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Talent squinting at reflectors


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#1 Nathan Blair

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 08:35 AM

Hey all,

Maybe this is a dumb question... I'm just wondering if anyone knows a way to use reflectors without blinding actors?

I ask because I've often been in situations when the sun is so bright that actors can hardly keep their eyes open with the reflector in their face. I'm afraid that shining it through a silk would cut down on exposure too much, and white bounce would not produce enough light... although I haven't tried either of these yet.

The particular project which I'm trying to remedy unfortunately does not have a very large budget at all, but of course they want these large shots of sunny gardens behind their talent.... For lack of G&E support I just use a 42 inch 5-in-1 flexible reflector, usually the gold-silver side, and I keep the sun to their backs. It looks okay so far except for the squinting problem, the actors just can't seem to get used to the glare.

Any insight on this?
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#2 John Holland

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 11:57 AM

Its unfair to actors to use reflectors in that way , just use a a soft white source , i dont understand what you mean about lack of exposure ?
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#3 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 12:03 PM

Use a white bounce, it's much easier for actors to deal with. If you have to use a reflector, keep it off to the side and out of their eyelines.
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#4 Lucas Griego

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 12:16 PM

What time of day are you shooting that the reflector is bouncing so much light up that it's blinding your talent?

Usually this isn't much of a problem... you don't have to go full blast with a reflector... depending on who's manning your reflectors get them to ease off a bit. If the light is so bright that they are squinting then what your DP and director see on the monitor must look incredibly unnatural. The reflector is there to simply fill some shadows... not generally to kill them all together. Depending on the reflectors you have go with the white side... some reflectors have zip-off coverings - usually you get a white a gold and silver.

Depending on where they're held in relation to your talent and where the sun is you can adjust the intensity of the light being reflected. Play around with it... better yet... snap a pic of your talent with the light being bounced at them via reflector... post it up so we can offer more suggestions. It's usually dead easy to back off enough of the fill so that you aren't handing out sunglasses to your talent.

Edited by Lucas Griego, 02 August 2012 - 12:17 PM.

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#5 Nathan Blair

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 11:33 PM

Thanks for the replies.

I've attached some stills of the particular project I'm trying to improve. Most times the issue arrises when I am trying to get a 2-shot or wider. Singles, of course, can be lit with a white bounce. However, in my experience white bounce tends to fall of very quickly, once placed too far away.

The first photo attached is probably the worst scenario... because of timing, we just had to shoot through the harsh sun of 12:00-1:00pm, and because of the geography of the garden, we were staged facing the sun. Of course there were really hard shadows cast down on the actress' faces so we had to use some bounce to fill them in, but white was just not enough to make a difference.
Reflector1.jpg

The second photo is an instance where we needed a 3-shot, and white bounce seemed to fall off before creating any effect. This was filled with the gold-silver side (the side of the reflector that has little slits of gold and silver). This was barely enough to compete with the broad landscape in the background... Reflector2.jpg

The last photo is an example of a time I could finally use a white bounce from underneath. It was only possible to achieve enough fill when the bounce was literally right under the camera (up to the actress' chests here. Reflector-White.jpg

What do you think? I would love to know how you would light these scenes? Always looking to learn new techniques and improve. Thanks again!
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#6 Tom Jensen

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 06:20 AM

Silks are fine, everyone uses them.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 07:19 AM

It's an inherent contradiction about filmmaking... in real life if it were that bright and sunny outside, people wear sunglasses or they squint their eyes, so it's only because of the needs of cinema that we make them keep their eyes open in bright light. So when the director complains that the actors are squinting, I tell them that it's only natural for them to squint. Yes, you should use soft white muslin bounces or even better, day blue muslin bounces but some actors squint even when there is no fill light and then the director, producers, etc. ask you to put a large black solid in front of them, which just makes the contrast problem even worse.

So the best solution is to not get stuck in that situation -- try to shoot the close-ups later in the day in backlight.

Yes, a silk can help too but sometimes if the sun is getting lower but is bright, then actors find that looking into a silk with the sun blasting into it is even worse than looking into a clear sky with the small but bright spot of the sun.

I worked with one actress whose eyes couldn't look into anything bright so we ended up shooting all of her close-ups in morning or late afternoon light in backlight, and it certainly made her look better as well...
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#8 Nathan Blair

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 09:29 AM

It's an inherent contradiction about filmmaking... in real life if it were that bright and sunny outside, people wear sunglasses or they squint their eyes, so it's only because of the needs of cinema that we make them keep their eyes open in bright light. So when the director complains that the actors are squinting, I tell them that it's only natural for them to squint.


So true man... sooo true. Along with shadows on walls... why are cinematographers the only people who accept these facts of life!? The entire crew was squinting even away from the reflectors... and we were trying the little tricks to make them less squinty but it was just simply uncomfortable.

Anyway, thanks again. David your advice is always great. I think what I've taken from this discussion is I really just need to invest in a collapsable silk and bring along some stands. I think I'll also try using an ND grad filter to knock down some of the background exposure when possible... maybe then I can get away with a white bounce, if the bounce is large enough...

The problem with scheduling is they're really squeezing a lot into each day. We're scheduled to shoot two "how-to" style webisodes a day. We'll be shooting close-ups and our master 3-shot simultaneously because of timing and continuity issues, so this kills any possibility to shoot close-ups at specific times unless we take a 5-hour break each day in between segments. So I think having a more controlled environment with silks and softer bounces is going to be necessary moving forward.

Any other suggestions are more than welcome!
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 09:48 AM

You could try to build a "tent" around the talent with solids and a silk overhead, and if you can get a net behind them, out of focus in all 3 shots, it'll take down the BG as well. I usually use rolls of the material you'd use for a screen door form home depot. Works fine, so long as you don't get a glint of sun on it which can cause a shimmer... so taught.
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#10 Nicolas Gomez

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 09:47 PM

Try to increase the surface of the bounce as much as possible or use a grayish bounce that makes it a bit softer than simple white. It workds for us, not only having whites but having gray bounces. We loose some light but squinting cuts down. Hope it works somehow....

http://www.elsotano.com.co

Edited by Nicolas Gomez, 14 August 2012 - 09:48 PM.

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#11 Ian Choplick

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 12:56 PM

I know this is late response. But I've also had the actors shut their eyes and look into the bounce through their eyelids for a few seconds. It seems to help quite a bit.
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