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100,000 ISO..?


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#1 Karel Bata

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 09:11 AM

Zacuto recently did a compariosn in low light condiotions of film & DSLRs:
http://www.zacuto.com/shootout
Yes, I know, it's 26 minutes. But let it buffer then skip through to the extreme low light tests.

This has already got posted in the DSLR forum here, but I think it raises some interesting questions about lighting technique generally.

Whatever you may think of DSLRs now (or ever) there's no denying that these extreme ISOs will one day be commonplace. So I wonder - how will this affect the way we light things? Like, will lighting trucks and large gennys become history..? :(

There's also the question of what audiences come to accept as 'realistic' lighting. Looking back on B&W or early color they now seem mannered, and what looks realistic (and good) has always evolved. So will we see the development of an aesthetic that is more like a documentary or 'found light' look. So rather than add lighting to an actor in a street scene at night, will we instead ask him to stand closer to an illuminated shop window..? Will we use LED torches for bounced fill light? It just seems like all the lighting practices I've got used to (and spent years learning!) are beginning to look irrelevant and are about to go out of the window! :( Add to that the latest Arri cameras and the RED Mysterium chip which boast a latitude of 13 stops (High Definition Magazine - go to page 18) and the mind boggles! Well, mine does. :lol:
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 03:53 PM

I don't think there'll be any huge change. Extremely high sensitivities are only useful under certain circumstances and most filming takes place in much higher light levels eg daylight.

The lighting is used for a number reasons, one is balancing the lighting levels, another is consistency of lighting, which is a problem when dealing with a light source that moves, is extremely bright, has vraring degrees of diffusion coming across it and changes colour temperature at either end of the day. Plus, it has blue tinted shadows

Lighting is also used creativity, to reveal story, direct our attention to the important character(s) in a scene, to create atmosphere and to make the leading lady look stunning.
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#3 Alain Lumina

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 02:49 AM

From micro-budget POV, I do think the faster cams are having an effect, especially for the kind of atmospheric things in remote locations I like to do.

With a backpack filled with a 7D, a few modern, small, high powered flashlights, I can cut costs in so many ways that the cumulative effect is huge, and makes projects previously impossible doable.

Below was done with available light when it was almost dark-- Canon 7D with Zeiss 50mm 1.4
http://www.magicalre.../BruceSMann.jpg

The DP was David Mallin who has a MFA from AFI; but the equipment cost very little relatively speaking.

If I want to do a campsite scene, for instance-- I just wait 'til magic hour, highlight actors with the flashlights, and hit it. Don't even need the flashlights until it gets almost pitch black, I shot with a Canon w/ Zeiss 50 1.4 until it was deep dusk no problem. No, it's not going to look like David Mullen, ASC lit it; but my scripts are better than anything with Megan Fox in it. And my cost is literally 100x - 500x less.

I just shot a 1/2 hour TV pilot in Palm Springs, with a retro pool house location, 2 1960's cars, and wonderful desert scenery in the mountains above for about 4-5 thousand, and about half ( house location stuff) was done on 16mm with a painful 3-1. And all actors and crew got paid, lousy pay I admit, but there's no "investors", just me and my pathetic paycheck hoarded for a few months.

It's not just the camera and the lighting--

1) Less Equipment->Less Costly accesories->Less Crew->Less Vehicles->Less law enforcement problems->vastly expanded guerilla locations...

MEANING--

I can shoot more episodes of my little TV show with high fidelity.

The [hardware] cost of producing music approached zero a decade ago, the same thing is happening now to cinematics.

It becomes more and more a social thing, success is determined who can recruit collaborators with their scripts or other attractors.

Again, this is for people with no connections functioning totally outside of studios or even independent investor level.

This means now one person with a job can put together a legitimate feature.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 03:37 AM

There's nothing particularly new about these techniques, they've been used for many years, even on 16mm and on SD video. In the 1970's New York D.P. were lighting scenes using the light from shop windows. Sensitivity became more of an issue with HD (even more so on 1/3" HDV cameras), where you didn't want to add more than 6db gain.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 12:16 PM

It's one of those yes and no sorts of answers. Obviously higher sensitivity allows you to work with lower light levels, that's a given. And if you are doing a low-light available light urban night story, that would be very useful.

But just think about it more carefully. More sensitivity doesn't help you for day exterior work except at magic hour, and if you are trying to keep shooting a daytime scene after the sun has gone, there will come a point where the footage is obviously being shot near night if any nighttime ambience kicks in like from streetlamps, etc. So compared to using a 500 ASA film stock, an even higher-ASA digital camera maybe adds a few more shots in the remaining moments before night. Important, maybe, but it's still just a couple of more shots that will be questionable in terms of looking like daytime.

Day interiors, again, more sensitivity gives you a few more minutes of shooting as the light is fading. And there are some very low-level interiors where a faster sensor will be useful. Otherwise, the problem with a lot of day interiors is not light level, it's balancing the interior to the exterior so it doesn't blow out as much, i.e. handling contrast. So a faster sensor doesn't help you much, what you need is a camera with more dynamic range at that point.

Night interiors -- more sensitivity may allow you to use more available light, but if you want to actually light a scene for a specific look, mainly a more sensitive sensor is going to allow you to use smaller, weaker fixtures, not necessarily fewer of them. In other words, maybe you are swapping out a bunch of 1K's and tweenies for 100w and 200w fixtures. Doesn't necessarily save you on time setting up the same number of fixtures but it may save you on power requirements. On the other hand, I've been in many locations where they don't even want you plugging in a Kino into their outlets, they require you bring your own power. But then, a no-budget filmmaker isn't likely to pick a location with that sort of restriction...

Night exteriors -- for urban landscapes with some available light, faster sensors make it easier to light, you can often get away with just adding light to the foreground. However, you sometimes have balancing problems just like with day interiors, the spot you picked may be too dim compared to the surroundings, requiring that you bring up your level. I remember shooting near Pat's Steaks in Philly and Gino's in the background was SO bright that I had to light the street to f/5.6 just so that all that neon would not burn-out, and this was on film. And once you get out into the countryside where there can be NO available light, then you are talking artificial light. And again, all that a faster sensor is going to do is allow you to use smaller, dimmer units -- but for the same look, not necessarily fewer of them. A bunch of flashlights aren't going to replicate the moonlit look from an 18K on a condor, but you could probably replace the 18K with a 4K, for example, or use a series of 575w HMI's through the woods when you might have normally used a series of 2.5K's and 4K's. Now obviously that helps the budget quite a bit.

But not every script has a lot of night work in it, for example. If most of your story is daytime, a 3200 ASA sensor or higher is not going to help too often, and you better hope you can rate it at 500 ASA or lower because otherwise the amount of ND you'll need in sunlight will be staggering.

Having just shot a TV pilot on the new M-X sensor for the Red and being able to routinely use it at 1000 ASA to 2000 ASA, it was a big help, but most of time it just helped me stop down the lenses more to get better depth of field. And the few daytime scenes where we lost the light, we were able to shoot for a bit longer, but those shots are pretty lousy actually in terms of looking like daytime.
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#6 Pat Murray

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 01:29 PM

Lighting is a major contributor to the art of filmmaking. (Beyond the obvious practical reasons) Hopefully that'll never change.

Kubrick finding a lense that will allow him to light a scene by candle in "Barry Lyndon" is one thing, (and beautiful), but to just treat lighting as an expensive chore and hope to one day only use available light would be boring and suck a lot of creativity out of filmmaking.

The ability to shoot in the lowest of lighting should be just another artistic tool for the filmmaker.

Edited by Pat Murray, 18 May 2010 - 01:30 PM.

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#7 Jeremy Hughes

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 10:56 AM

Flash photography hasn't gone anywhere and the high sensitivity has been more effective in still photography now for a while. When you're trying to keep a large room with a consistent look and be able to reset fast, I see the need for large lighting staying put for a long time, especially when you're competing with the sun.
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#8 David S Carroll

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 11:53 AM

...to just treat lighting as an expensive chore and hope to one day only use available light would be boring and suck a lot of creativity out of filmmaking...


I was going to say the same thing. Thanks Pat.
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#9 Karel Bata

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 01:38 PM

Whoah! :lol:

Is that what Robbie Muller did with Paris Texas? Or Nestor Almendros in Days of Heaven? Those films really opened my eyes to what was possible. Or what about James Wong Howe using existing light in The Sweet Smell of Success or Seconds? Or Sven Nykvist's work?

OK, I may have over-enthused a bit in my first post here, but I think it's genuinely exciting.

Thanks David for your thoughtful reply. But you left out shooting on set. Using substantially smaller lights is going to make a huge difference to cost, heat, and set-up times. Also, there are many parts of the world where bright sunlight is not so much the norm as where you are - like right here! My experience is much less having to match intense sunlight pouring into an interior location, and more having to create it with HMIs positioned outside. Fact is, many locations around the world are chosen precisely for the amount of light available. When that becomes less of a priority working practices will be affected. Why is Hollywood now the home of movies in the US? It didn't begin there, but many movie-makers headed west, partly to avoid the fees imposed by Thomas Edison, but also because they were attracted by the mild climate and reliable sunlight, which made it possible to film movies outdoors year-round.

Just wait till someone shoots in moonlight!

Till then, it's worth Having a read of what Gale Tattersal had to say about his work using the Canon 5D on House: http://bit.ly/5DHouse

Edited by Karel Bata, 07 June 2010 - 01:41 PM.

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#10 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 01:50 PM

Just wait till someone shoots in moonlight!


Interestingly, a while back David posted some photo tests that he'd done using moonlight - they more or less looked like daylight complete with a blue sky.
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#11 David S Carroll

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 02:13 PM

Karel, my only point is this: having less light equipment = a lesser ability to sculpt a visual image. I agree that the new DSLRs are exciting stuff, I just don't agree that it will usher in the "death" of lighting gear. Using less equipment seems to be a self-imposed handicap that doesn't make sense.

Whoah! :lol:

Is that what Robbie Muller did with Paris Texas? Or Nestor Almendros in Days of Heaven? Those films really opened my eyes to what was possible. Or what about James Wong Howe using existing light in The Sweet Smell of Success or Seconds? Or Sven Nykvist's work?

OK, I may have over-enthused a bit in my first post here, but I think it's genuinely exciting.

Thanks David for your thoughtful reply. But you left out shooting on set. Using substantially smaller lights is going to make a huge difference to cost, heat, and set-up times. Also, there are many parts of the world where bright sunlight is not so much the norm as where you are - like right here! My experience is much less having to match intense sunlight pouring into an interior location, and more having to create it with HMIs positioned outside. Fact is, many locations around the world are chosen precisely for the amount of light available. When that becomes less of a priority working practices will be affected. Why is Hollywood now the home of movies in the US? It didn't begin there, but many movie-makers headed west, partly to avoid the fees imposed by Thomas Edison, but also because they were attracted by the mild climate and reliable sunlight, which made it possible to film movies outdoors year-round.

Just wait till someone shoots in moonlight!

Till then, it's worth Having a read of what Gale Tattersal had to say about his work using the Canon 5D on House: http://bit.ly/5DHouse


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#12 Karel Bata

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 02:29 PM

Needing less lighting intensity doesn't necessarily mean using less lights - if that's what you want to do. They're just smaller. One way to look at it (with the notable exception of daylight exteriors) is that you'll need to spend less energy (and time, and money) augmenting what's there, and more on the actual sculpting...

Would love to see that night-time footage!
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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 03:27 PM

Hell I can shoot without lighting instruments right now on 500 speed film.... I've done it a few times. Higher ISO doesn't really mean that much, honestly, 'cept maybe not having to rent a genny or as large of a genny. It's nice, of course, but honestly, there's a point (around 1600 I'd say) where it just starts making less and less sense.

"Yeah but John, your scientists were so concerned with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." and we all know how that turned out!
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