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Need advice for lighting a scene.


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#1 Jared Wilder

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 02:42 PM

I'm shooting my first short film in the coming weeks, and I am looking for advice on how to light a particular scene. The scene isn't very complicated at all, it involves two characters sitting and speaking at a wooden table in an otherwise empty room. I want to light the scene the way that Tarantino lit the opening scene in "Inglourious Basterds", with the light coming straight down onto the wooden table and bouncing up into the actor's faces. I have attempted this a couple of times already, trying to achieve the look before I actually shoot it. i used the only lighting equipment i have, an 800 watt tungsten light (1 of 3 very cheap lights) and a 43 inch reflector. I have found that, while the results are close, they aren't as close as I'd like them to be. The light is too intense and it isn't as focused on the table as I'd like it to be (the light shines on more than just the table). The only technique I have tried is shining the light at the ceiling and bouncing it onto the table with a reflector. It is also worth noting that I did these tests in my kitchen, not in the location where the shoot will occur(which is much larger, and has a much higher ceiling).

My questions are:
1. Are there any techniques that would work better?
2. Is the intensity of the light ( meaning that it washes out the actor's faces) something can be fixed by changing the white balance or contrast on the camera, or with color correction in post?
3. Will the location change help?

Also, keep in mind that I am 17, and still in high school, working with an 11 dollar budget (literally) and my equipment is about as cheap as it gets. I am using a 300 dollar Sony digital camera and 150 dollar lights.

Any suggestions at all would be of great help.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 03:17 PM

Normally we'd skirt the light with Black-wrap (film tin foil so just use regular tin foil) around the doors to tease it off of the walls and onto the table. Keep it off of the actors faces totally if you can and let the table cloth bounce it back up. You my want to augment this with perhaps a china ball (paper lantern) with a low wattage bulb suspended just above the actors heads and towards the front to fill in under their eyes.


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#3 Jared Wilder

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 03:27 PM

You my want to augment this with perhaps a china ball (paper lantern) with a low wattage bulb suspended just above the actors heads and towards the front to fill in under their eyes.


How close would the paper ball have to be to the actors? In other words, how wide of a shot could I get while using it effectively and not having it in the shot?
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 03:34 PM

For the wide I'd not worry about it as much-- i'd let the table be the main bounce and then as you go into close ups you cheat the china balls in. in the wide this won't mater as much as detail is smaller


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#5 Jared Wilder

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 03:37 PM

Thanks, I'll try that out. One more quick question. Since my reflectors are collapsible, could having a reflector that is a third of the size help to target the light?
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 04:00 PM

Not really it's still going to bounce off of the reflector all over the place.  that's the key, controlling where the light goes-- hence the black wrap (or tin foil).


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#7 Jared Wilder

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 04:02 PM

Alright, thanks for the help, I appreciate it.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:34 PM

That scene in "Inglourious Basterds" was lit with a 1.2K HMI Par I think, from a top / slightly back angle. Fairly spotty.

 

When students say that a light is "too intense" I don't quite understand since you can expose the sun to look like dim moonlight, so surely you can expose an 800w lamp to look as hot or as dim as you want, just takes stopping down the lens and/or using ND filters.  Certainly an 800w lamp would be a good place to start to create that hot top/back light effect, the main problem is that it isn't focusable into a narrow spot beam, being a work lamp. At best, you could use blackwrap to at least snoot it.


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#9 Jared Wilder

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:39 PM

What does "stopping down the lens" mean?

(I apologize, I have next to no clue what most of the jargon means)
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:46 PM

Stopping down the lens means closing down the iris (f-stop) -- for example, going from f/2.8 to f/8 means you closed down the iris by three f-stops (the series is something like 1.4 / 2.0 / 2.8 / 4.0 / 5.6 / 8.0 / 11.0 / 16. 0 / 22.0 -- each stop is a double or halving of the amount of light that gets past the lens to the sensor.  Of course, if you don't want the extra depth of field from closing down the iris, you may need to use ND filters, or select a lower ISO / ASA value or a shorter shutter time.

 

All of this suggests you should be using a camera with fully manual controls over f-stop, shutter, and gain.


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#11 Jared Wilder

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:53 PM

Thanks for the explanation, and the advice.
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