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Two Faces in a Pool of Light, surrounded by black


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#1 Alain Lumina

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:13 AM

Hello, I am shooting a very abstract fantasy pic. 16mm , stock undecided.

It will be a very simple set, just two people talking, one of whom is
dying from a knife wound after a battle.

I want to have 40-85% of the frame completely black throughout the short film.

Sometimes I'd like to see just the waist up of one of the characters, sometimes
just one face floating in the darkness with just some small colored
light/shapes behind to provide dimension without identifiable background.

I'd like to have some lit things in the frame, but not have it really clear what they
are, because the audience really has to be the set decorators in the film with their imaginations.

I have a Midget fresnel 200 watt, a junior solarspot 2k, some portable
spotlights ( non-professional) .

I may buy some more Mole Midgets as they are cheap and seem versatile.

HMI's are beyond my budget.

Would snoots be key here?

I'd like to request:
1) Film stock rec's ( 200T? 500T)
2) How to best shape the light for the "surrounding darkness" look.
2) In general, is it better to light it more ad stop the lens down, or
to be economical with the light and leave lens open?

Here's an extreme example, a face almost completely in darkness.
http://farm2.static...._adbf445c50.jpg

Edited by Alain Lumina, 03 March 2010 - 01:17 AM.

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#2 Andrew Wilding

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 02:26 AM

Hello, I am shooting a very abstract fantasy pic. 16mm , stock undecided.

It will be a very simple set, just two people talking, one of whom is
dying from a knife wound after a battle.

I want to have 40-85% of the frame completely black throughout the short film.

Sometimes I'd like to see just the waist up of one of the characters, sometimes
just one face floating in the darkness with just some small colored
light/shapes behind to provide dimension without identifiable background.

I'd like to have some lit things in the frame, but not have it really clear what they
are, because the audience really has to be the set decorators in the film with their imaginations.

I have a Midget fresnel 200 watt, a junior solarspot 2k, some portable
spotlights ( non-professional) .

I may buy some more Mole Midgets as they are cheap and seem versatile.

HMI's are beyond my budget.

Would snoots be key here?

I'd like to request:
1) Film stock rec's ( 200T? 500T)
2) How to best shape the light for the "surrounding darkness" look.
2) In general, is it better to light it more ad stop the lens down, or
to be economical with the light and leave lens open?

Here's an extreme example, a face almost completely in darkness.
http://farm2.static...._adbf445c50.jpg


to answer the last question - I would stop the lens down a bit in order to easily render the background dark and just light the talent accordingly. If you shoot wide open your going to go mad flagging lights to try to get your background a couple stops under whatever your lenses widest aperture is. Since you don't have a ton of equipment, you might want to shoot on faster stock in order to stop down some. It will of course be grainier but I would think that most of the grain will be buried in a see of black in your case.

Take this advice or leave it - Im sure there are people better suited to answer you on here. Good luck!
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 03:19 AM

Well, first thing is to make sure you don't shoot this in a white dorm room during the daytime. :)

Second, do you want to see the floor or not? If so, then go with a heavily snooted overhead light. A kino would be ideal, but a 2k zip light, or skirted china ball would work too. If not, then work from the floor and use the 2k to edge the actors. The image you posted is keyed with a soft light (appears to be a softbox), so unless you want that edgy hard-lit noir look you may want to soften up the 2k by putting it thru a frame of diffusion or bouncing it into beadboard. If the soft light is positioned 3/4 back it will still wrap around the actors while leaving the camera side dark, which may look nice. It helps to have a fairly large stage (or warehouse, or random high-ceiling black space) to pull this off.

Then use your smaller lights to highlight the "small colored shapes" in the background. You can also try using large Christmas tree lights for the background shapes if you can get them out of focus enough.

As for stopping down with fast stock vs. shooting wide open on slower stock, it depends on how grainy you want the image. I don't think it'll make a difference in the blacks - they will only open up if you shoot wide open on fast stock, where the ambient will start behaving as fill light.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 10:24 AM

If you are shooting against black backgrounds, it makes less difference whether you want to work at a higher level and stop down or a lower level and open up, but if the background isn't really black and you are trying to force it to fall-off, then it helps to have a high level for the key to overpower natural ambience in the room.
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#5 Alain Lumina

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 06:40 PM

Thanks a lot, some of the most obvious things I hadn't even thought of, like what color is the background-- I was thinking of lights and controls.. (Doh!!!!)
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