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2 Questions: Black Reflector & Hair Light


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#1 danny bartle

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 09:24 AM

hi all,

2 questions..

1: In what situations would you use a black reflector? i understand it absorbs light, so it could eliminate reflections from a side wall etc so i assume it gives you more contrast... but in what type of situations would you use it as opposed to using a silver reflector? (perhaps this is a broad question)

2: When using a hair light or back light, how many stops should this be over your key light to be effective?

thanks.....
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#2 drew_town

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 09:58 AM

Both of these questions really depend on what you're going for. The black disc can be used to remove fill from say an interview shot where you have little or no control over the lighting. The silver disc is the opposite used to add fill when you need it. They both are great for outdoor shots. A flexfill can be much more effective than a series of low to mid powered lights outside.

I like the hairlight to be a bit brighter than the key. More hairlight generally looks better on females than males. I tend to use a kicker rather than a backlight and will let it go overexposed to create a white rim around the subject. It's just a personal preference. That's mine.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 10:01 AM

Here in L.A., I haven't run across the term "black reflector" (sounds contradictory). But I assume you are talking about negative fill, a black flag or panel used to increase contrast by reducing light bounce and ambience.

Backlights can be at any intensity. A "hairlight", used just to put a little highlight on the hair so that it creates separation, can even be at key, not brighter than the key. Otherwise, backlights can be many stops over key. At some point, if it is a true backlight and not too toppy, it doesn't really look much different if five stops overexposed or ten stops overexposed. Once you get the white rim/halo around the head, it doesn't look that different with more overexposure BUT what changes is the amount of halation (glowing) you get around the head if you have diffusion on the lens, and the amount that this backlight will start to bounce back and fill in the shadows.

I usually set backlights by eye, never meter them.

Whether the person is a blonde or bunette also affects how bright the backlight looks. And with video, you often need a less strong backlight than with film for it to look obvious because overexposure burns out faster.
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#4 danny bartle

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 10:31 AM

ok so theres quite a difference between a back light & hair light?

yes David, i did mean black in terms of negative fill. yes the term black reflector is wrong, should be called black absorber! i've been wanting to experiment with a black flag in an outdoor shoot i'm doing for one of my short films so i thought i'd ask for any advice before i try it out...
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 11:15 AM

ok so theres quite a difference between a back light & hair light?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I'm sure the terms are not well-defined, and a hairlight is a type of backlight... but I tend to think of a hairlight as a lower-level backlight that hits the hair and is just bright enough to "round off" the top of the head and provide separation, create a little gloss or shine to the hair, without it being obvious that a backlight is being used. Like you see in shampoo commercials or other hair care products. It should be subtle.

A backlight can be anywhere from subtle (just a hairlight) to nuclear in intensity. I love intense backlights if motivated by a daytime window or something -- often I'll use a powerful PAR lamp or a Xenon light to create that intense "halo". My feeling about backlights is that they can make a shot look artificial if used automatically, so I tend to motivate them, and because of that, I tend to feel that they should either be really intense... or not used at all. Or just really, really subtle and soft.

I'm talking more about day scenes indoors -- I hate seeing backlights on people from directions where there is no window because it makes the scene look "lit" (unless I am going for a theatrical style of fake glamour). For night scenes, I am a little freer about using backlights since they are easier to motivate. But even then, you don't want to be indiscriminate because it can kill the realism of the scene. I tend to prefer soft kickers in night interiors -- as if from a practical -- rather than a traditional backlight.
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#6 Lars.Erik

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 12:35 PM

Hey there, just one note about backlight/hairlight.

Personally I don't use it too often. I use them if the scene needs it for a special reason. But I try not to. I mean, how often in every day life do you see people having backlights? Only if they are standing with the sun in their back or in front of a very bright window.

I try to light the background instead to create depht of field. Personally I think it's a better way to do it, more realistic and you can use the set more. And I also believe you'll free the actors a bit more, which I love to do.

At which f-stop the background light is depends on the motivation of the light, the colour of the background and the intensity of the key light.

But then again, other photographers have different styles, and that's great. Gives us a very wide range of visual styles.

LE
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