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Beginner - Lighting for video


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#1 Laura Klein

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 12:31 PM

Hi-
I'm about to shoot my first film on video (I've only done some little projects on super-8 and documentary stuff with a consumer video camera). Luckily, we have access to the dvx100 and will be using that to shoot with.

The director wants the film to look like "old hollywood," lots of soft edges and the actors all looking beautiful.

Most of the scenes are interior shots with only 2 people, lots of closeups. The setups we need for interiors are:

- natural light
- pinkish/reddish glow of teenage girl's room
- tv light
- cold, austere room of rich widow

We have no money and are trying to get access to lighting. Do you have any advice for me? This is a huge learning experience and anything you can tell me would be great. Is there a soft filter I can use for the camera? Are there cheap alternatives I can use for fancy lighting? If we did have access to lighting, can you recommend some standard equipment we could use to achieve all these setups? or, refer me to some simple reading? thanks so much!
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#2 Chris Cooke

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 12:56 PM

For no budget projects, the best thing that you can do is make use of natural light and practicals. There are many ways in which you can shape light without even using tv lights although it takes a lot of practice to paint light properly in this fashion. Reflector boards (bead board, tin foil on cardboard, foam core, ceiling tiles or anything else that you think will work) are a must. Also, diffusion and colored gels (CTO for converting outdoor light coming through windows to 3200k (tungsten)) are important for use on practicals and windows. A remote household dimmer for use on practicals is a nice accessory. Also black fabric for flaging off unwanted light or to use for negative fill can be handy.
If you have a little budget you might be able to buy some par 64's. They're less than a hundred dollars and are quite handy. Don't forget that you'll need clamps and/or stands for them.
I'll let someone else answer your question about making it look like "old hollywood".
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#3 scorsesebull

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 01:26 PM

For no budget projects, the best thing that you can do is make use of natural light and practicals.".

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Chris is right. The project seems small enough that it sounds like you'd have some pretty good liberties with those practicals. Remember that you can move practicals and/or bring in your own. Check out those locations hardcore and really think about where you'd like to see light A) coming from and B) ending up; even if it means rearranging all the furniture (talk with your director first of course : ) ). You might surprise yourself and find a really great setup just by bringing an additional desklamp you had at home and moving the bed to a different wall and making it all part of the art dec. You ARE shooting in a Teenage Girl's room, teenage girls like to put up Christmas lights and lavalamps, etc. just for the hell of it.

China balls aren't hard to make and the materials to make them would most likely be in your cost range (keep 'em after the shoot, it'll be well worth investing your own money into). If you're looking for an overall soft aura, it might be nice to tuck a china ball just off camera to help bring up the exposure subtly (maybe the pink glow? or the a cold blue/green aura for the widow). Also, single fluorescent tubes. Those are fun to hide because they are so narrow, you can practically attach it to the actor without an audience seeing it. I agree completely with Chris that some reflective materials (bead board, etc) would be a nice thing to have and very cheap to come by. Black tag board is really cheap and works great for flagging, I've used that constantly, even when I have actual flags. It's light weight and thin so it can be taped up and folded and worked with very easily. Hope some of those suggestions spark some ideas. Let us know how it goes, eh?

--Luke
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#4 Laura Klein

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 10:33 AM

thanks guys. this is helpful...I was thinking about using china balls as I've heard they make nice light. Another question, if I'm using mainly practicals, should I get special bulbs? And, if so, what would you recommend? (sorry my questions are so elementary). One great thing about your comments was the idea of shaping light. I forgot how important that was regardless of what equipment you have at your disposal.
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#5 Chris Cooke

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 11:59 AM

Another question, if I'm using mainly practicals, should I get special bulbs? And, if so, what would you recommend?

I wouldn't recommend getting special tungten balanced bulbs for practicals because the nice warm hue of practical incandesents look natural to our eye. I would get bigger bulbs though depending on the situation and then diffuse the front of the lamp shade (inside) so that you get a nice glow on the walls and tables but your shade doesn't overexpose. You'll have to do some tests to decide what wattage you want for your practicals. It'll depend on your f-stop choice and how contrasty you want your image to look. If you're lighting faces with practicals, you might want to see how 1/4 CTB looks infront of a the bulb to match it closer to tungsten (I've never tried this one).
Also, I just saw these halogen security flood lights at home depot for $10. They have 300w tungsten halogen bulbs in them. You might want to look for something like this for lighting sets and faces (use diffusion if lighting faces because they are open faced) and then just shape the light with flags (you can make these for cheap) or Black Wrap.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 03:56 PM

thanks guys. this is helpful...I was thinking about using china balls as I've heard they make nice light. Another question, if I'm using mainly practicals, should I get special bulbs? And, if so, what would you recommend? (sorry my questions are so elementary). One great thing about your comments was the idea of shaping light. I forgot how important that was regardless of what equipment you have at your disposal.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>




You can get bulbs balanced for tungsten film called photofloods that will fit into normal household sockets. Just make sure you don't overload the socket, as you can get these bulbs up to 500 watt at least. Most sockets should have a wattage capacity right on them.
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#7 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 09:54 PM

Hello Laura,
I know very well what it is like to embark on a production with very little to work with and a very specific goal (old hollywood in your case), the trick is, as Chris rightly pointed out, is to make use of practicals and existing lighting. Also buying a couple of parcans (about $60 from mole richardson Hollywood) is a good idea, they have a lot of punch and can be used for a wide variety of situations (they are very good for giving people a very hot edge or backlight which you can then bounce back onto their face for a soft key).
I recently shot a short on HD which I lit using only a few actual "Production" lights (a couple of 150w,300w,650w and a 1k fresnel), I went to mole-richardson and bought about 10 sockets (600w) and an assortment of light bulbs (I got a few of every wattage, from 60w to 500w) and china-balls of every size from 8" to 40-something inches. I also bought a bunch of 350w household dimmers from Ikea for about $5 each. as I said I lit the entire short with these lights and few small fresnels, the resulting film looked really excellent and I am very proud of it (it looks better then many projects I've shot were I had generators and big lights etc.. available to me). Another thing that works in your favour is that you are shooting in smaller spaces and shooting close a lot, the only time when you really NEED big lights is when you need to light big areas and many subjects, since it sounds like this wont be the case it's probably a better idea to use small units anyway (nothing looks worse than over-lit DV). I have found that, in the case of a soft side key for example, using a china ball with a 250w bulb dimmed down 50% close to the subject can look better than an elaborate set-up with a fresenl going through a silk or similar.
Often the most simple and cheapest lighting looks the best. Remember that the important thing is the result, and if you decide what you want ( a soft side key again as an example) there are a million ways of getting this (the parcan backlight bounced onto the face, a bare bulb dimmed down till it becomes soft, a bulb in a china ball, a bulb hung behind a sheet of diffusion...etc.)
Also in terms of a soft filter I would suggest not to go above a grade 1 even though this may look good on the DVX screen ( I would also suggest getting a decent size production monitor that can be properly calibrated to bars to gauge focus and exposure) I would recomend a Tiffen black promist ( I usually use a 1/8 or 1/4 whenever I shoot DV) or a Tiffen black or gold diffusion FX filter (black or gold depemnding on if you want a warmer or colder image.
Cheers and good luck.
Tomas.
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#8 Laura Klein

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 02:12 PM

this stuff is great. lots of good advice...

a technical question:

do I white balance before or after I gel the lights?

a shooting question:

would you recommend shooting 30p, 24p or 24pa?

thanks. laura
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#9 Alvin Pingol

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 04:58 PM

>>do I white balance before or after I gel the lights?

Balancing after applying gels will negate their effect. So before.


>>would you recommend shooting 30p, 24p or 24pa?

Depends on how you want it to look! 30P renders motion more smoothly than 24P. Do some tests to find out which works best for your production. Motion pictures are shot at 24fps, so 24P will deliver more "filmic" motion.

24PA is just another form of 24fps, but is recorded onto tape differently. Motion rendering will not be affected; it's an editing thing, simply a different way to remove the pulldown pattern on tape (since the DVX cannot lay 24P onto tape).

Google 24P advanced, 3:2 pulldown, inverse telecine, to learn more about recording 24P on SD video.
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#10 CJ Biddle

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 10:27 AM

Laura,


I have a DVX100a and love the many options it offers.

I would highly recommend that you do as much research as possible on the camera because it offers a lot of great tools for influencing basic lighting situations.

Great resources:
The DVX100 forum here on cinematography.com
http://adamwilt.com/24p/index.html
(Adam does a good job of explaining the 24p/24pa question)
http://www.dvxuser.com
And Barry Green's book and DVD on the camera, which will really help in explaining all the details of the camera. It is written for all knowledge levels. I think you can get the book/dvd at dvxuser.com or Amazon. Pricey but really worth it. (I have no interest or connection with these products.)
Called "The DVX DVD and DVX Book"

Good luck,
CJ
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#11 Lars.Erik

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 04:18 PM

Hi there,

a note on progressive shooting. I always use this on fiction, but remember to slow down the actions of the camera somewhat. because of blurring. another thing is that progressive eats up one f-stop compared to interlaced. so don't get shocked when you swith to 24P.

The tv lights, are you making it or will you be using an actual tv for the light? if your using a tv, remember to put full CTO on it. (tv's rate at 9300K) basically turning it blue if you shoot 3200K.

China balls are great. But they spill the lights a lot. You can use black waste bags to control it.

One thing to remember about CU's. The people being shot have to have very good make up. Escpecially if you want them to look like old Hollywood.

If you want to save some money, you can always make your own soft filter. Just crumble up some cellophane, attach it to your lens with a rubber band, and hey... you've got a soft filter. Just watch those flares into your lens, or people will see the cellophane. Warning...this will come off as a pretty heavy soft, guessing a 1 1/2, but it might work. Do a test.

To get a pinkish glow to the bedroom, you could always white balance on something greenish. Not full green though. Or you'll get lots of red. The problem here is that the whole frame will get that tone. Maybe you'll be better off using pink filters on your lights. Fluorescent bulbs are a good idea as scorsesebull mentioned. Check out Lee filters. They have a bundle of pinkish filters. They also make them for fluorenscent tubes. So you don't have to buy a whole roll.

Good luck
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#12 Laura Klein

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 11:47 AM

Hi all-
still preparing...to simulate the natural light indoors, I think I'm going to gel the lights with CTB. I was thinking of gelling the windows but I don't really have access to the windows (we're shooting in a high rise!) So, another remedial question, when I gel the lights with CTB...do I set the camera to 3200 or 5600? and, do I still white balance before I gel?

as far as the tv light is concerned...we're using an actual tv (I was hoping I could get the flicker from the actual tv and then add some light for fill). thoughts?

Laura
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#13 scorsesebull

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 01:30 PM

Hi all-
still preparing...to simulate the natural light indoors, I think I'm going to gel the lights with CTB. I was thinking of gelling the windows but I don't really have access to the windows (we're shooting in a high rise!) So, another remedial question, when I gel the lights with CTB...do I set the camera to 3200 or 5600? and, do I still white balance before I gel?

as far as the tv light is concerned...we're using an actual tv (I was hoping I could get the flicker from the actual tv and then add some light for fill). thoughts?

Laura

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hey Laura,

Well, on the CTB question, you could do two things, depending on what you want. If you WANT to see blue for some aesthetic purpose then white balance before you throw on the CTB gels. If you're just trying to balance the room to match the windows (to white light) then throw up the CTB and then white balance. At 5600 the lights with CTB and the light coming in through the window will then look white and the room will look an even temp. That was a good suggestion about the TV CTO, I've been on shoots where that has been overlooked. A blue glow from the TV won't look bad, just depends what you want. If you didn't want the blue TV glow and you decide to gel the lights CTB and shoot at 5600 you won't have to worry about a different temp for the TV (maybe just slightly blue) because the TV will be much closer in temp to the rest of the room than if you balanced for 3200. Just an idea. What is the TV glow going to be hitting: someone's face? the background wall? Good luck

Luke
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#14 Laura Klein

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 02:19 PM

What is the TV glow going to be hitting: someone's face? the background wall?

faces.
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#15 scorsesebull

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 03:32 PM

What is the TV glow going to be hitting: someone's face?  the background wall?

faces.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Well...I don't know your exact scenario, if the TV for sure will be in the daytime scene or if it's a different scene at night, but if the TV is on during the day and you have windows in a high rise, it sounds to me like your key is going to be the sunlight blasting in and ricocheting around off the walls and ceiling. In that situation the TV seems like it would act closer as the fill light...or even less like a fill light and more like an atmosphere light. I don't think a TV throws much in the scenario I'm picturing in my head--a brighter daytime office/room. If the TV scene is at night and you're shooting a close up, yeah, I'd say bring that TV in as close as you need for intensity and use a flourescent tube or two just off camera (play with the distance) so that it's just giving us a super subtle little bit better view of some darker areas of the face (assuming the TV is one of the primary lights in the room and/or there are any practicals nearby the actors). Or to give a more general room fill try a china ball or two farther away than a fluoro tube would be placed, so it fills the room a bit and hits the actor. Dont' know if that's feasible or not. Sorry I'm assuming and making guesses but there's a lot of different factors these suggestions are dependent on so take 'em with a grain of salt and maybe at the very least one of these sparked an idea more practical to your specific cinematic needs. Keep us updated!

Oh! P.S. remember to match color temps (for the chinaballs, fluoro tubes, etc) If you've balanced for daylight like you mentioned you might, it might be easier to use some daylight balanced fluoro tubes for your subtle fill so it will match and be simple. If your using china balls at all (and seein windows) it might be easier to gel those windows CTO from the inside of the room and balance for tungsten.

Edited by scorsesebull, 29 July 2005 - 03:37 PM.

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#16 Lars.Erik

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 02:35 AM

I think I'm going to gel the lights with CTB. I was thinking of gelling the windows but I don't really have access to the windows (we're shooting in a high rise!)

as far as the tv light is concerned...we're using an actual tv (I was hoping I could get the flicker from the actual tv and then add some light for fill). thoughts?

Laura

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


a) about ctb, you'll lose about 67% of the lights coming from the lamps. You could go for daylight photoflood, the drawback is that these only have about 4 hours of life before they go pop. So if you do go for gelling the lamps, I'd go for stronger photofloods, up to 500w, 3200K. It's also advisable to switch the cords with ones who will be able to maintain power to the lamp without it becoming a fire hazard.

B) I'm sorry, but I'm from Norway, so what's a high rise? just curious. I'm guessing it's a window positioned high up...but not quite sure.

c) If your using the the tv flicker, I'd drop the fill light, as in most cases it look phoney. (as it is in many cases when it comes to tv light, an open fire etc.) Just make sure the lights coming form the screen are strong enough.

You could use a practical near the people watching the screen if you want extra light on them, but I'd make sure the audience would in some point see the practical.

If you don't see what is happening on the screen you could just take your dvx and film highlight and lowlight sequences yourself. In this way you'd control the flicker any way you want.

And the worst thing you could do is to make the flickering too fast. This is never how a tv set behaves. If you sit in a dark room and see the flickering from the telly, the lficker are quite slow. So keep down the pace if you want to make it realistic. If you want it to be unrealistic, and there's a point to it, well that's a different story.

Edited by Lars.Erik, 30 July 2005 - 02:42 AM.

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#17 Laura Klein

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Posted 02 August 2005 - 11:51 AM

More questions, hope I'm not repeating myself.
When lighting with practicals visible in the frame, how do you avoid getting that hot spot? Dim them way down? Also, any thoughts on those photoflood bulbs? In your experience, can you use them for daylight? (I think they're 4800K)?
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#18 Lars.Erik

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Posted 02 August 2005 - 12:44 PM

Yes, they come in daylight. You are correct about 4800K. But they'll only glow for about 4 hours.

Yes, you can dim the lights. The problem is that this will change the color temperature.
So I never dim lamps, unless I want to for some reason to change the temperature.

There are other ways to control it. You can for example use a lighter close to the bulb on the side(s) you want dimmed. Some carbon will build up on the bulb. You can just wipe off the carbon later when you want to.

You can also use ND gel or black wraps around the bulb.

ND gels come in 0.3, 0.6, 0.9., and 1.2.
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#19 Chris Cooke

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Posted 03 August 2005 - 01:24 AM

More questions, hope I'm not repeating myself.
When lighting with practicals visible in the frame, how do you avoid getting that hot spot? Dim them way down? Also, any thoughts on those photoflood bulbs? In your experience, can you use them for daylight? (I think they're 4800K)?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I would suggest putting the diffusion or ND on the inside of the lamp shade but only in the front. That way, you can have complete control over the intensity of the practical but still see the hilights on the desk or wall from your practical. Dimmers are ok to use on practicals if you want the lowered color tempurature. If you don't want the color tempurature shift then just ND it a little more. If you're balanced to 5600K then the 4800K daylight photoflood would be plenty warm enough without dimming. You can get 1/3 CTB to cool that down if you feel that you need to.
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