Jump to content


Photo

Movie Theater Lighting Techniques


  • Please log in to reply
13 replies to this topic

#1 Mark Pagan

Mark Pagan

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 2 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 29 May 2009 - 12:25 PM

I'm shooting a scene in a black box theater with the camera facing members of the audience (I'm using a Canon A1). The theater is for stage productions, not a cinema. Does anyone have lighting suggestions on making it appear as if a movie is playing (particular lighting that appears on the audience)?

Thanks,
Mark
  • 0

#2 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 29 May 2009 - 12:28 PM

Big soft under-exposed flicker effect, generally perhaps a little blueish. There's tons of examples in many films.
  • 0

#3 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 29 May 2009 - 01:49 PM

Big soft under-exposed flicker effect, generally perhaps a little blueish. There's tons of examples in many films.


Basically that's it -- in real life, people are lit by the images bouncing off a big white surface and the projector bulbs are usually Xenon, so daylight-balanced. So a big flickering soft light. You can bounce a bunch of lights into a big white material, or shine them through a big frame of diffusion. Have crew people randomly wave some flags in front of the lights before the get softened, to get the flicker.

Gel it bluer if you want, or pass some colored gels in front of some lights to color the bounce.

The other convention is to have a big backlight, a narrow beam often through smoke hitting the character's head, which is unrealistic but looks cool. Theaters don't have haze in them anymore because people don't smoke in theaters, and in real life, the projector beam should not be hitting the audience. You could have the beam shining just over their heads, but if you want to see the beam, you need haze in the air. A Source-4 Joker HMI ("joe-leko") would do a good job for that projector beam effect, or a bright follow spot in a theater.
  • 0

#4 Karel Bata

Karel Bata
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 487 posts
  • Director
  • London - a rather posh bit

Posted 29 May 2009 - 02:47 PM

What about using a video projector? B) That could create flickering beams of light over their heads which you could then bounce off some poly and on to their faces. That way the flicker in both is in sync. And if you get additional flicker from the projector being out of sync with your camera that could add to the effect...

Experiment a bit before you settle on any particular footage to project. Don't just run any old bit of video. The effect you're used to when you've seen this done before is actually not what you get from a typical bit of film footage (which has very slow changes during a shot and sudden jumps on the edits).
  • 0

#5 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 29 May 2009 - 03:00 PM

What about using a video projector? B) That could create flickering beams of light over their heads which you could then bounce off some poly and on to their faces. That way the flicker in both is in sync. And if you get additional flicker from the projector being out of sync with your camera that could add to the effect...

Experiment a bit before you settle on any particular footage to project. Don't just run any old bit of video. The effect you're used to when you've seen this done before is actually not what you get from a typical bit of film footage (which has very slow changes during a shot and sudden jumps on the edits).


A video projector for the beam is a good idea, if not a real movie projector... (but then you'd have noise issues unless the movie projector was in a glass booth or other blimp-like device.) Trouble with my Source-4 HMI idea is the lack of a dancing beam, unless you could hide the origin of the beam and have someone wave/wiggle their fingers in front of the lens of the Source-4.

Not sure the bounceback using a white card would be enough exposure unless you are working everything really close to the actor, or if you're talking about a cinema-grade digital projector.

You could try two video projectors playing the same source though, one as the beam and one shining onto the faces of the actor, perhaps through a light frame of diffusion. Though the actual bounce from a movie screen is quite soft because the screen is quite large.
  • 0

#6 Justin Hayward

Justin Hayward
  • Sustaining Members
  • 928 posts
  • Director
  • Chicago, IL.

Posted 29 May 2009 - 04:06 PM

Gel it bluer if you want, or pass some colored gels in front of some lights to color the bounce.


I once saw a guy have the grips build a color wheel with foam core and gels. They basically cut a giant circle out of the foam core (probably four feet in diameter), then cut three or four “pie slice” like triangles and covered each one with a different color gel. They poked a hole in the middle and stuck it on a c-arm, so as to randomly spin it in front of the light.

All while randomly waving flags in and out. Plus the “projector” backlight… and smoke…

It looked pretty cool.
  • 0

#7 Travis Cline

Travis Cline
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 143 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 29 May 2009 - 11:29 PM

Once on a show I used a large light, a 12K Par I believe, into a 12x12 Ultrabounce to light the audience. In front of the 12K we placed some shutters that we had used earlier in the show for a strobe light effect and that worked quite well. I think part of selling the effect of a movie screen is to have the light change quickly, simulating a cut, and vary the intensity too. Its nice to have the audience at key, then below, then over, etc. Plus, its fairly realistic to have the light intesity changing. That's my two cents either way. Also, be aware that if your characters are fairly close to "the screen" that you will get a very quick fall-off, which can be good or bad depending on what you need/want. Good luck with the show.

Travis

Edited by Travis Cline, 29 May 2009 - 11:30 PM.

  • 0

#8 Satsuki Murashige

Satsuki Murashige
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3510 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 30 May 2009 - 03:40 AM

I've done this before almost exactly as David described: http://www.flickr.co...3365912/detail/

I've added a still I took under real movie theater lighting as a comparison. You can see there's no backlight from the projector. However, I find if you have a lot of empty seats, then it works if you edge light the seats for separation. It's motivated by the projector light and is a bit of a cheat, but it looks great. For the wider shot, I had two edges in a back cross configuration and for the tighter shot I only needed one.

My key was an Image 80 with daylight tubes, pushing thru a hanging curtain of bleached muslin. For the wider shots, we dropped the muslin as it was sucking up too much light. We had two grips slowly waving pillows in front of the light to create the flicker effect. The edge lights were Source 4 pars (tungsten) with 1/2 CTB. The camera was white balanced to 5000K.

The "projector" gag light was a Ellipsoidal spot on a dimmer. We tried creating flicker with handmade shutters and flags but it was too strong of an effect. What helped sell the effect was to let the electrician riding the dimmer set the pace of the effect and have the grips try to match it, so when the 'soidal dimmed down or flickered faster, the grips would try to match it.

The final touch was to have kino tubes on floor against the back wall for uplight and separation. It was supposed to be motivated by safety strip lights. I over lit those though, should have kept it darker.
  • 0

#9 Karel Bata

Karel Bata
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 487 posts
  • Director
  • London - a rather posh bit

Posted 30 May 2009 - 05:06 AM

Looks very nice.

It's not clear from the original post how close the shot is or how many of the audience are visible. I assumed small scale, hence the bounced video projector.

Just a thought, but this thing of having a huge flickering soft light from the front: it works well, but isn't it a bit like the convention of the flickering campfire light? We're all so used to it that we read it as the norm, but in reality it's not quite like that. A cinema screen is not an even soft light varying in color and brightness, but has bright areas of different color moving around - with the occasional jump during an edit. So wouldn't projecting (back-projecting) an image on to a large screen replicate that better? For example, a large bright object moving from left to right would softly illuminate the audience on the left, then middle, then right, and their heads would follow. (Mind you, I always sit in the front row, so to me this is very pronounced! :rolleyes: ) Would help to see the script of course...

As to seeing the rays - no, a camera wouldn't normally pick that up, but my eyes can, and it's what I'd expect to see.

Oh, and if you do use two projectors running the same video, make sure that one is going through a mirror! ;)
  • 0

#10 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 30 May 2009 - 09:16 AM

Just a thought, but this thing of having a huge flickering soft light from the front: it works well, but isn't it a bit like the convention of the flickering campfire light? We're all so used to it that we read it as the norm, but in reality it's not quite like that. A cinema screen is not an even soft light varying in color and brightness, but has bright areas of different color moving around - with the occasional jump during an edit. So wouldn't projecting (back-projecting) an image on to a large screen replicate that better?


Sure, but what's the difference between that and just shooting someone in an actual movie theater watching an actual movie? Just in one case the image is bounced off of the theater screen and the other it's passed through a diffusion frame.

The reason Karel why do "conventional" things like big bounces using movie lights is the same reason why we don't always shoot by actual campfire light: we need a lot more exposure than the real sources provide. Your idea of backprojecting an image is fine except that it probably would not be much brighter than than the light levels in an actual movie theater unless the whole thing was quite close to the actor.

And you could take a big bounce and fade lights up and down or move them around to different ends of the white surface to suggest the brightest areas of the image moving from one part of the screen to another. Basically on an audience during a movie you have soft light shifting from side to side and varying a little by color, with the occasional sudden change in level, color, and position caused by a picture edit.
  • 0

#11 Tom Savige

Tom Savige
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 21 posts
  • Student
  • Melbourne, Australia

Posted 30 May 2009 - 09:24 AM

I'm shooting a scene in a black box theater with the camera facing members of the audience (I'm using a Canon A1). The theater is for stage productions, not a cinema. Does anyone have lighting suggestions on making it appear as if a movie is playing (particular lighting that appears on the audience)?

Thanks,
Mark


Mark,
I shot in a cinema last month. You'd better check if they let you bring in external lights because they wouldn't let us bring in any AC powered lights. We had to use the cleaners lights and bounce the light around with a reflector. The motivation was completly ruined in the scene but the lighting really went with the mood of the scene.
Have fun on the shoot, Tom. :D

P.S. Here are some stills (Sorry about the image quality it was shot on a HV30)

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image
  • 0

#12 Karel Bata

Karel Bata
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 487 posts
  • Director
  • London - a rather posh bit

Posted 30 May 2009 - 01:14 PM

David, I wouldn't disagree. Conventions for doing things are often there to overcome a technical difficulty.

Until the technology changes. In this case I was wondering if modern video projectors had enough oomph to give a decent exposure. Maybe they don't (yet) but if and when they do there are some interesting possibilities.
  • 0

#13 Russell Richard Fowler

Russell Richard Fowler
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 37 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Miami, Florida

Posted 30 May 2009 - 03:09 PM

We did some Burger King in house advertising spots in a cinema in Miami. I used the existing 35mm cinema projector (Cinemeccanica V-5 with a 2000 lamp = 10 - 12,000 lumen), re-aimed the projector downward via apple boxes so the spot of the projection lens was slightly above the talent's heads (3 actors and 20 extras) and the balance of the beam doing a nice backlight. I made up a film loop with strong cuts and graphics to make a nice flicker. I have done a similar effect with via video projectors running over 8000 lumen.....not as clean as 35mm but effective.
  • 0

#14 Zakaree Sandberg

Zakaree Sandberg
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • orange county,ca

Posted 03 July 2009 - 12:03 AM

Project a real movie on a silk in front of the actors...

projector - silk - camera- talent

then have some rim light on the chairs to separate.. some back light coming from above
  • 0


rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Technodolly

Opal

Metropolis Post

The Slider

Visual Products

Abel Cine

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

Glidecam

Paralinx LLC

FJS International, LLC

Tai Audio

Willys Widgets

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

CineTape

Wooden Camera

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Glidecam

rebotnix Technologies

Technodolly

Abel Cine

Rig Wheels Passport

Visual Products

CineTape

The Slider

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Wooden Camera

Broadcast Solutions Inc

FJS International, LLC

Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

Opal

CineLab

Willys Widgets

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Tai Audio

Paralinx LLC

Metropolis Post