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Lighting for HD


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#1 Gillian

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 11:07 PM

In a recent article I read an interview of a director whose television show recently made the switch from 35mm to high def. When the interviewer asked for Peter DeLuise to comment on the differences he said ?I slap on a longer lens and call it ?good?. Okay, I?m thinking that there is a lot more to it then that, but the interviewer didn?t seem to know the right questions to ask, so I never got a satisfactory answer.
I not that interested in the differences of working with HD from the directors perspective but I would love to know how different the lighting for HD is as opposed to film.
Thanks!
Gillian
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 12:13 AM

Working methods may change -- I hardly use a light meter when shooting in HD -- but the lighting itself is look-dependent and not so much altered by shooting in HD other than you may use a lower level in order to shoot wide-open (to reduce depth-of-field) or use a longer lens, or both.

If you want to light a face with a big soft light coming from one side, for example, you're probably going to use the same techniques for HD or film.

The only situation where HD handles light significantly in a different manner is in overexposure, bright areas of the frame, hot whites, etc. which tend to clip (burn out) faster and not in the most attractive manner. So a lighting technique based on overexposure may have to be modified in order to hold more detail in the recording. More time may be spent gelling windows in daytime to keep them from blowing out too much, and lamps may have to be dimmed down a little more (or a lower wattage bulb used.) Wardrobe should minimize pure white or very light tones.
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#3 F Bulgarelli

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 12:39 AM

HI David,

How do you keep consistency from shot to shot if you don't use your lighting meter.
Wouldn't you want to keep a consistent stop as you go through your set-ups within the same scene. Consistent meaning within a certain range.
Do you just go by the waveform?

Francisco
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 01:46 AM

I don't use a waveform. I set-up the camera & HD monitor, set the lens to an f/2.8 (usually), and then light to that stop using the zebras as a guide and how it looks on the monitor. Once you light the master, making it consistent in the coverage isn't so difficult because you are often using the same units, or just changing the foreground key light but not the background, etc. so balancing things to be the same level as the master is not hard. And like I said, I keep the stop on the lens the same and just adjust the lighting around it.

In some day interiors with HMI's, I find myself more at an f/5.6 sometimes; I'll often shoot the master at that, but on the close-ups, with the same light levels, switch-in the internal 2-stop ND filter and open up to an f/2.8.


I might pull out my meter once in a while, like if a light on a crane is obviously too bright, I'll meter it so I can give the guy in the condor a better guess on what scrim to drop in, but even then, you can stand at the monitor with a walkie-talkie and say "drop in a double... hmmm, add another single... looks good."

A meter is also useful for lighting a long tracking shot or movement where someone walks through a series of spots and you want them all to be the same intensity.

Or if the electrics prelight a set while I was shooting somewhere else and I drop by without the HD camera to check on their handiwork, I'll meter what they have to make sure they are in the ballpark for the HD camera.
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#5 Brett B

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 09:19 AM

I totally agree with what David just said. The areas you really need to watch are the highlights. That why I always make sure there is plentty of ND because if you shoot near a window you usually are going to need to ND the window or make sure you have plenty of light to bring up the inside. Also, make sure you have a good hood or something to block the light off the mintor because it can be decieving if you don't. I hope this helps.
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#6 Matt Pacini

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 06:56 PM

I always light video as if I'm shooting reversal, (although I've never shot HD):
Underexpose instead of overexpose, figure on 3-5 stops latitude.
David, would you say that's a good way at looking at it?

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 07:10 PM

Yes, although I think the total exposure range for HD is better than reversal -- HD is similar to color negative in the shadows but it's like color reversal in the highlights in terms of contrast. So you don't really need to underexpose a scene with no bright highlights in it. But yes, you favor highlight information with video whereas you favor shadow information with film when exposing.
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#8 Gillian

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 08:12 PM

Thanks everyone! I?m learning so much and I really appreciate the time you take to answer all these questions.
Okay, but I am feeling pretty stupid here because I didn?t get the term ?ND?. I understand everything else though.

A bit of fan mail, David- I picked up a copy of Cinematography 3rd edition at Boarders about a month ago and it?s fantastic!! I really like the new images. My last copy was very tattered-pages were falling out, and I was considering re-buying it when I saw that the new edition was out! How very fortuitous. Let me know when you?re doing book signings! :) Thanks also for recommending "Film Style & Technology: History & Analysis" by Barry Salt It was exactly the book I needed.
Thanks again,
Gillian
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#9 F Bulgarelli

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 10:06 PM

Thanks David, very useful.
Do you find yourself working differently if the project is a film-out versus straight to video.
I've never done a film-out from hd footage, Are there any other variables that you have to keep in mind.
Do you ever shoot wide open. I would like to test that scenario, perhaps with the digiprimes which I think are the fastest out there.

Thanks
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 10:53 PM

Sure, I've occasionally shot any lens wide-open in an emergency. I tend to feel that all lenses benefit from being stopped down by at least one stop, regardless of what the manufacturers say.

However, I would say that the Zeiss DigiPrimes seem to stay sharp when wide-open. I shot one HD feature on them and loved the look. I usually shot them at an f/2.0 though, not wide-open.

I tend to always shoot features in HD with the possibility that there will be a film-out in mind. I shot parts of two music videos in HD and I felt a little freer about playing with the menu settings since the final product would only be seen in SD.

One of the main things to worry about is Detail level when shooting for a film-out. Either turn Detail off or turn it WAY down, like to -70. Don't worry that at -70 you can't see it doing anything because on a big screen, it's borderline visible, but subtle.

Also, small artifacts become more visible on the big screen. Noise is more obvious too. So you tend to be a little more conservative with how far you push the camera.
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#11 F Bulgarelli

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 11:46 PM

Which HD feature did you shoot with digiprimes?
Also, which of your HD work are you the most pleased with.
What about other DP's?

Thanks again
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 01:21 AM

I did a small comedy called "Tom's Nu Heaven" using the prototype DigiPrimes leant to us by BandPro (they only had metric focusing marks.) It still hasn't been sold.

It was an experiment in how small we could go. The director bought a Sony F900 HDCAM and an FCP HD editing set-up. He borrowed some Kinoflos from a friend. He hired me, a sound person, a line producer who doubled as AD, an art director, and a wardrobe person. Plus three PA/interns; one pulled focus, one held the boom, and the third helped me set-up any lights. I shot most of the movie in available light.

The shoot was 15 days.

My best-looking HD feature may still be my first one (before I learned anything about HD!) which is "Jackpot", understanding that it was also a 15-day feature road-trip with minimal lights.

I think the comedy "New Suit" came out pretty well for a comedy about life in L.A. in the film industry. It's fairly slick for a small budget. Not moody but the actors looked good.

I'm looking forward to "The Quiet" (formerly "Dot") coming out -- it is my darkest, most dramatic movie shot in HD, athough the settings are quite mundane (a white modernist house and a high school). Small budget and crew again though.
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