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sophisticated lighting


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#1 adam daniel

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 03:10 PM

Hello everyone I am a film student and a little confused about what exactly is sophiscated lighting? I'm reading a book on lighting but still having some issues :/

does anyone know of a shot video or still example that demonstrates
sophisticated lighting. I just really want to understand it better before my quiz next week.
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#2 Guy Holt

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 05:38 PM

does anyone know of a .... example that demonstrates
sophisticated lighting.


I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "sophisticated" lighting. But, if I had to guess it would probably be this scene from “Miller’s Crossing” ( I have posted it on my server at http://www.screenlig...ing_Example.jpg.) Here is a description of what makes this scene sophisticated that I posted elsewhere in this forum:

It is a common fallacy that dark scene’s like this are “underexposed.” This scene is not underexposed, but rather the reflective values of the objects in the scene are carefully balanced (placed on the film’s characteristic curve) relative to the key tone by lighting so that most of the scene remains dark but serves up the full contrast range the film emulsion is capable of. In other words, even though the scene is correctly exposed, nothing in the scene is “correctly” exposed. The flesh tones are underexposed and the lampshade is over exposed in order to create the mood of the scene.

In an instance like this, the DP would not use a meter (incident or spot) to find the exposure of the key tone; rather, he would choose the exposure of the key tone from the outset - say T5.6 for deep focus. And, having balanced the elements of the scene to that exposure using either his incident or spot meter, he will “lock it in” for lab timers or transfer colorists, by giving them the key tone (by properly exposing a chip chart with an 18% gray patch) as a reference at the head of the scene. Without providing the key tone, a timer or colorist will not know how dark the shadows should be or how bright the highlights should be because there is no other reference value at full exposure by which to calibrate the brightness of the scene.

Here are a few techniques, all of which are evident in this shot, that one could use to balance the lighting to create a dark scene without under exposing it.

1) Edge light objects in frame. Use reverse keys for talent and underexpose flesh tones by at least two stops or more. As long as you define the contours of your subject with subtle underexposed edges, don’t be afraid to let your talent fall off into black. There is a scene beautifully lit by James Merifield in the “Deep Blue Sea” of Rachel Wiesz and Harry Hadden-Paton standing in a dark alley way. They are back light by a practical at the end of the alley. Their contours are defined by the rims motivated by the practical, but otherwise their flesh tones fall off to complete shadows. James Merifield probably used a spot meter and negative fill to make sure that their flesh-tone would fall off the emulsion’s characteristic curve and reproduce as a pure silhouette. Sonnenfeld probably did the same in this scene to assure large parts of the frame had minimal detail.

2) I personally believe you should always have a hot spot in a frame – a practical in the scene or something in the deep background. You can shift your overall exposure in the camera or in post to create a dark scene, but without a hot spot reference in the frame it will lack contrast and look underexposed. A hot spot in the frame serves as a reference point and creates contrast. Practicals should be close to clipping and appear to be the source of light in a scene.

3) Don’t try to light your talent with only practical’s because they will blow out – the hot spot in your scene has to look natural. Not only is supplemental lighting required to light your talent, but you must also treat the practicals to make them look realistic. I find that practical lamps never look convincing unless one treats the lampshade as well as boost the bulb wattage. That is because if you stop down to keep the shade from burning out, the output of the practical, on the table it sits on or the wall its on, looks rather anemic. I find you get a more realistic look if you boost the wattage of the bulb and line the inside of the shade with ND gel. It is a delicate balance to obtain.

You can obtain this delicate balance without a monitor, by using the old school method with incident and spot meters and a selection of practical bulbs including PH 211, 212, and 213 bulbs. Years ago Walter Lassaley, BSC, instructed me to balance practical’s such that an incident reading of the direct output one foot away from the bulb is one stop over exposure. I have found that rule of thumb gives a realistic output to the practical - the light emitted downward onto the table top and upward onto the wall or ceiling is realistic. After establishing the practical’s output using an incident meter, you then use a spot meter to determine how dense an ND gel is needed to line the inside of the shade to place the brightness value of the shade on the characteristic curve of the emulsion so that it does not too hot and without detail.

4) Define the edges of your frame with a little detail. As long as you define the edges of your frame with a little detail, as Sonnenfeld does here, you can leave most of it black without it looking under exposed.

5) Soft sources like China Balls and Kinos are the wrong kind of fixtures for this kind of scene. You will need fixtures that you can easily control because you will need to cut them off large parts of your set. It will be hard to keep china balls and Kino Flos from spilling light all over the place and filling shadow areas that you want to keep dark. Fresnels with light diffusion inside the doors, cut with flags and nets, will give you the control you need. Spot meter readings of objects on the edge of the frame, like the upholstered chair on the left, will tell you if they are within the exposure range (characteristic curve) of the film. If they are not, use a little light to bring out detail that will define the edges of the frame as Sonnenfield has done here with the chair.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting and Grip Equipment Sales and Rentals in Boston.

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#3 Berry Spinx

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 07:37 PM

Thank you for the elaborate reply. What is the key tone?
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#4 Berry Spinx

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 07:45 PM

I'm trying to understand the post but I get lost in some of the terminology that you use.

I am trying to mimic the lighting in this:

People are saying to light as is and underexpose the shadows in camera. Others are saying to not underexpose and crush it in post.
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#5 Guy Holt

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 06:29 PM

Thank you for the elaborate reply. What is the key tone?




This is a complicated subject. The key tone is the common reference point used by light meters, lab processors, and transfer colorists. Simply put it is properly exposed 18% gray (sometimes called mid gray because it appears in the middle of a photographic gray scale.) It is the reference point to which we peg all other values on the characteristic curve of the film. Take meters for example: there are basically two types of meters: incident and spot. Incident meters read the light falling on your subject. Spot meters read the light reflecting back from your subject. An incident reading gives you an exposure that after normal processing would render an 18% gray card as 18% gray (a specific density of the film) had you held it in front of the camera in the same light. Incident meters enable you to peg the key tone (18% gray) in this fashion even though there may not be a mid-tone in your scene.

A spot meter is then typically used to take reflective readings to see how other objects will expose relative to the key tone that was pegged with the incident meter. The thing to remember about spot meters is that they want to expose everything as mid gray. For instance, if you expose a black piece of paper with the reading of a spot meter it will appear as mid gray after normal processing (not pushed or pulled) – likewise for a white piece of paper. But, if you place an incident meter down on the black piece of paper and expose for the incident reading the black paper will be black, and the white paper will be white, after normal processing because you exposed for the key tone by using the incident reading and thereby pegged the other values (white and black) relative to it.

You use the reading from the spot meter to be sure that the object you are metering will be within the exposure range (characteristic curve) of the film stock you are using. If the stock has a nine stop range (five stops over before detail burns out, and four stops under before detail blocks up), and your reading of a dark object is six stops under your key tone, it will not be rendered on the film after it is processed normal (to reproduce mid gray as mid gray). Since in this situation the contrast range of the scene is beyond the exposure range of the film you have two choices. 1) You can open up and expose for the shadows (over exposing the key tone and blowing out your highlights more in the process) and print down to make mid gray mid gray again. In the end you have the detail in the shadows you want, but in the process you have lost detail in the highlights. Why? Because the contrast range of the scene was beyond the exposure range of the film, and you exposed for shadow detail, you burned out the highlights (no detail) so it is not there when you print down to mid gray. You can't bring it back. Is that bad - not necessarily. It's just another "look."

Or, 2) you can throw some light into the shadows to bring the reflective value of the dark object within the exposure range of the film (onto the straight portion of its’ characteristic curve) without changing the exposure of the key tone value (mid gray) or blowing out the highlights. In this fashion you fit the contrast range of your scene into the exposure range of the film emulsion you are using (the scene from "Miller's Crossing" discussed above being an example.) Of course this is only the starting point. From this “correct” exposure a DP will further manipulate the relationship of the contrast range of a scene to the exposure range of the film stock to create a desired effect (see Bob Richardson’s work in Django.) This is old school film exposure theory, but it is a good conceptual frame work for exposing digital video, especially now that you can record "raw" and apply "looks" to the raw data.

If you don’t have an incident meter, but want to peg the key tone under your subject's key light, an old trick is to take a spot meter reading of the palm of your hand under the key light and open up one full stop. This will give you a close approximation because the average Caucasian flesh tone is one stop more reflective than 18% gray. I hope this helps.

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting & Grip Sales and Rentals in Boston

Edited by Guy Holt, 25 January 2013 - 06:34 PM.

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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 08:02 PM

I'm trying to understand the post but I get lost in some of the terminology that you use.

I am trying to mimic the lighting in this:

People are saying to light as is and underexpose the shadows in camera. Others are saying to not underexpose and crush it in post.


Underexposing will give you the look you want 'in camera', but will also limit how much you can change the images afterwards. This can be a good thing as it makes it hard for others to change your intentions for the image.

Exposing 'correctly' will do the opposite. My instinct is usually to go most of the way in camera, and then fine tune the look in post.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 08:58 PM

Deep Blue Sea... Rachel Weisz


Saffron Burrows, I think you'll find.

Not to nitpick, this is a fantastic thread.
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#8 Guy Holt

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:20 PM

Not to nitpick,


Phil, as always, you are correct. The "Deep Blue Sea" (1999) starred Saffron Burrows. I meant "The Deep Blue Sea" (2011) with Rachel Weisz. I failed to encapsulate "The" in the quotation marks. You are such a nitpicker.

Guy
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#9 Berry Spinx

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:53 PM

So if I read this properly, if I were to do the 2nd method, I would have to work in terms of lighting ratios?
What do you think the lighting ratios would be between the shadows, key tone and highlights for the image you posted as well as the video I posted?
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#10 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 11:42 PM

You're over thinking this. Being able to previsualize lighting ratios is an essential skill when shooting film, but one that is less useful when shooting digitally with an accurate monitor. You need to choose how you want to expose your skintones. Set your stop accordingly, then adjust both shadows and highlights to render the detail that you want to see in each.
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#11 Guy Holt

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 06:34 PM

So if I read this properly, if I were to do the 2nd method, I would have to work in terms of lighting ratios? What do you think the lighting ratios would be between the shadows, key tone and highlights for the image you posted as well as the video I posted?


You can work in ratios, stops, or foot candles - which ever you are more comfortable with. Regardless which you use, the important thing is, as Stuart said in his post, "being able to pre-visualize lighting." In order to accomplish the look you are after, I would suggest you shoot a camera test.

Posted Image


Using the methodology you plan to use (shoot raw and apply a look later, or shoot for the finished results in camera), test in a systematic fashion the effect of Key, Fill, Back Light, Kickers, Hair Lights, and Liners that are over and under exposure. For example, to test the effect of your key light on flesh tones, set your exposure with two doubles and a single in your key light. Then remove them a half stop at a time (without changing your camera exposure setting or exposure of the chip chart), and systematically note on a slate in the frame what you are doing. Once you have removed all the scrims, your flesh tone will be two and a half stops over exposed (since you have not changed the camera setting.)


Posted Image


Put all the scrims back in and now, using single and double nets, systematically under expose the flesh tone in half stop increments (remember rotating a net relative to the light source will make it "fatter" or "thinner", which will enable you to "dial in" the exact level you want from the light.) Since you want to play on the lower register (based upon your sample), continue to under expose the flesh tone until it becomes a pure silhouette. Do the same for Fill, Back Light, Kickers, Hair Lights, and Liners in isolation and in specific combinations that you plan to use them in (for instance, in the opening shot of the sample, there is a delicate balance of back light to fill where both are well below a key tone level, and there are no other lights.) Having systematically tested each light, you can now see the effect that different levels of each has on the scene and can even use the test as a reference on set when lighting the scene.

Posted Image

So that your eye does not compensate for the low light levels, you should put a fully exposed white reference in the frame (the white foam-core in the background of the pictures.) If you use a chip chart with variable gray steps form white to black, you will actually be able to see how tonal values are compressed and (block up or burn out) as you push them onto the “knee” or “toe” of your medium’s characteristic curve.

For a good explanation on how to light a dark scene, see David Mullen’s excellent post at http://www.cinematog...howtopic=55891. In it he warns not to “make the classic mistake of assuming that a dark image involved working in low light levels.” To that I might add, “don’t

Good Luck

Guy Holt, Gaffer, New England Studios, Lighting and Grip Equipment Sales and Rentals in Boston.
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