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Wrapping Light in Meet Joe Black

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#1 Stuart Allman

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 03:54 PM

A director that I'm working with on a short really likes the party scene lighting from "Meet Joe Black."
 

 
He wants me to do something similar for a cafe table scene in his film that we're shooting at the end of the month.  So far what I see is a large diffusion frame to the right of Clair, a hair light, separartion/back lighting on her shoulder, and some sort of fill/wrapping light.
 
What I'm having trouble figuring out is how to match the fill/wrap lighting.  It seems to fill all the way over to her far bicep.  I see lanterns in the background of the shot.  I'm wondering if the best way to do this is with a soft overhead fill from Chinese lanterns or using a more frontal bounce source just off to camera right.  Perhaps Emmanuel used a spotted Fresnel, although I don't see a double shadow. It's also difficult to make out the light diagram from the reflections in her eyes since it's Youtube quality, but I don't immediately see a double bright spot.  There's a shadow under her near side chin, but that could still indicate multiple lighting scenarios. 
 
Help would be much appreciated.
 
Stuart
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#2 Tim Tyler

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 04:47 PM

I think you could achieve a similar look if you key with a 4x4 or 8x8 diffusion frame, adjusting the distance from the actors until the shadows look proper.

The fill in that clip looks passive to me.
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#3 Stuart Allman

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 04:58 PM

I'm talking about the fill on Clair, which is quite different from the fill on Brad.  Her fill seems to be more even and not even fall off into a true shadow.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 10:34 PM

I'm not sure what you are talking about, there's one big soft key light, and maybe a bounce card to reflect some fill, but maybe not.  Mostly it's just a really big soft side light wrapping around to 3/4 frontal. How could Clair get a different fill light than Brad when they are standing right in front of each other???


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#5 Stuart Allman

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 11:27 PM

David,

 

OK, now my confidence is a bit thrown.  I'm looking at 0:21 in the video and you can still see Clair's ear and left bicep, which would normally be blocked by her face and chest if this was just a large source at the side.  Wouldn't you think?  I did a lighting test last weekend with just an 8' wide diffusion source and the falloff was either much greater, or the cheek highlights didn't stay the same.  Maybe I just had the wrong angle of the diffusion frame to talent.  However, here you would think Brad would start to cast shadows on Clair beyond a certain angle. That's when I began to think about some of your comments about wrapping light through multiple sources that I think you (could be wrong) posted over on RogerDeakins.com before the site was hacked. 

 

I do trust and respect your opinion David, but I'm trying to figure out what I'm missing in my pre-lighting tests.  Something just isn't sync-ing up for me.  My original thought was the same as yours.


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#6 Tim Tyler

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 12:06 AM

Stuart,

 

Don't assume that Brad is standing where it looks like he's standing. The two actors may not even be looking directly at each other even though it looks like they are to camera.


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 01:08 AM

Fall-off is controlled by how close the source is to the subject -- if you want the same softness but less fall-off, you need to create a bigger soft light that is farther away.  You can see how large the source must be by how much it takes up in the reflection in Brad Pitt's eyeball.

 

She's standing in front of Brad Pitt with her back to camera.... so how could you see if he was casting a shadow on her?  His shadow would fall on the side facing away from camera.

 

To me, it looks like they are lit by a 20x20 diffusion maybe about ten feet off to frame left.  If there is any fill, it is probably just a white surface opposite to the key creating some ambience into the shadows, but it could also just be coming from set dressing in the space or something.  It certainly is minimal if it is there.

 

This was also back in the day when Lubeszki was mildly flashing the negative (as he did on "Little Princess" and "Walk in the Clouds") so perhaps the fill is just due to the flashing lifting the shadows, if he used any flashing.


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#8 Stuart Allman

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 10:16 AM

It's funny that you mention flashing because I learned about it from you during the last ASC breakfast talk!  Growing up in a digital world, sometimes these classic techniques aren't the first thing that come to mind (or even the last). 

 

I'll see what I can do for the director.  We have a bit of ambient light coming down from a series of overhead lanterns in the production design.  That might provide the little shadow lift I need to emulate flashing.  I'll also test moving the diffusion frame closer and add a reflector opposite key.  I just wasn't sure about the reflector because the edge of her left bicep goes dark and that would be tough to control with just a passive reflector.  I have the luxury of testing before the shoot, which is a really good thing.

 

I only have a 8' muslin piece of diffusion to work with and no budget to rent or light a 20' frame of anything, much less a place to put it in the narrow set.  During my tests the diffusion was about 4' from the model.  I'm pretty sure I'll figure it out with a little more experimentation.


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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 11:50 AM

8' should be big enough, as I said the only difference is fall-off, which will be faster with diffusion that is closer.  Just make sure you really fill that 8'x8'.


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#10 Stuart Allman

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 01:13 PM

Will do.  I might have an issue with lighting power and physical distance to solve with alternate methods.  Being in the low budget world I haven't had much experience with very large sources, so this will be a good learning experience.  Thanks to both of you for helping me "get it."


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#11 Tim Tyler

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 01:17 PM

A book light can work well in a tight space.

Basically a triangle configuration with your source aimed into a bounce card which directs through the diffusion.

reading-the-key.jpg

(image courtesy hurlbutvisuals.com)


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#12 Stuart Allman

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 02:15 PM

I'm using a book light bouncing off a 40-ish-inch fold out bounce, but with the lighting kit the producer provided it was a bit under-powered for our camera.  I asked for more/better lights and some should be arriving this weekend.  The location we have is about 12' wide and I need to motivate the key coming from one of the narrow direction walls.  So with c-stands in place even a book light can be a challenge.  We're also somewhat power limited in our location.  Where are my 4' Kino banks when I need them? ;)  I have this Saturday to work out a good configuration, so with some additional work I'm sure we'll nail it.  I let the director know that we may have to cheat the cafe table out from the wall a little after the establishing shot. 

 

Again, my sincere gratitude for your help.  I feel like I know the theory of the physics I'm working with.


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#13 Guy Holt

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 03:34 PM

... there's one big soft key light, and maybe a bounce card to reflect some fill, but maybe not.  Mostly it's just a really big soft side light wrapping around to 3/4 frontal. 

 

BINGO. Having worked on the party set as a day playing electric, I can personally attest that Brad was lit with a 12x12 just outside of frame.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental and Sales in Boston and occasionally on the Rhode Island Shore where Meet Joe Black was shot.


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#14 Stuart Allman

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 04:46 PM

Guy,

 

I figured there was a good chance that one of the local ninjas had something to do with this film.  Thanks for the confirmation.  An 8x8 is where I started last weekend, but obviously I failed during the first attempt - thus ending up here.  The contrast was just too high.  From the conversation with David I'm guessing that I was off on power/distance.  Unfortunately I don't have any lights above 750W, so lighting the muslin diffusion is a bit of a challenge with regards to throw distance.  Also, the physical distance available in the set may be limiting in the end.

 

Short of renting a bank of four to six 4' Kino banks, do you have an recommendations on power necessary to light an 8x8 with a target of ISO800 - f/4 through bleached muslin?


Edited by Stuart Allman, 19 November 2013 - 04:46 PM.

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#15 Tim Tyler

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 04:53 PM

You might be able to make two 750's work in a book light using lite or quarter grid cloth for diffusion.
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#16 Stuart Allman

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 05:08 PM

My local rental/sales house has 4' Lee rolls for about $130 last time I checked.  My concern was that I would be asking the producers for experimentation money, which they don't have.  At my request they procured more lights, which I now know will help solve the issue, so my plan is to test if those will be sufficient this weekend.  I can probably run the camera at ISO1600 if necessary.  I've done it before on this particular camera and it's a bit noisy, but not terrible.


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#17 Tim Tyler

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 05:18 PM

An 8' grid cloth rents for about $20/day.
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#18 Stuart Allman

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 05:34 PM

Thanks for the heads up.  I'll definitely check into it if plan B turns into plan C.


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#19 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 07:04 PM

I can't add much to what David was saying, but just say that very, very often even on professional sets you'll often find a fundamental lack of understanding of soft lighting. It has very little to do with the unit itself - any source can be soft. I'm talking about frames with hotspots in them, Chimeras with hotspots in them, sources far away with some diffusion clipped to the doors etc. The list is endless and I see it all the time. Sometimes that's what we want and the hardness helps what we're trying to achieve, but sometimes you need real softness and then you have to ensure that's what you get. Creating truly big soft sources takes time and effort.

 

One of my favourites happened just the other year: I was in Atlanta. My gaffer was a local 20 year veteran. I asked him to soften a 5K for me and he put a single scrim in and came back and said "There, that's a bit softer". :rolleyes:


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#20 Stuart Allman

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 07:37 PM

Well, at least he didn't put some CTO on the light and call it softer!

 

If I get a good setup I'll post some pictures to share the knowledge back to the community.  So if you don't see any follow up, well.....


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