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Reportage Indoors


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#1 Ross Wilson

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 04:48 AM

Hi, I wonder if someone could give me some ideas on the kinds of lights I'll need for the following set up:

I have some scenes where the camera needs to stay at a mid-wide shot from the subjects and then move with them within a room. Two scenes are indoors but lighting is motivated by moonlight only and the other two scenes are motivated by standard tungstan practicles.

The idea is to be able to move in a reportage fashion with the subjects in longer takes than usual, ideally we'd still retain something better looking just managing to pull off a decent exposure.

Any ideas on the lighting approach to these scenes? I was thinking of going for a combination of large powerful lights outside to raise exp level and then small hidden lights inside for texture.

Many thanks
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 11:41 PM

I was thinking of going for a combination of large powerful lights outside to raise exp level and then small hidden lights inside for texture.


You've got the right basic idea. Even a "simple," single-source look often has a lot of units to help the light wrap, fill, and edge where you need it.

Think of a moonlit night interior just like a sunlit day interior, only darker -- you've got a combination of hard sun(moon)light coming in through windows; softer ambient day(night)light coming in through the same windows, soft nightlight coming in through other windows to provide an edge on your subjects and depth to the background; and return or fill light bouncing around inside the room. Don't go too crazy with exposure from your hard moon source or else it won't look dark. Keep your hard moonlight dark enough to look convincing, and then bring up your fill and ambience to the desired contrast ratio.

Even in a long, moving shot you need to block the scene with actors and camera to find where you'll need to place strategic fill and edgelight, and where you can stage light against dark or dark against light for separation. This is especially important in a dark interior where you run the risk of losing the dark fill side of a face against a dark background.
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#3 Ross Wilson

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 10:18 AM

Thanks, I'll make a note of that. Losing the separation from the shadow half of the face to the background in moonlight shots is a concern, but I like the idea of layering back to front utilising varying strengths of light from side windows.

Whilst I have your attention Michael, could you give me your opinion on pre-lighting scenes even a month or two in advance of shooting.. I think it was you who said "Fast, cheap or good" pick two. If cheap and good means slow, then how about turning up on set to light everything the way you want, check exposures, crude blocking then take details of lighting positions etc. When shooting day comes it's just a case of setting everything up. Do you think this would be of benefit, do you think it would produce an all round better quality look because you have the time to think about it?

Cheers
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#4 Frank Barrera

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 12:41 PM

Ross

You should study ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. A beautiful film. In the AC article Kuras said that she had to light some of the interiors so that Gondry could let the actors move freely around the set. No stands on the ground. Light either comes through windows, door openings or rigged into the ceiling. It's also a classic low budget approach as it helps speed up daily shooting. The key however is that you need the right type of location. Some low budget productions will go for a cheap or free location that either doesn't work for the script or the lighting. This usually lowers the production value of the film tremendously.

But with the right location and the right amount of prep time it can be very successful and look like a low budget movie instead of an ultra low budget movie.

good luck

f
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 03:55 PM

I think it was you who said "Fast, cheap or good" pick two.


I'm sure I've said that, but I'm not the only one! Thanks for remembering. :P

Yes, the more prepared you are the better things will go "on the day." On feature films you'll do a tech scout of all the locations, often weeks before the shoot, and come up with a game plan for all the scenes you'll shoot at the location. That lets you figure out well in advance what gear you'll need, how much time it will take and what kind of crew you need for the rigging. You don't do any actual lighting though, you just rely on your experience (that of the DP, gaffer, key grip, etc.).

But you have to be prepared that things will change by the time you shoot -- the blocking, the coverage, even the script itself. And the farther in advance you are from the shoot date the more likely it is that the scene will change. If you have the luxury of time and thought, come up with a "Plan A," a "Plan B," and even a "Plan C." And come up with a strategy for refining your "roughed in" scheme to allow for unknown blocking and coverage. The more "tricks you have up your sleeve" as a DP (solutions to common problems), the more easily you can accommodate unforseen changes.
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#6 Michael Nash

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 03:59 PM

The key however is that you need the right type of location. Some low budget productions will go for a cheap or free location that either doesn't work for the script or the lighting. This usually lowers the production value of the film tremendously.


This is really good advice. Cutting corners in one area almost always means making up for it in some other area.
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#7 Ross Wilson

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 03:02 AM

Thanks Frank and Michael.

Eternal Sunshine was actually the film that made me think I could do the lighting this way, I read the article in American Cinematographer too! I remember there was mention of high power bulbs in in practical fittings. I think they also used 2 cameras for most of the shooting, back to back stuff.

So plan A, B and C and get the right location, presumably the best location would simply require only supplemental lighting? I've DP and directed my own short projects so far and as a photographer I've always gone for a location because of the light already there and then just added more to pull off an exposure. Shooting 500T and s16 is that an option? I've only worked with digital before.
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#8 Frank Barrera

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 11:07 AM

Another interesting example of this style of lighting is Michael Winterbottom's WONDERLAND. DP Sean Bobbitt used a documentary approach which included using lots of practicals with high wattage bulbs(ie:150W-300W). They shot S16 and some super 8. The practical lamps usually are blowing out. For me this is a big problem when shooting video. I find the highlight clipping to be very distracting and unappealing. So when shooting video I try to work with the production designer to use lamp shades (usually darker is better) and fixtures that help me instead of kill me. When shooting film if the director wants practicals with white lamp shades and it makes sense for the script and the design then i won't argue.

So if you can afford it and you want blown out practicals go with film. Vision 1 or 2 will give you lots of range with good highlights. As well, shooting film can go much faster on set than shooting most HD systems.

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#9 Michael Nash

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 02:35 PM

You're going to have to do quite a bit of your own lighting for the moonlight scene, though.
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