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Getting colored lighting right


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#1 Jon Bel

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 03:58 PM

Hi There,


I am a newbie and always willing to get some tips from experienced DP's. I really
enjoyed the thread (bluish look). I have a similar question. I am shooting on 35mm and I am looking to shoot a scene with smoke and colored light (Red). I'd like it to look something like the ending scene in Aliens (Ripley character is going back to find the little girl and its smoky and orange) only red instead of orange/yellow.

Smoky and red.

Should I gel some lights with red gels, turn on my smoke machine, spread the smoke and shoot?

What kind of film stock should I use?


I appreciate any tips.

Here's a link but not quite too colorful.

http://9queens.org/w..._04aliens_l.jpg
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 07:56 PM

If all the lighting is red, you might as well save yourself the trouble and just use white light and a red camera filter...

Often things shot under red lighting look out of focus unfortunately, and on a lot of TV's, they also look noisy or smeary. Smoke would soften the image further. I tend to use red sparingly, like for a backlight but with some less-red colors in the frame as well.

Mark Woods once wrote an article about shooting a scene under magenta lights and then timing it to red in post -- he felt that the image was sharper that way because he exposed detail on some of the other color layers.
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#3 Karel Bata

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 12:03 PM

That makes sense. But how would you do that?


If you're going DI you could shoot with white light (you'll need less of it) and later selectively convert the other colors to red. You'd have more control then over the final 'look'.

BTW If you do use red gels you may find your light meter is out. Shoot a test.
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#4 David Rakoczy

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 12:45 PM

If all the lighting is red, you might as well save yourself the trouble and just use white light and a red camera filter...


But that can affect areas that you don't want red in... like fall off / darker areas... if the whole scene is Red I use Magenta gels and add yellow in post. This way you can retain more sharpness... if you light it all with red light it will inevitably look soft... it always does...
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 01:02 PM

I thought the RED layer (cyan dye) was the sharpest, no? Or are we talking about two different things here, film sharpness and TV's perceived rendition of red?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 02:06 PM

Red wavelengths tend to go out of focus, I don't know why. It doesn't help that most video display systems devote so little bandwidth to red info as well. I have these frames from the DVD of "Astronaut Farmer" which show how I tried to mix some orange keys into the red lighting (in a smoked bar location) to provide some relief and some sharpness:

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

You see the blockiness of the red-lit guy in the second frame, something to do with the DVD compression.

The bar was called "Red's Branding Bar" so I just took the liberty of using red light in there, and art department added red Christmas tree lights to help further. But I rarely actually lit a face frontally with red light because it just tends to look out of focus, especially on TV later. I love finding excuses though for red backlighting or accent lights on things.
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#7 David Rakoczy

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 05:54 PM

Hey Dave, I have to say that is some of the sharpest 'Red' (and I don't mean the camera) I have seen in a long long time.. congrats to you, lab, colorist and overall technology for helping us (all) get this thing under control. The wide two shot in the booth is a great example of the color Red... under control.

What format/ Stock was that shot on.... a preliminary google turned up nothing but DVDs for sale... ??
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 06:43 PM

That was Fuji Eterna 500T, rated at 320 ASA, Panavision Primo anamorphic lenses at T/2.8.

One thing to remember about scenes under heavy colored lighting is that you don't want to expose the color "at key" because it would then actually be overexposed and washed-out at that point. To hold the deep color, the light is generally a stop under or so. If you looked at the colored lighting on a b&w monitor, you'd hardly notice the red edge light for example, because it's not very bright in terms of luminance, but in color, it's very obvious.
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#9 Tom Jensen

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 06:50 PM

http://en.wikipedia....atic_aberration
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#10 David Rakoczy

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 07:35 PM

One thing to remember about scenes under heavy colored lighting is that you don't want to expose the color "at key"


Ain't that the truth!... most often - color = saturation = under exposure.
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#11 Jon Bel

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 03:04 PM

Thank you David, this post was very helpful.
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