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What To Do Outside?


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#1 Greg Segul

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 10:51 AM

What do you do with EXT. lighting between the ratio between the sun and shade? (not the shade under a tree or something but the shadow side of a object or person that is backlit) I guess the easy answer would be to fill them in but when you don't have the budget or its a wide shot how do you keep you bg from spoiling? I was checking with my light meter in the afternoon and found about a 3-3 1/2 stop difference between the shadow side and sunlit. If you expose for the shadow you will spoil you bg but if you expose for the sun you will end up with the shadows very dark.

Do you split it? I assume the shadows should be dark but how much is too much for this situation? Can you go 2 stops?

Thanks
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 10:59 AM

Generally color negative film and most digital cameras can handle that difference between sun and shadows in open space (not under heavy foilage so much). So for wide shots, it's just a matter of finding the right exposure split, whether to bias more for the shadows or the highlights.

For closer shots, a white card or white bedsheet on the ground, etc. may be plenty to lift up the shadows more.

Now occasionally in a wide shot, a person moves under a dark shadow of something (like a roof awning) and you may feel the need to bring them up -- at those distances, usually a reflector board reflecting the sun is about the only thing punchy enough to fill in that shadow. Sometimes I'll use a reflector on a particularly dark green tree or bush in the background of someone's close-up too.

But otherwise, I wouldn't worry so much about a 3 1/2 stop difference between sun and shadow in a wide shot. Unless you are shooting reversal film or doing a bleach bypass process, in which case you may need to use a bunch of reflectors on the wides, or lower the contrast of the film stock in some manner (low con filters, flashing, etc.)

Also, you tend to only expose for the highlights when the sun is very frontal, in which case if 1/4 of the subject is shadowed, those shadows can be pretty dark because the majority of the subject is in the sun. As the sun starts to go behind the head of the person, like a very toppy backlight, or is very sidey, then you can split the exposure more and if the highlights are a stop and a half over and the shadows are two under then you will hold detail in both (unless the subject is very high in contrast -- let's say a dark-skinned person wearing a white wedding dress....) Then as the sun becomes a pure backlight and is just a halo, less than 1/4 of the subject is lit by the sun in the frame, then it can be much more overexposed and you can just underexpose the shadow side by a stop (I rarely would expose the shadow side at full key exposure because I feel that the shadow side should always feel a bit "down", otherwise if I expose fully for the shadows, the image looks a bit washed out to me.)
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 03:18 AM

...(I rarely would expose the shadow side at full key exposure because I feel that the shadow side should always feel a bit "down", otherwise if I expose fully for the shadows, the image looks a bit washed out to me.)

That's interesting. I've gotten the impression from comparing modern films to pre-1990's films that there is a trend in modern cinematography to bias exposures in backlit situations for the foreground more frequently, letting the background burn hotter. I wonder if anyone else feels this way too, and if so, why do you think this is? (Tim Partridge, are you out there? :))

I would guess that it is partially a result of film stocks improving to the point that: 1) DPs feel more comfortable letting the background overexpose and still retain highlight detail, and 2) that there is just more shadow detail in the newer stocks under the same lighting conditions. I also think there is some element of stylistic convention that many modern DPs are adhering to - maybe our idea of naturalism has shifted lately? I dunno, but I think it's interesting.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 11:51 AM

That's interesting. I've gotten the impression from comparing modern films to pre-1990's films that there is a trend in modern cinematography to bias exposures in backlit situations for the foreground more frequently, letting the background burn hotter.


Well, I actually said that I'm exposing more for the shadow side in backlit situations, so the background would get hotter naturally. I just don't believe in going so far as to expose the shadow side at full key exposure because that just looks odd to me -- the shadow side should feel like the shadow side. But exposing a backlit face one-stop under still means that the background is going to get hotter.

In terms of trends, it just depends on the DP and director. I notice that in a lot of Tony and Ridley Scott movies, they'd rather let people go more silhouette in a backlit situation rather than have a bright washed-out background in day exterior work, so the colors stay rich in the background landscape. You see this in "1492" for example. They like dark shapes against a lit background and they don't mind the actors going into near silhouette.

On the other hand, "Out of Africa" was exposed more for the shade by David Watkin and thus has a sunnier, pastel feeling with hot greens and pale skies in the background. This sort of went against the National Geographic Kodachrome look of most movies shot in Africa, with high contrast, black shadows, and strong colors. Of course, the Agfa XT320 negative helped in this regard.

The only particular "modern" trend is to use less artificial fill lighting outdoors -- you generally don't see the hard shadow from a carbon arc being blasted in for fill anymore. Fill is generally softer. Sometimes this still means that a lot of fill is used, sometimes it means hardly any is used, and there is more variation these days in terms of exposure technique, either towards more overexposure or more use of silhouettes.

On the other hand, there is also a trend towards totally relighting day work by tenting the actors and using huge light through large diffusion frames for that slick commercial look. Roger Deakins once commented on this, how film stocks are faster than ever but lights are larger than ever and some people are totally redoing sunlight outside and using artificial lights instead.
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#5 John Sprung

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 02:38 PM

On the other hand, there is also a trend towards totally relighting day work by tenting the actors and using huge light through large diffusion frames for that slick commercial look. Roger Deakins once commented on this, how film stocks are faster than ever but lights are larger than ever and some people are totally redoing sunlight outside and using artificial lights instead.


The beauty of this is that your 18K's stay where you put them, while the sun moves all day. It keeps things matching, so they cut together without you having to rush around and get the reverse before you lose the light, or figure out how to cheat it.





-- J.S.
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