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Lighting Advice for Set Work


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#1 Ryan Kroboth

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 01:33 PM

Hello all,

 

Our production company is starting to drive it's first feature film well into production mode, and as a result, I start to ask all sorts of questions that pertain to the cinematic nature of the beast, especially due to budget constraints (this will be a micro-budget).  So, here comes the pivotal question at this point in time, and it has to do with lighting advice.

 

Here's the setup:  A funeral home in the middle of summer, moderately sized, with main parlor maxing out at 30x30', and adjacent rooms and hallways being pretty small in comparison.  Now, based on specific action of the script, it is not very likely that we will find an existing funeral home to fit the bill, and certain long takes 'touring' the location prevent us from using multiple locations to sell the effect.  So, I am exploring the possibility of having a set created of the home, which will give us full control over the chaos the script calls for, as well as consistency, and the ability to shoot anytime that isn't mid-summer.  That being said, I have never lit for set work.  Location lighting is my specialty, so I need some advice on how one would light the potential funeral set from the outside, with all action taking place in daylight.  

 

Here are some specifics to help out in solving my conundrum:

 

Camera used will more than likely be of the Blackmagic line (possibly a pocket since we own one), that being said, expect around 13 stops of DR, with a high probability of the sensor size being super 16, so lighting will not have to be as intense to have a manageable f-stop (the script is a comedy, so we aren't going for a DOF that's super shallow).

 

Lens wise, in an ideal world, I'll be able to use my buddy's ultra primes, but I'm going to bank on the possibility that he won't have them in time, so I'll probably be left with lenses that are sharpest at f4, so I won't want to shoot more open that.  Also, we have a speedbooster for the Blackmagic which gives 1 2/3 additional stops of light to the sensor.

 

Regarding ISO, as long as I'm using the Blackmagic cameras, I don't want to go above 800, and would be happiest at 200 or 400.

 

 

So there's the technical set up, as for room specifics, ranging at 25-30ft, square, with sheer over the the windows, so the windows can be somewhat blown out to avoid needing to see a backdrop of some sort, and also to give a softer light entering the home.  ALSO, there is an actual film set inside the funeral home that is part of the script, so film lights inside the main parlor can be seen, and can add to any additional light levels, I am just looking for the lighting solution from outside the building.

 

So, with all that setup, for a 30' square room with sheer in front of the windows, what type of lights would anyone recommend to mimic the daylight on a hot summer day.  Keep in mind budget is a factor, so the cheaper the better.  I've read on several forums that bounced firestarters can be used to sell a soft but bright effect, just not sure if that will be bright enough for a room of that size, and to achieve a consistent enough exposure from the windows.  Or if something like 5k fresnels will be able to sell the effect as well.

 

Any advice would be most appreciated, as this is all new to me.

 

Cheers,

Ryan


Edited by Ryan Kroboth, 21 July 2014 - 01:36 PM.

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 06:12 PM

So the windows are real and have natural daylight to contend with in terms of color temperature?  Or will all the light be artificial?


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#3 Ryan Kroboth

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 07:23 PM

So the windows are real and have natural daylight to contend with in terms of color temperature?  Or will all the light be artificial?

 

Nope, the entire set will be enclosed, so all the light will be artificial.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 07:36 PM

Parcans hitting the bottom of shears will give you that mix of hard sun and soft light you might like, though otherwise it isn't the softest sort of lighting -- to do that, if you didn't need the hard spot, I'd put another layer of diffusion on the outside of the windows & sheers and put a more broad/even light through it, could be a couple of open-faced lights or fresnels, anything to fill the diffusion.

 

You may also consider Kinoflos, which have the advantage of being lower-wattage, they put out less heat, and you could switch to daylight-balanced tubes for scenes where you want a cool dusk look (if the camera is still set around 3200K).

 

So my recommendation would be to mix some Kinoflos and some narrow-spot tungsten par cans for a mix of hard and soft.


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#5 David Landau

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 04:47 AM

Are you just looking to burn out the windows or are they also your main source? If this is a set and its a comedy and you want more ambient light in the room,  you can also consider hanging white bead board or foamcore above the set walls and then bouncing lights into that to add more general ambient fill. That's what we do in sitcom lighting often, it is usually skirted with black cloth on the ends and sometimes black foamcore as a bottom shelf to help cut the light a little. You could run this row of bounce along the top of the wall where the windows are to maintain some feeling of modeling and motivation. Then you could use PARs aimed into them, spaced four feet apart.  As David pointed out, the kinos don’t produce the heat that tungsten do, so you could just mount a row of kino flos in place of the bounce cards and add diffusion to them to help soften it more - but PARs are much cheaper to rent.


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#6 Ryan Kroboth

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 12:47 PM

Thanks for your suggestions guys, I like the idea of a mix of hard and soft light, seems like the best of both worlds.  And David, I am looking to burn them out pretty significantly, to 1) avoid seeing anything outside of the windows since it will be a set and I'd like to avoid backdrops, though some slight green to give more placement I am not opposed to, and 2) to give the illusion that it is a super bright/hot day outside.  Might even consider warming the light up a bit to give that extra heated feel. Think of the light provided by the window as being the natural occurrence, the realistic spill, while the indoor ambience can be brought up significantly by the 'film crew' within the scene.  Because there is something filmed inside the actual story, I can get away with creating an ambient fill within the space without it looking 'unnatural' because that is part of the script.  I do like the idea of bouncing off foamcore, I only worry about how the set will be enclosed.  It will pretty much be sealed off, with a false ceiling, as I worry that on long walkthrough takes, we would see any raised (or lack of) ceiling creeping at the top of the frame.  

 

Realism is the key I'm trying to sell, at least in the elements that should appear realistic.  I'm playing around with the film lights within the scene only being on during certain sequences, so there may be times when the only thing appearing to light the scene for mood and atmosphere are the window lights.  So their spread and reach could play out to be important at times.   


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#7 David Landau

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 08:47 PM

I lit something for Saturday Nite live once, with two people dancing and spinning as a handheld camera swung 360 degrees in a set that was enclosed and had floor to ceiling windows spaced all around it. What I did was put two 4x8 sheets of white foamcore a few feet from each window which the set dressers had put sheers on. I bounced open-faced 2ks into the foarmcore from both sides, out of frame. Then I hung hard lights to shine in through each window and added backlights hung above the windows to provide motivated backlight. It was shot on 16mm film. The bounce came in lighting the room through the sheers while the hard light highlighted the sheers texture. the backlights added a nice rim to the actors dancing. The cameraman, Neil Marshad, had to make sure he didn't shoot too high to avoid lens flair. If i had had 5k fresnels I probably would have tracing papered the windows from outside and blasted them through it. But this worked on a smaller scale and the foamcore outside burned out due to the wide open lens. Just something I did once that worked without producing a hot spot in the window.


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