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Where to put the backlight


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#1 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 01:19 AM

I just had a shot to achieve at dusk but ran into a problem working in a backlight and was wondering if anyone has a possible solution.

It was a Steadicam move. I was at the bottom of a short bit of stairs, looking slightly up toward the Talent who was walking toward me as I pushed in on a wide lens. As she finished her dialogue, I let her out of frame and continued tilting up to frame up the large church in the background.

I attempted to work in a 2.5k HMI par just off the right side of frame. My lens was getting nailed, so I had a Grip attempt to walk a solid as my shot moved forward. With the sun sinking, the rain beginning to fall, the Talent getting anxious, and the Director pushing to go, I made the decision to just go without the backlight. The Electrician killed the light, backed it off and we went with only the Key.

The shot looked great, but I couldn't help but study the environment afterward while the crew wrapped, trying to figure out where I could have put that light where it wouldn't be seen or where I wouldn't pick up a flare.

Any ideas?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 01:29 AM

You have to ask yourself, if it were the real sun creating the backlight, could you have gotten the flare out of the lens? If the answer is yes, then your artificial backlight would have to be a fairly big unit farther and higher away, similar to the sun. With a smaller light closer to the wide-angle lens, it has to be farther to one side, which makes it less of a backlight.
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#3 John Sprung

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 02:48 AM

With the sun sinking, the rain beginning to fall, the Talent getting anxious, and the Director pushing to go, ....


You made the right decision for the circumstances.

If this had been addressed in pre-production, you might have had some sort of architectural element built behind which you could hide the HMI, and had the set piece cut the light out of your lens. Without being there, it's hard to say if there may have been some sort of five minute fix that would work. But five minute fixes are few and far between. And it sounds like even five minutes may have been pushing it for those circumstances.




-- J.S.
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 01:15 PM

It was definitely not a situation where I had time and resources to figure this out. Even so, with the entire background being seen, there doesn't seem to be any way to hide the unit itself because of the tilt up at the end of the shot.

I started with David's suggestion, with the unit to the right (farther right than I generally like my backlight), but the framing and the move negated any way to set a solid to take the hurt off the lens. And the choreography to walk the solid with the move was a bit too much, which was why I decided to just bag it and go without.

The shot was fine without her getting rimmed, but it would definitely have "popped" with a backlight. I just can't for the life of me figure out how I could've gotten one in without it being seen or having the flare. :unsure: The world will continue spinning, but it was very frustrating nonetheless.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 01:29 PM

I've sometimes taken an HMI with a smaller head, like a 4K PAR, and pointed it into the lens and then dressed it out with tree branches & greens, so the fixture is physically in the shot at some point (though hopefully not in focus).

John Seale had an interesting trick in those Kodak lighting demos from Australia where he put a tweenie on a nail-on plate above a window frame, inside a dorm room set, and then painted a piece of showcard or wood to match the wall color and put it in front of the lens in the foreground, to hide the fixture and cut the flare from the camera view, but the card blended into the background wall, thus "erasing" the light fixture from the frame.
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#6 Brandon Whiteside

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 07:22 PM

Would it have been feasible to either shut the head off at some point, or have it on a roller and slide it out of frame as soon as the actor exited?
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