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Deep Focus Using Only Practicals - Is it Possible?


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#1 Eric Novakovich

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 03:09 AM

The scene below involves deep staged blocking (which I've attached so you can see each mark the practicals must light)  and I want to shoot it in deep focus, a la Citizen Kane. I prefer natural lighting like Kubrick and Roger Deakins frequently showcase. I've read where Citizen Kane was shot using between an f8-f16 stop. I'm wondering if it's possible to light the actors in this scene with these kind of deep stops using only the practicals I've depicted below, in conjunction with bounces etc .

 

I'm using a 5d ii. The practicals are equipped with bulbs ranging from 60W-100W. I couldn't get my ap less than f5 and the whole image went black! How would you guys accomplish this task? 

 

(The second JPG is showing the frame. I had to shoot this wide open 2.8 on 24mm)

 

Sample blocking for deep focus copy.jpg

deep-focus-example.JPG


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#2 Nicolas Courdouan

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 07:22 AM

Hello,

 

I find it very odd that your image is totally black at f5... What ISO and shutter speed were you using?

 

The 5D's biggest advantage is also its most annoying feature: It is always an uphill battle to get deep focus shots with it.

 

Have you considered using a 7D instead? Are you using a prime or zoom lens? Do you have access to more practicals? Different light bulbs? Lamp shades? Is the lamp in the foreground meant to be switched off?


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#3 Mark Dunn

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 07:50 AM

A high ISO might get there but it has its own problem.

Can you not pull focus?


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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 08:14 AM


The 5D's biggest advantage is also its most annoying feature: It is always an uphill battle to get deep focus shots with it.

 

Have you considered using a 7D instead? Are you using a prime or zoom lens? Do you have access to more practicals? Different light bulbs? Lamp shades? Is the lamp in the foreground meant to be switched off?

 

Yeah! It doesn't exactly seem like the best tool for the job in hand! A 7D would make things easier or even something like a Panasonic GH1 or GH2 or something.

 

Deep focus on a 5D just seems like you are trying to make things really difficult for yourself. The sensor is bigger than the film frame for Citizen Kane even!

 

Freya


Edited by Freya Black, 21 January 2014 - 08:15 AM.

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#5 Zac Fettig

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 08:34 AM

Anything is possible, but that doesn't make it feasible. I'm pretty sure they didn't light Citizen Kane with practicals!

 

You might be able to pull it off if you can open those windows to let in some light, set the camera to ISO1600, and/or bump the practicals up to 250s or 500s (I usually prefer 250s since they're less likely to catch fire, and/or melt the sockets). Also, if you can, add more light sources. Practicals don't tend to throw light very far.


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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 09:20 AM

They used a range of methods on Citizen Kane, including optical effects to create a deep focus effect. Using a full frame 35 camera is just making life difficult, the only reason to use one is for a shallow DOF, I'd go with a smaller sensor camera. Soft natural lighting can involve the use of some very large lights. You could test using photofloods in the practicals, just be careful of them overheating the lamp..  


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 10:37 AM

The short answer is no, you can't shoot at very deep f-stops with practicals only, and using the 5D means you have another 1.5-stops to close down to match the DOF of an APS-C / Super-35 camera.

 

As a test, try bringing some really harsh halogen work lamps and point one at the subject and another and someone in the background and stop down to like f/16 and you'll get a sense of the light levels required.  "Citizen Kane" was lit with carbon arc lamps on Super-XX stock (around 160 ASA, sometimes pushed) to get its deepest stops.


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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 01:03 PM

Have you considered something like the black magic pocket camera? It has a respectable ASA of around 800, affords a good exposure range to help keep the practicals from blowing too much-- and also has a S16mm sized sensor-- paired with the wider lenses you'd use on it-- it should help to get deeper DoF. I have one here in Pasadena if you wanted to snag it for an hour or two when I'm not using it and give a test.

 

What I would do would be to build up a base ambiance in the scene and then motivated based off of the lamps in the frame (reglobbed and perhaps put on dimmers to a board in order to control them in unison). Keep the action a stop or so under-- maybe more, perhaps test-- and see if you have enough depth to the image to hold things.

 

Another option may be going with a 1/3" or 1/4" chip camera. It will require more lighting to make it look good-- both because it is less sensitive to light and because of it's limited contrast range but something like an HVX or a EX1 (though that is 1/2") will give you a much deeper DoF than comparative film sized imagers and in the case of the EX1 it can make a very pretty picture (i personally am not a fan of the HVX)


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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 02:37 PM

Yes, a 1/3" camera already has the equivalent of 5-stops more depth of field (once you match field of view and distance) compared to Super-35 / APS-C, meaning an f/2.8 on a 1/3" camcorder looks like an f/16 on a Super-35mm camera.

 

Keep in mind that all this extra depth of field means that production design and lighting has to be better because you see everything and it competes with the subject, which is one reason why deep-focus tends to work better in b&w because you've eliminated color as a distracting element in the frame.


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#10 Eric Novakovich

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 02:58 PM

Thank you all for your prompt responses. Adrian thanks for the offer. Very kind.

 

I believe the shot above was taken using the camera's auto settings so I'm not sure what ISO etc. I included it simply to give an idea of the space, not as a reference for the lighting or look. However, when I was lighting I was shooting at 1600 ISO on a Canon 24mm-70mm zoom at 24mm, f2.8 (even at 2.8, it was underexposed by a stop or so), 24p, shutter 50.

 

I want more of a spiritual look, you might say, with a good contrast. I thought shooting a night interior lit by warm practicals would lend itself to this. 

 

David, I'm going to try your suggestion with the work lamp. Adrian, I was wondering how I could light for ambience using DIY lights. I don't own any pro lights and have $0 budget. I do own some worklamps and unbleached Muslin and foam core.

 

I see where Deakins and others use a Redhead bounced of Muslin to augment their night interiors. What would you use a DIY alternative? Some guy had a DIY light tutorial on Youtube showing how to build a DIY softbox out of one of those little white Styrofoam Igloo ice chests and a couple of  powerful fluorescents. I constructed one (see attached) and the light looked a sickly green! I'd thought of altering this to include a couple rows of powerful bulbs or even halogens, almost like an eggcrate, put on a dimmer and then bouncing off of the unbleached Musilin or foamcore. Maybe a few of those would help get to a deeper stop? What do you guys think? What would you use as bulbs?

 

I don't own a 7D but I do own a T3i which, correct me if I'm wrong, possesses a cropped frame sensor similar to the 7D's.

 

Would this be a viable alternative? Or is the T3i sensor so inferior so as to make it unusable, period?

 

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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 03:04 PM

You may be better off getting a tilt focus lens and doing a faux deep focus effect if you want something in the extreme foreground on one side of the frame to be in focus as well as something on the opposite side of the frame in the far background.

 

Yes, a T3i has the same size sensor as a 7D.  The quality of the HD video is very close to the 7D but not quite as good, I think the dual processor of the 7D may have something to do with that.


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#12 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 03:40 PM

Why not just bounce some of the work-lights off of the ceiling. out of frame as best one can, and on a dimmer to keep it balanced properly.


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#13 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 07:44 PM

 

I want more of a spiritual look, you might say, with a good contrast. I thought shooting a night interior lit by warm practicals would lend itself to this....

 
Can you expand on that? What does the lighting look like, feel like?

If it means an overall dark look with pools of light from practicals then you may have a chance just with practicals. You could shoot some test stills with the 3Ti. Bump up the practical's wattage. Stop the (18mm?) lens down to T8 or more to get theDoF you need. You could add a couple of suspended practicals with white reflectors that hid the bulb, the wiring hidden behind the wooden beams.

In your test stills put an actor in there, at your blocking points or any other critical points in the action.
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