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Old November 27th, 2005, 02:52 PM   #1
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How to light indoor scenes with for a 35mm adapter.

I started this thread because most of us (not including Dan) have some- or a lot of- light loss with their 35mm adapters, so most of the times you can not depend on natural light when shooting indoors.

I thought it would be interesting to see how people light their scenes, but also, how to make your own equipment.

I got some nice results with two 500w lamps with a big piece of tracing paper in front (like a softbox), but maybe people here have more experience in lighting.

EDIT: this is something useful to start with for sure
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Old November 29th, 2005, 01:03 AM   #2
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There is a whole forum for this, and I recommend also going to and read, read, read. When you are able to watch movies and TV and can figure out how they lit the scenes, you are off to a good start.

Here are the issues that I think are most important to control:

Contrast Ratio - the difference between the highs and the lows in your scene. Video loses detail in the hightlights, so try to keep from having too much overbright area in your image. Keep an eye on your zebra bars to prevent overexposure. Add a fill light in scenes where the key (primary light source) is very bright. A reflector used to bounce sunlight back at the talent would be an example of this. Without filling in the shadowy subject, sunlight/skylight in the background will cause the subject to underexpose. An alternative to this would be to use a big diffuser/shade to knock down the sun hitting the top of your subject. A reflector to add light is easier, but can be painful to your talent's eyes.

Color Temperature - the relative frequency balance in your light. Incandescent lights are medium-low at 3200K (K is Kelvin), Sunlight is fairly high at ~5500K, and fire is low at about 1800K. An example of a scene with different color temperatures would be a night scene. Incandescent lights would probably be balanced to white, the "moon" would be balanced more blue to look like the moon's natural sunlight reflection, and candles would look a bit amber due to them being below your incandescent mid-range temperature. Play around with white balance settings in different light sources and you will start to get the idea. Our eyes/brain does an automatic white balance, so we don't perceive these differences as easily as the camera.

Diffusion/Hard Light - I think light needs to be fairly diffuse (a light coming from a large, soft source) with video or it looks too harsh. Make up for the lack of definition from a soft source by increasing shadows on the subject. Hard light (a pinpoint source of light) also seems to make people look more greasy. I think for video, a diffuse light source looks best, but the contrast ratio across a subjects face needs to be a bit severe to add depth and detail.

Try lighting someone with a bright, soft "key" on the upper right and a dim, soft "fill" on their left. Then, add a "kicker" to the side of their face and shoulder on one side. To do this, put a light behind and above them and to the left or right. Shine it on the side/back of their face and shoulder. This will provide a lit outline to separate them from the background. This is especially evident if the subject has similar color to their background.

Don't forget to put some light on the background or your set will disappear.

Light gets MUCH stronger as you get closer to a source. If a talent walks too close to a light that is just off-camera, it's location will be evident and may look unnatural.

Keep an eye out for reflective surfaces like windows or a reflection of a big studio light might be in your shot. Sometimes you can hide a reflection by moving the camera and/or light just a tiny amount.
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Old November 29th, 2005, 02:21 AM   #3
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'Painting with Light'
by John Alton
ISBN 0-520-08949-9
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Old November 29th, 2005, 05:49 AM   #4
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Those are really good points Marcus.
I noticed the setup you describe on the 'better' TV series. Also on older series shot on 16mm.

I have developed my wax adapter as far as loosing about 1 to 2 stops, which makes it possible to capture a more subtle lighting, but for people with more light-loss it's pretty difficult to get it right. I remember needing at least one 1000W tungsten (or halogen, what you call it) to get an acceptable level.
Anyway, it seems you have to make a bit of a mix in video and film/photography lighting for indoor scenes, which is nice, because you have to work for it.
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Old November 29th, 2005, 07:48 AM   #5
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"Matters of Light and Depth" by Ross Lowell is a popular one too.
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Old November 29th, 2005, 12:06 PM   #6
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Yes, those are some great and much-appreciated points, Marcus.


Only a sculptor or other artist would WANT to have to work for it. Most of the rest of us are lazy and want it to be easy! ;-)
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