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#1 Jed Shepherd

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:48 AM

Ok i will break this up into a few questions so its easier to follow.

Basically i have available to me a few 4 bank kenoflows, dedos, a few arri 1k, 650,300's and a a 2k blondie. Im still studying film and am having trouble advancing my lighting. The camera currently available to me is a pdw-f330 xdcam. I know the camera is more suited to broadcast i guess but the following questions are asked to help me with any future projects on different cameras aswell.

Soon i will be undertaking a short film which is going to be aimed at having an indie feel to it. Similar to Eric's work on juno and 500 days etc. With the past few films i've made i've experienced many problems which i'm sure some here would have also and some who can help me solve them. I will list off my problems and questions now.

1. When lighting faces is there any common rules eg diffusion is usually necessary, don't use lights beyond 1k?(For the sake of this post lets assume im talking about MS-ECU in a studio)

2. Relevant to question 1, when is it appropriate to not use a fill light or to not backlight? Also when is it appropriate to use them?

3. If i'm wanting to light someone relatively close to a wall but don't want to throw a huge shadow behind them but also dont want the wall behind them to be blaring because of a strong light being used to counteract the shadow, what should i do keeping in mind the lights i have available?

4. Using blue gels to correct tungsten to daylight, this question is a bit odd but each time ive attempted to correct the tungsten to daylight ive found it throws too much of a blue colored light. Is this possible because the gels i'm using are too strong?

5. The answer to this question is sort of apparent to me but i still struggle to overcome the issue. Basically everything i light ends up resembling a day time soap. Even when using diffusion the actors always appear to be immersed in light. Should i possibly use the zebra bars set to 70 rather than 100 so im seeing correctly exposed rather than overexposed? Also i assume just moving lights back or adding more diffusion is also a possibility but im still yet to find a good balance. Any possible insight on this would be great.

6. This is more just for a specific look but lighting an actors face but leaving the background in complete darkness. Is this achievable in a small space? Also i assume the answer would be to toplight or bottom-light or both but is that the only option? I couldnt think of a way to limit ambient light being thrown from the keylight/fill light but have seen the lighting look used many times before

7. Not relevant to lighting but how often should a dolly be used? I know that question is like asking how long is a piece of string... but i have just noticed lately that many tv shows and films seem to use them quite often. Just out of opinion do any of you feel that if a dolly was used quite a bit on a student film it would contribute if used correctly or more ruin the film like zooming might do?

I understand that some of these questions are probably incredibly stupid in the eyes of some but as its the student section i thought it might be worth asking so at least people understand i'm only new to this world. Also feel free to answer only one question if you wish (Im not expecting someone to answer them all but if your happy too, go ahead).
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#2 chris reynolds

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 07:53 AM

Hi Jed

Firstly, as far as the look of the film goes, what's mostly forgotten in these topics is how important the location is to the story and getting someone who's training to be a production designer or set dresser. The skills these people have, can make your short film look a million bucks (or £'s in my case!).

1- As far as lighting people go, the more diffusion you use the softer the shadows and the more the light 'wraps' itself around the face. If you're filming in a location that has, by function, harsh strong light then lighting actors softly may (especially in wide shots) not suit the scene.

2- As the scene determines. Just a soft backlight will pick someone out of the gloom so they dont 'melt into the backround'. Also think about the head and hair of the actors. Someone with blond long hair will not be lit the same as a bald man.

3- Light from the side and black wrap or flag the light nearest the wall so there's no spill. You'll proberbly need to use a poly to bounce the light onto the other side of the face. You can light from above and give that high cheek bone look as well. Think about catch light in their eyes! Dead black eyes can change the mood of the scene.

4- I don't understand 'it throws too much of a blue coloured light'. Where? Each CTB comes in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and full.

5-A far as Zebras go, firstly make sure your viewfinder is set up properly. It's your eye to the world while filming and if the contrast or brightness is not set correctly, you'll see the image wrongly. As far as overlighting (it sounds) like your throwing light on everything which you dont need to do. Take a look at the room your sitting in now and any room you go into over the next week. See where the light comes from and try and block that light. What's still lit? That's how i learnt!!

I'm currently cooking dinner for 6 so as Mr Connery once said ....here end'th the lesson.

Chris
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#3 Jed Shepherd

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 08:05 AM

Hi Jed

Firstly, as far as the look of the film goes, what's mostly forgotten in these topics is how important the location is to the story and getting someone who's training to be a production designer or set dresser. The skills these people have, can make your short film look a million bucks (or £'s in my case!).

1- As far as lighting people go, the more diffusion you use the softer the shadows and the more the light 'wraps' itself around the face. If you're filming in a location that has, by function, harsh strong light then lighting actors softly may (especially in wide shots) not suit the scene.

2- As the scene determines. Just a soft backlight will pick someone out of the gloom so they dont 'melt into the backround'. Also think about the head and hair of the actors. Someone with blond long hair will not be lit the same as a bald man.

3- Light from the side and black wrap or flag the light nearest the wall so there's no spill. You'll proberbly need to use a poly to bounce the light onto the other side of the face. You can light from above and give that high cheek bone look as well. Think about catch light in their eyes! Dead black eyes can change the mood of the scene.

4- I don't understand 'it throws too much of a blue coloured light'. Where? Each CTB comes in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and full.

5-A far as Zebras go, firstly make sure your viewfinder is set up properly. It's your eye to the world while filming and if the contrast or brightness is not set correctly, you'll see the image wrongly. As far as overlighting (it sounds) like your throwing light on everything which you dont need to do. Take a look at the room your sitting in now and any room you go into over the next week. See where the light comes from and try and block that light. What's still lit? That's how i learnt!!

I'm currently cooking dinner for 6 so as Mr Connery once said ....here end'th the lesson.

Chris

Thanks for your answers. In regard to the to much blue color. On the last shoot i did we shot in daylight but had tungsten lights. When i used the blue diffusion the actors face was a blueish color. And i mean beyond the natural daylight blue. I assume the gel i had must have been full or just something which isnt a gel but has ended up in the lighting kits for some reason. Dont know if that makes any sense but the best way to describe it is one side of his face had a normal skin color and the other side(Keylight side) was bluer than the sky.
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#4 Michael E Brown

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 12:51 PM

While Full, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 are the "normal" CTB strengths, there is such a thing as double CTB (Lee #200). Perhaps you ended up with some of that, which certainly would look too blue. Also, I have seen someone whip out some "blue" gel on a small shoot and specify that it's "CTB" but it's actually some shade of light blue that they ended up with. Doesn't look anywhere near correct either. It would be best to either use cuts from a factory roll where you can see the actual number (new Lee gel is also numbered per foot on the edge of 48" gel) or use cut sheets that have the factory sticker. Otherwise, markings not made by yourself may be suspect.

Something else to consider is also the fact that perhaps your daylight scene didn't require full CTB either. You cannot simply make a blanket statement that all daylight situations are 5600K. For example, sometimes daylight spilling in a window will be more like 4200K and under a shade tree on an overcast day can be upwards of 8000K. You have to size up every situation differently. That's why most trucks carry a range of correction gel.

In addition to all that, often 1/2 CTB is the most useful on tungsten lights for a better color balance and more output. Full CTB cuts about 2/3 of your light output, making it basically useless most of the time. 1/2 CTB only cuts 1/3 of the light. An Arrisun 200w HMI par is twice as bright as an Arrilite 1000w par with CTB on it - not to mention it draws considerably less power. I'm not trying to convince you to use HMIs, just point out how inefficient tungsten lights with full CTB are.
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#5 Michael E Brown

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 01:18 PM

1. When lighting faces is there any common rules eg diffusion is usually necessary, don't use lights beyond 1k?(For the sake of this post lets assume im talking about MS-ECU in a studio)


This is a creative decision. Are you looking for hard light ala film noir? Or beauty shots on a female actress?

Then you also need to think about what kind of diffusion. Slapping some thin diff on the barndoors is unlikely to make too much of a difference. Putting some 216 on a 4x4 frame 6' in front of the light makes a big difference. Bouncing the light into a card then into the diff frame is even more difference.

2. Relevant to question 1, when is it appropriate to not use a fill light or to not backlight? Also when is it appropriate to use them?


Creative decisions. All dependent on the feel you want. Soap operas probably always have a nice back light on every person. A really moody drama might not use any at all.

3. If i'm wanting to light someone relatively close to a wall but don't want to throw a huge shadow behind them but also dont want the wall behind them to be blaring because of a strong light being used to counteract the shadow, what should i do keeping in mind the lights i have available?


First, get them away from the wall. Second, have the set decorator make sure the wall is a darker shade so it doesn't appear brighter than your actor. Third, make the light as soft as possible so shadows are not so harsh. Forth, place the light close to your actor to maximize fall off. The farther the light from your actor, the less difference the light level on the actor and the wall. By close, I mean just outside the frame. Could be a foot on a close up.

Don't shine more lights to fight a shadow like this, instead work on the shadow. Keep in mind also however, that's it's natural to have a shadow behind a person against a wall. You probably want something there, but not a hard cutout either. Soft light is the key.

4. Using blue gels to correct tungsten to daylight, this question is a bit odd but each time ive attempted to correct the tungsten to daylight ive found it throws too much of a blue colored light. Is this possible because the gels i'm using are too strong?


See my post above. Probably too strong of a gel or too strong of gel color to match other lights.

5. The answer to this question is sort of apparent to me but i still struggle to overcome the issue. Basically everything i light ends up resembling a day time soap. Even when using diffusion the actors always appear to be immersed in light. Should i possibly use the zebra bars set to 70 rather than 100 so im seeing correctly exposed rather than overexposed? Also i assume just moving lights back or adding more diffusion is also a possibility but im still yet to find a good balance. Any possible insight on this would be great.


Probably overlighting. Soaps are flooded with light everywhere. Moving the lights back may actually be the problem - if you light the whole scene from far away, the difference in light level on your subject isn't much different from the light hitting the rest of the room. A whole room lit to 100fc is pretty boring.

6. This is more just for a specific look but lighting an actors face but leaving the background in complete darkness. Is this achievable in a small space? Also i assume the answer would be to toplight or bottom-light or both but is that the only option? I couldnt think of a way to limit ambient light being thrown from the keylight/fill light but have seen the lighting look used many times before


The key (pun intended) here is a soft key light close to your subject. Don't be afraid of lights close to actors (probably downsize the light from what you were shooting across the room though!). Top and bottom lighting is more of a creative look, not necessary to achieve what you want. Also make sure your angles are pleasing - which helps throw light down behind actors instead of right at the wall behind them. Google "Rembrandt Triangle".

7. Not relevant to lighting but how often should a dolly be used? I know that question is like asking how long is a piece of string... but i have just noticed lately that many tv shows and films seem to use them quite often. Just out of opinion do any of you feel that if a dolly was used quite a bit on a student film it would contribute if used correctly or more ruin the film like zooming might do?


Just because the camera is on a dolly, doesn't mean they are using the dolly for movement during a shot. A dolly is actually used most of the time on big shoots for any kind of shot. It's a stable platform, can be repositioned easily, can change the camera height easily, and is a good way to move around super heavy camera packages in one piece. Of course, when you need a push in - it's already set up.

I understand that some of these questions are probably incredibly stupid in the eyes of some but as its the student section i thought it might be worth asking so at least people understand i'm only new to this world. Also feel free to answer only one question if you wish (Im not expecting someone to answer them all but if your happy too, go ahead).


If you are truly interested in learning, the only stupid question is the one you never ask. Now, stupid timing for asking questions is a different conversation. Like don't ask a DP why he did XYZ on set in front of everyone while he's busy trying to do 100 other things. Do the job you were hired to do, take notes, and ask later.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 05:26 PM

I know this isn't going to be all that helpful, but I'll say it anyway. Screw the rules. Do something that looks good to you and makes just enough sense that the audience will buy it in the logic of the scene and you're golden.
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#7 chris reynolds

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 06:17 AM

Although i kind of agree to the 'screw the rules' comment, it's also very important to (cliche alert!) 'know the rules, before you can break the rules'.

It sounds that Jed is just starting to light and think about lighting so a good grounding in basics is always the best platform to start from
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Glidecam

Metropolis Post

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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

Opal

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Technodolly

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CineLab

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Aerial Filmworks

Tai Audio

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