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How were these scenes lit? High Key, Vibrant TV Show look - query from a Noob


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#1 Steve A

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 10:58 PM

Hi,

 

I'm new to DSLR Filming after branching out from still photography. I was hoping someone could help me start to understand light better by quickly breaking down these two scenes.

 

I'm curious as to how to get the 'look' most US TV Action/Dramas use - high key, vibrant etc.

 

Is it predominantly expensive and bright tungsten lighting? For the second (darker) scene are they using camera with high ISO/very good DR to capture all the colours and avoid the low light grain?

 

Any help much appreciated!

 

Cheers

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#2 Matthew Padraic Barr

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 03:39 PM

It is likely that this production used expensive
lighting units to achieve the high key look you are
referring to, but high key lighting can be achieved
in a myriad of ways. For instance, in a room with
many large windows, using certain camera placements
can give you a similarly high key look without using
any lighting units and using only available light.
You would likely need a few fixtures to be used as a
modeling light on the actors faces, but I'm simply
pointing out that you don't necessarily need a ton
of expensive lighting fixtures to achieve a high key
look, especially nowadays with the fast film stocks
and the sensitive digital sensors available to us.


From what I've heard -- since Supergirl shoots on
the Warner Bros lot and does location work in LA --
they shoot primarily on the Arri Alexa, and for some
of the VFX work they shoot on the Red in 6k.
Given that Supergirl employs a good deal of VFX work
it is extremely doubtful that they work at a high ISO.
Both the Red and the Alexa work well in the 400 to 800
ISO range, so that is the range they likely work in.
Shooting in a high ISO in low lighting will give you a
tremendous amount of noise and it will not help retain
colors in the image. Colors only exist in our perception
due to the reflection and absorption of light rays on
an object, therefore colors need light to be vibrant
both in our perception and in their reproduction with
digital systems.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 05:01 PM

I'm sure they use a mix of fixtures, from traditional tungstens, to HMI's, to fluorescents like Kinos, to LED's, etc.  You are mostly seeing the benefit of good lighting and production design.


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#4 Matthew Padraic Barr

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 05:16 PM

As always, Mr. Mullen explains things better
and in a much more succinct manner than I do.

:)
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 05:35 PM

For the first frame grab (from 'Ally McBeal'?) it is most likely lit with daylight balanced fixtures since they had to balance the color temperature to the monitors in the background, which are natively around 6500K. Since they look only slightly cool, that would seem to indicate the scene was lit for 5600K. Unless they had Full CTO hard gels cut for all the monitor screens to bring them down to 4100K-ish in which case they could have used tungsten sources instead. 'McBeal' was a 90's era studio show shot on 35mm so tungsten probably would have been the default.

'Supergirl' as I'm sure you know is a current network show, so much more likely that they are shooting at relatively lower light levels digitally, using more modern style LEDs, practical fixtures, and probably less tungsten overall. Haven't seen the show really, so I don't know what their style is.
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#6 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 05:39 PM

Also Steve A, you need to change your user name to full first and last name as required by the forum rules. Please send forum administrator Tim Tyler a personal message requesting the change. Thank you.

http://www.cinematog....php?showuser=1
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 05:42 PM

Calista Flockhart from "Ally McBeal" is in "Supergirl" (besides, they didn't have large flatscreen monitors back then).

 

These days, you could have monitors' playback footage color-corrected for tungsten and half the time, the monitor images are comped in post anyway, but I haven't watched the show enough to know whether that is a set or a location (likely a set being Kara's workplace).  Most sets are tungsten-lit simply due to the low-cost of long-term rental of tungsten units, but daylight sources are coming into vogue more.  All I am saying is that I don't know one way or the other as to whether this set was lit with 3200K or 5600K units.


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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 07:23 PM

Ah, well that shows how out of the loop I am then. Don't watch any network shows.
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#9 Albion Hockney

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 07:51 PM

ha that first still looks really 90's though.


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#10 Steve A

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 08:15 PM

Thanks very much for the detailed replies guys - really interesting. I assume most of these Network shows used Red or Alexa. I'm going to start out with some variable small LED setups to experiment with. But I find that trying to break down existing scenes by asking people with more experience such as yourselves is helping for me to gain a quicker appreciation.

 

Balancing ambient lighting with computer monitors that may be in the scene is proving challenging for me personally. I didn't even think about the concept of altering the footage on the screen to be more colour friendly in the first place.

 

I haven't spent much time with my A7RII yet but I am led to believe it should yield significantly better low light performance than my 5d Mk III. At the moment I'm suffering from pretty bad grain and poor colour retention in lower light setups. Looks really artificial when I try and recover/grade in post.

 

(I'll speak to Tim Tyler about altering my name too)


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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 December 2015 - 08:48 PM

Don't be too concerned over the specific cameras. Many modern low-cost cameras are very capable and could produce material that looked much like this. From what I've seen the A7S was about a stop faster than the 5D 3 but I don't know about the A7R2. The 5D is perfectly capable too, especially with the Magic Lantern software.

 

It isn't about the toys. The beam of sunlight is tricky, you need something big for that. Otherwise you could mock this up, given a bit of time and ingenuity, with Home Depot lights. Don't overlook the use of reflectors (which can just be bits of insulating foam board, and often are) and flags (same thing, painted black).

 

P


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