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Lighting once and shooting everything?


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#1 David Schuurman

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 03:11 PM

I see a lot of lighting breakdowns on here and it seems to me that there's a whole lot of "lighting for each shot" and I'm wondering how often you folks light an entire scene and shoot everything with minimal if any tweaks for closeup? Any examples of lighting setups where you've done it this way?


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 03:43 PM

If only for efficiency's sake, time's sake, and for continuity reasons, most of us endeavor to light a room for a master shot with the intent to avoid relighting for coverage, or just do minimal tweaks, but there are a number of reasons why we can't always do that.

One might simply be due to camera shadow issues if the light sources are coming in at eye level and at some point, the camera has to move between that source and the actor in coverage.

Other reasons might be that in order to make something work for a wide shot that sees a lot of the room, you compromise on the quality and angle of the light on the actor's face because you can get away with it in a wide shot, but in a close-up it may be doing something unattractive without adjusting it.

Or sometimes you light the wide master from the one angle that the camera isn't looking but you know eventually there will be some angle looking that direction but it will be more efficient to adjust for that angle later than to compromise the master shot. It just depends but you should light a set knowing which directions you will eventually be looking in coverage, how you will adjust for the close-ups, and plan for the reverse angle on the room.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 07:37 PM

I think something to bear in mind about this is that many respectable, high-end productions actually have very poor lighting continuity, even to the point of being obvious to the most casual observer once you actually start looking at it. What seems to be more important is a sort of continuity of mood. This is invariably the case in situations where cheating is inevitable, such as when two people are facing one another with one backlit by the sun and we don't want the other being blasted in the face. However, it's also quite commonly done in, say, otherwise easy night interiors where, as Mr Mullen alludes, the big, flattering diffuser would be in shot for the wide. This often ends up quite significantly altering both character and fall of the light, depending on the exigencies of the location.

This is fine to a degree but once someone notices it's all too easy for it to become an endless discussion point. It is very difficult to persuade non lighting people that the huge degree of discontinuity that is normal is, in fact, normal.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 April 2017 - 08:21 PM

It's all a judgement call, a matter of taste -- obviously the easiest thing would be to just light the master for 360 degrees and never change anything for the coverage (well, maybe it wouldn't be an easy rig but things would go fast after that...)  And sometimes that actually looks good, so it's not necessary a bad idea.  However, if you get too literal about matching to the point where the actors look distractingly bad in their close-ups, you are probably not helping the audience get more involved with the scene emotionally.

 

Even a simple office scene lit in the wide shot by a pattern of 4' fluorescent boxes, let's say with two ceiling panels around them before the next fluorescent box in the grid -- you shoot a wide shot where your actress standing in front of a desk with a receptionist behind it, let's say, and the fluorescent box ends up right over her head just due to the layout of the room, but it looks OK either because it's a very wide shot or because the actress has her back to the camera in the master angle, but if you didn't adjust anything, it would make for a terrible close-up with bags under the eyes, a hot forehead, or dark eyes, etc.  So in the close-up, you find a way of having that overhead light be less right overhead, maybe it's as simple as having the actress step back two steps to make the overhead more frontal and less toppy. Maybe you add a sheet of 250 gel under the fluorescent to smooth and soften the light slightly, or you arm a frame of Opal in front of the overhead light.  Most audience members are not going to notice that cheat but they would notice if the actress looked terrible in the close-up (unless that is intentional.)

 

But how far you can cheat and get away with it is totally a personal judgement call.  Most DP's want each shot to look good but individually they will vary as to far they are willing to go to make a change (plus there is always the time factor involved.)

 

Recently I had an big conference set scene with a pattern of recessed skylights in the ceiling provided pools of soft but toppy overhead light.  Normally I would have softened that for closer shots of the female cast members, made it less overhead, but the scene involved 7 pages of dialogue covering 12 people speaking to each other surrounded by 20 more people packed into the room and covered with three cameras in order to shoot the whole scene in 7 hours with all the various eyeline matches.  After the master, I didn't relight anything for the next 7 hours, simply because I wouldn't have finished in 7 hours if I had started relighting, but it looked fine (and it helped that there was a big white table in the middle of the room bouncing some light back up into their eyes.)

 

I remember a scene in "The Astronaut Farmer" where we had Billy Bob Thornton in a hospital bed hooked up with a lot of tubes, etc. so getting him and out of bed quickly was not easy. I lit the scene for daytime with one strong lighting coming through a window and side-lighting him as various characters came in and out of the room. I found that as I moved to every angle in the room, the same lighting looked fine so I never changed it, and Thornton commented on how fast I was going, which kept him from having to get in and out of the bed, but it was because the lighting happened to look good whether it was seen front, side, or backlit.  It helped that being a light-toned hospital room that my fake sun streaming down into the room bounced around nicely into the shadows.  

 

So that's often my goal, to light a room once so that it looks good from multiple angles, but that's not always possible.


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#5 Bruce Greene

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Posted 07 April 2017 - 03:30 PM

In practical locations, what works for the wide shot often doesn't work for a reverse, especially the back lighting becomes face lighting.  And lights and stands for the wide shot will appear in other angles of coverage.  So re-lighting for most angles becomes the rule.

 

That said, have a plan for what lights will move and pre-rig hanging backlights for the reverse that you won't turn on until the reverse.  Often small lights on stands for close ups are rotated around the actors to the new angles quickly, and don't take too much time. (you hope!)

 

So, anticipate as best you can what the changes will be in advance and have the equipment changes on stand by, ready to go.


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#6 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 07 April 2017 - 04:25 PM

I like to light the entire room and then make slight adjustments for different angles. By the end of the scene, the setup generally looks entirely different then the first shot. This is generally because I do Wide/Medium/CU in my shooting style, which I think is pretty much the norm. For those Wide's and Medium's, you can generally get away with minor tweaks. It's the CU's which require bigger changes sometimes. 


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#7 David Schuurman

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Posted 17 April 2017 - 03:59 PM

Thanks so much for the insight you guys! Really helpful!


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