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lighting actors with radically different skin tone


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#1 Jason Hinkle (RIP)

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 05:37 PM

I'm currently shooting on HD and two of the actors that have scenes together have very different skin tone. The lead is a medium skin toned African-American actor and the other has very fair/pale skin tone. wardrobe for both is nearly solid black and I'm shooting a decent amount of night footage. I've been finding it extremely challenging to light. I find myself trying to block out light and create shadows for the fair-skinned actor while the other is under direct light. This works pretty good, but it makes their marks very tight and if they lean in/out too much they go out of exposure range.

I had somebody suggest using more backlight and having an assistant bounce that light from the front, which seems like a good idea since they could react to the actors movements. does anybody have other suggestions or tricks for this type of situation? thanks!
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#2 David Cronin

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Posted 22 July 2009 - 01:30 AM

I'm currently shooting on HD and two of the actors that have scenes together have very different skin tone. The lead is a medium skin toned African-American actor and the other has very fair/pale skin tone. wardrobe for both is nearly solid black and I'm shooting a decent amount of night footage. I've been finding it extremely challenging to light. I find myself trying to block out light and create shadows for the fair-skinned actor while the other is under direct light. This works pretty good, but it makes their marks very tight and if they lean in/out too much they go out of exposure range.

I had somebody suggest using more backlight and having an assistant bounce that light from the front, which seems like a good idea since they could react to the actors movements. does anybody have other suggestions or tricks for this type of situation? thanks!


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#3 David Cronin

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Posted 22 July 2009 - 01:55 AM

Sorry about that last reply. There was none for some reason.

The difficulties you are encountering seem to be pretty massive, It could be worse, you could be shooting midday on a snow covered mountain in the summer. :lol: One of the main problems is shooting HD, you are working with a pretty high contrast medium. If there is anyway to keep things a little more in the mids-do so. THINK FUJI FILM. I am NOT a camera person, but I know enough to avoid shooting a massive tone change with digital, which is essential what you are doing.

As far as lighting goes. Your best bet on a tight budget is to shoot in warmer tones. This tends to bring black skin up a little and won't blow out your other actor. I recommend Sodium vapor with a little less green than normal. The thing to understand here is that any decisions you make are going to put you in a hole that you will have to stick with. Try to take these challenges and shoot the project in an interesting way.

Also I have no clue what your lighting should look like, story is important. If you are just looking to light it to see faces AKA comedy.

I would say keep things soft use 12x12 through a fairly heavy diffusion with maxi's. Sodium vapor them. Then get a light for your black actor call it your "insert actor name here" light. Get a high roller. Slap a 5k on there with a chimera grid and vapor that and follow him around with a 2x3 double to keep it off his body. Your pure blacks will come in the outfits and thats fine.

I have been only doing this for a little while now. I recommend you look at some of the other post for light black actors.

Best of luck
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#4 Jason Hinkle (RIP)

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 01:25 AM

thanks very much for the suggestion. I've been having the best luck so far reflecting light to bring out the dark skin tone, but I don't know why I wasn't thinking the opposite, I could just blast the heck out of the scene with light and have somebody block the fair-skinned girl instead. I think I'll try that tomorrow. Thanks!
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#5 Jim Keller

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 03:25 PM

I'd suggest shooting a test with the lights heavily gelled and color corrected back. A reddish light, for example, might bring up the skin tone of the African American while bringing down the tone of the Caucasian. But this very much depends on the specific skin tones involved, so I can't point you to a specific formula.
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#6 Jorge Rondao

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 09:08 AM

I had the same problem and was resolved when possible the same way, but is not always possible so I chose to make very soft light when threw the two together and make the f stop to the skin clear and dark as dark, in some cases where it could pose a strong backlight in black actor or change the direction of the keylight to im, and used in some takes a soft diffuser in camera, and it seemed to me very acceptable.

Best regards

Jorge Rondão

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Edited by Jorge Rondao, 04 August 2009 - 09:11 AM.

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