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Killing TV lighting, 4k and 10-bit – Canon C300 late night chat with Rodney Charters


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#1 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 05:13 AM

http://thebuibrother...rt-1/#more-2837
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 07:13 AM

I'm not sure it's about killing TV lighting, more about new possibilities. For quite a few genres lighting is about making the actors look good, for thrillers and similar genres, that may be less of an issue, although light itself can often not be where you want, so you're back to lighting (if with lower wattage units).

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 08 January 2012 - 07:14 AM.

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 08:59 AM

The thing is that half the shooting days on a typical dramatic TV series are on sets because of the costs of renting the same location week after week, month after month -- once you've been to a typical location more than three times, it was probably cheaper to build it on a soundstage, and certainly more convenient in terms of shooting, control, etc.

But soundstage sets means lights, particularly if the sets have windows for day scenes. You have to (1) recreate ambient skylight and (2) hard direct sunlight and (3) light a backing of some sort. And that's just what you need outside each window, which may only be background lighting in the set. Plus being on a soundstage, all of that daylight lighting isn't going to be physically far away due to lack of stage space, so the fall-off in exposure from the windows to deeper in the room will be faster, so you'll need to light the foreground more often that you would on location with natural daylight.

Sure, that's easier with 800+ ASA cameras but it still requires lights, just lower wattages than before. And if you have a large window on a set, a 650w Tweenie is not going to create a convincing sunlight effect unless you want to light to 6400 ASA, at which point it becomes difficult to knock some lights down enough to balance with that.

Right now with the Alexa at 800 ASA, I'm often using Rifa 44's with three layers of bobbinet plus dimmed down to 70% just for eyelights, and half my other lights are crammed with scrims - but I'm still using lights -- it's a stage after all, there is no free available light, everything is provided.

I will say that location work is easier than ever, lighting-wise... I seem to be shooting in a new restaurant in Manhattan every week or so, and they are all dimly-lit, yet with the Alexa I can use mostly available light and just light the actors in the foreground with some tiny units. But the key thing there is that I am still lighting the actors, because many actors' faces need careful lighting, it can't just come from anywhere.

Though sometimes the speed of these new cameras makes people lazy, less attention is paid on scouts for lighting problems -- after shooting under available light in the Times Square area one night, the production manager was surprised I needed two condors for the next night exterior a few days later, with big lights on them -- but this was because we were in Nyack in some semi-rural area with no available light and I needed to light a parking lot scene. Even with a 12-light through Full CTO as an orange backlight on a condor, I ended up at T/2.8 at 1000 ASA (of course, I could have switched to primes and shot at T/2.0 but in TV work, it often goes faster to just stick to zoom lenses, hence the T/2.8 limit.)

So sensitive cameras have reduced the size of lighting packages, and the intensity of the units, and you can use available light more often than before, but that doesn't mean that lighting itself is being eliminated, and the truth is that I still have some big trucks of lights... you never know when you'll be asked to recreate daylight in a large location after the sun has gone down -- schedules are tighter than ever, so in some ways, there is less ability to use natural light than before because you are constantly asked to shoot day for night and night for day on your interiors. And it doesn't help that it is winter and the number of daylight hours are so short.

And coming up soon is a location in the daytime in a skyscraper with lots of windows, but I have actresses in the scene that need decent portrait lighting -- the problem here isn't a lack of level, it's balance, because I need to see the view through all the windows, and there are too many to ND gel, but if I expose more for the window view, the interior will be semi-silhouette. So I'll be using the max range of the Log format of the Alexa and adding HMI lighting to the faces to balance better (while somehow avoiding reflections in all those windows...) Having a camera that I can rate at 20,000+ ASA isn't going to help in that situation, truthfully what would help there is a camera with 18+ stops of dynamic range instead.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 09:05 AM

Yes, it's not unusual to light a location room as if it's daylight, but in reality it's 9pm and the sun has spun off to somewhere else in the world. Or, you just want the lighting to remain consistent throughout the day.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 09:13 AM

Yes, it's not unusual to light a location room as if it's daylight, but in reality it's 9pm and the sun has spun off to somewhere else in the world. Or, you just want the lighting to remain consistent throughout the day.


Yes, consistency and continuity are another reason you add lights even when there is enough natural light. Natural light inside may be fine for some improvised MOS Terrence Malick-y moment staged by a window, but when you've got a 5-page dialogue scene on the schedule and you get started after lunch at 2PM and plan on finishing at around 6PM, and the sun is gone by 4:30PM, and there are several angles to cover, you know that you're going to have to plan on lighting the room for daylight. Unfortunately it's the nature of scheduling that scenes are often not shot in the best order for the cinematographer -- you want to shoot "x" actress first to get the real morning light for her shot, but she has a 12-hour turnaround and worked the night before and needs 2-hours of make-up, so you be getting her a couple of hours after call time, etc. and you end up shooting her in worse natural light for her, which means you end up silking and flagging the natural light to make it look more like it did a couple of hours earlier when the natural light was beautiful and would have made her look beautiful, but you mention this to the AD, line producer, etc. and it's basically "tough luck", they aren't going to pay to bring her in earlier than her turnaround and she probably wouldn't agree to that anyway.
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#6 K Borowski

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:14 PM

Unfortunately it's the nature of scheduling that scenes are often not shot in the best order for the cinematographer -- you want to shoot "x" actress first to get the real morning light for her shot, but she has a 12-hour turnaround and worked the night before and needs 2-hours of make-up, so you be getting her a couple of hours after call time, etc. and you end up shooting her in worse natural light for her, which means you end up silking and flagging the natural light to make it look more like it did a couple of hours earlier when the natural light was beautiful and would have made her look beautiful, but you mention this to the AD, line producer, etc. and it's basically "tough luck", they aren't going to pay to bring her in earlier than her turnaround and she probably wouldn't agree to that anyway.


It's nice that "12 on, 12 off," clauses and protections are lucky enough to be championed by some of the trade guilds and unions, but not others.

To put it another way, how many more ACs, DPs, and craftsmen and -women need to die needlessly in late-night car-wrecks, before we are similarly protected by tougher contracts and higher penalties for our ungodly schedules?



Sorry, I digress. What possible financial incentive would someone have to obtain as a cinematographer (probably for minimum wage) if there were no longer any need to light a set, budget for a certain amount of lighting equipment, crew? That's not a rhetorical question. Without the lighting, cinematography devolves into the same roll as that of a television news cameraman. How could someone earn a living wage by merely hand-holding a $20,000 camera steadily without dropping it?

Cinematography has never been the science of merely pointing a camera at an interesting subject and then obtaining technically-pleasing footage of said subject-matter; it has always been the very challenging field of obtaining a decent exposure whilst simultaneously simulating the light of the fictional world, simulated night time, artificial lighting and a wide variety of multiple other simulated lighting effects that are motivated by something "happening off-camera" in the fictional world you are conveying to the viewer?


Crank up the ISO to 20,000 and just wing it? Time to stop paying your dues and take the fallback position in IT. I know Stanley Kubrick wouldn't be a fan of this technology even with F/0.7 spy spy satellite lenses, double-wicked candles, and the light of the moon by which to light. These speeds have been (very famously) available in the world of DSLRs for almost 5 years now.

Have any compelling images emerged [in the past 5 years] which are any more emotionally engaging than those obtained with 35mm film for the prior 115?
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:21 PM

http://thebuibrothers.com/blog/2012/01/killing-tv-lighting-4k-and-10-bit-canon-c300-late-night-chat-with-rodney-charters-drew-gardner-and-lan-bui-part-1/#more-2837


@Vincent

From the article: "After we shot the ultimate low light test on the Canon C300 we had some whisky and talked about a wide range of things related to filmmaking. Here is a compressed list of topics we cover in the video: [. . .]"

You're placing your faith in the after-work, inebriated conversation of an unpaid blogger and a severely sleep-deprived industry professional?


How many of the great photographers, cinematographers that you are a fan of, did what they did as a hobby? How many did what they did to earn a living? The challenge of not only being the best at what you do, but producing something that the paying public, decision makers can *see as the best* is what makes a Hollywood Cinematographer great. Notice I am loosely paraphrasing from "A League of Their Own."

The end of skill in an occupation will mean the end of above-poverty wages for said occupation. . .
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#8 K Borowski

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:27 PM

EDIT: (Sorry, tried to add a quick reply, got so carried-away that I ran out of time to submit it before my prior posting was finalized. . .)


http://thebuibrothers.com/blog/2012/01/killing-tv-lighting-4k-and-10-bit-canon-c300-late-night-chat-with-rodney-charters-drew-gardner-and-lan-bui-part-1/#more-2837


@Vincent

From the article: "After we shot the ultimate low light test on the Canon C300 we had some whisky and talked about a wide range of things related to filmmaking. Here is a compressed list of topics we cover in the video: [. . .]"

You're placing your faith in the after-work, inebriated conversation of an unpaid blogger and a severely sleep-deprived industry professional?


How many of the great photographers, cinematographers that you are a fan of, did what they did as a hobby? How many did what they did to earn a living? The challenge of not only being the best at what you do, but producing something that the paying public, decision makers can *see as the best* is what makes a Hollywood Cinematographer great. Notice I am loosely paraphrasing from "A League of Their Own: 'It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great.'"

The end of skill in an occupation will mean the end of above-poverty wages for said occupation. . .



This blogger is trying very hard to make it out that if only everyone could scrounge up $[XX],000 dollars from whoever brings home the bacon in the family, that they could all be famous Hollywood Filmmakers. They [whoever paid the $5 to so-and-so to 'write' this article, doesn't want the target audience, digital fanboys to stop and think about what really goes into making a multi-million dollar motion picture. (Hint: The biggest component of any budget is LABOR not state-of-the-art direct-from-Japan equipment.)


Sorry to be blunt; I just get an overwhelming feeling of nausea when I witness anyone worshiping a camera, piece of equipment, company, no matter how impressive, old, revered, famous, industry-dominant said company is.
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#9 John Thomas

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 07:20 PM

On all my film jobs, the producer looked at his crappy NTSC 12inch monitor and trusted me to light the scene AND make a contribution visually AND make the "day". Today, the producer/director looks over my shoulder (as soon as the camera turns on) and says: "Looks great, let's shoot". They are convinced that lighting is not necessary anymore.
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#10 Darren Levine

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 11:50 AM

i can never stand to listen to the "we no longer need lights" kind of talk. just screams amateur

mostly can blame DSLRs for that, because at that price point, the amateurs flocked. but seeing people refer to red, c300, f3, and other higher end cameras and actually talking about not using lights with them, well that's just bonkers

society is creating such lazy filmmakers and videographers. there should be an oversight committee for any film schools so they have to actually teach PROPER techniques and teach how lighting is a design, not an exposure.

as for the c300, yea it'll be a great cam, and those guys were just speculating on an early product, but i feel that any time someone is talking about an expensive new camera, they must disclaim that no camera is beyond proper lighting.

but hey, thats my walgreens world

;)
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