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Griity lighting ratios for Key and background scene?


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#1 Brandon Arandt

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 08:23 PM

When lighting for a gritty indoor scene (IE: David Fincher's "Se7en"), what would be the method to light and more importantly the ratio of light for lighting the main actors face and lighting the background? Do I use standard exposure for the face (or is that too hot) and light the ambient background a few stops lower while creating some contrast for shadows? What would be the best method to approach a scene like this?



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Edited by Brandon Arandt, 01 September 2012 - 08:23 PM.

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#2 Ari Davidson

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 05:34 PM

It depends heavily on what you're shooting on. The traditional approach is expose for proper skin detail and then come down in post.
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#3 rsellars

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Posted 14 September 2012 - 08:44 PM

Brandon, first of all I would forget about using lighting ratios. It is a very antiquated way of lighting that can create a sterile "paint by numbers" look. Learn to light by eye. Play with light placement, quality of light (hard, soft), controlling the light and adding shadows with grip tools. Create the mood that feels appropriate to the type of scene you are filming. Try this approach. Set the key light first. Adjust the quality of the light. If you want it soft, put it through diffusion or bounce it. Set your camera exposure to create a "normal exposure" (for now) for your actor's flesh tone. Using a camera's zebra setting at 70% will give you an average exposure on an "average" caucasian flesh tone. Just dial in a little bit of zebras on a facial highlight. Now look at the spill light of your keylight - the areas that aren't hitting the actor. Does the keylight spill onto your background? Does that work against the mood you are creating? If so, try to flag or net some of the spill off the wall or background. It is not always easy to do with soft light. That's why DP's often encourage director's to stage scenes away from wall - especially if they are light in color (more reflective). Add desired amount of fill light if any. Again, use your eye and judgement about what fits the mood of the scene. If you keep the fill light extra soft, it will prevent adding extra shadows on the background that are distinct. Sometimes it is advisable to fill from an angle above the actor's head. This will help hide the fill shadow behind the actor's body. If necessary, try to remove excess fill from hitting the background if it makes the background too bright for the desired mood. Add a backlight or kicker light if needed for separation. Set the intensity that feels right for the scene. It can be hotter than the key or darker. It depends on the reflective value of the person's hair. It depends on whether or not the backlight looks fake or appropriate. Sometimes, a backlight isn't needed. Now that your lighting is fairly well balanced, try changing the exposure to see if that enhances the mood without giving up too much desired detail in the shadow area. You can bring down the camera iris, use an ND filter in front of the lens, or add scrims to your light sources. It depends on what f-stop you prefer for depth of field. The examples that you showed were "underexposed" on the keylight, fill, etc.in various degrees. This is often desired for moody scenes. This darker exposure will also affect the background level - usually for the better. If your background is too dark because it is further away from the actors, then you can always add select light in certain areas or an overall wash. I always light the background last after I see what the spill light from the key, etc. is doing. My main principle is to use a brighter keylight than actually needed. By the time it get softened and shaped with flags & nets, it will be much less intense. If it is still too bright near the end of the process, I can always slow it down. Much more disruptive to make it brighter because that usually involves bringing in a new light.

Obviously, this approach requires a good quality viewing monitor that is calibrated. However, you can always check your extremes (highlights and shadows) by using a light meter or waveform monitor to make sure that you are within the dynamic range of your camera. You can also play it safe with exposure (protect highlights) and or have a little more shadow fill than desired. Additional contrast can always be added easily in post. I would encourage you to experiment and light intuitively, not follow any prescribed formula - including my suggestions if they don't work for you.
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#4 Justin W. King

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 02:35 PM

When lighting for a gritty indoor scene (IE: David Fincher's "Se7en"), what would be the method to light and more importantly the ratio of light for lighting the main actors face and lighting the background? Do I use standard exposure for the face (or is that too hot) and light the ambient background a few stops lower while creating some contrast for shadows? What would be the best method to approach a scene like this?


None of the sample pictures that you show appear to be gritty. I ask what do you really mean when you say gritty. If you just mean that there is a blue or green tint to the image, then that is completely different than seeing the three actors in complete silhouette in front of large bay windows , as a single shaft of sunlight focuses our attention on a dead man laying on the floor, through the sky light above.

When I think Gritty, I think
http://s692.photobuc...=penance_02.jpg
or
http://www.joblo.com...wnews/colp1.jpg
or If you want to stick to the se7even movie, the picture at the top of this page.
http://franzpatrick....12/02/27/se7en/

If you want it to really be gritty, just pick a single direction of light and commit to only use light that supports that idea. And if the subject is dark, don't be afraid to let him or her be dark (depending on the dramatic moment), as long as there is contrast, and it makes sense. If the director wants more light see what you can do without adding another light source. You can add reflectors, or bounce light, or move the light a little.

If you are using more than one light on an actor, then it's probably not gritty.
If the key light is coming from within 60 degrees of Camera either way, it's probably not gritty. Chances are you probably want to use kickers and backlight, maybe sidelight and bounce light, while avoiding front-light entirely.

Edited by Justin W. King, 18 September 2012 - 02:36 PM.

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Wooden Camera

Glidecam

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

Technodolly

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Visual Products

CineTape

Broadcast Solutions Inc