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Ambient Light Levels


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#1 DS Williams

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:54 PM

As an aspiring DP, I have a pretty general question to ask.

How do you guys approach photographing indoors? Do you generally raise the ambient light level before you place your key lights, fill. ect?

A DP I know that shoots commercials says he usually points a few open faced light at the ceiling for a general raise in exposure, then places his lights after. (providing the ceiling is white)

Does anyone else approach a set up this way?
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#2 Ryan Thomas

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 02:12 AM

I usually place my key first, then fill as needed. Just because you don't always need that raise in ambiance...I feel like it's also a lot easier to see what you're working with as soon as you place your key.

Edited by Ryan Thomas, 07 March 2009 - 02:13 AM.

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#3 David Rakoczy

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 09:50 AM

Place the Key first.. meaning Key(s) for Talent and Room... then add Fill according to the Key to Fill ratio you desire. Starting by just bouncing Lamps into the ceiling, is not very decisive. You become a Lighting cameraman once you abandon the notion that Lighting is simply raising the ambient light levels to achieve exposure.. and instead, carve out what you want your audience to see.. and how you want them to see it... actually painting with Light

*see the thread titled Fear of Light
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 11:18 AM

One reason to start with the key is that it actually raises the ambience by bouncing back into the shadows, so you want to get that right before you start trying to adjust fill levels.

But if by "ambience" you mean practical sources, then yes, you would also start by putting in brighter bulbs, etc. to bring all that up to a useful level, plus if the light is supposed to be coming through windows, I'd start with that too, then after all of that, decide what sort of key the person needs, if they aren't being lit by the windows or practicals. Basically, light the space while thinking of how that will look on the person, rather than thinking of a traditional key that is not related to the room lighting.

But if by "ambience" you mean the ambient fill level that comes from all the sources in the room, basically that becomes fill and you usually set or adjust that after the key.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 11:43 AM

Like Mr. Mullen, I too generally start with what's there, lighting/practicles/etc, and then key/fill.
Sometimes while I'm going I'll just "see" something that works with just what's in the room, and if that works for the specific shot, then I'll talk to the director about just going with it, which saves some time.
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#6 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 03:17 PM

It can depend on any number of factors. Foremost is, what do you want the shot to look like? What speed film are you shooting? What stop do you want to work at? For instance, if you shoot digital video w/ a lens adapter that soaks up 2 stops, then you may need to add some ambient, directionless light. At the end of "American Centurion" - that incredibly influential and popular short film I shot last year :angry: - we had a three wall set, over which I placed a 12'x12' bleached muslin, into which I skimmed 5 or 6 2k's so that I could get some base level of even, directionless light. (
View on Vimeo)

Conversely, if you're shooting at 500 asa, then you can pretty much set your key, fill, back lights and see how they bounce into the room. Most shows I grip on have a ton of baylights, but they're mostly superfluous.

Edited by Jon Rosenbloom, 07 March 2009 - 03:17 PM.

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Visual Products

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Paralinx LLC

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

FJS International, LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Willys Widgets

Aerial Filmworks

CineTape

Metropolis Post

Abel Cine