myself looking at every day. And it goes to what I watch on the screen too. When I am not completely involved in a story, I see what motivates bar scenes, interiors, etc. And I constantly catalog these things. I guess as the type of artist we/I am (an illuminator as is a painter is to a canvas), I need a resource. I need to have a picture, or many pictures in my mind so that when that situation comes up, I can draw on motivations, and apply them to a scene. Like an artist who is about the pain the Eiffel Tower, he takes a moment and moments as he paints and see the tower and the surroundings and with his mind translates them to light and shade. As an illuminator, I do the same thing, except my canvas doesn't start the day I light, but sometimes from my childhood, and throughout my life, because as the painter sees what shadow and light does to make an object appear in him mind as three dimensional, I look at what light does with both shade and color, and my practice isn't only the scenes I light but the day to day scenarios I see. I've done it al my life as I am sure many others have too. I can still see the sunlight streaming though the dust in my room when I was five wanting to get closer to the dust but realizing the slightest movement disturbed the natural path of the particles. So many folks buy lights and then say what do I do with them. Like buying golf clubs. You have to practice to learn to hit the ball right and I find I have to take the time to appreciate light in order to have something to draw on when someone says to me, light a bedroom for night. If I never saw a bedroom at night, or never took the time to really look, then all the lights in the world mean nothing. Sort of like Tiger Woods. I attribute a golf tournament to a day of production. It's the test of all my skills. Other days are practice. I look at the world every day and that is how I practice, by observing, noticing the quality of light and taking a mental picture so I can apply that quality when I need it.

Then in the Light and shade DVD I take a moment to attempt to apply a few settings to this discussion showing what a natural daylight interior of a bedroom is, then showing a technique at mimicking the light artificially. I then take it to the same room at night showing that mostly what changes is intensities and color shading to suggest a time of day. I touch on a few scenarios like a dining room, etc in the disk, but not in depth, and out of context of a story so they loose something. Nevertheless, I have gotten many positive reviews from it and the same question asked over and over, do it in depth. So this is a great topic. One room, day and night, sunny, and cloudy, morning and midday, day and night. Night asleep, night in conversation in the room/bed.

Lighting for elaborate camera moves inside a room.

This one is tough. Tough because if I did a dolly in a hall, I wouldn't cover something and folks would say we want more. If I did a scene walking in a restaurant, it wasn't the move someone wanted and they'd clamor for more. So while it is a great idea, I have to figure out a few scenarios that can take place in an hour and a half of instruction, and apply them. What would be the best set up for this scenario for me to concentrate on?


Using colored lighting.

I don't think that is a politically correct way of saying that anymore. :)

Very tough for me to isolate this in an instructional setting. So many possibilities that I don't think I could cover it well unless, once again I was given specific senarios/settings that I could discuss lighting variables and color. The bedroom interior is a place I could apply such. Talking about day, night, various times of day and achieving them with lighting, and various settings at night and how both color correction and theatrical color come into play. Any thoughts about specific methods that cold get one going without me having to do thirty set ups?

Lighting black objects, white objects.

Examples?

Cheating lighting from master through coverage.

This is such a great topic David and I think over the years you and I have been in some great threads involving it all over the web both together and seperately. . I often remember and mention in my lectures one great post you made once about the subtle differences in masters and various close ups and how in context one doesn't see them but buy themselves they become very noticeable. You once posted photos from a film (Tucker) and one scene where we see an establishing of Martin Landau, then we see three variable close ups. While in the context of the movie, one doesn't see the noticeable lighting differences, they do when you show the shots out of context as you did. And that is where I think this discussion is best. In my location lighting seminar, I spend the morning going scene by scene through the movie The Sixth Sense, breaking down masters and coverage. It is one of the most popular parts of any seminar I give and teaches more about lighting than most other methods, cause it shows you what's behind the curtain and makes folks realize that it is more a trick, and inspires them to try. But for a DVD I think it would not be as good as I think I need the context first, then need to break it down. For me to set up the content is possible but logistically a pain for an instructional DVD.


Effects: moonlight, TV light, fire light, lights in room coming on or off.

A good one that needs nothing more than demonstrations and explanations as to why and how.

Dealing with mixed lighting on locations.

Real tough in a DVD for me to do well. To much complexity and I would not be able to show enough demonstrations of various scenarios unless you think I do three and say that's it. But if three, what three?

Dealing with bright windows or backgrounds.

A good one I never thought of. Simple and can offer a lot.

What different types of lights do.

A very good topic but one that might take up ten DVDs. I could go on for a thousand years about the uses of lights so this one might be tough for me. I know... simply show the primary purpose. Try doing that as I have at seminars and watch the can of worms it opens with the room. Perhaps a few seminars at BH Photo on the topic might be better.
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#7 John Thomas

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 11:07 PM

How about a DVD on lighting with an Assistant Director and Producer looking at their watches?
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#8 Walter Graff

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 12:32 AM

How about a DVD on lighting with an Assistant Director and Producer looking at their watches?


No that would be a Family Guy episode. And they would look at the watch. Look up. Look at the watch. Look up.
Look at the watch. Look up. Look at the watch. Look up. Look at the watch. Look up. Look at the watch. Look up.
Look at the watch. Look up. Look at the watch. Look up. Look at the watch. Look up. Look at the watch. Look up.
Look at the watch. Look up.
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#9 Kirsty Stark

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 03:08 AM

Hi Walter,

As a student, I would be interested to see the DVDs you've made previously. Are they available online? What is the general price range?

I also think that it doesn't matter how comprehensive your coverage of a topic can be in 90 minutes. Anything is better than nothing! You can spend hours and hours listening to someone talk about lighting or watching them light, and then still want more at the end of it, so I think even the more complicated topics would be worthwhile looking at, especially as they are some of the more difficult ones.

Lighting for camera movement for example, would be one that I'd be interested in seeing made, even if you couldn't cover every possible scenario in an hour and a half.

(But then again, I'd love to see you cover any of the topics mentioned so far!)

Thanks,

Kirsty.
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#10 John Thomas

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 11:30 AM

If no one has mentioned it: "Lighting for two cameras" where the cameras are at very different angles and "lighting a day exterior" are ones I'd like to buy. Also: "How to shoot a useful camera / lens /'stock' test for DV and Film"
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#11 John Thomas

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 05:26 PM

Sorry...How about: "Lighting with non-traditional lighting instruments" Homemade and hardware store units only?
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#12 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 12:42 AM

Hi Walter, I have been asked often by the tv production teacher at the high school in my town to talk to his
students about lighting, which I'm glad to do, but I also have produced a couple of simple but comprehensive
practical how-to videos specific to the situations which they most most frequently encounter, for example overhead
hallway lighting and consequent eye shadows, students doing stand-ups in front of hot backgrounds/windows, etc.

It was kind of dizzying because of course I wanted to mention color temperature but then when I mentioned
degrees Kelvin I was tempted to talk about Lord Kelvin and black body radiators and all of a sudden I almost
had a miniseries going. I scaled back and gave a lot of demonstrations in and around school in the lighting
situations important to them and alluded to how it would be valuable to do further reading/research on
say color temperature.

The feedback I got seemed t to have a consensus that real nuts and bolts demonstrations were most
popular as the students deduced a lot of the decision making and variety of possible decisions from seeing the results
of what was demonstrated. I think they felt that given the choice, they'd rather read about theory but see
what is best illustrated by the before and after video.

The second strongest comment was the students liked the equipment I demoed that they don't have normally but
could conceivably get for a big shoot or final project. There's a big rental house in town so while it's unlikely that
they would be getting a Fisher 11, learning about a doorway dolly was exciting to know that such a thing exists.
Similarly, some simple grip equipment that would allow them to hang some lights at a location and be able to shoot
360 degrees, one of their big concerns, was a big plus in their remarks.

There are a lot of good suggestions on this page. I think that David's and Jason's suggestions would be of most
interest to the majority of the students I know and that John's suggestions of lighting for two cameras, using
low budget gear and how to do lens and stock tests would be of major interest to the handful of students every year
who are gung-ho to be filmmakers and are starving for that kind of advanced information which often is not
available from tv production teachers who are teaching under the art department and have stronger skills in
other areas and less experience with more advanced productions and equipment.

I saw a student short that won a prize in a local film festival this past spring. The camera work, compositions
and editing, all by a high school senior, are really impressive. In one scene the teacher said to me that he knew that
something wasn't right about the lighting but he couldn't put his finger on it. I said did you have the light at its lowest
possible position on the stand? That's why the kid's shadow is high above him on the back wall. The short was great
but it's simple nuts and bolts stuff and a bit about light placement that seems to have been the most helpful with the
students I've encountered.
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#13 Dominic Cochran

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 10:24 PM

I haven't seen your DVD's and knowing your experience level I'm sure it's covered; but the single biggest lack of knowledge I've seen from people coming right out of (low to mid level) film/photography schools is how to control light. Alot of these kids are just getting taught how to get the proper exposure level and are totally fascinated by seeing the grips build flag city around a big bounced source. I'm sure you've seen many student films, and it's clear most of these people are just bouncing lights off the ceiling.
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#14 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 11:44 PM

I haven't seen your DVD's and knowing your experience level I'm sure it's covered; but the single biggest lack of knowledge I've seen from people coming right out of (low to mid level) film/photography schools is how to control light. Alot of these kids are just getting taught how to get the proper exposure level and are totally fascinated by seeing the grips build flag city around a big bounced source. I'm sure you've seen many student films, and it's clear most of these people are just bouncing lights off the ceiling.



I think that may be because many people getting started have had minimal exposure to much grip equipment so they
may still be learning simply what the equipment is and then seeing what it does.


I'm finishing another how to video for the high school students and although the local rental house was nice enough to
donate some equipment for me to demonstrate; I'm holding off on using that footage because for most of the students
it won't come into play, even though they're fortunate to have one of the area's biggest rental houses a mile from
their school. There are two, maybe three kids each year who are serious enough to want to know about simple rentals
that could help their short films but most are going to use what's at their studio so that's what's going into this how-to
edition.
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#15 Walter Graff

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 12:27 AM

Tim,

You said it well. Having given a hundred or so seminars to those starting out, I was once amazed when I took out a grip arm to secure a piece of foam core only to have the room, stand up and shout with amazement something like: "What is that?" I learned soon that you can't learn to sale without a sailboat. So I always keep both my seminars and my DVDs very simple and introduce only what I need use, or else I get calls in the middle of the night. Not kidding. I used a flex fill in my Headshot DVD and have gotten at least 100 emails/phone calls asking who makes it. Some in the middle of the night. Now I title everything I use and describe it clearer, in some cases with a price range, so that anyone can find it. I'm giving a seminar in February in NY on green screen from shoot to edit. I can bet the number one question will be, where do I get that green screen material. So the answer is, one has to think without taking things for granted. I try, but sometimes I get lazy and talk about such things as using a knuckle and a short arm and find my phone ringing at 1am.
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#16 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 01:05 AM

I'm a buyer for a few of the ideas David mentioned.

Something about good, basic 3 point lighting and lighting control would be great. I don't want to have to rely so much on my DP.
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