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Location shooting using HMI's through windows


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#1 Geoff Gedroyc

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 10:08 AM

OK just some observances I thought I'd get an opinion on,

Yesterday I shot a low-no-budget TV pilot. The setup was a living room with one window very prominently in-shot and the actors mostly sat down on sofas.

The scene was long and was required to look like lunchtime throughout.

We started at around 0830 and wrapped at around 1830. Outside the window I had a 2.5kw HMI, plus a lot of natural daylight. This was my main light source throughout, and I burnt out the windows almost completely, generating a slightly grungy sourcey feel to the scene. The format was HDV plus lens adaptor plus Nikon primes.

HOWEVER, I noticed when I watched the rushes that two close-ups done at around 1730 looked markedly better than the other stuff that I had done that day.

They were close-ups of two characters sat on the sofa and against the window, heavily back-lit and underexposed by a stop on their faces. I had been doing very very similar shots all day, using the same lenses and settings.

Having really tried to work out what looks so nice about these two shots, it seems to me that because the sun was so so much lower in the sky at this stage, the HMI really came into its own and backlit the actors in a more dramatic way (even though it, nor the actors had really moved position since earlier) that was less augmented by the natural daylight.

I've used HMIs quite a few times on other people's and my own films, but my findings in this instance seem to suggest to me that when shining HMIs through windows I should be using tents (when shooting day interior scenes) in order to prevent the daylight from messing with the strong source effect that the HMI gives. The results just spoke for themselves.

Is this sort of thing absolutely standard, or would it usually be considered a budget-unfriendly indulgence to be constructing tents all the time just because the more controlled output looks better photographically?

There were without a doubt some wider shots, or shots where the window was not in shot, where the need for a tent would not be such an issue, but I thought I may as well mention this anyway coz I couldn't find any information elsewhere on this sorta thing.

Also if some of you do use tents, what do you use? A gazebo wrapped in drapes?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated

Thanks

Geoff
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#2 Matthew Parnell

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 10:46 PM

This has really got to do with your ambient/source levels, and controlling of light.

In terms of level your problem in my eyes is the lamp itself. While a 2.5 does pack a fair punch, it in reality, even in shadow largely complements daylight ambient levels, if you want to key over the top of the daylight ambience then a larger lamp, say a 6k or a 12k, even maybe a 4k at a stretch would have achieved what you wanted throughout the whole day.

If you cant afford a larger lamp, you can lower the ambient level within the room through the use of negative fill. I would suggest a black opposite to the window to stop light bouncing off the opposite walls. I have worked on scenes before where we have had the grips put blacks against all the walls in a room except those in shot to lower the ambient level. I would also suggest this even if you did get a larger lamp.

Im personally not a fan of tenting unless your shooting an interior scene day for night where its really a necessity. With daytime scenes, tenting means that you have to build your ambient levels from scratch, which if your on a limited budget and the tight schedule that goes along with it, can add unwanted complications.
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#3 Geoff Gedroyc

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 03:08 PM

This has really got to do with your ambient/source levels, and controlling of light.

In terms of level your problem in my eyes is the lamp itself. While a 2.5 does pack a fair punch, it in reality, even in shadow largely complements daylight ambient levels, if you want to key over the top of the daylight ambience then a larger lamp, say a 6k or a 12k, even maybe a 4k at a stretch would have achieved what you wanted throughout the whole day.

If you cant afford a larger lamp, you can lower the ambient level within the room through the use of negative fill. I would suggest a black opposite to the window to stop light bouncing off the opposite walls. I have worked on scenes before where we have had the grips put blacks against all the walls in a room except those in shot to lower the ambient level. I would also suggest this even if you did get a larger lamp.

Im personally not a fan of tenting unless your shooting an interior scene day for night where its really a necessity. With daytime scenes, tenting means that you have to build your ambient levels from scratch, which if your on a limited budget and the tight schedule that goes along with it, can add unwanted complications.


Thanks for that Matt, really interesting, just to clarify...

Would tenting in the situation I'm describing be completely standard for many of the DPs/gaffers you've worked with? Myself, I don't think I've ever seen tenting for day for day, but I'm sure there are plenty out there who insist upon it.

Also, my point was that the backlight the actor was receiving at around 1730 seemed to be of an appreciably higher quality because of the low level of ambient daylight. Surely if I'd taken measures to create negative fill in the room this would not have made the blindest difference in respect to this specific observation. In fact I specifically wanted ambient/HMI fill, in order to light the actors faces (although I did want the faces underexposed). In order to do this I made use of a large polyboard, placed in front of the actors which reflected some of the windowlight back onto their faces. This really worked in the lovely shots taken at 1730.

The problem I’m describing is one of the side by side comparison between backlight on a CU that seems to come from one HMI source and backlight that is a mixture of HMI and daylight, the latter being less photographically ‘acceptable’ than the former. Obviously, like you say, a bigger HMI would have helped to solve this problem, but, predictably, that was a little out my budget.

With this in mind would it have been better for me to just control all the light coming through the window with continuous negative fill inside the lounge, and just light the actors’ faces with a completely different lighting unit (say a couple of peppers bounced into some discreetly placed boards)? This would have been bloody tricky given the constrictions I was under but perhaps this would have rendered better results. Is there anything else you would recommend?

Thanks again

G
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#4 Jim Hyslop

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 05:05 PM

I noticed when I watched the rushes that two close-ups done at around 1730 looked markedly better than the other stuff that I had done that day.


Which direction does the window face?

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#5 Geoff Gedroyc

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 02:23 AM

Which direction does the window face?

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Jim



the sofa is up against the window so is obviously facing forward and into the room.

the CUs i'm talking about were done on actors sitting down at that sofa, facing forward, with the window behind them and the light shining through the window and on to their back

what i was saying in the previous post was that this is a question that relates to 'quality' of the backlight itself, not just controlling your fill levels.

in terms of geography, i think the window was south facing, but i didn't check, that's an estimate. not sure why you'd need to know that but just in case

G
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 08:02 AM

I had the same observation on a shoot I was just working on where early in the morning and later in the day it looked a bit better with my N/S facing windows. I think it certainly has to do with controlling the amount of light bouncing 'round in the room and also with how our eyes are reading the scene. I don't think tenting is the answer, just, as mentioned, taking away some of the light in the room with negative fill.
In general, the direction of windows is very important in order to get an idea as to whether the sunlight is coming in directly or if it's just some skylight sneaking in there.
Also, you say you're using Nikon primes, so I'm assuming a lens adapter, which will inherently lower contrast a bit given its ground glass (acting like a diffusion filter) so that would've probably caught some of the extra light in there as well and could've washed some things out. Just my thoughts on the situation.
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#7 Jim Hyslop

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 07:00 PM

in terms of geography, i think the window was south facing, but i didn't check, that's an estimate. not sure why you'd need to know that but just in case

That's actually what I was looking for. Just as a note, whenever I refer to direction in this post I will be referring to compass direction.

The quality of sunlight (or if it's not direct sun, reflected sky light) changes significantly depending on which direction you're facing and the time of day. And your latitude and the season, but that's another story. Also, any cloud cover, no matter how thin, will affect the quality of light hitting the window.

Some of the more experienced folk here can correct me if I'm wrong but it seems to me if you have any natural light at all, you have to be aware of the effects time of day, direction you're shooting, and cloud cover have on the light quality, even if you're indoors.

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Jim
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