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single source soft lighting


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#1 skot_blank

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 09:33 AM

I have been hired to shoot this short film early next year. In the conversation with the director he is looking for a fairly natural soft light for the interiors for this residential house. The house will be a practical location. I have only seen photos and floor plans so far. The ceilings are only eight foot high it is sounding like I will not have any possibility in rigging anything off the walls or to the ceiling (no wall spreaders, no baby plate into the ceiling, nothing of the sort). Room sizes range from 16x26 and 20x20 and the smallest 16x12.

I was thinking that it would be nice to try the single big soft source that wraps around faces. I have never attempted this lighting set up before, and was wondering if anyone had any words of wisdom on this lighting approach. How big of a source will I need to get that wrapping in the wide shot? I will be limited to the ten 20amp circuits that the house has available. So if anyone has some ideas of what lights I should use to light the diffusion? Ideas on diffusion material? I was also thinking that I would just CTO the windows and use tungsten sources for all the interiors. I don?t think the small budget would support a full array of HMIs for the week of production. Just looking for some guidance.


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#2 Charles Haine

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 10:10 AM

Depending on rental house issues and how many windows you have to gel, HMIs can often cost more than gelling windows. For instance, if one of the walls is made of windows, getting 4 rolls of CTO at $80/roll can get expensive quickly. If this is a more normal residential space, however, you're right, CTO will definitely be cheaper.

The two keys of soft light are source size, and source-to-subject distance, which is why its generally better, when creating a soft effect, to shoot through a 4x4 or 6x6 frame instead of diffusing on the unit, so that the dif in the frame effectively becomes the light source, and also to move whatever unit you have close to the edge of frame (the soft light of an overcast sky is because the whole sky becomes a source, diffusing the light of the sun). As you move the unit away, it gradually decreases in relative size to whatever you are lighting, and thus starts to cast a harder light (the sun at noon, very hard, very very far away).

However, most of your audience is really only going to be look at the faces of your characters. Does the light need to softly touch the entire room? Or do you want it to softly wrap the characters faces and drop off towards the edges of frame? What is motivating your light?

Depending on budget, I would seriously consider Kino Flos. They don't have a lot of punch (they don't throw their light very far), they are cool running (good in small space), they work well off house power, and they are generally large sources (4' long for many units) which will help in lighting a large peice of diffusion evenly.

However, they don't have much punch, so it would be better to skin a 4x4 with Hampshire Frost or Light Opal rather than Muslin or Silk, which are much thicker and harder to get light through, if you are going to use Kinos.

Hope something in all that is helpful.

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#3 skot_blank

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 10:47 AM

I have been thinking about this more and was wondering if I could get the effect that I was after by making a frame that was 12?x6?. Taking the 12by top and bottom rails combined with the 6by side rails (making it 6? tall by 12? wide). The getting like a 12by grid cloth or muslin and skinning the frame with that, just letting the excess hang off the bottom. The being able to put a series of tungsten units behind the 12x6 frame.

Would that size source in these size rooms effectively light then entire room, and feel like it was motivated by a big wall of windows?

I was also thinking that I could vary the units behind the 12by6 as it come around to the front of the actors. Like a 2k at the back then halfway down like a 1k then at the other end like a 500w. So as the light wraps it could also be dimmer and fall off as it gets around the faces. Then in the close ups if needed I could wrap it a little more if needed.

I was trying to get the single source to light the entire set. Plus or minus a few little other touches of light that may be needed.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 11:16 AM

It's all about off-camera space -- i.e. how much do you have. Most people carry a variety of diffusion frames (2x3, 4x4, 6x6, 8x8, 12x12, 12x20, 20x20) and bounce surfaces and do whatever makes the most sense for that room and camera position, movement, etc. For some scenes, it may make more sense to set-up an 8x8 frame (or whatever you can fit) of UltraBounce or Bleached or UnBleached Muslin and bounce the light off of that than to go direct through a frame. You go as large as is practical and also based on how much you need to flag it. For close-ups, you can bring in a smaller frame closer to the face.

Kinos are also useful in tight quarters, plus they are switchable from daylight to tungsten.

As to whether to gel a whole room to tungsten, it just depends on if that is more practical, cost-effective, time efficient, etc. than using daylight lamps like HMI's & Kinos. If you're trying to get the effect of window light, at some point, you're going to want to have the light shining from outside a window into a room, so if it's a window gelled orange, then you're still going to need a daylight lamp outside of that window. Personally, gelling a room is always a last resort for me unless the windows are small.
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#5 Dimitrios Koukas

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 12:28 PM

Hello,
All has to do with the action you have in the frame and the movement of your subjects in relation to your lens.
For some shots maybe there could be enough space, but for some others it won't.
I am suggesting to have the windows for the general shots, placed at nine or three o clock of the camera, so u will have side lighting that could be more even.(By either having lights come in the scene from the windows with any diffusion you like, or by just put some tracing paper on the windows using the daylight itself).
But this is just a gesture, I don't have any story board infront of me, to help you more.
If you can be more specific, I will try to help you more.
You see the action itself sometimes dictates the lighting.
If you have a vertical action for example of a person moving towards your camera and the light is placed just near you, the f/stop change could be dramatic, and not so elegant I may say.
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#6 gregory mandry

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 01:04 PM

what are you shooting on. ie do you need much light? 500 iso is a lot different to 100 iso. Then consider the motivation for the light. (the window, time of day, practicals?) The primary motivation for the scene seems to be the window? a little more info would be useful.
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#7 Michael Collier

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 05:31 PM

If you are concerned about cost (and it sounds like a smaller feature) save yourself teh frame rentals and all that and bounce off the walls. this especially works well because it saves so much space. In small environments it can be a lifesaver. That being said you will loose a lot of options with actuall placement, because you cant just point to light through the frame and point it at the subject. you are always thinking as if it was a large game of pool, where the billiards are replaced with photons.

but if you need high lighting or more indirect than the single bounce you can point the light almost straight up into a corner and black wrap 180 degrees around the light. i shot in a small (10ft by 15ft) dorm room and this is how I lit the majority of the scene. (make sure your DP doesnt insist on using a 5 ft jib arm for all locked down shots, its a long agrovating story i have about that)

If you need more than one light but still want just one light 'source' you can gang a bunch together and bounce off the same part of the wall.
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#8 Joseph White

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 06:01 PM

yeah a lot of this really depends on what stock you are shooting. a lot of medium-speed daylight stocks handle mixed color tempeerature lighting really well - especially the 5205 vision2 250D. gelling windows can also get tricky if you are going to see the windows in the shot - depending on how windy of a day you're getting, this can become a serious pain in the ass. also depends on how high up the window is if you aren't shooting on a ground floor as re-touching the gels can get tricky (see above pain in the ass haha).

also depends on what time of day you are shooting - if you can shoot later on in the day when there's generally warmer light coming in (also depending on which direction your windows are facing) you might be able to get away with not gelling or correcting the camera if you're shooting tungsten stock.

daylight 4x4 kinos with some opal or 251 are good inside depending on the size of your space. also depends on the skin-tones of the actors as some people look better with slightly cooler light hitting their faces softly, and some respond better to warmer light. a 2k mighty with a chimera will be fine with your power and is a lovely large soft source for an interior. its also an easy light to change types of diffusion on as you can just tear away or add layers to eye. you can also add stages of blue to it if you aren't correcting the windows or the camera. a little half-blue on the mighty might play nice with late afternoon sunlight.

hope this helps. happy shooting!
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#9 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 10:04 AM

I love big soft lights. But they take time to get right, rig and flag. A soft light isn't as easy to acheive as one thinks. That's why I'm always blown away when I see Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC's expert handling of it. Also, soft lights just doesn't mix very well with un-designed environments - you have to have good production design to get away with them.
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 10:57 AM

I love big soft lights. But they take time to get right, rig and flag. A soft light isn't as easy to acheive as one thinks. That's why I'm always blown away when I see Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC's expert handling of it. Also, soft lights just doesn't mix very well with un-designed environments - you have to have good production design to get away with them.



This begs one very important question: What does your location look like, and can you change it if need be? If it's white or very light walls in the small spaces you mentioned, you might think about painting it. Soft light in a white-walled environment that small (i.e.- limited space for cutting devices) will get very flat very fast.

Also, have you decided on a filmstock yet? If you're shooting fast film (7218 for a likely example) you will have a much easier time creating this soft light in the small spaces than if you were shooting 100T film.
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#11 skot_blank

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 11:53 AM

I actually have a fair amount issues that come along with this project. The house is some sort of historical property (the reason we can?t touch the walls). Also we are pinned to shoot it on the 500T?18 stock. The production had left over 500t from the last shoot they did, so we will be shooting on the left overs. The walls in one part of the house is this medium cream color ( defiantly lighter than 18% grey, in fact if I had to guess some place right between white and 18% grey). The house has other rooms with better wall colors but those rooms are much smaller. So, I sacrifice room size for better colored walls. Which would you guys go for?? Better colored walls or bigger space? As you can guess they will not let us repaint the walls. The property does have a lot of character in it (textures in interior stone walls, nice looking windows, interesting floor plan).
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 12:30 PM

Shoot in whatever room will look the best after you light it. Don't pick the most boring room in the house just because it is the easiest to shoot in, unless you can dress it and light it to look more interesting than the other rooms. But don't shoot in a room so small that you can't really do anything with it or in it.
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#13 Mario C. Jackson

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 07:59 PM

Skot
I was gaffing on a film shoot that was shot in a hospital. What me and the dp decided was to use a 2k mole zip light along with practicals and a couple of 650 watt fresnels. Everyone may not agree with what I me but I believe that you can use a soft light. What I would probally do is put 1/2 CTB on the light and maybe a net if need be. It's all up to how it looks and feels to you and the director.
Hope this helps
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