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Fire light


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#1 Andrew Evans

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Posted 23 September 2005 - 05:50 PM

I'm shooting a scene where the main light source comes from a fire place. We're shooting film (kodak 500t probably). I'm just looking for some general tips, like whether we should try to build a flicker box for the faces or just match the color from the fire with gels?
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#2 Chris Cooke

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Posted 24 September 2005 - 01:19 AM

I've done a pretty convincing firelight using a fresnel with CTO on it. I then spun a pitcher 3/4 full of water in front of it. This ended up giving me a nice looking flicker affect for cheap.
You can take a look at a clip with this scene in it at...
http://creationarts.ca/screenings.htm
click on The Huron Carol
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#3 Sol Train Saihati

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Posted 24 September 2005 - 08:35 AM

Any chance of shooting with a real fireplace? It will drive your AC mad, but with some fast lenses and a little supplementary fill you could certainly use real fire as a key source a la Barry Lyndon. Gas lanterns are also great way of making said fire a manouverable source however, as always, safety is a primary concern when dealing with pyrotechnics.

barrylyndon2.jpg

There seem to be several schools of thought on replicating fire/candle light artificially. The two main questions are whether to make it a hard or soft source, the former being the most realistic but the latter the more flattering. You should also consider whether you want the source to flicker manically, Hollywood Style, or to have a more consistent output.

There are some excellent articles here:

http://www.theasc.co...cks/tip-cc1.htm

http://www.theasc.co...cks/tip-rd1.htm

Watch that scene from the Big Lebowski as a reference if you can, its a beautiful lesson in cinematography. Although the scene is explicitly tongue-in-cheek, Deakins uses a traditional method without getting anywhere close to the boundries of "cheese."

Colour correction can be tricky and again there a many examples of fire/candlelight throughout film history coloured in different ways. Sometimes, depending on the production design and skin tone of the actors, the colour can be quite plain like "The Others" and at the other end of the spectrum we have vivid oranges, reds and yellows like "The Devil's Advocate" or "Apocalypse Now."

As is usually the case when considering how to light a scene there are so many areas to think about and it largely depends on the tone and context of the scene. As a purist, I would usually go with Deakin's technique, supplementing the real fire with artificial light from the same direction, effectively "lighting the scene" with subsequently moody results.

rooney06.jpg

"One and a half stops underexposed, that's my bread and butter."

Edited by djdumpy, 24 September 2005 - 08:36 AM.

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#4 Sol Train Saihati

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Posted 24 September 2005 - 08:50 AM

PS. Have a look through a gel catalogue and pick up a few meters of anything that takes your fancy. A combination of two or three colours on different lights usually does the trick for me, but try and stay away from predominant use of CTO. Although mathematically you're only bringing the colour temparature down, I personally find the results are often a bit sickly.
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#5 Andrew Evans

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Posted 27 September 2005 - 02:27 PM

Thanks a lot. The articles and suggestions are extremely helpful.
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#6 JP Creatives

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Posted 27 September 2005 - 04:26 PM

I agree with above. You can just use fire, especially with 500t. Primes would help too with speed. If you go to the below link there are a few stills from a feature I just shot and it is obvious which one is a fire shot. The whole scene is lit with real fire. Candles everywhere. However, the main source on the actors faces was a fireplace we built into the set. The still really doesn't do it justice. In motion the whole room is flickering and it looks so realistic because it is. If you can use fire, use it.

STILLS

Oh yeah, and we used 500t as well.

JP

Edited by JP Creatives, 27 September 2005 - 04:27 PM.

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#7 Chris Cooke

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Posted 27 September 2005 - 10:21 PM

If you go to the below link there are a few stills from a feature I just shot and it is obvious which one is a fire shot.  The whole scene is lit with real fire.  Candles everywhere.  However, the main source on the actors faces was a fireplace we built into the set. If you can use fire, use it.

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JP has a good point and his stills look quite good but there are definately times when you need more depth of field (ie. talent/camera movement). Correct me if I'm wrong JP but you were probably at about f2.8 with 500T film. This has the potential to give your 1st AC nightmares.
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#8 Mike Williamson

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Posted 27 September 2005 - 11:06 PM

F2.8 isn't that bad, send your AC's over to me for a few days and they'll come back praying for 2.8's. Seriously though, that kind of stop shouldn't be a problem with proper marks for the actors.
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#9 Chris Cooke

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 01:19 AM

F2.8 isn't that bad, send your AC's over to me for a few days and they'll come back praying for 2.8's.  Seriously though, that kind of stop shouldn't be a problem with proper marks for the actors.

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Yeah, I know some guys shoot whole features at 2.8 and it's not much of a problem (Powel Edelman, PSC). Just be careful when lighting with only firelight. There are a couple potential problems. I prefer to supplement existing firelight with geled softlight. One of the problems that can occur is skin tones rendering way too warm. Curtis Clark, ASC talks about a solution to this problem in the link that djdumpy posted. Another problem that some people may or may not like is that firelight is actually hard light. I think that hard firelight on film doesn't look realistic because we perceive it in real life as soft. Also, it can be effective to use different colored gels on different flickering soft sources in order to increase the visual appeal and perception of realism. The caution that you must take when taking this approach though is that you don't overlight.
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#10 JP Creatives

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 06:34 AM

JP has a good point and his stills look quite good but there are definately times when you need more depth of field (ie. talent/camera movement). Correct me if I'm wrong JP but you were probably at about f2.8 with 500T film. This has the potential to give your 1st AC nightmares.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



I had no depth of field, you are correct. I was probably even more like a f2 or 1.4. I was using Zeiss superspeeds and I abused them the whole shoot. My First AC did almost die at times, but if no one is moving around in the scene there really weren't any difficulties at all. Would I do a backwards dolly three feet from the actors face while he's sprinting towards us past a bonfire? No.

Actually I probably would, but would have to wait for dailies to see what we got. But if I was shooting at an f2.8 that really isn't a risky focus stop. I mean what do you need to shoot confidently? I don't regret shooting the scene with real fire. It looks wonderful. And depending what you are trying to do, it might be the better choice.

JP
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#11 Sol Train Saihati

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 03:14 PM

An f 2.8 is one of the easier days for my AC's! If the spot meter says 1.4 and a half, I usually ask for a 2.8, although most of the time it just says "Eu".... :ph34r:

I have a lot of faith in my Ac's, even if they do pull some funny faces now and then.

Great stills JP, looks like you've done a beautiful job there. If you're up for starting a new thread would love some more info?

Edited by djdumpy, 28 September 2005 - 03:17 PM.

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#12 JP Creatives

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 04:02 PM

An f 2.8 is one of the easier days for my AC's! If the spot meter says 1.4 and a half, I usually ask for a 2.8, although most of the time it just says "Eu".... :ph34r:

I have a lot of faith in my Ac's, even if they do pull some funny faces now and then.

Great stills JP, looks like you've done a beautiful job there. If you're up for starting a new thread would love some more info?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


What would you like to know?

JP
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#13 Chris Sharman

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Posted 29 September 2005 - 03:22 PM

A good trick I've used for simulating a flickering firelight: take your lamp, warm it up to taste with Amber or CTO and direct it onto a loosely-hung piece of shiny gold lame fabric in your key position. Then get your lovely assistant to gently flap the fabric...hey presto, flickering flames.

JM
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