Hey David, I got asked by the director I am currently shooting for about a setup that we did yesterday in a decent sized kitchen and how to equalize the light. The setup was with three characters, one of them walking inside through a propped open door. Due to it being full sun outside, when I went to get the MCU of the man walking inside, the outside was pretty blown (about 3 stops hotter) Normally, I would try to gel the glass, but an open door doesn't allow for that. Or ,I would try to put a double net behind the talent to get at least one more stop in the highlights. But that wasn't going to work for this because I saw his feet coming in, which means an 8x8 frame would be seen. Plus, I am not super crazy about doing that if I don't have to due to the loss of contrast from the net.
So my question is, how do you go about building up lighting inside to try and equal outside? If only one or two close ups see outside, do you just build it up for those shots, or try to do it for the entire scene? What size heads do you normally try to use for that? I pretty much only have budget currently for 2 1.2k's and 2 575's (boostable 800 watts) Though, I think the director was wondering if budget for future shoots needed to be more allowing for larger for stuff like this. This is just an area where my knowledge is lacking and I want to get better about.
I will get our DIT to get me stills this morning from what we did shoot and post them this afternoon so you can see what I did get.)
That's a classic problem that is hard to solve. Sometimes you can attach the double net so that it wraps around the bottom of the net frame so you can run it to the ground and just see that clean bottom edge rather than the gaps and tie-downs.
Yes, the other solution is to raise the light level inside, but that also depends on being able to do it so that it looks natural. In some ways, it's easier with bigger lights because you can make them softer and further away rather than spottier and harsher if trying to get enough output from them. But all of this also depends on where the windows are, how high the ceiling is, etc. Some spaces are hard to use bigger HMI's in.
You have a big challenge because if you see hard sunlight out there, well, the Sunny 16 rule tells you that it gives you an f/16 at 50 ASA and a 1/50th of a second shutter speed. That's a lot of light to match to, but of course that's just the brightest highlights in frontal sunlight, you can get away with exposing more than that. But you still need to think big if you are going to compete with that.
Place dark greenery outside, since that reflects less light than bright-toned objects -- you'd be amazed at how much you can overexpose a dark green plant.
Pray for overcast weather.
Shoot when the background is backlit or heavily shadowed.
Design a camera move that allows you to bury a stop-pull.
Shoot with the widest latitude camera there is.
Truth is that sometimes you just have to accept a blown-out background, you see it in movies all the time actually.
what do you think about Christopher Doyle's work? Dont know he applied for an ASC membership but i think he is one of the best cinematographer in the world..
One doesn't apply for ASC membership. The ASC is an honorary society. Prospective members must be invited to join.
I'm a big fan of Christopher Doyle's work.
Hi David, I've been enjoying your work on Smash. Great job! I just was watching the scene where Julia and Michael Swift meet up on the street at night and he tries to apologize for the affair - it's in the episode "Hell on Earth" (Episode 9). I noticed an effect where there seemed to be some sort of unconventional flare coming in at at the sides of the frame. It looked like the lights of the city, but it was exaggerated. It looked too large and obvious to be incidental, and I was wondering how you pulled that off. It was a cool effect! Wondering what your process was in deciding to do it as well. Thanks in advance and thanks for making yourself available here!
We used a 1'x1' piece of clear acrylic plastic, 1" thick, sort of like a thick window pane, mounted on a c-stand and placed near the edge of the frame to blur that part of the image and reflect off-camera lights, etc. This was a technique that the director Paul McGuigan brought to the table, he used it a lot on the BBC "Sherlock" series that he did. He loves odd bits of optical artifacts and other in-camera effects. In some other scenes, we tried also using older Panavision Ultra Speed lenses to get more flares from headlamps (the scene where Tom crosses a street at night and talks to Sam sitting in front of Ivy's apartment.) We also used those lenses, plus GlimmerGlass filters, in the liquor store scene where we hid Kino tubes on every shelf to create a heavenly glow emanating from the bottles (Ivy is wearing an angel costume as you recall).
In the "Heaven & Earth" musical show on Broadway, I tried putting fingerprints on the corners of the filters to blur the edges, but it was a bit subtle to catch. We also tried putting some monofilament line in front of the lens and behind the lens to create some odd anamorphic-like flares for a scene that was cut.
We used the glass blocks also in the diner scene with Tom & Sam, the effect looks like there is some glass deli counter or something in the foreground. There are some other scattered shots here and there that used them too. It was a trick that McGuigan liked to try when the backgrounds were a little bit boring, by reflecting other elements into part of the frame, or causing a double-image of the actor to appear. We tried to pick scenes where it made sense, places with window panes and other glass elements. It also worked better on longer-lensed shots, otherwise the glass block was too in-focus. I also found that the glass would reflect off-camera parts of the location so you had to clear more of the set from crew and equipment to get some good reflections.
The other thing that helped that scene with Julia and Michael was that we had a light rain during it, making the streets wet.
I own a lensbaby that I was going to try out on the shot of Ivy when she is in her dressing room having her meltdown, but at the last minute I realized it was a PL-mount and we were shooting with Panavised Alexas with PV-mounts. Since then, I've converted at lensbaby to a Panavision mount, just haven't found a shot to use it on. For that scene with Ivy, I ended up doing some blurring on the edges in post for a subtle swing-tilt lens effect instead.
Like I said, director Paul McGuigan loves doing things in-camera. He told me about an effect in the "Hounds of Baskerville" episode of "Sherlock" where Watson sees a light on a hilltop at night that appears to be flashing Morse code, and you see ghostly letters appear on the screen translating the flashes of light -- those words were etched onto glass filters in front of the lens and when the light caught the glass, they would rack-focus to the filter so the words would be readable. It's very organic-looking.
Since that episode, I used the glass blocks a few more times, and tried a few other tricks.
I am due to shoot a feature in the next six months. A good part of the feature is set in a garden. It involves a garden being set up for a garden show with the plants and trees being in various stages of growth. We are thinking of shooting this in a studio and getting all of the plants and flowers made of silk. How would you approach lighting this in a studio? The garden will be around 40 foot by 40 foot. We may blue screen the sides or erect walls or hedges to contain the shot. Obvioulsy I need the ability to achieve different looks. I'd really appreciate your feedback.
Again thank you for being so generous with your knowledge,
Hey David, here are the photos from that scene that I shot the other day. As you can see, outside the door is just blazing (I did shoot it HDRx on the Epic at 3 stops, so there should be some more detail in post.) It didn't help that there where white columns in the background and that we did need to see that it was sunny outside to match some other shots.
Here's what I had setup to light this. (looking from the wide two shot)
To their right through double doors (like the one in the background of the gardener) I had a 1200 HMI shooting through 1/4 grid. To the right of them, a 4 bank kino diva shooting into the ceiling to bring up levels in the room-along with another diva behind the counter to bring the dark cabinets up some. To the left of them in the living room I have a 575 HMI bouncing into a 4x4 ultra bounce. Also a 1k, a 650, and some ceiling tungsten lights gelled with 1/2 CTB to bring up some back rooms/hallways.
When I moved to get the CU of the gardener, I took the diva and made it a left side for him since my 1200 through the 1/4 grid was a little too back key for his dark skin (which was another issue.) So he looks fairly good matching the other two characters for look, but that outside just went bad. So what size HMI through how big diffusion (4x4, 8x8?) do you think it would take to get him up 3 stops to try and match the background? Would it be something as simple as a 575 through something like 216 or bouncing off 4x4 white card and then add some level on the inside background to match?
I may in reality not been able to do much differently. There was a kitchen table I couldn't move, and only about 4' between the table and the wall. But I want to be able to figure out the best ways to bring levels up and things looking better.
Thanks so much for helping people learn how to light better.
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