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Practical Lighting

Practical Lighting

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#1 Arthur Vis

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 04:35 PM

Hello,

In a few weeks i will gaffer a short film which has a longtake scene in it. The scène is situated in a house party, the camera 'walks' through the house and will see everything. So in my opinion the best way to light this scene, is lighting only by practical lights.

So I thought about the French film 'Irreversible', which has also a house party longtake scene, and also lit by practicals. 

 

I wondered if there is anybody who knows this scène, and can tell me how they did it. The actors are mostly on stop, and the DoF isn't really small though. Did they simply use high ASA, cause that's what I think (due to all the noise/grain). The film is shot on 16 and 35mm, but does something like ASA1600 or ASA3200 exists? Because I think in such low light you definitely need such ASA values. 

 

We will shoot on a Red one. Pushing the Red that far isn't an option I think. And shoot on f1.3 neither. 

 

Tips anybody?

 

 

PS: Sorry for my English!

 


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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 04:42 PM

The highest speed film is 500T which one could push to 1000 or even 2000 though it's rarely done. Chances are although it looks lit by practicals it may well be supplemented by film lighting, and or the bulbs themselves have been changed out to higher wattage units in order to get a greater DoF. Also shooting S16mm will give more DoF than 35mm, coupled with the fact that you can use much wider lenses on S16mm than one would with 35 (something like a 12 mm is quite common on S16mm and quite quite wide on 35).

 

In the case of your red shoot-- rating it at 800 and using wider lenses along with supplemental lighting-- perhaps a china-ball on a stick walked around with the actors (e.g. Hugo) and higher wattage bulbs in whatever fixtures you have can help a great great deal.


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#3 Tim Tyler

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 05:57 PM

Welcome to cinematography.com, Arthur.

 

Adrian's china-ball suggestion is a good one.

 

A tech scout of your location with the director, DP and camera operator will be invaluable.

 

Even if the camera sees "everything" it might still be possible to hide some lights. 

 

This shot from Irreversible uses flashing party lights that are visible to the camera.


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#4 Christopher M Schmidt

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 07:54 PM

You can for sure always hide lighting....I think often people think once they are lighting they need to capital L LIGHT but sometimes it can be pretty small stuff.   ....maybe just hanging a few china balls around above frame with 100 -250W bulbs. 

 

 

WIth the red one (assuming MX sensor) I wouldn't go too much past 1000 maybe 1250 ISO....and keep in mind at those higher ISO's you really want to kinda get your exposure right as there will be less that can be done after the fact in the color room. 

 

 

but 1000 ISO at even an F2 is pretty bright! you won't need a ton of light and of course with a long take like that it is nice when the frame goes under exposed at times.

 

 

 

 

This isn't the best example but might give you something to think about. The film lost in translation was shot with mostly available light on 35mm with lots of night work and it is beautiful. 


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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 08:39 PM

It shouldn't be hard to light a house to 1000 ISO at T/2 -- just put some brighter wattage bulbs in the practicals, have plenty of practicals, and augment when possible with some hidden ceiling bounces or paper lanterns.  The exposure doesn't have to hit key levels anyway, that would end up looking over-lit.


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#6 Guy Holt

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 09:56 PM

...  put some brighter wattage bulbs in the practicals, have plenty of practicals, and augment when possible with some hidden ceiling bounces or paper lanterns.  The exposure doesn't have to hit key levels anyway, that would end up looking over-lit.

 

I second David’s advice. Don’t try to light your talent with only practicals. After exposing for the light they throw on the talent several feet away, the practicals themselves will blow out. Not only is supplemental lighting almost always required to light your talent, but practicals must be treated 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 so that the shade does not become too hot.

 

After treating your practicals, use them as motivated sources to edge light objects in the 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.

 

Millers_Crossing_Example.jpg

 

The scene above from “Millers Crossing” lit by Barry Sonnenfeld is a good example. The table practical appears to be the only source of light in the scene, but clearly it takes more than just the table practical to light the room realistically. For a good explanation see David Mullen’s analysis at  http://www.cinematog...showtopic=55891 is a good example.

 

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


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#7 Arthur Vis

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Posted 28 November 2013 - 03:44 PM

Thanks for all the responses! Really helpfull. 

Of course it's not necessary to hit key levels, I never thought of that! 

The china ball on a stick or ceiling are great ideas. I will propose it to my DP :-)


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#8 Stephen Selby

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 07:13 AM

You should be fine lighting a room entirely with practicals - the main thing to remember with practicals is to have enough fill - which can come from other practicals and also to half-cover the bulb so the practicals don't blow out. I've read that they use hair spray for some - never tried that. I've also tried masking tape - don't it burns! Tin foil can be used on low wattage bulbs but haven't tried it on anything over 60w. I'm sure someone here will have a better suggestion. I'm shooting a lot of my practical scenes at f4 800ASA and use bounced fill light.

 

One hard thing is judging the exposure in screenshots like guy holt has posted - I just use the histograms, to make sure practicals don't blow and the screen, but I'm sure that there is a better way of doing it that, experts such as David Mullen would recommend. One thing I notice is that in 35mm film blown out highlights or practicals don't bother me - such as ET. But in digital overexposed practicals look quite different. But then again down to the camera - I'm sure on and Alexia or Red would look ok. Personally I prefer unblown practicals and a slight underexposure of the environment to create atmosphere. For wides expression in the actors face is not so important as close ups. I like dark cinema where you can't see much of what is going on - it keeps the atmosphere and the audience on edge. After all if someone can make sense of a radio play with no picture then I'm sure they can make sense of a slightly underexposed picture. But really depends on script, you wouldn't want to underlight a comedy.


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