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Lighting a Living Room


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#1 Eric Novakovich

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Posted 04 June 2014 - 10:29 PM

Hi - A few months ago, I posted a question about a location I had to light. I had little info to go on. Now, I have a specific question for you guys...

 

First, a disclaimer. :) I'm confident in my ability to light the actors. However, I'm not so confident when it comes to lighting sets. I've searched this site and the Internet using keyphrases such as, "how to light a film set" etc but there seems to be little information on this. Most tutorials are geared towards lighting actors. Maybe I'm using the wrong keywords?

 

Anyway, I have to light this living room (see map below). The director wants the living room to be lit similar to this still from The Graduate (see below). Everything in our living room, the walls, ceiling, furniture, decor, is white, or close to it. We are shooting in black and white using deep stops (T8-T11). 

 

I have to put together the budget on the lights and I'm trying to figure out which lights to rent and how many I need to achieve this look. The graphic below is an overhead of the living room. Not knowing how they lit these sets back then, I am planning on building a grid on the ceiling to affix the lights (2K fresnels-to achieve a classic look). I figure then I can shine them down on the walls. Am I right in assuming the following lighting scheme will work with our deep stops? Is there a cheaper, more efficient way to light this that will still give me a classic look? 

 

Thank you!

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#2 Stephen Timpe

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 12:14 PM

Two issues;1. blank, white walls are asking for trouble. There are boring and difficult from the git go. 2. And, don't think about the problem as lighting the room but rather lighting each scene in the room. So, start with master(s)... think about where you want your shadows, go from there.


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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 11:29 AM

Yes, agreed, white walls are to be avoided at all cost. Second, The Graduate was shot on a built stage, so it will be impossible to get those gradients and cuts on walls/background and actors in a location.

 

If you're stuck with white walls in a location, you're better off trying for a more naturalistic approach and a simpler push from one side and try to neg everything else. With white walls you'll get a ton of fill, so the battle will be fought there - taking away that bounce.

 

If you can at all swing it - try to repaint the walls something darker. That will do more for the look than anything else.


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#4 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 11:50 AM

try to repaint the walls something darker

haha, yeah this will happen on a low budget set. "hey man, I know you were nice enough to let me use your flat to film my movie in but can I paint your walls?" "nah man, I rent this place. My deposit is on the line." "but some dude on cine.com says that white walls are bad for filming." "then have him let you use his flat."

 

In most lower end places, walls are white. that is life. if you dont like it, build a set or find a nicer home to film in.


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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 01:16 PM

One option you can do, in such situations, though I too have painted, is to build "flats"and put them over the walls in the room. This works well and you can paint them but requires proper pre production. Also you kind of loose your ability to shoot the ceilings since there will be a gap (which you could cover with fake trim). We did this once to turn a basement into a "man cave" with wood paneling. But on the low budget side, you really do live and die by preproduction and having your stuff together well before you show up.

 

Even painting can be done, if you paint it back, which of course is time and money required.


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#6 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 01:22 PM

One option you can do, in such situations, though I too have painted, is to build "flats"and put them over the walls in the room. 

 

Even painting can be done, if you paint it back, which of course is time and money required.

Totally agree with Adrian on first point. Flats are awesome and should be utilized in such situations. I have built a few myself for the upcoming shoot. You can paint them quick and easy and they aren't too expensive either. I used sanded ply from Home Depot (4'x8') and those were about $22 each, I think? Add whatever support to the back (stud lumber) and you have a wall that can be painted over and over again. True that they limit your shot a bit but I think, in most situations, they are a win.

 

I disagree with painting if you rent. I tried this before and got popped for it. The paint almost never will look exactly like what you had before. Either due to incorrect matching or just the aging of the paint changing the color. If it is your own pad, do whatever you want because you have to live with it. If it is someone else's place then dont even risk it because that is a quick way to burn bridges and cause bad will. It isnt worth it just to nail a shot. Find another way.


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#7 Eric Novakovich

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 12:17 PM

Thank you all for your responses!

 

If you're stuck with white walls in a location, you're better off trying for a more naturalistic approach and a simpler push from one side and try to neg everything else. With white walls you'll get a ton of fill, so the battle will be fought there - taking away that bounce.

 

Can someone tell me what this means in practical terms? What is a simple push from one side? How do I "neg everything else?" 


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#8 John E Clark

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 07:14 PM

Thank you all for your responses!

 

 

Can someone tell me what this means in practical terms? What is a simple push from one side? How do I "neg everything else?" 

 

You need to cut down the bounce light from the 'white' walls as much as possible. You may have to put up some sort of temporary curtain across several walls in order to prevent light from either a desired light, or bounce from walls that are illuminated, onto 'back walls' behind the camera, which then in turn rebounce the light back on to your set in undesired ways.


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#9 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 10:34 PM

You're going to use seven 2K's in a living room?  Is this an actual living room or a set on a stage?  I hope it's the latter otherwise there are 2 obvious problems with that.

 

First one being electrical requirements.  I hope you have a generator outside the house to run power to.  Most homes would not be able to give you seven separate 20amp circuits.  You'd be lucky to get 2 or 3 and then maybe if you convert the dryer plug but you will definitely need a generator.  I'm sure you already thought of this but I thought I'd mention it just in case.

 

Another consideration is the insane amount of heat that those units are going to generate.  If this is indeed, someone's actual living room, but based on the fact that you plan to fix everything to the ceiling, I'm sure you're talking about a pipe grid in a studio and not building a grid strong enough to hold all that crazy weight of seven 2K's to someone's actual ceiling.  Just hard to tell from some of the responses which might suggest that this was an actual house or apartment.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 07 June 2014 - 10:35 PM.

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#10 Guy Holt

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 08:34 AM

Anyway, I have to light this living room (see map below). The director wants the living room to be lit similar to this still from The Graduate (see below). Everything in our living room, the walls, ceiling, furniture, decor, is white, or close to it. We are shooting in black and white using deep stops (T8-T11). ... I figure then I can shine them down on the walls. Am I right in assuming the following lighting scheme will work with our deep stops? Is there a cheaper, more efficient way to light this that will still give me a classic look? 

 

The problem I see from your lighting plot is that all your fixtures are pointing at the walls. If you look closely at the screen grab from “The Graduate” you will notice that they have lit the talent with reverse keys motivated by practical sources. In which case the fixtures would be over the practicals or up against the walls. In fact there are no fixtures lighting the walls except for the one on Elaine’s portrait and that is only to pick it out of the shadows. This type of “motivated reverse key lighting” is IMO the best approach to lighting night interiors. In this approach the quality (color temperature and hard/softness) and placement of a light is motivated by a source (practical or window) in the scene that is upstage of the talent. In this approach, the camera shoots into the shadowed side of the talent creating contrast and a low-key effect. The reverse key position also creates a third dimension to what is essentially a two-dimensional medium by means of subtle graduations of light and dark in the scene.

 

 I'm sure you're talking about a pipe grid in a studio and not building a grid strong enough to hold all that crazy weight of seven 2K's to someone's actual ceiling.  

 

Since your fixtures are generally upstage of the talent in this approach to lighting night interiors, some rigging is involved. A lot can be done quickly with “wall busters,” 2x4s, and inexpensive deck framing hardware.  For example, while not a night interior per say, we created a low key dramatic lighting effect for a Bose spot, transforming a flatly illuminated woodshop that also had white walls into a scene with warmth and contrast, with nothing more than 2x4s and deck framing hardware. 

 

bose_woodshp_sm_wspicframehor.jpg

Dramatic motivated reverse key lighting for a Bose spot.

 

bose_woodshp_sm_wsinteriorgridshor.jpg

A grid constructed of 2x4 lumber will enable you rig a light in the optimum position for motivated reverse key lighting

 

bose_woodshp_sm_grid_com_1_hor.jpg

A baby spud on a 2x4 joist bracket will enable you to inexpensively rig a light to lumber.

 

bose_woodshp_sm_grid_com_3_hor.jpg

2x4 joist brackets will enable you to quickly construct a lumber grid capable of rigging a light anywhere overhead.

 

In this approach to lighting, 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.

 

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. 

 

 I hope you have a generator outside the house to run power to.  Most homes would not be able to give you seven separate 20amp circuits.  You'd be lucky to get 2 or 3 and then maybe if you convert the dryer plug but you will definitely need a generator.  

 

 

I agree with Michael. 2ks, like 1800W HMIs, are in the class of lights that work best on a real film distribution system where every circuit is 20 Amps, you know what is on the circuit because you are loading it yourself, and you are bringing the receptacle to the light because you are distributing the power yourself.  When you can run a 60A whip and drop a Snack Box with a 20A outlet next to the light you won’t have a problem. But, if your style of shooting requires that you run multiple stingers to plug into a wall outlet, you will likely have problems with the plug ends or receptacle overheating and causing the breaker to overheat and trip.

 

Transformer-Distro_Sam1.jpg

Scene from Unsolved History’s “Presidential Assassins” Episode powered from a 50A/240V range outlet through a 60A step-down transformer/distro

        

One option to reliably power 2ks on wall out-lets is to usea 240v-to-120v step-down transformer. A transformer will convert the 240V output into a single large 60A/120V circuit that is capable of powering three 2ks at 120V (16.8A load per.) If the transformer is outfitted with a 60A Bates receptacle, it will enable you to use a real film style distro system that will minimize line loss over a long cable run to a generator, and provide a 20A circuit right at the light. Common 240V sources found on interior locations include Range Plugs, Dryer Plugs, and special receptacles installed for Window Air Conditioners. A step-down transformer will enable you to use real film distro and avoid these problems without having to do a dangerous tie-in or rent an expensive generator.  Use this link for more detailed information on successfully operating large tungsten lights on wall outlets.

 

If you still don’t have enough 20A circuits, and must use a generator, a new more affordable option is to parallel a couple of Honda EU6500s. I have developed a new HD Plug-n-Play Pkg. that enables the paralleling of two Honda EU6500 inverter generators to generate 100 Amps of power. A complete system consists of two modified Honda EU6500s, a Paralleling Control Box, and one of our Transformer/Distros (either 60- or 84- Amps.)

 

Paralleling_Copy_HMI_Reverse_Master.jpg

Parallel operation of two Honda EU6500 generators made possible by our new Paralleling Control Box)

 

The Paralleling Control Box, syncs the frequency and equalizes the load between the generators. To provide power that is readily accessible in industry standard outlets, our Paralleling Control Box is outfitted with both a 240V Bates receptacle, as well as a "Hollywood Style" 240V Twist-lock receptacle. The 240V Bates pocket is there to power larger HMIs than has ever been possible before on Hondas (4k - 9k ARRIMAXs.) The "Hollywood Style" 240V Twist-lock receptacle is there to supply power to either our 60- or 84- Amp Transformer/Distro.

 

Paralleling_Copy_HMI_Master.jpg

(As demonstrated here, our new HD Plug-n-Play Paralleling System can power a 6K HMI as well as 4kw of additional lighting)

 

The Transformer/Distro serves several important functions in this system that enables two EU6500s to be paralleled (use this link for details), but its' primary function is to step-down the combined 240V output of the two generators into a single large 120V circuit (either 60- or 84- Amps) that is capable of powering more small lights like the 2ks or a larger 120V light (it can power up to 10k Quartz). Each of our Transformer/Distros is likewise outfitted with an industry standard 120V Bates receptacle so that you can use standard distro equipment, like Bates Siameses, Extensions, and Break-Out boxes to distribute power around your set, breaking out to 20A U-Ground Edison Outlets that will power a 2k without overheating.

 

 

Paralleling_Copy_HMI_MidShot.jpg

Our 60A Transformer/Distro provides 120V power to smaller lights while a 6K HMI operates at 240V) 


 

An added benefit to using a Transformer/Distro to distribute the combined power of the two generators is that, no matter where you plug into the Transformer/Distro on its' secondary side, it automatically balances the load on the generator's two legs (which is critical for successful paralleling of two machines – use this link for details.) This feature also makes electrical distribution on set incredibly simple: you just plug in lights until the generator's load indicators read 5500 Watts and the Transformer/Distro does the rest. But, the most important benefit to be gained by using a Transformer/Distro, the one that makes it possible to parallel two EU6500s in the first place, is that it isolates the generators from high neutral return currents that can lead to dangerous neutral “cross-current” between the two generators that can overheat their inverters (use this link for more details.)

 

With the right equipment, time, and a little ingenuity there is nowhere that a good grip can’t put a light, or an electrician power it – so don’t let your mind’s eye be fettered by gravity or power.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston.


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#11 Eric Novakovich

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 10:29 AM

Wow! What a wealth of info! Guy, thanks a lot!

 

You say not to aim the lights directly at the walls. According to what I can see on the photo you've provided for the Bose spot it looks like you have your lights pointed at some kind of reflector which is bouncing the light onto the walls. Is that right?

I


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#12 Guy Holt

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 07:03 PM

Wow! What a wealth of info! Guy, thanks a lot!

 

You say not to aim the lights directly at the walls. According to what I can see on the photo you've provided for the Bose spot it looks like you have your lights pointed at some kind of reflector which is bouncing the light onto the walls. Is that right?

I

 

That one reflector, a 4x4 piece of beadboard,  was not bouncing light onto the walls but fill light into the talent. A 650W tweenie (the light on the gird) bounced into the soft side of a piece of bead board  will drop off so rapidly that not much of it would reach the back wall. It is worth noting that in all the sample productions provided above (with the exception of the Miller's Crossing frame grab) were white rooms. So, you see that you can create contrast in white rooms if you place your heads properly.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston


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#13 Eric Novakovich

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 07:40 PM

 

That one reflector, a 4x4 piece of beadboard,  was not bouncing light onto the walls but fill light into the talent. A 650W tweenie (the light on the gird) bounced into the soft side of a piece of bead board  will drop off so rapidly that not much of it would reach the back wall. It is worth noting that in all the sample productions provided above (with the exception of the Miller's Crossing frame grab) were white rooms. So, you see that you can create contrast in white rooms if you place your heads properly.

 

 

Got it. So, I'm looking at the photo still trying to figure out how you lit the walls. Would you mind providing a bit more on that? I realize each situation will require a somewhat different treatment. Just want to to know where to start.

 

 

 

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#14 Guy Holt

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 09:00 PM

 I'm looking at the photo still trying to figure out how you lit the walls. Would you mind providing a bit more on that? 

 

Other than a small 300W Fresnel to pick the Bose Radio out of the shadows on the shelf in the background, the walls are not lit by anything other than the hanging practical lamps (china hats.)  The lighting for the talent is done with lighting instruments motivated by these hanging china hats because the  china hats are positioned for frame composition and so are not necessarily in the right position for lighting the talent and if they did light talent they would blow out and all detail would be lost in their shades.

 

Guy Holt, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston. 


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#15 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 11 June 2014 - 11:16 PM

A soft push is a soft light. A soft light can be defined in many ways, but in general, it's a source that's bigger than the object it's lighting (relatively speaking). A neg is the removal of bounced or direct light. It's one of the most useful tools you can use, especially in bright environments. Have a lot of dark textiles/flags to shape stuff with.

 

Below is a good example of a soft push from the side. It's not only the light hitting her that makes this nice, it's the absence of light on her dark side and on the dark background that does it. This creates contrast and shape. In white rooms, this will be much harder to achieve. A wall behind a subject will not look as dramatic when it's as bright as the key light on her face. It's all about creating separation. Another reason to avoid brighter rooms - you can always light a dark wall behind them, but you'll have a hard time removing light from a bright wall.

 

See the wall texture behind her hair on the dark side? It's ever so slightly lit or brighter, so that it cuts out the shape of the hair. These are classic painterly tools that you are robbed of achieving when you're stuck with a background that's too bright.

 

dolron.jpg

 

If you have no choice when it comes to the colour of the walls, you can sometimes turn towards expressionism and make lemonade out of the lemons, so to speak. A good example is in this shot from Remains Of The Day where Tony Pierce-Roberts BSC silhouettes his actors against the bright green brocade of the back wall. It requires blacking out everywhere except for right behind them. The background is probably lit, but it could also be natural light coming in from a top window or something. So you can see how negative fill can become a very powerful lighting tool if used correctly.

remains.jpg

 

Finally, one of my favourite shots of all time from Black Narcissus. It sums up pretty much everything you need to know about separation and creating contrast: Key light is from the window. Right behind her brightest parts where the light hits, Cardiff has not lit the wall knowing that the difference between his key light and the darker back wall will create contrast. But on the dark side, behind her head where the light on the tunica is not hitting, notice how he has lit the wall subtly. It's masterful and straight out of the old Dutch masters.

 

blacknarcissus.jpg


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