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Hypothetical lighting scenario


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#1 Simon j Rogers

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 07:40 AM

Hey Guys,

I was shooting a film a while back and I watched the finished film recently and wasn't very happy with the lighting, one scene in particular.

The film was shot in a school, this scene was shot in a long corridor, around 12ft high, 12/14ft wide with doors to classrooms on either side. There were double doors at the end of the corridor, with glass windows in them, and beyond that a stairwell. It was set during a dream/nightmare sequence and the director felt that as it were a nightmare there should be no practicals. He wanted it to look as though it was lit by moonlight. However as there was nowhere, realistically, that moonlight could come from i just tried to bounce light in to get an exposure on the faces and backlight from behind the doors.

As it was really low budget and i was helping out a friend I only had a small lighting kit available, but I was just wondering how people might light such a location if an appropriate lighting kit was available.....?

Cheers

Simon
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#2 Deniz Coker

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 01:18 PM

Here is a still I found from a quick google search. I like letting things go black. You could have light coming in from doors that might be slightly ajar. I would have light from the classrooms probably tweenies aimed down and out the crack of the door, little haze to show off the beams. Some light from those doors at the end. Let the talent be silhouetted. As they walk past doors they can be temporarily lit which shows their expression.
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#3 Ari Schaeffer

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 06:22 PM

Hey Guys,

I was shooting a film a while back and I watched the finished film recently and wasn't very happy with the lighting, one scene in particular.

The film was shot in a school, this scene was shot in a long corridor, around 12ft high, 12/14ft wide with doors to classrooms on either side. There were double doors at the end of the corridor, with glass windows in them, and beyond that a stairwell. It was set during a dream/nightmare sequence and the director felt that as it were a nightmare there should be no practicals. He wanted it to look as though it was lit by moonlight. However as there was nowhere, realistically, that moonlight could come from i just tried to bounce light in to get an exposure on the faces and backlight from behind the doors.

As it was really low budget and i was helping out a friend I only had a small lighting kit available, but I was just wondering how people might light such a location if an appropriate lighting kit was available.....?

Cheers

Simon



The best thing I was ever told by another DP was "Money = style". You have to work within your budget, despite the producer. You're not magic, and you can't create exposure out of thin air, even if people expect it. In your situation I would look at what they were giving me and the results they were expecting. Here you have a director that is asking for non motivated stylistic lighting but isn't giving you any lighting to accomplish that. In this situation, I go with available.

There are a lot of factors here that could change your approach (that's why we love cinematography right?) but I'll make some assumptions. You're shooting on a digital format, possibly something with a CMOS sensor that is fairly adept at low light (I assume this because for them to shoot film but spend nothing on g/e would be sillyness). You're given a single kit (without any choice of units), maybe just 3 or loose fixtures, more then likely it's an arri kit with at least one bigger source (650-1k) and at least one med/small source (300w/150w)... It's a school so the chances are there's a base level of even top down lighting (more then likely CF/flo lighting and even more likely, at a green CT).

You could open the camera as much as possible. This means, turning on gain, wide open on the lens, slightly slower shutter speeds, and if you're using decent enough optics/sensor you may find that you're able to get away with using your film lights punching from the doors in the hallway, either keeping it as white light (keeping the WB 32k) or letting it go slight blue depending on how in love with the "blue request" your director is. You can accomplish this by either having them color shift in post, gelling the sources with CTB if being able to lose some intensity, or manually dialing in the WB temp (this one depends on your camera). You may find if the camera is sensitive enough, you'll be getting an ambient "fill" from how those sources are spilling or bouncing that may give you say a 2.8/4 exposure where the subjects have detail no matter where they are in the hallway, giving you leeway to maybe go 1.4 on that making things slightly darker/moodier, and 4 or 5.6/8 on key "pools" from the source beams themselves.

If I didn't have the sensitivity however, slow lenses, director threatened to punch me once for every grain of noise in frame, etc etc, then I'd do the same thing, but I'd use the overhead house lights as my ambient fill. It'll cast green, so you need to shift gthem to either white or blue light, again either with correction gels, or in camera WB or post. It won't be quite the same since you'll have more of a toppy look then good directionless soft light from the bounce on your ambient, but you'll at least have a base exposure where you can see what the hell the actor is doing between them walking through key/highlights.

If your director decides he has good taste, and that you don't need to see the star's face every second, then disregard everything about ambient, punch your sources, and let them go silhouette. That's how 90% of us would want to light it anyway, with the addition of some stylistic hard sources here and there.

Again there's so many variables in terms of space, optics, lighting units, even down to color of the outfit the actor is wearing that it could change the approach dramatically, or not at all. The real lesson is, tell your directors budget will dictate aesthetics!!! Maybe one day it will sink in...


also: try and arm yourself with photoflood/practical bulbs, and sockets and china balls, even metal clip light fixtures. This way if you're in this boat, at least you'll have a few more sources of light to hide in classrooms when you've expended all two lights they gave you for the wide shots :\

Edited by Ari Schaeffer, 15 December 2010 - 06:26 PM.

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#4 Simon j Rogers

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Posted 18 December 2010 - 04:45 PM

Thanks for the replies guys.

Ari, you're not far off in your assessment of the shoot. We shot it on two 7D's and we had 5 or 6 lights, a mixture of 2k fresnels, 800w red heads and a few 650w.

Theres a still attached to show how it turned out. I underexposed the face but as the action didn't call for too much movement, not allowing her to move in and out of the light, I thought i needed some light on the face.

Simon.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 December 2010 - 08:50 PM

I had a scene in a school hallway at night for "The Quiet"... to keep it moody, I used the shiny tile of the hallway to reflect a vertical Kinoflo outside of the glass doors at the end, which silhouetted the actors:

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